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Achieving Positive Policy Outcomes Through Effective Government Communications

Achieving positive policy outcomes through effective Government communications 12 Feb21

The challenge with delivering policies is often knowing how to influence behaviour. Through engagement with the Government Communication Service (GCS), research by Professor Kevin Money, Professor Carola Hillenbrand, Dr Anastasyia Saraeva and Dr Irene Garnelo-Gomez from the John Madejski Centre for Reputation (JMCR) at Henley Business School, and Professor Abby Ghobadian, Professor of Management at Henley Business School, has informed communication strategies across UK government departments and platforms (including digital, web, press and broadcast).

The research has produced a tool called the “Reputation Framework”, which evaluates communications in order to effect behaviour change. The research proposes key components of organisational communication strategies, such as organisational listening, leveraging senior leadership and influencer voices, and causally links to desired outcomes such as cooperation, compliance and advocacy behaviour of message recipients.

The work outlines how the behavioural outcomes of communication can be usefully categorised as “starting”, “stopping” and “maintaining” behaviours; and communication drivers can therefore relate to functional, relational, motivational and/or third-party influence drivers. The novel foundational work by the JMCR allowed exploration of the proposed linkages in subsequent empirical work, to provide nuance and detail for organisational strategies and likely recipient behaviour.

The focus on linking specific aspects of communications to specific behavioural outcomes was novel at this time because the value of communication has often been measured by practitioners more generally in terms of awareness of and attitudes towards the communication itself, rather than in terms of tangible behaviour change. The research is therefore methodologically innovative in that the link between drivers (messages) and outcomes (citizen behaviour) had been widely conceptualised, analysed or measured before. This has allowed practitioners to develop and adjust their communications strategies and campaigns in a way that demonstratively impacts citizen behaviour in line with policy outcomes.

Having far-reaching impacts across government departments and arm’s-length bodies, the tool underpins the Government Communications Evaluation Framework, used by government departments, agencies and public bodies in the UK, and is shared with public sector bodies overseas. This Framework has contributed towards positive behaviour change, demonstrating successful delivery of a wide range of policy priorities across Government.