September 12, 2011

Top 5 things I learned from the biggest tech conference in the US.

By Mike Bernard, Digital Marketing Specialist, GovDeliveryDreamforce_logo1

Over the past week I attended a conference called Dreamforce ‘11, hosted by the Dreamforce played host to 45,000 people, all of whom are interested in running applications in the cloud. Since GovDelivery has been all about the cloud for over a decade, they were speaking my language.

There were plenty of big name speakers, like Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, Tim Campos, CIO of Facebook and Vivek Kundra, Former CIO of the United States. There were plenty of other industry experts and people in the know also. Even though there were hundreds of speakers and thousands of ideas discussed, there were 5 themes that continued to pop up. Let me summarize them for you:

1)      The future of computing is Mobile, Social and Local – We’ve all heard the statistics that more and more internet browsing is being done on mobile devices, namely smartphones and tablets. As a result, technologists have to adapt new ways of formatting their information. Websites need to be developed using HTML 5 and CSS3 in order to be cross-platform, cross-device compatible. Finding ways to deliver information that is relevant to you and the things you care about is now the norm, not the exception. Allowing people to get real-time information about what is in their backyard will determine whether or not they continue to consume your content. Fortunately, government has a leg up on this. Because government is made up of people, and its primary role is serving people, it’s social by its very nature. City, County and State government (and many federal programs as well) dramatically shape how we live and work at the local level. The final prong is mobile.  Find creative ways to deliver content where people are. Smartphones and tablets are a great place to start, but not everything. Could you find ways to deliver your message about specific topics by email and social media? How about make an informative video and post it online? Maybe you implement QR codes for more information on all your printed material? Get creative about how to reach people where they already congregate (in person and online).

2)      Getting data out of traditional, on-site silos allows more flexibility with what you can do with that data. Data is about the most valuable resource most organizations have. Having it locked away in proprietary, outdated databases hinders its ability to be used in new ways. For example, lists over 300,000 publicly available geospatial datasets. This has allowed the development of thousands of web and mobile applications for travel alerts, weather, trivia, insurance estimators, student loan disbursement and many more. By allowing people access to data, creativity and technical aptitude can combine to create great new products. Think about ways you can make data available to the public and invite people to access it. You’ll be surprised with what they come up with.

3)      Speed and agility in implementation of new solutions is a must. In software, there are traditionally two ways to do development: waterfall and agile. With waterfall development you spend a large amount of time planning every possible feature set you’re looking for.  Then, once the spec sheet is complete, you develop the whole product (think Microsoft Office). Agile development works in short bursts called sprints. Developers focus on a small amount of features for 2 to 4 weeks. Once a sprint is over, the developments are released and a new sprint of features begins (think Google). This allows the development team to be very flexible in its response to problems or adjusting priorities. Agile development is becoming the new norm. Going beyond software, the principles of agile development can be applied in accounting, communications or emergency management. The idea of making quick decisions, measuring the results like crazy and adjusting rapidly can allow any organization to move forward quickly. Think about how your team could adapt agile programming techniques to streamline your workflow.

4)      Measurement and analysis are more important than they’ve ever been. In order to be agile, you must collect a lot of data about what you’re doing and make decisions based on that data. Sometimes, it’s easy to fall into the trap of going with your “gut” because you have experience. Experience is great, but it should be used correctly. Your experience helps you see patterns and trends in the data. If the data doesn’t support your assumption, it’s time make adjustments to your assumptions. Simply ignoring the data (or not collecting any in the first place) is no way to sustain forward progress. If you aren’t collecting data about everything that matters to your organization, find ways to start. If you are collecting data, make sure you encourage everyone to absorb it. When everyone has an understanding of the data, decisions will be made faster and be more on point.

5)      Those at the forefront of their industry need to continually evolve and improve, or they will rapidly lose relevance.  When was the last time you flew on Pan Am or logged into your MySpace account? Both started out as wildly popular, innovative companies. Now they are relegated to the annals of history. Through a series of missteps and stagnation in innovation, both of these major companies lost their prominence. No organization is immune to this fact. Right now we have cases where cities and counties are declaring bankruptcy. Major federal agencies are at the brink of collapse. Even the once mighty US credit rating has been downgraded. Find ways that you can help your organization evolve & improve and you will become a star.

6)      BONUS – Imagination and risk-taking is vital. Last year Eric Schmidt stated, “Every two days now, we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.” The world is changing quickly. Organizations need to be open and honest about what’s going on. This opens up space to try new things. Trying new things leads to innovation. Without innovation you go the way of MySpace. Work toward unlocking data, developing quickly, measuring often and learning for successes and failures. It’s what keeps Apple, Facebook and Google at the top of their game. Where are the areas you can begin taking risks, just to see the outcome?

September 08, 2011

Biggest Online Community Killer?

By Lauren Modeen, Manager of Online Strategy, GovLoop


Ever wondered what the biggest online community killer is? I've been looking at communities lately of all shapes and sizes. Is it mean bloggers? Spam? Too controversial?

Answer: Not Interesting do you keep things interesting?

5 Ways to Make Your Community Interesting

1. Invite people passionate about your subject. I get kicks talking about government, food, and running and will enthusiastically contribute to communities focused on this. Others, I may not care about, and will contribute little or nothing. You need fired up instigators, so go find your people.

2. Don't hide or delete controversial posts. For examples, there was a blog post featured on during an outdoor rally in the fall on 2010 in Washington DC. On the surface, the post appeared controversial, but in fact presented a rational personal opinion and generated solid discussion. Remember, as long as the discussion is respectful to everyone, there is nothing wrong with things getting a bit hot.

3. Drive the community around something people can get excited about and bond over: either a cause they are working towards, or a geographic commonality.

4. As the community manager keep discussions, blog posts, and new additions fresh and interesting. Don't let things get stale.

5. Engage people directly so they feel personally invested in the community. Feature posts, discussions, ask direct questions, include specific names in a newsletter, and celebrate recent, personal successes. When people see their name in lights, things look a lot more interesting.

August 31, 2011

Want to Sweeten Your Citizen Outreach? Head to the Fair!

By Jennifer Kaplan, Client Success Consultant, GovDelivery

As summer comes to an end, many of us bid the warm weather farewell by heading to our local state or county fairs to take in what’s left of outdoor entertainment (and fill up on fried food of course!). Fairs across the US draw large crowds throughout the summer, making it a perfect forum for public outreach from state and local government agencies.

The Kitsap County fair in Bremerton, Washington brought in about 35,000 people during its annual 5 day run in late August. This year, the communications department at Kitsap County decided to capitalize on this opportunity to promote the Kitsap County Electronic Communication System (KENS).

Powered by GovDelivery, KENS is a comprehensive electronic solution that takes a single message and delivers it effortlessly to several different platforms. KENS allows residents to sign up for email and text notifications on a host of topics including county news, meetings and agendas, project bidding, employment opportunities, department calendars, sheriff's office data, election results, inclement weather information, emergency alerts and more. Subscribers can choose how frequently they want to be notified, and they can unsubscribe or add new notifications at any time.

Kitsap County launched the program in June 2011 and has already acquired over 1,300 subscribers. During this year’s fair, the county hosted a special booth allowing residents to sign up for the KENS service. They also handed out magnets and flyers to spread the word. By utilizing this on-site in-person acquisition technique, they were able to make contact with over 500 hundred residents. In addition to collecting new subscribers, Kitsap County was also able to grow their social media audience by getting citizens to “like” their Facebook page. As a result of these awareness efforts, they noticed the number of impressions per posting on Facebook had increased substantially.


“As people find the need for information, we believe the personal interaction, including the delivery of magnets and handouts, will direct them to subscribe and allow them to take advantage of the services offered through our partnership with GovDelivery” says Doug Bear, Public Communications Manager at Kitsap County. “This is just the tip of the iceberg as it relates to this effort” added Bear.

Local government agencies, take note! Fairs and community events can be the optimal situation to reach citizens and engage them with your communication efforts. Kudos to Kitsap County for leveraging this perfect opportunity to promote their new service. Hopefully they treated themselves to a deep friend Snickers bar…

August 30, 2011

What Type of Online Sharing Persona Are You?

By Lauren Modeen, Manager of Online Strategy, GovLoop


The New York Times Insight Group recently came out with an informative report on the Psychology of Sharing. This report is comprised of lots of insightful statistics and recommendations. One section that stands out in particular to me is the 6 personas of online sharing:

The New York Times study found there are six sharing personas for online fans. Understanding these different types can help you better tap into the motivations of your fans, and in turn, increase the likelihood that your content is shared.

6 Personas:

  1. Altruists—Altruists share content out of a desire to be helpful and aspire to be seen as a reliable source of information. Preferred tools: Facebook and email.
  2. Careerists—Careerists are well-educated and seek to gain a reputation for bringing value to their networks. They prefer content that is more serious and professional in tone. Preferred tools: LinkedIn and email.
  3. Hipsters—Hipsters are younger sharers who have always lived in the “information age.” They use Twitter and Facebook to share cutting-edge and creative content. They share content to build their online identity. Preferred tools: Facebook and Twitter.
  4. Boomerangs—Boomerangs seek validation and thrive on the reaction of others to their content, even when it’s negative responses. Preferred tools: Facebook, email, Twitter and blogs, wherever people will engage them.
  5. Connectors—Connectors see content sharing as a means of staying connected to others and making plans. They are more relaxed in their sharing patterns. Preferred tools: Facebook and email.
  6. Selectives—Selectives are more thoughtful in what they share and with whom they share it. They personalize their sharing and expect responses to their content. Preferred tool: email.

Do you agree with this list? Would you add a 7th category? What type of online sharing persona are you?

(picture source)

August 26, 2011

Do People Really Care About Government Data?

Aaron Smith of the Pew Research Center found that 40% of people surveyed go online to find government data!


August 24, 2011

To what extent are people interacting with government on social media?

Aaron Smith from the Pew Research Center discusses why it's important to engage people in the areas where they already visit. 


August 19, 2011

Is Your Agency SMART?

By Lauren Modeen, Manager of Online Strategy, GovLoop

We all know that government agencies are constantly under pressure to make their conversations with constituents measurable, and results-based to justify the investment. One stand-out action the city of New York is doing to keep this at the forefront of importance is driving an advisory board of SMART members (the Social Media Advisory and Research Taskforce). Under the leadership of Rachel Sterne, the City's first Chief Digital Officer at NYC Digital, the committee acts as a "consulting body for agencies making the digital transition, providing feedback and streamlining social media strategy and policy. They're also highlighting best practices, and planning to hold crash courses and workshops for communication managers" (source).

From NYC Digital's website:

"SMART is New York City's Social Media Advisory and Research Taskforce. This body consists of 15 members elected every six months by social media managers across the city. SMART members are responsible for helping to manage citywide social media feeds such as Facebook and Twitter (@nycgov), providing recommendations on social media tools and strategies, assisting emerging City agencies on social media, evaluating new social media platforms, updating social media guidelines and policies, and liasing with technology and legal authorities in the City."

As you can see from their list of advisory board members, NYC Digital's SMART dream team is made up of members from NYC agencies -- the NYC Department of Education, the Mayor's Office, their 311, the Office of Emergency Management -- as an example. Since it is crucial in social media to speak the language of your constituents, having members that understand what citizens need and want helps you made bigger strides.

Recommendation 1: take a page out of the NYC Digital book, and get taskforcing! Get your most literate folks, and get conversing/guiding/winning.

Recommendation 2: not only get your task force in order, but create a website to outline your digital mission, social media properties, apps, advisory board members...and anything else you would add! Social Media is just an advanced form of conversing with your constituents -- so get your best ideas rolling, best metrics in place, train your people, and take your citizens to the next level of digital connectedness.

Interested in more about NYC Digital? Check out the blog here.

August 17, 2011

A time to remember. A time to prepare.

By Kristie Wilson, Marketing Coordinator, GovDelivery

It’s the time of the year when all the back to school specials are out; a nice reminder that summer is coming to an end. With fall fast approaching, it means that the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready Campaign is preparing for their National Preparedness Month (NPM).

Founded in 2004, NPM is a month long campaign that occurs every September. This year FEMAFigherFighter
    Photo source: Jack Duval 

partnered up with Citizen Corps and the Ad Council to launch a new collaboration platform. This platform makes it easy to join and become a coalition member, which means it’s easier to involve yourself with the campaign. Coalition members help out by hosting events, spreading the word in articles, newsletters, blogs, emails or social media, and involving the community in the efforts. 

This September marks 10 years since our country was turned upside down with the attacks of September 11th. Since then it has been more important than ever to make sure we are prepared for any kind of disaster. The 10th anniversary was the inspiration for this year’s theme: “A time to remember. A time to prepare.”  Being prepared improves the ability to respond and recover from such disasters.

There is no better time to get involved. Help remember the victims of September 11th by helping the nation become more prepared. It is also important to remember that being prepared is not limited to only September.

 To learn more:


August 10, 2011

Do people have a positive sense of government posting information on social media?

Aaron Smith from the Pew Research Center finds that minority populations overwhelmingly find it valuable for government to engage with the public using social media.


August 05, 2011

What do people want from government communications?

Aaron Smith from the Pew Research Center discusses research on how people are interacting with the government online.

Over 1/3 of the population (those using the web) has interacted with the government online...Are you prepared to communicate with them?