Ray LaHood

USDOT in the social media slow lane

photo by freephotouk

photo by freephotouk

The U.S. Department of Transportation is officially nowhere to be found in social media circles, but DOT Secretary Ray LaHood is everywhere, including Facebook, Twitter and Flickr (no Creative Commons). DOT does have an official YouTube channel, but most of the recent videos include LaHood in his “On the Go” video chat series.

While I’m all for high-level U.S. government officials engaging with citizens via social media, LaHood, a former seven-term politician prior to becoming Transportation Secretary, still appears to be on the campaign trail, making his persona the prime focus for the entire department. In fact, LaHood is the only Cabinet member to follow this practice. With the exception of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s Facebook page being promoted on ED’s homepage (they do have an official Facebook page), no other agency follows this protocol.

Here’s why DOT is short-sighted in its approach to social media:

  1. No long-term strategy: When LaHood leaves, presumably the accounts go with him. Even if they’re the property of the U.S. Government, the branding transition back as official DOT accounts will be cumbersome. Basically, the next communications/social media department will start from scratch.
  2. No one knows Ray LaHood: With all due respect, he seems like a great guy, but no one outside of Washington, DC, knows who heads what agency. Everyone, however, knows what DOT is.
  3. It comes off as self-serving: When the agency itself doesn’t have social media accounts, but the Secretary does, the impression is that he’s still running for office or using his position to build influence for future gain.

Hopefully LaHood and DOT’s communications team can change lanes quickly and embrace a more comprehensive and sustainable social media strategy. Citizens (and taxpayers) deserve a more refined, strategic approach to outreach.

If not, does AAA service social media?

Cabinet members brief Amercan citizens in Year One videos

President Obama’s Cabinet taped Year One videos to highlight their respective department or agency’s 2009 accomplishments and or goals for the next year.

What do you think? Which are most informative? Authentic? Is this an effective way to familiarize citizens to public servants and put a face on government?

Secretary Robert Gates, Department of Defense:

Secretary Steven Chu, Department of Energy:

Secretary Ray LaHood, Department of Transportation:

Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack, Department of Agriculture:

Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, Department of State:

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency:

Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Department of Treasury:

Secretary Janet A. Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security:

Secretary Gary F. Locke, Department of Commerce:

Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Department of Labor:

Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Health and Human Services:

Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar, Department of the Interior:

Ambassador Ronald Kirk, United States Trade Representative:

Ambassador Susan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations:

Director Peter R. Orszag, Office of Management & Budget:

Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Justice:

Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, Department of Veterans Affairs:

Chair Christina Romer, Council of Economic Advisers:

Secretary Arne Duncan, Department of Education: