Press release

Review of government direct communications and role of COI

The Cabinet Office has today published guidance on its review of government communication and the role of the Central Office of Information (COI).

The Cabinet Office has today published the Terms of Reference, a process methodology and a governance arrangement for its review of government direct communication and the role of the Central Office of Information (COI).

Matt Tee, Permanent Secretary for Government Communications, who is leading the review, is now calling for the written views of Government and industry experts. These will inform the recommendations he will make to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, in February.

Working with COI’s Chief Executive Mark Lund, Matt Tee is examining how government should undertake paid for advertising and marketing campaigns for maximum effectiveness and efficiencies for the taxpayer.

The review, which was commissioned late last year, is also considering how direct communication should be best planned, coordinated, procured and evaluated when the advertising and marketing freeze is lifted at the end of this financial year. It is considering the role, status and funding of COI and governance of the communications profession.

The review will draw evidence from:

  • COI
  • government departments
  • the advertising and marketing industry
  • commercial partners of government such as supermarkets and financial service providers
  • media owners
  • former heads of COI and the Government Communication profession

A roundtable of senior leaders from government and marketing communications industry experts has also been appointed to help inform Matt Tee’s recommendations. The group will meet in mid January to provide their initial views and late February to provide views on the findings of the review.

The invited roundtable experts include:

  • Sir Martin Sorrell KCB - Chief Executive, WPP
  • John Collington - Head of Procurement, Efficiency and Reform Group, Cabinet Office
  • David Abraham - Chief Executive, Channel 4
  • Jeremy Heywood - Permanent Secretary, No. 10
  • Amanda Mackenzie - Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, AVIVA
  • Steve Hilton - Director of Strategy, No 10
  • Martha Lane-Fox - Government’s Digital Champion
  • Robin Wight - Chairman of Engine Group
  • Stephan Shakespeare -CEO of YOUGov
  • Sir Peter Gershon - Former Civil Servant and Non-Executive Director of HM Treasury

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:

The government needs to be far more innovative in thinking about how it can best deliver incredibly important public information messages. We need to incorporate the latest ideas from initiatives such as the Ad-Council in the US and the latest thinking from experts such as our Behavioural Insight “nudge” Team. If we get this right we can save the taxpayer money and increase the effectiveness of our campaigns, which is why I’m so pleased we have this team of experts on-hand to help advise us.

Matt Tee, Permanent Secretary for Government Communications, said:

We have seen a massive reduction of over 50% in paid for direct communication during the advertising and marketing freeze. We now need a model for government’s direct communication which will help deliver more for less after the freeze has been lifted.

Government departments and external stakeholders are asked to provide their views on government’s direct communication in writing by 21 January 2011, to Matt Tee.

Notes to editors

The term direct communication is being used as a simple definition for the advertising and marketing activity managed by government. It covers all activity in scope of the current Efficiency and Reform Group advertising and marketing freeze.

Government’s press and media relations functions, which are traditionally provided in-house by departments are not covered in the Review.

In May 2010 the government introduced a freeze on advertising and marketing activity. As a result the volume of communications activity by government commissioned through COI fell by over 50% in the first 6 months of this year, compared to the same period last year. Subsequently, COI ran a redundancy programme which reduced its staff numbers by 40%, from 737 to 450.

Government communication activity started in the middle of the 19th century with the Post Office. In the 20th century, a Ministry of Information was created, twice, to aid communications in the 2 world wars. COI was established on 1 April 1946 out of the former Ministry of Information.

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