Influence people

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Government Communicators: Turn Citizens into Fans

Award-winning video producer Ann Ramsey contributed today's post. She is a senior producer at the US Department of Health & Human Services in Washington, DC.  

Government communicators spend their time educating citizens about what their departments do.

Video, distributed through broadcast media and public-facing government Web sites, has long played a starring role in those efforts.

But citizens today, as they consume video at unprecedented rates, expect it to be served on social media platforms such as YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter.

With forethought and creativity, government communicators can use video to join the social media conversation—without breaking the bank or running roughshod over internal guidelines. Here's how:

Learn from peers. Organizations such as Federal Communicators Network, the National Association of Government Communicators, and the National Press Club will help you plan video strategies. Scanning the YouTube channels of agencies with goals similar to yours will also help. Government channels are listed in the GSA Social Media Registry.

Look around you. Government communicators can develop video content by cultivating in-house officials who come across well on camera (often, presence is better than pedigree). If an agency hosts an important forum, it’s a good idea to videotape it and amplify the link. At almost any event, an area can be set up for interviewing participants. If videotaping isn’t possible, audio-taping and photography are good alternatives.

Use inside help. Government communicators are smart to consider in-house video production, before hiring a PR firm. Many government departments already have TV studios with plenty of capacity. If your agency doesn't have one, take a look at sister agencies. In-house producers can save taxpayers' money.


Channel your videos. YouTube goes out of its way to help government agencies. For example, if asked, YouTube won't run ads on their channels. Government communicators should get in touch with Google to learn more.

Tailor the length. Video content on FaceBook and Twitter needs to be "snackable"
10-20 seconds long. Longer content belongs on dedicated video platforms, such as YouTube or iTunes.

Stay current. Keeping abreast of production trends helps government communicators create successful videos. Hot video trends are motion graphics, film-like shooting styles, and true-to-life testimonials. Audio and video podcasting are also surging in popularity.

Do it right. It behooves government communicators to preserve standards of quality and integrity on social media. When inviting public response, introduce only substantive topics, rather than “name this dog” sorts of trivia.

Mind the store. Comments, shares, and average length-per-view will give you an idea of audience engagement and are useful to track. Curating incoming comments allows urgent questions to be re-directed, and inappropriate comments to be deleted. Dated video material is best removed and archived.

Get found. The public turns to government for many urgent matters. Bizarre hashtags or “click-bait” naming strategies only stand in its way. Many highly viewed government YouTube videos sport transparent titles, such as “What are the Symptoms of the Flu?” Clear tags and titles take full advantage of how the public actually uses search engines.

Reach your viewers. YouTube’s built-in analytics reveal viewer demographics you can use to guide future outreach. 
Viewers should always be encouraged to subscribe to an agency’s channel, so new content will reach them. Stakeholders and partners can help you amplify a message to specific audiences.

Let it grow. Steady addition of new video episodes builds viewership. It often takes variations on a theme before results emerge. Experimenting with different versions, styles and platforms is well worthwhile.

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