Sunday, 16 June 2013

24 hours to get your communications plan ready

It seems this weekend was a good time to bash public procurement and that the attack will continue on Monday night with Channel 4's Dispatches programme. I make no defence for public money wasted and am ashamed of some of the poor public stewardship exhibited. But the headlines can be misleading, the sound bites are easily digested and create barriers for hearing the truth. But procurement can see the media attention as an opportunity, to do that you need to think about what will be 'heard', how to respond and how to create a constructive platform for moving forward. These few days public procurement bashing can be very healthy and provide a useful opportunity for strategically repositioning procurement, if you want.

So, let's recall, Saturday's public procurement bashing centred around the Taxpayers' Alliance publication of the Bumper Book of Government Waste. The headline figure was £15bn of procurement waste per year. You can read my blog on how I believe the headlines were flawed. To me, if you are in public procurement, you need to have a quick refresh of the content of Towards Tesco, understand the key arguments, set out the pros and cons of your own organisational structure (acknowledge there is no perfect structure), be clear how you can maximise the benefits of collaborative procurement internally and externally, and set out your collaboration strategy.

Monday night's Dispatches programme provides a second bite of the cherry. In anticipation of that you should try to read the Sunday Times procurement bashing articles. Expect a revisit of Sir Philip Green's flawed report - you could read my critique. To me the focus of the bashing will be on pCards - now I've dealt with those before. You should understand the benefits of procurement cards, particularly how they can help local SMEs at the present time with cashflow problems. Also be clear about the transaction cost reductions and, contrary to the bashing, the increased control and visibility they provide. The Dispatches programme here is your ally as it highlights visibility which may not otherwise have been available. Make it clear that pCards were not the problem but inadequate governance, controls and procedures.

The timing of the media procurement bashing is also fortuitous - if the newspaper articles hadn't have been over the weekend, CEOs may not have had time to consider them. Your challenge now is to seize the opportunity and prepare a briefing paper for your CEO so that you can use media procurement bashing as part of your procurement communications strategy.

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