A recent Granicus white paper on income generation showed that an increasing number of local government communications teams have been tasked with delivering income targets. We’re now officially in the commercial era. Here’s how one forward-looking council is approaching this challenge.
by Karen Yates
“Why bother?” we asked at the start of our breakout session at LG Comms Academy.
At Essex County Council we have been supporting services with aspirations to trade and those that are already trading for a number of years and with some healthy returns.
At the beginning we focused on the few services that were likely to deliver the most significant returns. But with a reducing budget, an increasing budget deficit and now an organisation-wide mandate for commercialisation, we are now seeing an increasing demand from across the authority.
So our answer to the question is a simple one: “Embedding commercial approaches, and investing in marketing the things we do well, gives us a platform for the future”. Commercialisation is another route to maintaining services, given the surplus generated is for the most part invested back into the frontline services our communities need. For us, it is now about survival.
It was clear from the content presented by the other speakers and the general mood in the room that we are not alone; that the challenges we face as marketers and communicators are stronger than ever now commercialisation is a reality for all of us.
With this new wind of change come new challenges. It becomes our responsibility to not only champion a strategic marketing approach which is somewhat different to comms, but to educate, nurture and embed culture change, even challenging our Heads and Directors of Service on the opinions they hold and decisions they are making.
We have developed new approaches to enable us to support a growing number of colleagues with education and self-serve tools at the heart of it. The Art of Communications toolkit we produced last year is working well within the organisation, beginning the knowledge transfer around strategic marketing approaches our organisation needs.
But we’ve had to do more. At a time where resource is tight and dedicated support a luxury, we are also supplementing the Toolkit with interactive workshops and games. These illustrate the breadth of considerations we need to make around areas such as research, brand, outsourcing and channels, and the implications of decisions on timescales, budgets, effectiveness and morale.
We are keen to share our experiences and learn from others treading this same path. Do get in touch.
Karen Yates is Traded Services Marketing & Brand Manager at Essex County Council
image via Frank Wittig