Category Archives: Social Media

A Bad Haircut – and Bad Listening Skills

I recently went in for a haircut and said, “just trim it so that it lays down nice.” When the BadHaircutyoung lady finished, she had cut it way short in a way that it was spiking up on top… if I had added blue sunglasses and an ear stud I could have gone to a costume ball as Bono!   I had told the stylist what I needed… but instead of truly listening she interpreted my needs through her 20 something lens of what she thought it should be.   The net result was that I came out looking like an insecure baby boomer trying to relive my 20’s.

As I was reflecting on the prospect of going out in public looking like Bono, it brought back memories of a similar experience I had with a city hall staff a few years ago.

I was considering the purchase of an atypical infill residential lot to build on that had some unique challenges. Whether the lot would work would be determined by the side yard setbacks. So I called the city’s development services department and asked “what are the side yard setbacks?” The secretary said she would have someone call me. I got a call back about 48 hours later from a development services representative and I asked again “what are the side yard setbacks?”

This time I was told “I am sorry but to answer any development questions, you need to come in for a development review meeting.” So within another about 48 hours, a secretary called me and scheduled me for the next available date for a development review meeting – which was approximately three weeks later.

I showed up at the conference room where the fire marshal, the building inspector, a zoning representative, a planner and the development services director were all in the room. I sat down and they asked what they could do for me. I said, “I need to know what the side yard setbacks are.” So the planner looked at their map and responded with a number that made it clear this lot was not able to be developed for me.

huffyIt had taken me a month and a meeting with five city officials to get a 30 second answer to a very simple and straightforward question.

Later, in a separate context I had a conversation with the development services director and she asked about my experience with the city. She was stunned (and even a little offended) to learn that I did not consider it a very positive experience. She said, “It was excellent customer service – we had a room full of people there to address any concerns you had and we were able to answer your question immediately and with clarity. How could you not consider that excellent customer service?”

The development services director had viewed the customer’s needs through her lens of providing a reliable process instead of through my lens as the customer. Yes, her city hall-centric process was reliable and accurate, but it took me a month and required me to schedule a live meeting at city hall to get a 30 second answer that should have been handled with a single phone call. A city hall-centric process can easily deceive staff into believing that just because it is reliable and accurate that the customer is being well served.

It is not accidental that one of the 12 core values of Servant Leadership is listening.   ListeningMystery shoppers, customer surveys, focus groups, social media and even just asking are all great strategies to improve your organization’s listening skills. Take advantage of them.

You may be surprised at what you discover – and how easy you could improve citizen relations just by making sure your organization is doing a better job of truly listening to customers.

Written by:
Ron Holifield
CEO, Strategic Government Resources


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Presidential Politics and Servant Leadership

Republican Versus Democrat Concept

As Super Tuesday approaches I have been asked a number of times which presidential candidates I think are authentic servant leaders.

I try to never engage directly in political discussions on social media because mixing politics and social media results in little more than an echo chamber in which too many people are only interested in shouting at the other side rather than considering and understanding other perspectives.

However, my response in general is that the characteristics of a presidential candidate who is an authentic servant leader are the same characteristics as a city council member who is an authentic servant leader, which are the same characteristics as an authentic servant leader who is serving in any other role.

With that as a context… here is a pretty good list of characteristics to gauge whether a presidential candidate, a city council member or anyone else is authentically walking the talk of servant leadership… and is an even better way for me to constantly self-evaluate whether I am staying true to those same values:

  • Does the leader approach those with whom they disagree with the heart of a peacemaker?
  • Does the leader show mercy to others even when they are political opponents?
  • Does the leader have a meek and humble spirit that recognizes that their position could be wrong and the other perspective could be right?
  • Does the leader hunger to live righteously?
  • Does the leader constantly engage in honest self-reflection necessary to keep the motivations of their heart pure?
  • Does the leader know the pain of hurt and loss and understand the importance of being both comforting and being comforted?
  • Has the leader experienced being abused for doing the right thing and yet consistently reacts to being insulted and falsely accused with a joyful spirit despite it all?

How are you doing in your efforts to authentically walk the talk of authentic servant leadership?

Written by:
Ron Holifield
CEO, Strategic Government Resources


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Social Media for Servant Leaders

Authenticity as a servant leader means reflecting your genuine concern for others in the completeness of how you live every day. Being an authentic servant leader is not something you do, it is who you are. As a result, servant leaders should consider the following guidelines when posting on their various personal social media accounts:

  1. Never post any article that you have not actually read. Drama manipulators often post inflammatory and dramatic headlines on legitimate articles designed to inflame political passions knowing that unthoughtful people who agree with their broad sentiment will post and react to the dramatic headline without reading the article (which often even says the opposite of what the manufactured headline screams). If the content is not consistent with the headlines, posting it is contributing to drama without substance, not thoughtful discourse.
  2. Go to the source and make sure you want to be associated with it. There are a variety of web based “news sources” created by drama manipulators that produce stories with careless abandon regarding truth. When you see a hyper dramatic headline, go to the source and look at the overall tone and tenor of what they are posting. If they post a variety of dramatic stories that feel questionable, odds are that the story you are considering posting is questionable as well. And if you post questionable items from questionable sources, you yourself become known as someone who is a questionable source.
  3. Never abandon a passionate commitment to truth regardless of whether you agree with the sentiment. Drama manipulators regularly manufacture overtly false information designed for shallow thinkers to share, and in so doing advance their political agenda. Before posting anything, set aside your political beliefs and your emotional engagement on the issue, and ask yourself, do I REALLY believe this is true? The more dramatic a claim is, the more committed you should be to researching something on before posting it. In 2013, there was a spate of postings claiming the federal government had a secret network of underground tunnels connecting abandoned Walmarts from which the US Army was going to launch a takeover of Texas. When you post something false and irrational, you damage your influence and credibility and cause thoughtful friends to quietly question your judgment, your wisdom, and in some cases, your relationship with reality. Servant leaders know that credibility is precious and to be nurtured.
  4. Never post anything that is hateful in tone. Without regard to your political beliefs, if you post things that are dramatic and hateful in tone toward “the other side” you diminish your credibility as a servant leader with those who disagree with you. When you post hateful things about a particular leader, he or she may not ever read your post but it will build a wall between you and friends who support that leader. You can share your perspectives without being hateful in tone. Servant leaders are focused on building bridges not walls, even when disagreeing on substance.
  5. Have the emotional intelligence to recognize hateful comments. One of the tendencies of drama manipulators is to claim that what they posted is “not hateful, it is just telling the truth.” Just because you claim that something isn’t hateful doesn’t keep it from being hateful and mean spirited. Posting hateful comments about other people is always in conflict with a servant leader’s commitment to being a healer.
  6. Focus on your opportunity to influence others more than on your right to free speech. Yes you have the right to say dramatic, hateful, and demeaning things about political leaders (and others). A good thing about our constitution is that we have that freedom. However, just because you have the right to say something mean spirited does not mean it is constructive or beneficial to do so. Servant leaders recognize that the way we express ourselves affects the credibility of what we have to say.
  7. Avoid stereotyping. Social media is rampant with political, racial, gender, religious, and other stereotypical postings that demean and drive divisions between groups. Before posting anything that uses broad stereotypes about any group, think about someone you consider a personal friend who is a part of that group. Ask yourself if someone you disagreed with said the same things about your friend that you are posting about the group, whether that would be hurtful to your friend. If it would be hurtful if the exact same post called them by name, odds are it is hurtful when it stereotypes the group they are a part of. If you don’t have anyone who is a member of that group you would consider a personal friend, recognize that posting a broadside attack on that group using stereotypes is at best an act of ignorance that is spreading hateful attitudes.

The bottom line is that your mother was right – we are known by the company we keep. If our social media presence is marked by hateful, demeaning, and mean spirited articles, memes, and postings, then we will be known as someone who values hateful, demeaning, and mean spirited attitudes toward others — the antithesis of a Servant Leader’s heart.

Before posting anything on your personal social media, ask yourself 5 questions:

  • Am I sure it is factually true?
  • Is the content I am sharing coming from sources I want to be associated with?
  • Does it diminish anyone?
  • Is it hateful in tone?
  • Does it expand my influence – even with those who disagree with me?

Written by:
Ron Holifield
CEO, Strategic Government Resources


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Posting, Tweeting and tagging: Local government use of social media

Guest Blogger: Bridget Doyle

doyle1Bridget Doyle is the Communications Coordinator for the Village of Lombard, Illinois. She recently transitioned from a career in traditional journalism to government communications. Bridget worked for the Chicago Tribune for four years covering both the city and suburbs for the Metro Desk. Prior to the Tribune, she held editorial internships with Standard & Poor’s and Naperville Magazine. Bridget continues to learn and grow in the realm of local government while also pursuing freelance writing outside of work.  Bridget graduated with honors from the Missouri School of Journalism in 2009. 

Social media use and strategy continues to evolve, so there are no hard and fast guidelines to how to use these communications platforms for local governments.  Really, the goal here is to shift the idea that social media is silly and utterly self-indulgent (though it can be) and instead reveal it as a free and incredibly useful tool for governments to share straight-from-the-source information to their residents – without having to wait for press coverage. Fostering strong social media accounts and pages undoubtedly informs and empowers the community. It’s in our best interest to take advantage of these ever-growing communication platform and hone our message to share with residents.

Here are a few tips for running your government’s social media sites. Again, these are simply opinion and formed from experience. Suggestions and differing opinions are welcome in the comments!

1. Find a voice

As a government organization, we often keep written updates to the media and the public formal. While formal communication is important, social media sites are innately less formal. That doesn’t mean we go and communicate the way we would to a best friend over a drink, but let’s tone down the formality and level with our social media followers. Start by taking formal communication from various facets of your government and rewrite it in a way that’s brief, informative, readable and has a hint of personality. Giving a human side to government communication never hurt. I’ve gotten feedback from residents of my community that the personable Facebook posts makes them feel generally more positive toward our Village. Now they’re informed and fostering a better image of our day-to-day operations.

2. Be choosey about what you share

It’s important not to share every little bit of communication to residents that comes through employee email. Posting too often can lead to quick unfollows if you’re clogging someone’s feed. They’ll likely be annoyed if they’re inundated. Be able to differentiate what is important and interesting to your residents and what isn’t. A good test for this is to gauge how many “likes” or “retweets” your update gets. Important council decisions, severe weather updates and hot-button topics are good items to share. Police and Fire activity often bring in a lot of interest. Photos and video are wonderful to share, especially if they’re relevant to an informational post. What you post and how often is a delicate balance – watch your follows and unfollows after certain posts to find out what is important to your community.

3. Respond and interact

As holds true in any form of government, there will be those who are pleased with your organization and those who have criticisms to share – and now you’ve given them a new place to voice their opinion. Some will likely use your social media to share their thoughts, give feedback or ask questions. If you’re running the account, make sure those opinions are replied to and questions answered. Though it adds extra time and tasks to your plate, your residents will begin trusting your social media accounts as a credible source of information and your government as one that cares about its constituents. Turn it into a polite and thoughtful discussion forum.

4.  Use different social media sites differently

What belongs on your Twitter vs. Facebook vs. YouTube vs. Instagram aren’t necessarily all the same thing. Each social media site has its own personality and its own regular users. It’s important to do research and get a feel for what is appropriate on each platform. Twitter is obviously shorter, briefer updates but is set up to be used the most frequently without jeopardizing followers. Facebook posts can showcase more personality and make for easy discussions in its thread-like format. Instagram is a great place to reach younger residents with photos from around town and complimentary hashtags. Each social media platform is different – learn how and use them in the best way.

Is Your Privacy and Security at Risk?

Chances are you have a smartphone. And I’m sure you use that smartphone to take pictures. But if you ever uploaded any of those pictures online, you could have made yourself (and your family) vulnerable to potential stalkers.

It’s pretty scary—especially for public officials—to think that someone could be tracking their every move just with a snap of a picture, but it’s true.

So how are these people getting your information? With new technology, of course. Just watch this brief clip, change your phone settings, and share this video with everyone you know to prevent it from happening.

The moral of the story is to embrace technology, but to not be naïve about the ways others can use that same technology in a harmful manner.

Organizations, always look at ideas from both sides of the spectrum to make sure your group is staying on top of the newest trends and security methods for those trends.

Hope Boyd
Written by:
Hope Boyd
Director of Communications, Strategic Government Resources

Silence is Golden

“Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute.” – Josh Billings, American Writer

There have been a lot of hot-button issues circulating that made headlines this week (SCOTUS’ decision, Paula Deen’s choice of words, murder trials, etc.)

It’s almost impossible not to have a side in any of those issues. However, the workplace is not the place to share those opinions.

hot button issuesI’m sure you guys already know the unspoken rule about not discussing religion, politics, and other controversial issues at work; but there’s another trap I see too many people fall into—responding when someone else brings up those issues.

There will be one in every crowd—the radical that must spread his or her views with anyone who has ears. The best thing to do is to either not take a side or make it clear that you don’t discuss certain things in a work setting.

You may not think it’s that big of a deal, but the fact of the matter is you don’t know how the person to whom you are speaking will react. Furthermore, you don’t know who could be listening to your conversation. Someone could walk by and hear your views and spread them to others in the office. And if anyone doesn’t agree with what you expressed, that could cause a bias that affects how you are viewed.

If the certain someone who doesn’t agree with your opinion turns out to be your boss, think about how that could affect a raise, promotion, or the general environment of your workplace.

And for you cyber-ranters: think twice before posting your heated opinions onto your social media account. You never know who could end up seeing it and using it against you.

There’s already so many physical attributes that could skew how people perceive you—don’t give them any more ammunition to be bias towards you by expressing opinions (unrelated to work) that could be taken the wrong way.

Hope Boyd
Written by:
Hope Boyd
Director of Communications, Strategic Government Resources

How to Lose Your Credibility… Fast!

I needed a mechanic’s opinion a few weeks ago about a car I was thinking about purchasing. So naturally, I hopped online and Googled repair shops that were in my area. I called around, checked for the best prices, and eventually narrowed my choices down to two companies.

To make a decision, I visited the websites of both companies. And after seeing one of the webpages, my mind was immediately made up.

What did I see? (I know the suspense is killing you.) It was a misspelling of the make of the car I needed to get inspected!

How could I trust a company that couldn’t even correctly spell the exact thing that I needed?

If you think about it, that’s the thought that comes into a lot of people’s minds when they see simple spelling errors. It may not mean the loss of a client, but it definitely tarnishes you or your organization’s credibility.

spelling_cartoonMaking sure “spell checker” is enabled won’t always help the situation because it won’t catch words in all caps or words that are actually in the dictionary (like a typo of write and right, too and to, quiet and quite, etc.).

That’s why you need to always check, double-check, and maybe even triple-check anything you send via e-mail, newsletter, social media post, or through the company’s website.

You won’t get it perfect. I definitely have had my share of cringe-worthy spelling mistakes that were caught too late, but the key is to not allow it to become habit.

Spelling errors are like paper cuts. Getting them every once in a while is a little irritating, yet tolerable. However, if you get paper cuts everyday, multiple times a day, that’s just plain annoying.

Besides, if all you have is your word, and it is full of errors, you don’t have much!

Before I get off of my English teacher soapbox, I’ll leave you with some great resources to avoid the common errors in spelling and grammar. You’re welcome!

Hope Boyd
Written by:
Hope Boyd
Director of Communications, Strategic Government Resources

Avoiding “Twagedy” in Five Easy Steps

This month’s Leadership Journal coined the phrase “twagedy” as a poorly considered tweet that ends up with tragic personal consequences.

Just this week, a story broke regarding a New York Fire Lieutenant who had tweeted racially biased tweets, which then got retweeted and took on a life of their own. Yesterday, his story was carried in the British newspaper Mail Online, in which the lieutenant was described as having broke down on the street when confronted about his racist tweets. His photo ran on the front page, and as he sat crumpled on the curb of the street with tears streaming down his face, he said, “My life is ruined. I am so sorry.” His racist tweets are searchable and discoverable on the internet forever, and they will haunt him forever. From now on, prospective employers who do media searches will find his racists tweets, and he will be radioactive for the rest of his career.

High-profile people have always been susceptible to saying stupid things that got them in trouble. But in today’s social media world, even a “normal” person can attain notoriety for saying or doing stupid things and sharing them electronically. For local government leaders, it is even worse as the media and political opponents lay in wait for something embarrassing to be said or done that will become headline worthy.

In my previous life as a city manager, council members often asked what the rules were when they were traveling on city business or attending a conference. I always told them the same thing, “Assume that Fox News is following you around with a camera. As long as you only do things that you don’t mind explaining on Fox News, you will be just fine.” In today’s internet world, the standard is still the same, but how to apply it in practical terms is a bit different.

Here are five basic rules to help avoid your own personal “twagedy”:

1. If you are not prepared to explain it to Fox News, don’t tweet it; don’t email it; don’t post it on Facebook; don’t say it.

2. If it would not make your 12-year-old son or daughter proud of you, don’t tweet it; don’t email it; don’t post it on Facebook; don’t say it.

3. Remember the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: everyone in the universe can be connected in six degrees. In the internet world, this means that what you send to your friends will be sent to their friends, etc. By the sixth degree, Pope Francis is reading your discourse on red shoes and tall hats that you just knew was the funniest thing you have ever written. But by the second degree, someone in your community has received your discourse and is deeply offended and has started a Facebook page with a petition asking you to resign.

4. When someone has said or posted something that you get angry or passionate about responding to, type it out in a Word document and let it sit for 24 hours. When you come back to it, ask yourself if you still feel compelled to respond; and if you do, ask yourself if you still think what you typed out in the heat of the moment is the way you want to express yourself. Never ever respond electronically while you are emotionally worked up, no matter how righteous you feel.

5. When someone wants to get into a flame war with you, recall the words of Mark Twain – “Sometimes when you get into a fight with a skunk, it is hard to tell who started it.”

It is really quite simple. Treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect, no matter what, and you will avoid creating your own personal “twagedy”.

Ron Holifield

Written by:
Ron Holifield
CEO, Strategic Government Resources

Spread the Word via YouTube

Most of you guys probably already utilize e-mail blasts, e-newsletters, and the common social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) But after you see these stats, you may want to consider adding another one to that list.

According to YouTube, over 800 million unique users visit its website each month. That’s compared to the reported 167 million unique monthly visitors Facebook gets and the 39 million unique monthly visitors of Twitter.

If YouTube is shattering the leading social media website in the number of users per month, maybe it’s time for your organization to tap into it. And if your group already has a YouTube channel, make sure it’s being used correctly to reap the benefits.


The purpose of YouTube is to share videos with the world.
It’s not only about making sure your direct audience sees the message; you can also get great ideas by watching what other groups are doing or how they’re handling situations.

Another plus—content is not expected to be posted as frequently on YouTube, so you don’t have to worry about uploading new videos every week.

If you’re going to post a subpar video, don’t bother posting anything at all.Video Going Fungal
You don’t have to invest in the most expensive camera. In fact, most people don’t know that audio is as important—if not more important—than the video.

A viewer would likely stop watching a video due to bad audio quality rather than bad video quality. That’s why television stations can get away with airing Skype interviews.

Bottom line: your video doesn’t have to be the best ever; but if it’s not very engaging, think twice about posting it (unless it’s something like an important speech from an official).

Ride the Viral Video Wave
A lot of viral movements have made their rounds on YouTube. Months ago, people were choreographing their own “Call Me Maybe” music videos; and recently, groups have been making their own renditions of the “New Harlem Shake”.

Don’t be afraid to hop on the next viral wave. It’s a great way to lightheartedly showcase your organization, but it’s very crucial to be punctual about it. If you post too late, you’ll be that out-of-touch group that laughed at the punch line too late.


YouTube is a great tool to better the transparency and promotion of your organization. Plus, it’s free! Try it out and see how it works for you.

Hope Boyd
Written by:
Hope Boyd
Director of Communications, Strategic Government Resources

Ready to Jump on the Social Media Bandwagon?

Welcome to the 21st century and congratulations on increasing your transparency by exposing your organization to the masses via social media; but now that you’ve made the decision, what do you do?

If you don’t have a designated social media manager, start small.
There are dozens of social media sites out there, and new ones are launching every day. Since Facebook and Twitter are the top two, begin there. Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, and Google Plus are additional websites that are gaining momentum, but it’s still not as popular (for organizations, at least), and you don’t want to waste resources. Use that time and energy to enhance content on the social media sites that you have the bandwidth for.

Create a social media policy.
Chances are that more than one staff member will be in charge of controlling your social media site(s). You must have a standard guideline of the “dos and don’ts” to keep employees and your audience on the same page of what’s allowed. The city of Seattle, Washington has a great in-depth social media policy that can be used as an example.

Stay away from automated social media software.
The reason people have decided to stay in touch with your organization is because they want to informally stay informed—preferably with a human! Those programs that automatically tweet updates from your website may seem like a time saver, but it can also be perceived as spam. Which one would you prefer to see?

“Road Closures Along Main Street. Drivers are asked to be cautious as city crews work to repair potholes in the…”
“Crews are busy fixing potholes along Main Street & 4th. Be on alert for detours in the area. More info:”

It takes a little more time to write the extra information, but your audience will be happy to know that a person (not a robot) is actually behind the scenes creating the content.

Respond, even to negative comments.
This is where social media isn’t so fun any more. There may be a time or two when you get unpleasant comments on your social media page. In those situations, always refer to your social media guide.

Remember, though, there’s a difference between negative feedback and an outright malicious comment. If the comment is completely against your organization’s adopted policy, it can be deleted. However, someone expressing frustration about trash at a city park, for example, could turn into an opportunity for your organization to show that it listens and responds to public concerns.

Social media is a great way to personify your organization, so have fun with it; but make sure you have these foundations in place before you launch!

Hope Boyd
Written by:
Hope Boyd
Director of Communications, Strategic Government Resources

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