How to set up a new government campaign online

How to set up a new government campaign online.

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A communications campaign is a planned sequence of communications and interactions that uses a compelling narrative over time to deliver a defined and measurable outcome. If appropriate for your campaign objectives, you can apply for a campaigns site on the GOV.UK Campaigns platform.


Overall government campaign site requirements

All government campaign sites must be:

  • time-limited: designed to support a planned programme of comms activity, with a specific end date (usually within 2 years)
  • focused on some aspect of attitude, perception or behaviour change, rather than solely on public information provision
  • focused on one of the priority themes from the current year’s Government Communication Plan.
  • co-branded: the site should carry a distinct brand, different to that of the parent organisation, but also marked as official HM government information
  • delivered in line with the Government Communication Service (GCS) OASIS campaigns planning approach
  • evaluated in line with the GCS evaluation framework
  • may be developed with a short Marketing URL which redirects to the campaign (for example gov.uk/readytopass)

Before applying for a campaign site

Before requesting a campaign site:

  • make sure you’re confident you have an evidence-based strategy, based on audience insights, for getting your target audiences to engage with it. This should be evidenced in your campaign OASIS plan. For this reason, campaign plans are often managed and overseen by a department’s Campaigns Team. 
  • consider that an increasing number of the public now get their news and information from social media and other digital channels.
  • ensure you’ve explored all other options with your department’s Head of Digital Communications. 
  • If you’re an ALB, contact your sponsor department.

You don’t need a site on the campaign platform for:

  • generic news announcements, statutory guidance or policy updates – this should be on GOV.UK
  • duplicating information already on GOV.UK
  • essential information about government services – this should be on GOV.UK.

Websites that don’t meet Campaigns criteria or that host a transactional element (for example where people use a government service) need to discuss alternatives with GDS, such as the exemptions route.

For further information about campaign website applications and the process, particularly in the planning, contact onlinecampaigns@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

The GOV.UK Campaign Platform

If you can demonstrate the need, and are approved for a government campaign, we will give you access to the secure GOV.UK Campaign platform. This allows you to create a site with:

Find out how to develop your campaign site using our government campaign user guide.

If your proposed site doesn’t meet the criteria of a campaign, or the campaign platform does not meet your requirements, you will instead need to gain approval from GDS via their Exemption route.

Application Process: Application Form & OASIS

  • Applications must be sent through the GOV.UK Publisher (note: only those with login rights can submit – this will be your department’s GOV.UK Publisher point/s of contact). See end of this page for the link to the application form.
  • Submit an OASIS campaign plan (Objective, Audience insight, Strategy, Implementation, Scoring/evaluation), along with your application form. 
  • It is mandatory that the following GCS OASIS template is used for all campaign website applications – no alternative templates are accepted. Guide to campaign planning: OASIS (look for Resources: OASIS template)
  • The OASIS plan should clearly show how the campaign website integrates with the wider campaign. We’d advise you map out your website design/content in a sketch, to visualise what you’re trying to achieve. GCS may also request a basic sketch plan.

Planning and Timings

  • Please ensure you have allowed at least 6 weeks from the time you submit your initial application to your site being built if approved. 
  • If you are planning to build a multi-page site, you will need to factor in more lead-in time, because it will have more pages and more complexity to manage. How much time is required will depend on the exact design of your website and, importantly, your team’s capacity and capabilities. 
  • If your wider campaign also needs GCS Professional Assurance (PASS) approval, follow the Professional Assurance Guidance.

Application review

Applications are reviewed by a panel of reviewers from GCS who will come back to departments with comments and queries. If your site is approved for the build, there will be terms and conditions attached which must be followed.

Approval of final campaign content

Once built, the content on the final WordPress campaign needs to be viewed and approved by members of GCS.

You need to factor in a minimum of 5 working days for a final GCS review, depending on the final site presented (a more complex multi-page site will take longer to review and change). Your campaign will only be approved to go live by GCS once the changes are completed.

Testing the site once live : you should factor in an additional 1 day to test the site is working properly , in a quiet period before you start driving traffic to the site – especially if you are using paid advertising.

Finally, GCS require an email in confirmation from your Head of Digital Communications (or equivalent) that the final version has been viewed and quality assessed by them.

6 month website performance review

6 months after your site goes live you will be required to provide performance data for the site based on your digital Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Please provide the relevant contact details for the team responsible for reporting in your application form.

Following the 6 month review, we may suggest alternative options such as refreshing content on your site or considering the closure of the campaign site if it is no longer needed.

An accessible campaign website is one that works for all people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight or cognitive ability.

From 2019, the law changed to ensure accessibility standards for public sector websites  are met.

The templates on the new GOV.UK campaign platform are fully accessible. However, as campaign managers, you will be responsible for ensuring that the content is fully accessible. Some basic principles are :

a. Images

Alternative text, or “alt text”, is read out by screen readers for those with sight impairments. Avoid images that contain text.

Alt text must:

  • tell people what information the image provides
  • describe the content and function of the image
  • be specific, meaningful and concise

Use normal punctuation, like commas and full stops, so the text is easy to read and understand.

In Alt text, you must not:

  • include the name of the photographer or person who created the image
  • start with ‘Image of’, ‘Graphic of’ or ‘Photo of’
  • repeat information from the page
  • include extra information not on the page

b. Links

Your links must be formatted in a way that follows the GOV.UK content design guidelines.

c. Headings

All headings must be formatted using the ‘heading’ formatting in the editor. They can be formatted as either ‘heading 2’ (heading) or ‘heading 3’ (subheading).

‘Bold’ should not be used.

d. Videos must be subtitled

This is a must for website accessibility to assist those with hearing impairments, whether it’s done on YouTube’s ‘Closed Caption’ service or creating “burnt in” captions using your own captioning software.

e. Colour contrast

Some users with visual impairments won’t be able to interact with your campaign if the colour contrast isn’t set properly. Ensure there is a clear distinction between font and background colours at all times, so that text is clearly legible.


Managing tracking cookies on the campaign platform (and GDPR)

You need to be thinking about your plan for Cookies early in your website build process because it can sometimes become complicated and involve specialists in different fields.

1) Cookie Notice

To be GDPR compliant, you (campaign managers) will be responsible for managing the Cookie Notice for your Campaign Platform site. A basic “boiler plate” will be put in place on your site by GDS, however this will only contain Google Analytics cookies. If you plan to use additional digital marketing/advertising tracking cookies, you must ensure those cookies are all listed in the Cookie Notice.
In addition to this – you must also edit and fill in details requested, where prompted.

2) Privacy Notice

Again, a basic “boiler plate” will be set up by GDS, you must edit where prompted to (eg. your department’s DPO). You’ll need to speak to your department’s Data Protection Officer (DPO) to get further advice.

3) Cookie Consent banner

By law, a user’s consent is required for “non-essential” tracking cookies. These are cookies used for online advertising (for example: Facebook Pixel or Google Ads) and also analytics (eg Google Analytics). Website users must have the choice to either “accept” or “decline” cookies by a pop-up consent banner.

  • Campaign managers must take action to deploy a Cookie consent banner before the site is made live.
  • There is a GOV.UK-styled accessible cookie consent banner tool built into the WordPress campaign platform. This can be found in the WordPress “Cookies & Analytics” sidebar – please read the guide in the platform.
  • If you want to use Google Tag Manager instead, or you plan to use a very broad range of Marketing tracking cookies, you will not be able to use the in-built cookie consent banner. You’d need to use a 3rd party tool like Cookiebot instead. You would need to consider if you’re resourced appropriately to do this work.

Important note:

If you are using Marketing Cookies, consider your plan as early as possible:- the platform’s in-built consent banner only works for 3: Facebook Pixel, Google Floodlight and Linkedin Partner ID.

If you plan to use extensive marketing tracking tags in addition to these 3, you would have to set them up using Google Tag Manager instead. In that instance you could not use the GOV.UK cookie consent banner, and would have to instead use a 3rd party Cookie Consent tool (usually CookieBot). This is because the GOV.UK cookie consent banner only accepts Facebook Pixel, Google Floodlight and Linkedin Partner ID tags.

Also, if you wanted to use Google Tag Manager for enhanced UA Universal Analytics tracking – for instance page scrolling or percentage of video watched – again, you must use a 3rd party cookie consent banner such as Cookiebot. 

Visit:

Apply for a GOV.UK Campaign Platform site:  How to get your campaign online (on GOV.UK)

Important note for Campaign technical support (GDS): All technical support queries should be emailed in the first instance to govuk.campaigns@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk to ensure the query is picked up in a timely manner. Queries to the support email address are managed by GDS and GOV.UK.

Technical queries might include user permissions for your campaign site and/or setting up redirected URLs to your site.