The Leaders’ Report: the evolving future of government communication

The ongoing crises of the last half decade have demonstrated the importance of two-way, integrated and citizen-focused government communication.  These social, political, and economic emergencies have shown that good government communication – when based on scientific evidence, shaped by audience understanding, developed through behavioural insights, and delivered creatively by an appropriate messenger – can save lives.

However, there has been a significant and continuing decline in trust in government; an exponential growth in mis-, dis-, and mal-information; shifting and complex demographics; and the constant atomisation of audiences.  These all make connecting with and supporting citizens more vital – but more challenging – for governments today than ever before.

Additional information

Government communicators across six continents who took part in this edition of The Leaders’ Report say that government communications are improving.

  • Two-thirds (69%) say that their organisation’s communications are now more effective than they were five years ago
  • Eight respondents in ten (78%) believe that their organisation handled the recent health crises very or somewhat well.

But respondents also acknowledge that significant challenges remain.

  • Only 18% believe their organisation uses communication to its fullest potential
  • Just a fifth (22%) believe that their organisation’s communications are more effective than those of the private sector.

The research and our experience of working with governments across the globe suggest that despite areas of tactical and executional excellence, overall strategic performance remains patchy.  Many government communication functions remain too driven by short-term events, rather than by any longer-term game plan; too distant from – and too ignorant of – the needs of hard-to-reach audiences; and too prone to politicisation.

The majority of respondents in this edition say that the society or region they work in is less cohesive now than before the Covid-19 pandemic.  They believe that they have a legitimate role to play in encouraging the respectful sharing of different perspectives; leading more informed and constructive discussion on sensitive issues; and promoting necessary skills such as media literacy.  But they are unsure of how proactively they can support greater cohesion, and worry that approaches to tackling mid-, dis- and mal-information often succeed in merely amplifying them.