Communicate Effectively or Watch Your Program Fail

By Scott Burns, CEO & co-Founder, GovDelivery

In the private sector, we take for granted that effective communication is a mission critical function. It’s a matter of survival. If a company has a good product or service, but can’t explain it well, the company goes under. It’s that simple.

In the public sector, the value of good communication is harder to measure, but effective communication is similarly mission critical for virtually every type of government agency. Government may not measure and track quarterly revenues and brand awareness, but consider the following…

“For Two Thirds of Americans, the U.S. Government Does Not Communicate Well about Its Agencies’ Benefits and Services

…Many Unaware Of the Breadth of Services Offered, But View Agencies More Positively Upon Learning More about Them.”

Ipsos, April 5, 2010

This is a compelling statistic, but it implies that government communication is about government perpetuating itself which risks distancing communication from mission results.

But, communication is mission critical. Consider virtually any example of a government program, agency, or function and add (or subtract) good public communication to understand the impact.


What’s your favorite example?

Technology is now making effective and direct public communication more effective and efficient than ever, but as you plan for 2011, you need to make sure that your organization is leveraging effective public communication to create true mission benefit.

And, don’t forget internal communication because it is critical that there is shared understanding within your organization of the role public communication plays in generating the results your organization wants.

This blog post originally appeared at

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Greg Munno

Excellent post. … One of my favorite examples was the engagement effort by CDC surrounding the issue of pandemic flu. As I understand it, CDC went into the sessions with a draft policy that essentially would have directed the initial vaccination effort at children, the elderly and other vulnerable populations. However, after developing a dialog directly between CDC scientists and citizens, CDC discovered that both citizens and its own technical experts preferred a strategy of inoculating first-responders first. Thus, the communication loop (1) educated the public, (2) led to informed dialog, (3) helped elevate a superior policy solution, and (4) helped create the PR and political climate needed to effectively implement that policy.

Scott Burns

Greg: Great example. We’ve done a lot of work with CDC over the years and they’ve been a big topic on our blog.

They do so many things right, it’s hard to know where to start, but the example you shared demonstrates how good communication can have so much positive impact on the ultimate policy and outcomes.

Danielle: I really enjoy reading your posts. Glad you liked this one. I know it’s an area your passionate about.

Allen Sheaprd


Both the CDC adn HHS took on Pandemic flu with open blogs and webcasts allowing people to ask questions.

Three things seemed to shock government folks:

1) With a 63% or higher death rate, no cure nor prevention – laymen did not panic but offered their time, skills and help.

2) It was productive. Not a “town hall meeting” or which hunt. Many of folks where informend and cut to the core issue quoting almost “chapter and verse” of the federal rule, law or regulation. Yea they read the documents.

3) It was effective. Being prepared for a pandemic makes one prepared for hurricane, earth quake, snow storm, etc.

Communication helps bring answers and skills “out of the woodwork” and into the light. These insights that not only garner support but help find answers.