Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Transparency: Responsibilities of Federal Communicators

Posted by: David B. Grinberg, Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications at a federal agency, and former agency spokesman
Photo of David B. Grinberg

As a federal communicator, are you able share as much information with the public as appropriate and possible?

Or, on the flip side, do you run into antiquated bureaucratic stonewalls when you try to foster greater transparency to build public trust in government?

Photo of a large group of press cameramen and women
Photo courtesy Flickr user US Mission Geneva, CC BY-ND 2.0

Get Advance Approval From Your Leadership So You Can Be Responsive

Meaningful transparency will only succeed if and when all federal communicators are empowered from the top-down by agency leadership. In today’s fast evolving digital-mobile world, our jobs require us to have seamless access to all necessary and relevant information. And beyond access, we also must have advance approval to share certain kinds of information in certain kinds of situations.

We need to keep up with the breakneck speed of breaking news and crisis communication in the hyper-paced information age. When a damaging social media item goes viral, for instance, there really is no time to spare in responding. Every minute lost is another minute in which hundreds or thousands of people potentially consume the negative information and pass it on.

Social Media Cartoon - Social Media Kneejerk
Image courtesy Flickr user seanrnicholson, CC BY-ND 2.0
Put simply, federal communicators need more access to data and information to effectively do our jobs. Talk to your boss about difficult situations that might arise, and agree on a response. If one of those situations arises, you can implement the agreed upon response, rather than waiting for review and approval. This is true whether you work as a public affairs specialist, a social media manager, or oversee internal communications.

Transparency = Public Trust

Transparency is what builds and repairs public trust in government. This is critically important in today’s insidious climate of fed bashing and demonization of government.

How can any democratic form of government work best for the people when the people don’t trust or respect it? Today it appears we are treading on dangerous ground.

Federal Communicators: Be Part Of The Solution

Federal communicators should not have to face internal obstacles -- political, bureaucratic or otherwise -- in obtaining the information necessary to foster greater transparency and help improve the dismally low public approval of government.

This means having access to internal agency information, and if that access is not complete and open, then there should be good reasons why. Access enables communicators to effectively, efficiently and expeditiously do our jobs. Without it, then public trust in government will remain fleeting as real transparency remains nothing more than a buzzword.

But how many agencies purposely and unnecessarily withhold helpful information and data from the public for unnecessary reasons? We need to ask ourselves what these specific reasons are and how we can topple such entrenched bureaucratic walls.

We need to ask ourselves, as federal communicators, if we are part of the solution or part of the problem in promoting real transparency. In essence, restoring public trust in government hangs in the balance.

This discussion is brought to you by the Federal Communicators Network. FCN members are government employees managing U.S. government communications. We've published lots more on this topic. Check out 3 Keys to Successful Media Relations for Federal Communicators. Note: All views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author only, not his current or future employers.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Free Trainings & Events for Gov Communicators

Posted by: Britt Ehrhardt - Monday, August 12, 2013
Photo of Britt Ehrhardt.

Whose office has money for training anymore? With budget constraints and new spending restrictions, many federal communicators have no budget (or almost no budget) for training, conferences, or skill-building events, no matter how valuable they might be.

But there are free training opportunities available. FCN tries to catalogue these for you every six months or so. Better add these free opportunities to your calendar TODAY! After all, no one can build your skills and your network but you.

Free Events for Federal Communicators, Fall 2013

Aug 14
Usability.gov: The Research Behind the Redesign - online, 2pm-3pm ET
GSA's DigitalGov University presents a talk by Katie Messner of HH. Her insights can help your agency improve user experience as you update your website.

Aug 14-15
Drupal Government Days 2013 - in-person, Bethesda, Maryland
Last year, 350 participants attended. This year, even more opportunities to share, learn, and explore about open source software for government websites etc.

Aug 19-23
Adobe Creative Cloud Design Week - online
5 days of free live workshops, 9am-4pm PT, covering well-known Adobe tools like Photoshop and InDesign, now in the cloud. Plus other photo, video, audio, and design software tools with which you might be less familiar.

Aug 22
Social Media Performance Metrics: Direct Engagement - online, 2pm-2:30pm ET
GSA's DigitalGov University presents a talk by Nicole Callahan from DoEd. While counts of retweets or followers provide some basic measurement of engagement, they don’t tell you enough about whether you’ve achieved any meaningful outcomes.

Photo of a guy in a collared shirt in a training classroom. He has two thumbs up and is making a funny face.
Free training? YEAH! Sign me up!
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user destinyuk*, CC BY-NC-ND)
Aug 29
More Than a Hashtag: Using Social Media to Achieve Mission Goals - online, 2pm-3pm ET
IBM Business Analytics and Government Executive present a free webinar on how to use social media to reduce costs and improve on delivery of your mission.

Sept 10
Schmoozeday Free Networking Happy Hour - online, 6pm-8:30pm ET
The DC chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design, is hosting a free happy hour in Dupont Circle.

Sept 23-27
Social Media Week DC - in-person, many locations around DC
There were a ton of gov participants and event organizers at the last Social Media Week DC in February 2013. A week-long festival featuring independently curated (and mostly free) speakers, panels, workshops, events, and parties connects people around emerging trends in social and mobile media.

Oct 14-20
DC Design Week - in-person
The DC chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design offers a week-long program of events, workshops, and schmoozing that highlights designers, illutrators, photographers and others. [Not all events are free.]

Nov 22
Defense & Security Mobile Technologies Symposium 2013 - DC
3rd annual event from the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association of Washington, D.C presents this symposium focused on gaps to coordination, collaboration, information sharing, and active threat deterrence across agencies, domains, and private owners of U.S. infrastructure. [NOTE: Free only for GS-8 and below, as well as Chief Warrant Officers and NCOs and below. GS-9 and above, as well as Officers 01 and above, pay registration fee that depends on date of registration.]

Anytime Training - Some of Our Favorites...

Media Training 
Media Training How-To Videos - 5-part YouTube series by trainer TJ Walker, includes segments Be Cool about appearing on TV, and Answering Questions.

Emergency Communications
Be Ready When Mayhem Strikes: Government Emergency Communications - GovGirl puts up a new video every Wednesday.

Web Content Management 
The Seven Deadly Sins of Web Content Management - Adobe Digital Government hosts this on-demand webinar with Stephen Powers of Forrester Research.

Plain Language
Plain Language - Free online training from NIH.

Innovation, IT, and Technology
FedTalks 2013 - Archived talks from FedScoop's annual summit on technology in the federal government. Features brief presentations on big ideas, modeled after TED Talks, from big names like Dan Tangherlini of GSA and Steve VanRoekel, U.S. CIO at OMB. Scroll down for presentations.

If you know about a free or inexpensive event open to other communicators, especially those organized by not-for-profit organizations, please let us know, and we'll promote it.

The Federal Communicators Network tweets about free events all the time. Follow FCN on Twitter to make sure you don't miss an opportunity.

This discussion is brought to you by the Federal Communicators Network. FCN members are government employees managing U.S. government communications. We've published lots more on this topic. Check out February 2013 Free Trainings & Events for Communicators.

FCN List-Serv and Community of Practice at GSA

Posted by: FCN 2013 Leadership - Monday, August 12, 2013

The Federal Communicators Network has transitioned to a new email list-serv at the U.S. General Services Administration. Also, FCN is now a GSA community of practice. You can read more about what that means and the good company we’re joining.

FCN newsletter transitions to list-serv

For years we've been sending out an email newsletter, usually monthly. Our new tool is a list-serv, so members can email the list. We hope this will allow for lively and useful debate and exchange of information among members. And, of course, we'll still be sending out our usual FCN information about training, key resources, and best practices. Government communicators who join have access to a network of hundreds of their peers, a group with extensive expertise and deep subject knowledge. The list is limited to those with a government email address.

Not a member? What are you waiting for? 

Don’t have a government email address?

There are lots of other ways to be involved with FCN! We’re keeping our independent blog, Twitter feed, LinkedIn group, and GovLoop channels, so keep looking for us in those places.

Advantages of GSA partnership

This change means we’ll have access to better webinar tools and physical space for our trainings. GSA has all sorts of communities of practice under their umbrella, and we’re really pleased that they were willing to make space for us, as well. We’re proud of all we’ve gotten done on our own with our great members, and we are excited about taking advantage of the extra resources that this GSA partnership offers.

Federal communicators like you have relied on us for best practices, training, and networking for nearly 20 years, and we will still be offering all of those important things. Every FCN resource and training is free—and it’s going to stay that way.


FCN 2013 Leadership

Britt Ehrhardt, National Institutes of Health
David Hebert, U.S. Geological Survey

Newsletter Lead
Larry Orluskie, Department of Homeland Security

Events and Training Leads
Linda Austin, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Yvette Grimes, Internal Revenue Service
Moniqua Roberts, National Institutes of Health

This discussion is brought to you by the Federal Communicators Network. FCN members are federal employees managing U.S. government communications. We also welcome state and local government employees, as well as contractors with government email addresses.