Communication is one of the key levers of government according to UK government communications specialist, Sean Larkins, who spoke at a sold-out PRIA luncheon in Canberra last week. The others key levers, he said, were legislation, regulation and taxation.
But, Sean told his audience of government communicators, PR educators, consultants, NGO communicators and Fellows of the PRIA, a recent worldwide survey showed that communication is rarely understood fully by politicians and policymakers.
“It is frequently regarded as a tactical, shared service, rather than a strategic function of policy delivery, he said.
Sean is a former Deputy Director of Communications for the UK Government and currently a senior consultant in government and the public sector with global communication group WPP, and authored the survey - known as the Leaders Report.
“Our research suggests that government communication is still primarily a linear, one-way connection with the public. Respondents indicate that government communication operates as a tool to disseminate information, not to consult or engage.”
|At the PRIA (ACT) March luncheon in Canberra: Sean Larkins, Director of Consulting & Capability in WPP's Government & Public Sector Practice(centre) with Kathryn Cooper, Executive Director, ANZ, WPP Government & Public Sector (left) and Anne Howard, PRIA CEO (right)|
Sean listed 10 attributes for high-performing government communication functions - a clearly defined role and structure; understanding the wider socio-economic and cultural environment; creating collaborative environments; investing in talent and professional development; maintaining consistency of messages; working across government; maintaining access to senior stakeholders; driving a focus on the citizen throughout the organisation; accessing a wide range of data sources to inform decisions; and embracing technology to become more citizen-focused.
The report can be accessed via this link.
New Organisational Membership available for government agencies
At the same luncheon, PRIA Chief Executive Officer, Anne Howard, said that government communication was a priority for the PRIA.
“This is why we have established Organisational Membership this year as a new pathway for professional development of our members,” she said.
“Organisational Membership will enable a government agency to enrol its staff as PRIA Members, giving those Members access to a range of PRIA benefits and professional development opportunities.
“Importantly,” Anne said, “We will work with Organisational Members to tailor and develop the right professional development for their needs and budget.”
While in Canberra, Anne Howard called on a number of senior Government communicators to gain feedback on the Organisational Membership as it could apply to departments and other agencies.