Archive for July, 2009

Leadership vs. Management

Don’t know who said this, but it has stuck with me for years:

“Managing means doing things right. Leading means doing the right thing. Sometimes they match, sometimes they don’t.”

Discuss. :)

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Social Media: Some Resources and A Challenge

I just finished reading a critique on GovLoop of the recent Open Government & Innovations conference.  You have to join Govloop to read it, but if you’re reading my blog, I recommend joining anyway – it’s a great community of more than 10,000 people in and around gov’t.

I see this sort of thing regularly: people who have high hopes that aren’t met. As someone who enjoys teaching and leading, it’s hard to watch people who want to move out get frustrated.

After reading her post and the comments, I wrote up a decently long set of resources with a challenge at the end, and I’ve copied it here for my own recordkeeping. What follows is exactly the same as what’s in my comment there.

As EPA’s Director of Web Communications and co-chair of the Social Media Subcouncil, I want to offer some things and suggest some things. Please bear with the length.

First, things to offer:
1) Please do check out the Social Media Subcouncil’s wiki. For those of you unfamiliar with us, we’re govies doing our best to help gather best practices and the kind of practical info you want, Jaime. Most directly useful might be the growing list of social media policies, both general and specific For example, you’ll find links to EPA’s blogging guidance, which is very specific, and the Air Force’s overarching social media policy.

There are many agencies writing policies right now, including EPA, so I think you’ll see lots more examples in the coming months.

BTW, we mean it that it’s a wiki. Want to start a document? Get a free account and go for it! And please, please, PLEASE edit the docs you find there. We really need your help!

2) I’ve given many webinars on these subjects, and all of my presentations are free for the taking on Slideshare.net. Your complaint about people not using the Internet to deliver presentations notwithstanding, I’ve had these out there for months. In particular, you might find three useful:
a) Social media and the gov’t: a brief overview for managers. I’m currently making my way around EPA giving this to senior managers. Believe me, they’re not the choir, but they’re getting there through lots of time spent presenting, answering questions, and being a resource for them.
b) From 30,000 feet to 3 feet: running a federal blog: my presentation on how we run our blog, Greenversations, from high-level thinking to nitty gritty.
c) Earth Month 2009: mixing Web 1.0 and 2.0:specifics of how we combined multiple channels to achieve our outreach goals.

I also offer these as webinars from time to time, which you’ll find out about if you’re a member of the Web Managers Forum listserv (open only to gov’t employees at any level; also be sure to check the monthly call archive) or follow me on Twitter.

3) The social media section of webcontgent.gov has lots of info and some best practices. The Social Media Subcouncil is currently revamping it.

4) Talk about specific, here’s a wonderful template for a gov’t agency Twitter policy, with lots of useful info beyond the policy itself. Many thanks to Neil Williams from the UK!

5) usa.gov has several lists of social media efforts across US gov’t agencies at all levels. It’s far from just DoD, NASA, EPA, HHS, or any other short list. Check the lists out and be inspired.

Now for my suggestion: work up a set of questions you want answered. Be as specific as you want to be. And we on the Subcouncil will do a series of webinars where we put people on who can answer them.

And, finally, a request: LEAD and TEACH. You’d be amazed at how much you know. Again, I’ll offer a webinar mechanism you can use to do so. Just tell me what you want to do and when.

In sum: do more than give feedback on someone else’s conference. Grab the reins and show us the way! :)

Can’t we all just get along?

Privacy. Records management. Accessibility. Information Security. Paperwork Reduction Act. Administrative Procedures Act. Federal Advisory Committee Act.

If you’re trying to implement social media at a government agency, I’m betting at least one of those has you grinding your teeth and pulling out your hair.  And if you’re like most, you’re down to a few teeth and a combover.

I’m regularly asked “how do I get around all these restrictions?” And my regular answer is “don’t.”  Instead, go talk to the people responsible for those things.  They have jobs to do, just like you do.  And they’re important jobs, even if you haven’t learned why yet.

The key is to work with them before you must absolutely go live right now now now.  Ask them what they need.  Understand what they must accomplish.  Identify your common interests.  Here’s one: you both want your agency to have a positive reputation in your respective fields.


At EPA, we sat down with our attorneys two years ago and showed them YouTube.  There’s nothing like seeing lots of other pages with ads on them to help someone understand that YouTube users were going to understand that we didn’t place the ads and that they weren’t related to us in any way.  As it turned out, we ended up with a negotiated agreement that dumped the ads, but the point stands, because we’ve been using that same good relationship with our legal folks ever since.  They know we also want to help EPA avoid risk.  But they also know we respect them, and that they’re part of the team helping us accompish our goals.

Now, which is the most important policy to carry out?  On that point, the best thing I’ve ever read is Gwynne Kostin’s outstanding post, “What is the Most Important Thing?

Why are you still here?  You should be reading Gwynne’s piece.

The Ultimate Social Media Policy for Government Agencies

This is going to be a really complex piece about all the various cultural, legal, policy, and other issues surrounding how government employees use social media on the job.

Ok, not really.

Actually, I think it boils down to two simple directives:

  1. DO: use social media tools to serve your mission.
  2. DON’T: Be stupid.

It seems to me everything else follows from those two rules, in the same way that I think overall strategy follows from the simple mantra “mission, tool, metrics, teach.”

Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Don’t use a tool just to be cool: rule 1
  • Use only the tools appropriate to the task at hand: rule 1
  • Follow records management and information security requirements: rule 2
  • Don’t use foul language: rule 2
  • Check with your boss before doing anything online: rule 1 and rule 2

Anyone want to argue I’m missing something major?

Edit July 15: There will, naturally, be a little more detail in specific instructions.  I just think when you start discussing policy, you should get everyone to agree there’s nothing more complicated at hand than these two rules.

Here are some example policies from the Social Media Subcouncil, in our wiki.  Please help us grow this list!

Social Media Webinars

One of my long-term goals has been to create a set of basic webinars about each social media tool: blogs, wikis, photo sharing, social networking, etc.

Our target audience is government staff who don’t know much about social media;  these won’t be advanced webinars with a lot of implementation detail (maybe we’ll get to that later).

One of the folks on my team is now getting started, and we need help. In true social media fashion, we’re going to post outlines to the Social Media Subcouncil wiki and take everyone’s edits for a couple of weeks, then proceed to creating each webinar.

We just posted the first one, on blogging, so please help us! You’ll need to get a free account on the wiki. We give ’em to anyone to asks, inside gov’t or not – we just find that having some form of account name cuts down on the silliness that comes from anonymity.

Help us out and edit the blog outline or leave a comment.

Laura Norvig left a great comment below, so here’s my response to why I want us to do this instead of compiling a list of links.

I find that the resources out there aren’t quite right.  Either they’re too detailed (can’t really give a huge amount of detail in 30-60 minutes) or too vague (e.g., Commoncraft videos), or they focus on how individuals can use them, or how businesses can use them, but not government.  And I haven’t found one consistent set of webinars covering a wide range of tools.

I also don’t find a single set of resources about all of the tools that discusses issues specific to gov’t, like the relevant legal issues (for example, corporations don’t have privacy issues we do, and they can sign terms of service we can’t).

In addition, my goal is to produce a series of webinars that give EPAers in particular a single place to go to learn.  I work at EPA, so that’s my natural focus.

I also want to do this because I have evidence interest is sky-high.  Last time we gave a 2-hour overview of all social media tech, we got more than 500 registrants.

Finally, I want to do this as a webinar series, not a series of writeups.  There’s plenty of written material out there.

So the idea is to provide one place to find a cohesive, consistent set of webinars about each tool that’s aimed squarely at government folks.

Equal Access, Facebook, MySpace, and Limited Resources

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Personal Democracy Forum conference. One of the best sessions was by danah boyd (she doesn’t capitalize her name), a researcher currently working for Microsoft. She basically whacked us over the head with the fact thatdespite similar numbers, the people on Facebook aren’t the same people on MySpace.  And really relevant to gov’t use of these sites, those on FB are (or at least are perceived to be) better educated, wealthier, and more “elite’ile MySpace is for others.

Read danah’s paper and then join the conversation on her blog.

The upshot for those of us in gov’t? If we focus only on one site, we’re missing a whole lotta people.  And if that site happens to be Facebook, we may be missing underserved groups entirely.

The challenge, as always, is covering everything with the same, limited resources.

But danah convinced me we have to try to be on both sites.  So we’ll do our best.


I’m on Twitter @levyj413