GUEST EDITOR: Jim Garrow
comms2point0 has given us a platform to link up with some fantastic people from all over the UK and beyond. And then we stumbled upon the brilliant Jim Garrow doing great things in Philadelphia. We were chuffed when he agreed to be our Guest Editor. He tells us all about the importance of trust and reaching out...
What's up. My name is Jim. I work for the US government. (Audience: Hi Jim.)
That sentence there, "I work for the government," has been, at least in the last couple of decades, nothing to be proud of. In the US in particular, government has fallen out of favor.
And according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, it seems like we've all had a bit of a problem with trust recently. (see slide 1)
At the same time, there is a similar, and I would argue related, trend occurring. The rise in trust of regular people which is something I've written about before is unprecedented in modern trust surveys (see slide 2)
In short, people like people, trust people, distrust faceless organizations, dislike authoritarian regimes.
We (you and me) have this great charge now that we've seen these data. (You have your Spiderman tights, right?)
We must do something about it, because frankly no one else will. We need our governments to be more real people, less bureaucratic automaton. Social media gives us that ability. We no longer need to let staid press releases and three seconds of a white hair talking head filtered through the meat grinder that is the mass media. We can talk directly to the public! In our own voice! And they can talk back to us!
(Of course, why would they talk back to us? Well, frankly, they won't if we merely shift our communications from being directed at the media to being directed at the public without any change in tone, content, focus or accessibility.)
These are truly exciting times for the engaged government communications office. But, if you ask me, that's not even the coolest part of how social media is changing our jobs.
The best part is what you're doing right now. You're reading the words of a bioterrorism planner on the other side of a vast ocean. What went into making this happen is no less amazing. It's the culmination of dozens (hundreds?) of Twitter messages between myself and the deligtful organizers of this blog. I've never met them, and my ribbing about bringing them over here to replay our Revolutionary War aside, it's likely I never will.
But that distance doesn't matter. Neither does the amazing difference in our official capacities. While I've only played press officer a few days in the last year, I learn every single day from this blog; in return, I'm happy to pass along every bit of information on crisis risk communication I know. But this blurring of role boundaries goes beyond this blog. I'm on a first-name basis with heads of public health and emergency management organizations (both government and otherwise) across the US because I reached out to them via social media. I've been invited to present all over the US and Canada because of relationships that I've forged on my blog and Twitter.
Social media gives us an opportunity to trade war stories, lessons learned, to find out what works in some other part of the world or some other field altogether, to pick the brains of the best in the business, to move your comms to the next level, to push the envelope. And why wouldn't we do that? What have we got to lose? Doing the same thing that we've always done? Not meeting fun new people?
I charge you today: reach out. Say hi. (Right down there, below "Post a New Comment.")
To quote Simon Pegg in one of my favorite movies: "As Bertrand Russell once said, 'The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.' I think we can all appreciate the relevance of that now."
Jim Garrow is the Operations and Logistics Manager for the Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness Program in the Division of Disease Control at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. You can read his excellent blog here.