Monday, August 12, 2013

Verrico National Press Club Presentation

John Verrico
National Association of Government Communicators

Reporters and PAOs have the same goal -- Get information to the public.

The government needs media to help us communicate to the public
·         Reach general public or specific sectors
·         Be trusted translator
·         Your readers/audience trusts you to provide unbiased report

Trusted relationships are important.
·         Trusted relationships go both ways
o   Media needs to trust PAOs are providing complete, accurate info
o   PAOs need to trust media will use info correctly, in good faith, in context,

Decades ago there were more beat reporters
·         Not just government beat, but specific topical experts who understood history & technical issues

Now, more general assignment reporters
·         Don’t have history, except what can be quickly researched
·         Make assumptions
·         Don’t have time to learn what things really mean or in-depth technical details
·         Education is needed to fill these gaps

Role of PAO – facilitate flow of information
·         Tell you what you don’t know
·         Help you find information you need
·         Explain complex information and translate jargon
·         Find subject matter expert (SME) with accurate/complete information

Identifying SMEs
·         Many SMEs are micro-focused
·         They may be experts in their field, but may not necessarily know larger policy or implementation strategy
·         PAOs usually know better who the SMEs are on a topic that can best explain it
·         SMEs frequently are afraid of media – heard stories of misquotes or info taken out of context,
·         SMEs usually want PAO support as a safety net

·         Spend more time internally advocating for media, convincing SMEs it is okay to talk
·         Help keep SME focused
·         Elaborate or provide context
·         Follow up on interviews to provide additional info as needed
·         Ensure media has correct info
·         Trained to the maxim: Maximum Disclosure/Minimum Delay
o   Within the boundaries of SAPP (security, accuracy, policy, and propriety)

Advice to press – trust is mutual!
·         Don’t hide your agenda – if we know what your story is really about, we can better help you
·         Don’t assume we are hiding something & don’t treat us like we are the bad guys

Just as journalists have a code of ethics, so do government PAOs.
(from the NAGC Code of Ethics) We believe:
·         truth is inviolable and sacred
·         providing public information is an essential civil service; and,
·         the public-at-large and each citizen therein has a right to equal, full, understandable, and timely facts about their government.

We take these to heart and strive to uphold their spirit. 

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