When constituents talk back

Since the advent of broadcast communication, damage control has been a top priority for public figures and elected officials. Unfortunately, what has evolved is a status quo of ersatz communication. Public demand to see behind the curtain of bureaucracy is often met with ambiguity, evasive maneuvers, and open-ended statements that have elevated the science of saying nothing into a highly paid art form. But smoke-and-mirror doubletalk doesn’t work anymore, if it ever did, because the truth always speaks for itself.

Consequently, contemporary social media networking has given birth to a Renaissance in public relations. The millennial generation will not settle for less than authentic communication. Taylor Huckaby, a communications officer for BART, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system administration, has proven it.

This month, BART has been plagued with delays caused by an electrical problem. Frustrated commuters, accustomed to silence from stuffed-shirt public relations officials, took to social media in droves to give BART a piece of their mind. Huckaby did not sit by in silence, and he did not try to smooth things over with a silver tongue – he was real with them.  He explained that San Francisco’s public transit system has reached the limits of its design lifespan, and that the ongoing maintenance of miles of rails, tunnels and power cables on a shoestring budget was a Herculean task that he and his colleagues were doing their best to manage. He told the citizens on Twitter that, however unsatisfactory the level of service they were getting might be, it was better than they had a right to expect.

The people of San Francisco did not organize a lynch mob and march for City Hall. They understood what Huckaby had to say. They stopped complaining and began talking about solutions.

Public infrastructure all over the country is in a similar state of disrepair, including what used to be the best and brightest our nation had to offer: Washington DC’s now-troubled Metro transit system.  When Metro opened in 1976, it was more than a testament to cutting edge scientific achievement; it was a reflection of American soul, and our collective desire to make the human condition better for everyone.

In the ‘70s, our forebears aspired to become The Great Society, and they worked together to achieve it by replacing the infrastructure that was crumbling in their day. We have come full circle, and the lessons from our transit systems should be cause for reflection. If we want to see a better tomorrow, we have to invest in it now.

For the last fourteen years, iConstituent has empowered people like you to communicate authentically with your public about the important work of government. We offer multiple solutions, including superb data and customer relations management, telephone town hall meeting organization, and 24/7 IT hardware support.  You can rely on us to turn your digital infrastructure into an open and engaging communications suite that will resonate with your constituents.  And we’re working daily to improve the products you use to serve the public. If you have any needs we can help with, just call: (202) 355-9355.

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