It's been a year since the department began implementing its new media policy regarding journalists' access to embargoed financial statistics. Are all parties happy with the policy changes?
It was a tough road, but we've reached a very good place. Change is never easy, especially big changes. It took a lot of hard work and back and forth, and despite some tense moments, we reached a consensus.
Here's an example: we suggested journalists use government-owned computers in our press room when covering embargoed economic indicators. The journalists balked, but they came up with a counter solution that met our security concerns and in the end was better for all of us. Once everyone understood everyone else's needs and goals, the process got easier and we made it happen.
Why was this change made? Are further changes in the works?
Our processes for releasing sensitive economic data in an embargoed environment were simply outdated.
There has always been intense competition among media outlets to provide our economic data to the public and to investors. But that competition now extends to providing raw data to subscribers trading on it through algorithms. We heard concerns about early releases from federal law enforcement and competing media outlets.
As we updated our policies and procedures for what are called media lock-ups, we tried to strike a difficult balance: contributing to an informed public debate by releasing the economic data in a timely fashion, and making sure no one got a jump on it.
A few years ago, a few seconds wouldn't be a big deal. Today, a fraction of a second could mean millions of dollars in market movement. Advances in technology will dictate what we do next. We have to keep up with the pace.
What PR tactics were used to spread the word?
At the beginning, we tried hard not to make the policy change a news story. In hindsight, that was naive of us.
Building trust and relationships are key. People tend to forget that one-on-one work is a crucial PR tactic. So I spent a lot of time briefing congressional staff, talking to news executives and journalism advocates, and I spent twice as much time listening.
Follow-up was a critical component. I answered every email and took every phone call.