Developing Government’s Human Voice

I recently guest posted on Jennifer Leggio’s (@Mediaphyter) blog on ZDNet. The topic is about focusing on creating a government that is more human and is focused on relationship building instead of just data and platforms. I’m interested in your feedback so don’t be shy!

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Good read. I like the idea regarding relationships. I think both companies and government struggle with forming real relationships. It is easier to write pr speak and common scripts but the only way to get real trut and buy in from people is to speak on a real way. It is interesting to think that sometimes the smaller institutions like small business or local government are actually better at this as they interact directly with people and are not bogged down by rules and standard procedures.

Christoph Berendes

I’m in full agreement about the value of focussing on relationships. Given your experience with Public Diplomacy at State, I’d expect that you have some great stories about how your group identified key relationships, worked to infuse the human voice of government, and rethought the what and how of your mission(s).

Please share.

Lovisa Williams

Public Diplomacy has always been about building relationships. All relationships are built on trust. I think social media provides us with some unique opportunities to extend current relationships and begin to engage people we may never have had the opportunity to engage in the past. To answer your question, yes we are looking at how we do business not just what technologies we use. We are looking at what is the core pieces of Public Diplomacy and how do we need to change to better achieve these objectives. One of the things we are doing is starting to empower our people on the ground. They have the language and cultural expertise. Not to mention they also may have a face to face relationship built with people in the local communities. We want to better empower these people to make decisions on how to talk about strategic policy objectives and tell us in Washington what is needed to get the job done. We are also exploring how to move to a flatter organization with more trust being instilled to middle level and lower level employees. This is not a comfortable position for Government and will take time. But I think the investment and the honest introspection will serve us well in the future.

Christoph Berendes

Thanks, Lovisa. Could you add specifics regarding say some of the relationships PD has focussed on, how you might empower people on the ground? I suspect this gets too close to the work in progress, but it would be interesting and helpful for others wrestling with similar questions.

Sydney Smith-Heimbrock

Lovisa, this is very good stuff – and part of my dissertation research! I am looking at the skills federal managers need in order to govern by network — and key among those is the recognition that relationships are the key to building networks — and the ability to develop strong relationships not just between the manager and his/her network partners — but also among other network actors (some of whom may not see the need for relationship). I’d love to include in my study you and any colleagues of yours working on the same area. This would require taking a brief (15 min) survey on the skills you believe are needed, and how you define your role as a federal manager. Let me know if you’re interested and how to contact you.

Lovisa Williams

@Sydney, yes we would be happy to help you out. We have at least a half a dozen people who would be able to provide you with some feedback. Please email me at [email protected]. Thank you.

@Christoph I am checking to see what I can post here that would be helpful. I hope to post something later tonight. I haven’t forgotten.

John Moore

Lovisa, If possible I would love to learn more about the approaches you have seen in this area, what has worked, what has failed. Could you chat and share information for me to share with my blog readers?


Stephen F Murphy

We operate large contact centers for the Federal government and have hundreds of conversations with people daily, people with real problems, family issues, no insurance, violence, and drug abuse. We collect large volumes of data that helps inform government about programs, but we are also subject to privacy regulations, many of the well warranted due to the nature of the work we do. But these same privacy regulations also shut off our ability to build a range of relationships even with organizations that regularly seek out our services. As I often say, what price privacy in an age of follow me?