I attended a public meeting for work the other evening.
The majority of the people at the meeting, called to let people air their views on a recent festival, were aged over 40.
And it was a great reminder for me that while we can get very excited about the undoubted potential of social media/new media/web 2.0, in helping extend the reach and effectiveness of local government communication and consultation activities, there’s always a role for face to face engagement and other “traditional” channels.
I’m happy to admit that I have a passion for social media in communications, but my job is to communicate effectively with lots of different publics – and that means using the communications tools most appropriate to those publics – not just the shiny new exciting ones that I may gravitate to personally.
A show of hands revealed there weren’t many web users in the meeting. Yet they were all happy with the concept of an open meeting, advertised in the local newspaper, as a way to get their views heard and debate some issues with the council representatives in attendance.
That said it’s probably true that there were also people who wouldn’t or couldn’t attend the meeting – and a complementary online way for them to air their opinions would have been useful too.
But the bottom line is that we need to plan communications and consultation campaigns with the target audience in mind…obvious but all too often overlooked.