After my post earlier this week about the new TSA blog, I received a great email response from Lynn, one of the members of the TSA blog team. After a phone call with her today, I continue to be impressed with their approach.
With Lynn’s permission, I have included her email below. If you have questions for the TSA team (about the blog, not travel issues), feel free to post them in this thread. My thoughts after Lynn’s email.
I read your post on TSA’s blog, and wanted to write to say thank you for the insights you posted.
We have an internal tool called the IdeaFactory for our employees to suggest ideas that get voted and commented on, and we are looking into the feasibility of using this tool externally as well. In the interest of time, the blog was the easier tool to launch to reach out to the public.
Being in the government, there are so many rules, requirements and regulations that it’s amazing we got a blog approved in the first place – with comments no less. Blogger has been used by two other government agencies, so we went that route to cite precedent. It’s not ideal, but again, we got a blog going, which was our goal. We are looking into upgraded options now to make it better.
We had a strategy and an editorial calendar, but both have been affected by the large volume of comments we’ve received. We don’t to ignore what people have posted because it matters to them. We’ve modified our editorial calendar based on several reoccurring comments (shoes, liquids, hip replacements, etc.) but do plan to have pieces that are semi-biographical about our moderators.
As for who is writing the content – when it says Kip Hawley wrote the content, he really did. He was key to launching the blog – his support was instrumental. We messed up right from the get-go on his first post – he was at a conference when we launched, and we accidentally posted it “by Neil” – but we’ll do better next time. All of the people on the blog are real and they write their own pieces. Ethel will be doing videoblogging as well since she travels a lot for TSA, working on various pilot programs. I’m not an “official” moderator, but I work on the blog and I actively comment. If I write a post, it will say it’s posted by me as well.
As far as the videos go, your comments are well-taken. We were actually filming a webcast for our workforce when we taped those segments. With more than 43,000 employees in the field, we wanted them to hear from people in TSA leadership – to put a name to a face, so to speak. While developing the blog, we thought incorporating video would be helpful, and also show the public we have intel folks and bomb techs – not just security officers and HQ people making up the rules. Moving forward, we’ll improve video content so it’s easier for the public to use.
Thanks again for your input, and if you have any other comments or suggestions, let me know.
I’m incredibly impressed with this team. Sure, I had some comments about how they could have better started. But the key here is that in an environment laced with fear of participation in the Social Web is the fact that the TSA has gotten started. Start. Small, big, just get started. With a follow-up like what you see above, and a voice that comes across in the blog content, they’re developing a relationship with readers that allows for adjustment. In CNN’s article announcing the blog had a great quote:
Terry Trippler, a Minneapolis-based airline expert, applauded the idea but said TSA “was in the right church, just not the right pew yet.”
The organization understands that opening the pressure valve of public frustration will result in an initial blast that will equalize relatively quickly. There’s been a great deal made      about this initial blast of traveler’s complaints, but this coverage too will subside if the TSA team sticks to their guns and weathers this initial storm.
When I first started meeting adult LEGO fans as a community manager, it took six months before 90% of the meeting wasn’t focused on telling me what an idiotic company I worked for. (A company who had largely ignored its adult customer base for decades) Meeting after meeting came back for more, shared, answered, responded, and followed up and earned respect. This respect built to a successful relationship between company and community that lasts today.
Kudos to the TSA for not getting scared off by the initial blast.
Thanks again to Lynn for the follow-up. I’m excited to see what’s next!