The Central Office of Information (COI) is the UK government’s centre of excellence for marketing and communications. COI works with government departments and public bodies to produce information campaigns on issues that affect the lives of every citizen in the UK – from health and education to benefits, rights and welfare.
In this email interview Jamie Galloway, COI’s Director of Digital Media, talks about how the UK government uses digital media in its campaigns.
COI is widely reported as the UK’s third largest spender on advertising, spending around £167m in 2005. What proportion of this spend goes on digital activity, and what are the most important forms of digital advertising for COI?
Spend on digital media in 2005/06 was £12 million. Digital media services include website design, online advertising, search engine optimisation, online partnerships and other online related media. There is no guide to the proportion of spend allocated to any communication channel for government campaigns. The split is based on the requirements of the campaign and the audience that we are trying to reach. Communications planning is carried out by strategic planning agencies that consider all media channels to ensure the right mix of channels to achieve the campaign’s objectives.
Can you tell us a bit more about your responsibilities as Director of Digital Media? What does the job involve? How many people are in the team?
There are 25 people in COI’s Digital Media team. My responsibilities are to manage the team effectively to ensure that we supply an excellent service and achieve best value for government departments, in line with COI’s objectives. The job involves day-to-day management, strategic input into government projects, attending pitches and planning for future business strategy.
The rapid growth of social media is changing the communications landscape. What impact is this having on the campaigns that COI produces on behalf of its clients?
COI and the agencies we work with are responsible for communicating specific messages to the public on behalf of government departments. COI has excellent knowledge of developments across the communications industry, technology and channels to ensure best advice is given to government departments. Social media is having an impact but there are many other factors that we consider, such as digital TV, PVRs and mobile to name but three.
Social media means organisations have to cede control of the message to the community. This can be quite difficult for large organisations to adapt to. What has your experience been with this?
Communications strategies need to take account of a range of channels. COI advises government departments on the most appropriate mix of new and traditional channels to effectively communicate messages to a range of target audiences.
Do you have any examples of how COI has employed social media tools such as blogs, podcasts, wikis, video sharing etc as part of integrated communications campaigns?
The Royal Air Force (RAF) has used podcasts and blogs as a part of the RAF careers website. We have used messenger advertising and Myspace in innovative ways. The use of video is becoming increasingly important and videos feature on some government websites. The public has loaded government ads onto Youtube.
COI Digital Media also works across areas, including mobile, interactive TV and search to effectively deliver messages to defined target audiences.
What tools does COI use to track the effectiveness of these social media tools?
Evaluation varies for each campaign. COI has a framework/roster of research agencies to assess communications campaigns to ensure effective use of taxpayers’ money.
Deploying social media effectively as part of integrated communications requires specialist skills and a good understanding of social media. What types of agency have you worked with that have a good understanding of this?
COI works with a range of leading agencies in the field of digital media, all of them are listed on our website.