How to BE a Government Consultant and Use Social Media

Photo

As “Government 2.0” becomes more and more popular, especially here in the Washington area, there seem to be an increasing number of people calling themselves social media or “Gov 2.0” consultants. As such, I’ve also seen a small increase in the number of people who are only interested in hawking their wares because social media is the current buzzword and who will move on to the next buzzword as soon as social media loses its luster.  Now, consider this blog post a public service announcement for all you consultants and contractors out there (including all you Booz Allen guys too!) – I don’t want you to become the next Gov 2.0 carpetbagger.  

So here’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to let you in on the secret and tell you how you can BE a good consultant in this world and add value to the Gov 2.0 community (it’s not all that hard!):

  1. BE helpful – Always always try to provide some value. Read other people’s blog posts, wiki edits, forum questions, and tweets and help out if you can – even if it’s just sending a helpful link, providing a good point of contact, or giving a restaurant suggestion to someone in a different city. Not everything is a marketing opportunity – just try to be a helpful person whom others can rely on.  For the most part, everyone involved in Gov 2.0 is incredibly helpful to one another and we all want each other to succeed.  Those who aren’t stick out like sore thumbs.
  2. BE honest – If you don’t know something, say it. If you suddenly start promoting another organization’s wares, disclose that you have a relationship of some sort with them.  If you’re interested in conducting a marketing call, say that’s what you’re doing.  Nothing’s worse than thinking that you’re going to have a lunch with someone you met on Twitter and they lug in a PowerPoint presentation and start running their capabilities briefings.
  3. BE responsive – If someone emails you, email them back. If someone comments on your blog, comment back.  If you comment on someone else’s blog and they reply to you, continue in the conversation.  You have no idea how much people appreciate a simple, timely response to a question, until you deal with someone who isn’t.  Don’t be that guy.
  4. BE realistic – Don’t promise the world.  Don’t promise your client thousands of Twitter followers in two weeks.  Don’t say that social media is going to solve all their problems – it won’t.  Just because you’ve helped one organization use social media doesn’t mean that the next one is going to work the same way.  Each organization and each organization’s mission is different – their results in using social media will be too.
  5. BE around – Social media is all about openness and transparency and authenticity.  You have to take part in the conversation if you ever hope to influence it.  Don’t proclaim yourself a Twitter expert if you’ve been on Twitter for two weeks. Use the tools that you’re advocating your clients use.  Be active within the social media and Gov 2.0 communities, both online AND offline.  Go out and meet the people with whom you’re talking online.  Out of sight, out of mind – you have to be be around, both physically and virtually.
  6. BE passionate – Please please please, believe in what you’re selling.  Is Gov 2.0 what you do for your job or is it something you’re passionate about?  Don’t tell me – talk with me for about ten minutes and I’ll be able to tell right away.  I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a passionate person who cares deeply about my mission over someone with a slick Powerpoint presentation any day.
  7. BE authentic – Just be a human being, please? Talk like a human being, not a living, breathing, walking product or service offering pitch. Be able to have an entire conversation with someone and connect with them as a person.  Build a real relationship instead of a sales lead. It will be more valuable in the long run.
  8. Be knowledgeable – Know what you’re talking about and back it up. Don’t speak only in marketing-y consultant-ese. Get to know your companies strengths and weaknesses, and be honest about them.  Stay on top of current Gov 2.0 events and demonstrate your knowledge through consistent engagement.  Get to know the mission and unique processes and policies of the people you’re talking to.  Try to imagine the challenges that they’re dealing with and think about how you can help them overcome them.
  9. BE humble – You’re going to be wrong, and you’re going to mess up.  That’s just the nature of this business.  Admit your mistakes and move on.  Don’t blame someone else or make excuses – say you messed up and you’ll do better and if you’ve been all of these other things, people will forgive you.
  10. And lastly, but maybe most importantly, BE assertive – As Tom Webster points out in this fantastic post, I can tell you to BE all of these things, but unless you’ve got the internal support of your management, it’s going to be difficult to put these tips into action. Be assertive with your management team and make the business case  that there’s value in building and maintaining these human relationships instead of the traditional fire hose approach to marketing.

If you do these things, I promise you that you will BE a better consultant to the government…and BE a much more likable person too!

*Photo courtesy of Flickr user JavierPsilocybin

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About sradick

I’m Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh.

Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

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  • Great post. I will add this to the handful of posts/articles that I go back to frequently as reminders. It’s easy to get wrapped up in project-to-project-to-project… and forget the fundamentals.

    I find #4 to be the easiest test to smell out buzzworders.

  • Great post. I will add this to the handful of posts/articles that I go back to frequently as reminders. It’s easy to get wrapped up in project-to-project-to-project… and forget the fundamentals.

    I find #4 to be the easiest test to smell out buzzworders.

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  • Thanks Steve for some honest straight talk on Gov2.0 and just plain good business practice. Well done.

    Richard

  • Thanks Steve for some honest straight talk on Gov2.0 and just plain good business practice. Well done.

    Richard

  • Thanks Richard – glad you liked it!

  • Thanks Richard – glad you liked it!

  • Unfortunately, I suspect people like us would just move those capabilities slides to the “appendix” of the deck 🙂

    Thanks for the link too – I’ve always liked that video!

  • Unfortunately, I suspect people like us would just move those capabilities slides to the “appendix” of the deck 🙂

    Thanks for the link too – I’ve always liked that video!

  • Yep #4 is a really easy one to use as a filter – that’s where you see the people who see social media as part of a communications and engagement strategy vice some marketing toy. I always ask my clients if they want 1,000 followers who actually mean something, who are actually engaged with you and your content, or 10,000 Internet SEO marketers who engage in the quid pro quo, “I follow you, you follow me” practices but don’t offer you anything but a number.

  • Yep #4 is a really easy one to use as a filter – that’s where you see the people who see social media as part of a communications and engagement strategy vice some marketing toy. I always ask my clients if they want 1,000 followers who actually mean something, who are actually engaged with you and your content, or 10,000 Internet SEO marketers who engage in the quid pro quo, “I follow you, you follow me” practices but don’t offer you anything but a number.

  • Steve:

    I’d like to challenge you on this column because I know you are up to it. I can’t argue with the points you’ve made in this post and your recommendations. I think Jesse Wilkins said it best, though: “…those points apply to ANY consultant in ANY environment.”

    My challenge to you is a simple request: go deeper. You’ve outlined 10 ways “How to be a government consultant and use social media.” How about expanding on some of those points and re-title this “How to be an effective government consultant and use social media?”

    Dive further into what makes social media in government so different from social media in the private sector. After all, government gets to have its own “2.0” designation, right? All other industry reference for social media is “Web 2.0.” That is something special and there are valid reasons for that. Reasons that should be further explored and explained. Not a lot of people appreciate those differences let alone understand them.

    Is there a difference between a private sector social media consultant and a public sector one? There certainly is. And the effective public sector social media consultant is quite different and exceptional from their private sector counterpart.

    For example, if you were to take your eighth point, “Be Knowledgeable,” and expand upon the title, you could start to reveal those unique differences that distinguish an effective public sector social media consultant. All 10 points have validity, but #8 is worthy of further discussion.

    Start by explaining the motivating factors that drive either side –a government agency or a citizen– to have an interest in, desire or need to use social media. We know there are challenges, and we know they focus on communicating and sharing information; primarily on connecting to and engaging with citizens, stakeholders and other government people and agencies.

    But why are they a challenge? Are some challenges exclusive to government that is not found in the private sector when it comes to communication and sharing information? Oh yeah. How can using social media help minimize or solve them?

    You’re on point by recommending consultants understand “the mission and unique processes and policies.” These are at the root of the challenges –legal, practical and political.

    You’ve done a nice job laying the veneer. Now peel it back and let’s what else is needed to be an effective public sector media consultant. Ah, one final point. Perhaps you should add a #11: “BE a provider of value.” This is where the rubber meets the road and would be especially beneficial to everyone.

    (Sidebar: I suggest #6 and #10 are similar with distinctions. A person can be assertive w/o having passion. Yet, someone who is passionate will find it hard not to be assertive and people can sense that and appreciate it. Without passion, assertiveness comes off as being aggressive or being pushy.)

  • Steve:

    I’d like to challenge you on this column because I know you are up to it. I can’t argue with the points you’ve made in this post and your recommendations. I think Jesse Wilkins said it best, though: “…those points apply to ANY consultant in ANY environment.”

    My challenge to you is a simple request: go deeper. You’ve outlined 10 ways “How to be a government consultant and use social media.” How about expanding on some of those points and re-title this “How to be an effective government consultant and use social media?”

    Dive further into what makes social media in government so different from social media in the private sector. After all, government gets to have its own “2.0” designation, right? All other industry reference for social media is “Web 2.0.” That is something special and there are valid reasons for that. Reasons that should be further explored and explained. Not a lot of people appreciate those differences let alone understand them.

    Is there a difference between a private sector social media consultant and a public sector one? There certainly is. And the effective public sector social media consultant is quite different and exceptional from their private sector counterpart.

    For example, if you were to take your eighth point, “Be Knowledgeable,” and expand upon the title, you could start to reveal those unique differences that distinguish an effective public sector social media consultant. All 10 points have validity, but #8 is worthy of further discussion.

    Start by explaining the motivating factors that drive either side –a government agency or a citizen– to have an interest in, desire or need to use social media. We know there are challenges, and we know they focus on communicating and sharing information; primarily on connecting to and engaging with citizens, stakeholders and other government people and agencies.

    But why are they a challenge? Are some challenges exclusive to government that is not found in the private sector when it comes to communication and sharing information? Oh yeah. How can using social media help minimize or solve them?

    You’re on point by recommending consultants understand “the mission and unique processes and policies.” These are at the root of the challenges –legal, practical and political.

    You’ve done a nice job laying the veneer. Now peel it back and let’s what else is needed to be an effective public sector media consultant. Ah, one final point. Perhaps you should add a #11: “BE a provider of value.” This is where the rubber meets the road and would be especially beneficial to everyone.

    (Sidebar: I suggest #6 and #10 are similar with distinctions. A person can be assertive w/o having passion. Yet, someone who is passionate will find it hard not to be assertive and people can sense that and appreciate it. Without passion, assertiveness comes off as being aggressive or being pushy.)

  • Steve,
    Wow, Dan is hitting you up for some tough work there! I think you’ve presented some key points that folks should definitely follow.

    When it comes to Dan’s request about the difference between Web 2.0 and Gov 2.0, I really like Tim O’Reilly’s take on it. He says “the real secret of success in Government 2.0 is thinking about government as a platform.” Check out Tim’s thoughts at http://bit.ly/3MnCS4.

    Enjoying your posts! Thanks!

  • Steve,
    Wow, Dan is hitting you up for some tough work there! I think you’ve presented some key points that folks should definitely follow.

    When it comes to Dan’s request about the difference between Web 2.0 and Gov 2.0, I really like Tim O’Reilly’s take on it. He says “the real secret of success in Government 2.0 is thinking about government as a platform.” Check out Tim’s thoughts at http://bit.ly/3MnCS4.

    Enjoying your posts! Thanks!

  • Kristi:

    Thank you for the comment and for the link. I, too, think Steve did a great job hitting upon the key points. And that’s certainly what you want to accomplish in a blog post. But this topic deserves further examination and explanation and Steve is in a good position to call in his network to explore it.

    As for the link to the Tim O’Reilly post, I had not read this and find it quite interesting. It’s important also to visit his links for more elaboration on the concepts.

    Tim’s comments bring up another topic of discussion that impacts the difference between Web 2.0 and Gov 2.0. I think Tim brings remarkable conceptual thinking to the topic and sets the stage to encourage more discussion of these concepts (supportive or contrarian). His concepts vary from being rock solid to fluid, while some are a bit blurry.

    In this case, I mention a couple of examples (and this is NOT a counter-point to any of Tim O’Reilly’s posts on Gov 2.0). In reading the post about government as a platform, I find Tim addressing government as if it were a “machine” (which may be his intent) rather than the institution upon which it was founded.

    The observation I have is that depending on the way we define or describe the subject will affect the way we describe its structure, processes and procedures. This, then, will further affect or influence how we define the problem or recommend applications/solutions to address or solve them.

    The second observation I make is in some of his examples he speaks about government and civics like they are one in the same. While there is certainly an interconnectivity and interdependence between the two, they are not synonymous. And so, for example, how and why we act as a body of citizens is not the same way our government would act given the same set of circumstances, even if it is a representation of that same public.

    So, yes, Gov 2.0 can be about the platform. But I would argue it is not “the real secret of success.” It is only one element, and in response to advancing communication technology, perhaps a very important one.

  • Kristi:

    Thank you for the comment and for the link. I, too, think Steve did a great job hitting upon the key points. And that’s certainly what you want to accomplish in a blog post. But this topic deserves further examination and explanation and Steve is in a good position to call in his network to explore it.

    As for the link to the Tim O’Reilly post, I had not read this and find it quite interesting. It’s important also to visit his links for more elaboration on the concepts.

    Tim’s comments bring up another topic of discussion that impacts the difference between Web 2.0 and Gov 2.0. I think Tim brings remarkable conceptual thinking to the topic and sets the stage to encourage more discussion of these concepts (supportive or contrarian). His concepts vary from being rock solid to fluid, while some are a bit blurry.

    In this case, I mention a couple of examples (and this is NOT a counter-point to any of Tim O’Reilly’s posts on Gov 2.0). In reading the post about government as a platform, I find Tim addressing government as if it were a “machine” (which may be his intent) rather than the institution upon which it was founded.

    The observation I have is that depending on the way we define or describe the subject will affect the way we describe its structure, processes and procedures. This, then, will further affect or influence how we define the problem or recommend applications/solutions to address or solve them.

    The second observation I make is in some of his examples he speaks about government and civics like they are one in the same. While there is certainly an interconnectivity and interdependence between the two, they are not synonymous. And so, for example, how and why we act as a body of citizens is not the same way our government would act given the same set of circumstances, even if it is a representation of that same public.

    So, yes, Gov 2.0 can be about the platform. But I would argue it is not “the real secret of success.” It is only one element, and in response to advancing communication technology, perhaps a very important one.

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  • Alright guys – I think there’s a TON of great points in this little comment thread here and would love to do a follow-on post (or gasp! a white paper) that addresses most (if not all) of your points. I think you make some very valid issues and brings up a whole host of ideas about where I’d like to take this. Let me chew on this for a bit and get my thoughts together – probably won’t be till later in the month as I’m speaking at the PRSA Conference next week, but will get to do some good thinking about this on the flight. I’ve already told my team to read this post and this thread to get their thoughts too.

    Thanks Dan for the comments, and I’d like to hear your thoughts in more detail too 🙂

  • Alright guys – I think there’s a TON of great points in this little comment thread here and would love to do a follow-on post (or gasp! a white paper) that addresses most (if not all) of your points. I think you make some very valid issues and brings up a whole host of ideas about where I’d like to take this. Let me chew on this for a bit and get my thoughts together – probably won’t be till later in the month as I’m speaking at the PRSA Conference next week, but will get to do some good thinking about this on the flight. I’ve already told my team to read this post and this thread to get their thoughts too.

    Thanks Dan for the comments, and I’d like to hear your thoughts in more detail too 🙂

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  • Melissa Reilly

    What a fantastic string — thanks everyone.

  • Melissa Reilly

    What a fantastic string — thanks everyone.

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