University-industry collaboration to strengthen government-citizen communication

David Pembroke

Ying-Yi Chih
The Australian National University

Effective communication with citizens is critical to realise the benefits of government initiatives. However, a global study involving 70 countries (WPP Leaders’ Report) reveals a broken government-citizen communication link. Governments worldwide continue to fail to effectively explain their policy responses to social and economic issues to citizens. Communication teams in government and the public sector are generally unable to tackle the complex communication challenges in a world that continues to be transformed by technology. There has also been a shared sense among many government communication leaders that their teams lack the capability, skills and resources to perform well in this changing digital world. Through an industry-university collaboration, supported by the Australian Government’s Innovation Connections Grant as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, we aim to develop an evidence-based approach to empower governments to strategically and effectively communicate with citizens. In particular, we integrated the theoretical and practical insights (i.e, 33 semi-structured interviews with experienced government communication practitioners in Australia, the United Kingdom and Vienna) to propose an evidence-based communication strategy framework. The Framework consists of five distinct yet interrelated phases (i.e., initiate; plan; source, develop and test; publish, monitor and evaluate; archive, remove and recycle) that will, if implemented correctly, facilitate effective government-citizen communication. This Framework provides governments with a structured approach to tell their stories and measure their impact. Over time, adherence to this method will not only enhance governments’ communication capability but also assist them to achieve their policy, program, service and regulatory outcomes.