County council develops agency framework for PR, public affairs and social to support in-house comms team

Essex County Council is planning to expand its comms capacity by developing an agency framework that will support its in-house team.

Essex County Council has used agencies in the past to promote its open spaces
Essex County Council has used agencies in the past to promote its open spaces
The local authority is in the initial stages of creating the four-year framework, and is probing the market with a questionnaire exercise that it hopes will ensure local small businesses have a shot at winning the work.

The idea behind the pre-procurement questionnaire – which runs until Friday - is for Essex County Council to assess interest in the framework, as well as the profile of possible bidders.

Responses to the questionnaire will help inform the development of the new marketing and comms framework, with a full competitive procurement process taking place towards the end of 2017.

The council aims to have the framework up and running by March 2018, according to Karen Yates, marketing and brand manager at Essex County Council.

"ECC wish to take a different approach to the market and ensure smaller and medium-sized enterprises in the local area are able to access the opportunity," explained Yates.

"Central to this exercise is the need to increase value to the authority through procurement and to drive quality in the services delivered to us."

As part of the planning stages for setting up the framework, the council is proposing a possible seven individual lots.

Public relations is one of the proposed lots, with the services outlined as public affairs, sponsorship, and a full-service strategic PR agency.

Other comms work covers social media management, brand consultancy, media planning and buying, as well as integrated B2B and B2C marketing campaigns.

The plans to work with external agencies have been driven by growth in the marketing and comms work at Essex County Council and Yates added the framework "will be in place for all ECC employees to use and benefit from".

"We work with external providers when we need to increase capacity for specific projects or require specialist input," she said.

A plan for comms for the coming two years is set to be developed over the next six months, but Yates added: "Current examples of where we have already worked with local talented agencies include the soon-to-be-launched Essex Lottery and stunning autumnal photography commissioned to raise awareness of Essex Country Parks."

In its communications and marketing strategy 2016-17, the council identifies the challenge of delivering comms within the landscape of reducing local authority budgets.

"Our role is to deliver the over-arching corporate narrative, both inside and outside the organisation; ensuring messages are linked to the bigger picture of ECC’s future direction," the strategy states.

"This shapes and define ECC’s role and priorities in the context of severe reductions in funding. This work, both internally and externally, forms the cornerstone of corporate communications over the next five years."

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