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Despite some negative ninny naysayers, practicing PR for government organisations is an excellent and rewarding option as it often takes a strategic, holistic, best practice approach, it is founded on a thorough process and great rigour, it is generally well-funded, it provides excellent career opportunities and it inherently exists to benefit all society.

Government PR works in teams to help all society

Yes, there are those smarty pants who think that working for government is a bludge (an Australian term for slacking off or taking it easy). I’d bet that most of these smarty pants haven’t worked in a comms role for a government organisation because, in my experience, this perspective is bollocks.

As someone who is occasionally [:)] accused of generalising, the accusation noted above is really beyond the pale. It is up to the individual (person and organisation) whether they don’t work hard to achieve best-possible outcomes. It certainly isn’t an inherent characteristic of government PR. If anything, it’s the opposite.

I’ve had experience with the following government organisations and they all worked (and work) extremely hard in securing excellent results, as well as applying what can loosely be described as ‘best practice’:

  • Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation
  • Centennial Park & Moore Park Trust
  • EnergyAustralia
  • Endeavour Energy
  • Delta Electricity.

Best practice government PR

You only have to look at roll call of winners of Australia’s leading PR awards, the Golden target Awards, to see how positively the industry views the quality of government comms. Yes, this is due to more factors than the pure talent that works in government PR (see below) but that is clearly a significant factor in the equation.

There is a serious responsibility on all government employees to work hard, as all of us taxpayers are paying their salaries. There is also ministerial pressure on those who work in government departments to get it right. This is not a pressure to be underestimated.

In my experience, you do NOT want to get on the wrong side of a minister or his or her staff. I’ve seen it happen and the impact can be more severe than in a comparable private sector situation.

An outcome of this is that government PR tends to take a big picture, holistic perspective as well as seek to apply approaches that are founded on best practice.

The rigour with which government PR approaches its craft is often based on its endemic processes and quality controls. These processes and controls – like good PR theory – are not a burden. Conversely, they provide a solid, well informed platform from which creativity can be used to achieve effectiveness.

The rigour actually makes it easier to achieve excellent results. Admittedly, though, it can be a trial for those who have to document the processes in the first place!!

Funding for government public relations

Government departments and agencies are well resourced with comms employees. Communication – public relations and marketing – is highly respected as a discipline within government and its potential for reputation and bottom line impact well understood.

Because of this, the diversity of PR specialisations is well represented within government. Media relations, community relations, corporate social responsbility, marketing communication, sponsorship, publication production, event management and social media and website are some of the specialisations.

These and other responsibilities are sometimes blurred in single roles and even if they aren’t, opportunities exist to gain experience in complementary specialisations. I’d suggest getting these opportunities to broaden your skill set is easier to achieve in government than other sectors.

Getting these opportunities and experience can:

  • help stimulate interest and engagement in PR’s wider remit
  • provide opportunities for advancement in different specialisations
  • help build a skill set which facilitates career progression.

Like any industry, working in one area of government will often give you an advantage when applying for roles in other government entities as you have experienced the unique challenges and rewards of the sector.

Public relations benefitting society

One of my own passions is making a positive difference to society through the work I do. I’d like to leave some sort of legacy (no matter how small) that I can explain to my son in the hope that it inspires him to do the same. It’s one of the reasons we are both involved in Surf Lifesaving Australia – it offers an invaluable community service.

There really is no better place to work than in government if this is an aspiration you, too, have.

Government and its arms are there to make society a better place:

  • This includes ensuring our natural environment survives for future generations
  • This includes ensuring that, socially, all people have an opportunity to achieve their potential.
  • This includes ensuring that all people are given a voice in decisions that affect them personally and affect their concerns in the world.

Public relations is not limited to communication. Public relations is about involving relevant parties in decision making processes and issues which impact upon them – then evolving decisions and processes to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. Of course, excellent results appear in many different ways and we need to take a broad perspective to our goal of achieving these outcomes.

Have you worked in or with government public relations? what can you tell us about your experiences? Good or bad? Come on, don’t be soft or shy – give it up!!

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