GMT – Three news stories and a poor PR show

Posted on 31/10/2011

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Hands joined together

Joined up comms is a way off in government

Joined up government is a mantra politicians from all sides love to trot out.  But in government communications, it is a very rare sight.

Take the clocks going back this weekend.  A nice ‘news hook’ to get some positive PR about what the government is doing to help prepare for winter? Or a chance for three different government departments to go out with some pretty half-baked ‘news’ stories?

Judge for yourself:

Celebs pledge to test their smoke alarms this weekend

Claim the Department for Communities and Local Government, adding “the clock change milestone is the perfect opportunity for everyone to test their alarm as they are already going around their homes putting the clocks back.”

Coverage received? About 40 pieces of regional coverage. None mentioning Sir Terry Wogan or the celebrities.

Use the extra hour to get ready for winter

Urges the Cabinet Office, pointing out that “with the clocks going back on Sunday, it is the perfect time to use the extra hour to think about simple things we can all do to keep warm, healthy and safe through the cold weather…” Note, temperatures are unseasonably high for October.

Coverage? Well, a similar campaign by the Scottish government got some pick up. As did a piece by Andrew Lansley in the Telegraph (presumably as a result of the Department of Health’s press office also getting in on the ‘clocks going back’ act). But nothing it seems for the Cabinet Office’s effort.

Government considers supporting Daylight Savings Bill

Announces the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, with Minister for Time Ed Davey (shame he doesn’t also have responsibility for Space) playing down the inclination to alter time itself: “This is an issue which affects everyone across the country so we cannot rush head first into this.”

Coverage? Well, plenty of debate on the issue. But it seems that BIS’ support for the ‘Vampire Bill’ (as the Daily Mail called it) was short-lived and the move to ‘Berlin time’ has been halted before we even got to the weekend.

Joined up government communications? No.

Cuts in marketing budgets resulting in poor efforts at getting vanity coverage? Yes.

Yet, it could have been so easy to focus government communications on just one campaign which combined the first two news stories – and (with some proper ministerial support) generate some positive, educational, informative coverage for the Coalition.