CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - October 18, 2019 - 12:00am

For some time now I have been trying to figure out why government officials and agencies can’t seem to connect to the public or get their messages or campaigns across. Take for instance the “water conservation campaign” of the MWSS and the two concessionaires. I’ve never seen or heard it except on snippets or small news items on the inside pages of the Philippine STAR and those have been few and far in between. The reason many of us don’t get to know about them is because they are posted on websites or social media channels of government agencies. The problem is most mature people don’t surf the web or tend to be techy. We still rely on mainstream media for news and public information because of their consistency and regularity. We know exactly when the news is coming out, unlike the internet or social media where you actually have to search or log in on an agency account to get information and that in itself is a challenge because some of them have really crappy or slow sites.

What I’ve discovered is that many government agencies have OVER relied on their social media platforms particularly their Facebook page. It seems that many communicators have gone to the extreme by assuming that if it’s on social media, people will get the message and consequently many government officials have pulled back on their spending for advertisements and campaigns in print, radio and TV. This might seem to make perfect sense especially when you get to save thousands if not millions of pesos by not buying air time or ad space. But here’s the catch. Most Netizens only visit or log in on sites or accounts they are interested in or have an actual need to do so at a given moment, otherwise, there is no connection.

In social media the Netizen has a “like” option which is his filter and control. If they want to they can block you. Many people even have the mistaken notion that they have an infinite number of friends or followers they can share stuff with when in fact there are limits. In print and broadcast, the customer or audience is exposed to any and all things loaded into the paper or the program being aired. In other words the variety is there and you can’t really filter it unless you are a remote control clicking addict! I think policy makers and government information officers should start evaluating the effectiveness and connectivity of their channels and platforms. At the very least don’t get over dependent on one platform and end up wasting time and effort. Reinvest on traditional media and the basis for this is the fact that the big companies and industries continue to spend heavily on traditional mass media probably because the markets of traditional media are mature and/or professional individuals who have an appreciation for news and information that is regular, predictable and reliably delivered. These are the people that government needs to reach regardless of class or economic stature. Social media is an added instrument but should not be the only instrument for communication because as the term suggests it was intended for social connections and not serious public information.

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The latest announcement from Maynilad Water regarding water rationing and the absence of rain in strategic areas serves to remind us that the worst is not over in terms of water supply and potential severe water shortage. The problem is we all have not taken the problem seriously. As soon as the rainy season came we just all assumed that things were back to normal. Unfortunately, the new normal is that we don’t have enough reservoirs, we have too many people consuming and wasting water simply because tap water in the Philippines is cheap. Proof of this is the regularity of which people wash their cars, water their gardens, shower two even three times a day, wash clothes that were barely used and are clean, and are not bothered by water spilling or running over.

Given the shortage, the fact that the concessionaires are now required to fast track the construction and connection of customers to sewer lines, now is a good time as any to really raise the price of tap water based on its scarcity, real value and not priced as a politically sensitive commodity. Critics will almost surely raise the “poverty” card but when we observe the “poor” people lining up for water, their primary concern is getting water and not the price of water. Lets prioritize access or delivery of water but let us not make the product so cheap that people waste it and we all suffer as a result.

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If the Department of Education hopes to get all the support and the money it needs, Secretary Leonor Briones will have to assemble her own “Avengers” at the DepEd with only one over-all mission: To spend every working hour networking and lobbying at the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of Finance and both bodies of Congress in order to get the correct appropriations and legislations that will enhance the DepEd and CHED not only in salary levels but also for trainings, facilities and efficient promotion and deployment system.

This sort of work and operations would be too tedious and time consuming for the Secretary, so it would be to the best interest of the DepEd if she assigned two or three officials to do the regular rounds soliciting support, proposing legislation, even visiting media entities and personalities in order to push for the interests and concerns of the DepEd. In a recent interview, no less than Sen. Kiko Pangilinan stressed the point that any official who wants to promote his or her department or agency needs to go out there to “lobby” or find people who can champion their causes and concerns.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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