John Shewell: The Guardian's three pigs are a good lesson for public sector

The Guardian recently ran a campaign depicting the changing landscape of media evolving from traditional broadcast to 'open journalism'.

John Shewell: Comms teams must embrace 'open government'
John Shewell: Comms teams must embrace 'open government'

Using a children’s story, The Three Little Pigs, The Guardian demonstrated how citizens can influence a news story, create new meaning and shift perspectives through modern media.

Collaboration is also good for democracy because it encourages diverse views and direct participation with the issues.

The Guardian’s advert is a good lesson for public service comms. Local public services are uniquely placed to open up their organisations and encourage greater participation in the design and delivery of public services, which also enhances local democracy.

The role of comms teams must move beyond broadcast to participation. The modern media landscape presents many opportunities for this to happen. Comms teams must understand how policy, civic engagement and technology can be triangulated to connect with citizens; for example, comms teams should consider how to embed applications into their campaign strategies for the purpose of enhancing civic participation and improving the organisation’s reputation.

Existing apps such as Flipboard and open-source content management systems like Drupal present organisations flexible and free tools to enhance their communications capabilities. However, comms teams need to consider how to build content around the citizen.

By being outcome driven, comms teams can support the successful delivery of the organisation’s policies in devising campaigns that effectively inform and engage citizens.

Local public services must open their organisations to get closer to the communities they serve. Involving citizens is part of the journey and comms teams have an important role in making this happen.

Brighton recently held its annual CityCamp event (run by DemSoc) a couple of weeks ago in which scientists, artists, technologists, journalists and professionals from the public, private and independent sectors collaborated over a weekend to co-create solutions for the benefit of the city.

This type of citizen-focussed participation, supported by local public services in partnership with private and third/independent sector organisations brings the organisation closer to the community.

The purpose: to connect public services with citizens. Comms teams must embrace ‘open government’ and encourage citizens to participate in shaping policy.

John Shewell is head of comms at Brighton & Hove City Council

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