How to Convince Senior Leadership in Public Sector that Social Media Matters

Thumbnail How to Convince Senior Leadership in Public Sector that Social Media Matters

In this blog I’m going to talk to you about how you can convince senior leadership to fully embrace social media, and digital communications. 


If you’re a senior leader and you’re reading this, you need to know, this is the most asked question that I get and I work with hundreds of public sector professionals all across the world in any given year. 


This is what I tell them, but hopefully you’re listening, and maybe you will be the proactive one, and you will go to your marketing and comms team and ask; 

Guys, what are we doing on social? 

What are we doing online? 

What’s our strategy this year? 

How can we elevate? 

What are the 50 best public sector and government agencies in the world doing? 

And how can we emulate and create our own systems, processes and storytelling, that truly engages the public in the digital age? 


I’m going to actually quote from my book here, because I’ve already written it, so why not go back to that? 

So here’s my advice. 



The first thing that you need to do, is you need to get a benchmark for where you are now. And I will tell a marketing pro to create, do that audit, get a real sense for where you are now. 

How are you performing right across social media, from web, to your PPC advertising, to social, to any direct marketing, such as email marketing, that you’re engaged with? 

Those numbers, and that data, will give you a sense for where you are now. 


Then you can set some goals, and corresponding key performance indicators, to really understand where you want to go over the next 12 months. 

I also recommend that a strategy is only 12 to 18 months. Such is the pace of change, and you always want to remain relevant. 


The numbers never lie. 


I’m sure that your senior leader, your boss, your line manager, your director, your CEO, whatever role they have, will have some personal opinions. 

And I call them personal biases. 

I think it’s really important that we leave those personal biases behind the door, and I also have this line, and many of you who work with me will know it. But I love every opportunity to say it, and that is;

‘Don’t bring an opinion to a data party.’ 


[click_to_tweet tweet=”When I hear somebody saying;  Social media is a waste of time Social media is just echo chambers Social media is fake news Social media is only for sharing propaganda Social media is only for young people These are broad generalisations.  @publicsectorpro” quote=”When I hear somebody saying;  Social media is a waste of time.  Social media is just echo chambers.  Social media is fake news.  Social media is only for sharing propaganda.  Social media is only for young people.  These are broad generalisations. “]


We really need to reframe our thinking, and if you’re a senior leader I want you to have a look at three of your peers right across the world. 

If you can’t find them on social, come to me, comment on this post, and I will find them for you. 


I study what senior leaders are doing every day, and I’m going to bring you my senior leadership series in 2021. 


So after you do your audit, after you have your benchmark, after you understand where you are positioned online, then you need to create a roadmap. 

Success online depends on the output. 

So the output of content. 

The responsiveness. 

The community management. 

And all of that goes back to the team. 


Do you have a skilled team? 

Do you have a competent team? 

Do you have capacity within the team to deliver on the comms objectives and expectations that you have? 

The other side of that is, what is the public’s expectation? 

What do they need from you? 


It’s very important to bring some of what the public are saying online into that business case to senior leadership. 

Because, let me tell you, digital communications can very effectively influence your traditional public relations and media strategy. 


I was listening to a politician on radio today, and it was absolutely clear that they were completely out of touch with the public. 

If they had scanned social media for 15 minutes about this topic, they would have been able to come on, to acknowledge, to respond, and to have a conversation with the public, via the national news station.

But instead it became a political debacle, and trying to win a conversation with an opposing political colleague in parliament, on a particular topic. 


You know what, that’s not going to wash with an informed public anymore. 

The public are informed, they’re engaged, and they’re highly interested on topics that relate to them. 

They have the information at their fingertips. 


So while you might be declaring one angle, and that’s absolutely fine, if that’s your position, there are a broad pool of other expert views that they will also be tapping into. 

So if you’re not there to give the information they are going to get the information somewhere else. 


I have one client, and they are an absolutely superb example, they have this tagline that they use, and it’s reminding the public that they are the number one trusted source of public information and that they are the go-to. 

You need to be the go-to source for what you are responsible for, otherwise the public are going to go elsewhere. 


Of course your metric of success is trust, transparency, and a responsive public who are listening, and hearing, and understanding what you’re saying, and why you’re making decisions that you’re making. 


So, make sure that you bring some of that public conversation into the business case. 


Also you’ve got to have a look at trends.

How is communications changing? 

How is your industry changing? 

How are your peers across the water in another country, in another continent, actually dealing with digital transformation? 


Most of all, be an influencer. 

The people who I work with are usually at middle to senior management, and they are influencers in their own right. 

They are influencing up. 

They are bringing their senior leaders with them. 

They are the eyes and ears online, and bringing the trends, the breakthroughs, the information, and the knowledge to their senior leaders. 


You don’t have to understand everything about digital communications, but you have to understand the public impact of what you’re doing, or what you’re not doing. 


If you’re a public sector marketing pro, or if you’re working in any area of government and public sector, and you’re responsible for social media, or digital communications, I hope this is helpful. 


If you are a senior leader and you are maybe dipping your toe into social or digital, a little bit more in 2021, I hope you find this helpful. 


But remember the number one question that I get asked, from the people that I work with on my courses is, 

‘How do I convince senior leadership that digital communications matters in the digital age?’


Joanne Sweeney

Public Sector Marketing Institute

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