CDC Connects

Kay Sessions Golan (PDF file), Director of Employee Communicaitons for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), presented her case study on CDC Connects, the CDC’s On-Line Newspaper and Intranet Portal.

Note: one of the downsides of internal communications is it’s usually hard to benchmark against other organizations. You can’t see their intranets. So Kay showed screen shots from the CDC Connects project.

CDC started its internal blog after having attended a conference like this one. It took about 9 months to get started. They’re using WordPress installed on their servers. It’s “real” blogging software.

Why a blog?

  • These conversation are happening anyway.
  • It allows for respectful, open conversations vs. the water cooler talk
  • It demonstrates trust in employees, and they expect it can lead to problem-solving across the organization.

If you think you’re “controlling” the message now, without a blog, you’re deluded. A blog let you introduce the subject and engage the conversation, instead of having it happen without you.

CDC’s intranet blog is a moderated blog that allows anonymous comments. They did have some trust issues, so they wanted to encourage honest feedback. They were concerned they would get just the “suck ups” – the virtual Eddie Haskells – if they required people to give their names.

This is a little bit risky. Michael Rudnick, our conference chairperson, says the CDC policy is the exception, more than the rule. If employees know that IT can trace comments back to the source, it may diminish trust.

CDC has developed and refined its blog rules over a few months. One of the rules is that the comments need to be “on topic.” They engage in conversations with the negative commenters, asking them to provide specific suggestions for improvement.

They do one new post a week. Categories have included: Business Services, CDC History, CDC Now/Futures, CDC Stays Healthy, Facilities/Scenes, General (the catch-all) and Public Health in Action.

What they’ve learned after 51 posts and 2,400 comments:

  • Most active discussions: on topics that affect daily work life
  • Least active discussions: on scientific or programmatic topics
  • Many managers are reluctant participants
  • Discussions easily wander off topic
  • Appreciated by bloggers
  • Let it evolve and mature.

Kay says they’ve thought about using WordPress for crisis communications. That’s a great idea. I’ve blogged about that previously here. You could do that in WordPress, or in Facebook, or both. If you have WordPress on your intranet already, it takes about 15 minutes to start a new blog to handle this.