I thought this was an absolutely fantastic move and spent some time trying to find a point of contact there. After poking around the Victoria Department of Justice website, I fired off an e-mail to their Freedom of Information office and crossed my fingers.
While waiting for a response, I reached out to a few folks in the strategic communications community and ask them to supplement my list of questions with ones they would enjoy seeing answered.
That e-mail was eventually routed to Darren Whitelaw (@darrenwhitelaw), who kindly responded and agreed to answer some questions. Darren is the General Manager of Corporate Communications in the Strategic Communications Branch of the Victoria DOJ.
The Q&A below provides some great insight for governments and corporations still struggling to engage social media. Darren's responses shed light on a government agency willing to engage thoughtfully and with purpose. The policy put forward by the Victoria DoJ clearly lays out the policy for the organization and also gives some great tips for personal use. I'd like to thank Darren for his time in answering the questions below.
PrivacyWonk: What is the background on the social media policy? Why did the Victorian Department of Justice (DOJ) see a need to create and publish the policy?
Darren: We were wanting to get ahead of the game. Australians are some of the biggest users of social media in the world, and the growing popularity of social networking tools (both inside and outside of the office) suggested it would be a smart move to educate staff on their responsibilities. We wanted the focus to not just be about 'what not to do' but provide some useful guidelines as well.
PrivacyWonk: Where and how did the idea to produce the video come about?
Darren: Video has a huge popularity online, and sending out a brochure to 7,000 staff about social media would have been a bit of a contradiction. We wanted to produce something cost-effective, but that also resonated with staff - and stuck in their heads.
PrivacyWonk: Was it difficult to sell leadership on the idea?
Darren: Leaders at the Department of Justice realise we need modern thinking and new solutions to tackle the important public policy challenges we face in the public sector. Which is why social media at the Victorian Department of Justice is supported at the highest of levels. Senior management realises it is important to embrace emerging technologies and move with the times - not only to attract and retain smart young people into the workforce, but to embrace innovation.
PrivacyWonk: How did you sell leadership on making such an awesome video?
Darren: It wasn't hard. We've been doing great work in the social media arena since early 2009, and we had the runs on the board. Sometimes in large organisations it can be hard to convince people to support new thinking - but when you've got your leadership on side and have some small wins behind you, they are more likely to support innovative approaches. It was also fairly low risk as well. We've been using video internally to promote new initiatives for a few years now so the idea of creating a video to promote the social media policy was a natural step.
PrivacyWonk: What did you see as the cost/benefit argument for producing the video vs. only sending out a paper-policy?
Darren: The video is simply a pointer to the full policy, which is available on both our intranet and the external website. This allows staff at home, who might not have remote access to the intranet, to access the policy and remind themselves of their responsibilities. We are also able to reach a wider audience far more quickly with video, as people are more likely to watch a four minute video and then read a couple of policy documents, rather than just reading policies on their own.
PrivacyWonk: What kind of analysis did you do beforehand to determine video was a good method of communicating this policy (e.g., surveys, polls, focus groups, etc.)?
Darren: We regularly use a range of tools to inform decision making - including pulse polls, surveys, focus groups, or simply attending meetings and listening to our people. We do an annual survey of staff to work out how they receive messages, and video is a popular channel. We also keep an eye on hits on our intranet, with videos attracting a regular audience.
PrivacyWonk: Was the video produced in house or contracted out? If contracted, would you be willing to share who/what company?
Darren: It was contracted out to an awesome animator and multimedia guru, Dale De Silva. He runs a small Melbourne-based company www.oiltinman.com. We provided him with the concept, some examples, and a script - and collaborated on the development of the visuals and storyboard. He worked long hours to meet our tight deadlines, and was able to take our vision and produce it into the final punchy, but informative, four-minute video.
PrivacyWonk: How much did the video cost to produce?
Darren: We spent less on the video than on the cost of designing, printing and distributing a brochure to every one of our 7,000 staff. And we helped save a few trees in the process too.
Video Use and Reception:
PrivacyWonk: How do you use the video internally? For example, is it part of a larger training initiative, is it used in internal meetings?
Darren: The social media policy video is part of a wider awareness campaign, including staff training workshops, information sessions, a roadshow to regional locations, posters in high traffic areas (such as lunchrooms, noticeboards, bathrooms), our weekly video news bulletin and intranet stories.
PrivacyWonk: What has the reception of the video been to date by DOJ employees? Leadership?
Darren: The response has been great. We have also attracted national and international interest
PrivacyWonk: Do you see the video influencing behaviour within the DOJ? If so, how?
Darren: It's no good thinking you can simply commission a video and walk away. Successful staff communication relies on consistency, repetition and above all, listening to their feedback. It's a long-term commitment, and we will continue to work on ways to encourage our staff to embrace social media in a way that protects them, their colleagues, and the department.
PrivacyWonk: Are you collecting any metrics in response to the video to show it's effectiveness?
Darren: If you count the number of congratulatory emails sitting in my inbox, then we've certainly hit the mark. I've never received more positive feedback for any single piece of communication, ever. But quantitative metrics are also important. We're counting the number of staff who are watching the video on our intranet. This shows us how far the message has penetrated, and helps inform follow-up activity. We have also been getting an great reception externally too, with more than 5,000 views on YouTube - and other organisations (both public and private sector) have asked to share or re-use. The video is licensed under Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA), so we've got no problem sharing it and encouraging people to build on our efforts.
PrivacyWonk: In what other are ways are you disseminating the social media policy?
Darren: Workshops have been held with staff across the department, in varying locations. From an office in country Victoria to a tea room in a prison for our corrections officers. We have made ourselves available to talk through the issues with employees at their team meetings, but most people have been happy simply showing the video - which suggests it's doing its job of clearly communicating what staff need to know.
PrivacyWonk: Have you used videos to communicate other policies before or is this a first-of-its-kind type of thing? Do you foresee videos becoming a popular means for targeted training and reinforcement of policies?
Darren: This was the first time we used video to educate staff about a policy, and it's likely we'll continue this medium because of how well it has been received.
PrivacyWonk: Does DOJ have a behind the firewall video sharing/distribution channel or did you rely primarily on external (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) channels to house and promote this?
Darren: Yes, there's a version behind our firewall on our intranet, so we can count the number of staff who have watched it. The version on YouTube is primarily for external audiences, and to help share our learning and experience.
PrivacyWonk: How did you handle accessibility compliance?
Darren: The video uses YouTube's closed caption service, so it meets all accessibility requirements. And the full policy and guidelines are available in HTML format on the intranet and corporate website so people with accessibility needs can understand the information.Special thanks to Steve Radick (@sradick), Mike Robert (@MikeRobert), and Sara Cohen (@saraestescohen) for answering my calls for help and contributing some great questions.