The creation of public policy is more than fleshing out content within a policy but also about how it is distributed and understood by the public. Communication can emphasize or inform how the public perceives policy initiatives as well as informing the overall identity of an organization or government. Beyond informing the public about policies, programs, services and initiatives, communications strategies can also explain the rights, entitlements and obligations of individuals, developed across a variety of platforms to reach a variety of stakeholders.
In the 2017 publication of the Leaders’ Report, WPP highlighted that communication is one of the key levers of government alongside legislation, regulation, and taxation. While remaining an essential policy tool, the report shows that communication is rarely understood fully by politicians and policymakers and is frequently regarded as a tactical, shared service, rather than a strategic function of policy delivery.
The report underscores that the key issues reported by government communicators were: declining levels of trust in government, the fracturing of audiences hindering the broadcast of communication, moving beyond one-way conversations, operating effectively in a rapidly changing media landscape, and the underinvestment in communication as a function of government. The report found that only 40% of citizens of the nations surveyed trust their governments, compromising trust in public policies and willingness of stakeholders to respond. When combined with the fact that 60% of respondents do not measure the impact of communication against policy initiatives — it begs the question of what role communication plays in the policy cycle as a whole and what tools can be used to effectively communicate.
Our guests throughout this episode will help us to uncover the role of communications, both within the public service and how external stakeholders strategically communicate and interact with audiences. Throughout the next hour, we’ll be talking to a wide range of actors from across the policy landscape to discuss how policy is communicated to the public. We’re joined today by Robert Scherf creator of RuleScript, Gabriela Gonzalez from Crestview Strategy, and Mike Morden from Samara Canada.
Robert Scherf is the principal consultant at Middlebrow Software and CTO at Blockchange, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making decentralized technology more accessible to the public. Robert has had extensive public service experience in British Columbia and Ontario, having worked in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, for the City of Toronto and for Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing as a Senior Consultant. Robert holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Media Studies from the University of Calgary and a Master of Public Policy from the School of Public Policy and Governance here at the University of Toronto. [Interview at 3.58].
“The policy discipline in Canada could be a lot more ambitious and creative in trying to harness the power of narrative to tell real things,”- Mike Morden from Samara Canada.
Mike Morden joined Samara Canada from the Mowat Centre, a public policy think tank at the University of Toronto. Previously, he was a SSHRC postdoctoral research fellow in Canadian politics at Western and Wilfrid Laurier Universities, a senior policy advisor in the government of Ontario, and a research associate with the Mosaic Institute. Mike holds a PhD in political science from the University of Toronto. He leads Samara’s program of democracy-boosting research and to contribute to its mission of asking critical questions, producing new evidence and linking knowledge to action. [Interview at 21.25].
“There is so much information out there, the news cycle is 24 hours, and it is hard to meaningfully engage people,” – Gabriela Gonzalez from Crestview Strategy.
Gabriela Gonzalez is a consultant with Crestview Strategy in the Toronto office. Joining the Crestview team after extensive experience at Queen’s Park and as an organizer for the Ontario Liberal Party as well as the Liberal Party of Canada. Her most recent role prior to working at Crestview was as a Senior Communications and Operations Advisor to Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development and Growth. Gabriela has had extensive experience in strategic planning and communications, holding a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Psychology from York University and a bilingual Master’s from the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs. [Interview at 40.39].
Jean-Paul St.Rose, Host, Producer
Mitch Thibault, Host, Producer
Hiba Siddiqui, Technical Producer
Sanya Ramnauth, Technical Producer
Leanna Mora, Executive Producer
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