After my recent web writing presentation at the National Association of Government Communicators’ annual Communications School in Orlando, Candy Smith, Communications Supervisor for the Missouri State Employees’ Retirement System (MOSERS), asked me to take a look at her organization’s blog. Now, I must admit that I didn’t expect fascinating reading at a state retirement system’s blog, so when Candy told me the blog’s name, Rumor Central, I was intrigued. Candy explained that MOSERS uses Rumor Central to squash rumors about changes to retirement benefits and insurance, etc., rumors that flourish during the January – May legislative session.
Rumor Central posts are straightforward but not straitlaced. They provide answers to questions such as:
- Were any of our retirement funds invested with Madoff?
- I read an article on CNN that said Missouri was one of the states losing money in investments in the retirement system. What does this mean to us as state employees?
In a follow-up call with Candy, Krista Myer (communications manager), and Scott Simon (benefit services section manager), I learned that Rumor Central successfully counters incorrect information in the rumor-sphere with an authoritative, accurate response. It also helps MOSERS cope with high call and e-mail volume in their contact center. Simon estimated that in 2005-6 MOSERS’ contact center handled 2000 e-mails per year, but in 2008 e-mail volume shot up to 8000.
When it launched in 2005, Rumor Central wasn’t a blog; it was just web content. But as the content grew, it became unwieldy and impossible to search. Pulling the content into Blogger provided a custom search engine and allowed MOSERS to tag posts. And while the communications team may reopen the discussion of whether to allow comments (currently, Rumor Central doesn’t accept comments on posts), they are confident that Rumor Central is serving its purpose. It provides access and accurate information to a wide group of people, and it helps people see MOSERS as forthright and real.
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— Leslie O’FlahavanTags: Customer service, Plain language