Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Future of New Media (In Government) - In 20 Quick Hits

This week I gave a talk for the Potomac Forum on the Future of New Media. We ended up covering some classic ground so maybe we should just think of this as a moment in time.

Most of the clips are to a YouTube playlist with clips from the event.

1. Openness is an attitude not just the content of what one shares. Government communication needs to open up in order to be more engaging, and get away from the traditional idea that to be "proper" and "dignified" we should be boring.

2. Boring communication doesn't get read. The marketing communication model is better. Your goal is to get the customer's interest directed at what you want to say. The only way to do that is to be engaging.

3. Accept that great communication generates flak. You either need a lot of courage or a great corporate culture to support it.

4. The taxpayer is the customer. If we're serving the public, communication should never be seen as a burden. The insecurity of private sector jobs also instills a sense of urgency. We can learn from that.

5. Everyone loves to poke fun at the government or point out its mistakes. We still have to pay attention to their feedback. More than that, we have to understand that we are talking to a cynical audience.

6. Solutions to communication problems (and all organizational problems) are best generated organically, through group interaction, not by a single figurehead.

7. One of the best things about the federal government is how we help each other. We ask, who's doing it well, and then we copy that. The Coast Guard Public Affairs Manual is awesome. If you don't know what to do, just use that.

8. It's a great time to be in social media in the federal government. It's considered serious business, at the highest levels - i.e. White House. And the people who support it are top-notch. It's something I really appreciate.

9. Social media is inherently experimental; "we build the plane as we fly it in the air."

10. Frustration and the founding of Govloop (and Young Government Leaders). (at 1:45)

11. Social media is a rapid conversation and you have to answer with what you know at the time. Be careful, because they'll challenge you on the most minute details of what you've said as you responded rapidly.

12. In terms of the social media approval process, mainstream agency culture is still cumbersome, archaic and you'll get in huge trouble if you issue any public communication that's not approved. It'll get easier eventually, but in the meantime it's challenging to live with.

13. I'd rather talk about fixing management problems through technology than argue public affairs strategy, or try to move things forward through hot-button words like branding or innovation.

14. At the end of the day, "social media" just means talking to people.

15. I'm not a huge fan of agency initiatives that try to unify at the highest levels, e.g. "One" (insert name of agency). People relate better to a small group of colleagues.

16. Citizens want to interact with federal employees, and that's the kind of energy that belongs in social media - either responding to criticism or telling people what is offered. Bureaucratic clearance processes hamper that natural energy.

17. We in government communication could learn from "America's Got Talent," reacting immediately when our outreach results in the figurative "big red X."

18. It's important to explain how you made a decision, not just that you made a decision.

19. Government social media best practice and private sector best practice is the same thing. We just have to hold ourselves to the same metrics.

20. Government employees should be proud - because we are excellent.

* All opinions my own.