Public communication towards the 21st century. Professionalization and new media

Leon stergaard
Danish State Information Service, Denmark

INTRODUCTION

In this paper I wish to present some thoughts we have had in Denmark regarding future public information, ie the communication between public authorities and citizens. I believe that several other countries are in the process of considering - or will shortly begin to consider - this field, and that this work may be of great importance to the use of analyses, surveys, etc in public information work.

As a brief introduction, I am a sociologist by profession. Throughout my career I have worked in public communication within a number of different government departments. I am currently the Director of the Danish State Information Service, which is a small government enterprise with forty-five employees within the Ministry of Research.

The Danish State Information Service has two main tasks: first, we are to help the public authorities communicate well and professionally. To a great extent, this service is provided on market conditions, as we function as a small firm of public relations consultants in free competition with our colleagues in the private sector. Secondly, we are to help citizens find their way around the public authorities if our first main task is not performed sufficiently well! Our services to citizens are free, ie funded by the taxpayers, and they are becoming increasingly based on large databases which are accessible via the Internet.