I am very careful with money. At work I refuse to spend money and would rather find creative ways to get results. Some years ago, before the financial crisis, there was a significant amount of money that was available for advertising. It scares me to think about how much money was spent across the public sector, but they were different times. They were very different times.
At some point in the past six years it became accepted that we develop communication that doesn’t cost anything. We work closely with partner agencies to try and maximise the little money that exists and we look to ways to raise finance from other places. I have written before about how it has been quite liberating and allows communication teams to be more creative and innovative when they have no finance available. It has also made me very critical of other organisations or businesses that may be in a different position and still have access to a large pot of cash.
The key to both approaches is simple: you have to show results. I don’t mean good coverage or column inches but real impact. If you are a private company you need to see an increase in sales and positive recall for the brand to support future purchase choices. If you are in the public sector much of the impact needs to be measured in behavioural change. Beyond that it should be about the willingness of local people to engage and support the public service, whether that is health, policing or fire.
If the communication profession is to move on and develop then we absolutely have to get the evaluation side right. It has to be something we prioritise and above all we have to be honest enough to say when things don’t work. When things fail it is a huge opportunity to learn. Too often we want to show that we have achieved results to keep the bosses happy but we have to be able to evidence success.
I have become accustomed to having a zero budget and to be honest I don’t think I could return to days when huge sums of money were spent on advertising campaigns. Let’s do it with creativity and not cash.