Social media policy and best practices

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 18, 2019

I changed my personal Twitter username a few weeks back. Now you can follow me at @John_D_Lawrence. My old username had included ISU, which I discovered was violating Iowa State policy. (And this was only one of the ways I had been breaking the rules!)

Over the past year, Iowa State’s Office of Internal Audit reviewed ISU Extension and Outreach operations in several areas, including information technology processes and social media protocols. The auditors recommended we set social media policy and best practices related to personal use. The leadership team followed the auditors’ advice and developed a policy and best practices with one goal in mind: to protect the integrity and reputation of our organization and programs.

Did you know? Our new Social Media Personal Usage Policy covers prohibited uses and political activity. Our new Social Media Personal Usage Best Practices includes the purpose, scope and definitions, and a list of best practices for tagging and posting information. (You can download the documents from the links in this message. Staff and faculty also can log in to MyExtension for access to the documents.) I encourage you to read both documents. I also want to call your attention to a few key points.

  • Your social media accounts are personal accounts. This is true for me and for every one of you. If you are posting extension-related content to your personal account, then follow a best practice and add this disclaimer in your bio: The views expressed on this site are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iowa State University (or Iowa 4-H).
  • Don’t use ISU Extension and Outreach or Iowa State University’s trademarks, logos, symbols, names, graphics or service marks in your account name or avatar. This includes using Iowa State University, ISU, Cy, Cyclones, 4-H, the clover or any of the institution’s trademarks.
  • Don’t use your official Iowa State email address for social media purposes unless specifically authorized to do so by ISU Extension and Outreach.
  • The best social media best practice for all of us to follow is to think before we post.

It’s likely our best practices will continue to evolve, just like social media evolves. We will revisit these best practices often and provide updates as needed.

Goodbye … and welcome

In October, we said goodbye to the following individuals who left ISU Extension and Outreach:

  • Alexandria Merk, Boone County executive director.
  • Erin Pedersen, Humboldt County office manager.
  • Courtni Siela, Benton County youth coordinator.

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Lexy Davies, Page County youth coordinator.
  • Evelyn Ganfield, Adams County youth coordinator.
  • Brigham Hoegh, Cass County wellness coordinator.
  • Stephanie Kosman-Baker, Monroe County, AmeriCorps.
  • Denise Lupkes, Lyon County office assistant.
  • Jamie Neff, Palo Alto County program coordinator.
  • Eva Woods, Montgomery County youth coordinator.
  • Alona Zermeno-Lechleidner, Woodbury County, AmeriCorps.
  • Dawn Krause, accountant II, Community and Economic Development.
  • Jonni Lenzini, program assistant II, Conference Planning and Management.
  • Malissa Tritsch, 4-H office manager, 4-H Youth Development.

More notes

  • Resources from County Services are available to councils as they make decisions regarding Structured for Success. County Paid Staffing Structure (June 2018) lists duties, responsibilities, and recommended qualifications for certain job categories. County MOU Shared Services Support has links to FY2020 maximum tax computations and FY2013-2019 annual reports of expenses for centralized services.
  • All extension staff are invited to participate in Epsilon Sigma Phi Alpha Mu Chapter’s book study this winter on “Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight,” by Des Moines psychiatrist Dr. Loren OIson. The book was selected as a way to build inclusivity by learning more about the needs of the LGBTQ community. The cost for extension staff who aren’t ESP members is $20, which includes the book. Participants are encouraged to form small groups to discuss the book during January-March. The study will culminate with a face-to-face discussion with the author on March 31. (This is the day before Annual Conference.) To participate, register online by Dec. 18. For more information, contact Barbara Dunn Swanson, ESP Alpha Mu Chapter president,

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Beyond our silos

John Lawrence’s message from Jan. 14, 2019

Silos are useful for preserving and protecting. You can keep things safe in a literal silo, whether you’re dealing with forage or ballistic missiles. In ISU Extension and Outreach, it’s our metaphorical silos that cause us problems. We get so focused on our own programs and the projects we are working on, that we might not share information beyond our silo walls, or we might not pay attention to what’s going on in the rest of our organization. But there’s a remedy for this condition. Did you know?

  • Each month our extension leadership team prepares a program update. It offers a glimpse of what’s going on in our program areas. You can read the January update on my blog.
  • The leadership team has been providing these monthly updates for about a year and a half now. (If you haven’t been reading them and want to catch up, check the program updates category on my blog.)

During my visits across the state, both staff and councils said they wanted better collaboration across counties, regions and programs; and more effective sharing of ideas, successes and resources. Reading the monthly program update is a quick way to stay informed about what is going on throughout ISU Extension and Outreach, and get beyond our silos. On a related note, the Jan. 10 issue of Inside Iowa State includes a summary article about the regional listening sessions. It may help the campus community get beyond their research and teaching silos to learn about extension!

From Epsilon Sigma Phi: How to Reach Millennials
The Epsilon Sigma Phi national membership, recruitment and retention committee has been discussing how to reach younger colleagues and invite them to join ESP. Our own Sandra McKinnon is a national committee member and shared her research on Millennials’ communication preferences in the recent ESP Connection newsletter. Here are some excerpts from her newsletter article:

Millennials, born in the 1980s and 1990s, are currently 19-38 years old. Millennials are the majority of the workforce, but not the entirety. (Gen X-ers, born between 1965-1980, and Baby Boomers, born between 1946-1964, are in the workforce as well.) Millennials tend to have an aversion to the phone. They find calls disruptive and intrusive. It is best to schedule a call with them; then avoid small talk. For immediate topics, 72 percent prefer texts. There is no universal type of app to use (SnapChat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).

Millennials will do email. It allows them time to think and reply. Many look at emails at night and weekends. If you write an email:

Be short and to the point, not long and complicated.

Be friendly, not stuffy or too professional; avoid “core competencies” kind of wording.

Be clear about what action they need to take. Consider the message as a how-to or a recipe.

Make the message fun, engaging and absorbing.

Use visuals – video, infographics, photos.

Let me take this opportunity to put in a plug for ESP, the professional society of extension workers. It’s the source of the Extension Professional’s Creed that we recite and live every day. Iowa State has a chapter of this national organization that several of our colleagues and I belong to. If you are an extension professional, I encourage you to join us. To learn more about the Iowa chapter of ESP, visit

More notes

  • The Structured for Success committee met Dec. 17. Check the website for a video report and related documents from the meeting.
  • The Internal Communications Task Force met twice in December and once in January. For an update, read the executive summary on Cybox.
  • County Services and 4-H are jointly hosting three webinars this winter on transitioning 4-H club finances to county extension offices. All three webinars intend to cover the same topics, but Q&A will be live and we encourage questions. All staff with 4-H, and bookkeeping and administrative staff are invited to attend. Webinars will be held Jan. 31 at 9 a.m., Feb. 21 at 10 a.m. and March 26 at 1 p.m. via Adobe Connect, Sessions also will be recorded.
  • In December, 42 county staff members began serving as website ambassadors in a new pilot program. Website ambassadors will train new content editors in their region, become a first line of support for other content editors, have direct communication with Extension Information Technology and other campus partners, and relay necessary information to others in their regions. The list of ambassadors and more information about the program is available in MyExtension.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Other duties as assigned

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 23, 2017

About 100 office professionals representing all areas of ISU Extension and Outreach and from throughout the state will be coming to Ames later this week for the Office Professionals Conference. We are pleased to offer them this professional development opportunity.

“Office professional” must be one of the most far-ranging job categories we have in ISU Extension and Outreach. Did you know?

  • According to Human Resources Coordinator Kaela Black, job titles within the category include office assistant, office manager, bookkeeper and administrative assistant. You’ll also find secretaries, administrative specialists, account clerks and others.
  • Currently 147 county paid employees work in an office professional role throughout the state. Another 27 employees serve as office professionals on campus.
  • An office professional’s responsibilities may include answering client questions on the phone or face to face and maintaining payroll information and fiscal and other records. On any given day, these staff members may order supplies, organize volunteers, update databases or certify manure or pesticide applicators. Their work even may include occasional heavy lifting – of files, books, stacking chairs, meeting room tables and whatever else might need to be moved. (Then the rest of us expect them to know where everything is!)

And of course, office professionals have “other duties as assigned” as they work together with everyone else in the office to make sure that the people they serve have access to Iowa State’s research and resources. They are often the first contact between the public and ISU Extension and Outreach. We appreciate their skills, their professionalism and their commitment to Iowans. We can’t be a 99 county campus without them.

A couple more notes

  • We also appreciate our first cohort of mentors who took part in continuing professional development last week. While it is everyone’s responsibility to make our organization a rewarding and enjoyable place to work, these mentors will be guiding our new colleagues and helping them launch successful careers. They are committed to ensuring our culture continues in the next generation of ISU Extension and Outreach. Our second cohort of mentors will begin their training in our next Mentor Academy, Nov. 28-29.
  • The Epsilon Sigma Phi Annual Meeting is Oct. 26, 9-11 a.m. via Adobe Connect. ESP focuses on fostering excellence in the Cooperative Extension System and developing extension professionals. Annual ESP members have voting privileges, but all extension staff members are invited to attend and learn more about the organization.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach


Our creed

John Lawrence’s message from July 24, 2017

I can’t let July pass by without acknowledging a special anniversary. For 90 years the Extension Professional’s Creed has been the official creed of Epsilon Sigma Phi, the national extension fraternity. It likely was a hot day in Reno back in July 1927 when the creed was adopted at ESP’s first national council meeting. Did you know?

  • ESP founder W. A. Lloyd prepared the original creed as a New Year’s greeting to county agricultural agents. It’s included in the 1952 book “The Spirit and Philosophy of Extension Work,” edited by Iowa State’s own R.K. Bliss.
  • The creed is older than Iowa State’s Alpha Mu Chapter of ESP, which was established Oct. 30, 1928.
  • “The Extension Worker’s Creed,” as it was originally titled, focused on agriculture. As extension work has developed and expanded over the years, the creed has been revised from time to time to reflect changes in societal values, educational trends and federal laws.

We recite the creed together during our annual conference once a year. But we live the creed every day. I keep a framed copy above my desk, and oftentimes I’ll find myself reflecting on its message. I believe that when we provide individuals with the best information, they will make the decision that’s not only best for them, but for their community and for society as a whole.

I’ve been an extension professional my entire career. My first job out of graduate school was with University of Minnesota Extension. I was up there for about a year and a half before an opening came up at Iowa State. (I’ve been back on campus since July 1, 1991.) I’m passionate about ISU Extension and Outreach because of what we accomplish. I see our colleagues out there doing great things every day, bringing research based information and knowledge to Iowans. Whether we’re working with communities, families, youth or agriculture, ISU Extension and Outreach is making a difference in our state. We’re having an impact on people’s lives.

The Extension Professional’s Creed is a touchstone that can help all of us stay grounded. So when you’re having a good day or a not-so-good day, read the creed and remind yourself why you are part of ISU Extension and Outreach, why you’re passionate about your work, and why we all do what we do, together.

One more thing: Areas of abnormally dry and moderate drought are expanding across Iowa. To help you respond to questions you may be asked, we’ve updated our webpage, Dealing with Drought 2017. You’ll find links to current educational resources from ISU Extension and Outreach, Extension Disaster Education Network and other partners.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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