National Partnership for Reinventing Government

Table of Contents

Chapter 2


Chapter One
Keeping Current

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

- Arthur C. Clarke

Latest Communication Trends

The new information highway runs right through your backyard. With Internet resources and online news services, every word ever written or broadcast about your agency is readily accessible to everyone. The Internet breaks down old barriers to information.

Americans have an ever-expanding appetite for new technology. In 2000, more than half owned a cell phone, up from 24 percent in 1995. One in five Americans (18 percent) has a satellite dish; 5 percent own a Palm Pilot or other PDA-Personal Digital Assistant. This revolution in communications technology is not only changing the way we live; it has created a highly competitive environment for those in the news business who are providing information to the public.

The Changing Media Landscape

In June 2000, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released a report that found that only 48 percent of Americans follow national news closely most of the time, a new low. Although daily newspaper readership was down slightly from 68 to 63 percent since 1998, TV network news viewership dropped from 65 percent in 1995 to 50 percent in 1999. One-third of adults now regularly get their news online; among those younger than 30, some 46 percent go online for news at least once a week.

News resources are dwindling. Media mergers and cost-cutting mean that there are fewer reporters who have the luxury of doing detailed, in-depth stories. Many times, the reporter doing a story about your agency is not familiar with what your agency does. This provides you with a golden opportunity to fill the information void.

But, because our society is experiencing information overload, it is crucial that you get your information out-in plain language-in easily digestible chunks and in a form that will be used. And, you have to do it using the very latest technology that works. Because of the immediacy of the Internet, reporters and writers no longer have daily deadlines-stories are often posted as soon as they are written.

Get Your Point Across

We communicate every day. Every time we smile at another person, say "hi" to them, have a conversation with them, or even ignore them, we are communicating. Getting your point across is very important to successful business relationships. Good communication is difficult because it requires a lot of effort, time, and patience.

Tips to help you get your point across:

  • Be prepared.
  • Be confident.
  • Stay focused on your conversation and your listener.
  • Maintain eye contact with your listeners.
  • Make sure your listeners are following you by asking them for questions or feedback.
  • Don't lose your temper or get over-emotional.
  • Speak slowly and calmly; don't raise your voice.
  • Speak clearly and concisely.
  • Get to the point; don't ramble.
  • Be kind, compassionate, and empathetic.
  • Be honest. Don't play games.
  • Be assertive, but tactful.


Today's workplace is a lot different from yesterday's. And, how you do your job is different, too. One big change is networking. By branching out, you can form relationships with colleagues who have information that you need to do your job or you can give them the information they may need to do theirs.

Networking is a dynamic process often resulting in outcomes that far exceed what you as an individual communicator could generate. You can come up with novel and unusual ideas and techniques by brainstorming and partnering with communications professionals outside your institution or agency. Networking is:

  • A way to connect people.
  • The open asking for and sharing of ideas, experience, and information.
  • A working approach to get things done or to get things done better.
Networking can:
  • Help you collaborate on projects of mutual interest and exchange information, taking full benefit of everyone's expertise.
  • Foster supportive relationships that contribute to the increased quality of services or products.
  • Broaden impact, both in terms of reaching more people and/or new audiences, and as a way of getting more for your investment in both time and money.
  • Create a means to more effectively and rapidly pursue communications objectives, respond to changing communications practices, and solve problems.
  • Provide access to expert guidance on skills, including writing, editing, design, marketing, Web design, distance education, and development of electronic products and audiovisuals.
  • Provide remote access to technology and other information resources, such as databases, e-mail, bulletin boards, and shareware.
  • Enable collaborative communication on the often complex range of subjects and issues packaged for your target audiences.
  • Provide a springboard for marketing and distributing communications products, increasing visibility of your products and services to new audiences.
  • Foster collaboration and create awareness of potential funding sources.
  • Create opportunities for cost savings through choices to buy-in to press runs of products useful to your institution and clients, but developed by others.
  • Help to achieve project success more readily. An indirect, but welcome, benefit is that your work might get recognition through various award programs.
Tips for Successful Networking
  • Identify people who have what you want, such as mentors and experts, and those who need what you have. These relationships will enhance individual communications skills.
  • Think locally; act globally. Sometimes it is easier to network on a local level-local chapters of professional communications societies, campus communications groups, one-on-one communication with colleagues in other departments. It is also important to branch out beyond your local resources to consult with communicators on a regional or national level. Serving on committees or on boards of national/regional communications associations can connect you with valuable future networks. You will likely earn trust and respect, and once you've done that, you will not only have business associates to call on when you need help or advice, you will also have good professional friends.
  • Share information through e-mail, listservs, Web bulletin boards, and newsletters-all good networking tools.
  • Keep up-to-date on the latest developments in communication technologies.
  • Use computer networking to involve more people with diverse skills in problem-solving and innovation. New technologies help break down barriers between groups.
  • Check the Internet to find out what others are doing. Information on the Internet is a constantly updated wealth of useful, timely, and sometimes in-depth material. Also, the Internet offers a forum through which you can raise questions, solve problems, and share your work. Check out Web-based video libraries and photo and graphic image archives.
  • Create opportunities for collaboration among researchers, outreach specialists, and educators when networking activities make us aware of similar projects occurring in other geographic regions.
  • When initiating projects, identify collaborators with whom you have common mission or goals and build this into your implementation or action plan. Think pro-actively!
  • Because networking can give you so many new opportunities and approaches, try to avoid getting derailed from your initial quest for information. When you are working with others to share information, try to avoid conflicts of demand and priority. This will help you avoid stress or work overload.
Where You Can Network
  • Government or university settings: Formalized communications networks, informal gatherings of communications professionals, and professional development workshops.
  • Local settings: Local chapters of professional communications societies; communications businesses in your community-public relations, information technology, marketing, and design firms, and fellow attendees at local workshops/seminars.
  • Statewide, regional, national settings: Professional communications conferences and seminars, electronic listservs, bulletin boards, and discussion groups on Internet Web sites.

Make Your Job Vital-How to Market Your Work

Public affairs folks are dedicated to promoting their agencies-using the best resources available and working hard at the job. However, it is a good idea to make sure your boss and your boss' boss know about all the work that you, your co-workers, and your staff are doing. Don't assume they already know. Here are some tips you can use to help demonstrate the value of a public affairs program and how vital communications work is to your agency:
  • Collect recent communications success stories in one place so you can share them with your boss, or other influential associates.
  • Submit articles about your successful projects to an outside trade magazine, or write a column for your in house publication.
  • Get involved with-and regularly speak before-professional, civic, and social organizations about your work.
  • The next time you or your staff get an award or promotion, publicize it. Don't forget in-house bulletins, your hometown weekly, your alumni magazine, and your society/association newsletter.
  • Tape speeches that you or your staff make. You can use the tapes as promotional tools to your boss and others.
  • Make sure you and your staff have a speaker's introduction that others can use before your presentations or about the author notes that editors can use with your articles.
  • Teach an adult education class and encourage your staff to do the same.
  • Keep a reference list of professionals who are willing to give testimonials about your work, or that of your staff.
  • Consider developing and distributing a newsletter to share professional tips.
  • Consider adding a personal promotion note to your voice-mail message ("Hi. You've reach Jane Doe, a member of the communications team that won the 2000 speaking award.").
  • Start a focus group of professionals who meet periodically to help each other with career advancement.
  • Create a marketing kit for you or your staff that consists of-among other things-bio sheets, photos, testimonial letters and copies of professional articles. Be sure to keep it up-to-date.

Distance Learning

Technology has radically altered education in our country. Today's students may not interact with their teachers at a specific place or time. In fact, they may not even be in the same city. Because we tend to change careers and relocate more often than our parents did, our educational methods are becoming portable and flexible enough to provide life-long learning opportunities for everyone.

You can adapt these new distance learning techniques for internal training projects, as well as to help get information about your agency out to the public. Distance education gives you more freedom and flexibility because you can deliver your product both in the workplace and at home.

To use distance education, you'll need to:

  • Define your overall goal in broad terms.
  • Define your audience; choose one primary audience.
  • Develop learning objectives-include audience characteristics and define what they will do once they master the objective.
  • Develop the content.
  • Select the instructional method or strategy.
  • Develop ways to evaluate and make changes to your program.
A number of new technologies are available:
  • Compressed video, which uses digital technology to compress video images to save transmission bandwidth. With this technology, you can have video conferences over telephone lines, using two-way video and audio.
  • Satellite transmission, which uses uplink transmitters to send a broadcast signal to an orbiting satellite that returns the signal to downlink sites.
  • Audio-conferencing, which uses telephone lines to transmit audio. In this way, many people can participate using a teleconference bridge.
  • CD-ROM (Compact Disc-Read Only Memory), which lets your students and customers interact with educational material via the CD-ROM player in their computer. CD-ROM supports multiple media, including text, audio, sound, pictures, graphics, animation and video, which can be linked to other programs and sites on the Internet.
  • The Internet, which lets students or customers connect through Web sites to explore topics through various multiple media resources, including text, sound, pictures, graphics, animation, and video.
About the Internet: The Internet is rapidly gaining popularity as a distance-learning delivery tool because it can incorporate text, sound, pictures, animation, and video into instructional packages. Students or customers can access the material on their own schedule via a personal computer.
  • However, this technique does require your student to have a high-speed connection to the Internet and browser software.
  • If you are using a Web page to teach, make certain it loads quickly, displays in all Web browsers, is well-organized, and is easy to follow.
  • Learning on the Web is not much different from learning in more traditional environments. However, to engage students, lessons must have a clear purpose and be tightly focused.

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