Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Survey of Federal Communicators Reveals Challenges, Opportunities

First-ever Survey “by Feds, for Feds,” Shows How Communication Professionals View Current State of Their Profession


Innovation in communication methods should be the number one priority for federal agencies today, according to the newly released results of a Federal Communicators Network (FCN) poll. It is the first survey ever to be commissioned “by federal, career communicators for federal communicators” to assess the state of the federal communications field.

For this research project, FCN polled its 800+ members as well as the nearly 1,000+ members of the Federal Social Media Community of Practice (SM-COP), between February 14-29, 2016. A total of 167 employees responded to the survey. 



A Range of Critical Issues
Asked to rank the theme areas covered in the survey specifically, respondents (n=147) prioritized the “critically” or “somewhat” important issues as follows:

  • “Being more innovative” - 86.9%
  • “Moving to a more proactive role” - 85.7%
  • “Securing more resources for communication” - 81.0%
  • “Developing a more rigorous communication program” - 81.0%
  • “Sharing best practices and other resources between agencies” - 75.3%

The concepts for these top five theme areas crystallized over a period of approximately three months, based on several informal brainstorming sessions sponsored by the FCN and attended by hundreds of career, non-partisan employees across the spectrum of government. (All opinions expressed by members are those of employees themselves, and did not represent those of their agencies.)

Engagement by the Partnership for Public Service

At a meeting held in Washington, D.C. on February 26 to discuss the study’s findings, the Partnership for Public Service’s Director of the Center for Presidential Transition David Eagles praised the FCN for its excellent work, highlighting its national security aspects.

“Transition is a period of vulnerability for the country,” said Eagles. “When you’re exiting the White House on Inauguration Day, who do you talk to?”

Eagles noted that federal communication is vital for public service “in a way that’s not political.” He emphasized: “It’s just smart planning to make the transition process more standardized (rather than having)...a very reactive conversation.”

High-Level Solutions

Attendees at the FCN meeting engaged in a brainstorming exercise to discuss the results of the FCN Survey. The job for each group was to offer solutions to the problem and at least three ways of implementing the solution.

Although it is too soon to offer a comprehensive view of these suggestions, one factor stood out: “data.”  As one participant put it: “Get a seat at the table, offer hard data, connect activities to the mission, and show the value of what you do.”

Next Steps

For the remainder of this spring, FCN writers and graphic designers will be working together to summarize the survey’s findings as well as recommendations from federal communicators themselves, in a white paper planned for release in the fall. 

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