Writer/editor guy becomes web guy. Then what?
I lead internal comm. at my agency. In February, I was asked to also take on leading our web and social media team after its former lead stepped down from supervision. And we didn’t (and still don’t) have the budget to hire someone else. Having a decent grasp of web content, but being largely ignorant of design, programming, and policy, of course I said “Yeah, I’ll do it!”
Internal comm. and web and social media aren’t quite cabernet and filet mignon when it comes to being managed together. One is concerned with an audience, and the other is a comm. medium and construct. And trying to balance the often-disparate needs of each function was, at times, a little schizophrenic (fortunately, I did have an excellent former web and social media lead on my team, and a great team all around).
I use past tense because this team is now under the supervision of the head of our citizen and partner outreach team, who used to head — ready for this? — the internal and web/socmed teams together. Some define insanity as repeating the same … never mind.
This and other concerns about our office structure and workload, as well as a murky budget outlook, have us reconsidering our form and focus, and discussing/debating what we should look in the future.
Is this the new normal?
Maybe we are crazy, but I’d argue that much of this is just the nature of organizations: Personnel changes happen, offices struggle with identity, and everyone deals with tough budgets. Comm. shops, however, are often the first cut when budgets get the squeeze, especially in the private sector. In case you hadn’t noticed, Feds are being squeezed.
That means that comm. shops (and others), if they haven’t already, better get serious about figuring out who they should be and what they should be spending their time on. As budgets tighten, we need to get sharper.
With these things in mind, let’s consider some questions about the common components of a comm. office and where they might be headed to not just survive, but serve our mission and citizens even more effectively:
Will the term “public affairs” go away or change meaning now that we’re expected to interact directly with the public? What will it look like to work with the news media, then?
Are we still going to need formal social media teams? Twitter, Facebook, and other popular tools are so ubiquitous — will we need socmed specialists to research, strategize, and implement, or will these activites just be a part of audience-based communicators’ portfolio?
Will face-to-face interactions still largely drive relationships with Congress (or other flavors of representative gov’t), or will austerity demand increased use of mobile and tele/webcon tools? Consider how many new reps. there are in the House — are they employing social tools at a greater rate? Will their successors do even more? Will we need to spend more time with them, not less?
How will comms. help senior leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment? Will we see less ghost writing/communicating on behalf of execs for internal comm.? Will we see less memos and other junk in favor of consolidated and prioritized info based on roles and interests? And how long before the divide between internal and public web content and social tool expectations become almost non-existent?
How seriously will we take measurement — does it get folded into the communicator’s portfolio or does it require the full-time attention of at least one person?
Should content delivery constructs that require skilled development — web, multimedia, graphic design — be folded together into a single entity, or are they inherently different? And what parts of web dev. and web governance should lie with comm. shops?
What about writing and editing? Do we assume that a public affairs specialist, for example, is well-trained in these skills, or do they warrant a separate and formal activity? And how do we need to change our perspective on what it means to publish?
Are comm. shops going to head up efforts to provide info in languages other than English?
Is customer service inherently a comm. function? It’s not necessarily about delivering messages, but can be a mass outreach activity.
Finally, which of these activities are most important for gov’t comm. offices now and going forward? Which can go away or be consolidated? Does this depend on your mission, or are there activities and skills that every comm. office should include? Also, what did I miss?
I have some thoughts, but I’d rather hear from you — where do you think gov’t comm. is headed? Take one of these comm. roles, above, or any other you like and play prognosticator via your own GovLoop blog post. Or build a nice list of links to GovLoop posts and other resources that have already covered this.
Maybe we can build a prophetic little compendium on where this train is going and get a head start on the next State of Government Communications.