The government is kicking off its ‘Year of Marketing’ as part of a wider push to raise communications standards across all internal departments by 2020.
The campaign is being supported by a manifesto for change, which identifies a range of factors currently shaping marketing, including the expanding millennial workforce, the impending roll out of 5G internet, the adoption of flexible working, the rise of automation and concerns around fake news.
The manifesto highlights a number of challenges for the government, including the decline in trust between people and institutions, emerging social concerns and the fact communications are becoming more platform focused, with a specific reference to Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google (FAANGs).
Based on this analysis, the government has identified six areas where its marketers need to address change, from data, customer experience and the emerging channels, to digital platforms, issues around trust and creativity.
Co-author of the manifesto Sheila Mitchell, director of marketing at Public Health England, tells Marketing Week that the Year of Marketing campaign comes as a response to the pace of change occurring across the wider marketing discipline.
We want marketers to think about the public sector as an absolute career choice.
Sheila Mitchell, Public Health England
“The marketing discipline externally is changing so seismically in terms of the skills that we need, the process that we use and the technology capabilities. Now is a great time to look at it and say what might the future be,” she explains.
“We know that the commercial sector is reinventing the nature and definition of marketing, therefore we need to start to look at this and say, ‘what looks right for the government going forward?’”
Mitchell is not looking to drive wholesale organisational change, as she insists there is no “one-size-fits-all in government”. Rather, she wants the manifesto to act as a tool marketers can refer to which outlines the new skillsets, models of engagement and ways of working, that can then be interpreted depending on the needs of their specific department.
The manifesto is clear that, going forward, marketing will need to become fully embedded in the design, development and delivery of citizen services. The government believes this could require new board-level functions pulling in digital, marketing, operations and programme operations functions, which could potentially see the appointment of a director of citizen experience.
Another suggestion has been to set up an advisory board made up of senior marketing industry figures to help identify trends and add a “dose of realism”. Mitchell argues that is always good to bring leading edge expertise into your thinking and she sees the advisory board as an opportunity to look at best practice and then translate this to the requirements of the public sector.
“You can’t always just lift something that works for an FMCG organisation,” she points out. “We’ve yet to scope what that board looks like, but I imagine it would be some industry people who work on the client side, as well as big agency players who move in the evolving channels, who would advise on development and specific campaigning territory.”
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From the wider analysis data emerges as one of the main areas that needs to be addressed by public sector marketers. The manifesto describes the need for relevant citizen data sources to be “consolidated and shared transparently” in order to harness the full potential of programmatic advertising.
The research also suggests government departments should adopt more sophisticated attitudinal and lifestyle-based forms of segmentation if they want to personalise communications effectively.
Looking specifically at the evolution of skills, the Year of Marketing campaign will run a variety of training and development programmes, including a partnership with the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) looking at what customer experience means for government. The Government Communication Service is already in the process of ramping up its digital masterclasses and digital skills training for all government marketers.
There is a wider ambition to align marketing more closely with the digital transformation teams and tap into their approach to agile methodology and process management. The government also wants to bring people into marketing who cannot just manage data, but analyse it and draw out strategies to impact future programmes. As a result, data analysts are expected to become an integral part of the marketing teams, rather than sitting in separate teams or being outsourced.
The government also believes it needs to develop a specialist capability in AI and voice engineering, which it is clear means creating the right environment to attract the best private-sector talent.
In fact, a big push behind the manifesto is the desire to attract new talent into marketing in the public sector, which Mitchell admits might not currently be at the top of their career wish list.
“We deliver against the most challenging, interesting and engaging topics in the country with our marketing discipline. Do some of the millennials and digital natives coming through think the public sector is naturally a place to go to have that exciting digital or marketing career? Not necessarily,” she states.
“There’s a really exciting agenda and a different way of thinking about communications, marketing and engagement going on in the public sector and different kinds of roles and opportunities. We want them to think about the public sector as an absolute career choice.”
Going forward, the government wants to take a lead on issues like fighting ad fraud, opaque digital buying techniques, unhealthy advertising and fake news in order to build greater trust with citizens.
When it comes to partnering with the likes of Facebook and Google, the idea is to develop a strategic relationship based on strict ground rules that are publicised and transparent in a further bid to maintain trust.
The manifesto also suggests taking a ‘fewer, bigger, better’ approach to marketing the government’s most trusted brands, such as the Army, Navy and NHS.
“We’ve got a small, but significant number of power brands that people just know and trust and are instantly recognisable,” says Mitchell.
“We have the NHS and we have big campaigns like Change for Life that have trust and authority, so we need to make sure we are optimising those big vehicles of trust, getting the messages out and not proliferating lots of different other campaigning ideas.”
She’s clear the manifesto is just the start of the discussion and while some departments will run faster than others, it is all about identifying the levers of change that the government should pull if it wants change to happen.