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I have been dealing with various levels of government a lot lately, as we’ve recently opened a new business.

I live in Soviet Quebecistan, a place where the bureaucrats can be particularly irksome. Imagine combining the French love bureaucracy with the “screw you” attitude of government workers in communist states and you get what I am dealing with.

Most of the folks genuinely don’t care about me, their jobs, etc. They’re phoning it in.

They have, though, provided keen insights into how not to behave if you work in PR.

Let me share a few:

1. Though there are two official languages in my country and I speak both, I prefer correspondence in my mother tongue. This is actually NOT possible from several of the the government bodies I deal with. Seriously, they CANNOT do it…

When you work in PR, try to remember to actually speak in the language your audience understands. I don’t mean dispense with business buzzwords and am not trying to tell you to go mono-syllabic. I mean speak Swahili if you are speaking to Swahilis. Simple, right?

2. It is cause for celebration if a government worker responds to an email in less than a work week. If you work in PR this is not the policy to adopt if keeping your job is a goal.

3. It can take 2-3 weeks for some government workers to return a phone call. Again, fellow Flakian, don’t emulate the bureaucrats if you plan on staying in this industry.

4. One of things particular to some of the government employees I’ve dealt with is that they assume I will know as much (or care as much) as they do about their Byzatine, labyrinthine maze of rules and regulations. On occasion, professing my utter ignorance has been met with profound disdain, even contempt. “How can you not know, silly fool!” they say. In PR, ASSUME that people know less about your product/event/service/new policy/whatever you’re pitching than you do. Don’t talk down to them, but assume that you will need to politely educate them about whatever the hell you’re talking about.

5. The overall attitude of many bureaucrats is backwards. They believe the onus is on you. In fact that onus is on them because your tax dollars pay for their existence. In PR the onus is not on the blogger/journalist to get the facts right. You, the PR person – the TELLER OF THE STORY – need to make it easy for the scribes to get it right. If they screw up, don’t point fingers. It’s on you.

I should add that, like any realm, there are amazing people in government. Some of the people we’ve recently dealt with have been INCREDIBLE and VERY helpful to our little biz. A few of the badder apples have stood out – as always.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Jackson, this is an excellent post with some great advice for selling a story – it’s so true that we often forget that the person we are speaking to may not know the industry buzz words and feel overwhelmed by the manner in which we explain things.

    Also, I laughed at “Soviet Quebecistan”.

  • Thanks! Glad you enjoyed.

    I adore my city and this province, but it can sometimes feel like Havana if you have to deal with our fab government(s)

  • Tatyana says:

    Wow a great post. I grew up in Russia but live in US and I can say everything you said it is quite true.. Yes PR folks are story tellers and not best story pitching cheerleeders..



  • Hey Tatyana,

    Glad you enjoyed it. Also very glad to hear from someone with your perspective on this question. I have heard absolute horror stories about bureaucracy in the former Soviet Union. Have a great week!


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