Thursday, July 21, 2011

Movin' On Up...

We'd like to periodically salute government communicators who have recently received promotions or appointments, as well as post job opportunities in the field. If you have any news of this nature to share, e-mail me at

NAGC congratulates our fellow communicators in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve who were recently selected for promotion:

To the rank of Lieutenant Commander (active duty)

LT Charity Hardison, Naval Service Training Command

LT Zach Harrell, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

LT Paul Macapagal, CHINFO

LT Stephanie Murdock, U.S. Strategic Command

To the rank of Lieutenant Commander (Navy Reserve)

LT Kristine Garland, Naval War College (also a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center)
LT Ralph Hooper, Joint Public Affairs Support Element
LT Heather Paynter, CHINFO

To the rank of Mass Communications Specialist Chief Petty Officer (Navy Reserve)

MCC (Sel) Johnny Michael, Fleet Forces Command

MCC (Sel) Wendy Wyman, Expeditionary Combat Camera

MCC (Sel) Eric Beauregard, Expeditionary Combat Camera

MCC (Sel) Oscar Troncoso, Expeditionary Combat Camera

As our Navy friends say, “BRAVO ZULU!” Congratulations!

Secretary Panetta Announces Appointments to Key Defense Public Affairs Posts

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently announced the appointment of two well-known and respected government communications professionals to key Department of Defense public affairs positions.

George Little, who served as director of public affairs during Panetta's tenure as CIA director, moves to the Pentagon to be deputy assistant secretary of defense/press secretary.

Capt. John Kirby, currently special assistant for public affairs for Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will become deputy assistant secretary of defense/spokesman and director of media operations.

Kirby and Little will fill top slots in the department's Office of Public Affairs, headed by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Doug Wilson, the department's senior communicator.

"I am honored that these two talented individuals have decided to join my team and serve our department and our country," said Panetta. "I look forward to working with them in the weeks and months ahead."

QR Codes? Crowdsourcing? City of Manor Texas Raises the Communications Bar

Just when many people are finally figuring out how to take back a Facebook friend request (FYI -"Cancel Friend Request" is in the bottom left corner of the person's profile) or whittle down diatribes to 140 characters for a tweet, more technology comes along and changes the game again.

The City of Manor, Texas is raising the communications bar.

As highlighted in a recent interview with Federal News Radio, the City of Manor is a great case study in crowdsourcing and the use of Quick Response (QR) bar codes. According to Wikipedia, crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing asks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a "crowd"), through an open call. In the case of Manor, they're literally soliciting and using their community's ideas.

By now, most of us are familiar with QR Codes, as they've become quite a useful tool for activities like shopping, but businesses and organizations are warming up to a variety of uses. Social Media Examiner did a pretty good "101" overview of QR Codes in February. In most cases, using QR codes is as simple as scanning them with your smart phone and seeing what pops up.

Manor, a small town on the eastern portion of the Austin metropolitan area, was the first government agency in the United States to deploy a QR Code program to disseminate information to residents and tourists. The idea came to them when they were looking at ways to improve their filing system, and an employee suggested that they use them as a means of branding the city. It worked. Since then, Manor has used QR codes and crowdsourcing as a means of increasing transparency and getting around a tight budget. What they've done is add QR codes around town, placing them on signs, vehicles and historical landmarks, in order to give the public quick access to more information. City Manager Phil Tate says that the start-up costs for the QR Codes were low, about $400, and almost all of that was the cost of the signage.

One of their more interesting examples: a water tank that was climbed by Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene in the film "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," which also starred Johnny Depp. Scanning a QR code at this location brings up photos and info from the movie. A visitor can scan the QR code at City Hall and view pics of downtown Manor in the 1880's and other historical information. A QR code at a construction site gave updates on the cost, the company hired to do the work, and estimated time of completion.

"Overnight, it grew beyond anything we could have dreamed,"says Tate. "We had people coming from all over the world to look at these signs." More importantly, the program served as a model for other cities, like De Leon, Texas and Long Beach, Washington, to follow suit. The project also drew significant interest from the Smithsonian Institute, Illinois State University, Stanford University, and South by Southwest, all of which have implemented their own types of QR code systems.

Tate says that at its peak, there were about 450 QR scans a month.

In addition, Manor has created a unique crowdsourcing platform with Manor Labs, a platform designed to solicit ideas from the public and create conversation about improving the local government. With only 35 employees, getting citizens involved in, engaged with, and contributing to the city's efforts is a great way to fill voids created by staffing and budget issues.
To increase public awareness of these initiatives, the City of Manor employees created a series of newspaper articles and spoke at area community meetings.

Manor Labs allows citizens to submit ideas, and these ideas are voted on by other citizens. Once the number of votes and page views reaches a certain level, city officials review the idea and determine if more info is needed or if it can move closer to implementation. A really unique aspect of Manor Labs is that they've created a virtual currency that citizens can earn by submitting ideas, voting on them, and having the ideas implemented. The currency can be used to purchase by tangible donated products and virtual honors.

Tate points out a few implemented ideas that really stood out: an automatic debit system for paying utility bills, a streetlight reporting program, and adding the QR codes to uniforms and vehicles of city employees that includes additional info about various departments and services.

The City of Manor: Good Communications, Good Government.

Monday, July 18, 2011

NAGC News & Member Spotlight: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

By all accounts, the 2011 NAGC Communications School was a success, especially considering that a few weeks before the conference, we were thinking that the government shutdown could wreak havoc on the event, especially in terms of the number of attendees. In the end, the shutdown was averted and many of you were able to come at the last minute, as evidenced by our surge in attendees in the final days before the school.

NAGC recently distributed a survey to attendees to get a read on what you thought worked, what didn’t, and ideas you have for future events. Thanks to all of you who responded. As we look to next year’s NAGC Communications School, some of the thoughts you shared in the survey will help shape the agenda in 2012.

A few things stood out as we begin planning for 2012 and review 2011:

  1. The Blue Pencil/Gold Screen Awards are complex! We get widely varying opinions and suggestions on the categories, the time and format of the event, and other details. This year, we conducted the award ceremony at a luncheon rather than dinner, which drew both positive and negative feedback, but in the end, the overriding sentiment was that a dinner event provides more prestige for the winners, so we’ll return to that format in 2012. We also know that you don’t want an event that lasts longer than a Harry Potter movie, so we’re going to address that as well.

  2. Top suggested topics for 2012, in this order: Advanced Social Media, Leadership, Professional Development, Public Involvement/Outreach, and Emerging Technology. This is an interesting mix of subjects, and the Programs Committee will look at adding sessions and workshops that cover these topics next year.

  3. Other suggestions were to incorporate more variety in basic and advanced training levels, so the Programs Committee will be looking to add more sessions in the intermediate and advanced levels of expertise.

  4. You want more opportunities to interact with other communicators. Networking is a huge benefit of the Communications School, and we’re going to step it up in terms of increasing your opportunities to mix and mingle with your fellow communicators.

And remember, if you want more involvement with NAGC, serving on a committee is a great place to start. Right now, Professional Development Director John Verrico is looking to recruit the Programs Committee for next year. The Program Committee selects our General Session and Keynote speakers, Break-Out Session Presenters, Training Workshops, Optional Activities and Educational Tours, menus, entertainment, and Fundraising Events. Interested? Contact John at or

Member Spotlight: Derrick Silas, Sr.
As Communications Director, I too have been looking to form a committee in order to maximize our communications with NAGC members. I’m happy to announce that the first member of my committee is Derrick Silas, Sr. If you were following our social media traffic during the Communications School, you will probably remember Derrick, as he was tweeting throughout the conference. Derrick is the web communications developer and social media strategist for the City of Enid, Oklahoma. When Derrick joined the City of Enid in 2008, there was no social media presence for the city and the websites for the library, fire, police, and municipality were outdated. During his first year, he successfully aided in a 25% increase in website visitors through social media and customer service relations marketing techniques. Additionally, he led the city in a facelift of the website. With this kind of background and experience, Derrick is a natural fit for his new role as the administrator of NAGC’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, and he’ll bring more continuity and interaction to these mediums.

He has used his futurist abilities to lead the City of Enid into the forefront of mobile, innovative, social media, crowdsourcing, gov2.0, and other government technologies, including:

  • WEBQA - A customer relations management (CRM) system that allows citizens to request services, report issues, and CityReporter - A mobile app that works with WEBQA.

  • CrimeReports - An interactive map that shows current crime stats.

  • Live Chat by LivePerson - The Enid website provides live chat with its citizens from 8 am to 5 pm CST, Monday-Friday.

  • Nixle - A system that uses text messages (SMS) to alert citizens of public safety issues.

  • "Innovating Enid Idea Market" by Spigit - Two communities (internal/external) that crowdsources ideas with employees and citizens.

  • Social Media - Engages citizens, visitors, and businesses through the city's social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr).

  • YouTown - A free mobile application that shows the city's events, news, maps, and services offered.

Derrick enjoys writing poetry, hymns, psalms, and musical compositions. In addition, in his spare time, he gives voice and musical lessons (piano, guitar, trombone, trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, flute, drums) to children and adults.

You can interact with Derrick on Twitter - @derricksilas.

By expanding our Communications Committee, and with additions like Derrick, we’ll be able to have more consistent social media communications through NAGC, share more information like case studies, best practices and job opportunities, and help you network better with your NAGC peers.

If you are interested in joining the Communications Committee, e-mail me (Glen Thomas) at