public_government communication

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Seminar in Budapest, Corvinus University, April 2010: some findings about an Italian research on government communication

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public_government communication

  1. 1. Communication and Innovation in Public Government Bodies in Italy: a research about the “working rules ” (“ règles du métier ”) Budapest, Corvinus University, 4-28-2010 Pina Lalli Master in Sciences of Public and Social Communication Department of Communication Studies
  2. 2. Communication in the public sector: the assumptions <ul><li>The innovation comes from normative frameworks that set out principles or values guide </li></ul><ul><li>It is largely a matter of “ practices ” which are made possible and actual by the everyday work of some professionals </li></ul><ul><li>Ongoing process that concerns: </li></ul><ul><li>Transparency </li></ul><ul><li>Visibility </li></ul><ul><li>Information </li></ul><ul><li>Communication </li></ul>follows
  3. 3. Communication in the public sector: the assumptions <ul><li>Communication in the public sector = development and recognition of activities and actors devoted to publicity of action of government and public institutions </li></ul><ul><li>It is called “public communication” in Italy, differing from - for example - public relations, political communication, propaganda, and so on </li></ul><ul><li>These names imply different meaning effects: eg. in a representative democracy defining an action as “propaganda” tends to discredit it because it assigns a purpose of manipulation (Ollivier-Yaniv 2009) </li></ul>follows
  4. 4. <ul><li>Tw o ideal &quot;prohibitions&quot; under democracy: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Monopoly of information sources for citizens </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Supplying partisan or partial information about action relevance of government instead of presenting to the all citizens the whole process of public decision making </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The disappearance of the &quot;propaganda&quot; and the emergence of “public communication” support the renewal form and diversification of the ways in which public authorities act in “democratic public arenas” </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore the methods of &quot;communication&quot; in the public institution should be reviewed following the normative ideals of democracy and popular sovereignty that are connected to the democratic political representation (Ollivier-Yaniv 2009) </li></ul>Communication in the public sector: the assumptions
  5. 5. <ul><li>Formal aspects </li></ul><ul><li>publicity and access to the public acts and tenders </li></ul><ul><li>Explicitness about procedures and criteria </li></ul><ul><li>…… . </li></ul>Transparency - Information <ul><li>Specific aspects </li></ul><ul><li>Control over the sources ( asymmetric , but exposed to some levels of reciprocity ) </li></ul><ul><li>Watch-dog (journalism) </li></ul><ul><li>Information about access to services </li></ul><ul><li>Equal access to knowledge </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>(J. Thompson, Mass media and modernity , 1998 ) </li></ul><ul><li>The media are create to monitor, for “surveillance” </li></ul><ul><li>Greater visual field but not subject to direct control </li></ul><ul><li>The media create new forms of publicity… </li></ul><ul><li>… and new hierarchies: the “ thresholds ” of the visibility are different  agenda setting </li></ul><ul><li>Who exercise power is more subject than others to public visibility </li></ul>The transformation of “visibility”
  7. 7. <ul><li>The new functions of information </li></ul><ul><li>(eg.: Law 150/2000 in Italy) </li></ul><ul><li>Public institution provide them of journalists and “communicators” in order to ensure direct information to citizen </li></ul><ul><li>Ongoing process of professionalization </li></ul><ul><li>Effects still unexplored </li></ul>Many communication arenas
  8. 8. <ul><li>First: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>duty to inform and bridge the cognitive gap or to overcome the inequalities in the access to information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Starting new reporting and accounting practices </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Secondly: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>practical effects of potential influence in the media field (e.g. by means of professional public relations, well-done packaging information, or paying as an advertiser or an employer payer, and so on) </li></ul></ul>Background assumptions
  9. 9. <ul><li>Thin border between public (government) and political communication (even if the Italian Law 150 stands the figure of the “spokenman” from the Press Office) </li></ul><ul><li>Ongoing professionalism of new communicative skills - sometimes implied - procedures and categorization </li></ul><ul><li>Position in the organization </li></ul>Questions
  10. 10. <ul><li>The emerging in the information area of public institutional actors at different levels of public government extends the concept of “public sphere” occupied by the media </li></ul><ul><li>Do the issues raised so far in the media (editorial power, newsmaking , agenda setting , framing , commercial advertisers’ power…) meet professional functions? Do they engage or not new influence effects on the public space ( not just media )? Do they deserve empirical exploration and reflection? </li></ul>Hypothesis: a plural space?
  11. 11. <ul><li>Questions : </li></ul><ul><li>which “rules” or “grammar of action” (cfr. Boltanski) can we find in the accounts by members of the “community of practice” of public communicators? </li></ul><ul><li>which organizational solutions are detectable </li></ul><ul><li>which definitions of professional competence and innovation are recognized </li></ul>Our research published in G. Gardini and P. Lalli ( eds ), Per un’etica dell’informazione e della comunicazione ( Milan , Angeli, 2009)
  12. 12. <ul><li>Open Interviews </li></ul><ul><li>Interviews by semi-structured questionnaire </li></ul><ul><li>Focus groups </li></ul><ul><li>Participant Observation </li></ul><ul><li>Period: 2008 - N = 75 in different Communication and Press Offices in some Italian public institutions (in collaboration with Silvia Guido) </li></ul>Our research: methods
  13. 13. <ul><li>Almost always in the top management team (that is political - as in public government - or managerial as in public health services) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Trends: justification of information activity based on the objectives provided by the top management </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Tendency to differentiate the Press Office, Urp (Public Relations Office for citizens), Communication Office </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Usually, the organizational regulation does not expect a coordinated structure, except the top management; even when a single Communication Office is responsible, the Press Office has its own direct way to the top management </li></ul></ul>Our research: findings Position in the organization
  14. 14. <ul><li>Many executive managers have fixed-term temporary contracts and about half are working for the institution for less than 5 years </li></ul><ul><li>Often the workers have not a specific education and their duties are not professional ones </li></ul><ul><li>Even the executive managers do not always have a specific education, especially those who have a long-term position </li></ul><ul><li>The level of specific education increases in case of fixed-term contracts </li></ul>Our research: findings Features in the organization
  15. 15. <ul><li>It arises from the political representative (legitimized by vote) </li></ul><ul><li>It should be interpreted in an independent and autonomous way </li></ul><ul><li>Independence and autonomy arise from recognized professional competence </li></ul><ul><li>Thin and unstable border with political communication (sometimes, this is explained as a “myopia” of politicians who would consider communication and information according their own “media show visibility” - hence, the lack of recognition of professional competence of the communicator) </li></ul>Our research: findings Self-Representation of the ”mandate”
  16. 16. <ul><li>Journalists of the Press Offices : they represent their function as directed to provide clear, transparent and detailed information to citizens </li></ul><ul><li>The heads of Communication Offices claim themselves this function, because they consider themselves closer to citizen, less subject to the constraints of journalistic work and more independent from politics </li></ul><ul><li>Limits reported especially by Communication Offices: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>lack of recognition of professionalism than the more established and “visible” profession of the journalists in the Press Office </li></ul></ul>Our research: findings Professionalism: self-representations follows
  17. 17. <ul><li>Press Offices : two different points of view </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Similarities with the work of any journalist (including the “obvious” evidence that the work guidelines tend to be subjected to the “top management”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Differences and “ weakening ” of some profession rules : the “public” (government) journalist primarily might make transparent and accessible public institution to the media and to the citizens </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Not considered is the outsourcing of some journalistic (or advertising) tasks to external services agencies, nor the purchase of media spaces (the public government as “ customer ” of media and supplier of news…) </li></ul>Our research: findings Professionalism: self-representations follows
  18. 18. <ul><li>Not considered the role of “ agenda setting ” : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Professionalism is not involved in the definition of priorities hierarchy - but it is only considered at the end of the process where “the Body does” (that is its “government program”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If news have to be selected, the quasi-routinary choice is referred to the top manager (political or managerial), who is recognized by the journalist or by the communicator as the primary decision-maker </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It is partly considered the role of “ framing ”, though muffled by the evocation about the general interest of “ facts ”: “ do not may require you to speak ill of the employer ”… </li></ul></ul>Our research: findings Professionalism: self-representations follows
  19. 19. <ul><li>Media Relations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Regulated by skills that help to make available information but also to direct it for citizens’ interests </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It is very important to know media machine and to keep trust relationships with other journalists </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Precious “capital” in the name of which you could select news in order to keep the relationship </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ It’s part of the professional work” and does not hide information because it often means avoiding scandal-bad-show in news framing, which could be counterproductive for the institution, hence for citizens community…. </li></ul></ul>Our research: findings Professionalism: self-representations
  20. 20. <ul><li>Grammars of action “flexible” according situations  they could not be generalized </li></ul><ul><li>General definition of a “ shared accountability to the citizens ” </li></ul><ul><li>Except for a few cases, no reference to professional ethical documents </li></ul>Our research: findings Professionalism: ethical criteria follows
  21. 21. <ul><li>An “ethical” public communication is defined in opposition to the dramatization show of media </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The unique criterion of “newsworthiness” is “what the Body does” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The content of information arises from the duties of governments and ensuring a good service to the community comes from the claimed professional expertise </li></ul>Our research: findings Professionalism: ethical criteria
  22. 22. <ul><li>The recognition of professional expertise and skills is crucial </li></ul><ul><li>It is also crucial the strength of the position in the organization and of the “mandate” </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes the obstacle is not an explicit will of manipulation </li></ul><ul><li>But the vagueness of the rules about: position in the organization, role, expertise, tasks and functions of professional information and communication </li></ul>Our research: findings Professionalism and recognition
  23. 23. <ul><li>Institutions often do not understand the transverse importance of information and communication functions </li></ul><ul><li>Recruitment methods sometimes make relevant other not professional abilities </li></ul><ul><li>In this context, the communicator’s ethical correctness is acting in a competent and professional way </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In order to ensure transparency and access to citizens as most effective possible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To try to catch on a very communication culture </li></ul></ul>Our research: findings Professionalism and membership
  24. 24. <ul><li>The “publicity” of public action is not separable by reflective approach : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In a democratic context public government include regulatory ideals about popular sovereignty, freedom and equality </li></ul></ul><ul><li>May the specialization of communicative managing “discourses” practices be viewed by public authorities only as a “ technical ” answer to an imperative need of publicity and formal transparency? </li></ul>Conclusions for discussion: Public government, innovation, competence and communication follows
  25. 25. <ul><li>Neither propaganda nor ideal of pure transparency, may we consider the potential reflexive capacities of public communication in terms of a politics of “discourse ” acting in the public opinion arena in order to ensure equality and equal access to information and social knowledge produced in a given historical situation? </li></ul><ul><li>So, may we consider the public communicators as “ moral entrepreneurs ” who contribute to the “distribution of social knowledge” (cfr. Schutz)? </li></ul>Conclusions for discussion: Public government, innovation, competence and communication follows
  26. 26. <ul><li>To spread a reflexive culture about communication could means : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Active listening </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strategic culture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Equal Access to information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Integrated models of communic-Action </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Participation / inclusion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>New technologies / inclusion / access </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>New forms of alliances </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>New forms of accountability </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Risks : routine, partial show-communication, ephemeral, occasional, incidental, spokesman… </li></ul>Conclusions for discussion: Public government, innovation, competence and communication
  27. 27. [email_address] THANK YOU Köszönom http://www.compass.unibo.it

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