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1 Strengthening the Governance of Social Security Communications Strategy Sue Ward.

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1 1 Strengthening the Governance of Social Security Communications Strategy Sue Ward

2 2 Good communications and public relations Essential for building public confidence in the institution and the benefits it administers Your communications policy should be active not just reactive It should be a permanent part of the institution’s work

3 3 Communication This session covers –key points in developing a strategy –working with the media –the institution’s own communications –methods of communication –the need for accessibility –the institution’s annual report –information campaigns

4 4 Key points in developing a communications strategy Identify your audience(s) Think about the message you want to get across to them Put yourself in their place. Think about –what they need to know –how much they will understand already (probably very little)

5 5 Design your communications round this If you give too much information, or it seems irrelevant, people will lose interest If you give too little, they will lose interest

6 6 Working with the media Press, radio, TV, and the Internet are powerful instruments for getting a message across You are bound to receive “bad press” sometimes, but you must live with that Bad news should be openly admitted Have a senior media officer at Head Office, with contacts at local offices

7 7 The relationship with the media is two-way Can the institution assist with media “help lines”? Board members can act as ambassadors, if they are kept well-informed Insist that you are briefed about controversial questions

8 8 The institution’s own communications The public relations material produced by the institution - forms, leaflets, standard letters - should be consistent and easy to understand Carry out opinion polls Are you using your clients as human filing systems? Do you provide annual statements?

9 9 Methods In the past, most communication was paper- based Electronic means and telephone call centres are helpful, but should not take over Many of the clients are elderly and vulnerable - take this into account

10 10 Methods continued What do the institution’s offices communicate? What level of internet and e-mail usage is there among your clients? Interactive use of the Internet for filling in forms raises questions of security as well Call centres should use fully trained staff who understand the benefits and conditions

11 11 Websites These should be designed for the ordinary user, not the computer expert Test all the clever features on a home computer! There are international guidelines for making websites accessible for people with disabilities

12 12 Activity; evaluating your communications Think about the communications material your institution puts out Consider how far it meets the criteria discussed in this session Put together a list of recommendations for improving it

13 13 The Annual Report This is an account of the stewardship of the institution, so it is a key document The audience includes contributors, beneficiaries, the media and researchers, as well as politicians The report is a permanent record It is worth designing it to be user-friendly and accessible to non-specialists

14 14 The report usually contains four basic elements Narrative of activities and expectations for the future operational statistics statistics on contributors and beneficiaries, and any arrears or backlogs of work, together with a description of trends over time the audited accounts

15 15 Reporting to your constituencies Publication of the annual report provides an excellent opportunity to report back Request a briefing from officials beforehand, or bring someone along for technical back up Refer individual cases to the appropriate officials for later answer

16 16 Information campaigns If there are major changes, it is useful to mount a co-ordinated campaign There should be a series of activities in press, radio or TV, with all staff and Board members “on-message” the timetable should be realistic messages need time to penetrate and may need reinforcing

17 17 Activity; information campaigns In your groups, think about a coming policy change that will affect the institution’s clients (this could be a real example, or an invented one) Draw up a plan for an information campaign, and think of a short slogan that will get the message across

18 18 Summary of key points A good communications strategy will influence how the institution and the benefits are seen by contributors A senior staff member should work with the media, along with contacts at local level The institution’s communications should be consistent and attractive

19 19 Summary of key points continued E-mail, the internet and telephone call centres have a role, but must be made accessible to clients The annual report is an important tool for communication Information campaigns for major developments should be well co-ordinated and on a realistic timetable

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