Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Social Media is Customer Service

By Joe Flood, communications manager, National Weather Service

Social media is more than just sharing news. Social media is social. That means engaging with the public and answering their questions. Social media is customer service.

That was one of the interesting points brought up in the recent FCN forum, “Social Media: What’s the Right Strategy for Your Agency?” Social media managers from the VA, USGS, CIA and ICE discussed the challenges and opportunities of this medium in a panel discussion at the Partnership for Public Service.

Federal communicators probably never imagined that they would one day be in customer service. But, if you’re on Facebook or Twitter, then you’ve received questions from the public that need answering. How do agencies respond to this never-ending stream of inquiries?

Megan Moloney, Director of Digital Media Engagement, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, highlighted the work her agency has done with #VetQ/Veteran Question, a hashtag where veterans can get their questions answered on Twitter.  To get answers, all veterans need to do is tweet their question with the hashtag #VetQ.

And it’s not just the VA that responds. Other organizations such as Women Vets Connect respond to questions, typically on the same day. As one commenter stated, “The Vetwitter-verse out there can help!”

In addition, these questions are captured in Storify pages on frequently asked subjects such as benefits, jobs and insurance coverage. This web archive serves as a useful reference for veterans who aren’t on Twitter.

The U.S. Geological Service has a sense of humor, according to Scott Horvath, Bureau Lead for Social Media. He stressed the importance of having a human voice in social media (they make jokes about rocks) and employing a customer service team to answer questions from the public. Social media is not a one-person job. Nor is it a 9-5 occupation – he is on call 24/7 in case of emergencies (like an earthquake).

The moderator of the panel, GSA’s Justin Herman, pointed out that doing social media correctly could mean less traffic to your website – a good thing. Answering questions on Twitter (or, even better, having other organizations do it for you) means fewer calls and emails to your agency.

In summary, while you may not view your mission as customer service, you’re going to get questions from the public on social media.  Have a plan in place to answer them. Identify people in your agency who can help – or enlist your partners, like the VA does. Speak in a human voice, like USGS. Increase engagement and support for your agency by responding to the public.

Friday, February 20, 2015

FCN and Partnership for Public Services' Social Media Training Event Yesterday!

By Lisa Chesnel, writer/editor, Peace Corps Office of Inspector General

Thanks to all who participated in yesterday’s free training event (either in person on via the web) on social media, which was co-hosted by FCN and the Partnership for Public Service. The topic was Social Media: What’s the Right Strategy for Your Agency?

The panelists pictured below (l-r): Justin Herman (GSA), Carolyn Reams (CIA), Megan Moloney (VA), Kevin Downey (ICE), and Scott Horvath (U.S. Geological Survey). We’re incredibly thankful to the government’s best moderator, Justin Herman, whose thought provoking questions and dad jokes were worth braving the cold for.

The panelists answered questions about when their agencies decided to step into the online world, how they chose their social media, and why it was the right move. We also learned how they use their various outlets, including mistakes they’ve made, clever ideas for engaging with the online community, and what the future holds for their agencies in terms of social media.

If you enjoyed yesterday's event—spread the word! FCN and the Partnership for Public Service will be hosting another free training event in May, also at the Partnership for Public Service.

Stay warm.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Announcing the 2015 FCN Leadership Team and This Year’s First Free Training (where you can meet the team!)

By: Lisa Chesnel, writer/editor, Peace Corps Office of Inspector General

Hey folks. In December you elected me to the FCN leadership team! I wanted to thank you and let you know that I’m the new blogger for the team and I’d love your input–please contact me if you’d like to be a guest blogger! FCN posts are 500 words or less, on non-commercial topics of broad interest.

I also wanted to take the opportunity to let you know who else was elected and what role they’ve taken on:

  • Cori Bassett (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Deb Harris (Defense Finance and Accounting Services), co-chairs 
  • Suki Baz (National Park Service), secretary/administration coordinator 
  • Latasha Blackmond (Citizenship and Immigration Services), social media coordinator 
  • Lisa Chesnel (Peace Corps), blogger 
  • Britt Ehrhardt (National Institutes of Health), membership development coordinator 
  • Aubrey McMahan (U.S. Geological Survey), training/workshop coordinator 
  • Bernetta Reese (Department of Agriculture), events and outreach coordinator 

We all hope to see you at the event below--

Social Media: What’s the right strategy for your agency?

Please join the Partnership for Public Service and FCN at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 19 for a conversation on finding the right social media strategy for your agency.


From Twitter and Facebook to Instagram and Tumblr, there are a wide-variety of social media tools available to help agencies communicate their missions and make their content more accessible. However, developing the right digital strategy for your organization is key. Hear from a panel of agency communicators who have launched and led successful social media efforts on how they chose their agencies’ online platforms, how they are using these tools and why developing a social media strategy for their agency was the right move.


Thursday, February 19
8:30 a.m. Networking and continental breakfast
9:00-10:30 a.m. Panel discussion and audience Q&A

Partnership for Public Service
1100 New York Avenue NW, Suite 200 East
Washington, DC 20005

Guest Speakers

Kevin Downey
Web Content Manager
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Justin Herman (Moderator)
Federal SocialGov Community Lead
General Services Administration

Scott Horvath
Bureau Lead for Social Media
U.S. Geological Survey

Megan Moloney
Director of Digital Media Engagement
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Carolyn Reams
Web Content Manager and Social Media Lead
Central Intelligence Agency

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Google Analytics Outreach Tips

By: Maya Vemuri, bilingual information specialist at JBS International and former communications intern for the Office of Communications and Public Liaison at the National Institute on Aging

When managing a blog, it’s important to keep track of visitor activity. Keeping an eye on your blog’s metrics can help you get an idea of current activity and public interest, as well as indicate how future outreach efforts should be carried out.

Here are five Google Analytics tools you can use to improve stakeholder engagement and outreach:

1. Pageviews

Pageviews are an excellent way to get an idea of how much traffic a page is getting, in terms of both single-visit guests and repeat-visit guests. With Google Analytics, you can look at pageview metrics in two forms. “Pageviews” account for total views, including multiple visits by individual guests. “Unique Pageviews” accounts for the number of visitors who visited the page, regardless of how many times they viewed the page in question. Together, both metrics can be used to see how large your audience is, and whether or not they are repeatedly coming back to view blog posts.

2. Heartbeat

The “heartbeat” is a great way to get a visual representation of a page’s traffic. The graph can be used to view one or two metrics different at once, including which pageviews, unique pageviews, average time on page, bounce rate, and percent of visitors who exited from the page (or site) after visiting the page in question. These metrics can be displayed by hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly averages, over a period of time, which you can adjust in order to get the numbers most relevant to your needs.

3. Time on Page

When looking at the metrics of specific pages, you can compare the amount of time visitors spend on, on average, on each page. The amount of time will vary based on post length (longer posts will often show longer visit time), but if you have an established post length, Time On Page can best be used to measure and compare visitor interest. Entries such as “Best of” highlights or summary posts that only link to other posts will likely have short times in comparison to other posts, due to their lack of content. However, you can compare posts to see which topics or authors are more popular among visitors.

4. Bounce Rates

Bounce rates are especially important when it comes to stakeholder engagement. By observing the bounce rate of a page and comparing it to that of different pages, you can get an idea of which information and posts promote visitor interest. Looking at both the topic and type of page while observing its bounce rate, you can get an idea if certain pages are encouraging users to stay on your site or if they lose interest after visiting that one page. A high bounce rate is not uncommon for blog sites, as many times guests will visit to read a single page, but placing links to related pages on your site when posting an entry can help lower the rate and promote further engagement.

5. Behavior Flow

A good way to monitor visitor engagement and pages of interest is through Behavior Flow. Through the “Behavior Flow” tool, you can see the order in which guests visit pages on your site, and on which pages they are leaving the site. There are a number of variables that can be included in the display to help add more information about the visitors to various pages on your site, including traffic type, medium, source, keyword, visitor’s city, and more.

These are just a few tips on how you can get a more complete idea of your visitor activity. By keeping an eye on metrics, you can see which topics attract more visitors, what times and days they’re more likely to visit, and which pages keep them on the site longer. You can then use the information you’ve acquired to hone aspects of your site and increase public interest!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

FCN 2014 recap

Posted December 31, 2014 by Britt Ehrhardt, FCN 2014 Co-Chair

Headshot photo of Britt Ehrhardt in a suit jacket


As the year wraps up, please join me in thanking the 2014 FCN leadership team for their service. They have labored mightily on your behalf over the past months, and we’ve all benefited from their work. Check out their names and accomplishments below.

Dave Hebert of USGS and I have been honored to be your co-chairs for the past two years, and we are excited to pass the reins to the new team. It’s clear to me and everyone else who knows them that the new FCN co-chairs Cori Bassett and Deb Harris will be leading FCN to great things in 2015. See their leadership team bios and exciting plans.

Here are some highlights:

·         In the past two years, we grew membership by 45% to 725 people and transitioned to a list-serv—so you can reach out to your gov comms peers directly. Yasmine Kloth of NIH, Dave, and I supported list management and member services. And thanks to ALL of you for sharing such great information with the list.

·         We forged many new partnerships to bring you 10 events serving more than 1,500 attendees. If you missed some, check out our archives and materials from trainings. Our event with the U.S. Access Board and the Federal CIO Council Accessibility Community of Practice was the most popular. And our trilateral events with the UK’s Government Communication Service, Canada’s Communications Community Office, and GSA’s DigitalGovUniversity were not far behind. Deb Harris of DFAS put on one of our best reviewed events, an in-person writing training, Dave and Cori Bassett of DHS moderated great panels and appeared on the radio(!), I wore myself out event planning, and many others were involved.

·         Ethan Alpern of USGS started our Promote a Friend effort and also recruited our very first FCN summer intern, among other great accomplishments.

·         Sara Crocoll of NIH, Lisa Wilcox of USDA, and I took shifts on the FCN blog, publishing 25 posts on a bunch of interesting and helpful topics and moderating comments. Did you see the post from Canada’s Communications Community Office about how the government of Canada is retiring the traditional press release?

·         Deb Harris and I managed the FCN conversation on LinkedIn, where we’ve almost tripled participation in the past two years. And Deb also implemented a member survey, in which you told us about the services you wanted. And let’s not forget FCN on Twitter either—thanks for your help, Sara!

Happy new year, everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2015 Leadership Team Elected

Posted on: December 18, 2014

The results are in! Please welcome your 2015 FCN leadership team and join me in congratulating them on their election. You’ve elected some awfully accomplished and enthusiastic leaders, and their biographies and statements are below.

Cori Bassett, DHS/ICE
Deb Harris, DFAS

Activity Coordinators
Aubrey McMahan, USGS
Bernetta Reese, USDA
Britt Ehrhardt, NIH
Latasha Blackmond, USCIS
Lisa Chesnel, PeaceCorps
Suki Baz, National Park Service
Thanks to all who participated in nominations and voting. The competition for positions was very close. Our organization is lucky that so many qualified folks were willing to step forward to fill these roles.

And, of course, we’ve all benefited from the service of the 2014 team, who have labored mightily on your behalf over the past months. As the year draws to a close, I’ll send out a note about that, so you can join me in thanking them for their service.


Cori W. Bassett, Strategic Communications Director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Debra Harris, Public Affairs Specialist with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service

We have enjoyed being part of the 2014 leadership team for the Federal Communicators’ Network. As a part of that team, we were both involved in many of the outreach initiatives including media interviews, events, trainings as well as online content generation.

As co-chairs of FCN we want to continue to raise the visibility of the organization, create more opportunities for collaboration among federal communicators and offer more training events both virtual and in person. We understand that as dollars for training and travel get increasingly hard to come by, federal communicators need to leverage local and online resources to continue to grow and develop their work and their communication teams.

Cori W. Bassett Strategic Communications Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
I bring significant amount of organizational experience as well as communications experience in my 14 years as a public affairs professional. My work leading high profile marketing campaigns, event and training coordination and managing the online presence for both federal agencies and large nongovernmental organizations. Some of my biggest projects include leading multiple website rebranding efforts, launching a national museum display and assisting with the development of a federal smart phone app.

In my 14 years as a public affairs professional, I have led internal and external public affairs programs at the national and local levels. I served as a national spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement managing media relations and developing a variety of written and online products. In my current position as Strategic Communications Director for ICE, I develop public affairs policies, lead new major outreach initiatives and develop and oversee a wide range of print and online products as well as multi-media productions. I speak at professional public affairs conferences on a variety of topics including internal and external communication strategy and social media.

Debra Harris Public Affairs Specialist, Defense Finance and Accounting Service
I have more than six years’ experience leading project teams and creative teams. I bring 17 years design experience in both federal government and corporate environments. I have managed several communication strategies and special projects that required research, planning and evaluation.

I led a complete overhaul of the agency website. The project included selecting a new host, purchasing software, creating the design and navigation, migrating content and training team members. I’ve written and executed communication plans for a variety of needs aimed at both the agency’s internal and external audiences. This includes drafting messages, creating designs, defining methods of distribution and measuring the success of a variety of media such as web content, social media posts, videos, infographics, brochures and presentations.

Activity Coordinators

Aubrey McMahan

Internal Communications Specialist, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Aubrey on LinkedIn
Less than 3 years experience in government communications

Despite the short amount of time I've been involved in communications within the government, I have a history of other relevant experience to bring to the FCN Leadership Team. In the past (and in the present, as Internal Communications Specialist for the USGS!), I have held numerous roles where I've had the opportunity to create and lead quality educational events, network with new individuals to develop potential partnerships, and transform complex information into simpler communication for many audiences. I am also particularly resourceful, organized, and creative. I appreciate the opportunity to run as an Activity Coordinator for FCN Training/Workshops or External Liaison/External Relations, and look forward to the possibility of serving all FCN members next year as such!

Bernetta Reese

USDA, on detail as Web and New Media Manager, First Responder Network Authority
Bernetta on LinkedIn, Twitter, personal website
3 to 10 years experience in government communications

Bernetta Reese currently serves on a detail as the acting Web and New Media Manager for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) where she has established digital policies and operations the new federal agency. She also provides strategic guidance on digital media and industry best practices. Bernetta has served in positions across the federal government including as the Web and Project Manager for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) where she engaged in department- and federal-wide initiatives and represented the department on several working groups, committees, and sub-councils, and at the Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security where she led critical web efforts and provided emergency web response to terrorist incidents and other national crises. She has also worked at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She has more than 15 years of public service and she is honored to be able to serve throughout the federal government leading people and driving change through digital and strategic communications, information technology and public outreach.

Bernetta is a contributing member of FCN. Her contributions include posts on the blog, listserv, and most recently she was a speaker and presenter at one of FCN's webinar events. She hopes to continue her contributions as part of the leadership team, meet new people, and manage external relations for the network.

Britt Ehrhardt

Senior Technical Writer/Editor, National Institutes of Health/HHS
Britt on LinkedIn
3 to 10 years of experience in government communications

It's been an honor to co-lead FCN for the past two years. I've really enjoyed getting to know many of you by email and at in person events. I'm continually inspired by the depth and breadth of gov communications expertise in our community, and by members willingness to share that expertise with each other. This is a difficult time to be in government communications, with budgets for programs and training shrinking at some agencies, lingering echos of shutdown, federal employees as a convenient scapegoat for all ills, and government employee satisfaction falling to historic lows. However, communities like FCN that focus on best practices, networking opportunities, and training help us all to do our jobs a little better, feeling that we are part of a valued and skilled team that spans across agencies. I'm stepping back--planning to spend less time on FCN activities--but would still like to be involved in some key activities in 2015. There are some great candidates for FCN leadership roles this year, so it's clear that the organization will be in very good hands!

As for accomplishments, during the two years I co-led FCN with the fabulous Dave Hebert, we've grown membership by 45% and held 10 training or networking events. I took the lead on planning a majority of these events, and, at times, have been blog editor (>40 new posts), Twitter manager (1500 new followers) and membership issues resolver-in-chief (why hello again, new list subscribers!). But of course, the most important accomplishment is helping so many of you get access to resources and support that you might not have otherwise been able to access.

Latasha Blackmond

Web Content Editor, USCIS
3 to 10 years in government communications

For the last 6 years as a public affairs liaison and web/social media professional, I worked with external public affairs programs that established and maintained effective working relationships with national, state and local media representatives. I handled controversial and sensitive topics and participated in crisis communications planning. Assisted in the development and implementation of outreach initiatives. Developed a number of written and online products that reflected the policies, views, and program initiatives of the Agency

Currently, I develop web and social media policies as well research and analyze online communities, trends and conversations. Work with teams to create and execute digital communication strategies across multiple platforms. I lead website projects that enhance the functionality and usability of the website. Develop innovative solutions for content management. I develop and modify metrics to measure website performance in multiple areas using Google Analytics and Forsee Customer Survey. Work with program offices as well as other DHS components to produce high quality products that effectively meets needs of the customer and the agency.

Prior to my service as a federal employee, I worked in local government for 7 years. I ensured implementation, evaluation, and quality control of Criminal Justice Information System database. Informed legal professionals and general public on the use of procedures and filings for court. Recognized for developing application that tracked felony trial court rulings resulting in Baltimore first drug court.

Lisa Chesnel

Writer/Editor, PeaceCorps
Lisa on LinkedIn
3 to 10 years of experience in government communications

I'm interested in an activity coordinator position. Specifically I'm interested in training and networking. My office is small (under 30) and my position is writer/editor/press relations/outreach coordinator/social media and web coordinator and then some. I was thrilled to find this listserv and not feel so isolated! I used to work in academic publishing and I think two things that that community does really well is training and networking. I've struggled with both of those things in the federal gov't, where I've worked for over four years now. I think taking on this role would help me grow in my career and learn lots of new and exciting things. Thanks for the opportunity to apply and happy holidays!

Suki Baz

Employee Communications Specialist, National Park Service
Suki on LinkedIn, Twitter
3 to 10 years of experience in government communications

I have 12 years of experience in communications, focusing on internal for the last 6. I bring a wide range of experience with non-profit organizations, private companies, and the federal government. I am excited to learn more about employee and internal communications from my FCN colleagues, and to share my knowledge with them as well. I am also at Georgetown University earning my masters in Public Relations and Corporate Communications, allowing me to share up-to-date communications practices with fellow members.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Did you miss it? Catch up on "Internal Communications about Employee Feedback"

Posted on December 1, 2014 by Britt Ehrhardt, 2014 Co-Chair, Federal Communicators Network

Just before Thanksgiving, 45 of your friends and colleagues gathered for a valuable conversation about employee engagement and internal communications.

Internal communications, employee communications, and corporate communications are an important part of FCN's focus. We'd all agree that the success of programs and projects hangs on employee engagement. And what is more vital to employee engagement than complete, timely, effective internal communications?

Co-organized with the Partnership for Public Service and held in their beautiful space in downtown DC (thanks again, guys!), the event spotlighted panelists Terri Ehrenfeld of GPO, Tim Fullerton of Interior, Deb Green of FAA, guided by moderators Noha Gaber of EPA and Lara Shane of the Partnership.

They shared some great tips and tactics.

There was a lot of discussion of effective emails to employees.

Then, we broke out into small groups for detailed discussion of challenges and opportunities.

This is one of several events we're planning with the Partnership for Public Service, so stay tuned for more information from the 2015 FCN leadership team.