The Importance of Internal Communications with Federal Student Aid

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This weekly blog pinpoints huge happenings in the world of Federal government contracting. Check out more on our Twitter account: @RIVA_Solutions. And search our new hashtag, #FedBuzz, for daily updates and join the conversation! Weekly, we, here at RIVA Solutions, like to spotlight government agencies that are leading the way as part of the new social government. We profile the agencies, their public affairs officers, new media directors, web mavens and other gov communicators who give form to the messages that the agencies want to convey. Are you ready to learn about this week’s agency? Read on!

If you are anything like me, then you are not so far removed from college that this next agency is a foreign language to you. Federal Student Aid (FSA) provides information on student financial aid opportunities such as work- study, federal loan programs, and grants. If you are unfamiliar with FSA, then you would be happy to learn more.

The Department of Education defines FSA as

“The 1998 Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) established a performance-based organization to administer the Federal Student Aid programs at the U.S. Department of Education. These programs include grants, loans, and work-study to help students pay for education beyond high school… programs, which provided approximately $113 billion of financial aid during fiscal year (FY) 2009 to almost 13 million college students.”

The reasons that Federal Student Aid is this weeks agency of note it because of their outstanding work in communications. Like many of the organizations out there, FSA utilizes social media to connect with its ever growing audience. FSA hosts a twitter account that informers followers about the various tools and resources available for the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This same type of information is made readily available on their College.Gov Facebook page and FAFSA YouTube channel.

FSA is also a leader in a newer technology called Yammer. Yammer is an enterprise social network that is both private and secure environment.. Yammer has the same level of usability as great consumer software like Facebook and Twitter, but its applications have been designed for business collaboration.

Nicole Callahan and Susan Thares are two-thirds of the New Media team at FSA. Ms. Nicole Callahan is a New Media Analyst at the Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid where she manages the staff twitter account, creating new media content engaging online customer while listening.  Ms. Susan Thares is Social Media Advisor U.S. Dept. of Education and works across the agency and with outside stakeholders to create better customer experience. They recently assisted with a webinar about Yammer, discussing their role in piloting the program and their experience. The following is an excerpt from that webinar.

“Like many of you probably that are out there, the new media team’s a lot of the focus had been around external. We also are looking at — we have internal customers within our agency as well. And how might we use social media to that regard. An opportunity came along about one year ago for us. We have a federal — I’m sorry a foundation of leadership program, you — and other agencies probably have something similar to that where they take a group of 25 promising leaders in the organization and immerse them in the year-long program. The participants of the program for geographically dispersed and they were looking for a way to communicate and collaborate an embeddable a more social and close environment. They really wanted to reduce the dependency of managing the e-mail which we here at our agency we still do so much by e-mail. 

So in looking for something that might be applicable, for this pilot program, we looked at a lot of different products and then we selected Yammer is the one we were going to pilot with this group. The reason you chose that was that Yammer provided us I stated before, the enterprise social network that was secure, but for us best of all, it was free. And we are using the free version here at federal student aid. As the pilot started taking off for the group of 25 people, we started to think about how might there be a broader application of Yammer for Federal student aid and other parts of the Department of the department of education and how this might be a solution for some of the things that we are struggling with is an organization. What was our business needs. We struggled with a lot of things. One of the things is we scored fairly low in the best places to work in the federal government survey. Employee engagement is something that was really important and we had a lot to work — a lot of work to do on.” 

To listen to the entire Webinar and learn more about Yammer and how it can be used in your agency please visit http://www.howto.gov/training/classes/yammer

Check out Federal Student Aid on your favorite social media websites!

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