Public Communication: Global Context and the Way Forward

Close to 40 Communication professionals joined a conversation around the role of public communication, hosted by IABC Canberra and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last week.

The OECD’s latest report – Public Communication: The Global Context and the Way Forward – was the topic of discussion, which examined public communication structures, mandates, and practices.

“This report was based off a survey of more than 50 questions that was put forward to those working and serving the highest level of Government,” OECD Policy Analyst Karine Badr, said at the IABC Canberra webinar.

“We hope that it will contribute to a shift in the culture and mentality around how communication is best used.”

The report looked at the role public communication can play in responding to the challenges posed by the spread of mis- and disinformation and in building more resilient media and information ecosystems. It found a strong government communication function contributed to better policies and services, great citizen trust, and, ultimately, stronger democracies in an increasingly complex information environment.

“It is difficult for public communicators to filter through the very saturated channels where citizens are bombarded with information from different sides,” Karine said.

“Moving away from reactive communications to something that is more strategic … its about supporting the Government agenda. There is a need to include public communicators in that policy development stage. This will help governments to understand your audience more and consider what you are asking your stakeholders to do.”

Melanie Gibbons, IABC Canberra President, said the topic of conversation was extremely relevant to challenges faced by communication professionals in Canberra.

“Communication teams are resourced constrained, and there is often a lack of evidence to back up the effectiveness of the work we are doing,” she said.

“Evaluating what you are doing to be able to prove your worth is crucial.”

Karine echoed these comments.

“Outline your target audience, the objective and impact you hope to have, and ensure that you limit these – to see progress on that – meaning not as much research is needed to link the effectiveness,” she said.

“Not every Department has to have monitoring and evaluation insights. There is value in having central agencies doing some of this work and disseminating it across Government.”

Karine’s OECD colleague, Carlotta Alfonsi, added that digital helped a lot in making the analysis and gathering of data simpler.

“There is an initial investment in tools and training people but then once you have these processes, you can zone in on the types of activities and audience you need to reach,” Carlotta said.

“When you think about digital and analytics, you don’t need an army of data scientists, you need an office that is data literate. Countries who have dedicated units and concentrate expertise are leading best-practice public communications.”


By Hayden Thomson, IABC Board Member


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