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Government Communication - Improving The Recipe


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Improving government communication requires being citizen-centric.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Government Communication - Improving The Recipe

  1. 1. Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. October 8, 2017
  2. 2. § Americans Don’t Trust The Government § Better Communication From The Government Would Help § The Government Resists Communicating Better
  3. 3. “Which of these best describes how you feel (toward) the federal government?” § Basically Content – 19% in April 2017 vs. 29% in October 1997 § Frustrated – 55% in April 2017 vs. 56% in October 1997 § Angry – 22% in April 2017 vs. 12% in October 1997 “How much of the time can you trust the government in Washington to do what is right?” § Always/Most of the Time – 20% in April 2017 vs. 39% in October 1997 Source: Pew Research Center survey of 1,501 adults age 18+ nationwide, conducted April 5-11, 2017. Interviews conducted by Princeton Data Source. For more information:
  4. 4. Zelikow et al., 1997: § “Age-old suspicion of authority” § “Sense that politicians have lost their dignity” § “Deeper set of accumulated grievances with political authority, institutions and processes in general” Source:Why People Don’t Trust Government, ed. Nye, Zelikow and King, Harvard University Press, 1997
  5. 5. From The Cluetrain Manifesto: § “A powerful global conversation has begun.Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed.“ § “As a direct result, markets are getting smarter, ...and getting smarter faster than most companies.These markets are conversations.Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking.Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked.” § “Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to- us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.” § “But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about ‘listening to customers.’They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.” Source:The Cluetrain Manifesto, 1999,
  6. 6. Gavin Rouble, Organizational Consultant,The 2% Factor: § Situation:“Gone are the days where executives and middle managers can expect workers to simply go along with their decisions no-questions-asked.” § Challenge:“Yet many in management positions continue to hold these expectations only to be caught off guard when poor leadership communication results in them being questioned by employees who are seeking to better understand.” § Ineffective Response #1:“They interpret being questioned as an attack on them and become defensive of their decision by attacking the person who raised the question.” § Ineffective Response #2:“The manager chooses to answer the question without actually answering the question.“ Sources: Leadership-Communication
  7. 7. Primary emphasis on outreach Emphasis, but less excitement, around compliance Individual employees highly customer-driven, system has difficulty adapting Vague interest in open data; lack of vision around citizen demand Slow-footed, heavy-handed approach to social media; strategy missing from the recipe
  8. 8. Primary emphasis on swift, accurate, thorough response to social media reports; have a plan Systemic, cultural emphasis on customer service Constant proactive emphasis on releasing data sets where possible Emphasis on producing and participating in compliance reporting with clear, understandable writing Relatively minimal outreach except to make citizens aware of products or services they are due Icing on the Cake: Be Upfront IfYou’re Not At Liberty To Discuss
  9. 9. § Citizens are more educated and empowered than ever. § At the same time, their perceptions of government are deeply negative, and the situation is not getting better. § Mistrustful, angry and frustrated citizens are likely to misinterpret legitimate government communications as nefarious. § The consequences of this misinterpretation include compounded hostility toward government, with myriad potential negative consequences. One of the most prominent among these is the tendency to favor unsourced “fake news” over accurate data. § The government can respond effectively to this situation by reversing its traditional approach to communication. In this framework, responding to social media is #1 in priority, followed by customer service and open data.Traditional outreach campaigns are the least important. § To make this shift effectively, the default attitude must be to communicate, even if it’s to say that “we’re not at liberty to say.” It goes without saying that corruption must be rooted out and eliminated regularly for this approach to work. § If the government does not adapt effectively, citizen-to-citizen communication will ultimately eclipse what it has to say.
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