Category Archives: Thinking about social media

Government 2.0: New Strategies for Engaging the Public

On June 22, 2012, I presented and facilitated a session for the League of MN Cities annual conference titled Government 2.0: New Strategies for Engaging the Public:

How are cities leveraging the web to engage the public in local government decisions? Explore how cities are strengthening democracy and promoting more effective local government by using 2.0 technologies.

Here’s my Powerpoint:

CityCamp Minnesota: using Community 2.0 to build and leverage trust

I Steve Clift convening participants at CityCampMN 2011attended CityCamp Minnesota (an unconference) yesterday at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs on the U of MN’s West Bank. Longtime colleague Steve Clift was one of the chief organizers.

The broad theme was "Community 2.0" in which participants tried to answer these questions:

    • In a world of scarce public resources, how do we take advantage of the 2.0 online, social media, and open source world to help build awesome local communities?
    • How can we connect the interested public with 2.0 skills to work with government, community groups, neighborhood associations, local ethnic associations, and more?
    • How can our local communities be bold, inclusive, open, accessible, wired and darn right innovative when bottom-up connects with top-down for collaboration?

An attendee named Marc Drummond has blogged a detailed description of how the unconference format worked, including his critique and suggestions. You can see comments from others during and after the conference by viewing the #citycampmn hashtag on Twitter.

GovDelivery CEO Scott Burns at CityCampMN 2011 GovDelivery CEO Scott Burns at CityCampMN 2011
I was pleased to see GovDelivery CEO Scott Burns in attendance, as I’d not talked to him since my days at gofast.net in the late 90s when his and many other high tech companies were located in the Lowertown Cyber Village in downtown St. Paul. 

Scott gave a condensed version of his October 2011 presentation, posted to Slideshare:

When he put up slide 10 that says:

Leverage the trust that this guy has been building up for years

it caught my attention. It’s that word ‘leverage.’ When coaching leaders on their use of social media, I’ve long emphasized the importance of leveraging one’s influence (for example, see my blog posts here, here, here as well as this guest blog post).

But his phrase "leverage the trust" started me thinking about how it applies to leadership. As a leader, your position automatically puts you in a position of influence.  But your behavior over time is the only way to build trust, and that, of course, ratchets up your influence.

Scott’s presentation also got me thinking about how this is true for organizations, too—especially government and its relationship to the citizens it serves. The Edina Citizen Engagement project that I’m working on now with the City of Edina could also be seen as a way for the City to build more trust with its citizens through meaningful online engagement. Will it work? And how will City officials leverage it?  Stay tuned.

Reach the Public blog
In the meantime, read GovDelivery’s Reach the Public blog and follow Scott on Twitter.

Social Media: Engaging Democracy and Communities Online

Steven-CliftSteve Clift, founder and Executive Director, E-Democracy.org has asked me to do a presentation tonight for a class he’s teaching at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs titled Social Media: Engaging Democracy and Communities Online.

He’s asked me to talk about my civic leadership blogging coaching, as well as my current citizen engagement consulting work. I plan to take the class on a web tour while I speak to them about both.

Civic leadership blogging

  1. July, 2004: UK e-gov delegation visits Northfield
  2. Feb, 2005: Trip to the UK
  3. July, 2005: field trip to Northfield for the International Symposium on Local E-Democracy
  4. Fall, 2005: Guide to Civic Leadership Blogging (U.K. edition) How to use blogs as an effective local leadership tool
  5. Oct. 2008: UK CivicSurf booklet
  6. Featured civic leadership bloggers

Citizen Engagement Online

  1. Northfield.org(since 1994)
  2. Locally Grown Northfield(since 2006)
    • 3,400 blog posts
    • 40,700 comments
  3. Webinar on social media use by local government (Nov. 2010)
  4. Edina Citizen Engagement (since May, 2011)

Using Google Moderator as another tool for citizen engagement

Google-ModeratorI installed Google Moderator ("Helping the world find the best input from an audience of any size") last week on the blog site for Edina Citizen Engagement.  We’re testing it out as a way to solicit questions from Edina, MN citizens about four projects during the month of October, 2011.

I chose Google Moderator because I think it could help to address some common citizen engagement problems:

  • Many people don’t feel comfortable or have the time to ask questions of local government leaders about important issues, whether it’s using email, the phone, or open mic at City Council meetings.
  • Many people are reluctant to engage in online discussions
  • City leaders can’t easily gauge which questions are most often on the minds of citizens
  • City leaders are often faced with having to answer the same questions over and over

I think that the tool provides a simple and inexpensive way to gather and prioritize the questions.

Edina Google Moderator - Nav bar link to October-QA Edina Google Moderator FAQs Using Google Moderator - Edina Citizen Engagement
I don’t have a catchy name for any of this yet so for this month it’s just October Q&A. I’ve created an FAQ page, as well as a Google Moderator how-to video/screencast.

When we’ve collected the prioritized questions, we’ll select a time and method for city leaders to provide answers online, either via:

  • a live online event (chat, webinar, teleconference)
  • a recorded audio or video session
  • a written/text response

I’m learning my way into this and so I expect to make mistakes and improve.  I’m also assuming that it’ll take a while for Edina citizens to find out about this and get comfortable using it.

2011 MN Blogger Conference: a first-rate experience

2011 MN Blogger Conference  Melissa (Missy) Berggren Arik Hanson

I attended the 2011 MN Blogger Conference Saturday at Allina Commons (administrative headquarters for Allina Hospitals and Clinics) in the Midtown Exchange in Minneapolis. Everything about the conference was terrific. Props to the main organizers Arik Hanson and Melissa (Missy) Berggren.

Lee Odden keynote at 2011 MN Blogger Conference Lee-Odden Lee Odden

Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing and editor/blogger at MarketingBlog.com (that domain name redirects to toprankblog.com) gave the keynote: Blogs to Riches: A Journey from Blogging Luddite to Successful Business. Alternate title on his cover slide: 5 Lessons Learned from 7+ Years of Blogging.

(I happened to meet Lee just before his presentation when he saw me taking photos with my Sony NEX-3. He said something to effect of "I loved that camera until a wave in Hawaii took it away from me."  I told him new versions were due soon, ie, the NEX-5N and the NEX-7.)

Blog as centerpiece of content marketing - TopRank Online MarketingLee’s a terrific presenter. I was delighted to hear him stressing the importance of having your blog be the centerpiece of one’s content marketing strategy, and not just your social media strategy.

I don’t have a link to his presentation but slide #15 from this recent Social Media and SEO Slideshare presentation of his is similar to what he used on Saturday.

The break-out sessions I attended were all very good:

toprank Allina kare11_sharelogo

Unbelievably, the conference was free, including lunch and parking, thanks to the sponsors, TopRank Online Marketing, Allina, and KARE 11.

A blog should be the social media hub for an organization

A year ago, Debbie Weil asked the rhetorical question on her blog, Is Corporate Blogging the Hub of Social Media Marketing? She now has a free ebook available with the answers coming from a wide spectrum of social media gurus and organizations: Why Your Blog Is Your Social Media Hub.

After reading the answers, my beliefs are confirmed:

  • The pages on your organization’s website should tell visitors the basics about your people, products, and services.
  • Your organization blog should include ongoing stories related to your people, products, and services. 
  • Your social media outposts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) should then be used to help distribute your site and blog content, as well to engage with others.
  • If you’re a leader, your blog can include your thinking about the important issues your organization faces, as well as a place where, at least some of the time, people can interact with you.

Weil’s introduction: 

Bog-hub-ebook-COVERI was asking whether Twitter supplants a corporate or organizational blog because it’s so much easier and faster. I was asking whether you need a corporate blog if you have a Facebook fan page. I was asking whether it’s worth the effort for organizations large and small to devote the time and resources to maintaining an effective blog.

In fact I’m asking whether the word blog isn’t outdated. A blog can be defined as a next-generation, interactive Web site. Maybe we’re just talking about a new kind of social corporate site. I asked everyone to be as contrarian as he or she wished in answering the question. I received many provocative answers. Following are some of the most useful.

Fear and Loathing in the Executive Suite: Why Leaders Avoid Blogging and Other Social Media

PDF version of this blog postMost every leader is feeling the effects of the waves of social media technologies that are increasingly washing up on the shores of their organizations. It’s primarily been blogs since 2005 but now it’s also Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Leaders cannot help but notice the demands for more organizational transparency, authenticity, responsiveness, and engagement from employees, customers, constituents, members, citizens, and the media–all of whom are increasingly adept at using social media technologies.

If you’ve been reluctant to use social media technologies yourself in your role as a leader, you’re not alone.

ceobloggingstage_tnThe problem was noted as early as 2006 when the New York Times published an article titled All the Internet’s a Stage. Why Don’t C.E.O.’s Use It? Author Randall Stross cited only one active CEO blogger among the Fortune 500.

Fast forward to January, 2009 when social media consultant Steve Borsch authored a blog post titled Why Executives Don’t “Get” Social Media. When he asked one executive, the response was, “Because I’m getting sh*t done and I can’t invest my attention or energy there.”

GeorgeColonyIn the spring of 2010, Forrester CEO George Colony published a series of blog posts titled The Social CEO. In Part 1: Most CEOs Are Not Social he noted that not only were few CEOs using social media, but that even CEOs of the big social media companies weren’t exactly active users.

Colony and others have some theories about why so few executives use social media technologies such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube in their roles as leaders. In Part 2 of his series titled CEOs Aren’t Social For Good Reasons, Colony listed these factors:

  • Age
  • Risk and regulatory constraints
  • Time
  • The social heavy model breeds blowhards

In August, 2010, the principals of corporate social media consulting firm DemingHill published a paper titled Why Executives HATE Social Media citing that executives:

  • are “non-narcissistic in a YouTube world”
  • are inherently introverts and gravitate towards solitude versus socializing
  • have difficulty with the lack of control required for social media to be fully unleashed
  • fear and feel vulnerable around the technology in the social arena, even as they depend on it in other areas
  • wonder if social media is yet another technology whose promises will go unfilled

In my work as a leadership blogging coach the past five years, I’ve heard all these reasons and a few others. In this blog post, I address them and suggest some alternative ways to think about them. Continue reading Fear and Loathing in the Executive Suite: Why Leaders Avoid Blogging and Other Social Media

City Manager Dave Ruller of Kent, Ohio: using a blog to teach

Kent Ohio City Manager Dave RullerDave Ruller is City Manager of Kent, Ohio and maintains a blog at Kent360.

Last week he published a blog post titled Managing snow and it caught my eye because it’s a good example of What to Blog for a local government leader: Use your blog to teach about a service, program, or department.

After what turned out to be a terrific Fall, I guess Winter had to eventually arrive, and in case you hadn’t noticed — it’s here.  The official start of Winter is still a couple of weeks off but that doesn’t seem all that relevant at the moment with snow piling up outside my window as I type this post.  We’ve got ourselves a good old fashioned snowfall with big lake effect flakes piling up and creating havoc with our streets. 

He then goes into great detail about the city’s snow-related policies, since there were some significant changes in the past year. Most important, he uses an informal conversational tone in his writing that makes it a much more interesting read for a local citizen.

We do our best to break a truck off the primaries to punch a hole through the middle of the neighborhood streets (often just a single lane) but until the weather breaks and gives us a chance to catch up, the neighborhoods will be challenging to get through. 

I love that line: "break a truck off the primaries to punch a hole…" You just know that wasn’t written by a communications staffer. A voice of authenticity indeed.

Here’s my little treatise on why using a blog in this way is important for a local government leader:

Continue reading City Manager Dave Ruller of Kent, Ohio: using a blog to teach

Nov. 1 Webinar – Social media use by local government in the US: What are the hurdles to doing it well?

Nov. 2 update:


With my civic and business hat on, I’m hosting a free webinar on social media use by local government on Monday, Nov. 1, at 8 PM CDT. It will feature:

  • A tour of several local government websites (primarily cities in the US) to see some best practices of how social media tools (blogs, web forums, email lists, webinars, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.) are being used to enable more transparency and engagement.
  • A discussion about the hurdles that local government officials face when implementing the use of social media.

The panelists (all bloggers), all have some Northfield connections:

Betsey Buckheit Steven Clift Scott Neal

Some photos of Betsey, Steve and Scott in Northfield from 2004-05 with their blogger hats on:
UK delegation at the Cow 2004 UK delegation at the Cow 2004 - 2 Blogging panel at the Archer House 2005

Please register for the free webinar on social media use by local government for Monday, Nov. 1, at 8 PM CDT.

If you’re unable to attend, the webinar will be recorded and archived on the web.

Got questions or comments? Attach a comment here or contact me.


Nov. 2 update:

Rick Cole, Ventura CA City Manager: embodying the values of empathy and dialogue in a blog post

Rick Cole Back in August, I noted in a blog post that Ventura City Manager Rick Cole had an interesting blog post titled The New Normal in which he attempted to reframe some common adversarial extremes (e.g., sustainable economic development vs. public employee pension reform.)

A week ago, I tweeted how he and Ventura Mayor Bill Fulton had each blogged (Cole here, Fulton here) about the City’s new downtown parking management program.  Since it’s a controversial change, both leaders were making substantive efforts in their blog posts to explain in-depth the rationale to their citizen readers. Cole ended his post with another reframing:

What both proponents and skeptics of parking management share is a fierce commitment to Downtown. Like crowded parking, that’s a good problem to have.

Last Friday, Cole published a new post titled Public pay disconnect and the magic of dialogue in which he painstakingly explains the how the new economic realities look from different points of view: citizens, business owners, and public employees. He’s attempting to diffuse the tensions and wonders what could be done to increase mutual understanding:

What’s really missing is that neither audience wants to watch the other movie — or better yet, sit down face to face and listen to the cry from the heart of the other view. I know that if the people we serve and the people who serve them could sit in a neutral living room and really listen to each other, the magic of dialogue would blend these clashing realities. Folks on both sides of the divide would have much greater understanding of the shared anxiety and frustrations brought on by these troubled times.

Maybe it’s time to set up some real life discussions in real life living rooms. Time, perhaps for the people who maintain our parks, patrol our streets and repair our water pipes to sit down and listen to the folks who pay the bills for all that — and for the citizens to hear about the tough challenges facing those trying to do an excellent job with a whole lot less money and help to work with. Any volunteers?

His latest post is a textbook example of how a leader’s values can be embodied in a blog post, in this case, the importance of empathy and dialogue, especially in polarized conflicts.

I wrote to Cole last week to let him know that I was following his blog and planned to cite some of his posts in my leadership blog coaching and teaching. He replied:

In approaching the blog, I mix in some timely news, but my main purpose is to seek to provide context — “the news behind the news.”  I usually try to acknowledge that there are (at least) two sides and seek to “reframe” in your phrase or reconcile the polarization that has become so endemic.

He then pointed me to an article he’d written for the ICMA (International City/County Management Association) October 2009 issue of Public Management titled Social media: What does it mean for public managers?

Public Management, October 2009The textbook model puts the elected governing board squarely between us and the public. Elected officials interpret the will of the people. They’re accountable to the public. We report to those who have been elected. But in the modern world, professional staff cannot hide behind that insulation. We cling to the old paradigm because we lack a better one.

That’s where the real significance of social media comes into focus. These aren’t just toys, gizmos, or youthful fads. Social media are powerful global communication tools we can deploy to help rejuvenate civic engagement.

Now if I could only get my hometown city hall to embrace that belief.