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Federal Communicators Network


Federal Communicators Network

The Federal Communicators Network is committed to sharing best practices in communication. Our goal is to help government communicators achieve excellence.

Members: 195
Latest Activity: Aug 18

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Discussion Forum

New on the FCN blog - FCN member survey results

Started by Britt Ehrhardt. Last reply by David B. Grinberg Aug 5. 1 Reply

FCN Blog - Recent Headlines

Makeup of the Federal Communicators Network: Tap into a Wealth of Knowledge and Experience

Posted by: Debra Harris, FCN Leadership Team and Public Affairs Specialist at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service

Digital content management, that’s what 25% of FCN members do as their primary job function. Publishing website content, social media posts and email marketing are tasks that require members to stay abreast of the latest trends in the digital world. FCN regularly hosts training events and socials as a means to help individuals grow in these areas.

We also have members writing and editing, working with media and creating both internal and external communications for their agency. Earlier this year, 115 members answered survey questions aimed at providing the leadership team insight into the demographics of the group.

FCN is made up of employees from 54 federal agencies. Health and Human Services, General Services Administration, the US Geological Survey, Defense Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice and the Department of Veterans Affairs to name a few.

We have members scattered throughout the United States in Seattle, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Louisville. But it’s no surprise that the majority of our members reside in the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia area.

Our listserv is the primary means for members to reach out and share knowledge, ask questions and engage in the community. 30% of our members have more than 20 years experience working in communications. Another 42% have between 10-20 years in the field. That’s a wealth of knowledge to tap into!

The leadership team learned that a majority of our members get FCN news from the weekly newsletter via the listserv. We have more than 1,500 Twitter followers and over 380 LinkedIn members getting our news also.

If you aren’t already reading our blog site, bookmark it to stay informed of upcoming events. There is never a cost to attend and membership is free. We’ll continue to bring training on social media, metrics, plain language and video producing as requested.

If you've missed our previous trainings, catch up with archived recordings and slides here.

Google Hangout Tech Tips

Posted by: Britt Ehrhardt, FCN Co-Chair and Technical Writer/Editor at the National Institutes of Health

The Federal Communicators Network held its first ever Google Hangout On Air last month. Members of the media joined experienced agency public affairs staffers for a candid panel discussion of relationships between the media and government communicators.

If you missed the event, find the recording on YouTube:

Here are a few technical lessons we learned from trying out Google Hangout:

1. Event Page design - You’ll need a photo/image with the right dimensions for the Event page. Google requires an image that is at least 1200 pixels wide and 300 pixels tall to serve as the banner, or “theme,” for the page. That banner should prominently include the time of the event and the name of your organization, as Event pages do not make this information as prominent as you might like. I made our banner in Paint with an image from the internet. (If you follow suit, be sure you use an image that is copyright-free or whose copyright allows this kind of use, as I did.)

2. Audio - Rather than use any of the in-Hangout apps to control audio, I simply asked our panel to mute themselves as they listened to others, unmuting only when they wanted to speak. (In Google Hangout, of course, the video features whoever is making noise, so coughs and other noises are a visual distraction, as well as an audial one.) We were happy with how this self-muting worked out. It had the advantage of allowing for free-flowing conversation. Our panel members could jump in and out of the discussion as they wanted, rather than waiting for a cue from a producer. Participants wore headphones, to avoid feedback.

3. Testing and prep - To test connections and lighting with participants in advance, I set up separate test Hangouts. This was a great opportunity for everyone to familiarize themselves with the technology, and to practice muting and unmuting. It also ensured that the necessary browser plugin was installed on everyone’s machine. When the tests were complete, we quickly deleted the Events and the YouTube video associated with the test. Google automatically generates a YouTube video for any Hangout On Air that goes live, so be sure you delete tests you don’t want public.

4. In-Hangout apps – I used both the Chat app and the Q&A app for our Hangout On Air, and we really liked both of them.

·         The Chat app is available within all Hangouts On Air, and it allows the panelists and producer to communicate privately with each other. “Hey, let’s answer that question next,” and that sort of thing. Gives participants a lifeline in case something goes wrong, as well.
·         The Q&A app needs to be enabled from the Event page, before you start the Google Hangout. It allows viewers to write in with questions throughout the event. Both panelists and viewers could see the questions as they came in on the side of the screen. (The producer can also delete questions, if necessary.) As our panelists addressed each question in turn, I marked the question we were currently answering so that it was highlighted toward the top of the screen. This data is added to the YouTube recording as well, to help people watching there understand what we were discussing, and when.

5. Internet connection - And finally, wireless connections really are not acceptable for video broadcast. (You might say, “well, duh!” But, we had to learn this for ourselves.) Even if the wireless at the location is great and fast, it just won’t work for Google Hangout. Insist that your participants connect on a hard-wired connection only.

There were plenty of other technical details and lessons learned—far too many to include in a blog post—but these are my quick highlights.
Did you watch our Google Hangout? Should we have another training event on Google Hangout in the future? Anything we could do better or different next time? Let me know by commenting below.


Evaluating Digital Communication: An International Incident

By David Hebert, Chief of Internal and Audiovisual Communications at the U.S. Geological Survey, FCN Co-Chair

Are you measuring Twitter followers and press release downloads without any clue as to what people are doing with your agency’s products and information? Or do you not even know what to measure, never mind whether that measurement would be meaningful?
Fear not, fair government communicator—there is hope! On May 15, top government communication measurement experts from the U.S., U.K., and Canada presented on Evaluating the Effectiveness of Government Digital Communicationsvia DigitalGov University. A video recording of the event is available:

This international measurement extravaganza, sponsored by the Federal Communicators Network in the U.S., the Government Communications Service in the U.K., and the Communications Community Office in Canada, featured on-point experts and great conversation. Here’s a taste:

Meet People Where They Are

One way to ensure your communications efforts are effective is to determine what kinds of devices your audiences are receiving them on, said Miguel Gomez, Director of More than half of the traffic to comes via mobile devices, so Miguel and his team have not only employed responsive design so content displays well on users’ phones and tablets, but they have created content inherently useful on mobile, such as locations of HIV testing facilities in whatever area a person happens to be looking.
Miguel also stressed the importance of not being distracted by shiny things: When a communications need arises, determine your audiences, objectives, and strategy first. Only after you’ve established those do you talk about tools and tech. You can view Miguel’s slides.

Get in the Right Frame of Mind

Paul Njoku, Evaluation Lead for the U.K. Government Communication Service and Head of Communication Strategy and Business Planning for the U.K. Tax Authority, laid out common boundaries to good evaluation: lack of smart or realistic objectives, insufficient time and money, and difficulty in getting the right tools and data, among other issues.
He then blew most of those excuses away with some examples of how the U.K. government is standardizing measurement to show how communication is supporting business objectives. In addition to key deliverables driving this initiative, he shared a concept designed to help communicators frame out their evaluation efforts called the Big IDIA:
● Identify the scope of your project
● Develop your evaluation plan
● Implement by gathering data to measure performance
● Analyze & report performance against the plan
Paul was joined in London by his colleague, Elayne Phillips, Head of Horizon Scanning and Planning at the U.K. Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She laid out the industry best-practices, including the well-established Barcelona Principles, that should underlay any digital measurement effort. She stressed the importance of not measuring outputs—how many did we produce?—but focusing instead on outcomes—what action did our intended audience take?
Elayne also noted that when you’re presenting measurement to your leadership and others, you don’t need to drown them in data; instead use the data to paint them picture of meaning. You can also view Paul and Elayne‘s slides.

Deliver the Goods

When you know who you want to reach and how to do it, you’re ready to bring them the kinds of services and information that meet their needs. Karine Goneau-Lessard, Acting Director Marketing Division, Health Canada, and Lori Fraser, Acting Chief of Marketing for Healthy Canadians social media, Health Canada, showed us how their organization does that very thing through thoughtful measurement and use of tools.
Lori broke down distinctions between key useful and useless performance indicators related to goals (for example, measure engagement to determine increased conversation, not the size of your fan base), as well as the difference metrics—the measures themselves—and analytics—making meaning of the measures.
She also emphasized both the need for consistent use of social tools when reaching out to citizens, as well as the need to look beyond social to other forms of audience feedback, reminding attendees that social tools are a means, not an end.
If one thing (besides great accents) rang loud and clear through these presentations, it was this: Government really can deliver world class service through world class evaluation. You can also view Karine’s slides.
This blog post was originally posted on DigitalGov.Gov on June 4, 2014. 

Comment Wall


You need to be a member of Federal Communicators Network to add comments!

Comment by Sandy Evans Levine on May 30, 2013 at 10:48am

Is sequestration impacting your organization? Hope these suggestions around communications outreach regarding sequestration are helpful...


Comment by Peg Hosky on April 2, 2013 at 5:54pm

Join FedInsider, National Association of Government Communicators, and Adobe for a series of webinars for government communicators. 

You and your colleagues are invited to join us for a series of webinars focused on complying with government mandates for delivering digital content for   citizen engagement. The series continues from April 16 to June 11 and is complimentary.


  Distinguished presenters for each topic will include the   most experienced thought-leaders from agencies and industry.


  Register for one or all sessions:


  Presented by FedInsider News and Adobe as part of this best practices series, these one-hour sessions provide government with an introduction to the current policies, trends, executive orders and technology for establishing an interactive dialogue and effective online collaboration with groups, members, and constituencies.


  Next Webinar:   Tuesday, April 16, 2013

  Webinar Time:  2:00 PM to 3:00 PM ET


  Series details and registration:


  Topics covered include:

  - Improving agency processes and workflows

  - Social knowledge management to foster online communities/engagement

  - Protecting digital content

  - Developing insights from user analytics

  - Beyond digitizing: optimizing technical publications


  RSVP for this complimentary webinar series:


  Hope to meet you online!


  Peg Hosky



  Phone:  202-237-0300


  FedInsider News

  3811 Massachusetts Avenue NW

  Washington DC 20016


  About FedInsider News: Since its launch in 2007, FedInsider has given voice to managers and thought leaders throughout government. FedInsider provides analysis of news covering a broad range of management fields including acquisition, technology, finance, and human capital. Website:



Comment by Dannielle Blumenthal on December 13, 2012 at 9:56pm

Guide to FCN Activities now available. Incoming Board announcement coming soon. 

Comment by Erin Duggins on October 29, 2012 at 4:16pm

Does anyone know about a technology that has the capability to enable virtual group discussions?  My agency is global and it would be great to have a technology that can facilitate group discussions without having to fly people to one place.

Comment by Erin Duggins on October 16, 2012 at 3:17pm

What are some of the new and innovative ways that your agencies share messages with and increase collaboration among an increasingly younger workforce?  And what methods are you using to promote adoption not only with younger staff, but with more seasoned staff as well?  Thoughts?

Comment by Steve Cottle on October 15, 2012 at 4:58pm

Do you have a comprehensive communications plan? Andy provides his recent presentation with the The 7 P's you should consider in developing one:

Comment by Jeff Brooke on October 4, 2012 at 7:44am

Frustratec at OMB's approval process for conducting external surveys? Good news!

OBM's "Fast-Track" program reportedly takes five days! has a great resource section called How to Collect Customer Feedback.  

And always remember, you don't need OMB approval to conduct surveys or other feedback instruments within your agency. It's only needed for external feedback.

Comment by Steve Cottle on August 16, 2012 at 8:48am

David shares ten tips for conducting media interviews:

Comment by Sandy Evans Levine on July 30, 2012 at 1:42pm

Immediate opening for a Public Relations Account Exec in DC/Maryland area!

We're looking to hire a dynamic PR account exec, who's great at working with and pitching media, and a strong writer. If you're self-motivated and you'd like to work in a high energy IT Government boutique PR firm, please send me your resume:

Comment by Dannielle Blumenthal on July 28, 2012 at 11:55am

Federal communicators and the media: What's your take?

(Federal communicators and federal agency contractors, please visit our group on LinkedIn:


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