The popularity of digital news, citizen journalism, and online democracy has become the spoon that feeds the government-inspired media propaganda. Mass media communication has changed the way government agencies communicate with the public. Today, news regarding politics, government policies, corruptions, and political figures are received within seconds of someone posting a tweet or a digital press release. Communication strategies in the public sector should enable the effective flow of information between government agencies and their internal and external publics. The demand for accountability and transparency in our government has increased over the decades. Internal and external communication has become a primary issue for public sector organizations. It has become an indispensable and innermost component of an effective communication channel between government agencies and the public. Effective communication results in stronger trust between government agencies, the general public, and the media. In addition, effective government communication should uphold the public expectations and serve as a credible source of public information for citizens.
If you are part of the group that is confused regarding the difference between a public relations professional and a public affairs professional, don’t worry, there is only a slight difference. Public affairs is the area of public relations that operates in the public sector. A public affairs professional often deals with governmental matters that affect the public, along with fostering positive relationships between the government and the public. The only actual difference between a public affairs professional and a public relations professional is their client’s overall objective. In a corporate setting, the objective is to promote and sell a product or brand. In a government setting, the objective is to serve the public good. Typically, work includes political monitoring to foresee public policy which may affect a community, business, or specific industries. In addition public affairs professionals act responsively to legislation or policy, public affairs professionals will regularly network and engage with policy makers to maintain valuable relationships.
A study regarding public relations professionals’ perspectives on communications challenges faced in the U.S. Public sector lists 8 challenges public affairs professionals face in the U.S. Public sector as follows:
Amidst these challenges, Public affairs professionals must develop strategic communication strategies that will overall improve and build trust, encourage public participation, and improve decision-making and accountability.
But How? And Why?
Public participation and building trust
Although public affairs professionals may not receive a large campaign budget or partake in flashy campaigns such as private corporations, their communication is in fact essential and can make drastic differences in the lives of everyday citizens. For example, citizens in need receive information regarding food or medical assistance programs via government produced brochures regarding SNAP, Medicare, and Healthcare. Another example would be individuals who are protected from further abuse because they viewed a public service announcement for a government sponsored hotline to report abuse and receive help. Lastly, how many times have you received notification regarding a defective product recall? This is also a result of government communication.
If you enjoy the art of communications and public relations and have a passion for helping everyday people, becoming a public affairs professional will allow you to be a part of a circle of professionals who shape the way we view our government.
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