I have decided to draft a digital strategy memo for my current (or perhaps former – TBD) office, the MA Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS). Having served as its Chief of Staff for the last four years, I am intimately aware of its current operations, traditional hesitancy toward new media and its previous capacity challenges which hindered potential execution of the most moderate of digital strategies.
As a Secretariat that represents 13 state agencies specializing in public safety and criminal justice issues, we often find good news stories in short supply. Interactions with our agencies are often perceived to be negative in nature. You have either been arrested or ticketed by the MA State Police (MSP), and subsequently entering the criminal justice system where you will interact with Corrections (DOC), Parole or the Sex Offender Registry Board, or quite tragically, you are a victim of a crime. Or perhaps you have experienced great loss as a result of a tornado, hurricane or blizzard and have interacted with the MA Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) or the Department of Fire Services (DFS). I have overstated my case to drive home the point that our potential stakeholder groups are limited due to the nature of our business.
Regardless of its limitations, EOPSS has made little effort in maximizing the potential space within its own network. For example, a twitter account was created and quickly abandoned. An issue blog saw some use, but ultimately suffered the same fate in 2011. The EOPSS email info line handles hundreds of interested citizen’s inquiries, but does nothing to convert them into greater participants. These are all failings resulting from limited personal capital and capacity and the lack of a carefully crafted digital strategy. I have completed a basic gap analysis, identifying what we currently do well and where we need considerable investment and attention.
For instance, a small number of agencies (MEMA, MSP, DFS and MA National Guard) maintain active twitter and Facebook pages, but they largely operate in silos. My strategy memo will contemplate a secretariat wide digital program that involves collapsing these silos into a singular, coordinated list leverageable by any of our agencies through a variety of mechanisms. I am proposing that EOPSS serve as the strong tie that connects each of the agency nodes/networks. Further, there are a number of high level policy decisions and program announcements that require a coordinated approach that an integrated network would help facilitate. EOPSS stands singularly positioned to carry out that level of messaging.
Utilizing the POST method, I will consider the following as I draft my document:
People – There are three categories of individuals I will focus on, with each consisting of their own subset of individuals – stakeholders, clients and the public. Stakeholders will be broken up into two categories – 1) the well-organized, but often adversarial groups; and 2) the various advisory councils and interests groups that EOPSS collaborates with on public policy changes. Clients can be broken down into 1) professional organizations with a high interaction rate such as police and fire departments and first responders, and also 2) those entities that receive grant funding through our Office of Grants and Research. Finally, the public can be addressed in two groups, hyper focusing on those who have contacted us with specific public safety interests, while also expanding our reach when providing general state-wide emergency notifications, etc.
Objective – My objective will be to develop and expand the network of stakeholders noted above, while simultaneously expanding the messaging capabilities and reach of the Secretariat via a number of technological tools.
Strategy – The strategy begins with a full review of agency contacts and stakeholders, and EOPSS current mechanisms for interaction. Next EOPSS will conduct gap analysis of those entities not currently accounted for. Effort will be made to convert so-called inactives and spectators to collectors and critics. This can be accomplished by converting constituent emails into mailing list members, or public members of our new network. Contact lists, twitter page access and pertinent information will be pushed out via email and press release to draw a larger audience. Those subordinate agencies referenced earlier in this blog will reinforce EOPSS branding and messaging efforts in the form of retweets and inbound links.
Technology – While the design of the main Secretariat website is dictated by an external agency outside EOPSS control, we will better utilize the landing page to advertise EOPSS’ new digital strategy, and other positive news stories. Too often content gets stale and is rarely turned over. Further, EOPSS will place heavy emphasis on Twitter in an effort to expand its network and audience. EOPSS will piggyback on the tweets of its agencies with very large followings, like MEMA and MSP, in an effort to build a follower base that it can utilize to spread the word about major policy initiatives, grant opportunities, or even beat a bad story to the punch by articulate the positives of the program or issue being covered in traditional print media.
When a positive public safety news story presents itself, EOPSS has to hunt down a reporter willing to cover the topic, and frankly, it rarely yields coverage worthy of the effort. What’s worse is the only time you hear from an EOPSS agency is when they are being asked to respond to a negative story, and the reporters rarely print what you want them to run. My hope is that this digital strategy memo will move the secretariat in the right direction, reclaiming ownership over its own public messaging in the next Administration.