The Key to Government Communication: Keep it Simple

The IRS is a great case study of using social media for recruitment – and keeping a simple, yet effective message

Story Highlights

  • Government communications relies on a keeping a simple message
  • Never assume simplicity lacks complexity
  • IRS as a great case study for how to leverage social media for recruitment
  • See related FCG posts here

One of my favorite sayings is that there is an “art to simplicity,” and over the course of my life, I can find countless examples of this saying holding true. Regardless of the profession, what we are constantly tasked to do is look at complex problems, synthesize information and describe information in the simplest form to clearly communicate a message.

Yet, this can be a taxing and complicated process. The challenge becomes – how do we do this without devaluing or oversimplifying our work and our message? The lesson is to never assume that simplicity lacks complexity. In many cases, the exact opposite can be true. It’s true for an employee explaining a new program and for a manager understanding agency wide projects.

This “art to simplicity” mentality has certainly become clear in the way we consume information in society, especially in regard to social media. Social media platforms are easy to learn how to use, and to train staff to become proficient on social media (posting, commenting, sharing, retweeting), the challenge is tying social media to strategy, which is complicated.

There are a lot of agencies that do a superb job with social media. One of my favorite examples is the IRS and how they have leveraged social media to aid in recruitment and retain new employees. The IRS has dozens of social media initiatives, all of which make it very simple for the end-user to engage with IRS staff, and tie to larger organizational initiatives, like recruitment. Through social media, the IRS is able to paint a story of what it is like to work at the IRS.

Just to provide some further insights on the IRS, the IRS has three different twitter accounts used to help in recruitment. The IRS has made social media a large component to recruitment and building the next generation workforce. As we know, the current workforce is undergoing a transformation, as Baby Boomers retire, and the economy picks back up, new employees will be entering the workforce. The twitter accounts discuss IRS opportunities and the benefits of working at the IRS.

The IRS also has a Facebook page that is used for career questions, provides updates and as a way to connect with prospective employees. YouTube is another social channel that the IRS is using for recruitment. The IRS uses videos to help showcase how an employee can build a career at the IRS; share agency profiles, and develops recruitment profiles. This is a terrific way to help recruit employees to the IRS. The IRS also uses LinkedIn as a way to help people see what it is actually like to work at the IRS. In many respects, the IRS is a great case study and example of how to use social media by a government agency.

What is impressive about the IRS is the depth of channels and attention to detail across channels. The IRS is able to reach so many different potential employees, and they do a great job telling the story of what it is like to work at the IRS. As we have seen, the IRS uses dozens of social channels to help recruit employees into the federal government. At first glance, the social media initiatives seems simplistic, but is absolutely part of a larger strategy and solving a complex problem of recruiting and retaining top talent into the agency.

The IRS is one of many examples of social media use by a public sector agency. So, for communications professionals, the task is finding the art in simplicity, clearly communicating a message and keeping complex information easy to consume, and tying to larger organizational goals.

The Federal Consulting Group (FCG) is a franchise within the U.S. Department of the Interior. As the successor to the Federal Quality Institute, FCG has been advising and assisting federal agencies for more than 20 years with many of their senior consultants achieving results in large, high-profile government programs and projects. Check out their “Citizen Engagement & Customer Service” group on GovLoop as well as the Communications & Citizen Engagement Sub-Community of which they are a council member.

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