Government agencies are made up of hierarchies. Whether through seniority, location, department, or function, hierarchies allow agencies to conduct large-scale operations. When you’re dealing with issues on a national scale, one of the largest issues lies in how you communicate. Unlike a small organization, communicating in a government agency is not as simple as making a phone call or sending a quick email.
Because BlackBerry AtHoc solutions protect more than 70% of all federal government personnel, we’ve seen many communication chains and systems throughout government offices and agencies. A communications hierarchy for government means the order in which communications are sent and received, and what the flow of information looks like.
Here is what a government agency needs to know about creating a communications hierarchy.
Step 1: Decide on Your Hierarchy Grouping
It may make sense for you to group by department, region, or responsibility. When you’re creating your communications hierarchy, zoom out and think about the natural flow of communication and what is most efficient. Here are some examples:
- Region - Breaking your communications into regions like The Americas, APAC, and Europe, then further breaking down those offices into individual countries
- Function - Breaking your communications into teams through departments, like IT, Compliance, Operations, and Fieldwork
- Department - Breaking your communications into departments based on levels of access and importance, like having one central communications team that filters communications into sub-organizations
Step 2: Decide Levels of Control
You may want to choose one master organization that has complete oversight into all communications. Outgoing communications might originate with them, so that they have visibility into what’s happening. They can choose to send communications to certain individuals, groups, or to an entire community. Tools like AtHoc Alert can help by creating customized groups of people with varying levels of accessibility.
When a government agency consists of so many disparate individuals and teams, giving everyone the same levels of access and capabilities can lead to misinformation. If there is an emergency drill or a real-life crisis, you don’t want too many communications flying around. It’s the theoretical equivalent of everyone hitting “reply-all” when they have something to say. Instead, a functional communications hierarchy starts with permissions that give a select, relevant few the ability to make decisions and send out mass messages.
Step 3: Base Communications Off The Plain Writing Act
The Plain Writing Act of 2010 was signed into law to require federal agencies to cut down on the bureaucracies of “government-speak” and communicate clearly. When you’re creating your communications hierarchy, figure out how your agency can comply with this act. It may impact how you decide to organize your flow of information. The law requires agencies to:
- Use plain writing in every document
- Train employees in plain writing
- Establish a method to mandate compliance with this act
- Provide a channel for public input on agency reports and communications
- Designate a point of contact to respond to such public input and inquiries
Step 4: Define Settings for Each Part of Your Communication Cycle
Your communications hierarchy should build in preferences and settings. Decide which levels of your communication hierarchy will have access to the following settings:
- Message templates
- Pre-recorded messages
- Unscheduled messages
- Privacy settings
Communication means different things for different agencies. Increasingly, it is up to each agency to deliver streamlined, unified messages and to figure out the best framework within which to do that. For example, the government of Canada is now focused on a communications policy that establishes a streamlined tone of voice. Controls and settings at each stage of the communication cycle will help streamline your message.
Step 5: Create Audience-Centric Hierarchies
Recently, a McKinsey study found that “when governments deliver services based on the needs of the people they serve, they can increase public satisfaction and reduce costs.” Even though your communications hierarchy may be strictly internal, consider the audience of your message. Ultimately, the function of a government agency is to serve citizens, whether they are paying taxes, voting, or applying for healthcare.
Your hierarchy may work best if you set up a public-facing call center, or hold open office hours to meet members of your community face-to-face. Frequently, communications work best when they are direct, so an in-person communications strategy can go a long way toward troubleshooting problems.
BlackBerry AtHoc is now the first and only FedRAMP-authorized crisis communication solution. Learn more about how BlackBerry AtHoc solutions protect federal government agencies, personnel, and operations.