Evolution of Security an Evolution in Public Sector Reputation Management

posted by Brendan Hodgson

At its simplest, effective reputation management is the sum of performance + communication — in other words, doing the right thing and being seen by your most important audiences to be doing the right thing. But that begs a whole slew of questions: Do your audiences understand and agree with what the right thing to do is? Is your communication helping me to better understand what you are doing and why? Are there other things you could be doing and if so, why aren’t you doing them?  And so forth…

Which is why I applaud the efforts of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to use their new blog to address the concerns of travellers with respect to the myriad security protocols and procedures they’re faced with everytime they want to board a plane. It is, in my view, a clear example of how public sector organizations can use social media to manage reputation through enhanced transparency and proactive communication.

While I would suggest that they might create less “scripted” videos and utilize the capacity of sites such as Youtube to amplify the footprint of their communication, their efforts to “humanize” their organization, to demonstrate sincere concern for the issues faced by the travelling public, and do so in a way that goes beyond simple text, is laudable and – I would suggest – a best practice (contingent, of course, upon how effectively they use the site to truly reflect passenger concerns and questions versus simply patting themselves on the back – which they appear to have avoided doing so far.) 

The tone of the site is extremely personable and, given the profiles of the authors and the experts used, credible. They appear highly responsive despite the deluge of comments and questions they’ve received since launching the blog in late January. Their use of blog to seek comments on inconsistencies, for example, has the potential to become a powerful catalyst for change and improvement across the organization – and is, essentially, free polling of a highly vocal community. Lastly, I see this vehicle as a potential rapid-response communication tool to be activated should an incident take place in the future.

Is this a model for all government departments and agencies to follow?  Perhaps not all, but certainly for those who deal with specific communities of interest and concern on a daily basis. Now we need to figure out who isn’t included in that response.

Update (Feb 8):  (Via Boing Boing) An example of how social media can act as an effective tool for timely crisis and issues response, the TSA today utilized its blog to clarify its search policies following questions raised in this Washington Post article.  

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