Where we’ve come from: past success
The City of Guelph’s communications practice has become more strategic because of the direction of the City’s 2010 Communication Plan. The current community engagement framework was borne out of that plan, as was the City’s issues management framework which helps the organization identify and take action to address gaps between our community’s expectations and what the City is doing.
Together, both frameworks contribute to a more responsive and responsible local government where people in our community can participate in decisions that affect them, helping create more sustainable policies, programs, and services.
There has also been exceptional growth in digital technology, including rapid changes through the global COVID-19 pandemic, which required us to be innovative and agile in our communications and engagement approaches. We’re finding a new balance between in-person and digital connections, knowing that different channels, tools, mediums, and tactics work for different communities.
Delivering the best service to our community means staying at the forefront of communications and engagement best practices and being innovative and agile in a fast-changing practice that is heavily influenced by digital technology.
Where we are: current influences
One City. One Voice. Shared Purpose. is a dynamic plan. As we action the plan over five years (2022-2026), we will be agile and flexible in adjusting our priorities, timing, and direction to meet the changing needs of the Guelph community and our organization, and to reflect updates to the Guelph’s community plan and the City’s strategic plan.
Social justice has taken centre stage among issues our community cares about. The anti-racism movement spurred by George Floyd’s murder by police in 2020 and Canada’s renewed commitment to delivering on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action highlight the need to bring more equity and inclusion to the City’s communications and engagement approaches.
Doing so will help the City honour its obligations to Indigenous communities, listen to all voices in our diverse community, and address barriers we know exist today. Inclusion, however, does not stop at the construct of race. Gender identity, abilities, mental health, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, and socioeconomic status are among other important issues being discussed in the social justice space.
Misinformation, disinformation, and information overload
In the 1970s it was estimated people were exposed to 500-1600 ads a day, reaching 5,000 a day in 2014; today, unofficial estimates put that number at upwards of 10,000 a day. People are inundated with information from many sources: television, radio, news channels, streaming services, signs and billboards, books and magazines, social media, and the internet.
Not only is there a lot of information available, but the quality, truthfulness, accuracy, and reliability of the information we are exposed to on a day-to-day basis varies widely.
Misinformation (unintentionally incorrect information), and disinformation (deliberately misleading information) make it hard for people to know what content is reliable and which sources are trustworthy. This is especially true as perpetrators of disinformation become more skilled at presenting their content as fact.
With so much information competing for attention, what we share needs to be relevant, timely, and easy to read and understand. People also need to know they can trust the source of information, which requires openness and transparency.
Trust in public institutions
Trust in public institutions is at an all-time low across North America. The City strives to be a resource our community can count on for honest and accurate information about our programs and services. Using clear language, explaining the ‘why’, making information accessible and understandable, and reporting back on how community inputs are factored into decisions are vital to building relationships and fostering trust.
Next: What we heard