public sector
CREDIT: ID 124741532 © Artur Szczybylo |

In a world of fake-news, and fast-moving political landscapes, it can be easy to understand why people may have started to lose trust in those they’ve elected to serve them. According to Edelman’s annual trust barometer, only 36% of people in Britain say they have trust in the UK Government, but social media could be the solution to this

How much trust do you have in politicians?. We live in trying political times, but the fact that the majority of people feel that their views are not represented, or listened to, only serves to highlight how politicians have always had a tricky relationship with the general public when it comes to trust.

In today’s climate, it’s more important than ever that those in the public sector and government are able to accurately judge public sentiment by listening to the general populous, then acting on their behalf. Do this properly and it’s inevitable that trust will increase alongside the delivery of better public services. But where does the archetypal government or public sector organisation begin? Two words… social media.

Don’t just be ‘on’ social. Be transparent

While it’s initially encouraging that 85% of governments and agencies are active on social media, and use it to disseminate information to their constituents, research from Statescoop shows they’re mostly using social platforms as digital notice boards. Social media is more than this and it’s simply not enough to just be ‘on’ Facebook or Twitter. Used correctly social is a window to the world, allowing organisations to get a real-time view of not only what is happening but, in the case of the public sector, what they can do to help the public that they serve.

Transparency is key, and this could be as simple as using Twitter to share how incidents are followed up and resolved. A real world example is how the New York Police Department (NYPD) use social to provide clarity to the public, with officers in individual precincts being encouraged to use Twitter to share how reports and incidents are followed up and resolved. In the UK, police departments are also turning to Twitter to help solve crime by engaging directly with the public.

Trust is built on openness, honesty and integrity. By using social media as a frontline tool, and taking a bottom-up approach, public sector organisations can empower employees to speak directly to constituents – helping them build trusting, long-standing relationships.

Exert your influence

Almost every internet user can now be reached via social media and, according to the recent GlobalWebIndex study, 98% of us are visiting or using social media platforms each month. However, the likelihood is that not all users will be following public sector or government accounts. As such, especially when an event occurs that needs to be communicated as quickly and widely as possible, it can be beneficial to team up with social influencers who will often have larger follower numbers and often carry more trust within the community than branded accounts.

Extending your reach on social can help ensure the public’s safety. A good example of this was during the Oxford Street terror scare in November 2017 where hundreds of shoppers and commuters ran for cover inside stores over fears of a terror attack at an underground station. London Metropolitan Police’s communications team quickly got into crisis comms mode, and used social platforms like Twitter to post alerts and the latest updates as they happened. Moreover, and in order to minimise the spread of hearsay and false information that could cause confusion, the Met’s team used social listening tools to engage directly with social influencers, talking about the incident those with large followings. By doing so the police were able to hugely increase the reach of their messages in order to keep the public better informed, as safe as possible, and to help reduce any wider panic.

Be human

Finally, it’s imperative that social teams — irrespective of whether they’re a brand, an agency or a public sector organisation — talk to their audience as people, and in a tone of voice they understand. There’s no point creating unnecessary linguistic barriers with your audience and, by talking in an easy to understand way, brands can better communicate messages effectively, efficiently and with maximum impact.

Trust can be hard to build, but all too easy to destroy. To build more trusted relationships with constituents public sector organisations must be open, honest and plain-spoken in how they engage with their followers and, via some targeted influencer engagement, the public at large. Social media is a great leveller, and the pulse of what’s happening in the now. It’s more important than ever that public sector organisations use it to their advantage, and engage with the public as people; boosting confidence and trust in the process.


Rob Coyne

General Manager EMEA



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