How to BE a Government Consultant and Use Social Media

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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/).

View all posts by sradick

90 Responses to “How to BE a Government Consultant and Use Social Media”

  1. Mike Kujawski Says:

    Well said Steve. By the way we should chat seeing as how we both operate in the same niche area(i.e. social media strategy development for the public sector). I’m based in Canada but would love to share my experiences with you next time I’m down in D.C.

    Cheers,

    MK

    • sradick Says:

      Definitely Mike – I’m actually kind of surprised that we haven’t run into one another before! Let me know the next time you’re down this – would love to grab a drink and share war stories!

  2. Mike Kujawski Says:

    Well said Steve. By the way we should chat seeing as how we both operate in the same niche area(i.e. social media strategy development for the public sector). I’m based in Canada but would love to share my experiences with you next time I’m down in D.C.

    Cheers,

    MK

    • sradick Says:

      Definitely Mike – I’m actually kind of surprised that we haven’t run into one another before! Let me know the next time you’re down this – would love to grab a drink and share war stories!

  3. Sara Says:

    A great post, Steve. I think this can also apply to those of us in gov trying to “pitch” social media and gov 2.0 to management.

    • sradick Says:

      Absolutely Sara – although I’ve seen less “bad stuff” in those cases. I wanted to target those people who are less interested in making real change and only want to sell their wares, but yeah, these best practices can definitely apply internally too.

  4. Sara Says:

    A great post, Steve. I think this can also apply to those of us in gov trying to “pitch” social media and gov 2.0 to management.

    • sradick Says:

      Absolutely Sara – although I’ve seen less “bad stuff” in those cases. I wanted to target those people who are less interested in making real change and only want to sell their wares, but yeah, these best practices can definitely apply internally too.

  5. Melody Hildebrandt Says:

    #2 is right on, although not as bad as dishonesty on social media to fake professional relationships in order to get dates, which seems to be strangely growing in acceptance.

    • sradick Says:

      “In order to get dates?” I’m guessing you mean professional meetings, not dinner and a movie? 🙂

      I think there’s a growing trend to call Twitter followers “friends” when in most cases, there’s no relationship beyond a retweet, but people are starting to recognize that and catch on pretty quickly.

      • Melody Hildebrandt Says:

        Maybe not a movie, but lunch/drink, yes. In fact this was a recommended COA at the last IgniteDC: DM someone cute in social media, say “hey, you’re into social media? I’m into gov 2.0! Let’s get a drink sometime and chat about it” and see what happens.

        • sradick Says:

          WOW, this the first I’ve heard of this! That’s pretty funny – maybe you should do a blog post on “Worst Gov 2.0 Pickup Lines” 🙂

  6. Melody Hildebrandt Says:

    #2 is right on, although not as bad as dishonesty on social media to fake professional relationships in order to get dates, which seems to be strangely growing in acceptance.

    • sradick Says:

      “In order to get dates?” I’m guessing you mean professional meetings, not dinner and a movie? 🙂

      I think there’s a growing trend to call Twitter followers “friends” when in most cases, there’s no relationship beyond a retweet, but people are starting to recognize that and catch on pretty quickly.

      • Melody Hildebrandt Says:

        Maybe not a movie, but lunch/drink, yes. In fact this was a recommended COA at the last IgniteDC: DM someone cute in social media, say “hey, you’re into social media? I’m into gov 2.0! Let’s get a drink sometime and chat about it” and see what happens.

        • sradick Says:

          WOW, this the first I’ve heard of this! That’s pretty funny – maybe you should do a blog post on “Worst Gov 2.0 Pickup Lines” 🙂

  7. Esteban Says:

    I like that you said “be authentic” instead of “be transparent.” Trying to be “transparent” will require authenticity.

  8. Esteban Says:

    I like that you said “be authentic” instead of “be transparent.” Trying to be “transparent” will require authenticity.

  9. Gwynne Kostin Says:

    Thanks Steve for a good, cautionary tale and good recommendations. I think I will send anyone pitching me to this post first. Second I will tell them to pull the first 10 slides out of their slidedeck. I HATE that capabilities stuff.

    And if you haven’t seen, I would like to add the resource New Media DB for Dummies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSP8xm_gaK4. Funny, but oh so true.

    • sradick Says:

      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!

  10. Gwynne Kostin Says:

    Thanks Steve for a good, cautionary tale and good recommendations. I think I will send anyone pitching me to this post first. Second I will tell them to pull the first 10 slides out of their slidedeck. I HATE that capabilities stuff.

    And if you haven’t seen, I would like to add the resource New Media DB for Dummies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSP8xm_gaK4. Funny, but oh so true.

    • sradick Says:

      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!

  11. Alex Bea Says:

    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.

    • sradick Says:

      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.

  12. Alex Bea Says:

    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.

    • sradick Says:

      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.

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    Re: @sradick’s [link to post] – I’d also say those points apply to ANY consultant in ANY environment. Consultant’s Commandments.

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    From @sradick: how to be a govt consultant and use social media: [link to post]

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    #SMM How to BE a Government Consultant and Use Social Media [link to post]

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    RT @jessewilkins Re: @sradick’s [link to post] – I’d also say applies 2 ANY consultant in ANY environ. Consultant’s Commandments. [true]

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    The government consultant commandments to social media ([link to post]) #gov20

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    How to BE a Government Consultant and Use Social Media: As “ Government 2.0 ” becomes more and more popular, es.. [link to post]

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    RT @sradick: The government consultant commandments to social media ([link to post]) #gov20

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    SM public servants could live by these too RT @sradick: The government consultant commandments to social media ([link to post]) #gov20

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    All are great; #7-9 esp. ring true for me. RT @sradick: The government consultant commandments to social media ([link to post]) #gov20

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    @sradick wrote this post about #gov20 but he should have called it the Life Manifesto. (via @adrielhampton) [link to post]

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    RT @govloop Warning: before you try and pitch me on #gov20 consulting, read this by @sradick [link to post]

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    Are you a government consultant? If so, read these guidelines for using social media ([link to post]) #gov20 #consultant

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    @sradick Good post. They aren’t just tips for gov’t consultants in social media though — they are universal tips. [link to post]

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    RT @sradick: Are you a government consultant? If so, read these guidelines for using social media ([link to post]) #gov20 #consultant

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    Are you a government consultant? If so, read these guidelines for using social media [link to post] #gov20 RT @ClearedJobsNet @sradick

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