Last year was bizarre in too many ways to mention. As this overall strangeness translates to public participation, the notion of an ‘ever-changing community landscape’ has never been more applicable.
More than 50% of the world’s population has been locked down at some point in the past year, tact and sensitivity have been top of mind for governments and the ability to ‘read the room’ an overarching imperative.
In 2019, 48% of engagement practitioners admitted to never using emerging engagement tools or technologies, and with this approach now clearly off the table, what happens next? Enter Omnichannel Engagement.
What is omnichannel engagement?
A term, first introduced by marketers, to deliver consistent and personalised experiences across channels and devices. The main goal of an omnichannel approach is that it’s person-based, not channel-based. For retailers, it meant guiding shoppers through a path to purchase as they zigzag across multiple channels and devices. For governments, it means meeting community members where they are and engaging them in decisions that affect them.
Just as shoppers don’t see a retail brands store and website as different companies, the public doesn’t see governments in silos. We have multiple touchpoints with an organisation and expect the journey between each touchpoint to be consistent; regardless of whether it’s:
- or in-person
Each individual will script their own journey across multiple channels and touchpoints, and every one of them matters. Forcing people to stick to a single channel quickly creates feedback fatigue.
So, what would happen if we stopped thinking about participation through the lens of a singular tool or environment and began thinking in terms of omnichannel engagement?
Prioritised resilience, through innovation.
To outmanoeuvre uncertainty, reopening requires a program of reinvention. This presents an opportunity — and a need — for governments to build the competencies they’d wish they’d invested in before.
The interconnections that omnichannel creates for the citizen are opportunities to develop new engagement experiences before, during, and after the main engagement event. Using these experiences, a follow-up SMS, for example, to build trust, increase transparency, and lock into an ongoing participation habit. These new and diverse interactions are bridges to resilient governments.
Smarter Engagement, smarter cities.
After a decade of trial and error, city leaders realise that smart city strategies start with people not merely technology. “Smartness” is not just about installing digital interfaces in traditional infrastructure or streamlining city operations. It’s about using technology and data purposefully to make better decisions and deliver a better quality of life.
From the air we breathe to the safety of our streets, omnichannel engagement means addressing practical human concerns in the moments that matter; at a playground with the kids, while stopped at a level crossing or scrolling through social media. Omnichannel public participation allows governments to actively invest in the breadth of the decision-making data sets, by employing multiple engagement channels, while keeping citizens at their core through centralised insights.
With great diversity, come great access and transparency.
It might be a stretch to adapt Uncle Ben’s (Spiderman) fictitious words to this context. Still, the polarity of how people access and respond to different mediums is very real. Age, access to technology, and interests dictate what moments matter and to whom.
Add a year that turned many of us from a state of FOMO (fear of missing out) to FOGO (fear of going out) into the mix, and you’re left with a non-negotiable duty to demonstrate action through capabilities and presence.
Omnichannel engagement rapidly increases operating transparency throughout citizens’ daily lives, activating channels proportionate to circumstance and initiatives’ nature.
To build trust, we need to move away from doing things we’ve always done and towards aligning expectations with capabilities. Just as brands invest in mapping out and catering to the shoppers’ journeys, engagement practitioners must recognise and cater to diverse citizen journeys to truly champion their voice.