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Internal & External Messaging At The Government Agency: Together or Separate?

Somebody asked me a question about this, and here is an edited version of my response:
It’s hard to give advice, because there is no one right way – culture determines the answer to most of these questions. That said, I’ve worked in four government agencies and in each, internal communication was taken seriously and kept very separate from public affairs or external messaging.

This is because employees tend to be concerned about 1) leadership/management/how best to approach the mission 2) career advancement, pay, benefits 3) climate of fairness. They are also very wired-in and know a lot about what’s going on, so messages aimed at the public are likely too generic.

On the other hand, the public tends to care about 1) how well agency is managed, stewardship of taxpayer funds 2) accountability, transparency, efficiency 3) very specific hot button issues. They also may want datasets, which are not a focus for employees.

For reasons most of us can probably guess, I’ve rarely seen corporate or agency internal communication be truly engaging. If it is, it’s spontaneous rather than planned. Real communication provokes emotion, and emotion can be dangerous.
This part I did not say:
As far as intranets go, I believe they are less and less meaningful and should ideally be consolidated with a social networking environment. The aspect of the information that is non-sensitive can go on the public website, while other information can be published in a social, collaborative space.
* All opinions my own.


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