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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.
By Marvin Pichla
December 23, 2014
The final topic for the PA Times online editorial calendar is “Social Media and The Information Age- Using Influence and Persuasion in Public Service.” Unquestionably, this is a very important communications impact topic whether you focus on the private or public sector. When you factor in my favorite topic—entrepreneurship—social media and its potential to influence and persuade people all over the globe is truly worthy of in-depth discussion.
However, I must first be very honest. Technology, computers, cell phones and I do NOT always see eye-to-screen. I love my pencils and yellow legal pads. I appreciate my dictionary and thesaurus. Some would call me old-fashioned and others would label me a communications dinosaur. But make no mistake I fully understand the words of Andrew Reiner in his 2011 article “Brand New Me.” In it he simply states, “If you are not online, you will not be noticed, or it will be assumed you are behind the times.” Similarly in a recent training I attended, the lead speaker said, “People will meet you online 60 percent of the time before you really meet them.” With these thoughts in mind, it has quietly become my goal to not let technology hold me hostage, but instead to strategically make social media more effectively support my public service causes.
Before I discuss options for 21st century public service uses of social media, one positive area citizens working in the public sector may not consider when employing social media is its capacity to be an “equalizer.” Think about it. When people communicate and complete business transactions online, there is not an influence of age discrimination…young or old.
Likewise, there are no negative impacts due to physical appearance, speech challenges or mobility issues. Instead the single point of importance is the business deal. Isn’t it wonderful to think that one business person in Nebraska can’t look across the table at someone in Michigan and incorrectly think he or she is only in their early twenties and their idea for a new mousetrap will never work?! Or because someone has a speech impediment that should somehow negatively impact the quality of the computer application they developed. Social media has tremendous equalizer value.
A second testimonial to the equalization value of social media comes by way of its information exchange capacities. Picture a board meeting where five different people raise their hands to speak. Unfortunately, due to normal time constraints or potential duplication of discussion points maybe only two members get to actually speak. Isn’t it satisfying to think that through the conduct of an online-meeting, everyone could raise their hands and speak through social media at the same time?
The downside would be that all members would have to read all comments, but maybe that could be a plus-side. Why? Because sometimes when people speak at a meeting their words or points are misunderstood or taken out of context. In this incidence, the use of social media (an online meeting) again serves as an equalizer and allows technological time/space to act as a buffer so the ideas/information exchange may not be wrongfully interpreted due to the “immediate response syndrome.”
Now it is time to discuss the developmental value of social media in three prototype public service areas. The three areas will include strategic planning, community meetings and labor exchange. Each example was designed for a rural, four-county region in Michigan. However, this does not mean that the concepts couldn’t be used anywhere with potentially excellent outcomes. Also be aware that each of the projects were designed to result in continuous public service improvement (not perfection).
The first initiative is known as the Just “1” Thing strategic planning project. Today’s business development organizations have limited planning resources and multiple service responsibilities. Therefore, obtaining effective and continual strategic planning involvement by business partners is extremely difficult. In response to this special strategic planning challenge, the creation of a Just “1” Thing, online idea-generating/planning process was developed. The Just “1” Thing process would contain the following operational components:
Next let’s think about a virtual chamber of commerce. In today’s business world, time is money. This realization is as important to the small “mom and pop” stores, as it is to the large superstores. Therefore, gone is the time for business leaders to leave their companies and attend weekly or monthly chamber of commerce meetings. In response to this challenge a regional development agency introduced one of the state’s first virtual chambers of commerce (VCofC). The VCofC was constructed to offer the following benefits:
Finally, think about a live job interview webcast labor exchange opportunity delivered in a “shark tank” format. Job seekers interview LIVE via social media in front of an unlimited number of employers and never leave the room. Likewise, employers pre-interview a large group of candidates and still do their financial report. The two-way economic benefits of this model are HUGE!
Social media in public service appreciate its EQUALIZER value and engage it to work for you!