GET YOUR MESSAGE ACROSS...

Managing director of Signtech, SEAN GUEGAN, is joining RURAL as a columnist in the next issue. RURAL is not a business magazine – there are enough of them already in the Island – but we will be concentrating on the sector often overlooked: small, family businesses, grounded in Jersey and in community life. In his first blog he faces down Facebook.

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I am a non-Facebook user … one of a small percentage of human beings it appears, part of a rare species you might say.

Despite working in the world of visual communication (with an increasingly growing digital sector) that involves daily use of all levels of tech-related equipment, I remain essentially a non-tech person.

This has raised some interesting conversations over the years … one of the latest being my ‘lack of awareness’ of many local events taking place here in Jersey. This, it appears, is mainly due to my lack of Facebook usage. It seems Facebook is the go-to means of communicating events, fund raisers, causes, election campaigns … you name it, Facebook has it covered.

This has got me thinking … about the changing world of communication and how we reach the general masses. In these changing times, we’re in the midst of an information overload. Studies show that the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day and that we switch between screens up to 21 times an hour! Communication trends show a shift towards the use of videos, punchier headlines and shorter amounts of text (take Twitter’s 140 character limit for example) all of which appeal to people’s emotional responses while opening up communication channels to all levels of literacy.

However, this growing number of distractions is posing a problem for today’s marketers and communicators...with so many distractions resulting in shorter attention spans, how can we get the important messages across to the general masses (and make the messages stick) while also building an effective communication system within local communities? 

There is a standard joke amongst us at work, where we talk about ‘Secretive Jersey’ … meaning that we regularly find out about events after they have taken place, by which point we’ve missed them! On an island so small, one would think that communication of information and events would be easy, but I’m continually surprised to discover that if you often don’t go looking for it, it doesn’t necessarily come to you… especially if you’re not on Facebook! Examples range from the insightful articles written on the Jersey Good Life blog detailing how our local recycling is handled (which were a real eye opener), through to the Jersey Deposit scheme and even simple things such as the only 40mph zone in St Helier being on Victoria Avenue.

There are gaps in information, important information that is simply not reaching the masses … but how do we fill them and what are the options? How do we create effective and structured channels of communication between those who have something to say and those who want to hear it without relying on the internet alone? 

Advertising and communication has evolved rapidly over the last decade, with a vast array of options available to access your target audience. With newspapers, radio stations and TV networks competing to keep up with online advertising, I wonder if people might appreciate some more simple forms of communication. The UK government, for example, spends on average £500k a year on billboard messages, combining imagery and short messages to pack a punch and reach across all demographic groups. Vehicle advertising is also prioritised, recognising the impact that 24 hour moving billboards can have on reaching such audiences.

Maybe our own local government should utilise official billboards and states vehicles to help communicate more of its key messages. Maybe we should create more structured information points across the Island to keep members of the public up to date with events, changes in legislation and campaigns. Interactive or static information points (reminiscent of old notice boards) could announce important bulletins and information, key to each parish. 

Social media is great for getting the message out there but to really get the message across and make it stick, it needs to be seen repeatedly, even when people are not on their devices. Carefully planned, well maintained and aesthetically pleasing signage sites can deliver the message while reducing the unsightly and sometimes overwhelming temporary railing banners that have become all too common all over the Island. The key should be on quality not quantity.  

Education and awareness is half the battle and supplying information effectively by the means of several platforms and mediums (that link together) would not only reach a wider audience but keep us all updated, especially those of us who choose to stay away from ’social media’ platforms.

Everything in life has its tipping point and maybe a combination of recent Facebook data scandals plus studies linking the impact of screen time on mental health issues could gradually create a shift away from all things ‘online’ … or at least I would like to think so.