If staff are on side benefits will follow

You might have your messaging, media relations and direct communications with stakeholders sewn up. But if you are working for an organisation that provides goods or services to masses of people – and employs large numbers who get to meet the public and customers – beware. This is why I believe PR should take over HR.

As a public sector comms practitioner, you must be able to get out of your silo and engage with the most potent form of communication the organisation has – word of mouth. Without this, even the best marketing and communications practice will not work. 

For example, Birmingham City Council puts out a newsletter to its residents every week or so, far more often than many other authorities. But its rating on keeping people informed is lower than in authorities that communicate much less frequently, and satisfaction among the public is lower, too. Some of this is of course determined by the delivery of services.  But a large part is because its 50,000 staff do not all say the same as what is said in its own press.

With regard to a major computer manufacturer for which MORI works, media coverage provides much more impact than advertising on its ability to shift laptops, while customer recommendation has most impact of all. Being personally acquainted with a UK employee, it seems, will make you rather less favourably disposed. And the firm ensures minimal exposure to negative contact with UK staff by using a happy Indian call centre to deal with customer enquiries.
But for organisations that can't outsource like this, people involved in media planning and communications need to work hard with managers to build clarity and coherence. Getting your entire staff on message calls for excellent management. Otherwise even great comms executions will be like putting lipstick on a pig.

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