Keeping program offices and Congress satisfied with your .gov

Keeping program offices and Congress satisfied with your .gov

By Joshua DeLung

This is part three of a four-part blog series on strategically addressing internal and external stakeholder needs on .gov websites. Read the first post here, and the second post here.

Previously, I wrote about the many directions in which government agency web managers are pulled each day. There are several key internal and external stakeholder groups competing for your resources and attention every day. And before you can develop a governance strategy that accounts for them all, you need to know what you’re dealing with — what does each audience want, and how can I help them?

I already talked about serving your primary audience of end users and the very important stakeholders within the Administration. But perhaps the most persistent group in agencies asking for support from the web team is the program offices.

Program offices: Your in-house customers

While perhaps not as influential as the secretary or administrator of the agency, program offices are a primary driver of requests for new content, featured homepage items and general digital communications support. Program offices are doing good work on initiatives that are important to the public and often are directed by Administration stakeholders. However, program office managers often want their team’s function highlighted front-and-center, big-image and with its own top-level menu item in the site navigation.

Although their zeal is admirable, it’s unrealistic to think you can feature everything your agency is doing all at the same time.

When dealing with program offices within the agency, remember:

  • Listen to them: Even if you don’t act immediately. After all, these are the people on the ground with your end users — collaborate with them to get ideas about what can improve the customer experience on your .gov.
  • Alignment: Find opportunities to align program office goals with the administration and those of end users. Where they all meet, that’s a sweet spot for success.
  • Frame content from internal groups for relevance to your primary stakeholders: End users actually do care about the latest program or initiative — when they understand exactly how it benefits them.
  • Let data drive decisions: Informing decisions and responses using hard data makes it difficult for a program office to expect special treatment. Develop and disseminate clear criteria for how content gets featured on the website — is it a top search term? Is it a hot social/community topic? Does it add value? Is it duplicative? Will it help users accomplish a task more efficiently?

Now we’ve covered most of the audiences you probably think about every day: end users, the Administration and program offices. But to forget the overseers in Congress would be a grave mistake for any agency web manager to make.

Communicating success to the Hill

You can’t lump the legislative branch in with the Administration because those priorities clearly don’t always align. In fact, they rarely align. And in an era of massive budget deficits, there is laser-focused scrutiny on government agencies by Congress. Agency websites should serve two primary functions for Congress: telling the story of how the agency is effectively spending taxpayer dollars for a maximum return on investment, and helping legislators look good while doing so.

To address Congress as a target audience, consider the following tactics:

  • Educate: Make sure oversight groups clearly understand what you’re doing and why. Don’t presume they know. You may find out they don’t in your next appropriation.
  • Success stories: Create content that not only informs other audiences, but also that helps legislators make an argument to consider your site and agency for continued support and funding. If you can highlight district-specific successes, you can gain more champions on Capitol Hill.
  • Spread the good news: Try a public relations campaign about the agency’s accomplishments — and if you don’t think anyone is looking, walk up Independence Avenue and drop off a packet to direct aides to the .gov goldmine you’ve created. When your budget isn’t slashed, you’ll be glad you did.

Next time, I’ll wrap up this blog series by writing about the ultimate goal here, which is answering the question, “Just how do I balance all these competing requests for attention?”

Image courtesy Flickr user geetarchurchy.

About Joshua DeLung

Senior Director of Communication Services, specializes in strategy, public relations, writing/editing and social media.

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