When is an advert a PR campaign?

Posted on 08/05/2011

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Simple answer: When you want to criticise it.

Today’s Mail on Sunday headline is a case in point.

Ministers launch PR blitz to sell £9,000 courses to students

You can just hear the sub editor sneering as the letters ‘P’ and ‘R’ are used to pour scorn on the fact that the government might want to communicate with students and their parents.

Yet, you scroll down to just the second paragraph to find, it’s actually an advertising campaign, which David Willetts himself confirms in a second article.

In fact, no PR brief has been issued by the Department for Business for a PR campaign on this issue and while it’s welcome that the government has recognised the need to explain this policy better, just taking out adverts (even on social media platforms) will not be enough.

Informing students is one thing, what the government also needs to do is set out the benefits of higher eduction and take a more holistic approach to communications.

For example, they should engage and debate with their audience using social media as an interactive channel and a way to create advocacy, not just ‘blitz’ students with adverts.

UPDATE 09.05.11: The ‘Make Your Future’ radio adverts can be listened to on the BIS site, while a dedicated website has also been launched. ‘Make Your Future happen’ is a nice proposition which would link well into a more interactive campaign, but it doesn’t seem that this will be the case. I also wonder if universities themselves will link into this campaign to add to the effectiveness of the GBP1.5m spend can achieve, with previous government campaigns a significant effort to involve these key stakeholders would be part and parcel of an integrated communications effort.