The National Association of Government Communicators is running it's comms school in Portland, OR April 18-20 and as official media partners for the event, we've had the great opportunity to hear from the speakers at the event. Find out more about them here.

What is the title of your NAGC session?

Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation in the Information Age

Tell us a little about what you do and how you got there

I am helping rebuild trust in our democracy focusing on institutional reforms among society, the news media, and government. The objective is to achieve a more informed, educated, and civically engaged society. This requires efforts that lower or remove conflict within and across these three "pillars" while ensuring a healthy level of friction that exists in successful democracies.

I've spent most of my career in public administration in the public, corporate, and non-profit sectors. My career highlights include being a PIO (City of Louisville), a biz dev director for a GovTech public engagement company (Neighborhood America), the executive director for a national open government association (NFOIC), and an adjunct professor in local and national government (FGCU). I’ve been able to view and experience our democratic challenges from multiple points of view.

What is it about communications, media or crisis comms that interests you so much?

The power of influence and persuasion, particularly about how technology, namely the Internet and social media, has greatly increased society's challenge and willingness to inform and educate ourselves, truthfully and factually.

What do you love about your job?

Constantly learning from others' ideas and perceptions derived out of personal and professional experiences different from my own.

What’s the hardest thing about your job?

Affecting change.

What are some of the more memorable events you’ve had to deal with in your role and what lessons did you learn?

If talking about challenges, there have been a few. It's two-fold: First, they have mostly come out of bias. Second, I've often found myself in situations where there are multiple needs to be met, and multiple outcomes to consider. Getting past biases is crucial to objectively address the important stuff like decisions. It's a balancing act on all sides.

Can you give one piece of advice for those who want to start a career in Government communications?

Remember you and everyone else in your organization serve the public. But what does that really mean? While that's become a tougher job in today's polarized and partisan society, you serve a very critical role. Not a PR role, but a public information role. I get it. I understand today's challenge. But government communicators are unlike any other comms person in the private or nonprofit sectors. You are unique. There is only one of your institutions providing programs and services to everyone in your jurisdiction. No competition, so don't mirror your private sector counterparts. Your residents and businesses are the primary stakeholders in their government. They pay your salary. They need and deserve information that is timely, accurate, and truthful, even if it doesn't always portray your agencies and your officials in a positive light. You can spin it, but don't fabricate it.

Everyone can always be better and we will. Work with the news media and be responsive to them as long as they are ethical and share the same values about educating and informing the public --most of them are. Your boss(es) may want you to be their PR machine, but that is not your primary role. The public and our democracy are more important than image or brand. They are not exclusive, however. You can have success serving both. That is your north star. Be assertive, but polite and humble. Protect your character and your integrity. That's all you have control over. Enjoy the ride.

What are your favorite tools you use to do your job more effectively?

A phone and computers and everything else stacked within.

What would you say to anyone in a leadership role about having a PIO or comms professional who might not have one?

Let them do their job to communicate and share information with the public. If you do your job right --intellectually, professionally, responsively, and ethically-- it will allow them to excel in theirs and make you and your organization look great in the eyes of your stakeholders.

Are there any books, podcasts, websites or any other resources you would recommend for the comms pro?

There are so many. Consume news sources that are ideologically opposed to each other. Follow the communiques and messaging produced by national associations or organizations that represent: --your colleagues, e.g. elected officials and department --promote/faciliate resident engagement and civic awareness --Journalism and open government --Govtech, particularly as it relates to constituent communication and information.

Connect with Daniel on LinkedIn

See the NAGC schedule of events here and find out more about the lineup of speakers and events. Want to book some time with PIOToolkit at NAGC? You can do that here!

March 20, 2023
PIO People

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