The Leaders’ Report 2021: Executive Summary
Covid-19 hit at a time when the relationship between citizen and state was already under extreme pressure. Between 2017 and 2019, our ongoing programme of research into government communication, The Leaders’ Report, identified significant challenges in both the structure and substance of government communication, and the circumstances under which government communicators were working. These included:
- Declining levels of trust in government
- Difficulties in connecting with increasingly-fragmented audiences
- The inability of government communicators to influence effectively within and across their organisations
- The impact of rapid technological change on civic wellbeing
- An increase in individualisation at the expense of community cohesion
- Changing drivers of closer citizen-state
A summary of findings from earlier editions of The Leaders’ Report is available here.
In early 2020, before the crisis hit, we identified five further challenges. Across the Government & Public Sector Practice’s hubs, we were witnessing:
- Enhanced polarisation of opinions.
With a shrinking of the centre ground, different groups with different opinions were accessing different sources of news. Polarisation was making people care more about issues and more likely to act (even ifthat action was limited to online activity), but also less likelyto listen to opposing views
- Atypical interpretation of facts and figures.
Disinformation was happening at scale. Statistics seemed to be losing their power. In many parts of the world, emotions appeared to be beating evidence as a source of truth
- Ongoing shift to digital.
Social media had created an echo-chamber that reinforced for citizens their existing beliefs and judgements: differing opinions had all but disappeared from news and social media feeds. The increasing curation and personalisation of content appeared to have signalled the end of mass ‘water-cooler’ conversations as widely-shared social experiences began to recede
- Changing concepts of civic responsibility.
The notion of ‘community’ as a geographic entity was giving way to amore emotionally-driven concept of communities of interest. People now have more empathy with those they share a perceived bond with, and less with those they simply share a space with
- Transformations in media consumption.
A collapse in local media, independent journalism and media literacy was happening at the same time as rises in user opinion, user-generated content and communication inequality were affecting increasing numbers of communities.