The Precarious Balancing Act Of Government Behaviour Change Communications

The Precarious Balancing Act Of Government Behaviour Change Communications
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine
SHARE
THIS



In this opinion piece, Ken Chan (pictured), VMLY&R Melbourne’s head of strategy, discusses how to create impactful government communicationss.

Pandemic life has certainly introduced some weird and wonderful ways to pass the time in (and in between) lockdowns. And it seems that picking apart the latest government campaigns is becoming a particularly favourite pastime for many. In fact, it’s probably up there with panic buying toilet paper and walking in circles around a park.

COVID-19 has prompted us all to reassess the way we act and behave, for the safety of ourselves and others. The sheer volume and frequency of government campaigns in-market has shown that governments are feeling the pressure to take a more visible (and vocal) role in this effort. However, in such an emotionally- and politically-charged environment – finding the balance between informing, educating and mandating has only become more challenging.

In Australia, the lack of a timely national vaccination strategy and campaign was disappointing. When the campaign finally came it was deemed lacklustre at best, and was widely scrutinised by the Australian public.

If these campaigns fall short, the impact on the broader community can be disastrous. It is therefore important that they are scrutinised, so that the government can understand what messaging will elicit a positive behavioural change.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by @thefactsination

The good news is that it looks  like we are turning a corner with these campaigns. As vaccination appointments have opened up to the wider population, we have seen recent campaigns by government, brand and even our own industry (NSW Government – ‘Let’s do this’, Qantas – ‘Be Rewarded’, @TheFactsination – ‘The A to Z of things more likely to kill you than the AZ’) go to market with really positive public reception.

At VMLY&R, our partnership with government clients such as the Department of Transport (DoT) and Major Transport & Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) extends to public service announcements that are geared to address, amend or reinforce safety behaviours of Victorians in and around public transport and infrastructure.

Recently, we launched three behavioural change campaigns for DoT – Level Crossings, Trams Wayside and Safe Travel Behaviours – which focus on promoting a safe return to public transport for patrons, motorists and pedestrians following disrupted routines during COVID-19.

I won’t lie: the ever-changing circumstances of COVID-19 meant the road to market was riddled with its fair share of false-starts, revisions and uncertainty. So, at the risk of sounding like “it’s not the destination, but the journey and friends we made along the way” – I wanted to reflect on what we can learn about the demands on government communications in our current landscape.

  1. Focus on the action, not the actor.

Government-led social behaviour change campaigns are often trying to illicit a degree of self-awareness from the public – the sense that personal responsibility must be taken and a different behaviour demonstrated for the personal and greater good of the community.

But figuring out how to best do this without finger-pointing or (worse) victim blaming when addressing the behaviour change is absolutely crucial. In the world of government-led behaviour change, the focus needs to centre on actions and consequences, rather than “good vs. bad” people.

  1. Be firm but fair.

Building on from the previous point, behaviour change executions need to elicit an acknowledgement that something the audience is currently doing must be either stopped or started. And the trick is, these reasons often have a higher degree of selflessness attached. We are essentially telling the public to “do this thing that may not benefit you directly, but is best for the community” – which doesn’t rank too highly on the “what’s in it for me?” front.

This is where tone can have a major impact on receptivity. Be too passive and you risk being either forgotten. Go too hard, and you risk being remembered for the wrong reasons. While the tactics are varied – some communications induce guilt, others amplify the personal benefits – effective and enduring government behaviour change campaigns need to strike the right balance to help the audience understand and agree with the desired change.

  1. Creativity isn’t a risk, it’s a weapon.

In a crowded and noisy environment, it’s so easy to be drowned out, misunderstood, or totally ignored. And in the world of government, the “PR gaff” is always lurking over every campaign. So the urge to play it safe is incredibly strong.

But, guess what? Creativity is what makes the difference in an audience remembering your message. According to super-smart people that I often rely on to look competent, “47% of the effect of advertising comes from the creative” (Nielson Catalina Solutions, 2017). Sure, things like targeting, reach and product fit matter – but creativity is not just the “secret sauce” that makes your campaign effective… it’s half the burger.

So when you’re facing the temptation to play it safe, lean into creativity and remember that it’s the most potent lever you can pull for campaign effectiveness. Don’t believe me? Then just ask yourself if you’d know what to do if I told you to ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’… or what not to do to avoid being called a ‘bloody idiot.’

 

 

Please login with linkedin to comment

covid-19 government communications Ken Chan vmly&r melbourne

Latest News

“Leading By Example Is One Of The Most Powerful Things Brands Can Do” Gumtree’s Erin Holt On How Sustainability Drives Customers
  • Marketing
  • Media
  • Opinion

“Leading By Example Is One Of The Most Powerful Things Brands Can Do” Gumtree’s Erin Holt On How Sustainability Drives Customers

Marketplace Gumtree is always conducting research to better understand Australian consumers. The result is that the marketing platform is able to find new and interesting ways to connect with Australians.  Gumtree is a platform where you can buy, swap, and sell used goods. You can get anything from an upcycled bike to a brand new […]

Seismic Announces New Zealand Partnerships To Empower Businesses And Workers
  • Technology

Seismic Announces New Zealand Partnerships To Empower Businesses And Workers

Seismic has announced an expanded New Zealand (NZ) presence to support the transformation of sales and marketing teams, and enable the nation’s employers to focus on upskilling their workforces to overcome a digital skills shortage. The company has also signed NZ-based specialist consultancies, Fresh Perspective Sales (FPS) and Jumping Fox Interactive, as its first two […]

The Inspired Unemployed Launch Their Own Podcast Via Spotify
  • Media

The Inspired Unemployed Launch Their Own Podcast Via Spotify

The Inspired Unemployed are launching a Spotify Original podcast, giving Australians even more insight into the larrikin’s unexpected fame and adventures. Commissioned by and only available on Spotify, the first ever podcast from the duo will bring a whole new dimension to the adventures of Matt and Jack, two best mates who still can’t quite […]

Diversity Is Good For The Bottom Line, So Why Isn’t Anyone Listening?
  • Opinion

Diversity Is Good For The Bottom Line, So Why Isn’t Anyone Listening?

In this guest post, Garth Williamson (main photo), country manager ANZ at Shutterstock, says all the evidence is in for a more inclusive workplace, but asks why are so many still shunning the idea? The evidence is clear; inclusive marketing increases brand reach, consumer engagement and drives customer brand advocacy. And yet, few brands are […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
PHOTOGRAPH BY NIGEL WRIGHT. 
WRIGHTPHOTO1@MAC.COM

THE MASKED SINGER S3. EP5

THIS PICTURE SHOWS: EPISODE 5 REVEAL…MAHALIA BARNES















.
  • Media

Tuesday TV Wrap: Masked Singer Reveal Falls From Monday As Pavlova Is Uncovered

The Masked Singer’s big reveal saw a slight drop off in audience from its Monday night episode, netting an average of 654,000 viewers. That’s a decrease of 49,000 from the previous night where, as you are sure to remember, the dancing pinata was revealed to be Lote Tuqiri. Last night was the reveal of a […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Ray White Goes In-House For New “Proudly” Campaign Just In Time For Spring Selling Season
  • Campaigns

Ray White Goes In-House For New “Proudly” Campaign Just In Time For Spring Selling Season

Australasia’s largest real estate agency has released its biggest brand campaign ever that was all done in-house. The spring campaign, “Proudly Ray White”, was created to help service the more than 730 Australian offices under the leading group’s umbrella. Spearheaded by Ray White marketing manager Todd Alexander and brand manager David Williamson, the campaign was […]

The Lab Expands Executive Team With Three Promotions
  • Marketing

The Lab Expands Executive Team With Three Promotions

Leading cultural insights and strategy company The Lab today announced the promotion of three senior staff members to executive positions in its Melbourne and Sydney offices. The promotions follow strong growth for The Lab, with the addition of new clients and the launch of its innovative new artificial intelligence and machine learning division, Lab AI, […]

Booktopia’s Alex Huntley On Partnering With SaaS Platform Freshworks And Tackling The Pandemic
  • Marketing

Booktopia’s Alex Huntley On Partnering With SaaS Platform Freshworks And Tackling The Pandemic

Alex Huntley, Booktopia’s head of customer experience, recently appeared at software company Freshworks’ recent digital CX summit RE:SOLVE. During the summit, Huntley shared his thoughts on future-proofing customer service architecture.Huntley sat down with B&T to discuss Booktopia’s partnership with Freshworks and how it has helped their platform develop. B&T: Why did Booktopia first decide to partner […]

Nestlé Oceania Adds The Edison Agency To Strategic Design Roster
  • Marketing

Nestlé Oceania Adds The Edison Agency To Strategic Design Roster

The Edison Agency has made four new appointments in its Sydney office to service the continued growth across key account The Arnott’s Group and the recent appointment to Nestlé Oceania’s strategic packaging design roster. Over the past 12 months, the culmination of strategic and creative work across the Uncle Toby’s brand and continued growth of […]

SCA Launches Smart Speaker Experience Tom & Olly’s Guide To Lockdown
  • Media

SCA Launches Smart Speaker Experience Tom & Olly’s Guide To Lockdown

SCA has announced a new smart speaker experience for the Hit Network, with Tom and Olly’s Guide to Lockdown. A voice-activated way to get inspiration and information on fun activities that can be done at home, the guide is curated to appeal to a wide audience. Smart speaker users will find a range of ideas […]