25%of respondents actively tailor their messages to citizens, with the vast majority struggling to move beyond uniform messaging
40%of respondents say they lack an understanding of digital and social media
There is a heightened individualisation. We can no longer send a uniform message to the entire public. It's not possible. It doesn't work anymore.
Communication Leader, Western Europe
Government communicators face a unique challenge:
- They have both a moral and legal responsibility to engage with the entire population.
Participants in The Leaders' Report say that:
- Government communication is still primarily broadcast, despite acknowledging that the most impactful communication is personalised
- A lack of expertise in analysing audience data may be a contributory factor in this.
The majority of those who took part in the research say that their organisation relies heavily on a broadcast model of communication: in some cases, respondents said up to 90% of government communication is still broad-brush and aimed at a generic "general audience".
This is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, effective communication relies on both transmission and dissemination in order to minimise inaccuracy, miss-telling and rumour. Secondly, the world is comprised of increasingly heterogeneous populations: today's extreme urbanisation, labour migration, and conflict migration is rapidly intensifying the intersection of diverse groups with diverse communication needs.9
9Deloitte, Government 2020 http://government-2020.dupress.com
"There is a heightened individualisation and we can no longer send a uniform message to the entire public. It's not possible. It doesn't work anymore." – Communication Leader, Western Europe
Divergent groups have distinct needs and a single message is unlikely to resonate with them all. Similarly, fragmentation of the media landscape renders blanket communication unfeasible.
While communication leaders acknowledge a shifting emphasis away from television and radio, effective citizen engagement within the new media landscape remains difficult territory for many:
- Half of respondents rank a lack of capacity (not enough people) as the greatest challenge they face in connecting with citizens
- Half rank a lack of capability (not enough of the right skills) as the greatest challenge
"Government belongs to the people but at the moment we only communicate with 30-35% of the people." – Communication Leader, Western Europe
"Government communication needs to break through. ‘Spray everywhere' is just not possible in the current media and content environment. [We need to] share and disseminate information in a new and clever way because people are very time poor and there is a danger than any communication – both ways – gets drowned out." – Communication Leader, Multilateral Organisation
Respondents report that they find it extremely difficult – and in some instances impossible – to access in an easy and secure way information and data on citizens that their own governments hold. This undermines efforts to segment and address audiences. Indeed, a number of respondents said their country's data protection laws actively prevent the sharing of citizen data across government ministries. Such laws are, in part, a response to falling levels of trust and rising concerns around data privacy.
What can be done?
Governments can no longer rely on mass broadcasting to engage with the public effectively. Citizens – rather than governments – should be placed at the heart of the communication process and be engaged with on more personalised terms.
To better understand citizens, governments need to look at how best to access, integrate and link different data sources so that communication functions can identify key insights to steer both audience segmentation and engagement.
Government communicators are starting to realise this. Over half of respondents to The Leaders' Report demonstrate an awareness of the need to use data when understanding citizens: 53% cite data as the most important opportunity for communication professionals. However, less than a third believe they use fact-driven citizen insight when making key decisions. The ability to use data has to catch-up with the understanding of its importance.
Ninety percent of digital data in the world today was created within the past two years. While difficult to visualise, this data bank has the potential to provide governments with powerful tools for understanding and dividing audiences. However, while the majority of governments are data rich, our research suggests they are also insight poor. Segmentation by geography, income bracket or religion appears increasingly basic and crude when compared to the sophisticated data-driven portraits of audience groups increasingly produced by successful private-sector organisations and political parties.
"It's a whole new ball game. It's microtargeting. It's no longer mass media. It's no longer even narrowcasting. Use all the tools – Facebook and so on – but the final focus must be the individual citizen… based on information that is targeted at that one person." – Communication Leader, South East Asia
Using data to understand audiences is critical for targeting and personalising in more efficient ways. It allows governments to know their audience to the point of predictability. The potential for this is perhaps best evinced by a government communication leader who explained confidently:
"In my world, we're getting to the point where we can identify individuals, for example, smokers, through their digital behaviour. That will completely transform campaigning strategies: when you can actually tell who somebody is in digital space, that will completely change the nature of what we do and how we do it and the efficiencies around doing it." – Communication Leader, Western Europe
Better use of data can also improve efficiency by providing a more diagnostic reading of complexities, which in turn can help develop more meaningful policy. This will only be possible if governments:
- Reform how they gather, access and interpret data across government boundaries
- Place data-driven audience understanding at the heart of policy development and not just communication delivery.
We call this data-driven approach integrated communication. Our model comprises five stages of integration, all underpinned by data and insights, and that together aim to increase:
- Effectiveness: integrated communication has a much greater chance of successfully influencing citizen behaviour, sustainably and at scale
- Efficiency: an integrated approach can eliminate duplication, reduce time wasted in coordination and enable economies of scale. It generates metrics which allow budget to be reallocated to improve efficiency iteratively over time
- Control: an integrated approach allows a greater degree of centralised ownership of a campaign's strategy, messages, execution and results.
For more information on the integrated model, see: http://rapturecity.info/govtpractice/insights/citizen-behaviour-change/
Tools and approaches that can help
Our clients need advisers with the expertise to engage with a spectrum of often hard-to-reach audiences. Our work with governments worldwide includes
- Audience analytics and optimisation
- Community mapping and audience segmentation strategies
- Concept and message testing
- Social media insight
- Training on integrated communication and behaviour change.
One to watch: Connected Life
Kantar TNS's Connected Life is anannual study of connectivity covering 70,000 people across 57 markets. The survey covers content media consumption, device infrastructure, digital activities, online an offline purchase habits, respondent profiles, brand engagement touchpoints, online customer service, drivers of eCommerce, a deep dive into social networks, and attitudes to and preference for online brand engagement.
For more information, see