What NJDEP Managers and Staff Think About Communicating with the Public, and Improving Agency Infrastructure for Supporting Program Communications: Research Project Summary



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Trenton, N.J. : New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Science, Research and Technology


Interviews were conducted with managers and staff of NJDEP about their respective programs’ communications with the public. Two unique perspectives were revealed. The perspective that researchers labeled as “Enthusiastic” emphasized that program managers and program culture supported communication, it was everyone’s job, and the program used its experience for continuous improvement of communications that were not required by law or regulation. The perspective labeled “Constrained” emphasized the lack of operational resources (time, expertise, access to decision-makers), the difficulty of responding to public demand for more or better communications, reliance on common sense rather than training, and increasing communication when need for public acceptance increased. Both groups felt communication was essential to program success, and tended to downplay public or other external barriers to external communication effectiveness. More generally, interviewees noted that proactive communication and evaluation of communication were both desirable but erratic. Use of job performance appraisals to specifically assess individuals’ communication with the public, and praise for good communication performance, was thought to vary widely. While the Office of Communications and the Press Office did garner praise, many interviewees thought their services were little known or used, or could be improved with better communication between them and programs. Recommendations for improving agency infrastructure to support program communications thus included increasing program commitment to communication (through both attitudinal and operational resources), increasing proactive communication and evaluation, encouraging use of job performance appraisals to foster good communication, and clarifying communication and relations between central communication offices and programs.



New Jersey, Communication - New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection