As 2013 comes to a close, this seems like a good moment to have a look at what 2014 might have in store for those of us who work in communications for public sector bodies.
The biggest political story of the year is likely to be in September with the Independence Referendum in Scotland. As a Scot living in England I won’t have a vote in the poll, but I’ll watch the battle for votes with great interest. Already the Yes campaign is making extensive use of social media to get their message across and is clearly targeting those voters who are still undecided.
In contrast, the No campaign looks to be struggling. Rather than proactively selling the electorate the benefits of staying in the UK, they seem to be concentrating on scare stories on how awful an independent Scotland would be, I would have thought that by now politicians would have realised that negative campaigning rarely works.
It is still a little unclear what effect the re-organisation of the NHS in England which took place in April this year is having on communications work. The abolition of the Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts meant that many successful PR teams were split up and many of the people affected are still settling into their new roles. Government plans to introduce 24/7 working in front line NHS services seems certain to lead to more pressure on comms teams.
In local government, savage budget cuts mean that PR staff face the difficult prospect of having to tackle an ever increasing workload with decreasing resources. One major issue likely to come to the fore in 2014 is the plan of Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles to restrict what Councils can report in their own publications. The proposal, which could lead to local authorities being banned from even mentioning contentious issues, will mean that staff producing council newspapers and magazines will have to tread very carefully.
2014 will be a challenging year for all of us, but I doubt if it will be boring.