New Partnership network helps federal communicators share agency success stories
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New Partnership network helps federal communicators share agency success stories

February 7, 2024

Donna Garland, chair of the Partnership’s PAO Roundtable; deputy associate administrator for communication and marketing, General Services Administration.

In January 2024, Donna Garland, a senior communications leader at the General Services Administration, became chair of the Partnership for Public Service’s Public Affairs Officers Roundtable.

The roundtable, one of more than a dozen federal networks organized by the Partnership, works to rebuild trust in government by providing a space for federal communicators to share best practices for communicating their agencies’ impact on the public.  

In a recent interview, Garland talked about her work in federal communications, why she joined the roundtable and what she has learned as a result. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.  

Describe your background in federal service.  

I just celebrated my 30-year anniversary in government. Before that, I worked in the private and social sectors for organizations such as Hallmark, the Children’s Defense Fund and the Urban League. I relish the challenge of promoting agency messages in a polarized world. Career civil servants bring continuity to government, and we don’t talk enough about the value and impact of that stability. 

Why did you join the PAO Roundtable? 

I was familiar with the Partnership and appreciated its work in the communications space. When I was with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several of our employees were honored at the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals® program, and we have always recognized Public Service Recognition Week as an important internal communications opportunity at GSA.  

How have you applied what you learned in the roundtable to your work? 

The ability to collaborate and share insights has been invaluable. During one of its first meetings, the roundtable brought in best-selling author Michael Lewis, and I was able to use some of his perspectives on storytelling around public servants in meetings with GSA leadership. During another meeting, a colleague from the Smithsonian shared that she encouraged staff to reuse content five times in five different ways. I’ve carried that lesson to GSA, where we have a small team that is always creating things. It was a great lesson about maximizing limited resources as part of a communications strategy.      

Why should other federal communicators join the roundtable? 

It creates a safe space for federal communicators to learn from people at different agencies, providing an equitable and accessible space for conversation, and offers a reality check on what’s happening in the federal communications space. 

Learn more about the PAO Roundtable and our efforts to rebuild trust in government

Featured image: Donna Garland at the Partnership’s first annual Trust Summit.

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