Communications Lessons From the Government Shutdown
By Lawrence J. Parnell, Associate Professor, Strategic PR, The George Washington University
With the government shutdown now exceeding 30 days, it’s worth asking: – Are there any lessons we, as communications professionals, can learn from this ordeal?
Given the current state – no end in sight and no talks scheduled – the simple answer is NO. Neither side has distinguished itself in either its communications strategy or public behavior.
However, maybe there are lessons we can learn? At the very least: How not to communicate during a labor dispute or a government shutdown.
A few examples:
- Don’t let emotions – or scorekeeping – drive communications strategy or tactics
- Don’t negotiate in the public media (or on line either)
- Exercise restraint in your comments (limit the posturing and “gotcha” quotes)
- Limit the use of surrogates and control their messages
- Remember the stakeholders (e.g. employees, citizens) are more important than you
- Ultimately no one “wins” or “loses.” Let that go. A settlement is, by definition, a compromise.
While I do not have “the solution” to end this drama – maybe we could get back to actually negotiating? That would be a good start.
The silver lining – if there is one – is learning how essential government services are in our everyday lives and gaining an appreciation for the workers who provide them to all of us.
No one wins when everyone is focused on “winning” the battle – and ok with losing the war.
Don’t forget the old adage: “Never get in a pissing contest with a skunk – you’ll both end up a smelly mess.”
Here’s hoping for a reasonable settlement – for all of our sakes – soon.