Tag Archives: NASA

Is Your Organization Socially Awkward?

Post by: Kim Stephens

Social Media Outposts

Brian Crumpler, a public employee and author of the “Disastermapping” blog, posted yesterday about social media as the “new professional development.”  He  tries to demystify the tools by stating “Social Media is simply the use of media (written and/or visual) to communicate thoughts and ideas through social interaction.” A friend of mine asked me last week if I wasted my time during the work day “playing around on social media.” The fact that that sentiment is still somewhat widely held makes posts like Brian’s all the more important. Below he states his case:

 Within the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) community, there are a number of people all around the country that I now interact with on a regular basis.  The same is true about the Social Media for Emergency Management (#SMEM) community.  I’ve also had the incredible privilege to explore and learn more about the next frontier of connected data “BIG DATA” (#BigData), interact with incredible minds in the Data Visualization #DataViz community, and even build good working relationships with some of the best minds in many of these fields.

Brian reminds us that the tools he uses to connect with these people should not be the focus of agency or company policy, the focus should be on what he is learning. My 15 year old daughter brought this idea home for me yesterday when I said to her “You are addicted to your phone.” She said, “No Mom, it’s about the people I’m interacting with, not the phone.” When did teens get so smart?

Since professional interactions are vital to most people’s jobs, then why shouldn’t they have the ability to access social networks at work?  NASA asked this question a while ago and wrote about it last year in the article “Beyond 140 characters.”  Two things stood out to me:

  1. They determined that social media were really not much different than telephones and email.
    1. “Most of the existing policies worked with minor exceptions. For example, updates to NASA Policy Directive 2540.1 included replacing the word “teletypes” with “Facebook.” That change, combined with other modifications, resulted in the current NPD 2540.1G revision that allows the use of government equipment to go to sites like Twitter and Facebook, as long as it isn’t impacting your work duties.
  2. They defined people’s  work functions in their social media policy in order to determine how and why people should have access. These groups included  “official spokesperson,” “professional,”and, “private individuals.”
    1.  “Official spokespersons are charged with representing the Agency (e.g., Public Affairs Office, associate administrators, etc.).
    2. The general public and employees (not on the clock) fall in the “private individual” category, which means they are expressing a personal, individual opinion, and not the Agency’s.
    3. In between is “professional,” who uses social media technologies in the performance of professional duties to support NASA (i.e., communications made in a business or professional capacity).”

The healthcare community is also struggling with who should have access. Quite a few hospitals, for example, are using social networks to market their facilities to customers, however, the use of these tools from anyone other than PIOs is still quite new and “scary.” Dr. Farris Timimi of the Mayo Clinic, an organization that is really paving the social media path for the rest of the healthcare industry, explains in the video below why access for professionals is not only important, but vital.  I love his point about trusting staff to use these tools:   “We trust you as a provider with scalpels and lives, we [should] trust you as a provider with twitter and facebook.

Tell me, what kind of access do you or your staff have?


Social Media are about Engagement, not Control


Post by: Kim Stephens

I’ve been in two meetings this week where public officials have stated that their job was in some way  to “control social media”.  One person stated that in an upcoming exercise “We are going to ‘play’ some social media and learn how to control that…”. In the another conversation a public information officer indicated that their office didn’t mind interaction and public comments on their social media platforms “…as long as people write things that don’t reflect negatively on our organization.” Whoa! Both of those statement had me floored because they demonstrated how those folks misunderstood the power of the medium. Fire Chief Bill Boyd, a longtime social media evangelist and a person who “gets it” stated in a post today that it is about “community engagement, not public communication”.  Exactly.

The power of using social platforms for engagement is important during every phase of emergency management but particularly in the preparedness phase when your organization is trying to cultivate and build relationships with the entire stakeholder community: volunteer organizations, CERT members, advisory committees, other agencies, etc, the list is long. If you are simply pushing information to these groups via your social platforms without any hope, desire or expectation of input, then, believe it or not… you won’t get any input!


There are numerous articles that describe how to create social media engagement/content strategies; what’s interesting to me is that they detail NOT how to push your organization’s information (e.g. “What we do and Who we are”) but rather how to LISTEN to your citizens and stakeholders to discover who they are and what they want from you.  I like this list from  the SocialMedia Examiner , even though it is related to business marketing, that details the three important elements to creating an effective content strategy:

To see how this is done right in the public sector, one of the best examples is NASA. This newsletter, “IT Talk: Social Media at NASA“, explores their use of the tools. The social media manager, Stephanie L. Schierholz, states that pushing NASA “news” is one component, however

“…the real value of NASA’s use of social media can be seen in the level of engagement and the communities that form around them. It is called social media because our fans and followers have a reasonable expectation that their questions may be answered and their comments heard.”

For More info: The IACP Center for Social Media has an entire tab devoted to the subject of “Community Outreach and Citizen Engagement“. Explore the case studies listed as well as the fact sheets and publications.