Rapid Response — Policy, Programs, and Comms

I’ve heard a lot of discussion since I’ve been in government about the links between policy, programs, and communications. The traditional analogy seems to be one of a hand-off — the policy people hand off the policy to the programs people, who do their thing, who hand it off to comms for the message to be developed. In an era of Gov 2.0, it would seem that this is a system that must be changed. While I see more discussion happening about the relationship between programs and policy, comms seems to be left out of the loop.

With more and more departments learning to effectively monitor social media, we are incredibly luckily to have developed a cadre of communications staff that are fantastic and being able to pick up on trends and collect information on what people are talking about in relation to individual departments. While people in policy/programs are certainly capable, I would argue that those with the developed professional expertise tend to be located in comms (yes, there will be exceptions). How, then, is the feedback loop developed?

I was talking to a friend of mine, who works in comms at a smaller department, at the dog park a few months ago. She was looking to move into policy. In her opinion, it was interesting that the policy/program people designed the actual concept that was to be announced, but then it was handed to her. She’d get to design the message, all the advertising, and be present when the concept was actually announced, while the policy/program people seemed to be relegated to the back rooms (after all, their job was finished). In the hand-off model, this would make sense.

In a Gov 2.0 world, feedback (solicited or not) starts being present the moment an initiative is launched (be it a particular program or a policy framework). This feedback is not always (and probably rarely) submitted through the ‘proper’ channels. Instead, we see feedback through tweets, facebook groups, etc.

For my communications colleagues: When it comes to creating the loop how are you linking your policy/programs counterparts into the feedback that is being received? Are there ongoing meetings after a launch? Is it more casual? Is it expected that policy/programs people monitor social media for feedback independently? And perhaps most importantly, what expectations do you have of your policy/programs counterparts?

For my policy/programs colleagues: What sort of expectations do you have of your communications colleagues? Are they tere just to shape the message and push it out, or are they there to help collect/decipher feedback? How collaborative is the relationship? Once feedback is received, how rapidly can you make changes?

We have an opportunity to be able to rapidly utilize feedback and improve our service to Canadians. What is the best way for us to collect/utilize this feedback? What sort of barriers exist to doing so?

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One thought on “Rapid Response — Policy, Programs, and Comms

  1. Great post, Colin.

    Your point is well made that in the Gov 2.0 realm, working in our silos, in traditional stages, just no longer works. My feeling is you have an objective or some objectives, you figure out who the stakeholders are, and then you work as a team from the outset to build the messages, comms, measurement, etc. My expectations from policy and programs? Care enough to be engaged internally in all stages, and consider communications in all of your efforts. If you don’t do so, the outcomes will be compromised. That’s what I think, in any event, and the way I have conducted myself in the last two years has proven the effectiveness of this horizontal, engaged approach.

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