Communication: waste or value? A grass roots public relations program

In its 2006 budget document, the preceding Government of Italy (Berlusconi’s) issued an order to public sector organizations to slash all 2004 public relations and communication expenses by 50 per cent. 

Ferpi, the Italian Federation of Public Relations (, promoted the formation of a coalition including:

°the Association of Public Sector Communicators (, 
°Assorel, the agency association  (

°Unicom, the association of small and medium size advertising companies (

to provoke a public debate on “communication, waste or value?” by organizing an ongoing road-show throughout the country, in local partnerships with politicians, public and private institutions, social networks, non profit organizations and media, while collecting signatures to present a new policy option to the new government (Prodi’s). 
A typical grassroot bottom up public relations program.

But the more interesting part, rather than the tool, is the content of the option. 
The coalition option agrees that too many resources are being improperly invested on communication in the public sector.

However, rather than across the board and indiscriminated cuts, it suggests that the Government issue, in the context of its 2007 budget, an ordinance in which those cuts remain the same only for public sector organizations who are unable to publicly account for the value their communication activities have produced to society and, to the contrary, a special fund be centrally created to openly and publicly stimulate those public sector organizations who are able to do so, thus increasing their existing budgets. 
The project has been sofar presented and debated in cities like Milano, Rome and Padova and is gaining both central and local consensus in the country’s new political majority, whose electoral platform called for a substantial reduction of public sector expenses but not indiscriminately and when, by next October, the coalition will have succeeded in adopting simple and understandable guidelines to define evaluation methods for communication policy, program and single initiatives, it is possible that the proposal will be adopted. 
The road-show-debate has also come up with other relevant ideas, the more interesting one so far being a call to Parliament, National and Local Governments to include a specific item on communication needs in all public work tenders.

Are similar programs being activated in other countries that you know of?

Do you think this idea is a valuable one for the growth and future of the better face of out profession? 


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2 Replies to “Communication: waste or value? A grass roots public relations program

  1. this comment can be directly traced to my good friend and past chairman of the global alliance, the canadian Jean Valin who today is director general marketing and communication of service canada, a public sector organization run by the government of canada.
    I say this because the italian experiment is still in its infancy and nobody really can tell if it will ever depart.
    It would be therefore highly interesting if Jean wished to expand on what he wrote by telling us if those he calls ‘advertising campaigns’ also include public relations support and if this is measured separely. tmf

  2. This is a very short-sighted directive in my opinion and the motives are questionable. However, to your question: I think it is a useful exercise to examine the ways in which communications and public relations activites achieve objectives. Measurment tools and approaches have evolved and are sophisticated enough to provide a measure of success.
    In Canada, all governement advertising campaign decisions are made by the central authority of governement based on pitches made by departments. Funding is allocated based on the degree of coherence with governement priorites. All advertising campaigns in excess of 400K CDN$ must be evaluated for awareness levels by a standard polling instrument. This tool measures recall and tests retention for specific messages in the campaigns. Results are shared with the funding source and feed in to the next cycle of decision-making for campaigns.

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