So You Enjoyed the Govt Web & New Media Conf – Now, What Are YOU Gonna Do?

I hope you either attended or tuned into the Government Web and New Media Conference in Washington DC, last week. What a line-up! I sat in my Tucson family room, watching the proceedings streaming live, listening to the fine line-up of speakers; and I marveled that so many terrific people are engaged in improving the way government communicates with and serves its citizens. Major kudos to Sheila Campbell, Rachel Flagg, the Web Manager University team, GSA, and the Federal Web Managers Council for organizing this fine gathering.

And you, web communicator – I hope you came away energized, vindicated, loaded with new ideas, and ready to take on the challenges you face! So…now what are you gonna do?

The biggest challenge of any conference-planner is figuring out how to make sure the attendees take home something they really can use. I know for a fact that the folks planning this conference worried about that. But you know what? The real responsibility for making that leap is yours. I don’t care if you were there in person or if you watched the live stream or just read or watched the sessions afterward. The bottom line is this: what are YOU going to do to improve government service? Every single one of you has to step up and DO SOMETHING to make change happen.

Maybe you had this discussion with your colleagues at the conference and came home with a plan. But just in case you didn’t, here are 5 suggestions:

  1. Tell other web communicators in your agency what you learned. Use email. Use your intranet. Call a meeting with all the web managers and web reporters in your organization. Tell them what you learned. Tell them they can watch the tapes online. Tell them about the speakers and what they said. Tell them what you heard in your discussions. Distribute copies of the FWMC’s new paper, “Putting Citizens First – Transforming Online Government, 2010 Progress Report” – and get together to discuss it. Share what you learned. Get others excited.
  2. Talk to your bosses. You heard Lisa Welchman. You and your bosses may see things differently, and you’re never going to get on the same page if you don’t talk. Don’t wait to be invited to that meeting. Find a way to create it. Honestly, you might be surprised how open your bosses will be to hearing what you have to say. I never had a boss (or a boss’s boss) turn down my request to brief him/her. So send an email. Call a secretary. Make an appointment. Ask for a half hour. If you can’t get that, send a memo – no more than one page. Now don’t blow this opportunity. Prepare. Write a point paper. Boil down your points to the top 5. Pick things that your boss will care about – big picture stuff. Don’t talk process -talk goals and results. Tell your boss what the agency needs to do to provide better customer service to citizens. Show your boss how these ideas can help your agency achieve its mission better, faster, smarter.
  3. Pick 3 things you learned at the conference and do something to implement them at your agency, in the next 6 months. Make them things you can do yourself or with your team. Write them down on a piece of paper, and tape it to your desk. Look at that paper every day and ask yourself, “What did I do today to cause this change?” If you haven’t done anything, do something. Mark October 30, 2010 on your calendar, and make a note on that date to review what you’ve achieved…and then set 3 new goals.
  4. Do something to improve your web content. Pick one of your top tasks and see if you can edit that content to make it easier to use. Pick some of your worst-written pages and offer to help the owners re-write them to make them more useful. Bring in a plain language trainer to do a session for all your web contributors. Go to plain language training yourself. Do some usability testing to help you spot the worst content problems; then fix them. Go through your site and see if you can find 25 or 50 or 100 pages that are obsolete and pull them down (clutter makes it harder for people to find what they want!). Read through your top pages and see if each of them uses key words and is organized to make it easy for search engines to find that content. You’ve got to start somewhere. Start now.
  5. Do something to help the web manager community. If you learned nothing else from the conference, I hope you learned that when web communicators join forces, they can cause change. So join a sub-council or working group. Recruit a new member of the Web Managers Forum. Send an email to the Forum listserv, telling them about something that works well in your agency or an idea you have or an issue you’d like to discuss. We serve best when we serve together.

Now that’s not so hard, is it? Come on. You can do this. I don’t care where you are in the organization. Don’t sit back and wait to benefit from the change others are causing. Be part of the effort. Use what you learned at this conference as your springboard.

So what’s it gonna be? What are you gonna do?

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So cool that one is able to follow the conference from Tucson. I think the trick with any conference/training is to remember to go back and share your lessons with your teammates and boss so you can push the ball forward.