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5 Tips for Your Communications Career

Last week, we launched a new GovLoop guide, How to Find, Land, Keep, and Leap in Your Government Career.

In the guide, there are a lot of tips on how to navigate your government career and rise to the top. While most of these tips apply to the communications professional, I thought I’d build on these tips and focus this post on specific career advice for all public affairs officials.

So here are my 5 tips to rise in your government communications career:

1) Know the Fundamentals. In any communication career, it is important to know the fundamentals of good communication. Understand the fundamentals of good communications strategy, the makeup of your various audiences and what messages resonate the most.

2) Stay Up to Date. There are always new communications tools being released, and it’s important to stay up to date and explore what these new channels mean for your agency. Whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or another channel you just heard about, your job is to help your agency communicate with citizens wherever they reside.

3) Spend Time with the Mission. I’ve always found the best communications professionals have spent some time either working in a business or program office. By understanding the daily rhythms and demands of programs, you can then become a better communication professional when they need your help as you’ve built rapport and understand their needs.

4) Cross-Train. Some people are press officers and spend their whole career only handling press inquiries. The downside of having only one focus is that there are fewer opportunities to get ahead as you only qualify for specific vacancies. So cross-train: spend some time in the press office, time in internal communications and time with business units. Not only is it more interesting, but you’ll become a more qualified communications officer.

5) Network & Train. To get the next promotion, it’s important to have the necessary qualifications and to network. Join great organizations like Federal Communicators Network and National Association of Government Communicators. Attend their annual conferences, and take the training you need to grow in your career. Your next promotion will probably come from the network that you build at these events.

Bonus Tip: Measure your results. The best communications professional measure and analyze what’s worked and can show the ROI of their communication. Have you doubled the audience receiving your organization’s messages? Increased the number of opens or folks actually that engaged with your message? Has this translated to mission results or cost savings? Keep track of these metrics, and you’ll fly up the communication chain, having built-in arguments when you need to defend your budget and positions.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share? What’s worked well for you in your career?

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Candi Harrison

Way up the list should be: keep your focus on your audiences – what they’re thinking and saying, how they say it, what they need, who they are, how they’re changing, what communications channels they’re using – so you can communicate effectively. It’s too easy to get caught up in “communications” as the goal, when it’s the means to the goal: serving the public. So stay connected with your audience.