In May, the White House officially released a new strategy to update federal government communication: The Digital Government Strategy. Federal Chief Technology Officer Todd Park says with the new strategy, "Open data will be the new default. On top of that the data should be public when possible. And finally, the data should be available anywhere, anytime on any device."
But the update is just the lastest iteration in the government's communication revolution. "The last five years there have new tools that have brought about these evolutionary phases in how the government communicates with the public," said Scott Burns.
Burns is the CEO and Co-Founder of GovDelivery. GovDelivery is the leading public communication solution, offering an automated Email and Digital Subscription Management platform to government.
Burns told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that government communication is no longer a one-way street.
"GovDelivery has been working with state and local governments since the early 2000s. Back then people were just excited to have websites. They weren't really thinking about using websites as a way to transform government," said Burns.
Transforming Government with Communication Tools
Initial move was simply to use tools. Agencies were just experimenting with Twitter, online communities, Facebook.
Re-consider how government communicates, how they use the tools in order to do that.
The FEMA Example
Last year FEMA has 8,000 people participate in online communities. This year that number is already hovering at 20,000 people. The online communities are transforming the way people communicate. It's no longre a one-way conversation, it's all about direct collaboration.
The government has a history of thinking of communication as a one-way press-release oriented type of activity. What we try to do is help people understand that now you need to personalize the experience with the mission of the organization and keep the individual in mind.
In the business world goals are very straightforward when it come to marketing. Make money. It is easy to measure success and failures. For government it's much more difficult. We need to help clients understand that the objectives are different.
Lot's of planning is needed up front, that way communication can actually support the mission not just about about getting more Twitter followers.
Need to promote things that actually matter, many communications back and forth between the government and the public aren't necessarily important. But there are ways to use lower value activities say the Social Security Administration's log of the top baby names to promote the higher value ones. Like the Social Security Administration's updates to coverage for seniors.
"With the tools available now you can send an message to a small group of people. 1-2% of your contact list. Try things out, experiment. It's a couple hours of investment and a few dollars. There's no high dollar risk. But it gives you the freedom to try new things. See what works," said Burns.
"I've never met anyone in government who's been fired for taking a risk, but I know plenty who have been fired for not trying new things. Government can and needs to innovate," said Burns.
Digital Government: The Transformative Power of Communications Event
Keynote Speaker: Peter Sims, author of Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries and co-author of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership
Location: Grand Hyatt, 1000 H Street NW, Washington D.C. 20001
Room: Constitution C
Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Time: 7:30am – 12:30pm
Cost: There is no charge for government employees, officials, and contractors – breakfast is included