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Sports Can Learn a Few Things From Gov 2.0

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“Dear [fill in your favorite sports team],

You may think of me as a fan or as a ticket-holder now, but if you give me the chance, I’d gladly be a marketing specialist, brand ambassador, web developer, community organizer and data cruncher.  Oh yeah – I’ll also do all these things for free if you’d just ask.”

Sincerely,
Joe Sports Fan

In a recent post, I discussed some of the similarities that I saw between the government’s experiences with social media and the challenges that professional sports teams are facing in diving into the world of social media.  As I thought about it some more, I figured that if these teams are facing many of the same challenges that government agency does, they can probably also take advantage of some of the same strategies that government agencies have deployed too.

As a sports fan and a government consultant, here are some of the government’s social media initiatives that I’d like to see cross over to the sports industry:

  • A closed Intranet for all of the teams in a particular league. Imagine an Intelink-like service where every MLB team’s communications staff could log in and share information with each other. There’s obviously some very heated competition among the teams, but there’s also a lot of camaraderie that already exists.  I’m not suggesting that general managers get on here and blog about player transactions or scouting strategies, but they could definitely share their ideas for promotions and community events, best practices for engaging with season ticket holders, or how they’re using social media – things that help the entire league.  With the right education and change management support, an Intranet like this could help raise the quality and consistency of communications across the league, thereby selling more tickets and making more money for everyone.
  • An Apps for Baseball (or Football, Hockey, etc.) contest. Similar to the Apps for America contests made possible by sites like data.gov, why can’t one of the sports leagues partner with the Elias Sports Bureau to open up the MASSIVE amount of sports statistics on an accessible platform and then engage the sports-loving public to create web-based, iPhone, JAVA, and other applications?
  • A Recovery.gov for a sports team –  I would love to see my favorite team open up their books to the public and say, “here’s our payroll, our ticket revenue, our marketing budget, our merchandising revenue, our property taxes – here’s everything that comes in and goes out, and oh, by the way, after all that, we still lost $3M.”  There’s a lot of mystery about what it costs to actually run a team, how much of the money is public vs. private funds, and why teams that are still shelling out millions of dollars for free agents are saying they’re losing millions of dollar per year.  The fans want answers to these questions and they want to feel as though they’re partners in the future success of the team. Open up your books and show the fans that there’s nothing to hide (unless, that is, you have something to hide). The Green Bay Packers are probably the sports industry’s leaders in this area, being a publicly-owned team, but just because other teams aren’t legally obligated to release their financials doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.
  • More leadership accessibility. I want to see more Mark Cubans out there engaging with their fans.  Players like Chris Cooley and Chad Ochocinco and league officials like Brian McCarthy and Mike DiLorenzo have done a tremendous job of using social media to reach out to their fans and engage in real conversations, creating fan loyalty and ownership in the player, league, and/or franchise.  Just as leaders from across the government are getting on Twitter and blogging, why aren’t more team owners, general managers, and other front office types using these tools to talk with their fans NOT market to their fans.

There are real opportunities for the sports industry to leverage some of these same concepts and tactics that are now driving Government 2.0. Teams and leagues can use these ideas to do more than just sell more tickets, but to create a community of interested, informed, and passionate partners, developers, and brand ambassadors.  Who would have thought that an NFL or MLB team could learn a few things about communications, agility, transparency and authenticity from the federal government?

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Resilient and Engaged, DHS Charts a Path Forward

The following is a guest post by Tracy Johnson, a member of my team who specializes in developing outreach and communications strategies for clients enhanced by the integration of effective social media tactics.  Her citizen-centric view of government permeates her work and she never develops a plan without placing herself in the shoes of her client’s customer.  You can find Tracy on Twitter (@tjohns06), on Vimeo, and at Gov2.0 events around DC.

Today, I had the pleasure of participating in a Department of Homeland Security Blogger Round Table—an extension of the National Dialogue on the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review occurring online right now.  The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) is a congressionally mandated review of homeland security.  The outcome of the review is a final report due to Congress by the end of this year and is intended to act as a guide for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the nation for the next four years.

Earlier this year, upon notice of the mandate, DHS did what most agencies do when tasked by Congress to produce a report—they formed a committee.  But this committee (actually, several committees, known as study groups) was not going to settle for government business as usual.  DHS is by nature a distributed and decentralized organization whose success depends upon the contributions of Federal, state and local governments, businesses, families, and individuals.  Understanding this dynamic, DHS teamed with the National Association of Public Administration to develop a collaborative platform to both recognize and leverage the interdependent relationships between the DHS and all its stakeholders.

Simplified sketch of the QHSR process

DHS QHSR process

How to contribute
What’s different about this approach is not only the inclusion of the public in the discussion, but also the iterative process that’s being undertaken.  The National Dialogue on the QSHR was split into three phases, each building on each other, to strategically develop goals, objectives and desired outcomes for DHS.

Phases of QHSR Dialogue

According to Deputy Assistant Secretary Alan Cohn (who moderated the round table discussion), the hope of this third and final phase of the National Dialogue on the QHSR is to validate the big picture.  DHS wants to know whether you think the outcomes defined thus far are appropriate given the goals and objectives.  Are the objectives touching on the critical elements of homeland security?  Is anything missing?  You can provide your answers to these questions and submit other ideas on the third dialogue now through October 4th.

What’s Next?
Secretary Napolitano suggests DHS is charting a path towards a more “ready and resilient nation.”  While the concept of being “ready” for future threats is becoming more tangible to the public through efforts such as Ready.gov, Citizen Corps, and Red Cross Ready Rating, the notion of being resilient leaves a lot of room for discussion.  The QHSR study groups have called for further definition of resiliency in the coming months and years, and I hope DHS continues to leverage all its stakeholders in the process to achieve that outcome as well as the many others outlined in the QHSR.

Kudos are certainly in order for the DHS for engaging with the public on this effort to-date, but the conversation cannot stop here.   Through this process, a community has been developed and needs to be cultivated.   Whether participants submitted an idea, rated an idea, or simply read the comments presented, they have formed an informal network of interested parties that should not be ignored once the QHSR is complete.

A feedback loop is necessary for ongoing engagement

DHS process, feedback

Real outcomes of the QHSR
DHS is not only charting a path forward to ensure the security of our homeland, but also is paving the way for other agencies and organizations.  With the widespread espousal of web collaboration tools, the government and its partners have the ability and responsibility to provide better customer service to taxpayers.  And better customer service starts with listening to your customers.  Thank you, DHS, for listening and engaging with your customers.  We, the taxpayers, are looking forward to the path ahead and expect to be included along the way.

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An Awesome Interview with the Founder of GovLoop, Steve Ressler

Steve Ressler, Founder of GovLoop

Steve Ressler, Founder of GovLoop

As announced this morning, GovLoop, the premier social network for the government community, has joined forces with GovDelivery, the world’s leading provider of government-to-citizen communications solutions.  Steve Ressler, the founder of GovLoop, will be leaving his day job with the Department of Homeland Security, and will now focus 100% of his time on leading leading the further development and management of GovLoop, now an operating division within GovDelivery.

Within the Gov 2.0 community, this is a monster merger – one that brings together not only two of the most successful Gov 2.0 initiatives, but also two of our best leaders, Ressler and Scott Burns, CEO of GovDelivery.  When Steve told me about this news last night, I was thrilled for him because he now gets an opportunity to do what we all want to do – get paid to do what we love to do.  And while I think the entire GovLoop community will ultimately benefit from this partnership, I also wanted to talk with Steve about how the partnership came about, how this impacts both GovLoop and GovDelivery, how it effects the members of the GovLoop community, and what GovLoop will look like in the future.

Here’s the full Q&A –

Why make such a huge change to a site that is, by all accounts, already one of the most successful Gov 2.0 initiatives?   What will be the short-term and long-term impact to GovLoop’s 18,000+ users?

The short answer was that the community was unsustainable.  As the site grew (now actually at 18,500+ members), the community needed more gardening.  Like any yard or dinner party, it needs care and feeding and I just wasn’t able to do it working another full-time job.  I like your quote on working a 9-5 and a 5-9.  GovLoop has been my 5-9 plus weekends for 18 months now and I needed to find a way to turn my passion – connecting government to improve government – into a job.

Why did you choose to partner with GovDelivery?  What does this partnership give you that you couldn’t get by maintaining the site independently? GovDelivery

I’ve been looking for a home for GovLoop for awhile and my criteria was finding a place that 1) Got Gov 2.0, 2) Had Good Values, 3) Had the resources to grow and better the community.  I met Scott Burns, the CEO of GovDelivery, at Gov 2.0 Camp so that was a good start and right away I just got a good vibe.  He “got it” plus he’s from Minnesota so he’s got the same Midwestern values as I do.  And finally, the more he told me about GovDelivery, the more I got excited.

Basically, GovDelivery is the #1 Government to citizen collaboration platform – think email, text messages, those cool gov’t widgets, etc.  It is used by over 300 government agencies at fed/state/local level with a ton of the big names like CDC, EPA, etc.  The more important thing for GovLoop is that they’ve been finding that 15-30% of the over 10 million people signing up to receive government alerts are actual other government employees.  Think the guy from City of Cincinnati Public Health signing up for CDC H1N1 alerts.  And they had been wondering how to provide places for these government people to move from push communication to a real collaborative space to work together.  And that’s what GovLoop does….

GovLoop has always held a unique position in the world of government and government contractors – it was for everyone because it wasn’t “owned” by anyone.  Now that GovLoop is part of a commercial organization, is there any risk that it will fall out of favor with government employees because they don’t want to be seen as “endorsing” a commercial product?

GovLoop has always been about the community and will continue to be.  I think of GovLoop as a platform – a place for government employees and contractors to connect on any topic – whether it is acquisitions, cycling, technology, or HR.  The community makes it and I’m passionate about working with the community to act on their ideas to do more good to improve government.  Government people always need homes to collaborate and there are a ton where great dialogue occur already from associations to events to government-specific magazines.  I think GovLoop will be another complimentary home (specifically a knowledge network) for people to collaborate.

And finally…if you know me, I’m passionate about public service (3rd generation fed) and care first about government.  If I do anything that starts not being awesome, let me know…

Can you describe how your role will change now that you can dedicate 100% of your focus to GovLoop?
First off, I probably should start cooking more as I owe my girlfriend countless meals for putting up with me.  Second, I get to put all my energy behind GovLoop.  So I hope to be a better customer service rep for GovLoop on your question (Craig Newmark-style), I hope to be even more active online both at GovLoop and other spaces, I hope to continue to speak and connect with the community at various events and associations.

But the biggest difference you will probably see is that I’ll be building a team to work on making GovLoop even more awesome.  Better community moderation, taking discussions into actionable events, building more best practice repositories, launching new features, and just general more awesomeness.

Do you think there is any risk that you will become too out-of-touch from the day-to-day work of government now that you’re not a government employee?

I got that gov blood in my veins so I think I should be good.  All my friends and families are govies plus all I do is hang out at government events/meetups so I don’t think I’ll lose touch.  But if I ever do, you can smack me around and tell me whats up…

At a high level, what does GovLoop look like in five years?
I think the opportunity for GovLoop is to move further to become a knowledge network connecting hundreds of thousands of government employees at all levels (Fed, state, local, international).  I want it to be the home to help you do your government job better – solve more government problems and solve them faster.    Right now, GovLoop solves 5-10 real government problems a day (someone looking for help on a new hiring program and boom..they get an answer).  I’d love for that number to be 500-1,000 real government problems solved a day in five years.

I’ve studied formal and informal network and written a paper as a part of the Wikinomics series on Gov 2.0 and I think there is a great value for informal networks.  GovLoop is an informal network…it is not behind the firewall and is not the place to do top-secret intelligence work – that place is Intellipedia. But I do think GovLoop can full a void in what I call soft collaboration where people working on a topic whether it is section 508, learning to implement SharePoint, or figuring out how to move to a government executive – can connect, collaborate, and share ideas.  Let’s not reinvent the wheel – gov’t folks are not competitors and we should learn from each other.

You mentioned doing more charity work, especially with the GovLoop Kiva group.  What charities are you particularly passionate about, and how do you plan to help them?

I’m particularly interested in businesses like Tom’s Shoes and Honest Tea that are social enterprises and have a focus on doing good and giving back.  GovLoop will be like that and I have a ton of charity ideas. But at the heart I want them to be government focused – I’d love to give scholarships to GovLoop members who can’t afford to go back to school for a degree.  I’d love to give training scholarships so those govies who want to advance their career can get the training they need.  Or the GovLoop members in need – maybe they got laid off from their city government and are having a hard time getting their bills paid.  I’d love to help out with that.

Last question – if someone is interested in doing more to help GovLoop succeed, what’s the best way for them to do that?
First thing, join GovLoop if you haven’t already.  Takes two seconds.  And it’s free…gratis…

Second, join the conversation.  You only get what you put into it.  So I suggest you join some GovLoop groups, comment on blogs, ask questions, and find your passion.

Third, tell your friends.  It’s not invite-only.  You don’t only have a +1.  Bring the whole crew and let’s jam….

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Taking Gov 2.0 to the Ballpark

Sports franchises face many of the same challenges in implementing social media as government agencies do

Sports franchises face many of the same challenges in implementing social media as government agencies do

I recently had the honor to join Frank Gruber, Shashi Bellamkonda, Mike Tunison, Gayle Weiswasser, and several other social media and microtargeting professionals (sorry I didn’t get everyone’s Twitter names!) to meet with Stan Kasten, President of the Washington Nationals, and several other team executives to discuss how sports teams can better use social media to increase awareness of the team’s activities both on and off the field, better engage with their existing fans and potential fans, create more fans, generate more positive media coverage, and ultimately, help sell more tickets and build a better baseball team. We were all brought together to brainstorm what the Nationals were doing well, what they could be doing better, and what they hadn’t thought of yet. If you aren’t familiar with my background, this was a dream come true for me – bringing together my love for social media and communications and my love of sports. I’ve always been a huge sports fan and used to work in public relations for a minor league hockey team, so I was extremely excited for this opportunity.

However, despite sitting in a conference room at one of the nicest ballparks in the Majors talking with some of the league’s most powerful baseball people, I couldn’t help but feel like I was again sitting in a nondescript cubicle in some office park talking with the Branch Director for a government agency.  From the opening introduction – “you have to understand, we’re dealing with a very unique situation that’s different from your typical organization,” to the challenges they face, “we have to work under Major League Baseball’s strict communications policies so we’re really limited in what we can just go and do,” – the similarities between sports teams’ use of social media and the government’s use of social media really struck a chord with me.

  • Both are trying to reach a very broad and very diverse group of people that crosses all demographics
  • Both operate under a broader entity that creates and enforces the policies and guidelines for communications, including the use of social media
  • Both are primarily operated by conservative and traditional leaders who rely on the command and control communications model
  • Both deal with VERY passionate and very partisan (both positively and negatively) stakeholders
  • Both typically have relatively small communications budgets
  • Both are usually so concerned with the overall mission that communications doesn’t receive the attention or commitment it requires
  • Both deal with media who crave all the information they can possibly get
  • Both operate in a system where they should communicate with other organizations with a similar mission, but instead find themselves in competition with each other
  • Both are determining the best way to educate employees (or players) outside of the traditional communications function who are actively using social media to communicate directly with the public

While there are most definitely some differences, when it comes to social media, the fact remains that we had the exact same conversation the other night with the Nationals that I’ve had dozens of other times with government agencies. Neither the challenges nor the solutions are all that different. During the meeting, I mentioned some of these similarities  – if the government can use social media to do share classified information across Agency firewalls using Intellipedia and the Air Force can allow their airmen to engage directly with the public via social media, there’s no reason similar strategies and tactics can’t be applied to a sports franchise. Sports teams have too much gain from social media and too much to lose by not engaging – it’s a no-brainer to me.

The sports community is a very insulated community – teams and leagues generally look inside the sports industry to hire their communications and marketing professionals, but maybe they should take a look at the Government 2.0 industry to find that next pool of communications talent and innovation.  After all, we’re dealing with many of the same issues they are.

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