Permanent secretary for government communications Matt Tee has called for integration at every level of public sector comms.
Speaking at a Hanover briefing on Tuesday, Tee set out how he expected public sector communicators to respond to an era of reduced budgets.
'We are going to have to learn how to join up a bit,' said Tee. 'The days when we could go along with marketing budgets held in departments are over. We need to look for themed communications.'
Tee said this approach could extend as far as joint procurement of press-cutting services across Whitehall departments.
He also said most comms staff would need to become more versatile in future; for example, press officers would be expected to be familiar with digital marketing and public affairs. These staff would be aided by a smaller body of 'super specialists' drawn from consultancies. Tee said: 'We will need more people who are able to integrate different parts of the communications mix and some super-specialists who we may bring in.'
The integration message extends as far as local public services, with Tee supporting the integration of local public service communications into 'communications hubs', comprising PR staff from councils, police and primary care trusts.
'It seems sensible that local public services are having conversations,' said Tee. 'I think that's a change we have seen in the past 15 years, that local services are attempting to be more joined up. However, I would hesitate in saying the Government has a role to play in that. It knows what goes on much better than I do.'
Tee warned that public sector bodies would have to face up to the fact that they cannot keep doing everything with fewer resources, and that some elements would need to be cut outright.
But the Government's top communicator also called on comms professionals to do more to justify PR budgets. He said: 'It worries me that communications and marketing is seen as an area where you can cut without it having any impact on the business.'
PUBLIC SECTOR TIPS
- Look for ways of integrating comms functions with other departments and organisations
- Learn how to tell a convincing story internally about what you are doing
- Work with partner organisations to maximise your budgets
- Be more strategic, and be more digital
- Retrain your talent to be skilled in more areas of comms
- Get better at evaluation - it will justify your existence
- If budgets are short, do not try to do everything - cut specific functions entirely
67% - Public sector and not-for-profit PROs who expect budget cuts*
18% - Public sector and not-for-profit PROs who expect redundancies*
17 - Directors of communications in Whitehall
2,400 - Government comms professionals hit by proposed Tory pay freeze
*According to survey of 1,000 PROs by VMA Selection.