Shaping the Message

I am in the beginning stages of implementing a project with six members of my cohort in my qualitative methods class about the student perception of activities that are available on Ohio University’s Campus. When we were putting the pieces of this project together, I had no idea how relevant it would be to my studies about public perception we have been discussing the past year in the MPA program. The overarching concept of customer perception and public value is a subject matter that I will be working with as a future public administrator.

We live in a society of information overload. Instead of sitting down in front of the news every night to catch up on current events, we are receiving information about our community, government, country and world instantly through social media outlets on our electronic devices. In many cases we are not getting this information straight from the news outlets, but through the posts of people we follow on our social media sites. So with the amount of information swirling around in cyberspace, it has become vital that organizations release statements as a way to control the message being spread. There is an interesting State Farm commercial airing right now that has a young woman stating that everything posted on the internet has be to true, because they are not allowed to post fake things. While they exaggerate the concept with the young lady walking away with the “French Model” she met on the internet (an older bearded man wearing a track suite and a fanny pack), the underlying concept that people believe what they read online is true. But how are we shaping these messages?

In my organizational theory and politics class we have been talking a lot about public perception and how this affects our civil servants. Our reality in the public sector is budget cuts, job scarcity, and public scrutiny, so how we represent ourselves in the public eye is critical to shaping public opinion. An interesting example of this notion is a police department in Northeast Ohio who keeps a Facebook page about what is going on in their community. I was reading a post over spring break about a marijuana bust, the captain used phrases “like, bummer, dude” and “The sales of potato chips will be off for a day or two.” The overall message was meant to be a congratulatory message to the officer who made the drug bust, but the way the unprofessional tones in the message took away from the central theme.

Our civic leaders need to understand the message they want the public to know. Because very few people are reading the official reports, and public officials are making themselves more transparent through social media the message should be shaped as if they are releasing an official report.

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