Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Integration of Communication Tools

As I have been reading the assignments and taking a closer look at websites out there that have incorporated many of the social media features, it looks to me like these sites, both government and business have a complicated task on their plates. The statistics show that there are still many people who do not use social media and some who do not even use the Internet. These numbers are growing even among older citizens, but in the short run most businesses and governments will have to adapt to the challenge of maintaining all the historical ways of bi-directional communicating and adding on new ones as they emerge. Some of these ways would be snail mail, phone calls, personal contact/interviews/town meetings, newspapers/newsletters, email, listservs expanding to web pages with email contact windows, links to other internet sites, on-line forms, blogs with comments, listservs, discussion groups and expanding even more to Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and others. I looked specifically at the website to see what they had available for citizen engagement. They had blogs, document downloads, you tube videos of meetings, a discussion page, a feedback page for either comments, complaints, connect and share with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flikr, Google+ and several more. What this means is that everyone who is involved in these communications will expect feedback, answers, solutions and all in a timely manner. For those using electronic media, the expectations will be even higher – will demand efficiency, quality, accessibility – the e-citizens effect. So, what I think is the challenge is how to integrate all this communication and information and respond to the multiple sources. How will organizations determine trends of opinion, if and how to process a formal response, how to let people know if they have actually contributed to a change in policy or new procedure. The TSA example is always mentioned as a clear example of how citizen input changed a procedure, but I wonder how often an individual really knows if they have had an impact. In my own experience using old-school tools such as calling or emailing my Congresspeople, I have received a thanks and a canned response on whatever the issue was and I often wondered if my feedback made any impact whatsoever. In the current world of paid organizational lobbyists vs. citizens lobbying individually maybe even becoming an aggregate through social media or petitions, I wonder how much influence private citizens can have when paid lobbyists have lots of case and influence on Government officials. It will be interesting to see how this whole new world of open and constant communication will continue to play out as government and business try to make it work effectively and efficiently.

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