Tag Archives: public sector

From the Government to Big Brands, From the Left Brain to the Right Brain

June 24, 2012

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Three months ago, I made a huge change in my life. After eight years as a government consultant in DC, I picked up my family and moved to Chicago to work at Cramer-Krasselt. I went from DC to Chicago, from consulting to PR, from government clients to big brands, from the suburbs to the city, from leading virtual teams to being in the office with my entire team every day, from being at the tip of the spear of the #gov20 movement to being just another PR guy prattling on about social media – and for the last three months, I've been trying to adapt to this new life of mine.

As you can tell, a lot has changed, but a lot has remained the same too. I still spend way too much time in meetings. I'm still having varying levels of success managing office politics. And I'm still trying to change the status quo. I'm not ready to say that PR in the private sector is any better or worse than government consulting – it's just different. And for me, different is good. Instead of being the grizzled veteran who's been with the company longer than most people, I'm the new guy. Instead of being the guy everyone runs to for social media advice, everyone here at least knows the basics, with many knowing much much more than that. Every day, I feel challenged. Every day, I learn something new. Every day, I realize I'm in an entirely different world now. Even though I still do PR and communications, the clients and the environment are very different. So while there are some similarities, in many ways, it's like a whole new career.

This isn't to say that one is better or worse than the other – in fact, it's the dichotomy of the two that I'm enjoying. While I find myself learning more and more about branding and advertising every day, I'm also teaching my new colleagues a lot about staff forecasting, team management, performance reviews, and strategic planning too. If I've learned anything over these last three months, it's that the typical PR pro would be more effective if they thought more like a consultant, and that the typical government consultant sure could benefit from some more creativity and risk-taking.

If you've done PR in both the public and private sectors, what kinds of differences have you experienced?

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Government 2.0 Camp – What I Loved and What I’d Like to See Next Year

April 1, 2009

40 Comments

Inspirational. Fun. Chaotic. Stimulating. Profound. Surreal. Exhausted. Excited.

These are the words that I’ve used to describe the inaugural Government 2.0 Camp held this past weekend at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Georgetown. While an event of this magnitude and scope was sorely needed within the government, the planning of the event was decidedly anything but typical government.

If you were to tell your boss that you’d like to hold a two-day long meeting

Picture courtesy of Flickr User Vindictiveimmunity

Picture courtesy of Flickr User Vindictiveimmunity

for about 500 people (a mix of contractors and government employees) on a Friday AND a Saturday in downtown DC, in a school that does not have parking nor is metro-accessible, and oh, by the way, not craft any sort of agenda until the day of the meeting – what do you think his reaction would be?

That’s what I thought.

Yet that’s just what the members of the Government 2.0 Club did this past weekend in organizing the inaugural Government 2.0 Camp. I’m not going to recap the entire event – you can find that here.

But, what I am going to do is offer my take on the event – what I loved and what I’d like to see next year.

What I Loved

  • The Mindset of the attendees. Very few sales-y marketing types (that I came across). Most of the attendees were very much about cooperation, collaboration, and communication. I saw very senior government employees chatting it up with very junior consultants, employees from two different companies sharing time on a panel session, and groups of consultant/government folks hashing out a solution to a problem one of them was having. Best part of all was that it was being done without the typical political and cultural roadblocks of pay grades, political affiliation, company affiliation, etc. People were just happy to be discussing how social media is changing the way our government operates.
  • My Session 🙂 – “Get on the Government 2.0 Cluetrain or Get Hit by It.” Big thanks go to Mike Russell for having the initiative to coordinate this panel discussion for me. Based on my Government 2.0 Cluetrain post, the discussion centered on the fundamental principles of social media and the government. I really enjoyed talking with the other panelists and the 20-30 people in the room about how the theses from the original Cluetrain Manifesto that were so relevant to the private sector 10 years ago are still true today in the Government.
  • The organizers. Peter, Mark, Maxine, and Jeffrey were simply phenomenal to work with before, during, and now, after the event. From setting up the wiki to coordinating the budget to answering attendee questions, they created the platform for everyone to put on a successful event. I think it’s important to note that they didn’t just do it all themselves – they managed to get others involved and turn it into a real “crowdsourced” Camp where everyone played a role.
  • The sessions. The sessions from Day 1 and Day 2 were varied, timely, interesting, and effective. In each time slot, there were numerous sessions led by qualified individuals and I always had a tough time picking which one to go to. The organizers did a good job of consolidating similar sessions and spreading out similar topics. I particularly enjoyed the “Ask the White House” session with Macon
    Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin from the White House New Media Team

    Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin from the White House New Media Team

    Phillips and Bev Godwin from the White House New Media team. Macon and Bev answered questions and took suggestions both from the audience in the room and from Twitter. My favorite question was when someone told them that they needed to continue to push the envelope because the other agencies/departments took their lead from the White House. His answer – “Go! Do it! Don’t wait for the White House to solve your problems. Learn, evangelize, and implement yourselves.”

  • The location. I know that we all whined and complained upon finding out that the Duke Ellington School for the Arts wasn’t metro-accessible and it had very limited parking. In spite of the logistical challenges, we all made it just fine and I don’t know of too many people who chose not to attend because of it. Additionally, the academic environment – the desks, the blackboards, the theater stage – set up a real atmosphere of learning and sharing.

What I’d Like to See Next Year

  • The wiki. I loved the fact that the organizers used a wiki to transparently track everything leading up to the conference, including attendees, sponsors, and even finances. However, for next year, I’d like to see an actual minimalistic website with all of the significant static details with a link to the wiki. While I had no issue with navigating the wiki, some of my colleagues struggled to understand the whole concept of the Government 2.0 Camp when I sent them the link to the wiki. I can imagine that others may have had some trouble getting approval to attend because of this as well.
  • Better live-blogging. We had hoped to capture all of the sessions’ notes via live-blogs on the Government 2.0 Club website, but participation was sporadic. Most of the session leaders did a good job of identifying a Twitter hashtag to track that sessions’ notes, but identifying a willing live-blogger for each session was hit and miss (mine included). Rather than relying on someone in each session to volunteer to live-blog, maybe we would do better to identify 10-12 roving bloggers prior to the session who volunteer to live-blog every session they attend. Not sure if that would work out any better or not, but it might be worth a try.
  • More skeptics. Most of the attendees at this year’s conference were either already social media evangelists or practitioners, or were interested in learning more. While I never felt that we were in an echo chamber, I think that all attendees would benefit if we had some panel discussions and presentations led by privacy experts or IT security experts – people who, by their very nature, have to take a very conservative approach to social media. I think it’s critical that we make a concerted effort to include those who sometimes make implementing social media difficult so that we can learn their concerns and how to address them.

Overall, I have nothing but good things to say about this inaugural Government 2.0 Camp – it was the first of what I hope to be many more gatherings of like-minded individuals focused on doing what’s best for our government. Collectively, we’re all at the start of something big here, and I can only hope that we realize the opportunities that lie before us now. What we’re doing now MATTERS. What we’re doing here at Government 2.0 Camp and every day in our offices, is making a DIFFERENCE. Let’s always remember that.

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Social Media Isn’t Always the Answer

December 23, 2008

30 Comments

As one of Booz Allen’s social media leads, I’m thrilled to see more and more of my government clients starting to ask questions about social media and if/how it might help them.  I love logging into Twitter and seeing so many different conversations centered around Government 2.0.  I love thinking about the potential that social media has in fundamentally changing the way our government operates.  I also love telling my clients that they’re not ready for social media.

Let me explain.

I’ve seen Intellipedia, TSA’s Evolution of Security blog, DoDLive, the DoD’s Blogger’s Roundtable, FEMA’s YouTube channel, GovLoop, and many other examples of “Government 2.0.”  I’ve also seen plenty of failed blogs, dormant wikis, and other failed attempts at using social media.  The reasons for failed social media range from the obvious (ghostwriting a blog and not allowing comments) to the not so obvious (middle managers not allowing wiki contributions without first getting them approved).  However, these are simply symptoms of a larger issue at work.

Here’s the thing – unless your organization is ready for transparency and authenticity, and has instilled a culture of sharing, you’re going to have a lot of trouble successfully spreading social media.  This is where I often tell my clients to take a step back from the tools of social media and focus more on the processes of social media.  I compare this type of thinking to a football team that goes out and drafts really talented receivers, but stick them into an offense that’s focused on running the ball.  The receivers (social media) end up failing not necessarily because they’re bad, they end up failing because they were placed into an offense (the organizational culture) that wasn’t optimized for them.

You see, social media isn’t about the technology – it’s about what the technology enables.  And even if your organization is ready for the tools, it may very well not be ready for what those tools will bring.  Before diving into the world of social media, take a step back and see if your organizational culture and internal processes will support what social media will enable.

  1. Are employees discouraged from contacting people outside of their chain of command?
  2. Are employees discouraged from challenging authority?
  3. Is risk-taking rewarded or punished?
  4. Are employees rewarded for collaborating with other colleagues or for authoring/producing original work?
  5. Do your employees have regular access to the Intranet?
  6. Does your leadership value the feedback of employees?
  7. Are employees prohibited from speaking externally without prior permission?
  8. Is the contribution and sharing of intellectual capital part of the employees’ regular routine?
  9. What’s more valued, entrepreneurship or following orders?
  10. Do employees derive more value from networking with colleagues or from using the Intranet?

Asking these (and there are many more – this is just a sampling) questions will help your organization (offense) be prepared for what social media (receivers) will enable.

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What Makes Government 2.0 Different from Enterprise 2.0?

October 13, 2008

34 Comments

One of the things that I have consistently noticed in my five years as a government communications consultant is that our new hires who come from the corporate world go through an adjustment period upon first supporting a government client.  That’s to be expected as there are a multitude of differences between public sector and private sector clients – from the mundane (different ways of hiring contractors) to the fundamental (no shareholders to worry about).  These differences extend into the world of social media too, specifically into social media behind the firewall, known in the private sector as Enterprise 2.0.

What makes implementing social media on the intranet of a government agency like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) different than say, General Motors (GM)?  I’ve worked with clients from across the government who are all seeing social media succeed in helping organizations communicate, collaborate, and share information better than they ever have.  From wikis in the Intelligence Community to internal blogs at IBM, many of my clients see these articles and want to use social media to realize these same benefits, but don’t know how to do it.  The first thing that I have to tell them is that just because another organization, company, or agency implemented blogs or wikis or whatever else, they won’t necessarily see the same results, especially if they compare themselves to case studies in the private sector.  There are several fundamental differences between implementing social media behind the firewall in the government as opposed to a Fortune 500 company.  Let’s look at my top six:

  1. Risks – From Mark Drapeau’s excellent Government 2.0 series on Mashable“When Coke’s recipe or Google’s search algorithm get out, there are certainly serious consequences, but ultimately, people don’t die. The government has a higher standard.” On Intellipedia, the Intelligence Community’s wiki, 16 agencies are sharing classified information related to some of our nation’s most protected data – you think that the leadership there might have some pretty justifiable concerns about information security?  Accidentally exposing proprietary information is one thing – accidentally disclosing Top Secret military movements or taxpayer data is another.
  2. Administration Changes – Every November, and especially every fourth November, every government agency has to prepare for the chance that tomorrow, they may have a new boss with a new vision for how things should work.  Organization charts are always out of date, no one ever knows what their corporate strategy is, and people are always getting shuffled from position to position.  The comments to one of my prior posts alluded to this as well – sometimes leaders who know they will be leaving their position want to leave behind a legacy.  These leaders are more apt to take risks, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.  Getting and maintaining the top cover for an implementation of social media is virtually impossible in these cases – what happens after that leader leaves?
  3. Intra-agency collaboration – Most government agencies do not operate in a vacuum – they have to not only collaborate amongst themselves, but must also collaborate with various partner agencies.  How big of a net should you cast when implementing a wiki or blogs behind your firewall?  For example, let’s say that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wanted to implement a wiki – should that wiki be open to just TSA employees?  Or, should it also be open to other agencies like the FAA or other members of the Intel Community?  Wouldn’t you think that NSA and TSA might benefit from being able to collaborate with one another?  Where you draw the line?
  4. Bureaucracy – One thing that can’t be discounted in the bureaucracy involved.  Getting ANYTHING done often takes months of reviews, approvals, control gate presentations, etc.  I know of some government organizations still using Netscape as their Internet Browser because IE and/or Firefox haven’t yet been approved for their IT system.  Imagine the hurdles that have to be crossed to get blogs installed!  Combined with the various regulations and policies that have to be consulted and the administration issues mentioned above, there is often just not enough time available in the year to get these things done.
  5. Demographics – I don’t have any hard numbers on this (if you do, please pass them along), but in my experience, government employees fit into a very different demographic than those found in the private sector.  They tend to be older (have to learn these tools as opposed to having grown up with them), have longer tenure (are more set in their ways and resistant to change), and are motivated by different things (innovation is rarely on their performance assessments).  The cultural change that social media necessitates is thus inherently more difficult.
  6. Available Resources – If you’ve ever worked in a government environment, you know that there’s a constant battle for funding.  Every department is short-staffed and there’s never enough resources to accomplish everything, and as a result, innovative initiatives like social media tend to get dropped as the focus moves toward accomplishing the day-to-day work that makes up their organizational mission.  There just aren’t too many people who have the leadership support to take on the tasks necessary to make social media behind the firewall successful, like gardening a wiki or developing blog training courses.

Now, I put these six points out there not to discourage the exploration of social media behind government firewall – quite the contrary.  I want to identify the differences so that we can consider them and ultimately address them.  In one of my future posts, I’ll look at some ways in which these differences can be tackled, as well as what happens when these differences aren’t taken into account.

What other differences do you see?

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