How PR can bridge the trust gap between the government and the public

Our latest PR Profiles guest, Duyen “Jen” Truong, has had a long and successful PR career: she’s received awards for her leadership and client campaigns, including being among PR News’ Top Women in PR in 2019; she’s spent over 16 years at Sage Communications and is now Senior Vice President, PR Operations.

An important aspect of her impressive career has been mentoring women and rising professionals at Sage and beyond. “I have the great privilege of building on what others before me have put down in the way of overcoming barriers,” says Duyen. “One of the things I really have enjoyed the last few years is putting the spotlight on women doing amazing work in the community on top of their daily jobs.” Duyen has successfully nominated several women for the March of Dimes Heroines of Washington. “There’s no limit as to what you can do in helping others. I’m only where I am because I’ve gotten help.”

One of the reasons Duyen got into PR was because of a friend. Originally studying chemical engineering at the University of Texas, Duyen wasn’t enjoying her classes—but she was enjoying her extracurricular activities which included volunteering with the Texas Union Council where she helped plan fundraisers and community events. This, and a life-altering experience with cancer, prompted Duyen to reconsider what she wanted to do with her career. “A fellow council member turned me to PR,” says Duyen. “I had no idea that it was a viable field and what it entailed, but changing course was the best decision that I ever made. Every day, I get to indulge my curiosity about science and technology. I’m not too far from the engineering field, because I’m fortunate to work with clever engineering, business and scientific minds.”

This curiosity serves her well as she works with her clients in the public sector—a sector she thinks is misunderstood by many PR professionals. “The federal government is known as Fortune 1,” says Duyen. “It has the buying power that eclipses all other enterprises out there and it operates in vastly different ways. It’s unique in everything from how government buys to who’s involved in the buying decisions, what companies can sell products and services, and the standards, policies, ethics, and rules that govern that space differ vastly from the commercial market.”

PR and marketing decisions made based on the assumption that the government is like the commercial market can be costly to a brand’s reputation—and with government trust at an all-time low, PR needs to bridge these gaps in perception, not widen them. “PR can help by educating people about the critical role that government plays in our lives, in the economy, and society,” says Duyen. “Every billion-dollar company that exists out there is likely formed on an innovation that was made possible by government funding. Take the internet, robots, self-driving cars, weather detecting radar, genetic tracing, MRI, intelligent voice assistants, baby formula, GPS, the Digital Library Initiative (which later became Google), and touch screens.”

Duyen adds that, “Despite what people may feel about politics, the business of government—the ways in which government runs things and keeps things moving forward—requires a partnership with industry. And so that’s where our [PR’s] role comes in, really helping companies and organizations tell that story about how they’re helping government advance their mission and in turn, really delivering on the promise to the American people. The vibrant, mission-driven public sector as a viable career path for both rising and seasoned PR professionals.”

For all of Duyen’s insights, watch or listen to the full interview as a podcast or on the Agility PR Solutions YouTube channel.