"People, I got this."
While long-time-blog-favorite John McAfee scrambles to diagnose the issues surrounding Healthcare.gov, a public/private software professional and TPM contributor makes an important (and underreported) point about the underlying problem:
“The Healthcare.gov site itself is probably one of the best Federal websites ever built, both in design and in the approaches used to code it. It's pretty, usable, relatively fast, and overall really quite good.”
“[The problems occur] when the website passes your data to an extremely complex array of systems that span multiple agencies... And if any one of these systems -- several of which are very old in IT terms -- has a glitch and can't complete the task, the [Healthcare.gov experience] fails for that user.”
So fixing this problem is a simple matter of upgrading the entirety of the federal government’s information technology infrastructure (including all those firesale Atari 800s the IRS purchased in 1986 after Hurricane Frances)?
None of this, of course, should come as a surprise to the IT teams implementing the online healthcare exchanges. But it’s not particularly useful to blame the Healthcare.gov designers for an underlying crisis of back-end obsolescence.
(Multiple reports now seen to suggest that the HHS decision to require a user account be created before he/she can browse health plans may be the cause of one significant bottleneck.)
Now, this contributor could be completely wrong. I haven't looked at the code myself, and there are plenty of experts who've questioned the quality of the site's coding and design.
But if at least one source of the problem today traces back to the sustained lack of investment in federal technology, that's something to consider. Thanks again, sequester.
I do feel bad, though, for that poor Web design firm that had to remove the Healthcare.gov case study from its own website for fear of fire bombing.
All they needed were some better grass-roots media relations. And look, we've got a new resource just for that:
Recently, I was doing some research on government CIOs and came across this list of the top 25 government CIOs from InformationWeek. The publication put together a list of what they deem the 25 most influential and accomplished tech leaders across federal, state and local government agencies and departments for 2013. The list includes some names that I’ve heard thrown around often, such as federal CIO Steven VanRoekel and DoD CIO Teri Takai, as well as some names that are not as recognizable as they should be. These men and women have taken Congressman Issa’s challenge of cutting spending, centralizing IT and reducing redundancies very seriously. They’ve made great changes within their respective agencies and deserve the recognition they’ve been afforded.
The article in InformationWeek written by Wyatt Kash can be seen here, and it takes a deeper look at the work these folks have done. I’ve copied the full list below and shared links to the folks on Twitter where I could. Unfortunately, some of these Twitter accounts are going unmanned at the moment due to the shutdown, but they’ll be back working again once the government is.
Take a look at the whole article if you have a chance. Even though it’s from May it’s still really interesting to see what each of these folks are doing to make advances in IT for their respective agencies.
Lonny Anderson, CIO, National Security Agency
Frank Baitman, CIO, Health and Human Services
Lt. Gen. Michael Basla, CIO, Air Force
Robert Brese, CIO, Department of Energy
Adrian Gardner, CIO, NASA Goddard
Brett Goldstein, CIO, City of Chicago – left to teach at the University of Chicago at the end of May
Margie Graves, Acting CIO, Department of Homeland Security
Terry Halvorsen, CIO, U.S. Navy
Richard Holgate, CIO, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Malcolm Jackson, Assistant Administrator and CIO, Environmental Protection Agency
Joe Klimavicz, CIO, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, CIO, Department of Justice – retired in October 2013
Rahul Merchant, CIO and Chief Innovation Officer, New York City
Terry Milholland, CTO, Internal Revenue Service
Bill Oates, CIO, City of Boston
Todd Park, Federal CTO, Whitehouse OSTP
Jerome Pender, CIO, FBI
Sasi Pillay, CTO for IT, NASA
Karen Robinson, CIO, State of Texas
Grant Schneider, CIO, Defense Intelligence Agency
Teri Takai, CIO, Department of Defense
Al Tarasiuk, CIO, U.S. Intelligence Community
Jeanne Tisinger, CIO, CIA
Steven VanRoekel, Federal CIO, Office of Management and Budget
I’m especially drawn to Todd Park’s story. He has turned to the private sector for innovation and created White House sponsored “datapaloozas” where entrepreneurs are invited to turn open government data into commercial products. Now, he’s expanding these datapaloozas outside of White House data to energy, public safety and education data. He has also instituted Presidential Innovation Fellows where people outside of the government are invited to work on White House projects for a six month time period. Both of these initiatives really foster creativity and collaboration, in my eyes, and by looking to entrepreneurs, who sometimes have no choice but to do more with less, government officials may get a new perspective.
I know, I know enough about politics. Don’t worry, I won’t be disclosing my personal political views or really talking about the issues involved with the government shutdown at all. What I do want to talk about is how two national and several companies in the DC area are taking advantage of the unfortunate situation to advance their image while simultaneously helping out those directly affected by the shutdown.
The first round of applause goes to USAA and Hyundai. USAA was informing its members via its blog that they would (again) be offering interest free loans before the government even officially shut down stating, “Amid uncertainty about federal government funding, USAA is ready to offer a zero-interest payroll advance loan and other temporary solutions to affected members whose paychecks could be impacted.” I know not everyone can be a USAA member, and I may be biased because I am one, but USAA continuously truly goes above and beyond to provide great service.
Hyundai, in similar efforts is helping furloughed workers by allowing them to defer loan/lease payments until the shutdown is over. According to a posting on autoblog.com, “The automaker also says it will allow furloughed employees to buy new cars during October with help from a 90-day payment deferral.”
Some of the best displays of shutdown marketing are occurring right here in in and our nation’s capital, where it seems the largest amount of workers have been affected. According to articles/reports posted by USA Today and ABC News, the following companies in the DC area, ranging from food and drink to car services, are offering the following promotions, freebies and discounts in conjunction with the shutdown:
- Cupcake Blvd: One free cupcake to federal employees affected by the shutdown from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., through this Friday
- Del Campo: Happy hour prices for the duration of the shutdown, all day long, with a government ID
- Fibre Space: Free knitting lessons with entry into their daily “Intro to Knitting” classes
- Gourmet Cottage: 15% off for all furloughed government workers and contractors. Present your valid government ID, and the discount is good until the government re-opens
- Hailo: The DC Taxi app is offering $10 off your next ride with the code SHUTDOWN!
- The Howard Theatre: Free tickets for federal employees for three upcoming shows and 50% off the Sunday Rufus featuring Sly Stone Show
- Jose Andres’ restaurants (Jaleo, Zaytinya and Oyamel): Free sandwiches for affected workers “everyday until it’s over”
- Koons of Silver Spring, MD: A single free oil change for all furloughed government employees. Koons "realizes the importance of the livelihood of the federal government workforce," the article reports.
- Pork Barrel BBQ: Free food for the duration of the shutdown to all government employees (except members of Congress!)
- Potomac River Running: 15% off your entire purchase with a government or military ID, while the shutdown lasts!
- Sophie's Cuban DC: Make any purchase at the restaurant, and receive three free empanadas with a government ID
- Soupergirl: 10% "furlough special" discount for most government employees (Members of Congress will be charged DOUBLE!)
- Taylor Gourmet: Receive a “10 percent discount, career counseling and a cookie" with the purchase of any hoagie or salad
- Z-Burger: Free burgers to those with a federal ID card - "This might put us out of business," says co-founder Peter Tabibian. "But we want to show that we care more about the people than the politicians do."
What these companies are doing for their city is nothing short of awesome. But, it’s also smart marketing. Whether you’re Republican, Democrat, or Independent, not getting a paycheck sucks. And, when the doors of government re-open and money filters back into empty pockets, I’m sure those affected will remember these establishments and how they had their backs during a hard time.
Is there anything I missed? If so, please let us know!
1105 Media, the publishers of FCW, GCN, Defense Systems and Washington Technology recently hosted an editorial breakfast for the local marketing and PR community. It was nice to hear first-hand about some of the recent changes at 1105 and the event was a good reminder of what it takes to pique the editors’ interest.
At the start of the session, each editor described what types of stories they cover.
- FCW (Troy Schneider): FCW focuses on people, policy, ideas and the landscape in which federal executives work. FCW covers hard news without getting too deep into the technology solutions. The publication also provides analysis of how one agency’s decisions might impact other agencies or branches of government.
- GCN (Paul McCloskey) reaches the systems administrator, the project manager, CTO and others that have to deliver on technical requirements.
- Defense Systems (George Leopold) is focused on the connected warrior. Defense Systems will look at news stories in FCW and speculate what that might mean for the DoD and the future of the military.
- Washington Technology (Nick Wakeman) covers deals and deal sizes. The writers are interested in major federal contractors and the new players that are successful in winning government deals. They also cover the people that drive government contracting.
Anne Armstrong, president of the Government Information Group at 1105, then opened the event up for questions, which are recapped below:
- How does 1105 manage the shrinking news room?
It’s a challenge. Previously, FCW had a features editor that fielded questions about editorial calendars among other things. Now all those questions go to Troy. Given his exploding inbox, he recommends that PR professionals send him a pitch rather than a question. He doesn’t have time for generic inquiries but will consider a thoughtful story idea.
- How valuable are press releases?
Washington Technology values press releases, especially those related to personnel, M&A and contract wins, and Nick frequently will use them as a start for a larger story. If you pitch him on a contract win, provide all the specifics about the scope, dollar amount and how long the agency has been a customer. Defense Systems and GCN are less focused on news and more likely to cover trends, thought leadership and analysis.
- Are you interested in product news?
GCN and Defense Systems will occasionally cover product news. GCN isn’t concerned with the timeliness of product news but rather the impact of a specific technology. Security or ruggedized features are often of interest.
- How do you measure the success of a story?
1105 measures the success of a story by traffic, comments and social sharing. Sometimes lots of engagement will encourage the editors to develop a follow-on story, such as the FCW story written in May about dysfunction at the VA’s IT department, which generated more than 150 reader comments.
- Please provide an update on the recent changes at Washington Technology.
Washington Technology is the only 1105 Government publication that is published exclusively in a digital format. In addition, WT launched a paywall about two and a half months ago that is going well, according to Nick Wakeman. Government contractors don’t want to pay to advertise to each other, but they are willing to pay for the quality content that WT publishes.
- What motivates reporters to come to an event?
Reporters will occasionally come to an event, especially if they’re offered time with hard-to-get speakers or the opportunity to interact with users.
- What else can vendors do to help contribute to a story?
Troy mentioned that 1105 has a limited art budget and busy photographers. He is constantly on the lookout for visual imagery, especially photographs. 1105 is still struggling to figure out how to handle video. They are not likely to use a pre-made infographic, but they’d like to see the hard data behind it.
Thanks to 1105 for hosting such a useful event.
- Katie Hanusik
This week’s FedTalks event, commemorating the 5th anniversary of FedScoop, was held at the beautifully redesigned Arena Stage near the waterfront in DC. One of the best things about FedTalks is the emphasis on positive change and government innovation.
The day started with an inspiring presentation by Cristin Dorgelo, Assistant Director for Grand Challenges at the Executive Office of the President. She shared a number of innovative programs in various stages of deployment that I’ll focus on below.
Last month, the President extended his commitment to open data by releasing the Open Data Executive Order and the accompanying OMB Open Data Policy on Managing Information as an Asset. The president’s executive order ensures that the government will release data in a format that is “open and machine readable.” Dorgelo pointed to companies like eTriage and Zillow that are built on top of the government’s data and are generating jobs as a result.
Last week, the President also announced increased funding for ConnectEd, a new program that will aim to provide high-speed Internet access to every high school in the next five years. The funding will also provide technology training for teachers and additional technology resources. At the elementary school level, the government is supporting the Maker Education Initiative to allow students to experience engineering.
Dorgelo also described her personal focus on Grand Challenges, such as the sequencing of the human genome, which serve as a “north star” for high-impact, multi-disciplinary collaboration and public-private partnerships.
Some examples of current Grand Challenges she mentioned include:
- The Brain Initiative: a new collaboration between NSF, DARPA and NIH to understand how the whole brain works.
- EV Everywhere, launched by the Department of Energy, has set an ambitious goal of making plug-in electric vehicles as affordable and convenient in the U.S. as gas-powered vehicles.
- Also launched by the Department of Energy, the SunShot Grand Challenge is working to drive down the cost of solar power.
- The Grand Challenge concept extends to important economic and societal problems as well. USAID is working on several Grand Challenges including Saving Lives at Birth and All Children Reading.
Dorgelo highlighted a range of programs in which the government is working with industry and academia to create bold solutions to the world’s most challenging problems.
At a separate meeting this week about the SunShot Grand Challenge, Energy Secretary Chu played a clip from a 1962 speech given by President Kennedy. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
Unfortunately there is not enough time or space for me to recap each speaker. However, if you visit www.fedscoop.com there are some additional summaries from this year’s FedTalks.
- Katie Hanusik
The Ballston Innovation Initiative is barely two months old, and yet we’ve seen it pick up steam and get people talking! Jonathan Aberman, director for the program and the brainchild behind the program is really excited about June’s events, which in Jonathan’s words “will seal the deal” on the Ballston Innovation Initiative experiment. I sat down with Aberman to ask about the momentum he’s seen and what we can expect on an ongoing basis.
If you are not familiar with the Ballston Innovation Initiative, affectionately known as Bi2, it is a three-month initiative between April and June 2013 led by Arlington County and Amplifier Ventures. Bi2 is intended to foster a vibrant technology ecosystem that combines entrepreneurs, university researchers and students, government program managers and the supporting business community. The goal is to create awareness around the requirements that government agencies have and provide exposure to security products and approaches created by non-traditional sources and the entrepreneurs who launch and grow those companies.
The program will culminate with more events, each intended to expand on programing and efforts to date.
SpeakerBox: How’s the Bi2 gone so far?
Aberman: Well, the public events have been very successful in helping us get out the word about the potential for our region. Our launch party on April 22nd really got things going. We had more than 400 registered attendees, and it was a very successful event. Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard and a recent returnee to the region, shared her vision on the possibilities of an entrepreneurial region that joined forces with national security and government. Mike Daniels, who many of us affectionately call “the Chairman” for being the Chairman of some of our region’s most important and successful technology companies, including Network Solutions, Mobile 365 and Invincia, provided some insight about his history of the region (and gave us a taste of what will be in an upcoming book he is authoring). Congressman Jim Moran came to give the welcome speech, and was so excited he not only stuck around, he just about rushed the stage when we did our entrepreneurship panel and ended up grabbing a mike and engaging in a 45 minute dialogue with our panelists and attendees on how to bring government and entrepreneurs closer to together.
Then, a few weeks later, we partnered with FounderCorps to do a Special Coffee and Donuts with Mike Daniels, where he and I talked about the region’s strengths and opportunities. Mike’s big message was that the Washington, DC technology community is as important, if not more important, than Silicon Valley. And, that we needed to appreciate how our unique blend of government and entrepreneurship was a potent mix.
SpeakerBox: That sounds great, what else has gone on?
Aberman: Actually the last two months have been as much about meetings and activities that have happened outside of the events. The vision of Bi2 is clearly something that has gotten people’s attention. The response from the national security agencies has been particularly exciting. There is a strong interest on the part of agencies, such as DHS, DARPA, ONR and others to engage with entrepreneurs in a deeper way. And, our region’s representatives at both the Federal and state level are very interested in seeing these greater connections. I think that we have captured something real.
SpeakerBox: So, what’s up for June?
Aberman: We have some really interesting events coming up. The first is National Security Deal Day on June 12th. At this event, we are going to provide an A+ panel of M&A experts to talk about “what type of companies they want to buy.” People like Kevin DeSanto of Kipps & DeSanto, Sudhakar Kesavan, CEO of ICF International and Adam Sheipe, Director, Global Mergers and Acquisitions, CSC. And, then we are going to allow a group of handpicked startups in cyber security, Big Data and Man/machine interface talk about their technologies and capabilities. We’ll be announcing the companies mid next week, so look out for that.
The following week we are having Tech Throwdown Week. This is a first of its kind of event for our region, and probably the nation. We are going to bring together representatives of national security agencies and entrepreneurs to have one day long ideation sessions, where we can see what happens when you get smart people together in a room and have fun. The agencies are particularly interested in these events. The June 15th Tech Throwdown will be focused on technology commercialization, where we will take some technologies currently being developed and think about how to commercialize them. The June 22nd Tech Throwdown will focus on Homeland Security, and will look at current national security challenges and apply entrepreneurial viewpoints to solving them. These events should be lots of fun and I hope that many come along and participate.
We are also having an invitation only planning event on June 21st where a group of business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators and agency representatives are going to talk about how to accelerate and expand our local national security entrepreneurial community. Our plan is to collect these thoughts and release a report in July. That will undoubtedly include an analysis of the lessons we have learned through Bi2.
SpeakerBox: What do you see as the future for Bi2? Is this something that will continue on past these initial planned programs?
Aberman: At this point there is little doubt in my mind that we have found something meaningful and important to do here. I’ll be working with Arlington County and the growing number of partners and leaders that have engaged with us to figure out the next steps. But, I feel very confident that the community that we are seeding will continue to expand as we move into the Fall.
SpeakerBox: So, this experiment is a success?
Aberman: If by using the word “success” you are asking if we are all happy with the Bi2 and its results, the answer is “yes.” But, to my mind the bigger question is how can we make the Washington, DC region see itself as a highly engaged and integrated whole, where commercial, government and national security entrepreneurial activities are reinforcing and not separate. If we were to accomplish that vision, our region could become the most important driver of economic development for the US, and possibly the world. That’s my BIG HONKING VISION for the region, and hopefully the Bi2 is a step towards that.
SpeakerBox: Well, no one has ever accused you of not thinking big! On a more granular level, if people want to attend National Security Deal Day or Tech Throwdown Week what should they do?
Aberman: Go to www.ballstoni2.com and follow the links from the events tab. All events are free. You just have to sign up.
-- Elizabeth Shea, eliz2shea
For those of you that follow the interesting world of business to government media, there are some new opportunities for technology companies to share their expertise with the government ecosystem.
1. Government Contracting Weekly is a TV show focused on winning government contracts. The show airs from 7:00-7:30 a.m. on Sundays on local affiliate WUSA 9, after The McLaughlin Group. The format focuses on either a single guest or panel interviewed by show host Hilary Fordwich. The show is pre-taped at least three weeks ahead of time and is currently booked through August.
Government Contracting Weekly has a dedicated, if niche, following. Some heavy hitters have appeared on the show, including C-level executives of the largest integrators, leading executives of major technology vendors and the military’s top brass. Previous episodes can be viewed on the show’s YouTube channel.
2. Breaking Media. According to Forbes, AOL sold off its industry sites – AOL Government, AOL Defense and AOL Energy -- to Breaking Media in February 2013. Breaking Media re-launched the sites this month under its own name. Currently, the outlets worth pitching are Breaking Defense and Breaking Energy. Breaking Gov, though live, hasn’t been updated since January and doesn’t seem to have an editorial team quite yet.
3. Defense One. And last but not least, Atlantic Media has announced that it is launching Defense One, a “digital first” property for the defense and national security community. Atlantic Media already publishes Government Executive and National Journal – and will now have a defense-specific publication to add to its portfolio. Last week, Atlantic Media announced that Kevin Baron, a national security reporter for Foreign Policy magazine, will serve as executive editor. The launch is expected sometime this summer, with fully optimized mobile properties as well. A series of events will be announced in the fall.
We’ll be sure to share more details as we get them.
-- Katie Hanusik
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
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