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Public-Serving Organizations Need to Modernize Their PR and Comms Fast

By Lenny Zaleski on January 15, 2024

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A woman works at her laptop while reviewing a financial print out.

In the digital age, government organizations must ensure they have the tools and strategies to develop a modern approach to their communications strategy.

When I first started an internship at a local government agency, I remember entering the office for the first day. I was eager and excited to be a part of a fantastic organization doing incredible work for our community. However, I noticed some very apparent things from the get-go. First, the organization had no email management, social media management, or strategy documents that supported a cohesive communications strategy. Additionally, the organization didn’t have a defined brand cohesively spread across all channels to create a sense of recognition. They had done it “the way that worked in the past,” and they did not utilize it often because it was not working. 

Thankfully, the organization was incredibly adaptable and willing to listen to new ideas. They took my suggestions, and I implemented many improvements that supported strategic communications campaigns and public relations that improved the agency’s brand perception among the public. However, my experience with local government indicates a more significant problem: government agencies often lack a modern approach to digital communications and public relations. 

The Main Issues

A variety of pain points need to be fixed for the modernization of government organizations from modernizing their communications efforts. One of these issues is a small budget. Due to the variety of services and programs governments administrate for their communities, one of the areas needing more funding is communications or related efforts, such as community relations and engagement. With small budgets, there isn’t much room for innovative tools and technology that can automate and streamline the processes of content creation, media pitching, and more. 

Another significant issue government agencies face is the volume of programs and services to cover. Many companies focus on key products, such as FinTech or Banking. At most, they usually sell a few services to a few key demographics. However, a single federal government agency may cover a dozen or more programs, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, handling investigations across every single state, training recruits, recruiting agents, analysts, forensic experts, administrative staff, managing intelligence gathering, and more. These programs must be communicated to the public, stakeholders, and the demographics interested in accessing or participating in them. It expends a lot of time, money, and personnel to communicate all of them to the right people effectively. 

The final key issue is the inefficiency of current tools. Due to the lack of modernization to speed up things like project management, email outreach, and social media content management, there may need to be more tools in place that will do the job quickly and efficiently. For instance, using Adobe’s Creative Suite may produce stunning materials. Still, suppose that’s the only creative software relied on for consistent social media material servicing an audience of thousands to tens of thousands. In that case, there may be more effective methods to create content faster, such as Canva or AI-driven tools. 

Solutions

Although it is important to identify the problems, just going through issues will not bring about change. One of the most critical solutions to the modernization problem is time-saving tools. Finding the tools and technology that’ll get the job done faster, such as Canva with AI-infused tools for faster content creation or lists of hashtags, can help create content and support overall strategy for an organization far more effectively. 

Another helpful solution is integrating AI. Utilizing AI tools ethically is crucial, but if done right, organizations can create powerful copy for various campaigns and individual pieces of content, such as newsletters and social media posts. This is time-effective and strategic for maintaining brand cohesion and voice for an organization.

Finally, checking up on brand health and ensuring regular strategy tune-ups can ensure that a government agency effectively communicates services, programs, and impact to the public. It will also ensure that they are in a positive light with the public and that their communication strategies are effective. 

Why it Matters

One of the realities in public service communications is that a generation of public servants are aging out of work. The task of recruiting many of the next generation of public servants will fall to those working in communications, public affairs, or external relations at many agencies, and creating a modernized approach to PR and comms will ensure that agencies can effectively recruit talent and showcase their impact. With that talent, it becomes easier for agencies to do their jobs, and the public trust in that agency and the government at large goes further down, leading to even more constrained budgets. 

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