[Topic 09] Administrative Communication: The Concept of its Professional Centrality

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Administrative Communication: The Concept of its Professional Centrality

Karen V. Delfin

Why is administrative communication important? In any institutions and organizations, communication is a very essential tool in administration. The general public must be provided adequate information to help them make better decisions and identify opportunities that could improve their quality of life. A policy maker is accountable for making the communication process continuous. A policy maker’s office acts as a nerve center where the lines of communication cross and are connected and where information is received, processed, stored, assembled, analyzed and dispensed (Garnett).

Communications network, as defined by Simon, Smithberg and Thompson, is the process whereby decisional premises are transmitted from one member of an organization to another. It acts primarily as integrating device bringing together frequently conflicting elements of an organization to secure cooperative group. This communication network is one of the major vehicles for achieving coordination and compromise for every organization.

It is true that the decisions made by the administrators are greatly affected by the way they communicate. That is why it should be practiced properly when in office and even in outside appointments. The personnel in the office would have better understanding if the information is received or delivered appropriately.

Newsmaking process or media relations (or what they call the public information model) center the concept of administrative communication. Centering on news making process is a detriment of our understanding of key communication processes. We should have revolutionized the news making process. News from the media do not bring accurate information. It is important to increase the demand for direct interaction with public officials and not be filtered with media. Examples of direct interactions are through live speeches from the official, televised “town meetings”, etc. Today, there is need for combination of communication skills and ethics.

It is greatly encouraged to improve our way of communication. Its good to enroll in a communication skills class so that we’ll be able to understand more that communication is very important especially in administering. Communication specialists today are being demanded to play a more involved managerial role than before.

Communication enhancement is necessary because it is very crucial in life-and-death situations. Lack of skill or misuse of skill, intent or inadvertence, inadequate technology or technology overskill are examples of miscommunication that can bring collective consequences in our daily interaction and it take an enormous toll on performance, credibility, trust, and citizen’s quality of life. Communications also play a crucial role in administrative success or failure. Sound communication contributes to performance and increases the chances for success and fault communication contributes to the likelihood failure.

The internal communication process is important because it affects the whole system. It can be thought of as downward, upward or lateral. Downward is issuing task directives, giving task-related information feedback on performance and conveying on overall sense of mission. Upward is feedback on whether downward messages are received, understood and acted upon; warnings about problems; needing attention; intelligence; soundings about organizational morale and performance. Later communication is the contact among organizational peers. Its keys functions are task coordination, info sharing, multidisciplinary problem solving, and mutual emotional support. These three factors contribute to the rise of interorganizational dimension in public management.

One example of an organization in the Philippines that believes communication is vital to building a strong republic is the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) created in 1986 by virtue of Executive Order 100 signed by former President Corazon C. Aquino. This institution is established to respond to the information needs of the citizenry. It visions a well-informed citizenry that is able to understand, discuss, and vote on vital issues propelling the nation toward lasting peace and development. Its functions are to maintain information centers in the regions and in the provinces of the Philippines; provide technical assistance to other government agencies on the communication component of their program, plan and carry out national information programs; assist other government agencies in carrying out communication and information projects; determine information needs of the people; professionalize government information officers, communicators, and other media personnel through training and skill enhancement programs; and support the development of indigenous media and of communication capability and technology.

The creation of PIA (according to executive order no.100) is because there is a need for an agency in government with a means to communicate with the people and in turn for the people to express their opinions. The people required an efficient flow of public information to assist them in decision-making to improve overall quality of life. Through PIA the government in partnership of the media can meet the information needs of the people. And also the people don’t want a one-way flow of communication from the government. The PIA is also created because there were no regular nationwide outlets where citizens could obtain government publications and materials; intermediary coordination of public information efforts was not effective due to lack of appropriate mechanisms; and people’s participation in the planning and conduct of information programs should be encouraged.

Another source of information that is used in public administration is the Information and Communication Technology (ICT). It is useful in the activities and operations of government. It is an essential element for the success of reforms effort in public administration. ICT is a primary reason for the development of national development strategies that seek to exploit its perceived potentials. There had been a search for new management techniques and practices occasioned by a context of fiscal restraint, reduced public spending, and a perceived dissatisfaction with public services as delivered by bureaucracy-modeled organization. This is the New Public Management (NPM). It addresses at least three issues: economy, the need to contain cost and raise new revenues under conditions of fiscal deficit; efficiency, or how to rationalize the organization of government for the efficient delivery of its functions; and responsiveness, or how the government could address the needs of its citizens as clients or customers. The NPM shows a range of techniques, approaches and instruments that proponents think are applicable if not imperative for the public sector, such as governmental steering, decentralization, market involvement and competition, management by results and customer orientation.

In this paper, it was mentioned so many times that communication is very important in every area of administration so that we could be able to avoid or solve conflicts easily. It is also important in advocating public services (public relations, media relations, public information, public affairs and communication). The Philippine Information Agency is one institution that connects the people to the government by the information that it provides and also by the response of the people to the government. The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on other hand is concerned that the technology is vital in communicating and sending information. The New Public Management uses IT in reforming the public administration in order to give a better service to the people and also for the betterment of the bureaucracy. These are example of organizations that are concerned in what we have been talking about in the chapter of Administrative Communication of Stillman.

Administrative Communication: The Concept of its Professional Centrality

Manalo, Kristel Joy T.

Is communication an essential facet of public administration? The answer is simple. Not only is communication important, it is crucial in public administration, regardless of what government agency or department.

It is incontestable that communication is a fundamental need of all citizens. Human beings have the capacity to form and share ideas, to communicate knowledge so to speak. Communication is important in building and maintaining a society. No one society is ever called a society without norms being shared, culture being transferred and developed. It therefore goes without saying that society is shaped through communication.

Having said that, we can rightfully say that communication is every citizen’s right. The government, having the power to formulate and implement plans and decide upon domestic and international policies, should have a means of communicating whatever initiatives and plans they have with its citizens. There is a need to create a channel through which information can be shared transparently and efficiently.

Fundamentally, the mass media is the basic channel through which people acquire knowledge about government matters. These media include the newspapers, radio, television, books, magazines and the Internet.

All throughout history, forms of communication have been established to disseminate information and to give the public the events and occurrences in the government.

The origins of the Philippine mass media can be traced back to the Spanish era. It was during the Spanish period when the first print media arrived in the Philippines. However, it was only restricted to Spaniards living in the Philippines and a very few ruling class. The acme of the mass media during the last period of the Spanish rule was even worse - there was a strict government censorship on the news being published and news was not critical of the Spaniards’ administration. Put differently, news contained lack of objectivity because of the very reason that the Spanish government had placed restrictions on them. The media during that time had made a very little progress. Eventually, though, intelligent communication made its way through the Filipinos who were educated in Spain. Their works and writings became tools for sharing their ideas and enlightening the Filipinos on their situation under the hands of the Spaniards. Uneducated Filipinos or the Katipuneros also became critical of the Spanish rule. They established the Kalayaan which became the official paper of the Katipunan. These moves however resulted to uprisings and revolution.

Even then, it was apparent that there was a demand for public information.

Both media and the processes through which communication operates have become ways of giving the people their conception of the world, have influenced them in remarkable ways and have considerably controlled their political views and beliefs. How one views his government and the actors within it is greatly influenced by what he hears on the radio, sees in the television and reads in the papers. Nonetheless, the mass media has been the most powerful tool of telling the people everything about their government – what it is and what it is not, what it does for the people and what it does not.

Philippine history books will tell us that it was during the presidency of Marcos when the right to communication was mostly suppressed. He ordered a total control of all communication media. There was a wide censorship on all news going to the public. In other words, the people were either given pretense data or they were not given any information at all. The Marcos administration adopted a range of measures that prohibited any dissent move against the government. In essence, he used the media as a tool for his dictatorship. However, his measures were not successful. Suppressing the press and not allowing free information to get into the people eventually became tools for his disposal. Now we understand the sense to what James Garnett tries to tell us, “Sound communication contributes to performance and increases the chances for success, and faulty communication contributes to the likelihood of failure.”

As with anything in this world, modes of communication have gone through significant changes. As mentioned, in the Philippines the first form of administrative communication was the print media; it was followed by the use of the radio which was brought to us by the Americans. Then came televisions, and now we have the Internet and SMS (short messaging services) or text messaging. Not many of us know that text messaging is being used by Philippine departments and agencies to facilitate better and efficient communication services. Agencies and departments are equipped with SMS facilities that hasten different types of services like information access, tax payment services, reporting, posting comments and suggestions, and the list goes on. For instance, the Bureau of Internal Revenue uses the SMS for tax payments and tax collection drives.

But the problem with these new tools of communication is its availability. In the Philippines, there seems to be no problem with text messaging. Aside from the fact that it costs less, nearly all Filipinos have mobile phones. In the Philippines, it is not strange to see a five year old holding a cellphone. Not only that, Filipinos seem to be so enthralled with cellphones that many of us have more than one. Now we understand that mobile phones in the Philippines clearly establish complex networks of connectivity.

How about the Internet? Will the use of the Internet do something better to the administrative communication in the country. Yes, of course. There is no denying that the Internet has done so many wonders in this world of intricacies. But the thing here is, does every Filipino have access to the Internet? The answer: No. However, we do not say that the development of communication in public administration is no sense at all. It does a lot of miracles in fact. If you ask me, the use of the Internet as a tool for administrative communication will be most helpful in the exchange of information between different government and non-government agencies and departments. But the internet as a tool for public communication..as for now, I don’t see it being very effective. Aside from the problem of availability, the big consideration should go to the cost of such service for the citizens living in bucolic places. I think what deserves attention here is recognizing hard-to-reach audiences. The issue is more about reaching them and creating interactive communication with them.

But if we look at things in its general perspective, not minding the situation of some Filipinos, the Internet offers a lot of advantages for better communication in public administration. First on the list, the Internet makes the world such a small place. Now, has that got anything to do with public administration? Certainly yes! Government portals and websites are an easy step for Filipinos all over the world to have a foretaste of what is happening in the country. Since it is published in the world wide web, everybody and I mean everybody can get in touch with the government and send their opinions and views on certain political events. This way, the government can communicate to Filipinos from all parts of the world. Creating government websites for the sharing of information and opinions is in itself public service.

Undeniably, the Internet has remarkably made it easier for Filipinos all over the world to do business with the government.

Another important subject concerns the content of information. Not all information and ideas given to the public are accurate. Information or at times opinions given by public servants or public officials are sometimes misleading and ambiguous. Let us take the case of Raul Gonzales. Being the Justice Secretary gives him the power to be a public communicator. Just a few months ago, he made a statement about the University of the Philippines being a breeding ground for destabilizers and naked runners. Being the justice secretary that he is and a public communicator at that, he has the responsibility for a well-mannered service by being sensitive to people’s feelings and response. Whatever you say and whatever information you tell the public will naturally elicit response. It follows that with every action comes respect to individuals who can read or hear what you say. In the first place, information coming out from officials or public servants is always citizen-centered. In view of what he said, UP students and graduates, even products of UP serving the government are always seen in rallies. This is because the university has taught them to be intelligent and be critical and most importantly to fight for what they believe is right. Expressing themselves is what they believe to be the best for the nation. I think our public servants should keep in mind their responsibility for OBJECTIVE information and not futile opinions. They, of course, have the right to express themselves. Everybody does have. But as a public communicator, as Garnett says, you have to gain and maintain credibility with citizens. In giving out information to the public, a public servant should ensure that institutions in the country are not damaged. Well, the country still considers the University of the Philippines as its premier university. It is true that we cannot stop people from writing, reading, speaking and thinking as they choose. But in public administration that is not always the case. I think further explanations are not needed as to why reliable and right information is a precondition for effective administrative communication. This is an unwritten obligation to the public. Garnett’s argument is an affirmation that incorrect information and misleading opinions can break a society. He argues, “stories have always been an integral means to transmit values and heritage in a society.” Likewise, our government’s present image is shaped either by our own experiences that concern government administration or by everything the media tell us. Does the present image of GMA’s administration need a change? To me, definitely yes! Every controversy she’s been through has added to the nation’s view about her and her administration. What does a Filipino think of our beloved president? There is certainly a multiplicity of possible political views. But if you ask me, a student who is largely affected by whatever policy she makes, I would say her rating is not passing. But I’m still counting on her Medium Term Development Plan. But think about it, doesn’t every president give us such plans which more often than not are not pursued but rather put aside for their own political and economic interests? But because I have high dreams for the Philippines, I’m not losing hope and still believing that someday those plans will be accomplished, if it’s not her maybe some other president far better than her. We are a democratic nation, we say. Therefore, we have the right to be adequately informed about government policies, plans, initiatives and programs. Equally important is our right to be heard, to speak up and voice out our demands and needs that government should provide us with. Simply put, exchanging information and ideas. This is communication in its very definition. Communicating through many channels is indeed helpful in creating an effective partnership between the government and the citizens. Providing information is just the first step. It should be taking into regard citizens’ interests in the formulation of policies and the creation of programs. According to Tapales, in her article Participatory Governance: The Philippine Experience, it was our 1896 experience that taught us about participating in the process of governance. It is only through citizen involvement and participation that we can bring improvements and changes in the government. Administrative communication involves more than taking into consideration the myriad processes, actors and roles. Knowing and understanding the information to be laid down is also equally important. However, what appears to be more vital is the creation of a two-way communication where the government and public sector organizations present information and the citizens in turn raise questions and voice out their preferences. In the Philippines and elsewhere, it is imperative that we participate and respond to our government. For in the first place, no government will ever be effective without people cooperating and participating. Effective administrative communication is much like governance; it should not be unilateral.