Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving from NAGC

Greetings Fellow NAGC Members,

In reflecting on the coming holiday season, I realize that the tumult we have experienced this year may only be the beginning of the challenges ahead for government communicators. Remember, you are not alone in the journey. Thankfully, NAGC is here for us. We are an organization dedicated to excellence in government communications with a network of professionals available to help each other in times of need.
NAGC President Kathryn Stokes

As you begin to celebrate your Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you can make time to pause and give thanks for all you have in your lives. Embrace the people you cherish and reach out to those who cannot be with you. Also, take time to remember those friends and family who are no longer with us.

On behalf of the NAGC Board of Directors, I wish you a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. I look forward to the opportunities to support and advance each other as government communicators that lay ahead of us in the coming year and beyond.


Kathryn Stokes, NAGC President

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Politics, Political Savvy, Government Communicators and Transition Time

By NAGC  President-elect Chris O'Neil

Then ...

And now.
It’s that time again – transition time.  The elections are over and for many offices that means change – from one administration to the next, from one appointee to the next.

Transition happens at all levels of government – local, state and federal – and the process affects all government communicators in some fashion.  

The focus of this post is not how to prepare for the onslaught of work associated with preparing for transition, or, how to prep for an assignment to the “transition team.”  No, the point I want to share with you today is the opportunity presented to you, the career government communicator, by transition time.

Transition is the time to establish your role as the trusted advisor, to lay a foundation that supports your role as the counselor for all things relating to government communications.  Transition is the time where you advocate for transparency in government through disciplined, ethical and effective communication.

Transition is the time to inculcate incoming personnel on your agency’s communication doctrine, policy and tactics.  It is the time to demonstrate how good government needs good communication.  

Communicators fresh off the campaign trail need help transitioning their mindset, their focus, and their practices from those used to win the campaign, to those that communicate about the activities of government.  Career government communicators have the experience, training and skills to help incoming personnel understand that information is not released to achieve political objectives, it is released because the public has a right to know how its government is working – including those times (and perhaps most importantly) when their government isn’t performing well.  

Career communicators are, at work, politically agnostic, meaning we are dedicated to fulfilling the free exchange of ideas that is the basis of our democracy, rather than fulfilling the political objectives of the recently elected or appointed.

Being politically agnostic does not mean communicators are not politically savvy – quite contrary. Good communicators know the full condition of the information environment, including the political landscape.  This situational awareness allows them to provide the best possible advice to their principals on how to communicate about their agency’s activities.  Ensuring your counsel reflects political reality doesn’t make you political, it makes you politically savvy.  

Conversely, black balling reporters whom your principals deem “uncooperative” or “who don’t cover us favorably” is being political, not politically savvy.  Withholding otherwise publicly releasable information, because the information is deemed “politically charged” or “politically risky”, or failing to advocate for the course of action that promotes transparency and accountability in government, is at best unethical and contrary to effective communication and effective governance.  As government communicators we have to lead the effort to persuade and educate incoming leadership about our solid communication practices and their foundation on the art and science of government communication.

Transition time is a time of opportunity.  It is a time to either reset doctrine, policy and procedures that may have strayed from the purposes of promoting transparency and accountability, or, it is a time to reinforce those good practices and to continue to practice good communication in support of good government.  It’s our responsibility, as the career government communicators, to ensure we get the incoming team moving down the correct path.  

Remember, just like, "If you didn’t vote, you don’t get to complain," if you don’t take the time to advocate for transparency, for ethics based communication about your agency, then you don’t get to complain if the new team doesn’t get it.  It isn’t always easy, it isn’t always fun, but it’s our job to ensure the best practices of good government communication are instilled with incoming personnel during transition time.

Transition is the time where your role as an advisor is key to the future success of your communication efforts – use the time wisely.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We Cannot Overlook Ethics

A guest post from Vincenzo Le Voci, Secretary General of Europe’s Club of Venice, and Administrator for Press & Communication, Directorate of Communication & Transparency, Council of the European Union.

As government communicators, we know it is difficult enough to build winning communication strategies with content and tools that get through to broadly varied audiences and perceptions. But if we lack or overlook ethics, we should consider a career change NOW!

Governmental and institutional communication has traditionally been tough work. In Europe, we may sometimes call public sector communication "mission impossible." Multi-culturally diverse audiences in each country and locality, cross-border communication considerations, economic stagnation, security concerns and perceptions of threats to sovereignty all contribute to the challenges in the European Union.

How to take into account the variety of audiences in each country? How to build cross-border communication synergies in times of economic stagnation, high unemployment rates, and threats to security? How to better inform citizens about policies having an impact on their habits without running the risk of misperceptions (solidarity v s. loss of sovereignty)?

But in all societies, the communicators’ abilities and willingness to root their advice and statements in honesty – and firmly grounded in the complexities of the real world – can make the difference.

If ethics are driving our steps, all the rest comes naturally. Ethics drive our ability to develop mutual respect and trusted relationships, allow for the willing exchange of best practices and winning models among peers, and having courage and determination in the pursuit of common ground,

This is the only way to break through barriers (differing languages, cultures, socioeconomic factors, and historical prejudices and mistrust).

Without communication ethics, we can expect the smallest incidents to compound into major crises, increasingly affecting all sectors of society. Without communication ethics, anything and everything could take a turn for the worst.

So what happens when we’re asked to defend the positions of political masters who may ignore ethical values or are guided by other interests? 
Attend my keynote session on Thursday, June 4 at the NAGC Communication School in Memphis and learn about how we’re trying to establish clear ethical rules or a code of conduct to address the unique challenges and responsibilities of government communications in Europe.

Hope to see you there!

Vincenzo Le Voci is Secretary-General of the Club of Venice (network of communications directors from the European Union Member States, institutions and countries candidate to the EU membership) and has been a EU Council official since 1992. He has worked on Transparency and Information Policy issues since 2001. He works for the "Public Relations" Unit and is coordinating the communication agenda of the Council Working Party on Information. He consolidated his experience within the Council by working in the Linguistic Division, Research and Technological Development, Education and Culture and Staff Training Departments. Before reaching the EU framework in 1992 he worked in the NATO as Housing Manager for the US Air Force (1985-1991) in a Tactical Air Training Installation in Sardinia, which he joined after serving the Italian Army. He is a native of Calabria (South Italy) and speaks Italian, English, French, Spanish and some German. He holds a Master Degree in Foreign Languages and Literatures (University of Cagliari) and has followed Modern History, European Integration and management courses in Belgium and with US Universities. He has written articles for communications books and magazines and lectured at universities in Lille (France) and Milan (Italy). He has a rich home library with over two-thousands books (literature and theatre) and writes poetry in Italian, English and French.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day from NAGC President John Verrico

St. Patrick’s Day has special significance for communicators, as it celebrates one of the most amazing motivators in history.

Imagine communication skills so extraordinary as to be able to lead all the snakes out of Ireland!


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Reflections from March's Featured Member of the Month

By Erin Vader
Communication and Public Engagement Manager, City of Olathe, KS
NAGC Featured Member of the Month

Why NAGC?   NAGC Communication School was my first foray into the world of government communications.  The session content and the networking were invaluable to a then rookie. Most importantly, as a one-person shop, I loved the camaraderie between members.  Those connections have proven invaluable over the years and I’ve received guidance and support on a number of endeavors ranging from website vendor selection to social media management.

About Olathe:  Olathe “the city beautiful” is the fourth largest city in the state of Kansas and is one of the fastest growing cities in the Midwest.  Olathe is located just 20 miles southwest of downtown Kansas City, offering a lifestyle of exceptional quality. A drive through Olathe's attractive neighborhoods shows a well-planned, pleasing community. Olathe's Fire and Police Departments are among the finest in the state. The award winning Olathe Public Schools is one of the best in the nation. Olathe has been named a “best place to live” from Money magazine and was recognized as a Fast City by Fast Company magazine.

NAGC Member Spotlight
About Erin: Erin Vader is the Communication and Public Engagement Manager for the City of Olathe, KS.  Erin oversees public and media relations, digital/social media, video production, web content, and internal communications.  Erin has been in her current role for five years and with the City of Olathe since 2004.  She holds a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University and a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska.  Erin is also a Certified Public Manager. 

Maximize Your NAGC Experience, Serve on the Board of Directors

By Kathryn Stokes

Let me say, up front, that I love being a part of the National Association of Government Communicators!  I have loved it since attending my first Communications School in 2008.  I enjoy being around people who are creative and interesting and who love sharing their lessons learned.

So when the opportunity came up for me to serve on the Board of Directors, I accepted the challenge.   That’s when I really began to appreciate the wonderful opportunities available to our members. 

Serving on the NAGC Board of Directors is not for the faint of heart.  Anyone who works in government knows that a call to serve the public is challenging and rewarding at the same time.  The same can be said for serving on the NAGC board.  It is challenging and hard work that can take up a lot of time depending on the position held.  But the rewards more than make up for any hardships along the way.

First and foremost, I have met some incredible people through NAGC and some of my favorites are on the board or have been on the board.  I have had the opportunity to learn from the best…my peers.  Most of them have been in government communications a lot longer than I have, which has been a boon to my learning curve! 

Another great benefit to being a member of the NAGC board is the opportunity to network with so many leaders in the communications field.  As a member of the board I am expected to serve on various committees or head up committees, through which I get to meet even more talented individuals.  These committees provide the framework through which NAGC operates.  They share ideas about better government communications and look for ways to enhance the value of NAGC membership.  They determine the program for the annual Communications School, plan the Blue Pencil & Gold Screen Awards competition and ceremony, tackle tasks such as redesigning the NAGC website (which is currently in progress) and they identify potential leaders for the organization.  That brings me to the purpose of this missive. 

I want to challenge you, the members of NAGC, to consider running for one of the open positions on the board.  The following positions are available: Treasurer, Education Director, Communications Director, Professional Development Director and Marketing Director.

Share your experience with your fellow government communicators and make a difference in our organization.  Yes, it can be demanding, but it is also extremely rewarding.  For me it is an honor to serve my fellow government communicators.  Being a member of this board provides the opportunity to enhance to benefits for all NAGC members.  This is your opportunity to do the same. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Featured Member of the Month Challenges Members to Get Involved

By Donna Harris
Featured Member of the Month

When I first sat down to write this blog, my mind was as blank as an artist’s new canvas.  But one month into the New Year, and two weeks from Martin Luther King’s birthday and day of service, a spark was ignited.

As communicators we are often challenged with building, growing or saving a brand.  That’s what we do.  Our jobs are busy, stressful and fulfilling at the same time. It’s done so often it becomes second nature and all encompassing.  So with all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I wondered how many of us take the time to get involved and build our own brand. Or, what I call BRAND YOU!

Every time you volunteer-- whether it is with your Agency or an outside group--you learn something new.  And that new experience can be the start of building on your successes, or things you didn’t know about the person sitting next to you.

Take NAGC, when I went to my very first Communications School last year, on the table were cards asking if we wanted to “get involved.”  My immediate reactions or questions were—I don’t want any more work and why would they need me.  But I took a chance and to my surprise, they called and now I am a participant on the membership committee!  And really it doesn’t take much time, and I feel good every time I lend a hand in growing not only their brand, but my next communications masterpiece.

So I challenge each of year to “get involved” and lend a hand.  It doesn’t take much time and you will be all the better and wiser for it!

Donna Harris is currently the Public Information Representative for the US Postal Inspection Service in New York.  Donna has been in her current position for more than three years, and has worked at the United States Postal Service and its law enforcement agencies for almost 29 years.  

Did You KnowThe United States Postal Inspection Service is the law enforcement arm of the Postal Service.  Their agency has been around since the early 1700s, its mission is to ensure the integrity of the mail and the Postal Service by providing investigative, security, and preventive services, and by enforcing federal statutes that protect the mail, postal employees, customers, and assets.