4 Ways to Connect, Engage & Expand Your Community with Google+ Hangouts

Peace Corps Google Hangout
When you think about your community, you may think about your neighborhood, your city, your office or the organizations and activities you’re involved in. The Peace Corps has many of the characteristics of a community, however our reach spans the entire globe. Because we need to regularly connect with national and international audiences, Peace Corps actively explores new and cost-efficient tools to help us achieve communication goals. Fortunately for us, the digital age has given federal agencies the resources to do exactly that. Specifically, Google+ Hangouts provide agencies with a platform that permits seamless face-to-face engagement, which just a few years ago wasn’t readily available. Peace Corps first became inspired to try Google+ Hangouts after learning about NASA’s On Air event with astronauts from aboard the International Space Station. We thought to ourselves, ‘if they are able to connect their community from space, shouldn’t we be able to do the same across continents?’ Although we experienced a few challenges with our first On Air Hangout (a cloudy day in rural Africa meant a weak Internet satellite connection), we realized that with a few adjustments to our strategy, the possibilities were limitless. Since then we have hosted many different types of Hangouts and we recommend that other agencies consider trying out a few of these:

Event Planning

Stomp out Malaria is a major initiative of the Peace Corps, and the agency wanted to leverage the work of our Volunteers in Africa to bring attention to World Malaria Day. In the months leading up to the event, Peace Corps Headquarter staff connected with regional staff and the Stomp out Malaria Coordinator in Senegal via Google+ Hangout to coordinate event logistics. Google+ Hangouts allowed us to have our entire team at one table, and to easily interact and share nuanced information with one another.

Program Awareness

On World Malaria Day, Peace Corps Volunteers and their counterparts across Africa used a Google+ Hangout On Air to share their personal and professional experiences combating malaria in their communities. The event hosted panelists from Tanzania, Rwanda, Cameroon, Malawi, and Senegal and participants were able to learn about the program initiatives in real time. In addition, one perk of an On Air event is that it automatically creates a YouTube video recording so that your Hangout can be viewed again at any time.

Media Interviews

The Peace Corps’ Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet was invited to join Ahmed Shihab-Eldin on HuffPost Live, through a Google+ Hangout On Air, to discuss the agency’s new recruitment efforts and the importance of Volunteer service. This interview was an opportunity for Peace Corps to share our message through an innovative technology platform.

Recruitment Events

Peace Corps Response, a program of the Peace Corps that recruits professionals for short-term assignments, hosted a Google+ Hangout On Air recruitment panel with a Volunteer currently serving in El Salvador, a recently returned Volunteer from Senegal living in Boston, and a returned Volunteer from Liberia living in Washington, D.C. Event participants and potential applicants were able to learn firsthand from the experiences of the Volunteers through facilitated questions as well as through live Q&A session. Erika Brown is a Marketing and Communication Coordinator for the Peace Corps Response, a short-term, high-impact Peace Corps program.

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