The National Association of Government Communicators issued a public reminder of its members’ roles and responsibilities as the administration transitions and several federal agencies have restricted their communications.
Following a communications freeze by some government agencies, the National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) released a statement last week reminding the public and the administration of the role its members play in government.
“Government communicators, at all levels of the administration, must be allowed to practice their profession, to serve the public interest by being the timely, credible, and trusted source of factual information about government,” the statement reads [PDF]. “The new administration needs to understand that good government requires good communication. Good communication is guided by ethics, like not knowingly or intentionally withholding information that is publicly releasable, taking swift and effective action to prevent the public release of false or misleading information, and above all else never lying to the media because in government communication, the truth is sacred.”
As some debate exists over the measures currently being taken by the new administration, the statement reminds agencies that while a review of policies and a temporary transition period is expected, they do not need to take “draconian measures” to reassess their messaging. NAGC is concerned that leadership will implement policies contradicting its Code of Ethics, which would pose a conflict for its members.
“Effective communication strategy, planning, and execution are sound principles worth reinforcing in government communication—principles that can be reinforced without across-the-board and indiscriminate actions that limit public access to timely, accurate, and relevant information about their government,” the statement says.
In an interview with Associations Now, NAGC Executive Director Elizabeth Armstrong, CAE, reiterated that a temporary freeze on government communications is not unusual in an administration turnover. But during this period where communications policies are being reviewed, she said it was also important for NAGC to remind the public of the government communicator’s role.
“Because of the change in administration, we wanted to just bring home the fact that government communicators ensure that the products [press releases, social media posts, etc.] they produce represent the highest standards of professional excellence and that their purpose is to serve the public interest in promoting transparency and accountability of government,” she said.
However, Armstrong said because the administration and its leadership may have a different style and policies governing communications, NAGC also is working to support its members in the face of any potential adjustments.
To that end, NAGC is releasing several webinar series to instruct members on how to adapt to changes, such as the latest on the essential role of career government communicators during administration transitions. It will also share information on how members can speak through the “media clutter” and how they can educate their supervisors on the best way to provide timely information to the public.
“We know there will be increased scrutiny in government, what programs are funded and resources allocated,” Armstrong said. “And we think it’s important to help our members articulate the importance of good communication in government.”