This course provides an introduction and best practices for public agency field staff interacting with public stakeholders in a variety of contexts. The course clarifies staff roles and responsibilities regarding public communications, identifies best practices, and addresses a variety of public communication scenarios, conditions, and environments. Interactions experienced by public agency field staff may range from straightforward information exchanges to more complex interactions which may require additional research and follow-up. The course addresses proper conduct when approached for media inquiries, off-duty communications, and a subset of public interactions which involve residents and property owners who are concerned, agitated, or potentially aggressive. The course emphasizes staff responsibilities, behavior, safety, and wellbeing.
This course will provide agency staff with foundational knowledge and best practices for communicating with a range of public stakeholders in a variety of contexts. After taking the course, staff will have gained an understanding of professional procedures for providing responsive, safe, and effective public service delivery. Course participants will learn the responsibilities of serving as a public employee and the public expectations of public agencies and staff. Public communications tools and procedures include a variety of contexts, including simple inquiries, complex interactions, media inquiries, and off-duty communications. Participants will be provided general rules of thumb and guided through a range of scenarios which describe a variety of situations and appropriate accompanying responses and actions. Emphasis is placed on staff behavior, staff safety, and participants understanding their own agencies’ individual policies and procedures regarding public communications.
The six-module course covers the following topics:
- Introduction to Representing a Public Agency
Provides an introduction to the roles, responsibility, and meaning of being a frontline public employee. Clarifies the public agency and staff relationship to the public and the staff role as “face” of the public agency. Emphasizes the importance of understanding individual agency policies, organizational unity, and preserving the chain of communication.
- Common Scenarios
Reviews a broad range of scenarios in varying contexts in which a public agency field staff is approached by a member of the public for various reasons and concerns. Scenarios are accompanied by an explanation of the appropriate staff response.
- Field Interactions: Simple Inquiries
Provides an overview of best practices for how public agency staff may respond to public inquiries. Emphasis is placed on understanding each agency’s individual public information policies, behaving in a courteous and professional manner, and “closing the loop” to ensure satisfactory follow-up.
- Field Interactions: Complex Situations
Provides a foundation for handling interactions which involve members of the public behaving unpredictably, including expressing frustration, agitation, and hostility. Course materials emphasize maintaining staff safety and professional demeaner. Includes a review of de-escalation techniques.
- Avoiding Physical Confrontation
Further explores de-escalation techniques and self-preservation methods. Reviews non-verbal and verbal behaviors and emphasizes staff safety.
- Conclusion / Key Takeaways
Reinforces major course concepts including public agency staff responsibilities, public expectations, and general best practices.
Who Should Take This Course
The intended course audience is public agency staff, including permanent, seasonal, and temporary maintenance, technicians, and utility staff. The course may be used as a resource for staff transitioning to an Engineering Technician role. Course concepts include the fundamentals of what it means to represent a public agency, public expectations, and best practices for handling the range of different public interactions that frontline public agency staff may encounter while in the field.
Accessing the Course
This training is offered via the course management system Canvas. Upon completing your online registration, you will receive an email confirmation. To access the course, please visit Canvas and login with your University of Minnesota internet ID and password. Once you have been enrolled, your course will appear on your Canvas dashboard.
If for any reason you do not have access to the course after enrolling, please contact Katherine Stanley at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Because it's built using web standards, Canvas runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, or any other device with a modern web browser. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer work best for this course.
Students will earn 1.0 Roads Scholar Program Civil Certificate credit. To receive credit, please email your Certificate of Completion (received in Canvas upon course completion) to email@example.com.
This course is sponsored by the Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) at the University of Minnesota. Minnesota LTAP is sponsored by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board (LRRB) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
Course curriculum was developed and compiled by SRF Consulting Group, Inc. in conjunction with a technical advisory panel of Minnesota local agency experts.