Thursday, April 23, 2015

Communicators Network and Socialize in Our First “Mix and Mingle” for 2015

By Cori Bassett and Deb Harris, FCN Co-chairs
Thank you to all who came out to the FCN networking and social hour last night at Gordon Biersch Brewery! We had a great turnout with over 100 RSVPs from 40 different government agencies as well as the private sector. 

We enjoyed a cheerful evening as we talked with returned Peace Corps volunteers, members of the Inspector General community, college students and graduates who came out to learn more about the work we do in government, and many, many others.

Thank you all for sharing your backgrounds, work stories, and ideas. We hope you were able to make valuable new connections.

And special thanks to FCN’s External Relations and Outreach Coordinator Bernetta Reese for organizing the event! We hope to see you again at the next one!

Monday, April 6, 2015

FCN Networking and Social Hour Wednesday, April 22, 2015

By Bernetta Reese, events and outreach coordinator, Department of Agriculture

The FCN leadership team would like to invite you to a networking and social hour from 5:30–7:30 PM at Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant (900 F St NW in Washington, DC) on Wednesday, April 22! This event is for socialgov, opengov, digitalgov, PR – all things communications – to get together for an informal and fun evening! We will have a private space at the Brewers Table to mix and mingle where beverages, drinks, and food can be purchased.

Please RSVP by April 20, so that we’ll know how many folks will be joining us and feel free to share this invitation.

Who Should Attend?
  • Communications professionals -- new and experienced -- all are welcome. 
  • Those looking to network with fellow communicators and govies. 
  • FCN members and anyone who would like to join. 
  • Fun people!
See you there!

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!