Tag Archives: boozallen

Social Media Done Right Means No More Social Media “Experts”

July 21, 2009

47 Comments

Where will all the social media experts be in five years?

Where will all the social media "experts" be in five years?

“If I do my job right, I shouldn’t be doing it in five years.”

That’s what I said almost three years ago when Walton Smith and I started our social media practice here at Booz Allen.  Like Geoff Livingston, I’ve felt for a long time that social media shouldn’t be considered some “special” strategy or some public relations parlor trick, but rather as part of an overall communications strategy.

Seeing as I’m part of a 500+ person team of strategic communications professionals here, my goal was not to create one smaller team of geeks who blog and Tweet all day, but to get all 500+ people on the team to know, understand, and use social media just as they know, understand, and use press releases, email pitches, and town hall meetings.

Sure, there will always be a need to call in the “experts” – the people who live and breathe this stuff – but for the most part, every communications professional needs to understand social media and its place in the overall mix of communications strategies and tools.   If I hear one more person tell me that they’re “too old for this stuff,” or that “I’m just not ready for that,” all you’re really telling me is that you’re not interested in being a really good communications professional.  These types of people won’t last for much longer anyway.

Over the last three years, we’ve made a lot of progress here in integrating social media into our overall communications capabilities – we’re no longer doing public relations, change management, crisis communications, event planning (among others) AND social media.  Social media is not a separate discipline – it’s just another set of tools in the toolbox that a communications professional has at their disposal.

Well, a little more than halfway into my prediction above, I can proudly say that I think my statement still holds true.  If anything, it might happen sooner.  Seemingly every RFP I come across now includes social media, and almost every one of our client projects has at least asked the question, “is social media right for our client?”  For the last three months, my days have been filled almost completely with meetings with various projects and clients to talk about social media, writing the tech approaches to several proposals, and giving internal presentations to our senior leadership about the importance of Government 2.0 and the role social media is playing in the future of our government.

Though I’ve been working my butt off lately to handle the incredible demand for social media and Government 2.0, everyone here has also realized that this demand isn’t going away anytime soon – in fact, it’s only going to increase.  I’m hearing more senior leaders here say things like, “This can’t just be done by Steve’s team – we need more people who know and understand this stuff.”  I’m seeing more performance reviews being conducted where people are being asked what they did to learn more about social media over the last year.  I’m getting more requests from people outside of my immediate social media team asking how they can get more up to speed with social media so that they don’t always have to come to us for help. I’ve found out about really cool Government 2.0 work that we’re doing after someone has already started it, instead of me being the bottleneck for all that work.

At the current pace, I imagine that I’ll soon just be Steve Radick, one member of a 500+ person team of communications professionals, all of whom know how to write a press release, create a corporate newsletter, write a speech, craft engaging blog posts, use Twitter to engage with their audiences, and develop a strategic communications plan.

Then, I’ll move on to my next challenge…

Continue reading...

Tired of All-Hands Meetings? Try an INTERNAL Unconference

July 12, 2009

9 Comments

On July 9th, 2009, my Strategic Communications team here at Booz Allen held an unconference as an alternative to the traditional All-Hands meeting.  Big thanks go out to Chris Hemrick, who led the planning, development, and execution of this event.  In collaboration with Chris and a few other team members, we pitched the idea to our leadership as a low-cost, low-resource opportunity to network, collaborate on some of the tough issues facing our team, learn from other members of the team, and have an opportunity to get involved with the rest of the team beyond their individual project teams.

So, how did we do it?  And more importantly, was it successful?

Pre-Conference

After receiving approval to move forward, we established our “home base” – a wiki page on our Enterprise 2.0 platform – hello.bah.com.  From here, we coordinated all our planning and outreach efforts.  We established the hashtag that we would use when blogging or Yammering about the Uconference.  We also determined the agenda for the day: 4:30 – 8:30 on a Thursday night with three sets of two concurrent sessions followed by one full wrap-up session and some networking time.  Sessions were to be restricted to one slide, and session leaders were only given 5 minutes to give the topic introduction.

About a month before the Unconference, we sent an email out to the team asking for people to propose potential topics via the wiki.  Sessions were then voted on by the rest of the members of the team.  However, because this was such a new concept to a majority of the team, we didn’t receive as many topic suggestions as we had hoped for.  As such, we had to reduce the number of total sessions from 6 to just 4.

One of the important things for us was also virtual participation.  Our team is spread out all over the DC area, and all over the country.  We needed a way for these folks to participate too.  However, unlike Government 2.0 Camp or South by Southwest, a majority of our participants aren’t used to live-Tweeting.  While tuning in to hashtags like #gov20camp or #sxsw can give virtual attendees a reasonable feel for the content of the conference, that only works when hundreds of people are actively using the service, giving individual perspectives and updates.  However, this doesn’t really work when only a few people are doing it.  To address this, we decided to use both Yammer and Adobe Connect, allowing chatting and live audio/video.  We also created topic-specific wiki pages and blogs and each session was to have a blogger and note-taker who would help continue the conversation after the actual event.

We also decided on a location.  After a pre-conference walk-through, we chose Bailey’s Pub & Grille in Arlington because it was 1) big enough for 100+ people and had space for breakout rooms, 2) metro-accessible and centrally located, 3) had free Wi-Fi and 4) was informal (it’s a bar!) enough to give the vibe that this was something different.

Day of

SC Unconference

Upon arriving at Bailey’s to get all set up, we had the projectors running, chatter had started on both Adobe Connect and Yammer, the first of about 100 people began to file in, and I had a cold draft of Heineken that was calling my name.  Everything was falling into place.  After about 20 minutes of getting settled in, we kicked off with a quick introduction about why we were doing this, what we wanted to accomplish, some expectation setting (people are going to get up and freely walk around, attendees were encouraged to be honest in their discussions, etc.), and some logistics, we were off and running.

However, not all went as smoothly as we had planned (that wouldn’t be any fun, would it?), logistically or strategically.  First, we quickly discovered that the webcam microphones we were using weren’t sufficient enough to capture the full discussion – virtual attendees were only hearing the discussion leader, not necessarily the entire conversation.  Video also proved problematic as the lighting was very dark and the webcams we were using weren’t able to capture everyone around the room who spoke.  This, combined with the fact that Yammer went down right in the middle of the first discussion, really hampered the virtual attendees’ ability to participate.  They were restricted to video/audio of the discussion leader and live chat with person running the Adobe Connect session.  While this wasn’t ideal, all of these problems are easily fixable with higher quality microphones and video equipment.

The other challenge that we experienced was that the sessions themselves didn’t exactly go as we had planned.  As I mentioned earlier, we had to trim the number of sessions to two sets of two concurrent sessions.  But, we didn’t cut the total amount of time, so each session ended up being an hour long – this ended up being about 20-30 minutes too long.  This meant that the discussion ended up going in circles and off-topic a few times during the second half of the sessions.  We also found out that the effectiveness of the sessions depended largely on the topic at hand – there was one session focused on how we use social media with our clients that resulted in a lot of good discussion and learning.  However, the session I led was focused on the best way to divide and utilize our time.  This led to a lot of good discussion as well, but also some bickering, disagreements, not to mention some maybe too-candid comments.

Post-Conference

During the entire Unconference, Tracy Johnson was walking around with a Flip camera asking people for their thoughts on the Unconference.  Here’s what they said:

We sent out a survey asking all attendees what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what they’d suggest doing next year.  We also briefed our leadership team the following day with our own post-event report.  Attendees seemed to say that they appreciated something different, that they liked the informal nature of the unconference, and that they would definitely participate again.  The members of the leadership team, suspicious of the idea at first, were excited to hear some of the ideas and discussion to come out of the event and agreed that it was something that should be done again.

Wrap-up

I loved having the unconference – it was a welcome change from the normal stand and talk through slides meeting, and gave us an opportunity to get together with our colleagues AND talk about how to improve our team’s operations.  The concept of an internal unconference, though, isn’t for everyone.  Before you consider an internal unconference at your organization, consider your answers to the following questions:

  1. Will there be a need for virtual participation?
  2. Does your organization have an internal microblogging service (Twitter is most likely too public for most)?
  3. Is your leadership willing to listen to criticism and new ideas, and most importantly, to DO something about the ideas and opinions that are discussed?
  4. How geographically separated is your team?  Can they all gather at one location?
  5. Are new ideas and open discussion typically valued or discouraged?
  6. Are a majority of your team introverts or extroverts?
  7. Do you have a budget to cover A/V equipment, location reservation, food/drinks, nametags, etc.?
  8. Do you have a space from where the conversation can continue after the event (wiki page, forum, blog, etc.)?
  9. Will leadership participate and encourage their staff to do the same?
Continue reading...

Implementing Social Media at Large Organizations

September 19, 2008

1 Comment

As I mentioned in my first post, I’m currently leading a small, but growing team of people at my firm who are focused on building our social media capabilities, both internally and with our clients. Five years ago, when I joined my company, the only mentions of the terms “wikis” and “blogs” were usually preceded by the words “What the hell is a…” Now, as with most organizations, there is an enormous demand for social media, both internally among my colleagues, and externally with my clients. Luckily, I work for a firm where I have had the flexibility to pursue my interest and passion for social media, and over the last two years, have been able to grow this capability to where we are today.

So how did I get to this position? It’s important to note that I didn’t go to school for social media (I majored in public relations), I didn’t get staffed on a project where sharing information using social media was part of the culture (I was working for a client in the Intelligence Community where the prevailing attitude was “Need to Know“), and I wasn’t told by my leadership that I would now be the social media expert (they didn’t know a blog from a website). No, I was just a strategic communications consultant who saw that social media was fundamentally changing the way organizations communicated, and I decided that this was an area I wanted to focus on.

To my surprise, when I first started working in the Intelligence Community, I stumbled across something called Intellipedia, a wiki similar to Wikipedia, on the Top Secret network on which I was working. Upon more exploration, I found out that Intellipedia uses the same software (MediaWiki) as Wikipedia, and is not only available on the Top Secret network, but that it’s actually used to share VERY sensitive data across all of the agencies within the Intelligence Community. Well, upon discovering this, I said to myself that if the CIA, FBI, DNI, and other Intelligence agencies can use wikis and blogs to share classified information, there’s no reason why these applications can’t be used across the government.

I started voraciously reading about how Intellipedia worked – who was behind it, what technical feature did it have, what else was planned, who was using it, etc. I bought all kinds of social media books (Wikinomics, The World is Flat, Wikipatterns, The Long Tail are just some of them), I attended multiple conferences and other professional development events, and most importantly, I didn’t shut up! I talked about social media to anyone who would listen to me. I constantly looked for ways in which social media could enhance or replace existing processes (couldn’t we just post this white paper to a wiki and edit it there instead of sending it around over email?), I volunteered to help write proposals, white papers, and any other document that I could get my hands on where I could talk about social media, and I sent dozens of social media media articles and success stories to my leadership and anyone else who I thought would be interested. In short, I really annoyed a bunch of people for a long time!

Eventually, I must have gotten my point across as I’m now one of the top bloggers on our company’s internal blogging platform, am one of the top wiki editors, am advising many of our senior VPs on what they need to know about social media, and am responsible for meeting with many of our clients to talk about how and if they should use social media internally. Over these last two years, I’ve worked a lot of 9AM-5PM days on my client work, only to be followed by nights working 5PM-9PM on building our social media capability (my wife is a saint for putting up with me!!). I’ve had to learn how to tactfully stand up for what I believe in without pissing off too many people. I’ve had to do a lot of “what is a blog?” briefings. I’ve had to endure a lot of contentious discussions with our legal, marketing, HR, and IT departments. The last two years have involved a lot of work, a lot of stress, and a lot of headaches, but it’s also been extremely rewarding, personally satisfying, and exciting. What’s in store for me over the next two years?

Continue reading...