Should the government openly discuss its "need to survive"
when it's likely that most of its citizens won't?

After a full year of daily doses of the White House horror show and follies, it's wonderful to be able to think about a thoughtful and challenging federal government public information/public relations issue that doesn't spring from presidential childishness, bullying, or ineptness. But, what I'm asking you to think about now is not a happy situation. It's among the most dire we could face: the continuation or end of American government as we know it.

These thoughts are prompted by a recently published book, Raven Rock by Garrett M. Graff, a respected Washington journalist, historian, and author of at least three other books on recent history and government policy. Its subtitle, The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itelf while the Rest of Us Die, captures the essence of several dilemmas the nation has faced since the end of World War II.

Since the development of the atomic bomb, which was quickly followed by nuclear warheads, the world has been sequentially plagued by "doomsday scenarios" and bouyed by hopeful plans to survive them. Sometimes we projected hopeless and mutually assured destruction. Other times we babbled childishly that "duck and cover" was our road to safety. But always, even when we didn't realize it, the government was working secretly and under deepest cover to create plans and places where key goverment officials could survive and maintain a semblance of American government.

Now some of those plans have been declassified, and others have been leaked on the Internet. And, Graff's book has become one of the first efforts to try to make sense of this profound period in American and world history. We not only need to learn about it; we need to process it and fully integrate it into our thinking as we move forward.

Neither Graff, nor apparently anyone in goverment over the last eight decades, ever looked at this from a public relations perspective. -- It wasn't in their eyes about public relations; it was about surival; and it was about "the American way of life." -- But, I think it is a matter of public relations and public trust, and I think it's past time for our government to start discussing such matters with us. Who and what should be protected and saved for posterity, and at what cost?

I heartily encourage you to read Raven Rock and start thinking about the public information and public relations implications of what you learn. How do you think the government should be addressing these issues and discussing them with the public?

Read my Recent Reads review of Raven Rock.     

:  Initially created to support the public relations courses I taught at Northern Kentucky University, it's now used as a supplemental text in scores of university courses worldwide. It's also used as a reference or refresher by PR professionals, especially those preparing for accreditation or certification exams. Since I retired, site updates are no longer on a strict schedule but usually occur every 6-8 weeks.

Michael Turney, Ph.D., ABC, Professor Emeritus
Northern Kentucky University

Government public relations
is not an oxymoron.

Governments were among the first organizations to practice public relations as a way to maintain appropriate relationships with their citizens. They still need such relationships today.

But, in the United States, government efforts to maintain such relationships are no longer called "public relations." Look all you want. There are no funds anywhere in the federal budget for public relations activities, and there are no public relations practitioners listed in the federal job registries.

This doesn't mean the federal government has forsaken public relations. It hasn't. It continues to fund and engage in lots of efforts that most observers would call public relations, but the government just doesn't use that term any more. It's found a more-appealing term, one that sounds less self-serving, less-offensive, and more public-spirited. It's "public information."

And, as with so many other aspects of government in the United States, these federal decisions were interpreted as virtual mandates by state and local governments which soon followed suit. Now, there are few people or agencies in any level of government with the words "public relations" in their job titles or their responsibilities, but there are tens of thousands of public information officers and public information specialists throughout federal, state, and local governments.

These government communicators link their agencies and the people they serve in ways that sometimes spell the difference between life and death. For instance, helping needy people get Food Stamps or medical care, enabling an abused person to call a hotline for help, or warn a driver of a dangerous safety recall. Of course, all government communications aren't so meaningful or dramatic. Many are dull, boring, and routine explanations of how to fill out tax forms. But, whether it's dull and boring or dramatically life-changing, government public information often significantly affects the everyday lives of citizens.

Read more about government public relations.     


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New Year's resolutions are still on the table.
Is strategic planning one of yours?

Very few people that I know really like New Year's resolutions, and even fewer seem to take them seriously. But, almost all of us make such resolutions or, at least, say that we do, because it is, after all, the thing to do at this time of year.

It's like listening to our mothers when they tell us we should eat more vegetables. You know how that goes. "You should eat more vegetables," Mom says. "They're good for you. They'll make you healthy." You may believe it or, at least, accept it as reasonable conventional wisdom.

But, that doesn't mean you'll actually eat vegetables. Nor does it make you like them.

The truth is: a similar observation can be made about public relations planning. At one time or another, most likely at a conference or workshop, you heard an expert say:"You should do more public relations planning. It would be good for you. It would make you more effective."

Like most practitioners who hear this, you probably at least half-heartedly believe it. But, that doesn't mean you'll increase the planning you do, or that you'll decide you like planning.

The fact is: public relations planning and vegetables are a lot alike. Both are good for you, and both can contribute to your success. But, neither is glamorous or exciting. They're really rather mundane and are generally viewed as something we should pay attention to rather than as something we want to do.

Perhaps this should be the year for you to make a firm resolution and actually look into what's involved in public relations planning. It would be good for you, and it would make your mother almost as proud as if you started eating more vegetables.

Read more about public relations planning.     

PR Planning portal.     

This site was on Northern Kentucky University servers while I taught there, and it remained there for quite a while after I retired.
Then the university announced it would no longer support "personal faculty websites" like this one, and I had to move it.

NOTE TO PHONE USERS: This is the only page on this site formatted for easy reading on a phone-sized screen. The site is best viewed on a desktop or full-sized laptop.
Updated: 1/11/2018