#107 Professor Stephen Martin – how to communicate public policy

Professor The Hon Stephen Martin has had a distinguished career in the Australian Parliament, academia and the private sector. Amongst many roles he is the outgoing chief executive of the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia. Professor Martin was on the advisory board on WPP’s report on the state of communications in governments worldwide. In this podcast he speaks with David Pembroke about communicating public policy, and they discuss:

  • how technology pushes us to learn new skills
  • encouraging a love of learning
  • the WPP report into government communications
  • why political leaders under-value communications
  • how leaders can communicate public policy decisions
  • how the public service can support policy makers
  • can governments learn to communicate better?
  • how would our previous political leaders have coped with social media?

Listen to the podcast:

Get it on iTunes

Selected links:

Download the transcript

CEDA website

Professor Martin on LinkedIn

Professor Stephen Martin on communicating public policy:

“One of the things is how you deliver that message to a constituency that fundamentally have stopped listening. Now, the other element of that … I think there are two ways in which this can go. Certainly using traditional media. You have to still do that, but I think the use of social media becomes more and more critical in this sense. The final thing in all of this is that you must have a spokesperson that people are going to listen to and are going to believe. I think this is one of the issues.

I was blessed in that I was a member of a government that had someone like Bob Hawke and Paul Keating who could sell a message. You had someone like John Howard when I was in opposition who could sell a message. None of those fundamentally varied what that message might be. They tried to say to the people, “This is why we need to take these hard decisions now.” Paul might have said, “This was a recession we had to have,” and economic history will show that was probably right.

The words could’ve been slightly different, but the message certainly was conveyed. I’m not sure that that same level of storytelling, having a consistent approach to what the policy is going to do and the outcome it’s going to engender is being sold by people that understand. Look, the Prime Minister I think is a very smart bloke. There’s no doubt about that. I think one of the problems was that, when he came into the role and he had a 90% popularity rating and …

Fundamentally, if you’re in politics, you know there’s only one way that that’s going to go, but you can arrest the halt, if in fact you say and stick to what you say you’re going to do and be that salesman. I think people want the government to do well for Australia, they want this Prime Minister to do well, but they don’t want to hear things being said that’s going to happen, but then being swept away and replaced by something else.”

David Pembroke

About David Pembroke

David Pembroke is the CEO and founder of contentgroup, a government and public sector content communications agency based in Canberra, Australia.

He has a commerce degree (marketing major) from one of Australia’s leading business schools (University of New South Wales) and worked in product management for the American multinational 3M. He changed careers to work in media where he spent a decade as a radio current affairs and sports reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

He was the communications director of the Australian Rugby Team when they won the Rugby World Cup in 1999 and is a member of the Australian Olympic media team.

contentgroup was founded in 1997 and offers consulting, content production, training and research services. David hosts InTransition, a weekly podcast which examines the practice of content communication in government and the public sector.

More posts by David Pembroke

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