Welcome to The Leaders’ Report: increasing trust through citizen engagement. At the heart of this research lies the simple recognition that public policy cannot be delivered successfully without effective communications. And that this requires increased engagement and dialogue with public audiences.
This report provides a comprehensive, global overview of how government communicators in 50 countries are thinking about citizen engagement, the challenges they face, how they are addressing them, and what issues lie behind the challenges identified.
There is already a well-established canon on the many different methods of citizen engagement. This report is not intended as a contribution to this particular field, but is a global overview of how the professionals charged by governments with communicating with the public are thinking.
Government communicators are willing to engage with citizens
There is a lack of confidence in how governments implement citizen engagement activities
Governments are not committing to following through on the input of citizens
Communication professionals are under-supported, under-resourced and under-funded
Failure to deliver or under-delivering on citizen expectations has consequences
About this research
The Leaders’ Report is structured in five parts:
- The introduction outlines how the communication landscape has changed. It explores the larger context and challenges shaping the work of the profession;
- The findings shares the insights of our global research. This section draws out five key points that were common to professionals working across every level and type of government in the 50 countries covered by this research;
- The conclusions distils our findings into four overarching take-out points from the research;
- The recommendations focuses on key learnings from the research that can help communicators refine their strategies for citizen engagement;
- Our thinking sets out 10 key drivers that we believe our research among practitioners and citizens identified as prerequisites for creating a closer connection between public authorities and the public.
The findings, conclusions and recommendations in this report are underpinned by a unique set of global insights, which were gathered in partnership with Kantar Public through:
- Conducting in-depth qualitative interviews with over 60 senior government communication leaders across all continents;
- Quantitatively surveying the views of over 400 government communicators across 50 countries and six multilateral organisations;
- Complementing this study of professional opinion and experience with a comprehensive review of existing literature;
- Conducting a quantitative study of 8,000 citizens across eight countries (Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States).
All mentions in this report of communication professionals relate to the insights we have uncovered through a combination of our research approaches. References to communication leaders refer specifically to the senior individuals we interviewed as part of the qualitative study. References to communicators and respondents refer specifically to the 400-plus government communication practitioners we surveyed in our quantitative work.
Why we’re here
Our research highlighted the major challenges facing government communicators in designing and implementing effective citizen engagement. But respondents also voiced frustration at the lack of guidance, best practice and knowledge sharing across the sector.
The lack of sharing arises from several factors:
- Even where citizen engagement has been successful, public organisations frequently lack the time, forums and resources to share learnings;
- Governments are nervous that if learnings from unsuccessful or ineffective engagement programmes are publicly available, political opposition parties and groups will use them to attack the credibility of the party in power;
- The lack of evaluation and benchmarks around citizen engagement means that, even where programmes have had an impact, the results are not always measured and evaluated comprehensively. This means communicators lack the evidence to use successful examples to leverage additional support and funding.
“There is still the mindset that if we see something positive on social media, we see it as a huge success, even though that may only be reflective of a small part of the audience. It’s kind of like clutching at straws. There’s always pressure to move on and do the next thing rather than reflect, review and evaluate: there is a limited ‘window of interest’ from our political and policy colleagues.”Communication Leader, Western Europe
The senior communicators we interviewed shared a desire to know what other public organisations were doing, pointing to the lack of global forums and perspectives.
The frustration felt by many communicators at the lack of visibility over best practice and innovative thinking is the motivation for The Leaders’ Report. We hope that this report will serve as a gateway for communication leaders and practitioners to access best practice in citizen engagement around the world. It is intended to support communicators in their obligations to improve the relationship between citizen and state.