Of late, I’ve been having lots of chats with social media practitioners and would-be practitioners, as well as working with locals on activating our neighbors through “Citizen 2.0” trainings. I’ve also worked hard to connect with the Government 2.0 reform community through sites like LinkedIn, GovLoop and Twitter.
These conversations have led to me a simple vision for a social media-enabled local government outreach strategy. I’d love to know your thoughts, as we move from tools to best practices.
Smaller towns and cities are often characterized by a spirit of individuality, loose affiliations and wide variety of perspectives. In order to create a forum for community conversation and to improve media and stakeholder relationships, officials should consider using Web/Gov 2.0 tools to build trust, pride in work, inter-agency and public-private cooperation, and knowledge sharing.
I believe the best press and policymaker relations come from aggressive sharing of public information, pushing critical information to the fore through strategies such as social media and Web networking. Officials should deploy bleeding-edge and low-cost technical solutions informed by communication models for large and diverse populations such as the Federal Web Managers white paper series on engaging stakeholders through social media, the Air Force’s “Rules of Engagement” for blog interactions, and moderation guidelines from Change.gov (basically, “stay focused, be respectful, tell the truth, and no spam”).
With these practitioner guidelines in mind, the right outreach solution may be to implement a Ning-based online network for citizen stakeholders, based on successful networks such as GovLoop (approximately 7,000 members in local, state and federal government), and ExchangesConnect (8,000+ members working on cultural sharing with the U.S. State Department). Governments might highlight their efforts on these sites using videos and pictures of the public sector at work, and interviews with employees and community leaders and businesspeople.
Additionally, this type of open interaction with citizens allows people to inform and teach each other about civic engagement in an informal 24-7 setting, with minimal moderation and staff-time expenditure.
Onward and upward!