Do You Have an Engagement Policy and a Plan?

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Post by: Kim Stephens

A blog post by the City of Reno’s Web Services Program Manager, Kristy Fifelski, caught my eye regarding an exchange on their City’s social media accounts. A small business owner voiced his displeasure about an upcoming road closure in a tweet, simply stating “Boo @CityofReno…Thanks for the 1 day notice and for hurting our family business.” The City quickly checked into the problem and were able to resolve the issue to everyone’s satisfaction.

This story, of course,  is only interesting in how it reveals their underlying citizen-engagement philosophy. As Ms. Fifelski stated:  “We decided from the beginning that if we were going to try to connect with people online, we needed to be responsive and have an internal process for addressing any issues. I’m grateful for the department support we have to make that happen, and that we have so many people here who really care.” 

Opening a facebook account and a twitter feed in order to only push out information is not difficult; however,  deciding how you will deal with feedback (especially when there is a crisis or disaster event) is a much more complicated endeavor. After seeing Reno’s blog post I visited their Facebook-info page. I really like their stated policy:

This is the official Facebook page for the City of Reno. We are connected to several social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. We like comments and interaction from residents and visitors.

Our goal is to handle comments and replies made by the public according to the following standards:

  • The purpose of this Facebook page is to deliver news and event information from the City of Reno to people who are interested in our programs and activities. We will review the page every work day, before noon.
  • If someone posts a comment that requires a response, it will be answered with a status of the response within 16 work hours (two work days) and with the full response within five work days.
  • Posts or comments requiring a service request will be submitted to Reno Direct for inclusion in the customer relationship management system.
  • City employees will immediately remove any comment which violates any local, state, or federal law regarding discrimination, harassment, or violence. In addition, if the content contains offensive language, is discriminatory, a commercial message, or is out of context, then that content will be removed.

Although this policy might not be an exact fit for you agency, I would steal this language “Our goal is to handle comments and replies made by the public according to the following standards…” This example helps us frame questions we should be asking ourselves, such as:

  • What is our goal for  handling comments? (If you don’t respond at all to comments, you should state that as well.)
  • What are our standards?
  •  How might standards change during a crisis? Will we need to increase staff to handle a large influx of feedback, or will we make it clear there is a different standard and slower response time during a disaster or crisis event?
  • What internal processes will need to be changed (if any) in order to deal with requests for information and feedback from our web-presence in a manner that is consistent with the stated standard?
  • Is this policy going to be the same for each of our City’s web-based platforms?  (Law enforcement, Public Health, Mayor’s office)

If you are on a “social” network people have some level of expectation that you will answer their direct questions. Having a plan for how you will do that, and posting that plan, just makes sense.


2 responses to “Do You Have an Engagement Policy and a Plan?

  1. Pingback: Do You Have an Engagement Policy and a Plan? | Disaster Mapping |

  2. Pingback: Using #SMEM Lessons Learned for Public Diplomacy | eVentures in Cyberland

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