Another reason was that some Communications Managers believed they should have control over all communications in an organization. I worked in three departments: Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), Health Canada and Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) and found the latter department was most guilty of this charge.
Communicators do not have to orchestrate everything, and while some felt they should know about all communications activities, they sometimes also felt the need to have an element of control over those messages and how they are delivered. Most Communications Managers did not feel this way, in fact, they were often quite happy to share the work.
There is some merit to the public sector Communications shop or branch knowing about all communications activities across a department so they can try to ensure consistent messages and a coordinated approach. However, even if they wanted to, they couldn’t be everywhere since resources are not usually set up to manage that volume of activity.
What if communications officers and advisors had the resources to tackle the volume? That’s a big ‘what-if’, but still, the reality is that they are not always embedded into the program areas and their top offices, meaning their program ADM’s offices, to know what’s going on, when, who’s involved and what’s the best approach to a particular event or activity knowing the audience. In fact, communicators who responded to my initial survey directed at government communicators (2005) reported that up-to-date information from clients on a timely basis was one of the factors that had the greatest impact on their ability to do their jobs. Communicators cannot be expected to provide strategic advice on events or activities about which they do not know anything. I wonder if this is still the situation in 2012?
Communications shops could ‘let go’ of some of that interest in controlling all communications activity and decide to negotiate agreements within the organization so branches and programs can get their work done, allowing advisors also to be plugged in and offer the best possible service. This approach is more decentralized and does have its challenges, but in the end, a shared responsibility may be more effective as long as someone identifies the roles and responsibilities of managers and communicators.