GSA promotes FirstGov

"FirstGov Web site"

PHILADELPHIA — In the next three to five years, marketing will play a more prominent role in the federal government's efforts to provide services online.

General Services Administration officials have launched a multiyear campaign to create brand-name recognition for USA Services, an e-government program that helps citizens find government information and services via the telephone or Internet.

Faced with low public awareness of the program, GSA has secured $9.4 million in free air time to publicize the FirstGov.gov Web site and (800) FED-INFO telephone number, said Teresa Nasif, executive sponsor of USA Services.

With 60 percent of Americans unable to name a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government, Nasif said, Web sites such as FirstGov must be easy for citizens to navigate without knowing which agency or level of government offers a particular service.

Speaking May 25 here at the annual Management of Change Conference, Nasif offered conference goers a preview of USA Services' "In the pink" public service announcement. It shows a grandmotherly figure wearing a pink wig waiting in line at a government office, with a pink poodle as her companion.

Humor is an important component of a good public awareness campaign, Nasif said, and GSA intends to use it.

Through USA Services, she said, GSA employees accept redirected calls or e-mail queries that citizens make when they don€t know which agency to contact for information they need. The service is free to other federal agencies.

An additional option, USA Services' Tier-One answering service, is available to other federal agencies for a fee. With that service, Nasif said, USA Services staff members are trained to answer questions about other agencies as if they worked there.

At least 25 agencies have signed on as partners with USA Services for one of the two services, she said.

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