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Spanning over 40 countries, The Leaders' Report is the first comprehensive review into what government and public sector communication leaders around the world are thinking, planning and concerned about. The research explores current and future challenges and what communication leaders are doing to prepare and where communication strategy is most effective in delivering on objectives.

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  • France
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • Luxemburg
  • Lebanon
  • Syria
  • Jordan
  • Qatar
  • Kuwait
  • Bahrain
  • UAE
  • KSA
  • Egypt
  • Tunisia
  • Morocco
  • Iraq
  • US
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Thailand
  • Indonesia
  • Myanmar
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Hong Kong (SAR of China)
  • Taiwan (China)
  • China
  • UK
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand

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Our global research found significant agreement among communication leaders and practitionersabout the key challenges they face. However, our conversations also identified a range of issuesworthy of future study and consideration. They are:

We have called these issues ‘outliers' and we intend to initiate wider discussion and debate on them over the coming months.

Hyper-personalisation: should government communication always be made-to-measure?

Almost all websites – from search engines to social networks to news outlets – use filters to personalise content: advances in data collection, analytics, digital electronics and digital economics have helped website owners offer better real-time and more prolonged online experiences. But is that necessarily a good thing?

At first glance, filtering offers real benefits for government communicators. We have argued in The Leaders' Report that personalisation can help governments deliver more relevant messages to citizens and, by limiting information overload, help them find the intelligence they need more easily.

But some respondents to The Leaders' Report are concerned that if governments over-use personalised content, they may:

  • Damage the “bonds of society” by prioritising individual needs and opinions over those of the wider community
  • Isolate citizens, by limiting the amount of information that challenges their point of view
  • Exclude other unrelated news or information that citizens may find useful.

Some degree of algorithmic personalisation is of course essential: there is simply too much information online for citizens to cope with. But in addition to providing access to information and services, government communicators also have a responsibility to educate and inform citizens about unpopular issues and the needs, views and requirements of the wider population that algorithms may filter out.

Where that delicate balance – between continued personalisation and community-focused content – lies, isn't yet clear. Government communicators will need to find it, or deal with the consequences.

We have called these issues ‘outliers' and we intend to initiate wider discussion and debate on them over the coming months.

The 4th industrial revolution: will populism go mainstream?

The Leader's Report has already looked at how, worldwide, growing numbers of people feel disconnected from society. But how will they react when the next technological breakthroughs are also social ones? When jobs are automated and where Tesla drives your taxi and drones deliver to your door. Today's populist dislike for immigration may become tomorrow's distrust of technology.

There is increasing consensus that the world is on the brink of a technological revolution that has the potential to:

  • Disrupt lives, transform professions, and discard skills on an unprecedented scale
  • Transform how we live, work and communicate.

So how can government communication ensure that changes to society, including increased automation of jobs, do not lead to conflict, strife and extremism?

Participants in The Leaders' Report don't yet know how they will respond. The risk is that without genuine engagement, support and communication, communities will fracture further into those who thrive and those who struggle to survive. If we're to prevent today's populist tensions becoming tomorrow's mainstream ones, government communicators must:

  • Anticipate and understand the way society, technology and the labour market are all changing, and provide productive guidance to politicians and policymakers
  • Find alternative ways to engage with citizens that do not depend on traditional labour market segmentations
  • Enable citizens to have a genuine voice in societal developments that may impact them – at least in the short term – negatively
  • Ensure public support and public services are accessible to those who are in greatest need of them.

Confidence in democracy: how can we reassure the insecure?

Many respondents to The Leaders' Report highlighted the challenge of communicating with populations that are increasingly fearful: we used the term the age of insecurity to describe the current state of a wide range of countries where citizens feel increasing and acute concerns for their economic, political, religious and physical security.

Some communication leaders in western democracies report that this insecurity has led to a devaluation of democratic liberties in return for greater perceived safety. So how can government communication best reassure citizens who feel increasingly insecure?

Government communicators need to understand that:

  • Citizens interpret messages differently in emotionally-charged situations. So how is government communication reflecting citizen concerns? Do government communicators have a strong enough understanding of their audiences?
  • Data and data privacy will become increasingly important tools to define both segmentation and messages. Communicators must ensure this data is managed effectively and ethically, and incentivise sharing in both the government and public interest
  • Consultation and engagement can help reassure citizens of their security. Two-way communication may help maintain confidence in the ability of governments to protect their citizens.

New technology: a bridge or a barrier between government and citizen?

New technologies are advancing at an exponential rate. Some – such as artificial intelligence, voice recognition and virtual reality – have the potential to transform the way governments deliver public services. Chatbots could replace government call centres. Supercomputers might help doctors diagnose illnesses. Wearable technology may help patients better manage pain and reduce medication levels.

But for all the benefits these advances will bring, some respondents to The Leaders' Report express concern that, while technology will clearly disrupt how citizens engage with one another and with government, they want and crave the human touch. If used inappropriately, might technology become a bigger barrier between government and citizen rather than a bridge? Could avatars and virtual reality software entirely replace human-to-human engagement?

Challenges also bring opportunities: wearables, bio measurement and motion detection, for example, are increasingly being used in research to help governments identify key insights into how and why citizens think, act and engage in the ways that they do.

Few government communicators appear to be engaging yet with the private sector, where the use of AI and VR is significantly ahead of the public sector. Early learnings are already there for government communicators to absorb, provided they can find the time – and the networks – to do so.