How long does it take to develop a habit?
But when it comes to public sector communications, there is a difference between strong intent and strong habits. Here are seven habits that – when developed – can contribute to excellent communications outcomes.
1. Always Be Prepared
Whether you are planning for a team meeting or a severe weather warning, the difference between minimal and impactful citizen influence is the level of preparedness you put into your approach.
Think about the times you had the most success in a meeting, press conference or communications campaign – it’s likely that you were strategic in your approach up front, set out a plan and executed it in a timely way. While we may not always have the opportunity or time to plan, when we do the benefits can be extraordinary.
2. Use Plain Language
At the core of Plain Language is the ability to effectively communicate your message so that your audience can understand it the first time they hear it or read it.
Do you remember using the thesaurus in school to help your homework seem smarter? Try using it in the opposite way: for words like utilize, bifurcation or optimize, use the thesaurus to identify simpler words like use, secondary and boost.
3. Put the Person First
Effective public sector communicators are able to put themselves in their reader’s shoes and message to any questions, sensitivities or issues that might slip into the way we use our language.
Get in the habit of putting people first your messaging (Example: use “people with disabilities” instead of “disabled people”), and your messaging will resonate well with your audience.
4. Prioritize What’s Most Important
In order to manage your daily work to reflect overall goals, you must get in the habit of putting priorities in line with their importance. There is not enough time in the day for all priorities, so enforcing discipline in the day-to-day actions based on what is most important to your agency is a critical practice.
We’ll get into this habit next, but understanding what is most important can only come after you’ve identified your values and what you’re set out to achieve.
5. Always Have Clear Goals in Mind
The public sector is made up of mission-driven organizations, so it may not be that difficult to understand how your work is impacting the lives of your audience members.
But it can be hard to translate that into daily communications activities; rarely do we connect the work of a single tweet, blog post or internal message to our larger goals. But, if we keep that top of mind, and incorporate our mission into our daily activities, perhaps those messages will stick even further and have a greater impact.
6. Think and Respond Positively
You’ve likely experienced a time where your idea was met with, “We tried that already and it didn’t work.” In addition to being a roadblock for innovation, when you get in the habit of killing ideas with negative language (even if they’ve been tried and failed), negativity can spread.
On the flip side, when we think positively, positive language flows that much easier. For example, instead of saying “We tried that already and it didn’t work,” you could say “I would be interested in learning more and how it could work this time.”
7. Look Ahead, Even if It’s Just to Tomorrow
In the public sector, it can be hard to have a 5-year plan. With election cycles, newly-elected officials and appointees, we may not know where our agencies are headed in terms of communications strategies.
But as much as can – even if it’s just a day, week or month – think about how your communications can make an impact on the future for the better.
Armed with your mission, a plan and the right language, these habits will make that easier.
Do you have habits you live by in your public sector communications? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.