By Donna Kemp Spangler
ICYMI: DEQ is on Facebook and Twitter, as well as Pinterest, and YouTube. As the shameless promoter of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality I make no apologies—I utilize whatever means to draw attention to our agency and our issues. It’s been an evolving process for this old-school ex-reporter who spent more than 20 years covering stories worthy of print (and only after double-checking all the facts). Twitter is like learning a new language: the 140-word message of acronyms, hashtags, and @ symbols. Once I understood it all, a “retweet” on Twitter (where the competition for attention is stiff) becomes as exciting as a byline on the front page once was for me.
Twitter is like being on deadline in a newsroom. When a turkey truck crashed into Deer Creek on April 24, 2014, spilling about 100 gallons of diesel fuel into the reservoir, the media was keenly interested. “BREAKING: Truck rollover caused spill into Deer Creek Reservoir. est. 50 ft in water. Hazmat on-scene deploying booms site,” I tweeted. Fox 13’s Ben Winslow retweeted this message to his 12,600 followers. Deseret News reporter Amy Joi O’Donoghue tweeted, wondering whether water quality officials were on scene. I answered: “UPDATE: #DWQ staff will mobilize to collect samples and recon the event.”
Social media is a mixed blessing. To DEQ’s advantage it allows us to reach literally thousands of people. The immediacy of the medium can lead to mistakes, however, which are hard to fix. The not-so-carefully crafted message can become a public relations nightmare. If I’m too quick to respond, or don’t have all the facts, it becomes impossible to call it back. I and my communications team are committed to providing the best available information in a timely manner across the most appropriate communication channels—most frequently via social media these days. We hope our blogs, like this one, inspire you to comment and share your opinions.
While Twitter and the other social media outlets haven’t totally replaced traditional media, they are definitely changing the way news is processed. I still send out formal press releases, which provide a great long-form format for communicating complex issues, hoping reporters will see value in the topics and cover the stories. I still get calls from reporters, though most queries come by text message. Twitter and Facebook have changed the communications playing field.
Then there’s YouTube—capturing what DEQ does in a visual way. In twitter talk: ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) check out this great Earth Day video on DEQ’s YouTube page. Watch and Share.
You can follow me on Twitter @deqdonna, or DEQ @UtahDEQ, like us on Facebook (utahdeq) and come back to our blog weekly to share with us your thoughts and passions about Utah’s environment. If you are old school, you can follow the issues at www.deq.utah.gov.
I am a graduate of University of Portland, and I devoted much of my career to writing about politics and environment for newspapers. I came to Utah to work for the Deseret News about 17 years ago, followed by a brief stint in Washington D.C. as a reporter. I joined DEQ in 2006 and was later appointed Communications Director. I’m a co-author with my husband, Jerry Spangler, on books about Nine Mile Canyon.