Sunday, September 29, 2013

Another historic moment in South Eastern Europe

Earlier today our fellow government communicators in the nation states of South Eastern Europe established the first not-for-profit professional association in the region dedicated to advancing the government communications profession. The South Eastern Europe Public Sector Communication Association (SEECOM) will formalize the international partnership among senior public sector communicators that began at the South Eastern European Government Communication Forum held in Budva, Montenegro last year.

Adapting much from the National Association of Government Communicators’ organizational model, the newly formed association will seek to advance professional development; networking; citizen engagement; partnership; good governance; transparency; accountability; internal communications; professional standards, values and ethics; and the use of innovative technologies.

Vuk Vujnović, who became NAGC’s first European member last year, was unanimously elected as the Secretary General of this new association. Vuk is currently the Acting Director of the Public Relations Bureau for the Government of Montenegro. Krunoslav Vidić, Spokesman for the Ministry of Labour and Pension System for the Government of Croatia, was unanimously elected as SEECOM’s inaugural Chairman.

The formal establishment of association this afternoon wrapped up the second SEECOM conference in Budva. The beautiful weather and vista of the gorgeous Adriatic Sea just outside the windows of the conference room made for a stunning backdrop to a series of important panel discussions addressing the challenges and directions for government communicators in the region. Panelists representing 14 European countries, the European Union, and the United States discussed the concepts of what makes an ideal government communications office, government 2.0, creating two-way conversations with stakeholders and other topics.

Long-term NAGC friend and supporter Joan Detz was also here and captivated the attendees with a brilliant session on the art of being an engaged speaker. I was delighted to be asked to participate on the ‘ideal office’ panel and discussed the many expectations of our varied audiences – including our own agency leaders.  

But the real hit of the program was the adoption of the charter for the new association. By the way, NAGC is mentioned in the official charter as endorsers of the event along with the United States Embassy in Montenegro, the United Nations Development Programme, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Media Program, and the Regional Cooperation Council.

NAGC salutes our counterparts in South Eastern Europe and pledges to continue our support and partnership with them.

Congratulations, SEECOM!

Posted by John Verrico, NAGC President-Elect

Friday, September 27, 2013

Setting the stage for success!

Those of you who attended the National Association of Government Communicators 2013 Communications School will undoubtedly remember the presentation from Vuk Vujnović, Acting Director of the Public Relations Bureau for the Government of Montenegro. He is leading an effort to establish open and transparent government in South Eastern Europe’s nation states and has created the South Eastern European Government Communications (SEECOM) forum.

Government communicators from agencies representing nearly a dozen nations are participating in this effort. The group met for the first time last September (2012) and adopted the Budva Declaration. Today, the group came together again to further their work and build a more unified congress to address the issues of openness and transparency.
The second SEECOM conference opened this evening with several high-level keynote speakers. The proceedings included Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro Dus̆ko Marković, United Nations Resident Coordinator Rastislav Vrbensky, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy to Montenegro Douglas Jones, Deputy Head of European and International Cooperation for Konrad-Adenaer-Stiftung Frank Priess, and Chief of Staff of the Regional Coooperation Council Jovan Tegovski.  
These weren’t just a bunch of high-level politicos delivering platitudes – these folks understand the importance of successful government communications.
Throughout the room, heads were nodding in agreement when Embassy Deputy Chief Jones said, “When Government communicators are empowered to do their jobs, society benefits – the public is more informed and engaged, governments make better decisions, trust in government increases and corruption decreases.”
Yes, Mr. Jones – we couldn’t agree more! Nothing is more powerful than empowered communicators.
The enthusiasm of this group is astounding. They come together with open minds, dedicated to the success of the effort, and a can-do spirit bolstered by a willingness to serve untainted by naysayers. I am honored to take part and bear witness to this historic endeavor.

posted by John Verrico, President-Elect, National Association of Government Communicators

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Preparing for an active shooter situation at your agency

Annual National Preparedness Month observances urge us to review our family and workplace safety plans, but more often than not, people instead think of planning for natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and tornadoes. This year, the Child Support Report offers practical advice to help government offices prepare for issues surrounding workplace violence.

According to the Department of Homeland Security Active Shooter Pocket Card: “An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area, typically through the use of firearms.” As a manager, your first step should be to draft an Active Shooter Emergency Action Plan or, if your office already has one, to review it and see if everything is still relevant.

Jeffrey Sypolt, the Chief of Occupational Safety and Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says managers should keep these tips in mind as they develop a plan:

Watch: Ensure your employees know what to look for. They need to be aware of someone doing a suspicious or dangerous activity, such as putting down a backpack and walking away. If someone who was recently in your office for a difficult child support case made extreme or threatening remarks toward one of the employees or towards the office in general, that could be a danger sign.

Plan: An Active Shooter Emergency Action Plan includes instructions employees can follow in an active shooter event. Think: Run-Hide-Fight.

·       If possible, RUN to safety. Employees must know their best escape routes from their location and the predetermined central meeting place that is a safe distance from the building.
·       If escape is not an option, HIDE, and remember that part of hiding is remaining silent and still. Employees should lock their office doors and turn off the lights if possible. Immediately put all cell phones and pagers on silent—NOT VIBRATE. Don’t type, don’t make phone calls, and especially don’t peek out the door.
·       If discovered while hiding, defend yourself and FIGHT for your life. Employees can try to incapacitate the shooter by throwing items at the shooter, such as wastebaskets, staplers, or other small but hard objects.
·       Lastly, act decisively regardless of whether you decide to run or hide. Don’t get caught in between. If the choice is to hide, stay hidden until you get an official announcement.

Call: Dial 9-11 only when you can make the call safely. Employees hiding should remain in hiding until a pre-determined warning code or official notification is broadcast.

Inform: Employees must keep their eyes open and observe the situation. When law enforcement officials arrive, they will need to know where the active shooter is, whether there is more than one suspect, the type of weapon(s) the shooter has, what the person looks like, and how many potential victims could still be in danger.

Practice: It is critical that employees practice office Emergency Action Plans so they can do what is expected in an emergency.

Reprinted by Elaine Blackman, from the September 2013 HHS Child Support Report article < Kim Danek.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Good Government = Good Neighbors!

Posted by John Verrico

We all know that government budgets to go to conferences are practically non-existent nowadays. So communicators at all levels of government are working to find alternative ways of meeting with stakeholders, usually turning to online virtual solutions. But, as one communicator said in response to a survey earlier this year – “You can’t fax a handshake!”

There really is nothing like in-person, face-to-face interaction. And, let’s face it, we can’t reach every audience online. There still is a real need to get out there and meet people – especially in our local communities.

As government entities, we serve the people in our communities and are part of the neighborhood, so we should be good neighbors and get to know people and have them get to know us.
There are all sorts of opportunities to meet the folks we serve, such as getting a booth at local fairs or festivals, holding or participating in town hall meetings, and conducting open house events at our facility. These are great chances to explain complex programs, show off some of our agency’s accomplishments, or get people signed up for our services.
Many factors impact our success in these venues. We need to consider our targeted messaging strategy, our booth, who staffs it, and whatever we give away. There is also a subtle science behind how we position ourselves and our display elements.
On Wednesday, September 18, I’ll be leading a webinar about this topic and discuss some tips from real-world experience on how to make the most of our local community relations efforts.  Details and registration information are on the National Association of Government Communicators website 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

NAGC Webinar Series: Get Out From Behind the Table and Meet Your Public: How to Excel in Face-to-Face Community Relations

John Verrico, President Elect, NAGC
NAGC President Elect John Verrico is featured in our next installment of the NAGC Webinar Series, Lightning Talks with Subject Matter Experts. This installment, entitled "Get Out From Behind the Table and Meet Your Public:  How to Excel in Face-to-Face Community Relations," is scheduled for Sept. 18, from 2 to 3 p.m. EDT.  

Even as we engage in digital social networks like Facebook, Pintrest, Google+ and Twitter, we know that nothing provides better communication with our public than direct, face-to-face interaction.  Having an exhibit at local fairs, festivals and other events provide excellent opportunities to promote government programs, explain complex issues, answer questions and put a human face on your agency. Even in times of tight government budgets, your agency can excel in this essential community relations function.

Participants in this webinar will learn how to:
   Bring creativity to government exhibits. 
   Make agency information exciting and memorable.
   Engage their public.
    Use unique give-aways that won’t break the bank.

Registration is $25 for NAGC Members!  $50 for non-members.

Click here to Register by September 17, 2013. Once your registration is received, you will be sent instructions for joining the webinar on September 18, 2013.