How Nerds Can Foster Democracy In Local Government


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  • Good morning, fellow nerds. OK, I’[m not really a nerd. As you can see by my title on the screen, I’m technically a flack. But I have nerdish tendencies. Some of my best friends are nerds. Introduce Brooks. I’m presuming you’re here as a nerd – and I use the term lovingly, no shit -- to learn how to get your local government to get with the program and use interactive media to better connect with its citizens.
  • We’ve been in the game 3 and half years in Round Rock. That’s an eternity for local govermentStarted with a blog, then added twitter, facebook and flickr. We were Lone Rangers when we got started, but I’d guess we’ve got maybe 25 percent of local govs using twitter and facebook, much lower numbers than that using blogs.Why aren’t there more? I’ll talk about that in a second. The real question is, how can you convince the folks at City Hall to light up these tools. Here’s the deal: If you’re going to convince your local government to adopt social media, you’ve got to remember who you’re dealing with: The Man. You’re gonna have to convince the Man. That said, here’s the one thing you’ve got to keep in mind about the Man:
  • This is why he fears social media. This is the No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 reasons why local governments aren’t in this space. This is particularly true of elected officials. Why would he invite more nasty comments about him with a blog or twitter account of his own? With this in mind, here’s the first rule you need to follow in convincing the man.
  • Not Dick Cheney. Don’t start with your elected officials. They’ll make time for you, but you’ll probably forget to take out your nose stud and he’s gonna look at you and think, you’re look like just the kind of SOB that’s gonna write something nasty about me on their snarky blog. When you’re done making your pitch, he’ll probably say something like, “We’ll take that advice under consideration,” which of course means no way in hell are they gonna launch a twitter account, much less a blog.
  • Your gonna want to talk to some overworked, underpaid schlep like me. The PIO. The Communications Director. Go to the local gov website and find this minion and set up an appointment with them – talk to them face to face. While you’re on the website, look for the organization’s strategic plan, or strategic goals. I’ll be you dollars to Round Rock donuts they’ve got communications goals listed. Your job is to show the PIO how social media can help them achieve those goals.Be ready for them to play the “I don’t have time” card and the “I don’t have the budget” card. This is where you go all Dale Carnegie on them. Let’s face it: you’re probably saving this schmuck’s job, whether they know it or not. So smile knowingly and tell them you understand:First, the money objections: Gently explain that Facebook and Twitter are free. Many popular blog sites are free. Flickr membership is $50 every two years for unlimited storage. None of these tools live on the city’s servers, which will help them with their IT department. Card two: the time objection: If they have a website and are writing press releases, they’ve got the time and money to get started. May have to explain what RSS feeds are. Next: Smile sweetly and explain that one of the great things about SM is the YOU don’t have to create all the content. Users will contribute. (That idea may take a while to sink in. Be patient.) Tell them about the folks in Round Rock who have a full social media suite (multiple blogs, facebook, twitter, flickr) who did it without adding any new staff. And have been doing it for three and a half years. This stuff is sustainable. Colleague in Georegtown who’s a one-person shop, and I can remember him playing the time card a couple of years ago but they got in the game and he’ll tell ya it’s not that time consuming. It’s where citizens are today.Quick fact to have in your back pocket when you meet them: recent survey by ETC Institute of residents of Lenexa, Kansas showed 49 percent are on Facebook. I said Lenexa, Kansas, not Portland or Austin or San Jose. We’re talking the heart of the heartland. It doesn’t get any more middle America than that. Find some other stats that show how mainstream these tools are now. They also may play the we don’t have a policy card, but I’ve only got 15 minutes so I don’t have time to get into that other than to say contact me and I’ll send you some great sample policies. Your strongest argument is the strategic one. Show them how these tools will help their organization meet its strategic goals.
  • Then help them think about strategic goals for social media tools. Who wouldn’t want these goals? This is pretty much an IQ test for the PIO. If they don’t pass it … hey, we’d love to have you in Round Rock.
  • Numbers: 1,500 people are more than the winning total in our last council election. These are people who *choose* to follow you. And when did the gov’t ever have fans?!?!Value of blog as a creation of a record for a long-term planning projects. People are busy; don’t have time to come to your open house meeting. Explain what moderation is.Note PR benefit – Media will love that you’re doing social media. Great way to keep up with media, too; many Austin TV and print reporters are on twitter – I use it to communicate with them. Explain push vs pull technology.We do geocode searches on flickr for pictures taken in Round Rock. We find good ones, and invite them to join our group. When they do, they license us to use these pictures on websites, brochures, etc. That means photos for free – and I’m talking print quality stuff. This is a great example of users generating content for you. For example:
  • Need to promote natural beauty of your community?
  • Need to promote heritage tourism?
  • Promote your community as family fun?Again these pictures were free. And in a time of shrinking budgets, free is a real attention getter. Now think back to the first 5 reasons why the Man doesn’t tweet, blog or post on Facebook. He hates it when people say ugly things about him. The opposite is also true.
  • Let’s face it, he’s an attention whore. With social media … and this will happen if your local government has its act together … people will actually say nice things about Him. Social media, Facebook in particular, make it easy for folks to say nice things about us. That’s never been possible before. Share this with the minion. If this doesn’t convince them, give Brian a call ….
  • Break out the torches and march on City Hall.Or, move to Round Rock. No more hotel reservation hassle for SXSWi.
  • How Nerds Can Foster Democracy In Local Government

    1. 1. How Nerds Can Foster Democracy in Local Government<br />Will Hampton<br />Communications Director<br />City of Round Rock, Texas<br />
    2. 2. Our SoMed Tools<br /><br />@roundrocknews<br /><br /><br /><br />@willhampton<br />@brooksbennett<br />
    3. 3. Know This About The Man<br />He hates it when someone says something bad about him!<br />
    4. 4. Tactics to convince The Man<br />For the love of God, don’t talk to Him!<br />
    5. 5. The Man has minions<br />Find the Communications Director, PIO, etc., and talk to them<br />
    6. 6. Our goals in Round Rock<br />Provide additional channels of input for citizens and other potentially-affected interests <br />Increase the transparency of the City's decision-making process <br />Facilitate a sense of community <br />Reach new audiences with City messages and information<br />
    7. 7. How we doin’?<br />Facebook Page has 1,500+ fans<br />Twitter account @roundrocknews has 1600+ followers<br />Downtown redevelopment project blog’s 31 posts had 100,000+ views<br />PR-Media relations benefit<br />Don’t even get me started on our Flickr group …<br />
    8. 8.
    9. 9.
    10. 10.
    11. 11. The Man craves unadorned adulation<br />
    12. 12. If all else fails …<br />Fire up the Blamestorm<br />
    13. 13. Where to find us<br /><br />@roundrocknews<br /><br /><br /><br />@willhampton<br />@brooksbennett<br />