In late 2023 and early 2024, Cooksey Communications distributed a 30-question survey (the “Public Sector Insights Index”) to public sector communicators across Texas and nationwide, seeking to gain insights about the hottest topics and trends affecting government communications and engagement programs, which are currently driving future resource allocation and strategy planning.

Below is a brief summary of the most salient insights derived from the responses to that survey.

For more detailed insights on these topics and other key takeaways from our survey analysis, please contact our Public Sector Practice leaders Tom Bryson ( or 945-455-9914) and Dorothy White ( or 945-455-9924).


1. Communications and Engagement Budget Sizes:
Are typically less than 1% of the agency’s overall budget, and most commonly are less than 0.5% of the overall budget.

a. Over 58% of respondents indicated their Departmental or Communications & Engagement-related budget represents less than 0.5% of the agency’s overall budget.
b. Another 31% indicated their budget represents 0.5%-0.9% of the agency’s overall budget.
c. Accurate and completely reliable benchmarking is difficult because of discrepancies in how General Fund and other budgets are counted, the exclusion of PEG funds and some other payroll/expenditures, and the fact that some agencies have communications/engagement functions spread across various departmental budgets (which may or may not be counted in the totals referenced above).

2. Salaries for the Highest-Ranking Communications Department Staff Member:
Are predominantly $100,000 or more (30/48 respondents, or 62.5%), and over 30% of respondents (15/48) have salaries of $150,000 or more.

a. However, 25% of respondents (12/48) indicated the top-ranked Communications staffer has a salary of $75,000 – $99,999.
b. 12.5% (6/48) have a salary of less than $75,000.
c. Most respondents indicated they have a “Director” form of title. Those with a “Manager,” “Supervisor” or “Specialist” title tend to have lower indicated salaries.

3. Communications Staffing/Role Needs:
Over 56% of respondents (27/48) indicated they plan or expect to add a staff member to their department within the next 1-2 years.

The most commonly cited staffing or role needs are:
a. Social media/web/digital specialists and managers
b. Graphic designers
c. Videographers/photographers/multimedia specialists
d. General writers/content developers
e. Community outreach/public engagement staff
f. Internal communications staff
g. Administrative/traffic coordinators
h. Communications Director or PIO
i. Assistant Director or Manager
j. Bilingual communications staff/translators

4. Enhanced Efforts to Communicate With or Engage Diverse Audiences:
Over 80% of respondents (39/48) indicated they have made enhancements to their organization’s communications or public engagement efforts over the past year to better reach diverse audiences or in order to be more inclusive.

5. Challenges Remain in Reaching and Engaging Diverse Audiences:
Over three-quarters of respondents (38/48) say they still aren’t reaching some public stakeholders very effectively.

The most commonly cited areas where respondents feel they’re falling short are:
a. New residents
b. Non-native English speakers
c. Apartment dwellers
d. HOAs/subdivisions
e. Senior adults who aren’t internet users
f. Young adults without kids
g. Teens and youth
h. Business owners and employees
i. University students
j. Those who don’t watch/read the news or participate in social media, generally

6. Use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) Within Communications and Engagement Efforts Is On the Rise.
Nearly 80% (38/48) of respondents say they either have recently explored or are already actively using AI in some way to enhance their organization’s communications and engagement program.

Respondents most commonly say they’re exploring or using the following:

a. Chat GPT (significant use)
b. Google Bard and (some use)
c. Many are also using AI capabilities embedded within other programs or tools such as Adobe Creative Suite/Photoshop, Canva, Grammarly and Citibot 2.0

7. Some Communications & Engagement Shops (or the Parent Entities) Have Robust Policies and Guidelines in Place, While Others Are Lacking in This Area.
Surprisingly, VERY FEW have policies in place for use of AI despite the high exploratory/usage figures noted above, and despite AI’s potential risks and complications. Remarkably, just 6% of respondents (3/48) said they have a policy specifically addressing their organization’s or department’s use of AI and/or other emerging digital tools.

The most commonly found policies are:

a. Social Media Policy (90% or 43/48)
b. Brand Standards/Guidelines (81% or 39/48)
c. Crisis Communications Policy or Plan (65% or 31/48)
d. Remote Work Policy (54% or 26/48)
e. General Communications/Marketing/Public Engagement Policy (50% or 24/48)
f. Media Relations/Official Spokesperson Policy (46% or 22/48)
g. Filming/Photography Guidelines (44% or 21/48)
h. Drone Policy (15% or 7/48)

8. Most Governmental Entities Surveyed Have 5-19 Social Media Handles or Channels, While Some (Mostly Larger Entities) have 20 or More.

a. 2% reporting having fewer than 5 handles/channels.
b. 27% reported having 5-9 handles/channels.
c. 35% reported having 10-19 handles/channels.
d. 17% reported having 20-29 handles/channels.
e. 8% reported having 30-39 handles/channels.
f. 2% reported having 40-49 handles/channels.
g. 8% reporting having 50 or more handles/channels.

9. Most Commonly Used Communications and Engagement Channels/Tools Are:

a. Social media (100%)
b. News releases (92%)
c. Town Hall meetings or other public gatherings to share info/solicit input (90%)
d. Text/SMS-based emergency alerts (88%)
e. Video programming, on channel/internet (85%) (tie)
E-newsletters (85%) (tie)
f. Email-based emergency alerts (83%)
g. Community surveys to get feedback on the effectiveness of current comms/engagement efforts (81%) (tie)
Informational signage/displays at public facilities (81%) (tie)
h. Phone call-based emergency alerts (77%)
i. Utility bill inserts (71%)
j. Door hangers (67%)
k. Direct mail (58%)
l. Printed newsletters (46%)
m. Podcast(s) (27%)

10. The Most Commonly Cited Communications and Engagement Platforms/Channels Respondents Are Contemplating or Evaluating for Near-Term Future Use Include:

a. Threads
b. AI (including AI-driven website chatbots)
c. Podcasts
d. Dedicated public engagement platforms (e.g., Social Pinpoint, Bang the Table, Engagement HQ, Zencity)
e. Quick community feedback tools (e.g., FlashVote and See/Click/Fix)
f. Various others

11. On a Scale of 1-10, where 1 is “Extremely Decentralized” and 10 is “Extremely Centralized,” Respondents Rated Their Agency’s Communications and Engagement Program as a 6, on average (“Somewhat Centralized”).

a. 42% indicated MORE centralization was still needed, with more power or control being unified under the respondent or in the Communications Department generally.
b. 33% indicated that some communications functions needed to be centralized, while others should be more decentralized.
c. Only 12% indicated that their organization had struck the right balance between centralization and decentralization, and that no change was needed in this respect.
d. NONE indicated that the communications and engagement program overall needs to be more decentralized.


All agencies that participated in the 2024 Cooksey Insights Index Survey will be receiving a deep dive analysis of the survey results. Cooksey plans to renew the Insights Index every two years, now that 2024 has set a baseline.