Print Page

<<Back to 2012 IMs

United States Department of the Interior 
Montana State Office
5001 Southgate Drive
Billings, Montana 59101-4669
December 14, 2011
1120 (MT912) P
Instruction Memorandum No. MT-2012-025
Expires: 9/30/2013
To:             Montana/Dakotas Leadership (MDL) Team
                  Attention: District and Field Managers, Public Affairs Specialists
From:         State Director
Subject:     Effectively Using Communications as a Tool
Program Area: All program areas
Purpose: BLM Montana/Dakotas strives to provide an appropriate and consistent message to all our diverse publics. Our multiple-use mission is complex, and we must be prepared to deliver professional, accurate, and timely responses to address our many issues and inquiries. This instruction memorandum brings awareness to communication tools that can help you proactively and effectively manage public lands resources in the Montana/Dakotas.
Public Outreach: Some form of outreach should be prepared and included when activities impact our external publics and in all but the most routine internal activities. A communications plan – or talking points at a minimum – can help define issues or opportunities, help us to speak in one voice, and point out possible pitfalls. It also provides structure for needed actions and delegates responsibility for achieving them. Communications plans help prepare you for the issues ahead. See Attachment 1 for a communications plan template.
Media Relations:Most people form their impressions of the BLM through the media. Managers should be proactive with the media whenever possible and, while they should never be thought of as friends, constantly strive to build and maintain positive working relationships with them. District/field offices should coordinate through their public affairs specialist (PAS) with the Office of Communications (OC) before responding to statewide or bureauwide issues.
Interviews with reporters should be conducted by the person who is conversant on an issue but not bureaucratic; friendly, open, and candid; and can forthrightly deliver key messages, explain
our work/actions, and correct or clarify misinformation without sounding defensive. A PAS or manager can act as a third party supporting the employee being interviewed in the event of misquotes, or off-subject or loaded questions. He/she can also guide the interview in a favorable direction, or supply additional information that may have been overlooked. Pre-interview advice and media liaison training is also available from OC.
When social media, an opinion-editorial, or letter to the editor is considered, district/field offices should coordinate the proposed message with their PAS or OC to ensure consistency with state and national bureau policy, and to avoid conflict with other BLM actions occurring elsewhere in our three-state area.
Inquiries received from the news media should be coordinated as follows:

District and field offices: Realize that in today’s real-time environment, media deadlines have never been shorter. To better prepare for an inquiry, district/field managers are encouraged to include the district PAS in all written and verbal communications as appropriate to ensure an awareness of the issues at hand. Unless the district/field manager directs otherwise, coordinate a response with the district PAS and appropriate managers and program leads to ensure an accurate, timely, and appropriate response.

Montana State Office and BiFO: Coordinate with the OC staff.
Report all media contacts to your district public affairs specialist and/or the OC chief using the following format:
Publish date:
Balanced or biased position:           
Congressional Relations: District/field managers are encouraged to establish good working relationships with congressional staffs in our region. This includes providing them with advance briefings on major issues, including current planning initiatives. District/field offices should inform OC and their PAS about any contacts planned or made with the Montana, North Dakota, or South Dakota congressional delegations about any matters beyond routine constituent inquiries. District/field offices receiving these kinds of inquiries should respond directly to the member or constituent as requested and send copies of the incoming and response to OC. OC will coordinate responses to congressional inquiries that are addressed to the state director after
consultation with district/field offices or program leads. The intent is to coordinate responses so that our message is consistent and reflects a statewide or bureauwide position. For further guidance on working with congressionals, see IM No. 2010-029.
News Releases: District/field office news releases (with the exception of wildland fire-related) must be sent through OC for approval by the Washington office (WO) public affairs division chief. Prior to issuing, news releases will include the appropriate graphic header and BLM standard closing paragraph. The state webmaster is to receive a copy of all news releases for posting on our website, and all news releases issued from the state office are e-mailed to the MDL.
News Clips: Each field office is responsible for monitoring the media in its area. Any item that may be of interest to the BLM and is not available online should be scanned and sent to OC as soon as possible. Clips from magazines and professional journals are also welcome for inclusion in the daily news clips. OC will compile the clips, distribute by e-mail, and also post them on our internal home page at http://web.mt.blm.gov/staff/Websters/SD/ea/web.clips/index.htm
Federal Register Notices: District PASs are available to assist staff in the development of Federal Register notices and are responsible for reviewing notices for proper format prior to the surnaming process. Once surnamed, notices must be sent through OC to either the WO or the Federal Register, which is determined by their status as non-exempt or exempt. More information is available about processing Federal Register notices at http://web.blm.gov/internal/wo-600/610/documents/federalregister.htm. Those who develop and process Federal Register notices are encouraged to take the training available on DOI Learn.
Monthly Public Affairs Conference Call: At 9 a.m., the first Wednesday of every month, OC conducts conference calls with the district PASs to discuss current events and exchange information relevant to public affairs. PASs should make every effort to attend each call, and district/field managers are welcome to participate. On occasions when a conflict exists for use of the video conference equipment, the meeting will be conducted via telephone.
Weekly Report: This report summarizes upcoming events and is widely read and distributed in the WO, as well as at the department and White House levels. This product is an easy and convenient way to bring awareness to your initiatives and communicate on need-to-know critical issues. Submissions should include information on significant events at least nine days before they occur. Submit your weekly highlights to OC, which will in turn forward the information to the WO by close of business on Thursdays. As with all communication materials sent to OC, the appropriate program lead and manager approvals should have been obtained prior to submission. Detailed guidance can be viewed at http://web.blm.gov/internal/wo-600/610/documents/weeklyreport.htm. The latest report is posted on our internal home page at http://web.blm.gov/internal/wo-600/610/weekly_reports/.
Quarterly Steward: OC coordinates the production and distribution of the Quarterly Steward newsletter, which is posted online and also printed for external distribution. Features formerly
found in the NoteWorthy News are now showcased on the internal home page at http://web.mt.blm.gov/. All BLM employees are invited to share your stories and should coordinate with your district PAS or OC to do so.
Briefing Papers: OC currently calls for updates to briefing papers every six months, then compiles, posts online, prints, and distributes a briefing book. In the future, this product will transition to a web-based format only, where individual briefing papers are easily updated as needed (view latest versions at http://www.blm.gov/mt/st/en/info/newsroom.2.html.
Annual Report: At the end of each calendar year, OC calls for statistics from the previous fiscal year. The most frequently requested data is compiled, printed, and distributed as an informational handout (view online at http://www.blm.gov/mt/st/en/info/newsroom.2.html).
Templates: Templates for briefing papers, early alerts, scheduling requests, business cards, Powerpoint presentations, etc. can be found on the WO public affairs web site at http://web.blm.gov/internal/wo-600/610/index.html. BLM design standards and downloads are available at http://web.blm.gov/internal/wo-600/610/design_standards/index.html.
Photographs: Your PAS and the state printing specialist have access privileges to the BLM photo library. Take a moment to share with them quality, high-resolution photos (with metadata) for uploading to the library. What better way to bring awareness to the Montana/Dakotas? When taking photos of minors, please use the model release form (Attachment 2).
Timeframe: Immediately
Budget Impact: Minimal
Background: OC welcomes and encourages division requests for support, as well as from district/field offices should your district PAS be unavailable. See Attachment 3 for a list of OC staff duties and areas of support, and learn more about available communication services at http://web.mt.blm.gov/staff/Websters/SD/oc_handout_101311.pdf. Remember, OC staff is currently required to process Facebook postings on your behalf and can now assist you with videos and other new media opportunities. OC staff can also help create printed materials, graphics, and PowerPoint presentations. Finally, our web content should constantly be updated to be effective, so contact OC now to talk about expanding your online information.
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: None
Coordination: This IM was coordinated with the MSO Office of Communications and the State Leadership Team.
Contact: Melodie A. Lloyd, Chief, Office of Communications (406) 896-5260

Signed by:                                                                   Authenticated by:
Jamie E. Connell                                                         Ann Boucher (MT912)
3 Attachments
            1 – Communications Plan Template
            2 – Model Release Form
            3 – OC Staff Duties and Areas of Support

Last updated: 06-28-2012