One of my interns asked me to help with a class assignment. Sharing this Q&A in case it might be helpful to others interested in the field of PR or government.
1.Please briefly describe the duties and responsibilities associated with yourposition and give the name of the profession?
I am the communications director for a largedepartment (bureau) of an agency within the federal government. The scope of myduties includes external and internal communication.
2.In your opinion can you briefly describe public relations? What are the generalgoals? What would you say are the usual techniques for achieving them?
Public relations is the practice of obtainingthird-party endorsement, particularly by the media. The goal is to enhance theclient's reputation and therefore marketability to their customers. Theusual techniques involve writing official press releases, and subsequentlycalling or emailing reporters and editorial representatives.
Some PR specialists work in the field of crisismanagement and so their focus is on helping clients navigate situations wheretheir reputation is at risk, by managing their presence on broadcast media.Another specialization is event planning, trade shows, and so on as events tendto generate press.
A newer focus that has gone mainstream is socialmedia, although in the blogosphere there is additional focus on theauthenticity and objectivity of the speaker - so PR representatives face alevel of distrust that undermines their job if not handled skillfully. It's avery difficult job but addictive if you enjoy it.
3.Would you describe your position as a managerial position, or a technicalposition?
It's a combination of technical, andcoordination between various offices.
4.How would you describe the goal of your work in relation to public relations?Are you trying to create a specific image? Maintain an existing one? Create aspecific relationship with certain publics?
Our goal is to provide accurate information in amanner that is both clear and engaging.
5.How would you describe the goal of your work internally? Does your work have aneffect on morale? What type of message if any, do you communicate toshareholders?
Internally our #1 goal is to make our employees'jobs easier by providing them with a coordinated communication service thatsupports them operationally. That way, when they are asked to provideinformation to the public they can do that quickly and effectively. Our secondgoal is to engage employees as part of a unified bureau. Our third goal is toraise the profile of communication as a critical skill that enhances all theother work that we do.
6.What types of strategies are you employing to achieve said goals?
The strategies we use are customer-driven. Whenpeople (externally or internally) ask for things over and over again, it meansthat there is a pain point. When you solve the problem once, you also learnabout how to develop solutions they may need in the future. That is what wewant to focus on the most. The language we use to talk about that is customerservice.
7.What skills would you say are most relevant to your work?
The #1 skill in PR is the ability to synthesizean incredible amount of incoming information to generate actionableinsight.
8.What training/education helped you to achieve this position? In what ways didthat education prepare you for the real world? In what ways if any were yousurprised when entering the actual occupational field?
Studying sociology, in addition to writing, wasgreat preparation. But the best education is always outside the classroom. Ilearned most of what I know from life experience - internships, reading, andalso from interactions with my family.
9.How would you say the nature of your organization in terms of profit/non-profiteffects how you do your job?
Working for the government means that you areaccountable to the taxpayer, and it's a responsibility that I take extremelyseriously. We are under more scrutiny than those in the private sector as well.So there is a heightened sense of transparency and accountability (even if thepublic does not believe that). Also, there is a stereotype that governmentemployees don't work as hard, and are not as qualified. If you take yourselfseriously you have to work harder, produce more, and demonstrate that theenvironment in which you work not only doesn't negatively affect your skillsbut in fact enhances them (which is true, for me at least).
10.Are there any examples of media used for purposes of public relations, or internalrelations that you wouldn’t mind sharing?
A guide to contracting that we distribute to thepublic in direct response to their need for greater accessibility ofinformation. This is exactly what good public relations does - provides usefulinformation that is real, accurate and helpful to the audience. In the endthose efforts are what enhance the reputation of the client.