GAO: Improving U.S. Image is Top Priority

by Steven R. Corman

The GAO has just released a report on the 2009 Congressional and Presidential Transition.  Number five on the hit parade of urgent issues is improving he U.S image abroad (good beat, but it’s kind of hard to dance to).

The GAO says that to accomplish this, policy makers must

  • “improve their strategic planning, coordination, and performance measurement efforts;”
  • “enhance the substance and sharing of government audience research efforts; and”
  • “address a range of human capital challenges that include developing an overseas workforce with requisite language capabilities.”

The emphasis on this issue is spot-on, though I might bump it up a notch or two on the priority list.  I also endorse the concern about human capital challenges, which are in no small measure related to budget challenges.

I am disappointed in ths other two recommendations, though.  The are all about how we gather information about the audience and organize ourselves.  They say nothing about how messages about us interact with audiences to create our image, i.e. where the rubber meets the road.

The GAO should have recommended that the government extricate itself from 20th century thinking about strategic communication.  Instead it recommends that we redouble efforts to implement that tired old model, which has served us so poorly in recentl years.