[Posted by Steven Noble]

Marketing and communication leaders usually turn to the likes of Zappos, Threadless and P&G — not government — for inspiration. Most of us have become so used to slow, boring and irrelevant government communication that we treat business and consumers as our only sources of innovation.

But it’s time to dig deeper, because beneath the bureaucracy there are changes afoot in government communication — changes that should inspire every marketing or communication leader in any sector or nation worldwide.

In particular, I’m talking about government’s use of digital media to consult with stakeholders about public policy. When researching my latest report, I learned there has been more than 100 examples of this in Australia alone so far.

If you think asking customers to vote on next year’s colour range is tough, put yourself in the shoes of the government communications leader who must ask tourism operators, environmentalists and a dozen other stakeholders how they will share access to national parks. All the issues that worry commercial marketing leaders — how to set fair limits on consultation, how to separate the cranks from the legitimate voices, how to manage an accountable process — weigh on government communication leaders, but with 1000 times the force.

So, my message to private sector marketing leaders is this: If you have a supply chain or employees, if you use energy or natural resources, if you affect our planet or its people in any way, then you have stakeholders, and you are grappling with public policy issues. Engaging with stakeholders, perhaps online, is essential for your business. To leapfrog your competition by engaging stakeholders more effectively using digital media, you should learn from the innovation that’s occurring in government.