State of Federal Blogging 2016
How government agencies blog has come a long way in the past decade. As we welcome 2016, here is a look at how the White House, NASA and the Department of the Interior run their blogs and share content.
White House: Blog Less, Empower More
When you go to WhiteHouse.gov, their blog is featured prominently as a main source of news for the administration. It’s not just a repository for past Administration actions, it’s a dynamic and responsive site to help connect Americans with opportunities to engage on the issues of the day, his schedule, and news from the President and his senior officials. The White House Office of Digital Strategy (ODS) team has witnessed a shift in how they use blogging in their strategy over the last year. After undergoing a massive redesign, their blog is now used for sharing longer form content that needs more context or can inform people on major administrative actions and initiatives.
The White House has one central blog, wh.gov/blog, as well as niche blogs for a variety of policy issue areas, councils and specified audiences.
“Last year, there was much much more focus on the blog; all Presidential events and Administrative happenings would be documented there,” said Amanda Stone, of ODS. “It meant much more time spent curating content and graphics specifically meant for the blog.”
This year, work has shifted toward empowering other offices to share their messages in a more human voice.
The main White House blog is managed by a content team that shares the responsibility of editing and finding fresh content, as well as training others. The White House uses an internal digital playbook that helps guide their best practices.
Stone says, “We’re focusing on identifying the right content for each of our platforms, and the particular audiences that they satisfy. The blog is the place for longer form content that really dives into the specifics of an issue. It doesn’t receive the amount of visibility that, for example, a Facebook post or a Tweet might, but it’s for people who want more than that. We want to prioritize our resources so that we are curating engaging content that can be shared with the most people, but also giving people more information when they want more.
Here are some of the things they think about with each post:
- Use an authentic voice, this isn’t a fact sheet
- Strive for quality: make your post well-formatted, with strong visuals to support
- Use styles correctly so your blog is optimized for accessibility
- Don’t just post to post; ensure your content has a rollout strategy so that it has “legs” or a “vehicle” out of the building
- Create content that works well on social so it doesn’t live in obscurity
White House’s Top 5 Posts for the Year
- President Obama Talks About Keeping People Safe
- Response to the Shooting in Oregon
- Proposing Community College Free for Responsible Students for 2 Years
- White House Just Joined Spotify
- Infographic of the screening process for refugee entry
NASA: Multiple Blogs For Multiple Voices
At NASA they do not have a single or “main” blog for the agency, but they have many blogs managed by staff. Jason Townsend, Deputy Social Media Manager, states that their strategy is “to enable the ease of sharing content through a central blogs.nasa.gov site but with a myriad of authors and voices covering a wide range of topics.”
This decentralized approach allows for an array of voices such as senior leadership, scientists, engineers and other teams of experts to share stories and build audiences. Each blog gives a different perspective and offers a look at NASA missions, milestones, science and history. Their most popular content tends to focus on human spaceflight, astronomy and real-time launch coverage updates.
Multiple blogs targeted to different audiences. Their two most popular blogs for the year were the Space Station and SpaceX.
Many different people help add content to their numerous blogs.
Blogs will remain a powerful tool for spreading the messages, but a lot of effort continues to go into building out NASA.gov’s site content.
NASA’s Top 5 Blog Posts for the Year
- Administrator Bolden on Commercial Crew Astronauts
- Pluto: Art Meets Science
- Marshall Scientist to Observe Asteroid
- SLS: Four Lessons in Four Years
- Space X Launch Attempt Jan 10
Department of the Interior: A New Blog Beginning
Back in August, the Department of the Interior (Interior) launched their new blog, and within a short period of time they’ve already seen great interaction. Rebecca Matulka, Senior Digital Media Strategist at Interior, remarks, “What is interesting is that we are noticing there is an appetite for blog content from Interior. Of the top 100 pages on Interior’s site for 2015 (Jan 1-Dec 17), seven of them are blog posts. It’s amazing to see content that we’ve only published two weeks ago going head-to-head with popular static pages that have huge search engine optimization.”
Interior is known for their landscape photos and cute animals. They are now trying to put those to good use by talking about more substantive topics beyond travel and tourism with their blog.
One main blog that expands on popular social media posts, current events and important topics dealing with the Department of the Interior.
The digital team at Interior manages the blog. They do most of the posting and work with the press team and others to find content to share.
They plan to continue using their blog to share what is interesting for their audience and figure out the best way to tell Interior’s story.
Interior’s Top 5 Posts of the Year
- 9 Animals that Are Feeling the Impacts of Climate Change
- Top 8 National Parks on Instagram
- Wisdom: Oldest Living Banded Bird Returns to Wildlife Refuge
- My World Interrupted
- 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Zion National Park
Adapting to New Content Conditions
Some predictions say that this year will be the year for smart storytelling and that content marketing will reach saturation (meaning we’re hitting a point of too much noise). Whether your agency manages a number of blogs or one, now is a good time to set goals so that building out your content can continue to be an intentional part of your strategy. Remembering to adapt your content for the needs of your audience can be an important way to ensure it will remain valuable to readers.
Blogs remain a great way to increase storytelling and answer questions for people concerned or interested in work that may take more context to understand. At U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our blog is called Open Spaces, and we often use it to be responsive and answer questions we receive on social media or in response to major events. The blog gives us an opportunity to show we’re listening our communities, and it also allows us to represent different views while providing more context to our work with wildlife.
Does your agency use a blog or multiple blogs? What resources and lessons did you find most helpful this year? We’d love to know in the comments.
Danielle Brigida is the National Social Media Manager for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She’s a wildlife geek who loves being outside and playing online with purpose.
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