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Public sector organisations fail to budget for internal communications, according to Gatehouse and IoIC

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Six out of 10 public sector organisations have no internal communication budget, or one that is very restricted, according to the State of the Sector 2011 survey undertaken by internal communication consultancy Gatehouse in conjunction with the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC).

Over one third of respondents said they had no dedicated internal comms budget and a further 27% had less than £10,000 at their disposal.

More worryingly still, half of respondents predicted that their budgets will be cut further in the coming year.

More positively in terms of resourcing, only 6% of organisations surveyed did not have a dedicated internal communications person while half stated they were part of a team of between one and five communicators. 21% said there were more than 20 people in their IC function.

A number of other key challenges faced by communicators seem to reflect, at least in part, the current difficult economic climate.

Almost 60% of respondents rated understanding of organisational strategy as, at best, average. This may not be surprising given the turmoil the sector has been facing, but it does suggest that many public sector employees are unclear and uncertain about the future. Nearly 40% of respondents identified reengaging employees as their number one professional challenge, with communicating strategy and direction a close second (30%) and communicating cost cutting ranking third (20%).

This suggests a difficult time for communicators over the coming year as they focus both on delivering bad news and improving morale, while also working at instilling a sense of direction and purpose.

Almost three quarters of respondents said that senior management site visits were used to communicate with staff. This may be as a result of the difficult conditions facing the sector (more change often demands a stronger leadership presence), but it may also suggest that organisations are adopting a more strategic approach to leadership communication. <π>Top priorities in terms of time and resources over the next twelve months were leadership communication (60% of respondents), followed by face-to-face communication (50%) and developing/refreshing the internal communication strategy (45%).

In the coming weeks, Gatehouse will be conducting one-to-one interviews with some of the respondents of this research. The results will be published in November.

Simon Wright, director at Gatehouse, said: "Whilst the lack of budgets is undoubtedly going to hamper communication efforts at such a critical time, it is pleasing to note that internal communication, as a function, is so well represented within these organisations." IoIC chief executive Steve Doswell added: "It's good to see face-to-face and leadership communication leading the way in the public sector, as despite all the developments in digital technology, these still lie at the heart of effective internal communication programmes."