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.
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.
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?
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 AIDS.gov
. More than half of the traffic to AIDS.gov 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
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.