Public sector organisations would boost their revenue generation if they teamed up, says CAN Managing Director Lloyd Clark

Sharing ideas and good practice has become ever-more common amongst local councils in recent years – especially for their communications professionals. From the tireless work of LGComms to give them a national voice and practical support, to the ceaselessly positive Comms2point0, a ‘safe place’ for up-to-date training, ideas, sympathy and recognition (through the ground-breaking annual Unawards).

But local government has yet to make substantial progress on taking a common approach to utilising its public assets – like digital, print and outdoor media – to generate income. This is a real shame. In the digital world, advertisers are actively looking to spend with socially responsible organisations like local councils for a ‘safe’ environment in which to showcase their brands (instead of rubbing up against dodgy content and fake news).

And, although there is money to be made by the individual local council that takes advertising on its website, it would reap the best rewards by teaming up with the other councils to offer advertisers the sort of scale and reach they pay bigger bucks for.

Earning power: the more the merrier

At CAN, we generate income for local authorities and other public sector organisations across the UK with advertising on their websites. So, how much could each local council make in digital advertising if the majority of UK local authorities worked together to offer advertisers the reach they crave?

A good comparator is Transport for London (TfL), a CAN partner since the beginning of last year. TfL has scale built-in. It can reach a significant proportion of people in south-east England, making it an ideal site for advertisers because of the region’s higher-than-average wealth. TfL achieves programmatic advertising yields up to 3.5 times greater than the eight London boroughs currently on the CAN network do individually.

For an average metropolitan borough council that generates £10-£20k from web advertising on its own, a collective approach could push that amount to well over £50k. And there is even greater potential for premium advertising sold directly to ad agencies. CAN frequently turns down high-value premium campaigns from blue-chip advertisers because the network just doesn’t yet have the scale to reach their target audiences.

If the local government sector wanted to be really ambitious, it could sell itself to advertisers as one entity to turbo-charge its earning power.

Sharing ideas on revenue generation

I said earlier that although sharing best practice and ideas are more common for local councils these days, conversations on revenue generation are still the exception. But credit is due to the Local Government Association-supported Cross-Council Revenue Group (CCRG), which is fighting the good fight and encouraging its members to discuss how to maximise income and make smart savings.

At the group’s latest national get-together at Kettering Council on 21 March, CAN Sales Director, John Paul Danon took part in an illuminating session to bust some of the myths that stop councils making money from digital advertising. In discussion, there was some confusion about how digital advertising even works – some believing their council might be seen to be giving preferential treatment to those whose ads appeared, and not just that they were selling ad space on the open market in the same way as everyone else.

You can read more about these myths and the reality here.

It was also reassuring to read this recent blog by Alex Aiken, Executive Director for Government Communications launching his ideas for a ‘Government Communication Service 2020’. One of the four strands for improvement he identified was “maximising our scale – enabling greater effectiveness in sharing of best practice, resources and budget on core activities.” A new strategy for advertising was – promisingly – mooted as a way forward.

Hopefully local government will also find a way to act as a community and help secure some of the revenue needed to make a real difference to their cash-strapped services.

If you’re interested in the CCRG, sign up on info-sharing platform Knowledge Hub and follow Angela Redman from West Sussex County Council – which currently chairs the group – on Twitter (@highnrg247 and #PSCCRG), and also on LinkedIn.

Read more on how to generate income from advertising on your website. Or contact CAN to arrange a chat.