Telling Your Agency’s Story

Very often, when I talk about the benefits of incorporating social
media into your communications plan and strategy, I tout that it can
humanize your agency, and gives your publics the means to get directly
in contact with you. You are no longer The Department of
Such-and-Such, you are Jim or Sally.

That isn’t the whole story, though. Jim who works for the Health
Department is nice, but what about the Commissioner? Or the Mayor? Or
the Executive Director?

If you really want to humanize your agency, what about bringing the
head of your agency (read: the one making all of the money) into the
public’s living room, or computer room, or onto their phones? Imagine
them telling the story of why the agency is doing what they’re doing.
Letting the public in on their plans. Saying why the agency is
needed, and all of the amazing things you’re doing. You think you can
get readers engaged and draw new readers? What if your Executive can
tell the very personal story their involvement with, say, responding
to the 2001 anthrax attacks? Now that’s a draw.

Which leads me to the impetus for this post. We’ve got a special guest
taking over the blog for the next couple of days. Scott Becker,
Executive Director of the Association of Public Health
Laboratories
, has written an
extremely moving series of posts on his experience responding to the
2001 anthrax attacks, and the very nice folks at APHL asked me to
cross-post them here.

While the subject of the first two posts may seem more appropriate for
my old blog about public health preparedness, but they are also an
excellent example of a best practice. I’ll bet people who live and
breathe public health preparedness will learn something from this
posts, and people who know nothing about labs will begin to understand
the amazingly critical role that labs play in keeping us all safe.
That’s how you teach people why funding the labs is important. The
final post is about how critical the incorporation of crisis
communication capacity into APHL was to ensuring the success of the
response. It’s a lesson we’d all do well to learn. Even if you only
ever talk to lab directors, you still need to communicate in a crisis.

Expect the first post tomorrow morning, followed by part 2 on Monday
and concluding with part 3 on Tuesday.

I want to conclude by thanking the folks at APHL. They are among the
most social media savvy public health organizations that I know all
while providing one of the most critical services in keeping Americans
healthy and safe. And everyone I’ve met there is extremely kind. Thank
you for including me in the opportunity to talk about this amazing,
real life example of how to do things right.

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