New government comms plan embraces more nudge techniques

Plan for 2018-19 to focus on four themes, including creating a strong, new relationship with Europe after Brexit

Executive director of government communication Alex Aiken Credit: GCS

By Richard Johnstone

27 Apr 2018

The cross-government communication plan for the year ahead has set out proposals to use more behavioural science techniques in government promotional activities, including starting to target audiences by personality.

The Government Communication Plan for 2018-19 sets out the priorities for communication across departments over the next 12 months, which executive director of government communication Alex Aiken said would cover four themes: a stronger, fairer economy; a more caring society; a truly global Britain; and a strong, new relationship with Europe.

Aiken said there would be a total of 143 campaigns, an increase of 30 from 2017-18, and that each campaign must make the best use of public funds, and generate return on investment”.


Among the eight professional challenges for the Government Communication Service set out in the plan is the need to “work harder to master the techniques of behavioural science” such as the use of nudge theory, as developed by the Cabinet Office-backed Behavioural Insights Team, to change behaviour.

In particular, the document stated that GCS will “start considering audiences by personality as well as demographic” and would be publishing a new guide on how to do this by the end of 2018. Another priority is to transform the data government holds into actionable insight which will be used to improve government campaigns. “We’re already analysing data from our campaigns to improve our content and make it relevant to our audiences,” the plan stated.

Other challenges include attempting to “transform the mass of data we have about audiences into actionable insight, which will be used to improve government campaigns”. The plan stated government is already analysing data from previous campaigns to improve content and make it more relevant.

The 2018-19 priorities for the Public Service Joint Communications Council, which brings together senior leaders from central and local government, health, emergency services and wider public services, have also been agreed. They are: cybersecurity, winter preparedness, fire safety, community cohesion, public health, social care and the NHS 70th anniversary celebrations.

Elsewhere, the plan confirmed a Cabinet Office rapid rebuttal team formed to help tackle fake news and “reclaim a fact-based public debate” had been put in place.

Aiken used the launch to highlight a number of successful campaigns in the last year, including the Department for Education’s teacher recruitment drive and the Ministry of Justice’s efforts to boost prison officer numbers, which had led to the recruitment target being exceeded.

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