Public Sector: How to connect with youth today

'Youth' is a perennial challenge for public servants who seem unclear whether to demonise or champion young people. But the rise of digital PR demands they are better targeted as potential advocates for the goals of government.

We are keen to trumpet that councils provide more than 600 different services, yet how many people could actually name more than three - rubbish, tax and parks? And among young people, the results are even worse.

The next few weeks will see a slew of youth-related news, including the annual angst over the quality of qualifications and probably more ominous news about youth unemployment.

This is the time to talk up youth. For public service they are a powerful weapon. Despite the urban myths about uninterested young people, the survey evidence consistently finds Year 11 students are interested in politics, like the idea of voting and are very attached to their school and local communities.

This generation are willing to serve as community leaders, but the surveys also show they are turned off by the way we conduct our politics.

Can we blame them? Too much public service is composed of process-driven, jargon-laden, bottom-covering initiatives from which life has been drained.

In public service PR we recognise the potential of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, but obsess with the technology and the channel rather than drawing the wider lesson that the medium is the message. Young voters and service users want the news online and on time and services delivered in 140 characters, not an eight-page leaflet.

This means that we need to recalibrate public PR into a revolutionary new format. We should demand that all our material is available in a 'Twitter proof' format. We should present a united front from all local public services to explain what is on offer. We should run co-ordinated campaigns to champion youth achievement. And for the next generation of public servants, this summer we should offer a placement for a school-leaver or graduate in our PR teams - to learn from them.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in