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Our Fellow Communicators with CAPIO Need Some Help Recruiting Judges

Posted By Dennis Crayon, Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Updated: Sunday, June 30, 2019

Our fellow communicators with CAPIO need some help recruiting judges for their 2019 EPIC awards.

The time commitment is roughly 3-6 hours and judging will occur Feb. 26 through March 7. Volunteers can request specific award categories that match their interests or expertise.

If you’re new to the judging process, don’t worry!  The Awards Committee can teach you the ropes and CAPIO will host a free webinar in mid-February to review this year’s awards categories and judging criteria.

If you’re interested, please sign up today. Thank you for your interest and dedication to the communication profession!

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National Association of Government Communicators

Posted By CDR Christopher O'Neil, USCG, Retired, Saturday, December 15, 2018
Updated: Sunday, June 30, 2019

As president of the National Association of Government Communicators, I spend a lot of time talking about what isn’t going well in the world of government communications, not because there is so much that needs improvement, rather, because the state of discourse in our nation lends itself to that discussion with the media and the public we serve.  

I’d like to take some time now to instead speak of the dedicated and selfless work of government communicators throughout what has been a challenging, if not harrowing, year. 

At times it felt as though all of California was ablaze. According to CAL FIRE as of Dec. 2, there have been 6,228 fires that have consumed 876,225 acres in 2018. The Camp Fire is currently listed as the deadliest wildfire in California, having claimed 85 lives and destroyed more than 18,800 structures, as the investigation and recovery efforts continue. And that was just one fire. The Hill and Woolsey fires brought the totals to more than 254,800 acres burned and more than 20,390 structures destroyed – in November. Throughout the response to the devastation, CAL FIRE communicators provided timely, factual and relevant information to the public and the media that helped prevent further threats to life and property and provided up-to-date information for those affected by the disasters. 

Farther west fire came in the form of red-hot lava spewing from the Kilauea Eruption on the island of Hawaii. While the volcano has been erupting nearly continuously for 35 years, the May eruption destroyed more than 700 homes, with lava covering more than 12 square miles. Throughout the months long event, and continuing today, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the County of Hawaii and other response agencies posted information to keep citizens informed and safe, with facts about respiratory protection from volcanic ash, serious health hazards from volcanic gas emissions and evacuation, shelter and recovery information for its citizens.  

Hurricanes Florence and Michael roared onto US shorelines, spreading destruction and loss to the Carolinas and the Florida Panhandle. Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 hurricane, was the strongest on record to hit the Florida Panhandle. The two storms claimed more than 90 lives and generated estimated insured losses of more than $6 billion. The 2018 hurricane season ended Nov. 30, and according to NOAA’s National Hurricane Center while it will be “remembered most for Hurricanes Florence and Michael,…the season produced 15 major named storms.” Public Information Officers from every level of government sprang to action as forecasts and storm tracks delivered the frightful news, providing information to people in the projected paths of the storms to help them evacuate, showing people how to survive catastrophic flooding, and how to get help once the storms passed, information that saved countless lives. In just one example, U.S. Coast Guard public affairs specialists deployed to Goldsboro, North Carolina, within 96 hours, processed more than 500 media calls, embedded 30 media in the field and pushed 100 news and photo releases, reaching more than 17.2 million people. That kind of tenacity was demonstrated by government communicators working in emergency operations centers, joint information centers and at the local, county, state and federal levels.  

Throughout 2018, government communicators excelled in delivering life-saving information and guidance that helped citizens recover from the devastation witnessed in the year, and those communication efforts are ongoing as relief and recovery efforts continue.  

Communicators often go unrecognized for their work, and practitioners know that comes with the territory and is the nature of our work. But I would be remiss if I did not take time to remind you that excellence in government communication is all around us, and is consistently demonstrated when things are at their worst, when citizens need their government most. That selfless, dedicated and consistently superior work epitomizes the benefit of government communication and the best practices of our profession. As we celebrate the holiday season and look back at the year, and ahead to the new year, may we also take a moment to celebrate our successes, the successes of our colleagues and recognize the vital role we fulfill.  

Sincerely,
Chris O’Neil
President – National Association of Government Communicators

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Changes In Leadership In The Association’s Board Of Directors

Posted By CDR Christopher O'Neil, USCG, Retired, Saturday, December 15, 2018
Updated: Sunday, June 30, 2019

I wanted to take a few moments of your time to tell you about some changes in leadership in the association’s board of directors.

Within the span of three weeks three board members resigned. One director resigned following acceptance of a position outside of government. Two other board members resigned as they strived to achieve the work/life balance that we all struggle to reach and maintain. I hope you’ll join me in wishing continued success and happiness to Maria VanderKolk, Rachel Crist and Sabra Brown.

There is never a good time to lose nearly 30 percent of an association’s leadership, but their departure came at a critical juncture as we transitioned association management companies, and formulated aggressive strategies for membership growth and engagement, improved technologies for association management, and marketing for the annual communications school and the Blue Pencil and Gold Screen awards.

I spoke with the remaining board members and reached out to members of the association for support and I am proud and pleased to report that our work continues unabated.

Our past-president, Kathryn Stokes has volunteered to chair the communications school committee and ensure the work associated with that massive undertaking remains on par and on schedule.

Per our bylaws, any vacancy on the board may be filled for the balance of the unexpired term by nomination of the president, and with concurrence of the board. I used this vehicle to nominate Scott Thomsen for president-elect, and the board concurred unanimously. Scott has ably served as our communications director and I am certain he will serve your needs well as our president elect.

Marisa Ellison, a former NAGC board member, graciously offered her time and expertise to help manage this year’s Blue Pencil and Gold Screen Awards competition. Marisa has been with NAGC since 2006 and served as the association’s Membership and Volunteer Director. Her talent and desire to serve will also help ensure the work associated with our highly regarded award program remains on par and on schedule.

Please join me in thanking Marisa, Scott and Kathryn for their service to the association and our profession.

I am reaching out to a few members to gauge their willingness and capacity to serve as the association’s communications director. If you, or a government communicator you know, is interested in the position, please contact me at president@nagc.com. Similarly, if you have an interest in helping plan and manage the communications school or the Blue Pencil and Gold Screen awards competition, please contact me.

I have often said, and will continue to say, the strength of our association is our people – communicators like you who are dedicated to excellence in our profession. The events of the past few weeks are a clear demonstration of our strength. Thanks again to those who have taken on additional duties and thanks to all of you for your continued membership and engagement. Good luck to those competing in this year’s Blue Pencil and Gold Screen awards competition and I hope to see each of you at the annual communications school in Crystal City!

Sincerely,
Chris T. O’Neil
President – National Association of Government Communicators

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From the President

Posted By CDR Christopher O'Neil, USCG, Retired, Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Updated: Sunday, June 30, 2019

Two years ago you elected me to the position of president-elect and on June 21, 2018, I was sworn in as NAGC’s president.  I am honored to have this privilege to serve you, our association and our profession.

As government communicators we find ourselves navigating uncertain and turbulent waters. The 2018 Edelman’s Trust Barometer revealed 20 of 28 global markets are at the distrust level with the U.S. dropping 9 points on the scale in the past year, the steepest decline ever recorded. According to Cision’s 2018 State of the Media Report, 56 percent of survey respondents (members of the media) said fake news is making readers more skeptical of what they read. Amidst allegations of fake news, 78 percent of journalists say that ensuring content is 100 percent accurate is their highest priority. The survey also revealed that journalists’ dependence on public relations professionals hasn’t wavered.

Against this backdrop and in an age of digital information — where opinions, facts and mis- or disinformation spread with the speed of electrons — we see an age of instant outrage and anonymity offered by social media channels and an information environment besieged by political rhetoric.  Because of these and so many other factors, we know there has never been a greater need for government communicators who believe truth is sacred, and whose communications, counsel and actions reflect their collective and steadfast commitment to that ideal.

There has never been a greater need for communicators to serve as the True North of their agencies’ communications to the public.

Journalists and the citizens we serve deserve and rightfully demand the facts — and it’s our duty to provide them in a manner consistent with our Code of Ethics, and the axiom of ‘Maximum Disclosure, Minimum Delay’ bounded by the tenets of Security, Accuracy, Policy and Propriety.

In as much as the condition of the information environment demands excellence in the practice of our profession, the state of our association demands your immediate and direct action.

Our membership numbers have been stagnant for too long. While our Blue Pencil and Gold Screen award has been named one of the 21 most coveted awards in government, we’ve not realized an increase in submissions. Our annual communication school continues to receive overwhelmingly favorable feedback from attendees and enjoys a reputation for excellence in content, yet we aren’t seeing an increase in registrations.

The board of directors continues to carry the lion’s share of work that needs to be done to run the awards program, the annual school and the association itself, because our committees don’t have enough volunteers to carry the load.  These conditions lessen the ability of NAGC to serve as the champion of our profession at a time that begs for a defender of the role and profession of the government communicator.

As your president I am resolute in my commitment to build upon the rich history of our association by growing our membership, increasing member engagement and by serving as an advocate for our profession and for you — the practitioners of our profession. To be fully successful in that endeavor, I need your help.

I need you to continue your pursuit of excellence in government communication and to continue providing counsel to those you serve that reflects your commitment to our Code of Ethics and the best practices of our profession. Take advantage of your membership benefits — access to monthly webinars, discounted registration fees for the annual school and the Blue Pencil and Gold Screen awards and our professional development offerings.  Log in to our website, at least once a week, and join in the discussions and take advantage of the many resources available within the organization. When you’re ready, I want you to pursue an APR or APR+M — one of the newest and biggest benefits of your membership.

I need you to talk about NAGC with your colleagues and ask those who aren’t members, why they haven’t considered joining. The board needs you to volunteer for a NAGC committee, or a project and to follow us on Twitter Fand our other communication channels. The board needs and wants to hear your ideas and to publish your content so your fellow NAGC members may benefit from your perspective, your excellence and your experiences.  By increasing exposure of your expertise, we grow aptitude to meet the challenges of the ever-evolving public sector communications landscape while ensuring a positive and diverse prospective of the profession.

I am excited for the future of our association and for our profession, and, I hope you are too. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together, and I look forward to serving you, our members.

Until next time,
Chris

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A message from John Verrico, former NAGC President

Posted By Scott Thomsen, Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Updated: Sunday, June 30, 2019

I spent this past week at the National Association of Government Communicators 2018 Communication School held in Cape Coral, Florida. Like all of the previous NAGC events I have attended over my career, it was a wonderful experience with excellent training sessions and the opportunity to network with so many other fantastic fellow professionals in government communication careers.

Although we only see each other once a year, the camaraderie and friendship that has developed between many of the attendees is heartwarming. Spending time with these friends is one of the things that makes this event so very special to me. And, of course, making new friends each and every time as well. Many of us stay in touch throughout the year between conferences to share stories, consult each other and ask advice on issues and challenges, and just to have someone to bitch with that only a fellow in the career field could understand. That’s the power of this organization and why I have been a volunteer member of the Board of Directors for over a dozen years, serving in a variety of roles.

About 14 years ago, I attended my first NAGC Communication School, and was immediately enamored by the applicability and appropriateness of everything I learned, as well as the instant bond among members and attendees. I haven’t missed an event yet. When I was asked to fill a vacancy as Communication Director about 12 years ago, I jumped at the opportunity. I subsequently ran for and was elected to several different positions over the years, including president.

On Thursday, NAGC installed the new officers, marking the end of my time as the Association’s Immediate-Past President and my farewell to the Board of Directors. Kathryn Stokes, who was replaced by Chris O’Neill as NAGC’s president, and thus replaces me as the immediate-past president, brought tears to everyone’s eyes with her tearful farewell. I must admit I choked up myself and for the first time, found it difficult to speak. And not just once, but multiple times.

It was so amazing as people came up to me throughout the day relating stories about when we first met or how I had convinced them to join the association. Someone reminded me that I was responsible for recruiting the past three NAGC presidents (four if you include myself) to the association and then convincing them to run for a position on the Board. I guess we don’t realize how many people we touch throughout our lives.

As I said at the School and have said it many times in the past – joining NAGC was the first best decision of my career. The second was accepting an appointment to the Board of Directors. The whole experience has been professionally and personally rewarding, has made me better at my job, introduced terrific friends into my life, and opened doors to amazing adventures.

I encourage everyone in a communication position for a government agency at any level – federal, state, or local – to become a member of NAGC. And not just a member, but an active member. Take advantage of the webinars, training, and networking events. Enter the awards programs, or serve as a judge, providing guidance for your peers. Be active in the new forums where we can learn from each other. Participate on a committee or run for a leadership position on the Board of Directors.

You won’t regret it. I don’t.

Although I am stepping out of a leadership position with NAGC after 12 years, I won’t exactly be going away. Of course I will continue to attend and participate in all the events, and likely will serve on a committee or working group or two. And I will continue to develop our international partnerships.

Yeah, I’m addicted to NAGC. They’re not quite rid of me yet.

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NAGC Applauds Public Relations Industry Focus on Ethics

Posted By Scott Thomsen, Thursday, October 26, 2017
Updated: Sunday, June 30, 2019
Photo of President-elect Chris O'Neil

NAGC President-elect Chris O’Neil

By Chris O’Neil, president-elect, National Association of Government Communicators

I recently read with great interest, ‘Edelman calls for new set of PR ethics standards post-Bell Pottinger,’ and appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the ethics that have governed my government communication career and the values, ethics and standards of the National Association of Government Communicators.

As the president-elect of NAGC, I applaud Richard Edelman’s call to the public relations industry as reported by PRWeek, to develop “a set of principles that are universal, consistent, and well understood across the industry… to adhere to a single set of strong standards, and to hold all of our people accountable to them.”

As NAGC members and practitioners of government communication we have benefited from the ethical and professional standards espoused by the NAGC code of ethics which has, since the inception of our association, provided us with what the Edelman CEO is calling for – universal and consistent principles.

As NAGC members, “We believe that truth is sacred; that providing public information is an essential civil service; and that each citizen has a right to equal, full, understandable, and timely facts about the activities, policies and people of the agencies comprising his or her government.”

Our code of ethics prohibits members from knowingly publishing misinformation or disinformation. These tested and proven principles have served the public interest by fostering the accountability and transparency in government our citizens expect and demand. If it has been awhile since you reviewed the NAGC Code of Ethics, it’s prime time for you to do so now. Embracing and adhering to our code of ethics gives you the solid footing you need to take a stand, speak truth to power, and ensure that government communication serves the public interest. It isn’t easy. It’s hard to be the voice of reason when you are the most junior person in the room, but someone must be that voice. Someone has to speak up and say, “This is ill-advised and unethical. I have a better course of action to recommend to you.”

The precipitating moment for Edelman’s call to action appears to be the work conducted by Bell Pottinger, a firm based in London that conducted a misinformation campaign on behalf of an investment firm.

It’s the rare instances like the Bell Pottinger misinformation campaign, that long ago necessitated the distinction between ‘Public Relations,’ ‘Public Information,’ and ‘Public Affairs.’ That subtle but important distinction aligned the work of government communicators with the public interest, with good government and not with personal or political agendas. The distinction highlights communication based upon the need for accountability and transparency in government and communication based upon other principles that are not necessarily founded in the public interest.

The array of communication tools available to practitioners today, and the capabilities of those tools, is staggering. The ease by which mass audiences can be reached and influenced requires great responsibility on the part of those leveraging this technology. That ease of dissemination, coupled with a lack of resolve to deal only in facts and the truth, can facilitate the launch of a misinformation campaign or the spread of propaganda in the U.S. – the very condition the Gillett Amendment (Title 5, United States Code, Section 3107) is designed to prevent. Without clear ethical boundaries, lapses in judgement, such as those evidenced in the Bell Pottinger misinformation campaign, and abuse of the power of digital communication will continue. Clearly, platform owners, such as Twitter and Facebook, have a responsibility for ferreting out such campaigns, but in the end the ultimate responsibility rests with communicators who must have the resolve to speak the truth and the will to not cross ethical boundaries.

Ethical guidelines, ethics training and clear policy are the foundation of a solid government communication program, and I agree with Edelman that they will well serve the public relations industry. However, it is your practice of the profession, and your unwavering adherence to those principles, that ensures the practice of government communication remains founded in truth and the public interest.

Chris

Chris O’Neil, President-Elect

National Association of Government Communicators

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Crisis Communications: A Tale of Two Cities

Posted By Scott Thomsen, Friday, October 6, 2017
Updated: Sunday, June 30, 2019

By Kathryn Stokes, NAGC President

NAGC President Kathryn Stokes

Crisis communications planning has never been more important than it is today. The proliferation of social media has the ability to turn any event into an out-of-control news cycle in the blink of an eye. Social media may not be the culprit, but more often these days, groups use the tool to spark interest in an event, which may garner attention beyond their expectations. How well a community or agency plans for such unintended consequences distinguishes how they respond in the eyes of the world. Let’s look at two different scenarios and each community’s response and the aftermath.

If you attended the NAGC Communications School in June, you had the chance to hear Mark Basnight speak about the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting in Charlotte, N.C., that left one person dead, several injured, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

Mark Basnight

The response by the City of Charlotte was the definition of what NOT to do in an emergency. The city police department did not cooperate with the city communication department or the mayor’s office. They also refused to release the officer dash cam video, which ultimately supported the officer’s actions. That refusal, fueled by a social media campaign from the victim’s family, lead to days of rioting, numerous injuries, and damage to businesses and private property. Charlotte, N.C., needs to take a page from the Charlottesville, Va., playbook, because if anything in known in today’s world, it is that nothing happens in a vacuum and history does repeat itself.

By comparison, Charlottesville’s response in the wake of the tragic situation that occurred in August of this year is the kind of crisis communication response we all hope to replicate. The city expected a pro-nationalist march, and planned for the event. They knew it was going to be a large gathering, but did not know how large. City officials did not expect someone to use their car as a weapon, which killed one person and injured dozens; however, they planned for what they thought would be the worst-case scenario.

Because the City of Charlottesville partnered with officials from the local university, the county and the state ahead of the march, they were prepared when the march turned violent. Miriam Dickler, director of communications for the City of Charlottesville said, “The partnerships we have built over the past few years allowed us to communicate with one voice throughout the event. We practiced for such an event trying to imagine the worst, and planning how we would respond.” In a six hour period, their worst-case scenario played out for the world to see, capped off by the crash of a state police helicopter, which killed two troopers. They never anticipated that.

According to Dickler, the partnering communication professionals set up a Joint Information Center (JIC) in advance of the planned march. One of the primary functions of using a JIC is to determine who will be the primary spokesperson, and to identify all the roles and responsibilities ahead of time. In addition to the authorized spokesperson, identify a set of messages ready to go to when necessary. Setting up templates ahead of time expedites the communication process, something Dickler and her partners credited with helping them control the story.

Using a JIC, from which all communication flows, and where all participating organizations have access to the same information, is a good way to ensure accurate and timely information is presented to the media. It also helps minimize rumors. The worst thing that can happen during an emergency is to have too many chiefs wrangling for media attention with conflicting messages, such as the case during the North Carolina event.

Charlottesville city officials got in front of the story and stayed visible throughout the situation. They spoke with one voice and they controlled the story. Charlottesville did not have the days of rioting after their event like what occurred in Charlotte.

As government communicators we have only one choice when considering the unexpected events that might affect our communities, and that choice is to plan, plan, and plan. In addition to planning, practice is critical. The best way to confirm that your plan works is to practice it. Be sure crisis communication is part of your agency’s Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) and insist that communication is one of the components tested each year.

This tale of two cities contrasts communication approaches, which exemplify the best and worst ways to react during any crisis situation. It is no longer a matter of ‘if’ we have to communicate during a crisis but ‘when’ will have to do so and how can we be most effective. Adopting lessons learned from peers is the best way to ensure we respond like Charlottesville, with one voice, in a timely fashion, and by controlling the narrative.

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Members Seeking Members

Posted By Kathryn Stokes, Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Updated: Sunday, June 30, 2019

 You asked and we responded. A few months ago, I got an email from a member who thought it would be a good idea for NAGC to have a map so members could locate other members near them.  I thought that was a great idea.  

Now you can check out to see if there are any NAGC members close to you with our new map feature.  The feature is available in the Members Only section of our site, and allows you to see where members are located and who they are.

 

 

I hope you find this tool helpful in getting to know members located near you.  As always, we want feedback.

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Success in St. Louis, 2017 Communications School a Gateway to Professional Development

Posted By Kathryn Stokes, Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Updated: Sunday, June 30, 2019

Another year and another Communications School has come and gone.  St. Louis turned out to be a great option for this year’s school, as we had a fantastic host committee that set up some pretty special after-hours activities. I want to extend my sincere thanks to Marisa Ellison for leading the Missouri host committee.

Our pre-conference workshops were well-received with Chris O’Neil’s “Communication Planning: Defining Success and Setting Goals” session and the “Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) Bootcamp” by Laura Kirkpatrick and Ann Knabe garnering lots of kudos from attendees who completed our post-school survey.

The most informative piece was Chris O’Neil’s pre-conference workshop. It was well-paced, and packed with much applicable tips.

I found the APR Advanced Training Workshop very helpful. The speakers were great. I look forward to working on my APR accreditation this year.

Each year, our school planning committee reviews the surveys and we pay close attention to what our attendees find helpful and what other topics they want to see in the future. This year’s agenda was packed with breakout sessions based on feedback from surveys submitted after last year’s school. 

We also got great feedback regarding our keynote speakers. This year’s keynotes included a report on how the people of St. Louis came together to re-imagine the famous arch; a talk on why social media is bullshit; a case-study about communication in the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting in Charleston, South Carolina; and seven vertical lessons on leadership.  All were well-received.

Awesome keynotes this year!

This year, the “keynote” speakers were some of the best ever.

NAGC is already gearing up for next year’s school, and the board has already reviewed the comments from this year’s post-school survey. 

I wish the conference started off by identifying which attendees were with federal, state, or local government.

Great suggestion! The board has already identified a way for attendees to recognize who is federal, state, local, tribal or other, for next year’s school.

I felt like most of the people who spoke were with the federal government and forgot that there were other types of government professionals at the event.

We often have federal government people speaking at the school.  That is not by design.  Each year, NAGC puts out a call for speakers. In fact, we will issue a call for speakers for next year’s school in August. NAGC’s budget limits what we can pay for speakers and sometimes we must eliminate options that may be great, because they are just too expensive. We get a lot of speaker abstracts from federal government communicators, which gives a large pool from which to select. We would LOVE to get more speaker abstracts from more local and state folks. So, if you have a good story to tell that may be of interest to other NAGC members, feel free to submit an abstract for review.  Based on this year’s feedback, we will be looking for speakers with expertise in speechwriting, press release writing, video production, crisis communication, communication planning and internal communications, just to name a few.

For the first time, NAGC created a mobile app for the 2017 Communications School.  We used the free version of Guidebook to set up the app, which included the full school agenda and offered the ability for each person who downloaded the app to create their own schedule from the agenda.

I loved the mobile application! It would have been much more difficult to stay organized without it. Venue and geographical location were good.

 Each year, your NAGC Board of Directors seeks ways to enhance the member experience.  According to you, the school is one of the offerings most recognized as a member benefit.  Also, high on the list of what is important to our members are networking opportunities, professional development and our webinars.

Some members recommended, and I concur, that online networking would be helpful.  I have asked our web designer to look for options that will allow our members to network online via our website. 

Bethany Hornbeck, our Professional Development Director, is hard at work planning our monthly Webinar Wednesday series for the upcoming year.  In addition, she is bringing back last year’s popular Encore webinar series that highlighted some of the most popular breakout sessions at the school. And, we already have our first NAGC member who has signed up to sit for the APR exam!

We are listening to your suggestions and are working to put as many of them into practice as is possible.

As we put this year’s school in our rear view mirror, we are looking ahead to Fort Meyers, Florida in 2018.  The exact dates and venue will be announced soon.  So send us suggestions for the school or submit a speaker’s abstract to present at the school, but be sure to attend.  We will have fun, and we will network, and we will learn!

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NAGC — Who We Are

Posted By Kathryn Stokes, Friday, April 14, 2017
Updated: Sunday, June 30, 2019

By Kathryn Stokes, NAGC Board President

           The National Association of Government Communicators is a unique organization because it embraces all levels of government communications and all categories of communication professions.  But since I have been on the board, one perception I have consistently heard, is that NAGC is a federal-centric organization.

            As a state employee, I have not personally felt that NAGC has a federal slant.  I admit that I’ve only been a member for about nine years, which is almost as long as I’ve been a government employee. Since my first Communication School in Albuquerque, I have felt accepted and I have found the NAGC to be a great organization with amazing members who are always willing to help me whenever I needed guidance.

            The federal-centric perception prompted me to review our members to discern our government-level distribution. Currently, 57 percent of NAGC members are state, local, tribal or regional government communicators. Our federal members account for 37 percent of our membership, and the rest are a combination of retirees, non-government employees and student members.

            In response to the membership distribution, we sent out a survey in February to determine locations for future communication schools. We were interested to see if our state-local membership distribution impacted desired school locations. The short answer was, not much.

            NAGC consists of communication directors and managers, public information officers, outreach and engagement officers, digital strategists, graphic designers and a plethora of other titles that describe what we do.

            I cannot say why the NAGC is perceived as a federal organization, except that it was started by federal government employees. But as government operations changed, and as communication has changed and evolved, our membership base has shifted away from federal employees. I have seen incredible camaraderie among the government communicators clustered in the greater District of Columbia area. As a state government communicator, I can understand the desire to connect with local peers.

            My goal as president of NAGC is to make our organization a community of peers, no matter where we are located or for which government entity we work. I welcome any suggestion for how to successfully accomplish this goal, no matter if the suggestion comes from federal, state, local, tribal or any other government communicator.

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