DHS: Recognizing bloggers as equal members of the media

July 17, 2008

Speaker: John Verrico

Topic: How to open your media relations doors to bloggers and broaden your reach to your target audience in the process.


John’s experiences with bloggers have been positive and they continue to trend in this direction. As a representative for the Department of Homeland Security he understands the importance of having accurate information available to the public. As more individuals include blogs into their daily lives as news sources, David stressed the importance of working with bloggers to establish relationships. Bloggers are news sources; each blogger is capable of reporting good and bad news to their subscribers and often help readers form their opinions.

In order to combat bloggers commenting or publishing false information, DHS works with bloggers via regular meetings or “blogger round tables” as they are often named. By bringing bloggers together, DHS has been able to decrease the spread of false or inaccurate stories. John’s advice included treating each of the bloggers as though they were conducting a media briefing event. As a result DHS is not only able to have their official voice in the public realm, but often bloggers carry stronger voices among Internet users because they carry a trusting citizen’s voice out in the public.

David helped steer DHS towards not implementing any in-house blogging capabilities. A proactive campaign to get existing bloggers to write about DHS activities was a much more rewarding exercise. Interestingly enough, John’s experience found many bloggers carried extensive experience and were often experts in a particular subject. Traditional news reporters on the other hand can sometimes be seen as having a large reach but few areas of deeper knowledge.

Remember the exercise…

Remember trying to open the hand of the person next to you when they had it closed. Many of us took an adversarial approach when a simple question may have sufficed. In short, don’t be adversarial with bloggers, find them and develop a relationship with them. In high stress situations where false or misleading information may exist or leak out about your organization, bloggers need to have the ability to call a person in charge to fact check.

When working with bloggers, John had many considerations based on his experience for you to remember. These considerations include:

  • Bloggers are not always available like representatives from the media
  • Blogs are immediate
  • No chance to respond before story goes viral
  • Difficult to track information spread
  • Treat bloggers like traditional media (e.g., invite them to press events)
  • Hold blogger roundtables
  • Bloggers are an excellent communication tool that will expand your media reach

American Cancer Society’s Social Media Experience

July 17, 2008

Speaker: David J. Neff – CIW, American Cancer Society

Topic: How to Spread Your Message And Harness The Power Of Social Media While Being Cost-Effective

David had many insights into social media since his organization had grown its online presence. To begin David offered practical advice such as, people tend not to watch video over 10 minutes long. This is a useful piece of information for future vodcasters.

When asked about time savers and tools David mentioned TubeMogul.com is a resource to consider. Of course he is just speaking about his experiences and not endorsing anything. Worldcaption.com is a resource that came to mind when the discussion turned to captioning.

David first addressed social media by looking at what it means to the general population. His goal is to get the greatest audience penetration and participation in cancer related events. In David’s opinion, social media allows the populations to take on a group think mentality around your message; people will talk about your message in good and bad ways. Whether the messages are good or bad, David mentions that any organization will experience these things and you have to deal with it, and encourage it.

When discussing how messages were previously disseminated to the general population David introduced his thoughts on the old model:

Long Leads
National Business Press
Local business press
National consumer/broadcast media

As social media has been introduced, a new media model has emerged:

Core communities
Trend spotters
First “credible” source
National media

This part was important…

David stressed that success was a result of having an interesting and unique message to help you stand out. Compelling content and digital story-telling is critical to disseminating your message. For instance recall his experience with Frozenpeafund.com and how one woman’s fight with cancer helped raise awareness and significant donations. FYI – The digital story David played online is located here http://www.sharinghope.tv/video/1706386.

As another FYI, David’s experience with social media resources include:
Global Neighbourhoods
ooVoo.com – interviews with favorite bloggers
PEW marketing research – report on-line about digital

Tracking – Google Analytics, summize.com, compete.com, tweetscan.com, Google blog alerts, Facebook search, viewzi.com


Wikis in Action – Day 2 Interactive Session

July 16, 2008

So, in today’s interactive session, we wanted to give our conference attendees an opportunity to actually see the power of wikis and the “wisdom of crowds” here at the Conference.  Sure, we could have walked through the history of a Wikipedia page, or talked about how Intellipedia has changed the way the Intelligence Community creates and shares information, but it’s a lot easier to to take these thoughts and ideas back to your organization if you’ve actually experienced it.

With this afternoon’s session, I’m hoping to illustrate the power that wikis can have when used within an organization.  I’ve done this interactive session a couple of times before, and it’s gotten really good feedback so far, so I’m hoping for a similar result here today.

The Hypothesis

A roomful of people can provide the same answers as the “experts” in less time, often with more complete information and leads to additional information.

The Setup

Two recognized “experts” are given a list of questions that they’re given 10 minutes to answer in isolation.  During this same ten minutes, the audience is given the same list of questions and are asked to answer the questions in real-time.  Today’s experts will be David Neff from the American Cancer Society and Jack Holt from the Department of Defense.  What follows are the questions and the “crowd’s” answers to those questions.

The Questions

Who won last night’s All-Star game?

  • American League
  • The game was the longest in history – 15 Innings
  • Score: 4 – 3
  • Last All-Star game in Yankee Stadium

Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in front of what DC landmark?

  • The Lincoln Memorial in 1963
  • Part of the speech was ad lib

I just found out that my friend has lung cancer, and I want to learn more – how can I find out more information?

  • American Cancer Society
  • Cancer.org
  • NIH Cancer Division
  • Cancer Center of America
  • Sharinghope.tv
  • Use custom homepages with RSS feeds from resources
  • Sloan-kettering
  • Virtua Cancer Center
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Lance Armstrong’s Book
  • WebMD

I want to place RSS feeds onto my website, but don’t know where to start – what are the questions that I need to ask to get started?

  • What type of content should have RSS feeds
  • Target Audience
  • Where should the RSS feeds be located on the website
  • Who are the experts in the organization
  • Who is going to code the RSS feeds
  • How would you promote and integrate RSS feeds into your communication strategy
  • Where are some of the sources
  • Organizational policies regarding RSS
  • How to track RSS feeds
  • Audience’s knowledge of RSS

What types of wiki software are available?

  • MediaWiki
  • Social Text
  • Confluence
  • PB Wiki
  • Wikipedia Wiki page has all current wikis listed
  • SharePoint

I want to learn more about social media – what are the some of the best learning resources?

  • Presenters
  • Digg
  • Attendees
  • Social Media Today
  • Social Media for Government Blog
  • Wikipedia
  • Technorati
  • Wikinomics
  • TubeMogul.com
  • Wiki Patterns
  • CNet

We’ve all worked with public affairs officers and they seem to have a wide range of capabilities and knowledge. What types of training should a public affairs officer be required to take?

  • Writing for the web
  • Strategic public relations
  • Attend conferences
  • Crisis management
  • Media training
  • Media relations

Who’s going to win the Red River Shootout this year (Texas-Oklahoma)?

  • OU!!!

After reviewing the answers from the “experts,” we found that the hypothesis proved true (for the most part!).  The experts often provided a “right” answer, but the “crowd” was usually able to not only match the experts’ right answer, but provide a more complete answer, and often more information that led to answers to follow-on questions too.  While this exercise didn’t prove anything, it did illustrate the potential social media can have within the organization when you open up and put your information on a platform like a wiki, rather than keeping it contained within a channel like email.


Have You Taken Any Pictures?

July 16, 2008

Have you taken any good pictures of the conference or of the city since you’ve been in D.C.?  Got a great picture of the Lincoln Memorial?  Maybe some pictures of some of the speakers?

If so, we want them!  No, no…we don’t actually want them all – we just want you to share them with other conference participants.  If you have taken any pictures and care to share them with your colleagues, head over to Flickr and upload your photos.  Use your personal account if you already have one; if you don’t already have one, create a new account and upload them to your account.  All that we ask is that you tag your photos with the term “socialmediagovernment” – by doing this, you’ll ensure that your pictures will get picked up by the Flickr RSS feed that I’ve inserted at the bottom right of this blog.  This feed is tied this particular tag and not to an individual account.  This allows EVERYONE to upload their own photos using their own account and still share related photos.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to all of the photos from this year’s conference, and here’s my own personal Flickr site.


RSS: Insight from Scott Horvath

July 15, 2008

Speaker: Scott Horvath – U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior


Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds and readers are a common element found on many of today’s websites. RSS empowers users to pull in only the information they want to read to their desktops or browser based readers.

Utilizing RSS has many positive elements and few disadvantages.

Advantages include:

  • Viewing updates and news releases at a time of your choosing
  • Increase in web traffic
  • Increased work productivity
  • Integration across multiple websites such as social networks and blogs


  • Subscribing to too many RSS subscriptions can lead to information overload.
  • You might miss other important information on the site
  • Possible assumptions all news will go out in the RSS feed. This is not always the case and you might miss new RSS feeds from the same site

Tips & Tricks:

  • Keep all of your RSS feeds on one page for users to easily browse subscriptions.
  • Use FeedBurner to keep track of statistics

USGS Resources:

RSS Cheat Sheet: usgs.gov/corecast/docs/rss_cheatsheet.pdf
USGS RSS/Podcasts: usgs.gov/rss
USGS CoreCast: usgs.gov/corecast
USGS CoreFacts: usgs.gov/corefacts


Getting Started: Insight from Chesapeake

July 15, 2008

Speaker:Lizz Gunnufsen – City of Chesapeake, Virginia

Topic: So you’re a social media expert. Now What? A step-by-step process to get your social media plan started


Lizz offered a candid look at how she has started implementing social media in her current work environment. Her message came across as simply try! As a result of her efforts thus far, she has used free software packages such as WordPress and PB Wiki to demonstrate noticeable improvements in internal communication.  If you’re interested in learning more about how the city of Chesapeake is using video as part of their communications strategy, make sure you check out their video portal where they have about 175 videos online, including news, public affairs, sports, and business info.  They also have other videos spread across their website that aren’t in the portal, including testimonials from police officers that we use from recruiting for the Police Academy.

Lizz went on to show us how easy it is to create videos and how powerful those videos can be, without breaking the bank.  She had an excellent video illustrating how the toll booths on the Chesapeake Expressway work (believe me – it was more entertaining than it sounds!).  It was a great example of how to do user-generated video the right way. You can view the video below:

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1090984&dest=-1]

Interested in how MySpace works?  Interested in how people are using MySpace to connect with their friends?  Lizz played the below video from her local MySpace expert who explained how she’s using MySpace and how she mitigates the risks with privacy and information security issues.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1090914&dest=-1]

A few additional items Lizz stressed include:

  • Many social media applications have free versions
  • The tools necessary to create your own videos and podcasts have minimal associated costs for small video cameras and voice recorders

Key Points to Remember:

  • Coax in users with compelling content
  • Create opportunities to collaborate
  • These tools and resources are best used when complimenting traditional approaches

Use Spokeo to Manage Your Social Networks

July 15, 2008

Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, BeBo, Ning, Friendster – there are SO many different social networks out there, how are you supposed to keep track of who’s on what, and which networks include your target audiences?

This is where Spokeo comes in.  Spokeo leverages your existing social network and email relationships to quickly and easily grab your friends’ content across the web.  So for example, you can plug in your distribution list and the site will scan dozens of social networking sites, including all of the ones mentioned above, and let you know who is on what network and a link to their profile page.

This tool is extremely useful when you’re first developing your social media strategy, as you can target your communications to those social networks that have the audience that you’re targeting while filtering out those that do not.

Check it out and use your personal address book for a test run – I bet you’ll be surprised at what you find out on www.spokeo.com.