Strategic Communications Manager
Office of Shared Solutions & Performance Improvement
General Services Administration
Celebrating public service. Catie Miller, Strategic Communications Manager for the General Services Administration, joins the podcast to discuss the Federal agency’s #GovLove campaign to highlight success stories in government. She shared the types of successes they are highlighting and how other organizations can participate. She also talked about the work of the Office of Shared Solutions & Performance Improvement within GSA.
Host: Kirsten Wyatt
Kirsten Wyatt 00:07
Coming to you from Portland, Oregon, this is Gov Love, a podcast about local government. Gov Love is produced by ELGL, the Engaging Local Government Leaders network, we engage the brightest minds and local government. Before we get into today’s episode, Gov Love is brought to you by Granicus. Short term rentals or STRs, often found on sites like Airbnb, and VRBO are more than just party mansions in LA. Their numbers are growing at a staggering rate in 1000s of communities across North America. What does this mean for local government? It’s time to act. STRs can be a tremendous source of revenue for local governments, or a real community nuisance. It all depends on adopting the right compliance and enforcement strategy. Today, over 350 communities have partnered with Granicus on their STR compliance programs for everything from addressing and host identification, to ordinance consulting and permitting tools. Interested in learning more about the STR market in your community and how Granicus can help? Visit granicus.com to schedule a free consultation. That’s g r a n i c u s .com for more information. I’m Kirsten Wyatt, the ELGL co founder and Executive Director, and today I’m joined by Catie Miller, with the Office of Shared Solutions and Performance Improvement, part of the Office of Government-Wide Policy at the Federal General Services Administration. Catie, welcome to Gov Love.
Catie Miller 01:37
Thanks so much, Kristin, I appreciate you tackling that mouthful.
Kirsten Wyatt 01:41
Today we’ll talk about Catie’s work with the performance, with performance.gov, which provides a window into federal agency’s efforts to deliver a smarter, leaner, and more effective government. And we’ll discuss a shared interest, the concept of Gov Love and how Catie and her team are spreading the love for government this February. But first we’ll get started with a lightning round. Catie, what is your most controversial non political opinion?
Catie Miller 02:08
Ooh, this one might get me kicked off the show, but I think dogs are super cute but a little overrated.
Kirsten Wyatt 02:15
Wow, that’s that’s a bold take. What is your preferred pet then? Or do you have one?
Catie Miller 02:21
We have a bunch of animals in my family actually, but I love cats.
Kirsten Wyatt 02:27
Okay. Okay, we do have some cat lovers in ELGL and in our podcast listener family. So I think that you’re okay for now.
Catie Miller 02:36
All right, good. Thanks.
Kirsten Wyatt 02:38
And what was the first concert that you ever attended?
Catie Miller 02:42
It was Miss Britney Spears.
Kirsten Wyatt 02:44
Oh, wow. Have you watched the new documentary on Hulu yet?
Catie Miller 02:48
I have not. But it’s, I’m ready, like it’s in my queue.
Kirsten Wyatt 02:53
And then last lightning round question, what is a food that most people enjoy, but you do not?
Catie Miller 03:00
Carrots. I’m just simply not a fan.
Kirsten Wyatt 03:03
Even if they’re in like, if they’re in like a sauce or like any sort of like dish or just no carrots whatsoever?
Catie Miller 03:10
I’m cool with them being shredded. But if you go Bugs Bunny on me and just hand me a carrot, I’m not gonna take it.
Kirsten Wyatt 03:18
Alright, so let’s dig into some more important matters. But to get started, tell us about your career path, and how did you get to your current role with GSA?
Catie Miller 03:29
That’s a great question. It’s actually a little unusual to tell you the truth. So I actually was a theater kid. And I was working in social justice theater when I went to go get my master’s in public policy. And when I was completing my master’s I got really interested in working with and serving vulnerable populations. And that led to a fellowship to work for government with HUD specifically.
Kirsten Wyatt 03:57
And tell us more about that decision to make a career pivot from theater to public policy. You know, how did that intersection line up? And how did you make that happen?
Catie Miller 04:08
Yeah, that’s a great question, actually. So I was a dual major. So I was theater and English. And I had been putting myself through school doing a lot of comms work actually, I was a webmaster for my university, I was working with a lot of local theaters and you know, writing press releases, and, you know, being their, their comms manager. And somewhere along the way, I was really starting to focus in on what social justice theater meant to me and really trying to take on projects that I felt made an impact in the community. And after a certain point, I was just like, you know, I really like this and I want to go deeper. So I went and got my masters and in that they actually have a great fellowship program that you can participate in. It’s called the Presidential Management Fellows and I applied and got in so that’s kind of how I got to federal government.
Kirsten Wyatt 05:03
And what, what agencies have you worked with so far in the federal government?
Catie Miller 05:08
So I actually chose to start in the field. And I started with HUD in Portland, Oregon in 2014. And it was working there, that I quickly realized that there were some communication difficulties between headquarters and the field at times. So I really got interested in trying to solve them. And I hadn’t seen comms as you know, a path like a career path for myself. But once that was kind of coupled with policy, I got very interested. And so I was invited to come to DC and continue that work. And so I was with HUD from 2014 to 2018, I believe. Then I took some work at a nonprofit, where I got to lead a comms and strategic engagement team. And they worked with the FCC. So I spent a lot of time working with them. And then I really felt the call to come back to public service. And when GSA offered me this opportunity in August, I just couldn’t say no.
Kirsten Wyatt 06:09
Wonderful. And for our listeners who are not yet aware, tell us more about performance.gov.
Catie Miller 06:17
Sure. So our mission over at performance.gov is to communicate the goals and outcomes of the federal government and what the government’s working to accomplish. I know we’re really big, and it can be really confusing. So we’re showing how it seeks to accomplish these goals. And we talk about agencies and their progress to do that. So we really try to organize all that information and make it accessible and useful to the general public.
Kirsten Wyatt 06:45
I love it. And it’s it’s so similar to what we’re always trying to do with ELGL, which is the highlight innovation and creativity and what goes right, and how to replicate that, and what goes wrong and how to avoid that. So tell us more kind of about how you approach that work to highlight innovation and and the work that’s being done by the federal government?
Catie Miller 07:07
That’s a great question, happy to tackle it. And so glad that you guys are doing that at the local level, because it’s much needed. So we’re, we’re highlighting work that is being done across government by providing support to that work. We’re saying, what can we do to make this happen? We’re writing about it on our blog. And we’re also reporting out, like I said, quarterly on kind of how agencies are doing, the site’s actually the home of the President’s Management Agenda. And so this agenda lays out the long term, and cross cutting goals that the President in the White House decide, are necessary to strengthen our ability to achieve results on behalf of the American people. So our team is working with them to manage the effort. And right now we’re kind of in the midst of a transition, right, so agencies are creating their new strategic plans for the next year, four years. And we’re actually pulling together resources to develop a new President’s Management Agenda soon.
Kirsten Wyatt 08:12
This is definitely an area that many of our listeners will find familiar as they’re heading into a new year, setting up new council goals, new strategic plans for the year for the upcoming biennium. So share with us this concept of strategic planning at the federal level, and so our listeners can easily compare and contrast with what they’re doing in local government right now.
Catie Miller 08:36
Got it. And I’d love to hear from them if they have some tips. So every large federal agency is required by law to have a strategic plan. And this plan should outline their big goals that they want to tackle. So HUD, where I came from, for example, one of their big efforts is around homelessness and working to end homelessness in our communities. So we work here at performance.gov with HUD to collect reporting data on the progress they’re making, and then sharing those results with the general public. We’re really looking to be transparent.
Kirsten Wyatt 09:15
I love it because again, it’s so similar to what smaller units of government are also trying to do, which is to chart a path and then tell a story about how they’re getting there, what resources are being used, and what the community can expect. Anything else to share about your efforts to try to communicate all of these very, you know, big, important projects, just given the diversity of topics that the federal government covers?
Catie Miller 09:47
My goodness, that’s been one of our greatest challenges. So the website is one, we’re definitely present on social media as well through LinkedIn and Twitter, but we’re also working with what we call goal teams. So once, once the goals are established by the agency or by the President’s Management Agenda, we’re really kind of hands on working with those teams to understand what their objective is, and then talk about it. And that’s internally to government, right? Because there’s a there’s not just HUD, there’s GSA, there’s a, you know 19 other cabinet level agencies, I believe. So, you know, we’re really having to talk to each other to make sure we’re all moving in the same direction, and we know what’s going on. And then and then we come to the public and say, hey, Kristin, can we chat or, you know, can, can we have a video about this? Or can you come sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll tell you more?
Kirsten Wyatt 10:43
Part of your efforts to showcase and and shine a light on this work includes something that was an immediate interest to all of us here at ELGL and Gov Love, which is a hashtag campaign called Gov Love. So tell us about this and where it came from and what you’re trying to do.
Catie Miller 11:01
Yes, very much. Okay. So many of you might remember in grade school when paper Valentines were cool. And we used to give them to our classmates. So with Gov Love, we’re really trying to capture that spirit, and share more about the great work and innovation happening across government. And so we’re doing that by sending virtual Valentines on social media, to different agencies and programs whose work we value.
Kirsten Wyatt 11:29
What struck me about your campaign is that you’re really trying to showcase and highlight agencies that many people maybe haven’t heard of before, or, or even just the work that’s happening at the federal government. So tell us more about the types of things you’re trying to showcase and why you think that’s important.
Catie Miller 11:50
Great question. Yeah, we’ve been actually blown away by the response. And we partnered with IRS, for example, because I know they’re usually seen as the big bad wolf. I don’t, you know, I don’t love paying my taxes every April. But they actually have a lot of programs that exists to help small businesses, to help the veterans in our communities. And they’re seeking to highlight some of that through this Gov Love. So you know, we can we can send them a little love right? They’re not completely, completely the bad guys. So we also have partnered with people like the TSA, and the Department of Education. You know, TSA has been sending some love to the Federal Aviation Administration and their work around COVID-19. And, and keeping flights moving and everyone safe. And the Department of Education sent a little love to FASFA. Really, the list just kind of goes on. So what was I think very exciting about it is once we saw this campaign kickoff, last Monday, we saw an influx of additional agencies and programs reaching out to us and asking how to join in the fun. So the VA contacted us and said, How can we talk about electronic records? And why it’s so important to veterans to have those so they can carry it with them wherever they go? And I was like, you know, good question. Let’s talk about that.
Kirsten Wyatt 13:18
I love that. And, and a huge reason that ELGL chooses to focus on the joy in public service. I mean, it’s one of our founding tenants. And one of the things that really, you know, drives a lot of our work is supporting the people who are working in local government, and in your case in federal government, is so important if we’re going to keep talented, amazing people, you know, working in public service and not get them burned out, or, you know, not have them tempted away by, you know, the private sector. share with us some more of those kind of heartwarming stories of Gov Love and of joy that you’re bringing through this work.
Catie Miller 14:01
Sure. And before I do, I just want to note that Gov Love is not limited to federal government, we want all agencies to participate because everyone’s deserving of that love that we’re talking about. And, you know, may feel a little unappreciated at times. So some of the stories we’ve seen so far. Okay, so NASA, they’re sharing their love for STEM, and they provided resource pages for educators around lesson plans and things that they can do to incorporate space into their daily lessons.
Kirsten Wyatt 14:35
Oh, that’s so cool. I love that.
Catie Miller 14:37
I know. It was pretty cool. I wanted to check it out. We have also learned about multiple fellowships and leadership programs for people who are interested in working in government. Truly, there’s a program for everyone, whether you’re in tech, with our Presidential Innovation Fellows, or if you’re in government already. Like there are options that exist that you know, can allow you to come and work and dedicate yourself to public service. And then I wanted to highlight the Office of Evaluation Sciences, here at GSA. They’re full of experts that just are here to conduct studies, and then use the evidence they gather to make government work better for citizens. So recently, they worked with the VA to encourage veterans to sign up for educational opportunities that are available to them. And their work led to more veterans utilizing the GI bill that was released after 9/11 and getting them into post secondary education tracks.
Kirsten Wyatt 15:41
I love how, you know, this hashtag campaign also feeds into your overall goal of trying to showcase and again tell that story of strategic goals and programs and initiatives that are out there that maybe people don’t know as much about. Any other examples of how Gov Love has kind of kickstarted an increased knowledge or awareness of programs at any level of government?
Catie Miller 16:10
Yeah, a fantastic question. I was actually really excited when our first state partner, the Missouri, Missouri Department of Natural Resources reached out and asked to participate in this, because we learned all about their grant program that helps cities evaluate their wastewater systems. And not only did we learn about that program, and the benefits and their commitment to Missouri communities, ensuring that they have quality water, we also learned that part of the funding for the grant program was provided by the EPA. So we, all our work is truly connected. And it was fantastic. Just being able to see and make those connections and the work on the ground through Gov Love.
Kirsten Wyatt 16:53
It just reminds me too, that sometimes, you know, when you have a really good program, or a really good idea, and everything is going right, and it’s not causing any sort of alarming headlines-
Catie Miller 17:03
Kirsten Wyatt 17:04
It can go unnoticed. And, and I’m, and I’m thinking that this is going to help showcase, you know, what’s working in Missouri. And then you have another example I see, you know, from Montana, you know, and how my agencies get great ideas and then be able to run with them from each other.
Catie Miller 17:20
Yeah, I love that Kristen. You know what, it’s silly, but in theater, they talk about the stage manager, right, and how crucial their work is. And if everything goes well, you don’t know that person exists, right. And I think it’s almost the same in government sometimes, like people don’t know, things are going really well and that there are successful programs out there when all they see is potholes or long lines at the DMV, you know? So I think I think you’re exactly right. And it’s that is my hope that we’re able to not only make those connections among ourselves, right, and seeing how all our work is connected, but we’re getting the word out there. So the public sees a little bit, a little bit more of what goes on behind the curtain, and then some good things that are, you know, that they deserve to have and that we’re all working to get them.
Kirsten Wyatt 18:08
Remind us why that is so important. And especially right now, you know, in 2021 in February, why is it important to showcase Gov Love?
Catie Miller 18:19
You know, when Americans were first polled about public trust in 1958, they said that they trusted federal government to do the right thing, almost always or most of the time. And yet since 2007, the share of Americans saying that they can trust government, always or most of the time has not surpassed 30%. And right now, we’re not only facing low public trust, but we’re seeing some low employee morale in government. And I think that’s personally just such a shame because people come to work for government because they believe in public service. And they really want to do good. And it’s unfortunate when you know that work isn’t seen or you know, we’re just all looking at potential mistakes or perceived mistakes, right? So this is our way of really giving thanks and highlighting the work that’s really not visible to the public the majority of the time.
Kirsten Wyatt 19:21
We’ll right back to today’s episode, Gov Love is brought to you by Granicus. Short term rentals or STRs, often found on sites like Airbnb and VRBO are more than just party mansions in LA. Their numbers are growing at a staggering rate in 1000s of communities in North America. So what does this mean for local government? It’s time to act. STRs can be a tremendous source of revenue for local governments or a real community nuisance. It all depends on adopting the right Compliance and Enforcement strategy. To date, over 350 communities have partnered with Granicus on their STR compliance programs, for everything from address and host identification, to ordinance consulting and permitting tools. Interested in learning more about the STR market in your community and how Granicus can help? Visit granicus.com to schedule a free consultation. That’s granicus.com for more information. Now, let’s get back to the show. Do you have any plans for future initiatives, campaigns, kind of continuing this concept of, of lifting up and celebrating government and government employees beyond February? Or can we expect to see more of a shift toward all of the great information that you’re sharing on performance.gov and those types of initiatives?
Catie Miller 20:46
Yeah, so first, we do, we hope to make this an annual thing. But we’re also going to be utilizing Gov Love hashtag throughout the year, here at performance.gov, we’re gonna start highlighting more stories in good government, and we’re actually looking to hear more stories about local government and how that work is related. So I know it’s often difficult to kind of see the relationships that we have together, but they do exist. And we would love to talk about that. So one of the things that I was going to ask, at the end of the show today was, you know, hey, please reach out to us at [email protected] so we can chat and hear what you’re working on. And we can seek to highlight that throughout the year.
Kirsten Wyatt 21:39
And tell us more about that intersection between what some of our local gov listeners and employees might be doing and some of the work at the federal level, and how they might tie into the Gov Love hashtag campaign.
Catie Miller 21:54
Sure. So I mentioned the Office of Evaluation Sciences here at GSA. And again, they’re a bunch of subject matter experts and academics that are in government to just study our programs and figure out how to make them more effective. So OES partnered with the Montana Department of Natural Resources this past year, and they sought together to study the impact of a letter sent to Montana homeowners during wildfire season. And this letter really encouraged homeowners in two different counties in Montana to sign up for an on site wildfire risk assessment. And they also sent, or they sent no letter to some of these other communities, right, they did a mix. And they found that sending the letter to homeowners versus not sending one at all, increased participation in the program by 6.9%. I know that doesn’t sound a lot, but statistically, that’s very significant. So, you know, moving forward, a simple letter may cut down on wildfire risk for the Montana communities, which means that you’re going to have to deploy less local resources, and that people hopefully will not have fire damage their homes. So truly, you know, the connected work we’re talking about.
Kirsten Wyatt 23:10
Absolutely. And I think to being able to extrapolate, you know, kind of those behavioral insights from things as simple as you know, adding one more step to your process, sending a letter. I know we’ve had prior guests on Gov love talking about even the power of a handwritten note over a type letter. All of those are just so fascinating to think about. And again, transferable, you know, regardless of if you’re at the federal level, state level or local level.
Catie Miller 23:38
Absolutely, we have a whole team on customer experience that just looks at those little nudges and behavioral insights that we can, you know, modify to get a desired or positive outcome.
Kirsten Wyatt 23:50
And then, remind us again, how a Gov Love listener can go online when they finish listening to this episode, and send their own Gov Love, Valentine, or Thank you.
Catie Miller 24:02
100%. So they can type in performance.gov. And we have a whole blog post up right now that tells us a little bit more about Gov love and how to reach out. If you prefer to email us directly, we would love to hear from you at [email protected]. And we also welcome you to follow us @performance. gov on Twitter or LinkedIn, or you know, search the hashtag #GovLove and like and share what you’re seeing. If you write us directly though, we will send you templates and chat with you and give you some virtual Valentines that you can send to your communities if you’d like.
Kirsten Wyatt 24:44
Wonderful and for our listeners, we will include all of those links for you on this episode page. And so if you’re listening in your car right now, or if you’re hiding in your closet from your kids and listening, then you can log on to ELGL.org and we’ll have the episode and all of these details in the show notes. And so I do want to ask you one last question. It’s often one of the most challenging Gov Love questions, but one that we ask every guest. If you could be the Gov Love DJ, what song would you pick as our exit music for this episode?
Catie Miller 25:20
Definitely a toughy. But I think we should go retro and play the intro to Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes.
Kirsten Wyatt 25:27
Nice. I don’t think we’ve had a Yes song on our Gov Love DJ wrap up song list. So I applaud you for that choice.
Catie Miller 25:37
Thank you. Thank you. I love the throwback stuff. Boston, Kansas, all the things.
Kirsten Wyatt 25:44
Anything else you’d like to share with us before we end today’s episode?
Catie Miller 25:49
Well, I guess I just wanted to be cheesy and say I’m really glad to all the listeners out there and yourself, Kristen, that were colleagues. I know public service can be challenging, as we’ve just talked about today. And how much of the work we do does go uncelebrated at time, so I want my valentine this year to go out to all of you. And Kristen, Happy Valentine’s to you. To you. and ELGL.
Kirsten Wyatt 26:14
Wonderful Well, thank you so much, and, and thank you for your work on making this happen at the national level and we were so excited to see the use of the hashtag and to find others in government that love government as much as we do and want to find that joy and want to celebrate and and shine on each other across all levels of government. So thanks for your work as well. Again, for our listeners head over to our website, we’ll get you hooked up with all of the resources to create your own Gov love Valentine. A reminder that Gov Love is produced by a rotating cast of ELGL volunteers. You can head to performance.gov to download and share your own Gov love Valentine. ELGL is the Engaging Local Government Leaders network. You can reach us on ELGL.org/GovLove or on Twitter @GovLovePodcast. Thank you for listening. This has been Gov Love, a podcast about local government.