Let’s Give Federal Leaders the Digital Toolkit They Need

Data analytics, content marketing (blogging, video, white papers, etc.), social media engagement and tracking, and many other buzzwords are the keys to successful marketing in the private sector. The capabilities associated with these terms are increasingly the lifeblood of the way companies communicate with their customers. At Corner Alliance, we think government needs to do more to participate in the content revolution. Most federal leaders are operating with one if not two hands tied behind their backs. Many lack access to analytics. Many federal leaders have little control on what goes on their agency website. Even if they do produce blogs and other content, long approval chains prevent many from getting content up in a timely way. In order for government managers to lead in the 21st century, we need to provide them with a better digital toolkit.

Here are just a few of the things federal leaders need to communicate effectively in the modern world:

  1. Ability to engage on social media. Many agencies still prevent their employees from even accessing social media sites at work much less allowing them to engage in conversations there. Agencies need to push that conversation down to lower levels in the organization. Social media is where the citizens and stakeholders are, so federal managers need to go there. Given the complexity of most departments’ missions, headquarters public affairs can’t do the job alone. Here’s a great conversation that happened on GovLoop recently about accessing social media at federal workplaces.
  2. Access to metrics. Most federal leaders have no access to metrics about what content their customers and stakeholders are engaging with. Private sector marketers are learning every day as they split test messages, judge which content gets the most effective response on social media, etc. Why can’t government? Some of these metrics are available for free (i.e. Google Analytics and SumAll) and managers just need access. In other cases they need access to extremely affordable tools like Sprout Social, Buffer or Hootsuite.
  3. Websites or blogs about particular content areas. It’s difficult for citizens to find information about specific areas within large agency websites. Additionally most of the information is static and stale when they find it. We need a system to help offices and programs farther down the food chain create and share rich and effective content on a continual basis. Some agencies like NASA have done a good job getting more content out there, but many others have a ways to go in making content a key part of their citizen and stakeholder engagement strategy.
  4. Customer relationship management (CRM). Many agencies are doing better in this arena, but we still need to see these solutions adopted at the program level. Many programs still use Excel or worse nothing to keep track of key stakeholder contacts.

There are risks to putting more tools in the hands of managers and leaders farther down in the organization. You can lose control of the message; people can say and do stupid things; and certainly the atmosphere of scrutiny in the federal government doesn’t always encourage openness. However, fear, uncertainly, and doubt aren’t in the end persuasive. There are also good guidelines and policies out there to help mitigate risk. The risk of not using these tools is even greater. Engagement with these tools is a must if government is going to meet its mission. Federal leaders and managers need to integrate them into the way they do business.

Now it’s your turn. What digital tools do you think federal leaders need?

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