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27 February 2024

Global government communication departments need to address key challenges to remain relevant to audiences: Report

By Wam

Global government communication departments need to address several key challenges if they want to remain relevant to their audiences, according to WPP’s Leaders’ Report: The Future of Government Communication, launched in the Middle East in partnership with the Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO).

The report is an all-encompassing review of 40 countries around the world – including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and Lebanon – exploring the status quo in government communications departments, and the concerns of leaders and practitioners in the field as well as their plans to prepare for and overcome communication challenges.

The Report serves as an introduction to the Public Diplomacy and Government Communication Forum we are organising here in Dubai. The Forum aims to support government organisations in enhancing their communication strategies through a discussion of global best practices and success stories from both the region and across the world, said Mona Al Marri, Director-General of the Government of Dubai Media Office.

"The Report will contribute to the international dialogue at the Forum and guide government communication professionals and decision makers in finding new opportunities for optimising their strategic approach, in addition to understanding the challenges that need to be overcome in a rapidly changing environment."

The Public Diplomacy and Government Communication Forum is an event organised by the Government of Dubai Media Office that aims to help government organisations optimise their communication strategies through a discussion of global best practices and success stories from both the region and the world. The event will be held on 12 March 2017.

"Alongside legislation, regulation, and taxation, communication is one of the key levers of government. The Leaders’ Report shows that it is rarely understood fully by policymakers and frequently regarded as a tactical shared service rather than a strategic function of policy delivery," said Sunil John, Founder and CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, the Public Relations Agency representing the WPP, a leading global communications services group.

Five key challenges emerged for the government communications sector worldwide: First and foremost, the declining levels of trust in government have undermined the connection between those who are governed and those who govern them. Three-quarters (75 per cent) of those surveyed believed that the voice of the citizen is not taken into account in decision-making at the government level.

Secondly, audiences have been fractured and increasingly polarised, which undermined the broadcast model of communication that many governments rely on. Authorities now struggle to deliver personalised, integrated communications to citizens who increasingly filter out information from the government entirely, seeing as a majority of them (75 per cent) don’t believe senior leadership understands social and digital media.

Furthermore, the nature of the conversation itself was called into question, as many respondents reported struggling to move beyond primarily one-way conversations that represent the majority (60 per cent) of today’s government communication. Additionally, the report touched on the capability of government communication teams, concluding that they lack the skills and expertise to operate effectively in a rapidly changing media landscape. Fifty per cent of the respondents say they lack the right skills for their job, and cite bureaucracy as the number one challenge to overcoming this deficit.

Finally, the report finds that government communication still lacks the influence it is meant to have. It is under-invested in as a function of government and insufficiently utilised as an essential part of policy development and delivery. In total, 85 per cent of respondents don’t believe that communication is involved at all in the policy delivery process.

"The report offers eye-opening insight into the government communications sector," John continues, "allowing decision makers to restore it to its original role as a tool for engagement and re-connection. The survey canvassed a global sample while the Middle East was only represented by a few countries. The results, therefore, reflect a broader global trend rather than a local one. If we zero in on the UAE, for instance, we can see that the situation is different and government communications at both the federal and emirate level are more integrated, highly relevant, and effective."

"Hosting this high-profile, world-class event here in the UAE goes to demonstrate how collaboration and synergy helps government stakeholders around the world forge stronger relations with their peers and engage their target audiences," John concludes.

The Leaders’ Report: The Future of Government Communication includes a comprehensive audit of existing practice and data in the government communications field, a global conversation with eight advisory board members, in-depth qualitative interviews across 20 countries and five multilateral organisations, and an online quantitative survey across 30 countries.

The full report will be available at the Government of Dubai Media Office’s dedicated stand at the Public Diplomacy and Government Communication Forum.