Service: inventory and measuring of effects of communication, reduction of the information overloads, structuring the immense possibilities of communication, research on internal perspective and external perspective on trust, communication policy aimed at acceptance and appreciation.
More on reliability, credibility and trust
Trust is reliability and credibility
Trust is of the utmost importance for corporations as well as the administration. One wonders however: what is trust exactly? One can trust the project to enroll well, accomplishments reached. One can also, on the other hand, not trust the situation, meaning something is wrong, maybe even criminal. Yet this is usually not the dominant meaning of trust when we refer to the relation between corporations and consumers, or the administration and citizens.
In that relation trust represents something like: 1) I take it (for granted) that your conduct aims at my interest or that of society, 2) that you act ‘in good conscience’ and also 3) that you are competent in what you do. For corporations as well as for the administration one could say that reliability and credibility touch one another, if not to say are intertwined. After all, when we cross a bridge, we trust it not to tumble down as we pass, our drinking water not to be contaminated; when a package of some food or other mentions it doesn’t contain gluten, we have to trust that they in fact are not in the package. We usually do indeed trust the works of others, works that we use. When a certain regulation is in force, the government is not expected to act fickle. Rather on the contrary, the government has to secure the correct enforcement. To say that trust is important, likewise means that the organization has to show its reliability as well as that we have to believe that this is so. Reliability and trustworthiness are like siamese twins: they can’t do without each other.
Case: government institutions, building trust in the public administration
The public administration has an organizational, managerial, result oriented and arbitration function. The administration has to take care of legal certainty. When this fundamental principle of Western societies is breached, especially by civil servants who have to transmit political wishes into laws and rules, the citizens who delegated this power have but few possibilities to make their possible objections heard. Of course there are administrative courts, but this can be a costly procedure. In some countries one cannot claim these costs by the ‘losing’ party, the government. Of course, one can start an action group or organize a demonstration. The last years seem to produce more civilian violence against people who work for the public office, and the social media host millions of insults and threats addressed to policemen and other operational officers. The administration understood that the natural authority was receding and introduced a whole new concept of reputation management. A concept was introduced in which the ‘citizen’ was promoted to ‘client’. That appears to be false belief. A citizen is not a client and far from the client that could address the tax administration by saying: “This month no income tax, tax collector,” in the same way that he could say: “This week no mandarins, greengrocer.” Being a client is a matter of free choice, being a citizen is a duty. The ‘client’ turns to the social security office and asks for an allowance. The institution might say: “No, not for you. You’re not unemployed or handicapped. ” It’s not very likely that a greengrocer would reply: “No, not for you. You’re not entitled to mandarins this year.”
Case: institutions responsible for benefits
Talking of clients is talking of markets and products. A commercial enterprise seeks (financial) profits and is usually marketing for as many clients the company can handle. A municipality on the contrary seeks as little clients as possible for social benefits for example, else the benefit becomes unaffordable for society as a whole. This is what a company would call a product structurally in deficit. The entrepeneur would delete it from the stock rather yesterday than today. A municipality is not able to do that. This office is not a sales department, but an institution responsible for benefits. Then what would the municipality have a marketing plan for with a primary goal of reaching as many clients as possible? When the market is not a market, the product is not a product and the client is not a client, it appears as doggedly sticking to a paradigm not meant for public service. Still, the administration tried and tried again. Real marketing strategies for all kinds of institutions were put into place. The institutions started doing things that a commercial corporate would preferably avoid: reorganizations every few years, new names, logo’s and employees that started all over again. Accompanied by ever new communication campaigns to let the citizens know of their brand new identity. Most citizens completely lost sight of who was doing what at which institution. In this refragmentation less and less remained of the public reputation of being solid and reliable. In the meantime, the budgets for communication in the corporate world are multitudes of what the administration spends on communication. Beer giant Heineken for example presented the half year figures of 2014. A turn over of 10,2 billion euro. Employee costs (81.000 employees) were the largest: 1,5 b. Non recycable packaging 1,26 b, sales and marketing 1,24 b. Heineken lowered employee costs and increased the marketing budget. By contrast, for example the Dutch administration receives over 300 b tax income per annum. From this amount, the government surely doesn’t spend 35 b on communication, the more than 10% Heineken spends, and the government definitely doesn’t spend about the same amount of money on personnel as on communication.
Our service: The public institutions, mainly because of their internal reorganizations and their one after the other marketing communications, became more and more distant and invisible. Count to this, that the administration is a jungle of all kinds of institutions with all kinds of functions. When this sector, as a whole, perpetually changes names, logos’ and services, manned by institutions that all communicate with the citizens, without any coordination or shared mission, it becomes clear why trust is fading. Some citizens receive more than a letter a day by any given institution, containing information they don’t need, or not want or is incomprehensible all together. Public service on facebook or twitter shows the same diversity in identities and is hardly recognizable. Why, one wonders, is the unhelped recognition of Coca Cola as big as it is? It might have something to do with the fact that the company hardly ever changed its name, logo and product ever since its founding in 1866.
The public administration and its offices have given legal tasks. Primarily based on the criterium of ‘legality’, secondarily on ‘efficiency’. Those are the two coordinates that we need in order to build a frame for the administration as a trustworthy partner of civil society.
Complication we as yet have to be asked to solve: de-market the public communication policy and build mutual trust between the citizens and the administration on the comprehension of rights and duties.
Clients we worked for in this respect: