This post was written by Nancy Lazarus, contributor to PRNewser.
“As an institution the State Department is in many ways still behind in new media. We’re working every day to bring ourselves up to speed on social media tools, but we also have a mountain of people here who tell us no.”
That’s how Katie Dowd described the challenges of her role as New Media Director at the State Department during her presentation at the PRSA Digital Impact conference in New York this past Friday.
Despite organizational resistance, the State Department under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has managed to make social and new media a priority.
According to Dowd, first they conduct research about the most popular types of media in each country. “Market research is critical to our ability to sustain the conversation going forward. We measure success by the number of media networks we are on and how far our messages are tracking,” she said.
Partnerships with other organizations and companies enable the State Department to conduct country specific projects more effectively.
They sent “Twitter celebrity” Ashton Kutcher and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey to Russia in February. Dowd said the objective was “To harness the power of the U.S. technology industry, bring it to other countries and explain how social media is moving in America.”
Over two weeks the delegation traveled throughout Russia sending Twitter messages and using Google translate to share their views. Dowd reported, “The program reached 15 million people and it became a local dialogue.”
The State Department has also developed proprietary social media platforms, including Opinion Space, in collaboration with University of California at Berkeley. This interactive site allows the public to submit their policy views.
Dowd explained, “We encourage open conversations and don’t delete comments unless they are violent or risk jeopardizing national security.”
“We also launched Sounding Board, Secretary Clinton’s internal site where employees can submit ideas,” Dowd said. “Going forward, we are integrating social media into the job descriptions of all the foreign service officers.”