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
· 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.