Shouldn't the government discuss its "need to survive"
with the citizens it was created to serve?

Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itelf while the Rest of Us Die, a book I mentioned in a previous post, is still very much on my mind. We Americans need to become more aware of the critical issues it discusses and start having a voice in this aspect of our government.

As noted in my last post, there's no indication Garrett Graff, the book's author, or anyone in the goverment has ever considered this situation from a public relations perspective. They see it only in terms of national surival, -- which is the core issue -- but we supposedly have "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." That requires close-to full disclosure and public trust, neither of which has been evident in the extensive planning and massive spending on government continuity projects undertaken since World War II. Billions of dollars have been, and still are, spent annually, and countless lives are at stake.

Since the first atomic bomb, the world has faced recurring doomsday scenarios and tried to find ways to survive them. Some of those discussions were public and touted in the news media under the umbrella of Civilian Defense programs. Perhaps the best known, albeit most ill-conceived, of these was the "duck and cover" campaign that taught school children to crawl under their desks and wrap their arms around their heads for protection in case of a nuclear attack. Many more occurred behind closed doors where our government was working under the deepest cover and spending billions of dollars to create secret bunkers where key goverment officials could survive such attacks and maintain some semblance of an American government.

Did you know those places and plans -- updated, of course -- still exist and are still operational? The general public has only recently started to learn anything about them. Some very early plans have been declassified. Others have seeped out onto the Internet. And, Graff's recently published book is now a huge break-through. But this isn't enough. We need more public discussion of these facilities and associated survival plans.

I am not suggesting all these plans and the details for implementing them should be unclassified and published. That would be stupid. Some things -- e.g., the exact locations and sizes of bunkers, stockpiles, and lists of who will be admitted to them -- need to remain secret if they are to be of any use to us. But, we, the people, should at least know such things exist and be aware of the general policies that govern their creation and their use. We should have some say in determining who and what should be protected and saved for posterity, and at what cost? It would be good public relations for our government.

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 may not be considered politically correct, but ...

Governments were among the first organizations to use public relations techniques to maintain appropriate relationships with their citizens. And, we still need such relationships today.

But, the United States government no longer openly practices "public relations." It hasn't since the Gillett Amendment was passed in 1913. There are no public relations funds anywhere in the federal budget, and there are no public relations practitioners on the federal job registry.

However, if you look beyond labels and terminology, you'll find all levels of American government funding and engaging in lots of activities that most observers would call "public relations." The government just doesn't call it that any more.

The Gillett Amendment didn't stop anything that was going on. It just made the federal government -- and by extension, state and local governments -- find a new, more appealing term to describe what they were doing, a term that sounded less self-serving, less-offensive, and more public-spirited. What they came up with is "public information."

Today there are few, if any, people employed at any level of American government with "public relations" in their job title or responsibilities. But, there are tens of thousands of public information officers and public information specialists throughout federal, state, and local governments. Their role is to help their agencies stay in touch with and maintain relationships with the people the agencies serve.

In some cases, these efforts mean the difference between life and death. For instance, they can help needy people get Food Stamps or medical care, alert abused people about a hotline for getting help, or warn drivers of vehicle recalls.

Of course, all government communications aren't so dramatic, e.g., instructions for filling out tax forms. But, whether it's dull and boring or dramatic and life-changing, government public information significantly affects the everyday lives of citizens.

Read more about government public relations.     


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Strategic planning isn't always complicated;
it can be as simple as knowing your "KFD."

At the most basic level, public relations planning boils down to answering Harold Lasswell's four classic questions about mass communication: Who says what? In which channel? To whom? With what effect?

However, planning experts often "complexify" the process and insist that you produce detailed 20-30 page plans. Sometimes that's appropriate. Planning a multi-year, multi-million dollar campaign for a global company, for instance, could require that kind of detail. But, such extensive planning isn't required for every public relations effort.

What you do need for every public relations effort is a clear identification of your specific target audience. That should go without saying. After all, how can you possibly build a relationship if you don't know with whom you want a relationship?

Beyond that, you need to know what you want to achieve as a result of your contact with that target audience:

  • What do you want the target audience to Know?
  • What do you want the target audience to Feel?
  • What do you want the target audience to Do?
Or, in the words Chakisse Newton of Cardinal Consulting (Columbia, South Carolina) used at the 2013 IABC World Conference in New York City: "What's your KFD?"

This is a deceptively simple approach, but it can be invaluable. Simply answering these questions helps you focus on what you want to accomplish and can keep you from rushing into a project half-cocked or without a clear idea of where you're heading.

Sometimes, knowing your target KFD is is all the planning you need to do. At other times, it can serve as a good starting point for more detailed planning.

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: 3/21/2018