Never wing it!

The Presidential Communication Team, composed by the attached agencies of Office of the Press Secretary, has a crucial role in cascading the vital information to different government agencies from national to local level. Its communication apparatus is weakened by the advocacy of prioritizing vloggers than mainstream. Thus, the government network must fulfill its primal duty for the people: to deliver information and provide updates, especially during calamities as trust and accountability are valuable assets in communication.

RISK management these days is no longer contained at a purely operational level. It has covered all facets of an organization. The difference between a private and a public organization is that risks are contained in the private because they drill themselves to death before an event becomes a crisis. They have established protocols of red flags, determining what event could potentially lead to a crisis and attending to it even before it becomes one. That is done via a crisis management manual that is adopted, refined and exercised, and again refined, adopted and exercised. The reiterative process prepares muscle memory to simulate things and learn from it. Thus, the private sector is often prepared to meet any eventuality.

Crisis management "is the process by which an organization deals with a disruptive and unexpected event that threatens to harm the organization or its stakeholders." There are five stages of crisis management: prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Where is the public sector in these stages? Have they adopted these in ground operations?

Risk management on the other hand, "encompasses the identification, analysis and response to risk factors" that form part of the life of a business, or a government agency. The publics of both are different. For the private sector, the focus is on shareholders and clients; it boils down to reputation. For the public sector, the publics are citizens, voters, communities, and it redounds to trust and approval. Effective management means "attempting to control, as much as possible, future outcomes by acting proactively rather than reactively. Effective risk management offers the potential to reduce both the possibility of a risk occurring and its potential impact."

The public sector or government has not adapted to the drill of crisis management. They go from crisis to crisis, not learning a thing of two, and not institutionalizing it in a crisis management manual for the entire national government. Provinces and cities do not have one either. Hence, preparation is not their thing save probably, the pre-positioning of goods before a disaster — something that was learned from Super Typhoon "Yolanda" — including evacuation to a certain degree. But the government has not been firm on so many things when it comes to floods and earthquakes. Hazardous maps were a thing of the late 1990s and when you look at these today, the same areas are filled with people, residences and communities. All the expenses in generating hazardous maps are thrown down the drain because no one wants to enforce them.

In the public sector, officials are often confronted with crises, and it is only when the crisis is about to blow that they plan. Worse, when the crisis has blown over, that's the time that they call to put together a plan. Totally reactionary and not proactive. Today, this perchance of the public sector is aggravated by VUCA, or a world characterized with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

Critical to risk management is a communications network that reaches the farthest barangay in the country. And this is where the communication team of President Bongbong Marcos will have to iron things out: messaging is one and dissemination is the other. What is the current logical framework when Executive Order (EO) 2 was issued, renaming and reorganizing the Presidential Communications Operations Office and attached agencies and abolishing the office of the presidential spokesman?

The metes and bounds of the public sector communication network spans national and local. At the national level, there are public information officers in every department, with the largest departments having regional up to local offices where messaging from the department level can cascade downwards with a discipline that only a public agency can do. Then at the local level, public information officers are mandated positions across local government units. If the message is properly framed and cascaded across the national network, the priming can effectively be made and amplified from provinces, cities, municipalities and barangay. You don't just communicate propaganda or spins, you give data, official events, policies, plans and programs in a short and simple manner, taking into consideration what you want your public to receive and understand.

What is the mesh protocol of communication in the current dispensation? When EO 2 was issued, it looked like a mere consolidation of powers, just like EO 1. And look what happened to EO 1. Operational science is key but then again, for people who came from campaigns, their mindset has never been to build together, rather to control power.

The government communication apparatus is all over the place, weakened by the advocacy of the current office holder giving more weight to vloggers than mainstream media. The division need not be since President Marcos is for unity and besides, a line on the sand does not work in presidential politics. The line continually morphs so communication people will have to be ahead of the tide, to serve their principal better.

The battle for the hearts and minds needs the wherewithal, you have the assets, fix it. The Philippine News Agency (PNA) and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) create news items on public activities while Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM) and the People's Television Network (PTV4) are overlapping each other creating a bureaucracy in communication. The Philippine Broadcasting System (PBS) is the radio link of the government to the last mile. Last time I checked, there were 33 radio stations nationwide under PBS (four in the NCR, 13 in Luzon, five in the Visayas and 11 in Mindanao). And we are not even looking at "sequestered" publications, radio and TV stations that have been pilfered to the pulp.

In the period when ABS-CBN is off air, the government network will have to fill the gap because that is the basic role of a public arm: provide data, incident report, updates, especially during calamities. Trust building is crucial. Accountability is foremost. Part of the government's role is to inform and educate the public and it cannot do so if there is no trust or people in government are not held accountable for their acts.

Hence, communicating in an "open and transparent manner throughout the risk management life cycle is important to maintain and [re]build trust. Integrating a clear communication strategy within the risk management lifecycle 1) makes your risk controls more effective; 2) builds trust at any stage, not just when there is a crisis; 3) helps you to distinguish yourself from competitors" (read: opposition); and when it comes to data, 4) makes it relevant and actionable.

And as a social contract theorist would have it, "What, then, is the government? An intermediary body established between the subjects and the sovereign for their mutual communication, and charged with the execution of the laws and the maintenance of freedom, civil as well as political." You can't just wing it!


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