Has social media replaced traditional methods of public consultation?
by Caroline Chaumont, Senior Consultant – Engagement Strategies, Hill + Knowlton Strategies Canada (H+K); Pauline Lambton, Consultant – Engagement Strategies, H+K; Kanan Kothari, Director of Public Consultation and Engagement, Ipsos Public Affairs
At the IAP2 2015 North-American conference, Acertys – which has since joined Hill+Knowlton Strategies Canada (H+K) – and Ipsos Public Affairs teamed up to present a study aimed to gain insight on the growing millennial generation and their relationship to P2.
Based on a literature review, we defined Millennials as the generation born between1980 and late 1990s. They are highly educated, media savvy, misinterpreted, and represent 1/3 of the total US population, and over 1/4 of the total Canadian population.
When it comes to public consultation, our research shows that Millennials are optimistic about the power of collective action and seek authentic opportunities to participate. They want to be involved in transparent and accessible processes providing an opportunity for a meaningful input on issues or causes they are passionate about.
The results of a survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs in August 2015 with representative sample of 1000 Canadians across the country demonstrates that Millennials however are more likely than older age groups to state they are too busy to participate in public consultation processes. They are also more likely to want opportunities for online consultation, and already see social media as an avenue that can replace traditional consultation methods. Overall, Millennials want engagement that is flexible and fits in to their increasingly blended lifestyle.
As P2 practitioners do, we asked participants what they thought.
From mainly public sector planning and communications backgrounds, the participants (40) agreed that there was a major difference between engaging Millennials and other generations and that millennial engagement was a priority. Some key discussion conclusions were:
- The obstacle is methodological; traditional consultation tools are not well adapted to the millennial lifestyle. Online options should always be available and updated. For in-person consultation, go where the millennials are and blend with their busy lives!
- Make it meaningful. Show them why they should care. Communicate with personalized, compelling and relevant messaging, and use authentic branding.
- Empower them! Millennials are creative and intelligent. Empower them to be leaders in the P2 process by making information and expertise available and creating room for authentic, open dialogue.
In summary, this journey into the literature, survey and discussions with P2 practitioners revealed a great deal of interest in digging more into the processes, methods and tools that can leverage Millennials’ interest and get their input in P2 processes.