Turns out Stephen Colbert may have been on to something when he coined the term “truthiness.” According to a recent study by U.K. market research group Ipsos Mori that compared British citizens’ perceptions of statistical facts to the actual numbers, most people have a pretty skewed idea of the truth. As this article by The Guardian suggests, society is teeming with misinformation and misperceptions. And despite popular opinion, the blame can’t necessarily be placed on politicians or the media alone.
There are a variety of factors that come into play when we absorb and interpret information. From inherent biases and shortcuts to an inability to process very large or small numbers, it seems the odds are against anyone trying to convey a clear and concise message. So with all of this in mind, how do you as a government organization ensure that your message is easily received and understood by your stakeholders?
Sorry, Stephen, but it looks like “truthiness” may have met its match. With multichannel digital communications and a three-part approach, you can provide official content and set the record straight.
The Internet has changed how people get their information. Gone are the days when face-to-face interaction and paper products were the primary methods of delivery. Adopting multichannel digital communications such as email, SMS and social media helps you offer information how, when and where your stakeholders want it. By allowing users to choose which channel they prefer to receive timely, relevant information, government organizations show that they understand and respect the needs of their citizens, which helps establish trust. When trust is built, it’s easier to engage and educate. Stakeholders must first view you as a reliable, straightforward source of information before they can trust you.
Once you’ve established trust with your stakeholders you need to engage them on a deeper level. Using social media to open up communication as a two-way street shows that you value your citizens as contributors, not just consumers. But simply retweeting a follower or responding to a Facebook comment isn’t enough. Once you’ve engaged your stakeholders through one channel, you need to re-engage them consistently. As Liz Azyan outlines in the white paper Digital Communications and Channel Shift in Government, re-engaging with your citizen base increases participation and feedback.
Now that you’ve established trust and engaged your stakeholders, you can set the record straight when you notice incorrect information. Government websites are great sources of information, but they’re also notoriously difficult for users to navigate. By utilizing multiple channels to direct stakeholders back to the specific parts of your website they want to see, you increase the likelihood that they will actually read and absorb the information instead of skimming and misinterpreting it. Constantly contacting isn’t necessarily communicating. You have to make sure your message is being received and understood before effective communication can occur.
The truth is a tricky thing, but it’s not as elusive as you might think. With a good multichannel digital communications strategy, government organizations can both reduce misperceptions and help create a culture of transparency, trust and accurate information.
What are some ways you help effectively communicate the truth?