COI to court experts in behaviour change

The Central Office of Information (COI) is planning to set up a panel of 'behaviour change experts' such as psychologists and sociologists to help out on major PR campaigns.

Looking out: the COI's Sean Larkins
Looking out: the COI's Sean Larkins

The roster will add an extra level of expertise to campaigns such as the Department of Health's Change4Life anti-obesity campaign, which already applies behavioural theory to public relations.

Applicants from a range of academic and practitioner backgrounds will be considered, including behavioural psychologists, behavioural economists, sociologists and anthropologists.

The announcement that the Government's PR department is to set up its first approved behaviour change supplier list comes days after it announced a five-step guide to changing behaviour.

Campaigns should be developed from 'identifying behaviours' to 'developing a communications model', according to the COI's guidance document.

COI deputy director of strategic consultancy Sean Larkins said: 'We have world-class marketers but more and more of our campaigns have a behaviour change element.'

Larkins added that he was looking for 'published experts', many of whom would be university professors, but there may also be a few 'new and different' agencies.

Band & Brown Communications head of public sector Simon Francis responded: 'The biggest challenge for this panel will be to overcome the limits of behavioural models - which are deliberately kept simple and theoretical. It's crucial that the roster has fair representation from senior professionals who represent current practitioners and that it recognises wider, non- public sector expertise.'

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