Communicating in a new environment
There is a recognition that we live a life sustained by complex, interrelated structures that provide essential systems. The impact of a failure in these systems would be felt throughout our community.
There are also a range of new and different threats and hazards, which have a number of factors that are of interest to those handling public communication. Here are some examples; there is increasing recognition of the impact of extreme weather; at the same time, more attention is being paid to potential problems across human and animal health; whilst the best advice tells us that the threat of terrorism will be with us for the foreseeable future.
For those involved in public communication there are a number of additional technological and cultural changes:
- Technology - There have been a number of technological changes across areas such as mobile telephony and the adoption of the internet by the public.
These technologies have an impact on media consumption and provide an ability to provide more direct and focused communication with the public. However, the progress of technology also means that the process of communication is much faster than ever before.
Access to new communication technology means that it is harder to manage the information being consumed by the public. There is need to build an understanding of the nature of these new forms of communication and develop programmes which make the most of the opportunities they present.
- Social - Similarly, society has moved on just as quickly as technology, and as it becomes more inter-connected, there is a perception that it is losing some of the self-sufficiency of the post-war era. Some of those changes have been:
Members of the public -
- Believe that they are more informed
- Expect to have access to all information
- Have a less deferential attitude
It would seem the public, with access to new sources of information, feel that they are more informed than at any other time in history.
As well as being a society that demands more information, it is also less deferential. In the past society was more likely to recognise and accept the voice of authority. Across the UK levels of trust in various institutions, however, continues to fall. This means that individuals will seek confirmation from both official and unofficial sources, including "experts" appointed by the media.
Those looking to communicate with the public need to plan for this, using a range of communication methods, which might include less formal routes of communication.
- Media - In part as a response to new technology and changing society, the media continues to adapt the service it provides. Part of this ongoing development is the rapid increase in the number of broadcast channels, with an associated increase in media outlets to the present position of around-the-clock media coverage.
It is important to recognise that the diversity of the broadcast media means that we cannot rely on reaching all members of the public through one media channel in an emergency. This is balanced by the fact that the new digital channels and 24-hour news networks bring new demands to provide information to broadcast media. This itself opens up new opportunities for communicating with the public.