The communications advice you give to OC Transpo is the pre-social media approach to public relations. The idea of modern communications is not to hide or pretend things didn’t happen, but rather to let people know as quickly as possible so they can adapt. Otherwise, you’re not achieving your REAL objective of communicating to the greatest number of people.
The old strategy is based on fear and the idea that the public can’t be trusted, so the less you tell them the better. Unfortunately, this approach never solves any problems, it just shirks responsibility. We need less dishonesty and trickery from communications professionals and more honesty, leadership and collaboration.
For me, communications is about creating a partnership between the communicator and the audience, understanding that the audience is not something to be feared but rather something that can and should be harnessed to extend and expand the reach of one’s message. While communications professionals need to be professional at all times, that doesn’t mean hiding from responsibility. We teach our kids to own up to their mistakes and move on. Why do we not do the same in the adult world?
Does it make OC Transpo look bad for letting their ridership know that they are experiencing a technical glitch with iPhones? No, it makes them look concerned and active in solving the problem, minimizing the potential fall out.
The old rules of communications are, in my opinion, a big part of the reason why we have the poor governance models we do at all three levels of Canadian government, because our governments try to hide the truth from us rather than asking for our help to solve problems. Our governance models and communications strategies need to become flatter, less hierarchical and more collaborative if our governments truly want to serve Canadians, rather than just achieve and hold power.
Its a shift I believe must happen in order for our governments to tap into the collective intelligence of our populace, so the problems we face can be properly solved. Otherwise, we will continue to go in circles rather than moving forward. This was a major theme in my municipal campaign in 2010.
Keeping the public in the dark, providing misinformation, downplaying important events, etc. can no longer be accepted as the preferred choice of action by communicators because social media won’t allow it. They can try, but the risk they run if they get burned, is far greater now with social media then it has ever been.
Which is why I love interactive and social media and why I encourage people to throw off the yoke of ignorance thrust upon us in the 20th Century by those seeking power solely for power’s sake.
Its time to embrace the freedom of knowledge and social collaboration interactive and social media tools provide–a theme that is rapidly defining the 21st Century–for the better.