Thursday, March 14, 2013

Smart-City; Smart PR Pros

How can cities become smarter?   About what?  Managing quality of life issues (like noise pollution), creating greater efficiencies when it comes to limited resources (like energy and water) and becoming better at managing issues of public health and safety, such as identifying apartment buildings where landlords are packing in more people than zoning permits – and reducing these risky conditions.

Communications planning is critical.

Data are collected, sifted and studied, and desired behaviors are determined.  But this takes more than gifted urban planners and social engineers.  This is the fodder for proper communications planning.  For all of these things to happen, we need strong public relations professionals communicating the story and motivating action.  But they also need to be able to read and interpret data to get the end result we all want.

According to a February 23rd New York Times article —  “Sim City for Real: Measuring an Untidy Metropolis” — “smart city technology,” properly communicated, can potentially cut water and electricity use by 30 to 50 percent.  The story adds that a “smart city movement” is spreading around the world.  But I would add, it is communications that makes movements. 

Communicating effectively with data requires skills beyond technology, the article stresses.  “People live in cities,” says Dr. Jurij R. Paraszcczak, director of smarter cities research at IBM, “so much of the equation is not just the data but how you encourage people to change their behavior.”

This is another demonstration of how the public relations business is morphing even more so into a science of behavior, technology and communications.  The article concludes that “ the social ingredients of motivation, habit and incentives will be part of the research agenda” at the NYU  Center for Urban Science and Progress.  “This has got to be science with a social dimension.”

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