By Katie Nelson | Let’s connect on Twitter and LinkedIn
What I’m Watching: Ozark, Season 3
What I’m Reading: Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom – John O’Donohue
What I’m Listening To: the ‘Edward Scissorhands’ soundtrack
Over the last several months, we as consumers faced an onslaught of information like we never have before. And we, as government communicators, have had to stretch and strain every possible tool in our repository to try and “get the message out.” We’re truly in the midst of an infodemic, an incredible fatigue of bad news seemingly followed by worse news, and we are beginning to hear a question to which I think we can all relate to: When will this end?
This is the ultra of information sharing. We are running hard, long, and we are tired. We don’t know when this race ends.
But it is in these longest races where runners, or in our case, communicators, learn something invaluable.
We have learned what we need to do to prepare for the next phase of 21st century communication.
That’s right, you already know what you’ll need to do to be the best possible communicators for your communities going forward.
The trick will be in its execution. The trials will be in its reception.
You will need to do one thing: you will need to toss out everything you thought you knew worked for sharing information and begin to always think outside the box.
Yes, press releases will always have their place – as an archive of news already shared. Yes, community newsletters will have their place – as a roundup of information that residents will already have received by you or others throughout the day or week.
Those are catch-up communications. I’m talking about real-time diversification of how and why you choose to reach the audiences you do in ways that up until now, hasn’t been mastered by government, but has certainly been spreading in your respective cities and counties.
TikTok is a prime example. Look at how spectacularly it has been mastered to share pertinent news in a digestible way by cities like Minneapolis, Minnesota and Columbus, Ohio. They have covered everything from Census information, to animal adoptions, and more. I know some of us reading this will want to know, ‘What about the privacy concerns?’
We are already facing security concerns on every social media app we use – Facebook has been utilized time and again by foreign bots to spread misinformation, and we’ve all seen how even Twitter is susceptible to hacks at its highest levels.
These were once novel ways of sharing information – when will we begin to realize that cities like Minneapolis and Columbus have honed in on new-wave information-sharing that works, and that is more than likely going to be a somewhat permanent stamp on the social media world for the foreseeable future?
What about finding ways to incorporate Cameo into ongoing COVID messaging?
The City of Mountain View launched a campaign last week where a series of celebrities helped share the message that doing simple things like wearing a mask, and washing your hands, are easy ways to slow the spread of the virus. Did any of us know what Cameo was even a month ago?
This adaptability hasn’t just stopped with COVID information. Demands for new ways of viewing and sharing information have arisen in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Police departments across the country have been tasked with creating real-time transparency portals with interactive data to match the needs and wants of their communities’ questions and concerns. We’ve seen it in how city councils have modified in-person meetings, the gold standard of local government accessibility, by bringing them online through Zoom.
Access has not been lost, and communication channels haven’t closed. Rather, they’ve acclimated to the aberration that is 2020.
As we round out the last few months of a year none of us were necessarily prepared for, but one that has led to incredible growth in the communications field, we have learned that we can and must drive forward our innovative messaging styles to permeate well beyond the boundaries of a calendar year.
We must constantly strive for more ingenuity and greater innovative tactics in how we clearly but creatively keep our communities updated and informed.
And, we must consistently surpass our own drawbacks or holdbacks so that we can begin to evolve the communications field in a way that is sophisticated, timely, and exceptional, across the board.
If this is our first ultra when it comes to information sharing, and if we have made it this far, I have no doubt we can and will continue to run forward with remarkable dexterity, and we will look back on 2020 not as the year that fell apart, but as the year we, as government communicators, all rose up.