The rapid technological changes that have occurred over the past few decades are creating unique challenges for governments everywhere, transforming how they communicate and engage with citizens
In this changing world, how do governments develop responsive, effective information campaigns, while managing a dialogue with their citizen audience?
Before the advent of digital multimedia, governments communicated if and when they had something they wanted to say and tended to use a traditional broad-brush broadcasting approach to publishing information.
Today, in a fast-moving and evolving digital sphere, simply issuing policy statements and managing media enquiries is not enough. Governments must respond to and continuously engage with a tech-savvy, impatient and increasingly cynical public.
According to the Sensis Social Media Report 2017: How Australian people and businesses are using social media (SSMR), the average Australian spends more than 10 hours on Facebook alone per week.
Official communication has had to become more responsive and fluid, with government agencies now making important announcements via popular social media platforms. By publishing information this way, agencies must be able to tailor their message to diverse and increasingly fractured audiences, while engaging in a two-way dialogue with them.
Social media has made individuals more powerful, allowing them unlimited access to vast amounts of ‘uncensored’ information. Perhaps for the first time in history, citizens now have the capacity to respond to a message and campaign rapidly, often outpacing the government’s response.
With more and more government information published online, agencies need to accept that social media channels have changed the way the public communicates and reinvent themselves to become innovative, effective content creators. This involves understanding their target audiences and working out the most effective way to directly connect and engage with it.
In the private sector, many large businesses effectively use social media as a way to solve issues in real-time, monitor ‘audience’ sentiment, manage reputation and increase loyalty.
Likewise, government agencies need to continually respond to their audience and redesign resources, to ensure information meets the actual needs and interests of the people using it and ensure citizens have confidence in the departments and agencies that implement the policies of government.
Communication is a vital government function and failure to adapt will limit the ability of government, at all levels, to respond to the needs of citizens. With a government’s legitimacy now very much based on how well they communicate their policy and decisions, this presents both challenges and opportunities.