Barclay Hails Power and Agility Of All Together Campaign

The unprecedented All Together campaign with the news media sector enabled government to reach communities with targeted public health messages with speed and agility, Downing Street chief of staff Steve Barclay said yesterday. 

Speaking at the Festival of News event, attended by advertisers and agencies, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said the campaign was a tribute to all those involved and an example of innovation and “best practice”  from a “remarkable time.”

He highlighted the ability to access local communities through local news media, and adapt the message to suit those different audiences, as a key strength of the campaign.  

Compered by broadcaster and journalist Cathy Newman, the Newsworks event at the British Library featured panels of journalists from across the industry including a panel of editors made up of Alison Phillips, Daily Mirror, Victoria Newton, The Sun, and Charlotte Ross, Evening Standard. 

The editors spoke about the increasing pressure from wealthy litigants seeking to chill legitimate reporting through intimidation and legal threats and the urgent need to defend press freedom. 

Discussing the recent privacy case against Bloomberg and the consequences for open justice, Ms Phillips said: “Do we really want to be a society where the police are going round arresting people and we don’t know what they’ve done and who they’ve done it to and why?”

The editors spoke about agenda-setting stories, important campaigns and scoops which all showed the crucial role of quality journalism in our society. 

Mr Barclay spoke about All Together, the government’s public health campaign in national, regional and local news media titles, in a panel session with Campaign UK editor in chief Gideon Spanier and Jo Allan, Newsworks chief executive. 

She said there was no model or precedent for the campaign: “We had to put [aside] traditional lines of competition, commercial competition and act as one.”

Talking about the government’s response to the pandemic, Mr Barclay said: “We needed a similar level of agility and innnovation on the communciations side. How do you reach the whole of society? How do you reach parts of society that don’t always trust government in their messages? What are the different platforms? So it couldn’t simply be a normal communciations information campaign.

He added: “It wasn’t sufficient just to have a replay of a traditional government comms campaign and so there needed to be that agility, that pace.” He added: “How do we harness the talent? And ultimately there was a real common cause, how do we get this message out to the population in a way that helps keep them safe?”

Titles were able to take the brief and make it relevant for their audiences, Jo said, adding that key performance indicators for the campaign showed it delivered very strongly on recall, trust and prompting action. She added: “Those figures remain consistently high over the two years. I’d say it’s probably unheard of to have a two year campaign and to see no sign of fatigue for any of those measures.”

Mr Barclay added: “The data that Jo has touched on was very compelling in terms of its reach. I think that was a tribute… to those involved both within industry but also within Whitehall.

Asked whether reporting of issues such as Dominic Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle had undermined the campaign, Mr Barclay said: “Certainly, newspapers held the governement to account, that’s their job, they do that rigorously, that’s part of our free press, but in terms of this campaign specifically it was about saying what are the public health messages we need to get across, how do we do that in a targeted way.

“One of the things I’m very interested in is the different mortality rates in different parts of society so for example within ethnic communities, different infection rates in different hospitals and so forth, so looking at the interplay with local papers, looking at the 30 different multicultural news outlets, and looking at how we get different targeted messages.”

He added: “One of the questions is how we take that innovation from what was a remarkable time and capture some of that best practice moving forward.”

Mr Barclay said understanding different communities was critical to effective government comms. He added: “What are then the trusted voices, in terms of comms, that speak to different parts of society and then to Jo’s point, which I think is absolutely critical, is the agility.

“A tribute to those in the campaign but I think one of the features of it was the pace, the agility, and being able to flex the messages for different audiences but within a framework as to what that message should be.”

Jo added: “We always say when talking about this campaign that it was unprecedented. But there is a precedent now.”