Best Bits: 'Bravo for Wildly Successful Gov. 2.0'

OCTA's Ted Nguyen, left, with Twitter author Deborah Micek and micro-blogger Mark Davidson, lead a discussion on using social media to boost public transparency.

From 'Social Sunday' Column of O.C. Register
As Posted by Jon Lansner on Sunday, July 26

Twitter features an instantaneous pool of information. So, sOCial sunday asked PR person Rochelle Veturis (@rochelleveturis) of LPA architects in Irvine to mine the Twitter river for a haul of Best Bits!

A hearty “Bravo!” for the wildly successful Gov 2.0 event hosted this week by @TedNguyen along with his friends and staff at the OC Transportation Authority.

Gov 2.0? That’s a term now synonymous with social media use by government agencies for communication and community outreach purposes.

The OCTA event featured a panel with some of the brightest stars in the Twitterverse. Attendees (from beginners to advanced) had the opportunity ask questions, meet other social media participants from Orange County, and return home with the ultimate resource – a public e-volvment toolkit.

Be encouraged by the fact that, yes, government and quasi-government agencies are sharpening their social media skills to save you money, work more efficiently and get relevant information into your hands in a manner that’s convenient for you.

If you’re not sure about your city’s social media offerings, shoot them a quick e-mail or look them up in GovTwit (the Twitter directory for government agencies).

The Dynamic Faces of Social Media

Want to see how social media is done? Check out the video from the premier GOV 2.0 event hosted by OCTA and sponsored by the Social Media Club Orange County.

A special thank you to the Social Media Club Orange County, panelists and all those participating.

We hope you make it to the next activity. Find out more on OCTA's Facebook page or on Twitter -- @TedNguyen.

Overflow Crowd Gathers For The First GOV 2.0 To Increase Public E-volvement

Ellen Burton, executive director of OCTA External Affairs Division, gets some assistance from Ben Boyce, an employee with Laer Pearce and Associates of Laguna Hills.

By Ted Nguyen
Manager of public communications & media relations

The best hearts and minds of social media gathered Tuesday, July 21 at OCTA to discuss how to utilize social media to create transparency and accountability as well as bring a level of authenticity to the seemingly endless and faceless bureaucracy of government and public agencies.

Billed as GOV 2.0, an overcapacity crowd of 75 Orange County professionals gathered to exchange tips and share best practices for wildly popular social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. It was the first event of its kind for government and public agencies in Orange County.

Public Already Gets Social Media

The growing number of Californians using online tools is astounding. It’s especially true in tech-savvy Orange County, according to a recent statewide survey.

Julie Chay, a public information specialist with OC Waste and Recycling, came to the event a bit intimidated by Facebook and Twitter. After spending two hours learning about social networking sites with Ryan Maloney, an OCTA community relations associate, she became a convert.

"It was great to have hands-on learning, so public agencies can engage with the community already communicating on these new media sites," Chay said.

Julie Chay, a Tustin resident and OC Waste and Recycling information officer, nervously awaits her one-on-one session on Twitter with Ted Nguyen, an OCTA manager.

Public Agencies Jumping on Board with OCTA

We planned for a capacity crowd of 50, but made room for the overflow numbers. Hundreds of other people followed the event via live Twitter updates and others from as far as Lithuania, Germany and Asia participated via a live streaming online video thanks to Social Media Club Orange County’s Morgan Brown.

After communicating with many of these giants of the twitterverse in the nation, never mind Orange County, I was excited to take part in an engaging panel discussion.

Community relations associate Kristin Johnson of OCTA, left, shows Tresa Oliveri, also of OCTA, and Rosemary Valdovines, a city of Westminster public information officer, how to use cost-effective tools to perform public outreach.

Bringing the Superstars of Social Media

I was nervous meeting them for this tweet-up. Knots in my stomach tightened as I was feeling oh-so small because my social media experience pales in comparison to these other power panelists. Come on, can I really compare to Deborah Micek who wrote the first book on Twitter? I’m so out of her league.

Then there is Mark Davidson, the king of micro-blogging. He has 46,400 followers! Me, a measly 750 that I was happy with just days before. Or Tami Abdollah, the L.A. Times reporter who got the Times well … ahead of the times with its strong presence on Twitter and Facebook. Or Joel Bishop, the social media guru of South Orange County, who also happens to be a Dana Point city councilman.

Or the faces in the crowd. Some are the superstars of social media. But what are they doing in the audience?!? I should be learning from them. Let’s switch places, especially Rochelle Veturis, the queen of Twitter. And then there is that darn Neal Schaffer. He’s always witty and posts interesting items. No wonder why he’s got more than 21,000 followers.

Dubbed the “power panel” by O.C. Twitterers, the panelists includes moderator Morgan Brown of TurnHere Internet Video, micro-blogger Mark Davidson, L.A. Times reporter Tami Abdollah, Twitter author Deborah Micek, Dana Point City Councilman Joel Bishop and OCTA public communications manager Ted Nguyen.

Sharing and Caring

After listening to the event’s moderator, Brown, a marketing expert from Aliso Viejo, introduce us, I felt even smaller. As we discussed all sorts of topics from how news reporters are using social media to cover stories, diverse ways the public engages with elected officials and public agencies to some pretty interesting discussion on how to avoid pitfalls of launching a social media program, I quickly felt better.

I did know a thing or two about this stuff. And I learned so much more from my new-found friends online and offline.

Then it happened. My "ah-ha" moment! I realized we’re all in this thing together. That’s the point of it all – to help each other "get" social media and share it. And that’s why I love the club’s slogan: If You Get It, Share It.

And we did just that. I passed out T-shirts that I paid for on my own dime to thank these social media veterans. Obviously, it would be a Twitter T-shirt with their online names. And we unveiled a new online tool for OCTA’s new public e-volvement program that will utilize social media to complement our traditional bag of outreach and communications tactics.
It’s in the Bag: Online Toolkit to Enhance Transparency in Government

Because we all serve the same Orange County public, we shared OCTA’s new e-volvement bag of information with other agencies.

I’ve already gotten comments from other public agency folks – John Wayne Airport, County of Orange, city of Anaheim, city of Westminster, city of Orange, the sheriff’s department, O.C. fire and others – thanking us for sharing the cool kit.

Because I take my professional mantra of "If you can’t evaluate it, don’t do it!" seriously, we tallied the results of participants’ written comments. Because of outpouring of positive live tweet postings during the event, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the written surveys. Most people filled out a survey before leaving – 55 out of 75 audience members. And a whopping 100 percent said they either "strongly agreed" or "agreed" that:

  • Panelists shared relevant knowledge and useful information

  • Panelists were engaging

  • Panel discussion was well organized

And 96 percent said they were interested in attending a future session on social media.

"Just attended an inspiring GOV 2.0 seminar on social media put on by OCTA," Julie Senter, a Long Beach PR consultant tweeted to her followers. This was just one of nearly 100 tweets on the premier event.

More Than Just Improving Transportation

At OCTA, we’re not the experts on social media by any measure of the imagination. But we have picked up some nuggets of knowledge and garnered success along the way. We've also experienced some pitfalls during our social media journey. As a public agency serving Orange County's taxpayers, we can’t help but share with others in government and public agencies because we care about enhancing our community.

For us, it’s not just about improving roads, freeways, railways and buses. It’s also about effectively communicating with the public and helping provide them with information they need to make their lives better.
Interested in more social media events? Check out the Social Media Club Orange County to get involved.

Best Hearts and Minds of Social Media

Meet the Power Panelists
Of GOV 2.0 Tweetup

Morgan Brown
Morgan Brown, director of marketing for TurnHere

Morgan Brown is the moderator for the July 21 GOV 2.0 panel discussion. Morgan is an officer with the newly organized Social Media Club Orange County.

Morgan serves as the director of marketing for TurnHere. With a strong background in online marketing, Morgan brings nearly eight years of experience in Web development, search optimization and marketing, permission marketing, loyalty program development, online application development and new media marketing.

Morgan joined TurnHere from New Day Trust Mortgage where he was the chief marketing officer responsible for brand development, online marketing and direct response online lead generation.

Prior professional experience includes online marketing positions at Interactivate, an online marketing agency, where he worked to develop online marketing and new technology strategy solutions for well-known consumer brands Sunkist, Little League Baseball, Sony Pictures, San Diego Padres, MasterCard, Nickelodeon, Universal, and others and, a consumer retail price search engine.

Additionally, Morgan has written several published articles and maintains the well-respected finance blog for which he was named to "Inman News Top 25 Most Influential Real Estate Bloggers" for 2007.

Tami Abdollah
Tami Abdollah, L.A. Times reporter

Tami Abdollah is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, currently covering Orange County government, the Sheriff's Department and the Orange County Transportation Authority.

She has been with the paper about three years, and just came down to Orange County from L.A., where she worked downtown as a general assignment and environment reporter.

When Tami started with the paper, there were nearly no staffers on Facebook or Twitter. Since then, she's helped the numbers grow into the hundreds. Tami has run a blog as well as worked with video for the L.A. Times. She is a member of the paper's reader engagement committee, which was formed by the editor to work on outreach to readers.

Prior to the Times, Tami worked a couple short stints abroad with the Wall Street Journal in Paris and Brussels. In her spare time she enjoys rock climbing, cycling, skiing and the beach. She speaks a smattering of languages including fluent French, some Farsi and Hebrew. Her twitter account is TamiAbdollah.

Joel Bishop
Joel Bishop, Dana Point city councilman

Joel Bishop is a city councilman in the city of Dana Point. Last year, he was mayor of the beautiful seaside community.

Joel began his migration to Dana Point in the early 1970s when he frequented Strands Beach and dreamed of living in Dana Point. That dream was finally realized in 1994.

Joel has always been actively involved in any endeavor he pursued, and as such became interested in local issues and associations. He served on his homeowner’s association board, and then set his sights for the South Coast Water District.

In 1996, he was elected as a director of the South Coast Water District (SCWD) where he served for 10 years. The water district provides water and sewer service for most of the city as well as south Laguna Beach, and parts of San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. As a director and three-time president of the board, he struggled to keep rates as low as possible, while ensuring that aging infrastructure has been repaired or replaced.

Joel is a co-owner of a software and services company in Irvine. Established in 2000, the company has grown from 23 to more than 200 employees across the country. Joel is a strong believer in entrepreneurial spirit and aggressively working toward well-defined goals.

On a personal note, Joel is a father of two. Melanie is 21 and attends UCLA and Dylan is 18 and a senior in high school. Joel has a vested interest in ensuring that Dana Point remains family-friendly and retains the small town atmosphere we have all grown to love. Joel enjoys SCUBA, golf, bike riding, the beach, theatrical art, independent movies, and technological gadgets.

Appointments to public agencies
Representative, South Coast Water District
Representative, Transportation & Communications Committee Member Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)
Representative, Orange County Council of Governments (OCCOG)
Alternate Representative, South Orange County Major Investment Study Group
Alternate Representative, Orange County Fire Authority
Ocean Water Quality Subcommittee

Mark Davidson
Mark Davidson, micro-blogging and social media strategist

Mark Davidson is a self-described promoter to the stars. Specializing in micro-blogging, social Web strategy and social media marketing, Mark is a product promoter and people are his “product.”

Mark helps people create, manage and promote their blogs online, using social-networking sites, social bookmarking and SEO techniques.

“I call what I do FACT-based marketing: Establishing Familiarity, Awareness, Comfort, and Trust,” his Web site notes. “I believe that’s what social media is all about.”

Deborah Micek
Deborah Micek, author of first book on Twitter

Deborah has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, has been a columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine and Honolulu Star Bulletin, a radio show guest for the TV reality series, The Apprentice and is a life coach for the award-winning TV reality show, Dream Makeover Hawaii.

Getting free publicity has become a specialty for Deborah, a highly sought-after new media marketing consultant. Author of the first published book on new media marketing three years ago, “Secrets of Online Persuasion,” Deborah ranks among bleeding-edge experts and trendsetters – all while keeping things simple for her clients.

Deborah recently wrote the first published book on Twitter, predicting the trend more than a year ago. "Twitter Revolution" was published when there were less than 1 million users on Twitter.

With her degree in psychology, Deborah started RPM Success Group ® Inc. as her first consultancy company in 2000 with her partner John-Paul Micek, after running and selling several multimillion dollar companies. RPM Success Group ® Inc. became the only coaching company focused on the science of persuasion for small business owners to grow their business and build their brand from the inside out.

Deborah also is a co-creator of the world’s premier new media marketing software system, that allowed Deborah the ability to give her clients the unfair advantage to level the playing field with large corporations with big budgets.

Ted Nguyen
Ted Nguyen, OCTA public communications and media relations manager

Ted Nguyen oversees public communications and media relations activities for the Orange County Transportation Authority. Ted has faced and overcome numerous public relations challenges during his more than 15-year work in communications.

His most-recent accomplishment for OCTA includes winning the communications industry’s most-prestigious honor, the national Silver Anvil award from the Public Relations Society of America in 2008 for best issues management program during a 10-day strike of bus drivers. The previous year, the OCTA team won the national award of excellence from PRSA for its community relations program for construction outreach for the Garden Grove Freeway (SR-22). In 2007, Ted was honored as the “PR person of the year” by PR News magazine at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Ted has garnered a solid reputation and grounded his communications team because he is a strategic thinker, a driver for innovation, a problem-solver and an ethical consensus builder. He led the OCTA team to be among the first public agency to utilize social media and was a pioneer in launching a comprehensive Web site detailing the progress of federal stimulus funds for transportation.

He has served on the board for the Orange County Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and has been involved in dozens of volunteer community efforts to enrich the lives of families and children in Southern California.

In 2007, he helped raise funds to provide shoes, blankets, clothing and other essential items for an orphanage in Siem Reap, Cambodia. He raised funds through his network of compassionate professionals and personally delivered the much-needed items for the children in poverty-stricken Cambodia.

Tweet, Tweet! Bus and Road Agency on Twitter

OCTA engages the public with online communications utilizing no-cost social media sites like Twitter, which has exploded in popularity.

From sOCial sunday Column of O.C. Register
As Posted by Jon Lansner on Sunday, July 19

sOCial sunday will frequently ponder how institutions — private and public, big and small — juggle social networking’s challenges and what wisdom we can derive from their ventures.

Ted Nguyen (@tednguyen) of the Orange County Transportation Authority explains why it works for his bus and road agency — in 140 characters!
  • It’s free! Social media are cost-effective ways to reach an audience that’s huge.
  • Conversation is already taking place, so we opt to be part of it. You can be engaged as much as you want or need to.
  • By cultivating relations with followers who trust and care about you, public agencies can achieve transparency and openness.
  • Be your true self – no fake accounts. I don’t hide behind the OCTA logo. I’m Ted Nguyen and share transportation tweets with the public.
  • I’m not hard-selling OCTA, but sharing information about services and programs, building relationships of trust one person at a time.
  • We share messages via conversations with followers and their friends. It’s e-version of word of mouth, the most-trusted form of engagement.
  • People follow others who share useful or interesting information and not self-serving fluff. Twitter is more powerful as a listening tool.
  • If you’re passionate about your work and life, your tweets will sing. It won’t feel like a task, but rather be an enjoyable online journey.
  • Go offline and tweet-up with others and see what they’re doing.
  • OCTA tweets include news of our new CEO and info links to Web site, Facebook, YouTube and other resources.
  • We’re honored that businesses turn to OCTA for help in social media. We learned social networking by doing social networking.

PS: OCTA hosts next Social Media Club Orange County on July 21 at 7 p.m. at OCTA HQ in Orange. All are welcome, especially government, education, special agencies, not-for-profits, etc. for a special free session on GOV 2.0. Follow the event #SMCOC.

A Big Welcome Home

Crews unveil Orange County's new sign on I-5 at the O.C. - L.A. line.

Driving up the ramp on the I-5 you could see the nearly 20 foot tall sign, wrapped in an orange cloth ready to be revealed, and the sea of people in yellow construction vests and hard hats waiting to get the first glance.

I was among the crowd of elected officials, contractors and media folks who stood in the blazing heat to celebrate this occasion, which included comments from various individuals involved in the signs development.

As the program came to a close, the audience’s presence changed. Slight grins crept up the faces of those who were as eager as I to see a structure that will be admired for decades.

Laura Scheper, a lifelong Orange County resident, gave into the temptation and had to pose for some photos herself.

The unveiling was quick followed by a slew of pictures (I admit, I snapped a few shots of myself in front of the sign), and a brief traffic jam as drivers passing by took a look themselves.

The sign not only welcomes visitors and those returning home to Orange County, but it symbolizes the county’s transformation from a suburban community to a thriving metropolitan area. It was incorporated in the $325-million I-5 Gateway project, which is adding two lanes in each direction, reconstructing bridges and on- and off-ramps in a two-mile stretch between the Riverside Freeway (SR-91) and the county line.

I spoke with the fabricator from Outdoor Dimensions, Brian Pickler of Villa Park, and as he talked about the gateway sign, his boyish smile portrayed the authentic excitement he felt for being a part of a symbolic greeting in his home town.

Local dollars, supporting the local economy – that is what I will remember each time I come home and cross the threshold from Los Angeles to Orange County.

Laura Scheper
Community Relations Associate Specialist

Unveiling Sign of the Times: Wider Freeways

Check out the music slideshow of the big reveal of Southern California's newest landmark. It's a monument sign at the O.C. - L.A. line, a sign of wider freeway lanes in Orange County.

A boy, his uncle and the path of progress

"Basket boats" transport people onto bigger boats and ships off Vietnam's long coastline.

The Intersection of War, Family
Technology and Transportation

By Ted Nguyen

Manager of public communications & media relations

I was born at the height of the Vietnam War in a town of 100,000 people off the coast of the South China Sea.

I learned about the death of former Secretary of Defense and Vietnam War architect Robert McNamera July 6 via Twitter on my iPhone as I sat on a Metrolink train on my way to work. During that ride, I began to reflect upon how much as changed in the delivery of news and information – big and small, happy and sad.

Robert McNamera, left, with South Vietnam Pres. Nguyen Van Thieu in front during a briefing of the war effort. Nguyen Cao Ky, South Vietnam’s prime minister, is in the background talking to U.S. Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson.

Christmas smiles in Saigon: Ted Nguyen, third from left, shares a holiday memory next to former South Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky, a prominent figure during the war. To the right is Cau Tam or uncle No. 8.

First Grandson, Uncle No. 8

Back in 1969, my father was approximately 50 miles away as an officer in the South Vietnamese navy stationed in Cam Ranh Bay, a strategic base built by the U.S. during the war that the Vietnamese call the “American War.” My mother gave birth to me in the predawn hours when all was quiet in the war-torn seaside town of Nha Trang.

A farmer balances baskets of water spinach behind the Nguyen ancestral home.

Along the Path: Family of Strangers

Upon seeing me for the first time since my family escaped during the collapse of Saigon in 1975, his eyes welled up as he squeezed my chubby Vietnamese-American cheeks and told me how much he loved me. All the while, I was feeling increasingly uneasy watching a grown man whom I never really knew sob before my very eyes.

“You were the family’s first grandchild – a boy,” he muttered. “You don’t know how hard it was for me to walk the entire day to Cam Ranh so I could share the news with your father that he has a new baby son.”

I realized the difficulty of my uncle’s journey back in the late ‘60s on dirt pathways through dense jungles and mountain passes. Just a day before reuniting with my extended family, I became car sick after enduring side-to-side motions and experiencing head-bouncing in the back of a rented minivan on Vietnam’s “modern” roads en route to my family's ancestral home.

The Vietnam War is a distant memory, especially from the tranquil beaches of Nha Trang.

Longing to Share Memories

As I saw Cau Tam's tears trickle down his wrinkled face, my heart sank at the full realization of what this experience actually meant. Soon tears began to fill my own eyes because I longed to share this precious past with my own father who died far too soon when I was a teenager.

“Your father was beaming with pride knowing he had a son,” uncle No. 8 said as he continued to stroke my now wet cheeks. “I walked the entire day, but I never felt tired because I knew how happy the news would make your father feel.”

The Hope that is America

As a child refugee in America, I have come to understand the blessing and beauty that is America. I now know the power of information to shape our democracy. Our nation is strong because her people have access to news, information and differing opinions.

In my relatively short lifespan, I marvel at the pace of change. My cousins in Berlin no longer live in the shadows of a wall dividing East from West. My aunts and uncles in Sydney and Melbourne visit relatives in Vietnam, acclimating their ears and mouths to the Aussie English accent to only leave them head-scratching and tongue-tied later when the American branch of the Nguyen clan visited.

Accelerating Transportation Information

Metrolink trains are examples of the wonders of technology in transportation that have transformed our lives.

Back in the 1980s, it would take weeks if not months for hand-written letters to be read and hand-wrapped care packages to be treasured. Now we instant message and video conference via Skype. It only takes a few days to send packages. We're also communicating on Facebook and Twitter – though it’s difficult to explain to them why we need to perform so much outreach and communications with freeway and transit projects. In Vietnam, people simply sell their land for whatever set price and quickly vacate their homes so roads can be built. My Vietnamese family still doesn't understand what I do in America. My chosen career of public relations is a relatively new but growing profession mostly fueled by multinational corporations.

Embracing Technology to Involve the Public

Like so many businesses and public agencies across the nation, OCTA has embraced technology to deliver news and information quickly and cost effectively. We were among the first transportation organizations to use YouTube to demonstrate the ease and comfort of our buses. The OCTA public communications team pioneered an interactive Web site with social media tools to communicate the status of federal stimulus funds. The dynamic site details to taxpayers how public funds are being invested to improve transportation.

We established multiple project and program pages on Facebook to connect with a fast-growing online community. And now we've found ourselves the first among public agencies using Twitter to share transportation news and engage in “tweeting” conversations.

A recruitment "e-poster" encourages people to work for a more informed community and for public agencies to engage the public to increase citizen participation.

Helping Public Agencies Get Social Media

And we’ve joined with the newly formed Social Media Club Orange County to share our social networking experiences with other people in public agencies, education and nonprofits with the goal of enhancing public transparency and creating online conversations with fast-growing numbers of new media users.

We’re proudly calling the free session “GOV 2.0” and it’s from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 21 at the headquarters of the Orange County Transportation Authority, 600 S. Main St., in the city of Orange. We invite people to come and "tweet up" with some quality community members who are passionate about sharing their new found treasures from the twitterverse.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m., social media experts will share one-on-one tips and provide personal assistance for people in public agencies and nonprofit organizations to get started in utilizing these no-cost social media tools that have exploded in popularity worldwide.

Beginners to social media are invited to participate in a step-by-step introduction. People are encouraged to bring their Wi-Fi enabled laptop computers or smart phones and will receive help in starting accounts with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

A panel will follow at 7 p.m. with a discussion on different strategies and techniques to help people in the public sector become familiar with how social media tools can help organizations become more transparent and responsive with the public. With overwhelming interest, the event has reached the limit of participants, and we are working to provide a video feed of the panel discussion to reach those who want to view the discussion from afar.

Sometimes doing the bright thing leads individuals to use the road less traveled.

Cultivating Community and Communications

Technology has brought sweeping changes across our social and political landscape. I can’t help but think about the possibilities if my father had lived ... of the wonder and look of surprise if only he could see how much our world has progressed. Or more importantly to me, I wonder how he would feel about seeing his baby boy all grown up and grasping all the best that America has to offer and all that makes her truly great – freedom with responsibilities.

It's because of access to information with increased knowledge and the connection with others that hopefully has led that baby boy to now making his little slice of the world a better place.