WPP’s Government & Public Sector Practice has poached the UK government’s one-time deputy director of government communications Sean Larkins as director of consulting and capability. “Communications capability” is a new offer it says.
Working for the Government Larkins (left) “led the reform of UK Government communications on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office. He was also responsible for the Government Communication Service’s professional development programme for nearly 4,000 civil servants.” Latterly Larkins was head communications honcho at DEFRA, once the Min of Ag and Fish, which isn’t quite so important-sounding
WPP Public Sector CEO Michelle Harrison says: “Governments worldwide increasingly use communications as a tool for policy delivery by influencing citizen behaviour. This has created new demands for government communications functions to deliver long-term, strategic, evidence-driven and highly impactful communication. This, combined with digital transformation, has made internal capability a priority for government communications leaders.”
Larkins says: “WPP agencies do great work around the world. I’m excited to join the team and lead a new part of the offer which is so central to the long-term success of government communications. Improvements in a number of countries have shown how important it is for government communicators to have the right skills and work within effective and efficient structures.”
The WPP Government & Public Sector Practice launched in 2014 and now has offices in London, Brussels, the Middle East and North Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and East Africa, with plans to launch in Singapore and Washington DC.
Whether or not it works for governments in those areas we know not. Presumably some work is for governments and some for companies and others that seek to influence them.
But it’s interesting that WPP clearly sees this as a growth area. Governments in many places around the world are busy outsourcing everything they can, chiefly to save money, mostly by reducing the number of people on their payroll. The massive growth of outsourcing companies like Capita in the UK is a sign of how big the business is potentially.
Maybe one day the UK government will outsource most of its communications. It has already outsourced much of the running of prisons and the NHS. Why not communications? Or PR, as we used to call it.