Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm has set out details of the government’s communication plan leading up to the UK’s exit from the Brexit transition period at the end of the year.
In a letter to the Public Accounts Committee, Chisholm revealed the results of the government’s evaluation of the Get Ready for Brexit campaign and the lessons for its new campaign: "The UK’s new start: let’s get going" , which has the strapline Check Change Go.
In a report last month, the MPs called on the Cabinet Office to explain how it would learn from the Get Ready for Brexit campaign, which ran in September and October 2019 and was intended to prepare the UK for a possible no-deal exit.
Chisholm's letter to PAC chair Meg Hillier, published this week but dated 1 July, said an internal evaluation in January “made a number of recommendations for future transition period communication and for other cross-government campaigns”.
They included setting up a central communications centre to coordinate information between departments and the overall cross-government campaign, and to align comms efforts on the ground, such as assistance events for firms, with broadcast and poster advertising campaigns.
The so-called ground activity should be focused on areas where citizens and businesses can receive targeted advice and support ahead of the UK leaving the transition period. It was also recommended that the Cabinet Office consider “increased use of low/no cost PR and media management in order to secure media coverage in target sectors, geographic titles and trade titles at lower cost to paid advertising”.
Chisholm said: “We have accepted all of these recommendations and taken them into the establishment of the transition period communication hub ensuring efficiency of public spending and providing maximum value for money.”
Chisholm also said the lessons had been circulated across the Government Communications Service as part of sharing good practice. “This is key to continuing to develop and improve the quality of government campaigns,” he said.
The move comes as the government is preparing for a wide-ranging reform of the GCS, including a move to single employer for comms staff.
The evaluation highlighted a number of successes in the Get Ready for Brexit campaign, according to Chisholm, which overall involved more than 1,250 activities and 120,000 TV, radio and print adverts to five audiences covering 26 priority messages.
Although the National Audit Office had found that the campaign did not make the public “significantly better prepared” for Brexit, Chisholm said that there was clear evidence that the campaign succeeded in prompting citizens to take action to achieve desired outcomes, and the cross-government campaign model had been successful in breaking down departmental silos and building collaboration.
As well as being used for the Check, Change, Go campaign ahead of the end of the transition period, this approach was also replicated around the government’s coronavirus communication campaigns.
Chisholm also confirmed that the Cabinet Office had reformed an independently-chaired assurance panel to oversee communications spending around the Brexit campaign.
The panel was initially announced by Chisholm’s predecessor, John Manzoni, to ensure “the right control and metrics” were in place and the campaign was “done in a professional way”.
Chisholm said the panel now “meets regularly to provide a fresh perspective and challenge on delivery”.
He added that a new independent media auditing agency is also in place, similar to one used during the Get Ready for Brexit campaign, to ensure "professional standards are followed, campaign objectives are measurable and value is optimised".