Today marks the launch date of the Ballston Innovative Initiative (BI2), another notch in the beltway highlighting the technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists in the Washington, DC region. The press release outlines the program as it is shaping up, a series of events taking place around the region between April and June, 2013.
BI2 was the brainchild of Jonathan Aberman, founder and Managing Director of Amplifier Ventures, creator of the esteemed FounderCorps, guitarist for Two Car Living Room, professor, entrepreneurship professor at Smith Business School, University of Maryland, and co-host of Left Jab Radio.
As if he didn't have enough going on, he drummed up the idea to launch a three-month initiative designed to bring together entrepreneurs, academia and government, to demonstrate that the Greater Washington region can accelerate its growth as an entrepreneurial center by taking advantage of opportunities to work with the funding source and buyer of the most cutting edge of technologies.
You won't want to miss the Launch Party, to be held April 18th, featuring keynote speaker Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, and delivering a panel of respected CEOs that have launched successful ventures that focused on building products critical to our national security agencies.
We sat down with Jonathan to learn more about what insprired this initiative, what he hopes to accomplish, and what we can expect to see.
Jonathan Aberman, founder and Managing Director, Amplifier Ventures
SPEAKERBOX: So, Jonathan, there is such a focus on what's happening in government right now, with Sequestration, with our elected officials, why this, and why now?
JONATHAN: Well, despite the hubbub in Washington today, one thing remains...we still need to support creating the technology that this country needs to protect and serve. And many companies are doing just that, but face challenges in bringing products to market. Moreover, technology procurement is very centralized on a small number of companies and sources. There are literally millions of entrepreneurs and technologists that are invisible to our national security agencies. And, vice versa. Efforts to date to bridge these gaps have just brushed the surface of what could be done. It’s a big job and one that could really help our region and the nation at a time of budgetary reallocations. Folks know that the world of national security is changing, but they don’t quite know into what. We thought that by raising awareness and bringing folks in the community together we could advance figuring this out. I think this can bring some positive energy to the government technology landscape, particularly at a time of economic uncertainty.
SPEAKERBOX: Tell us more about this 3-month initiative, and what prompted the idea.
JONATHAN: This stems from the idea that the biggest funders and purchasers of advanced technology are in our back yard...in Ballston and the Greater Washington region. The relationship between new technology and government spending, particularly in national security, is really striking. For instance, if you look at the industrial history of the US, quite literally every major technology industry that we have benefitted from since World War II was fostered in a significant way by national security research and development or purchasing. The smart phone you use today is a great example – the chips inside it, the GPS system, the voice enablement of Siri and the internet it relies on – came out of national security funded basic research and development.
There are over 70,000 emerging companies financed a year that focus on new technologies (and this is just VC and Angel financed companies -- there are many others that are self funded), and very few of these companies and entrepreneurs are engaged with the national security agencies. The entrepreneurs behind them, and the broader community of technologists both in and out of universities, are often working on technologies and approaches that would be perfectly suited to address technology requirements for the Department of Defense, DARPA, or other intelligence agencies. But both sides need help; startups don't often know how to navigate the purchasing landscape and the world of FARs and contract vehicles, and the agency program managers don't always have visibility to what are called by many “nontraditional performers.” We want to bring these two worlds together, and surround them with a support structure and ecosystem in business and academia, that can help further this for a greater good.
SPEAKERBOX: What types of events will there be?
JONATHAN: Well, so far we have the launch event organized. That will be a lot of fun, and should be a great opportunity to hear some well-known entrepreneurs share their experiences and meet fellow community members. I’m happy that Carly Fiorina was willing to come along and join us in particular, as she is a tireless advocate of free enterprise and entrepreneurship. When I told her about the intiative a few weeks ago she was immediately engaged with it. Peggy Styer of Blackbird Technologies and Steven Chen of Power Fingerprinting are great examples of the kind of national security entrepreneurship that we want to promote.
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard
We have another of other impressive people lined up and will be adding to our announced speakers next week. The other events that are planned and will be rolled out over the next week or two, including a bootcamp to teach entrepreneurs how to start a government contractor, or otherwise work with the government, a suite of high quality classes around entrepreneurship, company creation and expansion (taught by FounderCorps) and a company showcase event that will bring together promising technology startups with investors and program managers. There are also some things in the hopper that are more targeted to bringing nontraditional performers into contact with national security program managers, because we hope to do some things there too.
SPEAKERBOX: Are these events open to the general public?
JONATHAN: Absolutely. We'd like to see as many supporters as possible for this initiative, and to see it grow and expand. We're thrilled to see so many folks come in from academia, the business community, the government, and local government agencies such as Arlington County.
I'd also like to give a hat tip to my friend Bill Flook, who ran an article on this initiative this morning (note, subscription required) in the Washington Business Journal. It goes into more detail on what we're looking to do.
SPEAKERBOX: Thanks, Jonathan, this sounds like a terrific program, and we'll be excited to follow along! How can we find out more?
JONATHAN: We have a website which will be continually updated to reflect new speakers, programs, etc.: www.ballstoni2.com. You can also register there online. And follow BI2 on twitter @ballstoni2. Check back from time to time for updates, hope to see you all at the launch event!
--Elizbeth Shea, @eliz2shea
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with Doug Mashkuri, VP at GovLoop to learn what's new at the online community for public sector professionals. You may be surprised to read about the growth at GovLoop and the range of opportunities for technology companies to engage with this audience.
Doug, Thanks for taking the time to fill us in on all the news at GovLoop. What's changed in the last year?
Doug: A lot has changed…..let’s start with the broad strategy and then I’ll list some specifics.
In the last 18 months GovLoop has evolved from a social network for government to a knowledge network for government. The primary goal of GovLoop has and always will be to help government professionals do their jobs better through collaboration and engagement with each other and industry. When GovLoop originally launched, the content was 100% peer created. Over time, we were able to identify emerging topics based on the government community discussion taking place on GovLoop and see where knowledge gaps existed. Based on these findings, we have created a series of resources (Guides, Blogs, Infographics, Case Studies, Webinars, Events) around these topics to assist our readers in navigating the complexities of their agency’s mission.
Now for some specific growth numbers and recent enhancements-
- Member Growth 10,000 in 2009 to 65,000 today
- 2013 Monthly Unique Visitors: 100,000+
- Increased the reach to senior government leaders with the addition of Chris Dorobek and the Dorobek INISDER on GovLoop in 2012
- Lead Generation – GovLoop averages 550+ registrants/webinar
- Content Strategy – through the products listed above our strategy is to provide a 360 degree view of the topic. This is accomplished by surveying our government readers to better understand their challenges, conducting interviews with government subject matter experts and highlighting how industry is working with their government customers to help them solve challenges.
What are some of the hottest topics or groups on GovLoop?
Doug: The hot topics we are seeing on GovLoop are Customer Service and Citizen Engagement, Big Data, Mobile, Gov 2.0, Telework, Cloud, Digital Strategy, Data Center Consolidation, Agile Government and Acquisition. The most common theme we see, regardless of topic, is the need of our users to have access to information that can help them be more innovative and resourceful in a tough economic climate.
What are the best ways for individuals to get involved with GovLoop?
Doug: GovLoop offers many ways for individuals to jump in. To get the most out of GovLoop one should register first (government and industry are all welcome), subscribe to our daily newsletter, read the top blogs and access the Resources tab to see all of the great resources available to you. From there, jump in to the conversation by commenting on existing blogs, ask questions or create a post of your own. GovLoop is all about the government community helping one another.
How can brands become involved with GovLoop?
Doug: Brands can participate in many ways on GovLoop from creating thought leadership blog posts, participating in on-going discussions, attending GovLoop webinars and events, posting their company profile in our Vendor Directory and posting events to our event calendar – all these actions are free. All we ask is that the content be focused on education/thought leadership and light on “selling." In addition, there are multiple paid opportunities to sponsor guides, custom content, webinars, newsletters and other programs.
Regardless of paid or free, brands have a great opportunity to share their thought leadership and examples of how they are helping their government clients succeed.
Historically, you've worked with big brands and budgets. How are you supporting the needs of smaller B2G brands?
Doug: In the last year we have worked with brands of all sizes. With an expanding product set we now have the flexibility to offer long and short term programs at varying price levels. Regardless of size of company, our sales process is consistent – gain an understanding of your marketing needs, target audience and ROI metrics. Once we are confident we can deliver on those needs we will customize a proposal to fit your needs and budget and at the conclusion provide you with a comprehensive metric dashboard that highlights your results.
Specifically, we have helped small B2G brands with engagement (blog series, guides, case studies) and lead generation (events, webinars) strategies that have helped them establish their thought leadership and brand awareness with the GovLoop audience.
What's the most surprising thing about GovLoop?
Doug: There are 2 facts about GovLoop that many people do not know. The first is that the average age of a GovLoop member is 43. Most people think that GovLoop is a site just for new government employees.
The second surprising fact is that we have a high concentration of government participants at our events and webinars. The breakdown is generally 80% government/20% industry which makers our sponsors very happy!
What's next for GovLoop?
Doug: Great question and it seems like the list grows every day. Our evolution to be the “Knowledge Network for Government” will continue to expand by creating additional resources, events and training as we respond to the needs of the government community. We are very fortunate to have our amazing members helping each other daily on GovLoop and identifying their knowledge needs so that we can assist them in making government more effective and innovative.
Thanks to Doug for the GovLoop update. If anyone has other questions, please feel free to reach out to him directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you're interested in reading more about social media for government, download our free blueprint here.
- Katie Hanusik
So look... I'm not a Google fan.
I don't like that Android ripped-off iOS.
I don't like that Google's monetization strategy is based on a trick.
I don't like that its once-clever logo "doodles" have been debased by rampant overuse. (I mean... Do we really need a doodle commemorating the birthday of the guy who invented the Speak n' Spell?)
I'm not sure about those strange Google Glass glasses (new video here). Though it's true, I often find myself thinking: "I just really don't have nearly enough computers on my face."
I'm also no fan of Google's blase attitude toward privacy, or how it seems to be Teflon for anti-trust judgements and regulations.
Speaking of which, take a look at the following chart produced by Statista on tech company lobbying in 2012:
“When you dominate a market the way Google dominates the search market, you will almost inevitably face antitrust allegations sooner or later. For the past two years, Google has been subject of an FTC investigation because of the way the company allegedly arranges search results to feature its own products more prominently. Last month the FTC closed the case, concluding that Google had not violated antitrust or anti-competition laws. The ruling was a major victory for the search giant, who avoids a sizable fine but committed to voluntarily change some of its practices. In its quest to fend off the allegations, Google had massively upped its lobbying expenditure in the past two years.”
First of all, is Hewlett-Packard still in business? Did not know that.
Second, maybe Apple should start using some of its $138 billion cash hoard on K street. Maybe kick-in for a few Windows 8 upgrades?
Okay, third: How the heck is this legal?
I mean, I know there's a fine line between government PR and lobbying. But since I work for an agency that practices the former, I'd like to attest that the line does in fact exist, and that it's typically drawn on top of a suitcase containing non-sequential twenties in rubber bands.
Seriously, this is super sketch. How do you even begin to spend $16.5 million legally on government in a year -- besides hiring contractors to shorten the stall dividers in the Senate washroom.
Obviously, I don't understand "lobbying" very well. But what I do understand is agency-mandated promotion of SpeakerBox whitepapers. So, if you're interested in communicating with government in a way that doesn't involve free Redskins tickets, try downloading our asset: "A Primer on B2G Public Relations"
You'll feel a lot cleaner in the morning.
Last week I wrote about how Oreo dominated social media during the Super Bowl blackout and touched a bit on how powerful social media can be when used correctly.
However, if you’re reading our blog most likely your company doesn’t fall into the packaged sweets category. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re saying “Well, that’s great for Oreo, but what about the federal government. They don’t use social media!”
To that I call shenanigans.
Just because you’re not selling your product to the general consumer doesn’t mean your audience isn’t using social media and that you should ignore it. It’s 2013, folks; everyone is using social media. That includes the government. Not only is the White House on Twitter – with more than 3.6 million followers – but almost every branch of the military has a presence there along with most federal departments and agencies. Many of these same federal departments and agencies are also represented on Facebook and LinkedIn.
So, now that I’ve shown you that the federal government does in fact use social media I’d like to push you to think beyond just the agency/department representation on these sites. It’s definitely worthwhile to know that government agencies uses social media but more important, in my opinion, is knowing that employees of those agencies – i.e., your customers - are there. After all, social media communities are not run and populated by robots. People, including members of your target audience, manage and congregate on these sites.
When selling to the government you aren’t selling to some great and powerful Oz who runs the agency from behind a magic curtain. You are selling to people. When your company’s sales team goes into an agency they aren’t going to the CIO, they are talking directly to the person who uses the equipment, the person who has the ability to make purchasing decisions. These are the people you want to be sure you are seeking out and reaching on social media, just as Oreo is seeking the consumer who is likely to purchase their cookies. You may not have Oreo’s advertising or public relations budget but that’s the beauty of social media – it’s free – and if used properly – priceless.
Interested in learning more about how to use social media to engage with the government? Download our tip sheet – The Blueprint – Social Media and Government.
Over this past year SpeakerBox has made a real investment in inbound marketing, not just for our clients, but also for ourselves. So, excuse me for a moment while I get a little self-promotional and highlight some of the content we’ve worked on this year.
When developing our content program we wanted to touch as many areas of interest for our clients and potential clients as possible. Many members of the SpeakerBox team have contributed to these content items and I personally appreciate the time and effort that has gone into getting this program off the ground. We have been very successful in our first year and I’m looking forward to all of the content we’ll provide our readers in the future.
The links below will take you to the content that exists on our website and you can also find a full list that will continue to be updated in real time on the SpeakerBox resources page.
PR 101 For Startups
Leveraging PR for M&A and Capital Raises
Inbound Marketing: Getting Found with Creative Content
Analyst Relations 101: Influencing the Influencers
The Five biggest Flaws in your B2B Website
No More Hocus Pocus: A Beginner's Guide to Search Engine Optimization
Acronyms, GSA Schedules and Agencies, Oh My! A Primer on B2G Public Relations
The Blueprint – Social Media and Government
Everything is on the Record: The Pre-Interview Checklist
If you logged on to GCN, FCW or Washington Technology this morning you no doubt noticed something new. All three websites, which are part of 1105 Government Information Group, look completely different than they did just last week. Apparently 1105 has been undergoing some changes and the new websites are the most visible change.
If you haven’t checked out the sites yet go ahead and take a quick peek, I’ll wait…
So, what do you think? Personally, I think there are positives and negatives about each site. I’ll start by saying that from what I can see, FCW (which has officially changed its name from Federal Computer Week to FCW) is the only one that has even addressed the changes with an Editor’s Note, which is right on the homepage welcoming people to the new FCW.
Overall I think that GCN and FCW hit the mark. The new design is more modern, cleaner and easier to read. The top navigation is easy to understand and the site is much more visual. I also really like the addition of what’s trending to the top navigation as well as the incredibly easy to find links to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Click on an article and you get a box on the right that lets you know what the most popular articles are. However, that said, FCW now only lists one editorial contact (Troy Schneider, Executive Editor) while GCN doesn’t list any – a kink that is hopefully still going to be worked out as there have been changes to the editorial staff at both publications.
Unfortunately, Washington Technology’s redesign wasn’t quite up to par with its sister publications. As Mark Amtower points out in this blog post, “I don't find the new design to be a user friendly experience compared to what was there before and I think this redesign will lead to less traffic and shorter visits to the site.” Not only does Washington Technology not tell you what the most popular articles are, they’ve buried what’s trending within the subpages.
Also, for those interested, the publications have rolled out new editorial calendars for the remainder of the year, which you can find links to below. It appears that along with new websites, the publications are doing what they can to stay relevant and provide readers the most current information.
It seems to me that FCW and GCN managed to keep their individual identities when redesigning their websites while also making it clear they are part of the same family. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Washington Technology.
So, what do you think? Like the new sites? Hate them? Sound off below!
GCN Q4 2012 editorial calendar
FCW Q4 2012 editorial calendar
Washington Technology 2013 editorial calendar
…then do I have some good news for you! Check out SpeakerBox’s newest piece of content: Acronyms, GSA Schedules and Agencies, Oh My! A Primer on B2G Public Relations.
This resource will give businesses a jumping-off point when it comes to revving up government-focused public relations efforts and break down some of the common mistakes made in government PR, like an over-emphasis on products and misunderstanding the size and scope of the ecosystem.
So check it out, and get your B2G house in order!
I had the pleasure this morning of attending a presentation by my CEO, Elizabeth Shea, to the Small and Emerging Contractors Advisory Forum (SECAF) on how to engage the federal community via social media.
It seems that somewhere along the way people started believing that the government isn’t actually using social media. But with more than 3 million Twitter followers, it looks like someone forgot to tell the White House that government isn’t social. Turns out that NASA isn’t far behind with 2.8 million followers, and the Department of Homeland Security has more than 52,000 “likes” on Facebook.
In fact, according to Market Connections 2011 Social Media in the Public Sector Report, 70% of federal agencies and 93% of contractors are using LinkedIn while a whopping 86% of agencies and 88% of contractors are on Facebook.
These stats clearly speak to a point made by B.L. Ochman in BusinessWeek way back in 2009: “Millions of people are creating content for the social web. Your competitors are already there. Your customers have been there for a long time. If your business isn’t putting itself out there, it ought to be.”
So below are some of the key takeaways from Elizabeth’s presentation this morning and some tips for people just jumping into the social fray.
Listen to what is being said. At a minimum the expectation is that you are listening. There are a variety of social media listening posts that can help you learn what your customers want.
Create compelling content. As we’ve discussed many times on our blog, content is king. You either need to curate or create your stance, your value proposition, the reason your customers buy. Social media is reliant on content, and you need to plan a way to create content that is useful to your audience.
Engage with your audience. Social media tools enable you to engage with your audience in a meaningful way. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Determine which channels your customers use and meet them there.
Lastly, B2G communications has evolved. While there is still a core set of print publications we work with on a daily basis, there is also a “new” set of online sites that are just as influential. Online sites and networks to follow (or join) to keep up with what’s happening in the government space include: FedScoop, GovLoop, GovConWire, OhMyGov and NextGov.
I wrote recently about the quality vs. quantity conundrum on Twitter, and included some tips on how to get started. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how to make the most of LinkedIn.
It is a myth to say that the Federal government doesn't utilize social media tools; in fact, in the age of transparency, social media has exploded within government agencies. With that said, the tools can be very effective within the government contracting space, as long as you know how to use them to your advantage. Interested to know which agencies are utilizing these tools, and how?
SECAF, the Small and Emerging Contractor Advisory Forum, has asked SpeakerBox to come in and deliver a program on how to specifically manage these powerful social media channels when engaging with government agencies as well as the contracting industry.
We will be sharing tips and tricks for leveraging LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., to share your voice and enrich professional relationships.
SECAF members are invited to join us on August 24, 2012 at The Tower Club in Tysons Corner for breakfast, 7:30-9:00 am, for an opportunity to understand how to connect and engage using these powerful communications vehicles.
If you're not a SECAF member and you are a government contractor, it's easy to join: $200 for contractors which covers everyone in your company.
-- Why social media? What are the tools?
-- How can you leverage social media to network and expand business into government agencies and to other teaming partners?
-- How do your find your audience? Who's listening?
-- What are the tips and tricks for getting the most of of your social media efforts?
Hope to see you there!
--Elizabeth Shea, SpeakerBox, @eliz2shea
The GSA is back in the headlines for excessive event spending. This time, it’s for a one-day awards ceremony in November 2010 costing more than $268,000. Among other things, the GSA is being criticized for spending more than $20,000 on drumsticks (for a drumming exercise, not the chicken) and $28,000 for electronic picture frames for the 4,000 event attendees. Acting administrator, Dan Tangherlini, recently reported the event to the Inspector General.
This news comes on the heels of a GSA scandal that originally erupted in April 2012 after news broke of a lavish Las Vegas event coincidentally also in 2010 costing more than $800,000. Several GSA executives lost their jobs, including GSA administrator Martha Johnson.
The impact of these two events is far-reaching. In Tangherlini’s testimony before Congress on April 16, he described the formation of the Office of Administrative Services within GSA that will approve all planned conferences, events and budgets moving forward. In addition, Tangherlini mentioned that he had cancelled 35 GSA events scheduled for 2012, saving almost $1,000,000.
Though a list of cancelled events has not been published, we’ve assembled a partial list for industry watchers.
- Small business conferences in several cities including Honolulu, Phoenix and Oakland, CA.
- Earlier this month, GSA called off GovEnergy, planned for August 19 in St. Louis. GovEnergy is one of the largest alternative energy conferences in the U.S. Conference organizers had reserved thousands of hotel rooms in ten hotels for the conference. St. Louis is estimating that 1,500 hotel employees will be negatively impacted by the cancellation.
- The DoD has also cancelled at least two events that may be related to the GSA scandal. The Air Force Information Technology Conference, held annually in Montgomery, AL, was planned for the end of August. The event was cancelled due to the high cost of travel for government attendees.
Not surprisingly, the travel and meetings industry is reeling from all the cancellations.
- The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) cancelled the National Travel Forum, a 3-day June event in Phoenix. GBTA officials said, “Although we at the GBTA firmly believe that there is no more appropriate time for government travel professionals to learn cost-cutting strategies from top corporate travel managers... and reinforce ethical behavior standards, we cannot hold this important forum without GSA’s participation.”
- The Travel Market Report reported that many government events of more than 500 people have been cancelled or postponed; the National Conference Center in Arlington, VA has experienced more than $1.4M in government meeting cancellations just in April and May – and Marriott alone has reported more than $4 million in cancellations of government events.
With increased government scrutiny in an election year, many meetings professionals are expecting the slowdown and cancellations to continue.
If you’re aware of other cancellations, please let us know and we’ll add to the list.
- Katie Hanusik