We at Fuentek have blogged often about how tweets, blogs, and “likes” are key paths by which a technology transfer office’s (TTO’s) messages reaches the general public as well as about how effective use of social media can connect TTOs with licensing prospects and potential partners for specific opportunities. But federal TTOs face unique challenges in developing and maintaining effective social media strategies.
Aside from tight budgets and overloaded staff, these TTOs have to operate within the confines of the highly controlled federal government. TTOs want to get the word out about what they do but, in most cases, a public affairs or communications office is responsible for the information flowing out of a federal organization. So what’s a federal TTO to do?
I recently moderated a panel discussion on social media at the annual meeting of the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) in Pittsburgh during which we tackled a variety of these sometimes thorny issues and discussed effective and useful strategies. Joining me on the “Making Social Media a Reality: Insights from Implementers” panel were Robert W. Bectel of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Daniel Lockney of the Innovative Partnerships (IP) Office at NASA, and Matt Ringer of the Technology Commercialization Program at the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
One of the most valuable tips we discussed focused on leveraging your organization’s Public Affairs Office (PAO) or communications group. TTO’s often see these entities as gatekeepers rather than partners. Although a PAO is indeed responsible for managing an organization’s brand and thus will influence how your message is conveyed, this group can also serve as a powerful partner in helping you reach your target audience.
The key is to figure out how to make your relationship with the PAO mutually beneficial. What can you do to make the life of the PAO easier? Take the time to get to know the folks responsible for communication and what type of content they are seeking. Then package your message in a neat bundle that is easy for them to use. This approach greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll achieve your communications objective, and it helps build goodwill with a group that you may call on to help you in the future.
There were several other bits of advice I thought were helpful:
- Be creative as you drive content to your website. Lockney from NASA highlighted several ways that NASA has creatively leveraged its brand to help convey the benefits of its tech transfer. You may not be able to secure the same celebrities (Stephen Colbert, Alex Trebek, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson!), but you can still be creative with your social media campaigns.
- Make it easy for your audience to find you. NREL’s Ringer pointed out that because the Energy Department encompasses so many different laboratories, it can be difficult for potential partners to identify available technologies. As a result, DOE developed the Energy Innovation Portal, which enables prospects to go to a single location to learn about licensing opportunities.
- Quality trumps quantity. Bectel of DOE emphasized the importance of high-quality content as you embark on your social media strategy. A fancy website or a million posts won’t hook your audience. Relevant and compelling information will.
Although the panelists have all engaged in significant efforts to increase the role of social media within their organizations, your TTO’s efforts do not need to be extensive to be effective. It’s okay to start small. Develop good content, and then use the various social media tools to drive people to this content. And don’t forget to engage other groups in your organization who can help you get the word out.
For more tips on integrating social media into your overall online communication
strategy, register to download Fuentek’s white paper, “Leveraging Social Media for Technology Transfer Marketing.” And don’t forget our “How We Rode the Social Media Wave” webinar, which details lessons learned in using social media tools as part of a technology marketing effort.
Were you at the social media session at the recent FLC meeting? What did you take away from this interactive panel? You can leave a comment below, or feel free to contact me privately.