Public Sector: Do not become averse to risk

We could be in for a new age of austerity, even if economists cannot agree if it is a U, W, V or an italicised L-shaped recession. There is, though, a rare consensus that even if the economy picks up, there will be a squeeze on public spending not seen for a generation and budgets will be cut.

In such a context it is tempting to take an axe to those imaginative and 'risky' comms projects that push the boundaries. After all, comms budgets will be under enough pressure so why draw any more? It may be tempting, but it is a mistake.

As always we should start with our audiences. Every bit of evidence suggests consumers are hungry for innovation and that is driving growth in new channels. As that continues, it is content and relevance that will differentiate the winners and losers in terms of eyeballs, ears and engagement.

The lines are so blurred (is it digital or PR?) that they no longer make sense. No one comms discipline can now lay claim to be the king of the castle and the creative that drives content can come from any source. Centralised control does not work, production costs are plummeting and we have user-generated content.

Integrated comms is now a must-have, not a nice-to-have. That challenges us in how we organise ourselves, our agencies and our client relationships. Reduced budgets are an opportunity for smart operators to prove effectiveness at every point.

Behavioural change on the big issues such as obesity, climate change or smoking can produce tangible social and cost benefits. But influencing complex behaviours among diverse audiences cannot be achieved by a vanilla approach applied to everyone.

So we are at a crossroads with game-changing technology and consumption, along with what may be public sector austerity. In such times we need, more than ever before, great ideas, imagination and intelligence. Taking risks may be part of that equation if it connects with our audiences.

Otherwise those audiences will leave us behind and that benefits no-one.

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