11 June 2015
19 November 2014
19 August 2014
19 July 2014
30 June 2014
9 January 2014
“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy”.
Sometimes it just seems to be the role of the comms and marketing team to try to make the best of somebody else’s bad job.
I suspect that anyone who has ever worked in a local authority comms team has, at least once, found themselves looking at a 'client' who has just announced the launch of something, almost certainly in the next few days, and is now demanding a ‘marketing plan’.
“You know… a logo, a catchy name, a few key messages, some posters and a press release. Oh and if you can get us some pull-ups for the launch that would be great.”
What happens then is that you say things like,
“Okay. Who is your target audience”?
“Okay. What are your key outcomes?”
It’s an approach to comms and marketing which means the collateral is an end in itself.
‘What did you do in the war on ignorance and disease, Daddy?’
‘I got some people to design some posters’.
‘How did those help?’
“Well, I think some people saw them”.
Baselines? Outcomes? Pah. Who needs them? We put some posters up. And did a twitter thing which is ace. We were seen to be doing something and something needed to be done. What more could there be?
It’s comms without product and comms without purpose. Comms as an end in itself. We already know the effectiveness of comms can be hard to measure in the first place, but it gets so much harder when the client has nothing particularly effective to communicate; no real product; no idea of what they are trying to achieve or for whom.
When confronted with such a ‘campaign’ or ‘product’; or worse still, an idea that “we need an umbrella brand for the whole range of stuff we’re going to do”…
(“Oh. And what is that?”
“We haven’t actually decided yet. We kind of want a brand, and we want people to sign up and then we’ll send them things when we’ve worked them out.”)
… you have that moment where you really should take the Dragons’ Den approach, put down your pen, look them square in the eyes and say, ‘we’re out’.
But it isn’t like that, is it? Because all they’re really doing is trying to deliver some cockamamie idea that probably started life somewhere else, with somebody else, designed as someone's pet project, without reference to evidence or audience, customer need or channel. It’s not thought through, and you know it’s doomed to failure.
But something must be done.
So there’s an assessment to be made, isn’t there? You have that terrible comms team choice to make - ‘do we stay or do we go’? Do we involve ourselves in this?
If we don’t they’ll only go and do it themselves; badly. But if we do it… Shudder.
Confronted with this very dilemma recently, a colleague and I worked out the answer.
It’s the local government communications team Credit Matrix. Or the "Damned if you do; Damned if you don’t” theorem.
It looks like this:
23 September 2013
“It’s been too long since you blogged, man”, read the accusatory DM from that @danslee.
Foolishly I replied, ‘Give me a topic’.
Almost as if he’d already thought of it (*suspicious face*)
I say that’s too late.
I recently spoke at a ‘summit’ on social media use by government. I said things like,
The usual stuff.
It’s almost incidental – but it is Dan’s fault - that the summit was in
That he did so on twitter, after meeting a thousand government officials, tells its own story, but it’s a story for another day. Today’s tale is this:
Sheikh Mohammed tweeted "The Government of the future works 24/7 and 365 days a year. It is as hospitable as hotels, fast in delivering and strong in its procedures".
Who doesn’t want that?
While we are asking if the NHS ‘will become paperless by 2018’, his aim is for government to reach people.
Tellingly he has given officials two years to get it sorted. Failure will not be tolerated. Officials have been told that if they fail to deliver mobile services, they will be given a "farewell ceremony".
Two years or fired.
The crisis of finance facing local authorities in the
We may not have three.
As I was drafting this post, Dominic Campbell appeared in the Guardian (like he does) saying ‘councils will collapse unless they embrace tech’.
That may not be true everywhere, but for those, like mine, which face another 40+ million pounds cut in the next two years, his warning that “most councils can see the next couple of years ahead financially, but there is a gulf appearing after which – if they do not act now with very different thinking – they are going to have to stop services rather than reinvent them”, seems terrifyingly real.
We all know the change is needed. So what holds us back? What? Really?
Our customers are not ours alone. They already use online tools; payment stuff and booking stuff, self service and information gathering stuff in every other sphere of their lives.
We are not asking for the radical any more. We’re asking for what is now ordinary for most customers.
And delivering it won’t stop us providing services to those for whom digital exclusion is an issue. We may need to invest for them, to provide training and assistance. Or we may need to put some of the savings driven by the ‘new model’ into the remnants of the old model to ensure we support the most vulnerable.
But we just don’t seem to be doing it. I have seen first-hand that Dom’s right when he says, “there is a lot of flirting with something which is a good idea but then (they) do not actually go ahead with”.
And this is not the starting line. We're well past that. This isn’t new this week. It’s been there for years. We’ve mostly been not doing digital for years.
I think that giving ourselves another five years is to avoid the issue.
Parkinson’s Law repeated first as tragedy then as farce.
If we really think we have five years, I’d say that’s because we have not been listening to customers and we’ve been ignoring private sector best practice. Social media, a good ‘web site’ and a range of online customer tools is massively important in how we meet customer demands today.
The Sheikh has it. "A successful government is one that goes to the people and does not wait for them to come to it."