There are a number of key steps to ensure that a successful partnership is formed between communication and policy teams
To be successful, the communications team needs to:
Providing policy teams with practical information on how they can work most effectively with communication colleagues is vital if the partnership is to work successfully.
Compile as wide-ranging a portfolio as possible. In particular, include case studies that demonstrate how insight into a target audience has influenced policy development, delivery or communications approaches.
Regular articles, blog and case studies on your intranet reporting on success, on how a problem was tackled and what the results were, can be a good way of spreading information. Make sure there is a communications element to any face-to-face briefings on major policy developments.
It is important to understand how policy is developed and the daily challenges that policy teams face. Without this knowledge, you risk delivering communications solutions that fail to acknowledge the subtleties of the policy you are communicating.
Do you understand why and how the policy you are communicating has been developed?
This is particularly important if you intend to work with an external agency, which won’t have been party to internal discussions. For example, has a minister given a specific steer on the direction they would like to see an initiative take? Has a policy been worded in a particular way, to avoid over-committing resources or setting unrealistic expectations?
Secondments are a particularly effective way of experiencing the challenges that policy colleagues face in their work. A shorter-term solution could be to spend a day working with your policy contact and offer policy officials the same opportunity to see how the communications team works.
Even when communications are considered alongside policy from the start of a project, you still need to ensure that you work very closely with policy colleagues on a daily basis.
This enables forward planning and helps ensure that communications are not seen as an add-on, but as integral to the policy forward plan. Communications strategies should always be linked to HM Government priorities and the overall departmental strategies.
Can you identify cost savings and benefits that will improve the way you work and help make policy development, delivery and communication more efficient?
Building and sustaining an effective partnership with a policy team to deliver excellent communications can take time. Policy and communications teams both have essential roles to play and different expertise.
Excellent communicators will help policy teams to understand the value that communications can add. They will also be accessible and respect differing views – even if they disagree.
They may have spent months developing a single policy, gaining buy-in from lots of stakeholders, and they will want you to be aware of the political sensitivities behind it when communicating it to different audiences.
Some will have years of experience of working with communications, and may have experience of delivering communication themselves; others might need more guidance or information about how it works in your department. Take time to help their understanding and learn from their expertise.