Scrutiny of agencies will intensify

Public sector PR agencies are expected to come under greater pressure to prove the value of their work in 2009 as public scrutiny of government PR budgets intensifies.

Climate change: Set to be a key area for agencies
Climate change: Set to be a key area for agencies

Many agencies are already working on improving their PR evaluation techniques so they can prove their worth to cash-strapped clients in the coming months.

Geronimo Communications MD Laura Oliphant said: 'The pressure will be on agencies to be accountable, demonstrate the impact of their campaigns and to ensure best value for money.'

Red Consultancy MD Amanda Duncan said: 'There is real scrutiny with regard to how public money is spent on communications, but this simply means targets, measures and evaluation must be built into a campaign from the outset to demonstrate return on investment.'

Duncan also suggested that the new Central Office of Information framework, announced in November, 'may take a little time for agencies to get used to' and that it would require agencies to realise 'they really ought to play to their strengths or risk wasting a lot of time submitting PPQs that get nowhere'.

Evaluation is expected to be particularly in demand in the health and social marketing arenas. Geronimo - a Department of Health-rostered agency - is working with the research and evaluation arm of parent company Tribal to develop more in-depth methods.

Geronimo recently partnered with Mustoes advertising agency, based in the same office. Geronimo is seeing a larger number of briefs seeking agencies that display partnership-marketing credentials.

Weber Shandwick MD of consumer Scott Wilson agreed that extra scrutiny would also lead to an acceleration in the drive towards integrated marketing 'as public sector organisations seek to maximise impact and efficiencies'.

Wilson added that agencies would be kept busy in two areas in the coming year. He noted the rise of environmental comms, thanks to the creation of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and next year's meeting in Copenhagen to agree a global deal on climate change. Also, regional PR is expected to be given greater emphasis.

Tonic Life Communications CEO Scott Clark forecast more government campaigns promoting improving diet and healthier lifestyles, two things that are particularly difficult when money is tight, 'as governments and employees try to keep the public and employees healthy and productive'.

HOW I SEE IT - Paul Inglefield, Head of comms, London Borough of Camden

Two major reputation issues will dominate 2009 for local government communicators. One is leadership and the other is trust.

As the recession bites it presents councils with opportunities to show strong leadership when it matters. Working closely with partners, councils must use every power they have to help residents and businesses.

The Baby P tragedy goes beyond children's services and the fallout will haunt local government for many years. Councils need to learn the many lessons and work together with our partners to rebuild trust.

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