By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Why your agency should be blogging

Shutterstock image (Dencg) : digital government concept.

The announcement last week by Andrew Sullivan, whose The Dish was a blogosphere pioneer, that he would soon end his blog has provoked some discussion around the topic, "is blogging dying?"

I have not the slightest desire to engage in such a self-referential discussion. Speaking for myself, I have enjoyed blogging and am pleased by reactions and discussions some of my blogs provoke -- also about the less-snarky tone of (most) reader comments that is a welcome departure from many blogs. (For anyone interested in a trip down memory lane, here is a link to my first FCW blog post from 2007.)

I will, however, argue stridently that good blogging is important for government agencies.

The most important reason is that good blogs can humanize the often-impersonal, bureaucratic face of government. I would urge agencies to embrace blogging for this reason alone, and to make sure they take advantage of this humanizing ability by personalizing blog posts as much as possible, departing to the extent feasible from government-style language that is found elsewhere on agency websites.

Coincidentally, GovLoop -- the site founded by ex-Department of Homeland Security employee Steve Ressler that especially targets younger feds -- just posted on the topic of "The 5 Most Unforgettable Blogs by Government Agencies." The post is really helpful, with links to sites, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone in the government blogging business.

Leading off the honor parade was the blog of HHS Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell. The GovLoop post notes that Matthews Burwell "knows better than to use her blog as just another agency public relations soapbox. Instead she spotlights the people who work hard to help their country," such as a post about feds who were part of the 2014 Time persons of the year, the Ebola fighters. The post notes that "Burwell often includes photos of herself and her colleagues in action, like one where she's getting a flu vaccination.

The Transportation Security Administration's blog also gets the nod for a personalized approach. "Their blogger bios are refreshing, balancing the informal and the professional. Bob Burns' bio jokingly opens: "Yes, my real name is Bob. I am a real person and not a pseudonym as some think." GovLoop also likes TSA's annual photo display of the most-bizarre items confiscated in airport security, which gets a fair bit of media attention.

GAO started a new blog only a year ago, which shows that even the most-wonky and unhip agency can get its blogging act together. The GovLoop post notes that the blog "takes a Throwback Thursday-like approach with stories from the agency's history and varies post formats by sharing podcasts for people who'd rather listen than read."

Rounding out the five top blogs are the intellectual National Endowment of the Arts blog, which discusses art appreciation topics, and a Defense Department blog presenting technology advances growing out of DOD (or DOD-sponsored) research. ("Even pacifists can find something worth reading, such as stories about batteries that don't corrode, advances in organ and tissue banking, and innovations in enhanced grenade lethality—ok, that last one is clearly aimed at war hawks").

If your agency doesn't have a blog, or has a government-style bureaucratic blog, I would urge you to look at some of these other government blogs for inspiration.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Feb 06, 2015 at 10:56 AM


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