Why It’s Hard To Interview Agency Employees For Publication

Awhile back, Steve Crescenzo came up with the idea of the “C.R.A.P. Awards” to designate worthless employee communication that says nothing, means nothing, and interests no one. (This article is worth a read.) A couple of problems:
#1: Getting approval

  • Social media is simple and reductive. Subject matter experts think in complex terms and prefer to have all the technical angles of their work represented.
  • What the public finds interesting about employees, may actually be offensive to them.

#2: Sensitive or confidential material

  • A lot of the interesting stuff about what people do cannot be shared with the public
  • Stereotypes abound about government/corporate secretiveness, so content that purports to “reveal” may seem like propaganda.
A better approach might be to engage the external public with your mission, using techniques you can actually execute on social media without too much hassle. These ideas are adapted from the excellent infographic now posted at Contently:
  • Give people an understanding of your mission in the context of what they already know. Take a picture of something or someone you work with, and tie it to a day or topic of broad interest.
  • Give people a chance to take a photo of themselves in the context of your mission. Ask the public to take photos of themselves interacting with you, with hashtags. The purpose is different than what’s illustrated here though – instead of expecting praise you should expect a lot of complaints. Overall the purpose is to connect and build trust – so the fact that anyone takes the time is actually OK.
  • Give people something to do that relates to your mission. Put the public into your mission by giving them something to customize and post.

In the federal government, Suki Baz at the National Park Service is one person who understands how to get stuff like this done. Check out her comments at the recent panel discussion on agency branding held by the Partnership for Public Service.


Photo by Scott Sherrill-Mix via Flickr (Creative Commons). All opinions are my own and do not represent those of my agency or the federal government as a whole.


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