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Think BR: Collaboration is key to delivering policy outcomes

Collaboration between the public and private sector can offer value to all parties, writes Jo Arden, head of strategy, 23red.

Jo Arden, head of strategy, 23red

Jo Arden, head of strategy, 23red

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With government cuts to communications budgets, lack of public trust in traditional authority and the new government communications centre leadership only in its infancy, the state’s ability to use advertising and marketing communications in delivering policy objectives is now much more limited.

Of course these policy objectives still need to be achieved and this has necessitated a new approach to how different forms of communications can be used - as Rutherford said when briefing his team of young scientists at Cambridge "we haven’t the money, so we’ve got to think".

Not so long ago government departments could rely heavily on bought media and earned media generated by public relations activity, but not a great deal of attention was paid to owned media. 

This latter category has now come to the fore and the value of websites like DirectGov is being appreciated more fully. 

Assuming that bought, owned, and earned media are all maximised to their full potential, there is still a fourth channel at the disposal of government, which is that of partnership. 

Successful partnerships between the public and private sector offer a real opportunity to effect behaviour change policies.

The government is making strides in this direction. For example, its highly- acclaimed Change4Life campaign owes much of its success to nation-wide, highly-orchestrated partnership marketing initiatives, with over 200 companies, charities and NGO’s enlisted to the cause, as well as 57,000 individual local supporters who activate the Change4Life principles at a local level.

A good example of a successful Change4Life partnership in action was Swapathon. 

This innovative programme was modelled on a sales mechanism in which brands worked with the Department of Health to incentivise shoppers to buy healthier products and get vouchers for healthier activities. 

ASDA , the News of the World and local supporters partnered the initiative leading to 780,000 swaps during a three week period.

With financial constraints affecting all businesses, there is a real opportunity for brands and organisations to think smarter and contribute to social wellbeing and facilitate behaviour change, at the same time as gaining the all-important commercial advantage. 

However, organising such complex collaborations between a government department and a multiplicity of third parties is a special expertise. 

Identifying which brands can best support the objectives of each campaign requires a thorough understanding of both the campaign and the brand universe. 

It is vital to select brands that have the right type of existing relationship with the audience the message needs to reach - access to that audience is not enough.

Increasingly, and in line with the retraction in government spending, it is also important to be aligned with brands that can offer significant and measurable contribution through in-kind support.

Balancing the needs of brand, government/campaign and audience requires empathy and tenacity.

Practitioners need to understand both commercial and altruistic drivers of the brands they are seeking to engage, while staying true to the singular objective of the campaign.

The value exchange between brand and campaign is subtle and accurate calculation of that value is key to the success of the partnership.

With a backdrop of economic strife, and businesses needing a point of difference to attract consumers, it is more important than ever brands can find ways to demonstrate the good that they do, and how to make that good central to their proposition.

Careful collaboration between organisations and government can offer value for all parties.

For government working together means a more accurately targeted message, reinforced with a relevant voice.

For organisations it means a credible and joined-up way to lend their support to an issue and an audience.

And for everyone, it means a blurring of out-moded ideas of whose responsibility positive social change is, reinforcing that it is something in which everyone can, and should, play an active part.

Jo Arden, head of strategy, 23red


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