Working together: A toolkit for campaigns collaboration across the public sector
A guide for Government Communication Service (GCS) professionals and wider public sector workers on how to collaborate effectively.
- Commitment to collaborate
- Identifying shared objectives
- Levels of collaboration
- The collaboration route-map
- The initial partnering meeting
- OASIS campaign planning
- Further reading
Our commitment to working together
As Public Service communicators our shared goal is to improve
the daily lives of the public through world-leading public service communications.
Where we share common objectives and campaigns we agree to work across national and local boundaries to align communications resources and expertise to deliver the best outcome for our communities.
To do this, we need to collaborate where mutually beneficial.
As the Heads of Public Sector Communications sectors, we commit to early collaborative dialogue on campaigns of shared interest and priority
to explore joint working from co-design and the pooling of campaign resources, through to sharing evaluation, best practice and insight; and ensuring the development of strong, vibrant professional relationships and cross-sector networks in every nation and region of the UK.
Communicators across the public sector are working hard to develop effective, high quality public service communications and campaigns. Collaboration across our sectors will make this communications activity more efficient and effective through:
- bringing together knowledge and expertise from different organisations across the public sector
- making better use of existing resources
- reducing duplication
- extending audience reach for little or no extra cost
- sharing expertise and knowledge of best practice and ‘what works’
Whilst this toolkit is aimed at GCS communicators, all public sector communicators are welcome to use the resources contained within although it is recognised local to local collaboration is well established in many areas.
For Departments, local collaboration can add an essential, reinforcing messaging layer to national activity to help drive cut-through and engagement. It can enable campaign messages to be delivered through local voices and organisations, making policy real and advocated by ‘people like me’.
For local partners, collaboration can bring insight and evaluation, campaign materials, resource and links to national campaign messaging to help deliver local priorities that might not otherwise have been available.
For both, collaboration brings the opportunity to deliver excellent public service communications, to share best practice, create cross-sector networks and strengthen our shared public sector communications industry.
This toolkit provides practical advice, guidance and tools to encourage open and constructive collaborative working between public sector communications teams.
Organisations representing public sector communicators such as LGA and LGComms (Local Authorities), ApComms (Police) and FirePro (Fire and Rescue) play an important role in supporting and facilitating collaborative working. Departments should look to engage with these groups at an early stage when planning large scale collaborative working.
Identifying shared objectives
Whether we are delivering campaigns to change behaviour or to ensure the efficient delivery of public services, across the public sector we often share common goals and objective from improving, protecting and saving lives to building a strong economy and vibrant communities, and supporting public service delivery.
There is significant scope for organisations from every sector to work together on campaigns. Whilst national and local organisations’ objectives may be expressed differently, there is clear scope to collaborate where we are working to achieve the same outcomes for our communities.
As a basis for collaboration, we need to recognise the core priorities of central government and local public services and understand where our objectives align, whilst also recognising the operating environment and restrictions some local partners may face.
For Government, the 2016/17 Annual Government Communications Plan sets out the GCS overall communications priorities as:
- providing economic security at every stage of life
- protecting national security to keep our country safe
- extending opportunity so everyone has the chance to get on in life
- delivering smooth-running public services
For local public services objectives differ in detail from organisation to organisation but some if not all of the four overarching objectives below are common to all:
- creating economic prosperity and opportunity for local people
- making local people both healthier and safer in their homes and communities
- protecting and enhancing local environments
- engaging local people in greater collaboration and co production of services
The diagram on the next page uses these priorities to show which public sector organisations are also working to achieve these outcomes in their communities, with examples of campaigns which could be considered relevant for joint working.
The Local Government Association has produced a guide to the structure, working, and service delivery responsibilities of local authorities, whilst the Government Communications Plan 2016/17 details proposed Departmental and Arms Length Body campaign activity to deliver these outcomes.
To help identify partners in the regions and localities you are targeting, a new online public sector resource map has been developed to show where these teams are located, with contacts and links to each organisation’s website.
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Levels of collaboration
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to collaborating. How teams collaborate will vary depending on a number of factors, including the objectives and timing of the communication activity; the intended target audience; the resources at the disposal of the partnering organisations and their overarching priorities.
There are four levels of partnering. These are not necessarily static; collaborations need to be responsive to changes in circumstance – some collaborations that begin as exercises in information sharing can later lead to more formal and extensive campaigns collaboration.
Working together does not necessarily need to involve joint activity. Effective collaborations can occur when information is shared between organisations. This could be a Department sharing audience insight and campaign evaluation with a Local Authority to help them better target a local campaign, it could be local information on neighbourhoods being shared with Departments to effectively target outdoor advertising spend.
“I’m along for the ride” – here the activity is conceived and delivered without the input of both parties, with one organisation agreeing to help the other achieve its objectives. This may involve stakeholders and partners pushing out content when it is provided by another organisation, using their channels to help increase audience reach. This can be achieved relatively quickly using digital content and social media channels and appropriate for shorter-term or tactical activity. It requires both organisations to support a shared objective.
“I’ll work on your goal” – where organisations share a common goal but priorities differ, one organisation may choose to “piggy back” on the other’s campaign. This may involve them using shared content provided, or creating content to the other organisation’s brief to help achieve the
goal, while minimising their own resource commitment. It still requires significant advance notice for partners to build into their communications planning when resources are being allocated.
“We’re committed to our goal” – where two or more organisations co-design and co-deliver a campaign to meet a shared objective, with both placing a high priority on the activity. All organisations are involved from the beginning in creating and designing the campaign. This needs most time with potential partners identified and engaged as early as possible during the planning year.
Working out in advance what each partner may be able offer, and what you can offer in return, will help you decide the appropriate level of collaboration. Hard resource needs – such as staffing commitment, joint campaign funding should be raised at the outset and robust protocols agreed by all parties.
Other resources might be:
- campaign insight and evaluation
- joint media buying; campaign materials and assets
- access to owned channels
- case studies and campaign advocates
- opportunities to run local pilots or test specific approaches
- reciprocal skills transfer and training
- access to internal communications channels.
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The collaboration route-map
Whatever level of collaboration you decide appropriate, you need to approach your collaboration in a planned, systematic way. The route-map below will ensure you have covered the key considerations from the outset – use it as a checklist when planning your campaigns activity for the year ahead.
- review your year-ahead campaign plan – identify which campaigns are likely also to be priorities for other public sector organisations
- undertake a local stakeholder analysis to identify potential partners
- before approaching potential partners, consider what it is they can contribute, and what you can offer in return. What level of partnership are you looking to operate at? Information Sharing; Participation; Co-operation, or Collaboration?
- if you are looking to work with large numbers of partners, you will need dedicated staff in place to recruit, brief and maintain the ongoing relationship
- summarise your campaign in OASIS (Objective, Audience insight, Strategy, Implementation, Scoring/evaluation) format so your planned campaign, intended outcomes and strategy is easily understood
- once partner interest is confirmed hold a briefing meeting – make sure all issues are addressed
- secure written confirmation, and make sure the intention to collaborate is communicated across the organisation, not just within communications teams.
- schedule regular catch-ups, invite partners to attend or dial into key meetings such as agency briefings.
- consider a unifying campaign logo to reduce need for multiple organisational badges, or consider whether a logo is needed at all.
- produce a partner and stakeholder pack and make this available through campaign microsite or online platforms such as Basecamp.
- once activity starts, begin capturing metrics using the GCS Evaluation Framework to agree measures for outputs, out-takes and outcomes. Update weekly on progress; acknowledge and reward local partner successes.
- adjust activity if necessary, mainstream successful local activity across other areas.
- undertake final campaign evaluation – against both local and national objectives and share with all partners.
- arrange a final meeting to review activity, successes and lessons learned and, importantly, to recognise and thank all local partners for their support and contribution
The initial partnering meeting
To ensure a successful and sustainable collaborative relationship it is vital all partners meet soon after the initial approach is made. This first meeting is crucial to ensuring the relationship and collaboration progresses smoothly and achieves the desired outcomes for all parties.
During the collaboration, unforeseen events may impact on the timescale or the agreed outputs of any joint work. By having a thorough initial briefing meeting, the joint team will be in a much stronger position to deal with such events and keep the activity on track.
As well as agreeing the specifics of the collaboration, the meeting is just as much about establishing the joint team and understanding each other’s organisational culture and operating environment.
The meeting should cover the agenda items on the next page. Spending time on each of these items ensures the collaboration is less likely to unravel once the campaign begins.
The outcome should be that all partners are confident that a robust plan is in place to deliver the campaign, and equally that they are motivated for it to succeed and feel part of the campaign team.
It’s important not to rush through initial introductions. This is as much about introducing the organisation and its focus and priorities as well as individuals.
2. Campagin objectives and outcomes
Come to the meeting with a draft campaign plan and discuss what
success looks like at both the national and local level. Make sure the activity is audience-led, and you are all focussed on the same audience and pooling national and local-level insight.
Include key decision-making milestones, such as budget approvals, Ministerial or Chief Exec submissions, and potential downtime such as purdah and recess.
4. Resources (creative, insight, channels, budget, logos)
Be clear about which partner is bringing what to the table. Identify your comparative strengths, list earned and owned channels, and which partners have the most effective links with third party advocates. Now is the time to discuss where organisational or campaign logos should or shouldn’t be used and agree protocols.
5. Evaluation and measuring
Cover outputs, out-takes and outcomes at both national and local level and which organisation is responsible for capturing which. Agree the key metrics that will determine overall campaign success. Have campaign tracking surveys been designed to ensure areas of local activity are included? Can local partners help with public service delivery data collection to measure outcomes?
6. Sign-offs and wider buy-in
Who in each organisation will sign off on final campaign strategy and creative work? Both organisations need to share their plans for engaging their political leadership and surface any possible challenge. If campaign personnel move on, does the wider organisation know about the collaboration to provide cover and make sure momentum is maintained?
7. Update meetings and liaison points
Agree the campaign update and reporting schedule and how the wider campaign team will keep in touch. All partners allocate a project lead.
OASIS campaigning plan
The collaboration simply won’t work unless there’s a shared agreement about the aims, objectives, audiences and desired outcome of the activity.
All partners need to agree this at the outset – the OASIS campaign framework provides a succinct format to make clear all the elements of the campaign.
NB: If you are working with Local Authorities they may use the ROSIE campaign format the two approaches are very similar and easily transferable.
Below is a template OASIS plan – with the issues and questions you need to be exploring with your partners as you agree the joint activity.
OASIS is a series of steps that can help bring order and clarity to planning campaigns, which can sometimes be a complicated and challenging process. The aim is to help make the planning process simpler and easier to remember
Set out what the communications activity is intending to achieve. Start with
the overall aim and develop communications objectives that will deliver this, including the role that communications will contribute. Focus on
outcomes, not outputs and relate to changes in attitude or behaviour.
There will be both national and local objectives. Local communications may play a different role, signposting local calls to action that still meet desired outcomes.
Who is the campaign aimed at? Do you need to change or influence their attitudes and behaviours to help you achieve your objective? Used commissioned research and data from elsewhere.
Pool local and national insight. Local partners are well placed to source or convene focus groups to assist message development.
Use the insight to set out your approach including any theories that you will apply. You will need to cover the proposition and messaging; channels and partners & influencers. Map the audience journey and design communications relevant to each stage. Where possible pilot your approach.
Map out the customer journey being sure to include all potential local touch points. Will local messaging be more motivating than national messaging? How will you incorporate local ‘voices’ and case studies? Is the call to action a national website or directing to a local service provider?
Once you have defined your approach set out how you will deliver your communications and what tactics you will use. Develop a clear plan that allocates resources and sets out timescales for delivery.
Bring influencers and partners on board to increase impact and use low cost approaches.
Have all local no/low cost channels been explored? The plan needs clearly defined responsibilities allocated for all elements of the campaign and a regular schedule of campaign update meetings.
Monitor outputs and outcomes throughout the campaign
and evaluate once complete using formal and informal approaches. Set intermediate outcomes or proxy measures where final outcomes are not immediately available
Agree outputs, out-takes and outcomes at both national and local level and which organisation is responsible for capturing which. Agree the key metrics that will determine overall campaign success that meet the needs of all partner organisations.
- Start conversations early to get the most insight and engagement from partners. Last-minute approaches or campaign materials sent two days before launch is unlikely to produce a successful collaboration.
- Use your contacts – do you already and is genuinely co-created have links with the region? GCS Local can help provide local contacts across all sectors.
- Conduct background research into the region to ensure public needs fit with campaign objectives. All activity needs to be audience-driven.
- Use an OASIS or similar model to shape a clear campaign proposal.
- Meet face-to-face and be frank in sharing information and surfacing potential barriers.
- Identify areas of overlap in objectives, so that the campaign proposal achieves the aim of both parties and is genuinely co-created.
- Be agile in your approach – you might find that changing circumstances at a local or national level means that you need to change direction of travel.
- Connect across the organisation. Sustainable collection comes when senior leadership and policy teams are involved as well as the communications team.
- GCS guide to campaign
- planning GCS Evaluation
- Public Sector Communications Resource Map
- GCS People Finder
- Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing
- GCS Local
- Public Health England Campaign Resouce Centre
- The LGA quick guide to Local Authorities
- Local Government Association communications support
- LG Communications
- Association of Police Communications
- Public Sector communicators resource map
We thank the following organisations for their participation and contributions:
- Stoke City Council
- Department for Work and Pensions
- Westminster City Council
- Chester West and Chester Local Authority
- Department for Education
- Sheffield City Council
- Public Health England
- Department for Communities and Local Government
- LG Commnuities
- Local Government Assocaition
- Association of Police Commuications