Tips for Reconnecting and Rebuilding After the Shutdown

Like you, we’re breathing a giant sigh of relief that the federal government shutdown has ended and that hundreds of government employees are finally able to go back to work. But as much as you may want to jump back into the projects you were working on, it’s hard to ignore that the public’s confidence in the government has been shaken. Even though the shutdown was covered widely in the news, many citizens and stakeholders were surprised when they tried to reach out to a government agency only to find it out was not able to address their requests because most government employees were furloughed. While many agencies have worked hard to engage with and earn the trust citizens, it’s hard to argue that there will probably be some rebuilding to do on that front.

As representatives of a government organization, you are accountable to your stakeholders – whether this is the general public, citizens, business owners, farmers, etc. This makes the role of government communicators critical in sharing your organization’s important information to ultimately gain the trust and confidence of your stakeholders. And as the shutdown ends and lives start to return to normal, ignoring your audience’s mood and concerns would be a misstep. So before you dive back into the projects you had sitting on your desk when you left work on October 1st, take this opportunity to communicate directly with your stakeholders and address the situation head on. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Send your stakeholders a message letting them know you’re back at work and excited to begin communicating with them again. Take a moment to thank them for their patience during these frustrating times.
  • Use all the channels you have available. Send personalized “we’re back/thank you” messages to stakeholders via email or SMS/text messages or more generic posts on social media if you want to communicate broadly.
  • If you use digital communications, take advantage of this opportunity, where you’ll likely have more “eyeballs” on your organization, to include sign-up information in your communications. Suggest that stakeholders sign up for various direct communication channels – such as email or SMS/text message subscriptions – and promote the social media channels you’re on.
  • With the 24-hour news cycle, it can be easy for stakeholders to expect that requests made before or during the shutdown get handled quickly. Why not communicate your organization’s plan and timeline for getting operations back up to speed, and acknowledge or ask that stakeholders continue to be patient just a little while longer as your teams/staff get back to work.

As a government communicator, do you have any tips for your peers in re-connecting with the public and your stakeholders? What are you doing to re-engage and reassure? Please share your ideas & thoughts in the comments.

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David B. Grinberg

Awesome tips, Mary. I would just add one more:

  • Don’t forget to change your “out of office” messages on voicemail and email, assuming they are in place. Nothing is more annoying then getting a bounce back “out of office” email, especially if it’s regarding a government shutdown that everyone knows has ended. Ditto for voice mail. That just makes some folks appear unprofessional and disengaged. Not a good perception to have with colleagues, stakeholders and citizens.
Mary Yang

Thanks, David! That is a great tip. I’m so used to my out-of-office email reply switching off once I log back in, but I always forget to switch my voicemail message.

Alicia Dickerson

Thanks, Mary! Great ideas about reaching out to stakeholders to let them know that fed workers are back in business and around managing expectations now that the shutdown has ended.