Study: more policymakers using digital comms

WASHINGTON: Digital channels have dramatically increased in popularity as a two-way communications tool for legislative leaders, according to a trans-Atlantic study from Edelman.

WASHINGTON: Digital channels have dramatically increased in popularity as a two-way communications tool for legislative leaders, according to a trans-Atlantic study from Edelman.

The second annual Capital Staffers Index interviewed 271 senior legislative staffers in Washington, DC, Berlin, Brussels, Paris and London to determine the perceived value of the Internet as a tool for policymakers to connect with local residents and communities.

Overall, the index found a substantial increase in constituents using digital communication to reach members, led by blogs/websites (72%, up from 31% in 2009), social networks (37%, up from 22%), and micro-blogs like Twitter (15%, up from 7%).

“Social media has become a mainstream public affairs tool not just in the US but worldwide,” Jere Sullivan, chairman, global public affairs for Edelman, told PRWeek. “Policy makers and public officials have no choice now but to play in this game.”

When asked to compare to three years ago, legislative staffers reported a four-fold increase in the communication effectiveness of Facebook (62% versus 15%); an almost double increase in text messaging (55% versus 25%); an almost three-fold increase in blogging (46% versus 16%); and five-time increase in Twitter (38% versus 7%).

Even with the explosion of digital communications, traditional channels for reaching members continue to be seen as highly effective, including written letters and in-person visits (both 88%), as well as telephone calls (83%). Members also found TV appearances (93%), one-on-one meetings and speaking events (both 90%), as well as radio appearances (85%) among the most effective tactics to reach constituents.

“Lobbying in traditional media is certainly not dead,” said Sullivan. “Even when we asked people specifically about their leading information sources online, they named the websites of traditional media. I think things are just morphing more than anything.”

Traditional news media also continues to be influential for policymakers following issues of importance: two-thirds (66%) of members focus on national publications, 23% rely on local outlets and 10% turn to international outlets for insights and influence.

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