During Clinic #96 on “Protect Your Work from Citizen Anger (and Politics!)”, we outlined how to prevent being end-run by your projects’ opponents.
More importantly, how to see end-runs as a symptom of a problem — rather than the problem itself.
If minimizing pseudo-input is key, what can professionals do about the massive amounts of phony issues being slung all over Social Media?
This is worth a whole webinar of its own! (In fact, it will be the crux of the Clinic #99.)
There is SO much mis-information on the Internet, much of which your public cannot decipher from facts related to your work — don’t think you’re going to combat that volume of content.
But you can get pretty close!
What you can do, is take note. A lot of notes actually.
Keep a running list of what pseudo-issues are being shared on Social Media.
Use Social Media as a listening device — even if most of what you’re hearing is garbage.
Try to identify who is generating and perpetuating these issues. (Not publicly, but for your own understanding of what communication lapses your team isn’t already aware of.)
If fake issues circulating (about your project) are getting ANY traction on the web, you need to know it!
You can’t possibly address these phony issues, and help the public see them as “pseudo-input” if you aren’t even aware of them.
Use Social Media, to deepen your understanding of the whole ecosystem of phony issues, mis-information, or misunderstandings and the people who promote them.
Even though these issues are misleading for stakeholders, and qualify as “pseudo-input”, you have to publicly identify each issue as such before soliciting for real input.
If an online user says “No, don’t do it!”— that isn’t input unless you:
– Didn’t anticipate that reaction from anyone.
– Expected to hear that from other stakeholders, but not THAT stakeholder.
– Had no idea this person, group, or sister agency saw themselves affected by your project.
If that’s the case, then that’s a symptom that you also need to have a better handle on who your PAIs (Potentially Affected Interests) are, and how they see your organization and Mission (Clinic #95)… As well as what pseudo-issues they are conflating with bona fide issues.
Granted, scanning Social Media and online outlets for phony issues isn’t exactly fun, nor where your expertise is…
However, once you demonstrate that you have a complete handle on nearly all the pseudo-input out there, have adequate responses to each, you’ll help clarify what is real input, and what is pseudo-input, for the rest of the public.
Do that, and you’ll have made some serious progress!
Learn more about:
– preventing pseudo-input,
– dealing with stakeholder emotions, and of course
– how to keep politics from interfering with your effectiveness
Being attacked is never easy… For many public-sector professionals, it never stops either.
Some members of the public act like making negative comments and online attacks on public officials is a sport.
And as anti-government attitudes heat up, so do the hateful social media posts toward public professionals. So how are you supposed to respond? Here are a couple of tips.
(Note, for our full Consent Building eBook on the topic, click here)…
1. Leverage Negative Comments to Better Inform Your Opponents
Start by assuming the inflammatory or hateful comments have been made by an actual person, with legitimate concerns about your agency, and the projects you’re working on.
2. Resist getting emotionally sucked in — publicly or privately.
Think of an attack as a hook dangling online… Don’t bite! Expect what you say privately in response to online attacks to be made public anytime someone Googles your name, agency, or project (including texts, emails, and comments made within the confines of your office space).
Don’t wait too long, but gather your thoughts (and cool) before responding.
3. Never ignore or disregard negative comments.
See each of these as a chance to make progress on the issues being aired, the misunderstandings that linger, and your overall credibility. To the “silent majority” watching from the sidelines, if you don’t respond to attacks you look tone-deaf, and conveniently inclined to only acknowledge the positive, or more tempered comments regarding your work.
People who didn’t necessarily question your work or motives,start to wonder if you’re online presence is purely self-serving. Responding only to the to level-headed and complimentary comments actually creates cynicism where it didn’t necessarily exist before.
Even though it’s natural to want to ignore the negative and most extreme comments, doing so will actually hurt your credibility among the broader community.
For more the full list of tips, please download our free Consent-Building eBook on this topic. Click here!
How Public Agencies Need to Use Social Media to Get Respect, Not Hatred.
It can sometimes seem like Social Media is just one more facet for the public to dump on you and your team. Attacks at public meetings have never been pretty, yet what is often said online can make those meetings look like a love-fest by comparison!
Understandably, many public professionals shy away from posting anything to social media platforms as a result. The thing you need to remember is this… Social Media is just a tool! If you use it for its strengths, you can actually develop respect, credibility and appreciation… instead of more hatred.
1. Why Using Social Media for “Branding” is a Mistake in the Public-Sector
It’s tempting to look at how online “brands” create a Social Media presence and try to use it as a template for your organization. The problem is, you’re not like the mega-corporations and individuals using it to create or build a brand. Branding is a self-serving endeavor. Companies need to do it to set themselves apart.
Public agencies not only lack a brand, the professionals running them would be ill-advised to try to create a “brand”, when their only purpose is to serve the public.
Remember, it’s not as if the public can choose which U.S. Forest Service, state Department of Transportation, or local Department of Public Works they prefer over another. Those are the agencies here to serve all of us– like them or not. That’s why “branding” has no place in the public-sector’s use of Social Media.
2. What’s Posted Isn’t What Makes It Viral
You know not every cat or kid video goes viral, but do you know why?
Why did a video of woman in her car wearing a Chewbacca mask get millions of views, and the next one didn’t?
Not every salacious, witty, or insightful comment “trends” on Twitter, so what’s the common thread?
It’s not Google’s algorithm, some clever use of site SEO, or even the intention of the person who created the post.
As discussed in a past webinar on using Social Media, it’s not the post itself that makes the content go viral… The virility comes from what it elicits: emotion.
3. Leverage Viral Power for Your Team
Chances are, you already have an agency/project Facebook page, Twitter feed, or website (perhaps even several). So how do you tie the two (above) revelations together to put them to use for your team?
One way is to harness the virility of emotion. Of course, that doesn’t mean you want to elicit just any old emotion, (especially when hatred tends to flow freely these days!).
As the anti-government climate heats up, you certainly don’t want to evoke more anger, more frustration, or more hatred towards you, your team, or your proposals. (Using Social Media as a branding tool in the public-sector is likely to do just this!)
Something makes you get out of your comfy bed every morning and go to work. That same “thing” compels you to spend countless hours away from your home, your family, your hobbies.
Don’t tell me it’s for money.
Working in the public-sector is not going to make you rich. Yet here you are, dedicating your life to this work. Why?
Get to the essence of that “why” and use it as your guide in every Tweet, Facebook post, and video you upload.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking emotions have no place in public-sector work. You’re dead wrong if you do. Because like it or not– your work is steeped in emotion.
Emotions show up at your public hearings, Letters to the Editor, and the pages of every anti-government group online.
Using the same “why” that gets you out of bed every day to communicate out to your public through Social Media is the key.
You’ll know you have it right when the emotions you elicit will come with comments like “Thank God you’re there!” “Thank goodness you are willing to do this work!”
In two recent webinars, we covered this and much more (including: how to deal with Social Media mistakes, build your credibility online, and a 4-step recipe for each and every post):
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