CATEGORY: Public Sector
Thoughts from Headspace
What’s it all about?
This is the first time that e-shot has joined together with members of the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group to 'take the pulse' of public sector comms professionals. Are we ready to say goodbye to the recent state of permacrisis? What have we learned that has made us stronger? Is there such a thing as BAU anymore?
Rising inflation, tight budgets, the imperative to achieve greater results with limited resources, and the relentless pursuit of meeting citizens' ever-changing expectations for personalised and efficient service— are the common challenges faced by businesses throughout the UK. However, they resonate even more profoundly within the public sector. Indeed, our survey showed 76% of respondents agreed that lack of budget was a major challenge (46% strongly agreed), coming in second only to lack of time.
Having worked with many digital teams in local and central government both through the pandemic and beyond it, the survey paints a recognisable picture that time is the enemy in public sector comms.
“It doesn’t surprise me that 93 % of people in the survey said that a lack of time was a problem. Austerity cut teams. Technology ramped up the demand. COVID made people burn out.” Were the words of Dan Slee, the administrator of the Public Sector Headspace Facebook group, where the survey took place.
Another challenge that particularly resonated was that of "unrealistic expectations". As Dan commented "Good communications looks effortless. No wonder people think we just sprinkle fairy dust. COVID ramped up deadlines and the danger is that people think work round the clock emergency is now the norm."
The survey said 58 per cent face this problem. But it was particularly clear in some of the respondents comments:
"Following the emergency footing of Covid, our organisation remains in that mindset of everything needs doing immediately, rather than allowing comms to go away and formulate a more strategic approach. This obviously leads to increased pressure and stress on the team"
"There does seem to exist an expectation from within LGAs that under resourced communications teams should be able to produce world class communications that arrive somehow magically in front of the intended target audience, thereby delivering the required outcome. Expectations appear high in local Government, that much can be achieved with less."
According to the UK in the World Values Survey, the UK is suffering from a collapse in trust in the public institutions of Government and media. Not just a small fall but a whopping great big one, couple that with the lingering impact of the Casey report, it becomes evident that communication professionals in the public sector facing very challenging times.
Again respondents had some hard-hitting comments:
"Opinion of the public on the government, who confuse central with local and everything is the council's fault"
It is unsurprising that there is so much focus now on well-being in the public sector comms space. The permacrisis that began with Covid, continued through the sad loss of Her Majesty and is now firmly rooted in the “cost-of-living crisis”, there has been a lot to deal with. Not that this is news to any of you, but how often do we take a step back and recognise the impact that this has had on us all, resident and communicator alike.
Dan Slee commented, "Public relations is already one of the most stressed professions. For the public sector, COVID made that worse and as that eased we walked straight into political turbulence. We're not over that.
There's new tools, new channels, rising expectation, pressure to hit results. You have to be realistic about what you can do and what you can't. You have hands. Not wands."
But, all that said, difficulties have a way of forging communities, developing a collective understanding. Something that was clear from the survey responses is how important that community is. Whether you are sharing your experiences in Headspace, through an organisation like LGComms, by coming together with like-minded souls to share, help and inspire each other is invaluable.
Email remains on top
The report also contains details of your collective views on the communication channels you employ and their effectiveness (more articles on this will be published on this in the coming days). But, not that we are bias or anything, we were thrilled to see that email is coming out at the top of the most effective channels.
Dan Slee commented: "Email tops the list the Cinderella channel quietly pulling in the numbers. It's been a long time since Facebook was hip. Like old slippers they're comfy and effective rather than cool."
Of course we are pleased, but we are not surprised, as this is a familiar result in the world of private sector comms too. Indeed in the 2023 DMA Consumer email tracker in the executive summary the following is stated:
"Email is still the champion for one-to-one comms: Consumers rank email first - ahead of all other marketing channels for pre-purchase (e.g. discounts, offers, product information or reviews); post-purchase (e.g. receipts; order confirmations and delivery details); customer service messages and the delivery of additional benefits (such as competitions and events)."
So, if you would like to see more insights on channel use and their relative effectiveness - «« Download our Report »»
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