The vandals took the handle

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The public sector is slow to ‘get’ communication change

with one comment

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Australian public sector to recognise that communications is changing.

Switching from the tried-and-tested role of media relations to the new reality of a creating a “community” or space for people interested in discussing, learning about, and airing opinions, is a big ask for bureaucracy.

By nature, bureaucrats need order – and are averse to risk. I don’t mean to be critical. That’s just the way government has always operated. 

The problem for our public sector is that time waits for no one.  With them or without them, the core of communications is changing.  World-wide, people no longer look solely to the traditional media for information. Instead, they want to be part of it all, rather than the passive audiences of the past.

Whether it is reading, watching and listening to blogs throughout the day; blogging themselves; podcasting; submitting information and digital photos to news websites or blogs; or social networking, they want to be engaged – not informed in the old PR sense.

I’m afraid this is particularly hard for the public sector and its communicators to grasp. I mean, it’s relatively easy to present ‘key messages’ in information delivered to the traditional media. The good ole media release has been the backbone of the industry for goodness knows how long. But, the question now occupying the minds of public sector communicators is how to achieve that in ‘conversations’ directly with the public?  

I don’t mean to sell our government communicators short.  Even with the bureaucratic restrictions under which they work, there are many who recognise that change is inevitable and are actively wrestling with the challenge. Take, for example, the good folk at Darebin City Council in Melbourne, who have established a regular e-forum, for people to discuss local and broader issues and provide suggestions. Great stuff!


Ian Roberts



Written by ianandsue

May 1, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Great post Ian.

    Communicators generally are slow to get with the changes sweeping their industry, but the public sector is almost resistant. So what if media relations, as we have practicised it for decades, is in its death throes. Get with the changes or be left behind. And you are soooo right when you say that it is more than just putting the occasional communications program on a Facebook group or a MySpace page.


    May 1, 2008 at 11:27 pm

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