Enhancing Your Agency’s Digital Strategy

Enhancing your agency’s digital communications strategy can be difficult, but don’t lose hope! You can do it!

That was the sentiment expressed by a panel this afternoon at the NextGen conference. Amanda Eamich of USDA, Tim Fullerton of the Department of Interior, and Elizabeth Hochberg, a lawyer with GSA gave advice and insight about updating your agency’s communications strategy for the 21st century.

Moderator Joseph Porcelli of GovDelivery kicked things off by asking a common question: What do you say to those who think government social media is a waste of tax dollars?

Fullerton explained that one of his biggest challenges has to do with the fact that many members of the public don’t know that the Department of Interior even does. He said his agency uses a variety of social media platforms, such as Tumblr and Instagram, to help taxpayers understand how, exactly, the department is spending their money. There is a lot of money in tourism, so Fullerton uses Interior’s Tumblr and Instagram accounts to let Americans and international tourists know about public lands. Simply getting the word out about national parks, wildlife refuges, and other taxpayer-maintained lands does manifest itself as real dollars when families, both here and abroad, plan their vacations.

But what about getting started? Porcelli turned to Eamich and asked her about some of the lessons she and her team have learned after establishing a digital presence at USDA.

She explained that one of her biggest challenges had to do with making her agency’s digital presence meaningful and lasting. She said that often the best solution is the simplest and fancy or expensive tools aren’t always necessarily the answer. And, of course, she and her team have always operated with the goal of making their customers’ needs come first.

But what about gaining support? An audience member asked about getting other agency employees – including management – on board.

Eamich said you can start by looking at what other government agencies and organizations are doing. Showing how another group is successfully using a tool might go a long way toward convincing a wary supervisor or co-worker that social media can work. Making sure that you articulate value to your co-workers, and not just the public, is always something you should keep in mind if you want to affect change. Remember: your co-workers can also be your customers!

But what about the law? Hochberg explained that she and her office are responsible for developing things like Terms of Service agreements. She also said that GSA is an agency that’s been at the forefront of adopting a lot of tools because they are often directed by OMB to develop government-wide portals. And, of course, anyone interested can visit HowTo.gov at any time.

At the end of the day, it’s all about leveraging the unique perspective you have as an employee of your agency, Fullerton concluded.

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