“The thing is, Dan,” someone very senior once told me, “if we asked people what they want, they’d just say chocolate cake.”
So, the senior person described what he thought they’d like instead rather than asking people.
In many ups and downs it was the most depressing moment I had in eight years of local government.
I’ve always felt uneasy with this ‘we know best’ concept of public service for people.
Earlier this month I saw something different that has hardwired putting people at the heart of things.
I was in London and could make a meet-up – or teacamp – for local government people. The meet-up was tremendous. A room in a pub. Some tea and coffee and some shared learning. It reminded me of brewcamp meet-ups in the West Midlands. Hats off to the excellent Natalie Taylor of the GLA for organising.
What was hugely good was a quick exercise that spelt out what ‘agile’ looked like. It’s a process I’ve leard lots about but never really come into close contact with. In short, this is looking at a service you want to change in the organisation and going through step-by-step.
But at each step, looking at what will benefit the service user… the real person public sector people are trying to help.
It was hugely refreshing to focus on the user not the organisation. Not to say a little difficult.
There is nothing new about this process. It has been used for years and has been a mantra for places like GDS. But seeing it at close hand it’s clear there is a lesson there for communications people.
The question for communicators is not about chocolate cake…. it’s ‘does what you are communicating help real people?’
The earlier you involve your comms team in a new project the more chance it has of being a success.
There’s some stats behind this, too.
If comms are involved in the early planning stage its an 82 per cent chance of success.
If they are involved after the scheme has been approved its 68 per cent.
If comms are called in just before launch its 40 per cent.
If its after launch its 26 per cent.
If its not at all its 15 per cent.
These statistics emerged from a survey from the #commsforchange event I was involved with a while back in the early days of comms2point0. It’s a figure In keep referring back to.
It was a figure that came into my head when I saw the stream from localgovcamp in Bristol last weekend. Loads of great ideas were being kicked around by bright people in local government. Yet, there was very little talk of who to communicate with. That’s not a criticism of the event or the ideas. Far from it. It’s an event that’s very dear to my heart and has shaped what I do today.
But something nagged at me. The landscape is littered with great ideas badly communicated.
And if you want the idea to succeed you need to tell the right people at the right time in the right way.