This week Todd Wheatland spoke to Canberra communicators about governments and content marketing. With extensive international experience Todd is pioneering content marketing in Australia.
Todd has an understated, relaxed style and his presentation unfolded logically, and with lots of case studies. You could see many government PRs and marketers in the audience, nodding in agreement, as he smoothly built his case.
His central theme was communications have shifted. That coupled with declining government budgets, means it’s time to find a better way to connect with citizens. Todd sees four trends moving traditional communications in a new direction.
- Firstly people do not care about large organisations and that includes governments. But they do value someone who can solve their problems and positively impact their lives.
- People expect transparency but often government wants to hide things behind a facade. Todd warns the truth will ultimately out – today, tomorrow, five years on – and all facades eventually crack. It’s better to be upfront and honest in the first place.
- Flawsome is Todd’s addition to the English language. People are realistic. They don’t expect governments to be perfect but they do want them to admit their mistakes, correct them and move on.
- There is an over-emphasis on campaigns. Most campaigns are time-limited which means short term thinking and a focus on immediate gains, rather than what is the best for the long term.
Todd offered some ground rules for government agencies embarking on content marketing.
- Firstly don’t dominate the conversation around an issue. Rather host conversations and encourage others to share their perspectives.
- You must ‘run real time’ because people like hearing, seeing or being part of something topical, fresh or current. Most of us live our social media lives like that so why should we slow down for government?
- Forget the top floor and let the shop floor lead the conversation with the public. Research consistently shows people trust workers more than their bosses when it comes to information.
But we know it can be painfully hard to change how governments do things. So how can you shift an agency with embedded communications protocols to new practices?
Todd suggests a frontal assault on current practices is unlikely to succeed. Rather he advises government communicators to start slowly, use pilot models and build out from their successes. Instead of challenging the (often significant) agency advertising budgets, be modest and begin by slicing off a piece of that pie for a content marketing trial.