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Blogging At EPA: Guidelines

Blogging At EPA: Guidelines

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Published by Jeffrey Levy
Guidelines for EPA's blog, Greenversations, at http://blog.epa.gov : roles and responsibilities, writing guidelines, comment policy, etc.
Guidelines for EPA's blog, Greenversations, at http://blog.epa.gov : roles and responsibilities, writing guidelines, comment policy, etc.

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Published by: Jeffrey Levy on Mar 13, 2009
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01/11/2013

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1
Blogging at EPA for Greenversations:http://blog.epa.gov 
General Description
EPA employees from every organizational level and location will write blog entries about personal experiencesrelated to their work, with the goal of engaging the public to help accomplish EPA's mission to protect humanhealth and the environment. Non-EPA people may also be invited to blog such as other federal, state, tribal, or business leaders or staff.
HQ Public Affairs will:
y
Maintain the blog, including the look and feel and pages for the comment policy, blog description, etc.
y
Review each post. This will primarily be for policy and legal issues; other editing will be very light,essentially only to correct spelling or grammatical mistakes.
y
Coordinate review with the Office of General Counsel for legal issues.
y
Upload posts putting the blogger¶s name at the top, and the bio and disclaimer at the bottom.
y
Moderate comments, denying only those that fail to meet the comment policy (attached).
Reg 
ional Public Affairs Dir 
e
ctors (PADs) and HQ Communications Dir 
e
ctors (CDs) will:
y
Review and approve each post coming from within their respective region/program office. This willprimarily be for policy and legal issues; other editing will be very light, essentially only to correct spellingor grammatical mistakes.
y
Submit to OPA.
up
e
rvisors of blo
gge
rs will:
y
Review and approve posts, and forward to CDs and PADs. This will primarily be for content accuracy,policy, and legal issues; other editing will be very light, essentially only to correct spelling or grammaticalmistakes.
ach blo
gge
r will:
y
Submit blog posts following using the blogging guidance explained below
y
Write a shortdescription biography of themself to be posted each time they write.
y
Write 200-400 word posts.
y
Review comments on their posts and reply as appropriate in the form of further comments.
y
Keep in mind posts should not advocate policies that differ from official EPA policy.Depending on EPA staff interest, bloggers will usually write about once a month. This will prevent the blog fromappearing to be owned by only a certain few regular bloggers. However, this should be allowed to varydepending on the nature of the blog. For example, someone might write several consecutive posts during anemergency response or for a special feature.
Government Blogging Examples
 If you've never blogged before, it may help you to read a few blog entries. Read the blogs listed below and seea sample post, attached as Appendix 1. In addition to Greenversations (http://blog.epa.gov), usa.gov maintainsa large list of government blogs. Seehttp://www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/News/blog.shtml Note that some blogs may be short-lived for a specific project. One example was the 2008 Great Lakes EarthDay Challenge, a group blog by EPA Chicago (Region 5) staff and guests, covering their Earth Day monthprogram about proper disposal of pills and e-waste.
Writing Blog Posts
Blogging is another way for us to educate the public and accomplish EPA's mission; it's not like a personal blogwhich is simply a place for you to express your opinions about whatever grabs your interest. Like a personalblog, however, the tone is personal, images and links liven things up and add another way of deliveringinformation, and short biographies help readers get to know the writers.Upon receipt from the Regional Public Affairs Directors and HQ Communications Directors, HQ Public Affairsstaff will upload your blog text and images and will contact you in case of questions.
 
2
For each post, consider the following questions:
y
What's the nature of the problem you're working on?
y
How does your personal or work history relate to the problem?
y
What are you doing to come up with a solution? What are the benefits to the reader? (essentially, whyshould the reader care?)
y
What progress has already been made?
y
How does this fit into EPA's overall mission of protecting human health and the environment?
y
What can the reader do?You should:
y
 
Write 200-400 words
for each entry (about 3/4 page of printed 12-point text).
y
 
N
o ghostwriting.
Write your own posts.
y
 
Provide a very brief (1-2 sentences) biography of yourself, including name, relationship to EPA,and pertinent facts that will illuminate your blog entries
. For example:
Jack Sprat joined EPA¶sDenver office in 2006 and oversees underground injection wells in Great Plains states. His family¶srecent purchase of a hybrid car was inspired by their desire to improve air quality in the Rocky Mountains.
 
y
 
S
ubmit or suggest at least one image, graphic, video, or other non-text item to include in your post
. HQ Public Affairs can help you find appropriate materials if necessary, and will ensure that postsare accessible to people with disabilities.
y
 
U
se personal experiences and perspective to engage the reader 
. Sharing your own interests andbackground lets readers see you as someone with issues and concerns similar to theirs, connectingthem to EPA's mission. Similarly, you can connect issues at the personal level to how their businessescan help protect the environment. Examples: buying a new car, hiking and appreciating clean air,learning about your home's drinking water quality, and learning about compact fluorescent light bulbs.
y
 
Write expressively about how you personally are involved with EPA's efforts
. Don't focus on your  job title or position, but rather share stories of your work. Help people understand why EPA's effortsmatter. Examples: taking air samples, responding to emergencies, serving on research vessels like theBold, inspecting facilities, and talking to kids about protecting the environment.
y
 
Write in an informal, personal tone
. Think party conversation, not news release or fact sheet. Writeas if you are writing to friend with the expectation of getting something back. If you want, HQ Public Affairs can help you work on this.
y
 
Ask questions of your readers
. This helps to foster a more open exchange of information anddialogue. Some examples you might use are ³What do you think?´ or ³Tell me your thoughts.´
y
 
C
reate a title for each post
.
y
 
I
nclude at least onelink toWeb address on EPA's site
(beginning withhttp://) where the reader cango for more information about your topic. More links are better. You may also link outside EPA¶s site if appropriate, but be sure to avoid any implied endorsement. 
y
 
o
 
L
inking to non-.gov webpages ± links to a website outside of the federal governmentshould link directly to pages with information pertinent to the post and not just to theorganization¶s homepage.
I
f at all possible, avoid linking to a webpage that providesa means for providing financial support to the organization, i.e., a ³DO
N
ATE´ button.
y
 
S
uggest keywords/tags for each post
. Again, HQ Public Affairs can help. Keywords help readersfind your post.
y
 
R
ead comments made on your posts and respond as you see fit in the form of replying to acomment, or just adding a comment to the conversation.
HQ Public Affairs will moderatecomments. Note that comments may be critical, or even harsh. However, they will be approved unlessthey use vulgar language, are threatening, or violate other narrow restrictions. See the comment policyin Appendix 2.You should not:
y
Simply repeat EPA Web content or use your entry as a new EPA Web page.
y
Announce program activities or opportunities unless you are coordinating with a news release or other mechanism.
y
Mimic news releases.
y
Overwhelm the reader with facts and figures. Keep it simple and link to more details.
 
Formatted
 
3
y
Violate the cautionary areas discussed below.
C
autionary Areas
EPA blog content is federal content and, thus, public domain. Therefore, use only images that are also publicdomain. Photographs and video taken by EPA staff as part of their jobs meet this requirement. If you havequestions about copyright, please contact HQ Public Affairs.EPA blogging is a privilege, not a right. Because of federal and legal responsibilities, EPA managementreserves the right to review blog content or to un-invite anyone to blog. However, the content of any one blogpost will generally be reviewed in whole to keep or remove, not edited piecemeal beyond grammar and spelling.Blog postings must not violate any federal laws. For example, they may not:reveal information about ongoing investigationsdiscuss deliberative materialsviolate the regulatory processcircumvent FOIA or other ³process´violate privacy or copyrightviolate other legal issues that may applyBlog entries must not outright contradict or encourage misuse of EPA directions, guidance or other officialinformation.Bloggers will not recommend or criticize specific companies, brands or products with personal opinions.Government facts about recalls, data, etc. are fine to use. Consider citing or linking to the source if it could bequestioned.Bloggers will not give specific advice (e.g. medical, financial) unless citing previously published governmentmaterial.Bloggers will not use the EPA blog platform to promote or secure the passage of desired legislation.
To
S
ubmit Your Posts and For Further 
I
nformation
Other questions or concerns you may have ± please contact the HQ Office of Public AffairsExternal Affairs andEnvironmental Education:Denise Owens, 202-564-7496,owens.denise@epa.gov Kelly Chick, 202-564-0449,chick.kelly@epa.gov 

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