Have you ever wondered why there’s no ocean.gov? This is a valuable and easy to remember URL that the government doesn’t currently use. And it should, for we all depend on the ocean for the very air we breathe.
When I was at NOAA, it was explained to me that there’s no web site at ocean.gov because no one agency or part of government “owns” the ocean. Lots of federal and state agencies have jurisdiction and interest in what goes on in the watery realm. Doing something with ocean.gov would require cooperation and agreement among the numerous governmental entities which all have a stake in the ocean. Creating ocean.gov would require a web manager with the patience of Job and the diplomatic skills of, well, I don’t know, to get all the various ocean-related partners on the same page. Which is why it’s never been done.
Creating a web site at ocean.gov is not inconceivable, however. It’s been done on a much smaller scale with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, developed by my old friends at NOAA. The web site is a remarkable example of cooperation among state, federal and regional organizations in furtherance of a shared goal. Containing reports, publications, contact information, background materials and much more, the site demonstrates that it is possible to bring diverse partners together to build a web site around a common goal.
My modest proposal is to create a blog, in the style of EPA’s Greenversations, at ocean.gov
The ocean.gov blog would be like a daily email from a friend, letting them know what their government is doing to protect our ocean. And, like an email exchange with a friend, the public can interact with the blog by leaving comments and asking questions.
The objectives of the blog would be:
1. To communicate the importance of a safe, healthy and productive ocean.
2. To highlight interesting and relevant ways all levels of government are helping to protect the ocean.
3. To build conversational relationships with key influencers and the general public.
4. To test ocean-related messaging to discover what works.
Every day, across hundreds of governmental web sites, a wealth of information about the ocean is published online. This includes:
1. Press releases
3. Published data
4. Conference presentations
7. Video news releases
9. Email updates
10. Media stories
However, there is no one place to easily find this information – you would need to be an expert in government organization to even know all this information existed. What’s needed is a daily guide to the relevant information published by government every day, written by expert communicators who know the subject matter. Like with Greenversations, a variety of communicators could be asked to contribute, drawn from a wide range of federal, state and regional government.
A blog is a perfect solution to this problem. Blogs are easy ways to publish information online, without much technical knowledge. Custom editorial workflows and permissions are flexible and can easily be adapted to requirements. An editorial board could oversee the blog and develop editorial guidelines.
Ocean.gov would serve as a spot for the general public to find out what the government is doing to protect oceans and coasts. The main job of the ocean.gov bloggers would be to link to relevant and timely information and provide context for that information. For example, during hurricane season ocean.gov bloggers could link to reports on increased coastal populations and why more people than ever need to be hurricane aware. Or, if a state published a report on a particular stretch of coast, the blog could link to the report, provide an overview and supplement the report by linking to news coverage and including comments from readers.
Call me crazy, but if we can have a weather.gov, why not an ocean.gov?
Note: this also appeared on govloop.com.