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CHAPTER THREE



Strategic Communications



Leaders of child protection agencies must
steer their organizations through an increasingly competitive and collaborative
environment. For many years, these organizations’ direction was largely set by
public mandates. Though never static, their worlds had a certain level of
predetermination. In recent years, dramatic changes have transformed most all
areas of agency operations. Budgets have to be sustainable, services must be
cost-effective, technology has altered every facet of service delivery, and
competitors arise from unlikely quarters including for profit businesses. The
demand for partnering and collaborating has shattered the concept of a
self-directed organization. Stakeholders want to see results in black and white
and all of this has transpired under a new and much more intense media
scrutiny.


An essential new skill required of all
leaders in the child protection arena is the ability to strategically
communicate with a wide variety of audiences. To be even minimally effective,
leaders must be able to:


·      
Clearly
articulate the value they create.


·      
Influence
key stakeholders to grant the authority and resources they must have.


·      
Assure
the internal and external capacity required to accomplish their mission,
including increasing the safety of children.


Successful leaders must, of course,
communicate skillfully on a macro level, providing information on general
policies and procedures as well as aggregate data demonstrating need and
accountability. Concurrently, they must communicate on a micro level, assuring
individual stakeholders that the agency and staff are continuously doing the
right things right, the first time, on time, every time, one child at a time.
What’s more, communication must, at both levels, be accurate, thorough,
responsive, and dependable in order to develop the levels of trust required to
sustain effective strategic communications over time.


To achieve these communication goals,
leadership must be externally oriented, mission focused, and opportunity
seeking. The leader must be willing to take the lid off of the organization,
allow stakeholders to peer in, and freely interpret what they see. This
requires openness and honesty in all facets of communication. Stakeholders are
encouraged to examine the agency from every angle, assess its effectiveness,
and decide for themselves whether it is operating in an efficient manner. The
external environment demands this openness and accountability from its public
agencies and effective leaders demand it of themselves.





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