Reflection from a Fellow on EPA’s Social Media Strategies

By Tiana Ramos

It’s August and my summer fellowship has come to an end. The project I worked on was EPA’s Green Building Research Symposium “Applying Green Building Research Today.”  Its purpose was to educate, engage and inspire government, business and academe about green building and sustainable design.

Throughout this internship I acquired new skill sets. For one, I am now aware of the effort and resources needed to run a conference!  I also had the privilege to meet some star players of the built environment world and expand my knowledge about green building research, all of which can be accessed at EPA’s Green Building website.

But more than anything I gained some valuable insight into the agency.  While it was great to work with scientists, one thing I learned was that it is sometimes difficult to communicate their research to the public.  I was involved in the outreach strategy for the conference: I submitted blog entries for EPA’s “Greening the Apple” blog and wrote Twitter posts for EPA’s national and regional accounts.  However, since disclosing agency information to the public takes time and requires approvals, we could not fully utilize instantaneous forms of communication. Too many parties became involved, slowing down the approval process.  For example, while the EPA considers approval for one Twitter post, my Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn accounts were exploding with sustainability topics.  This resulted in confusion and frustration from the EPA staff as well as attendees.  It was then I realized that the agency could use a more streamlined approach to communicating important information to the public.

In its current state, the agency’s culture requires a cautionary approach for embarking on new initiatives. But times are changing and social media have become more mainstream, thus a simpler way in which to approve messages may be called for. If EPA could move messages more quickly, more people might be able to join in the conversation and the learning experience might be richer.  EPA can be the beating heart of the environmental movement as people rely on it to have up-to-date green information delivered in the fastest way.

I was able to learn how the EPA operates early through my Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship. It was a valuable experience, even with its challenges, and it only makes me more determined to one day to be a catalyst for positive change within the agency. So, EPA, if you’re looking to staff up, I would happy to help in May 2013.

About the author: Tiana recently completed an EPA GRO (Greater Research Opportunities) Fellowship at EPA’s Region 2 offices in New York City. She is obtaining her BA in Environmental Studies and Economics at Wellesley College. Her specific interest is sustainability building in the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.

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