Tags: budgets, consultancies, Eric Pickles, local government, public sector, public spending
Tuesday’s Evening Standard contained another attack by Eric Pickles on the public sector employing PR and PA consultancies to support it. While everyone appreciates the need for drastic cuts to rebalance the budget, it’s a mistake to whitewash all external support. Of course there is waste, and countless examples of unnecessary appointments of consultants across the public sector, which cannot be defended. There is also something uncomfortable about public sector bodies using public money to appoint consultants to lobby the government for more public money! However, for some public sector communications, using outside consultants is the cost-effective way of delivering. Ad hoc, project-based campaigns cannot be adequately staffed in-house, otherwise the in-house team is always working below capacity to be able to manage the activity peaks. Bringing in outside expert support for specific pieces of work is the most efficient and effective use of public money – something that Mr Pickles needs to understand before driving all specialist consultants out of the public sector for good.
Tags: consultation, LGA, public sector
A big welcome has been give to the New Reputation Project consultation report, published by LG Comms and the LGA, from communicators across the public sector. Building on from the success of the 2005 Reputation Campaign for local authorities, the New Reputation Project clearly spells out the need to focus on value for money to make it relevant for the current economic climate.
Another clear strand in the consultation is the need to concentrate on developing thinkers not doers. Rather than publish a best practice, twelve steps to effective communications for people to follow, Heads of Communications need to develop as thinkers and secure a seat at the elusive inner circle. When communicators are perceived as trusted, essential advisors to the Chief Executive and Leader, then the role and reputation of communications within an authority will be enhanced and the arguments for securing communications budgets will be made a little easier.
The consultation paper can be found at:
Tags: local government, public sector, QA, quality assurance
Quality Assurance certification is a pre-requisite for firms responding to public sector tenders. Often seen as a tick box exercise, and ridiculed as being symptomatic of public sector bureaucracy, QA is regularly derided in the private sector.
This week we went through our own annual QA inspection, and three yearly Strategic Review. It was very easy in the weeks leading up to inspection, while getting all our ‘evidence’ in place, to start questioning how useful and relevant the whole thing is. This was especially true when QA is taking up valuable time that should be spent on the ‘day job’. But having been through the exercise, and had our processes and procedures reviewed and recertified, it does prove the value of the whole process. It is cumbersome and not all relevant (especially for a small firm). But it is reassuring to know that, as a company, we’re doing things properly and providing a professional service to our clients. It’s also reassuring, from a tax payer’s point of view, to know that Councils are only spending our money with firms that can guarantee the quality of their service and products.
Tags: local government, media training, public sector
While media training senior staff from a public sector delivery organisation yesterday, we again came across a recurring issue surrounding partnership working. The organisation we were training works within a partnership of district and county councils, and while it has its own very clear objectives for which it is accountable, it feels unable to take any public credit for the good work it does for fear of upsetting its partners. The result is that press releases are issued with a multitude of different quotes (one from each partner!) and any messages are automatically watered down by the need to gain clearance from partners, who all have slightly different views, issues and agendas.
It’s an age old problem when working with public money in a partnership. Every partner feels obliged to have its finger print on all communications so that it can prove accountability for the financial investment – everyone’s seen leaflets with rows of different logos on the back page. Generally speaking partnership working is very effective, and with budgets shrinking will become ever more important. The partners’ attitude is understandable, but there comes a time when this parochialism gets in the way of successfully communicating the good, important work that the public sector is doing. Communicating the message about what is happening, rather than who is doing it, is ultimately much more important than ensuring ‘individual glory’ for each partner.