Like it or not, I'm back for more in this series about How to Fix Extension. Here are three ideas I'd like to share:
1. Every Extension professional must become a social media expert. For many Extension professionals the excuse is, wait, here it is, "I don't have enough time." Yeah, I don't either. I have to make time because I understand it is the future of communication. The infrastructure is in place for you and I to reach and serve more people than any Extension agent ever could in the past 100 years. I am constantly studying how I can better use these new mediums to my advantage. Now, I realize I am different. If you're reading my blog, you are too. For many stragglers, it will never be a priority unless it's made a priority. I'm going to make a wild statement:
Every Extension professional needs to have at least a 10% social media appointment.
I actually made this statement to my previous dean a year ago and she gave me this look that said, "You're job is teach your county, not play on Facebook." I realize this may never happen, but if we ever want to take our impacts to the next level we must be proactive in our approach to disseminate Extension's research-based information. It's no longer about Push anymore, it's about Pull. We need to reevaluate all our information and determine how we can chop it up into micro messages and share it in caring ways.
It's so important that we become social media experts. It's a new frontier and who better to boldly go, where...man already is...than Extension (pardon the Stark Trek reference, I just watched Into Darkness for the 8th time). This means starting with why. This means actually caring about people. This means telling authentic stories over the relevant mediums we have available in 2013, not 2007, 2013 (think Snapchat, Vine, Instagram).
2. Every Extension professional must register with the eXtension.org "Ask an Expert" system. This is a remarkable system that isn't broken. In Utah, only 3% of our Extension faculty have set-up their Ask an Expert profile and started answering questions from the public. Clients from Utah are asking questions and agents from other states are responding because we don't understand and appreciate this tool. How's it working in your state?
The public is becoming more aware of Ask an Expert, but we need more Extension professionals to get on board and start sharing answers with the public in this system as well as over social networks, on blogs, and face-to-face. This system is scalable and we we need to utilize its infrastructure to answer the public's questions before a snake oil salesman does. Every Extension professional needs to be a brand ambassador for eXtension.org.
3. Every Extension professional must become Mo-Savvy. How can we be agents of change if we're tied to a desk? We have to be out amongst our clients and still be connected. I am always on-the-go, if I didn't have my iPhone 5 with unlimited talk, text, and data I couldn't be as productive.
If you're still using a dumb phone, you're behind. Now is the time to catch up. Saying, "I'm just not a techy person," is not an excuse. We are agents of change, adapt or find a new job. A smartphone and tablet are more useful to an Extension professional than a desktop computer. We must be equipped with the latest and greatest tablets with 4G and smartphones with unlimited talk, text and data. Down the road we'll all need wearable tech like Google Glass. You laugh now, but just you wait. It's coming. How many veteran agents said they'd never get a cell phone back in the 90's? Now, you probably no longer have a land line and are texting frequently. It's time.
If you're not equipped with a smartphone and tablet, you're handicapped. Petition your county and university for the tools you need to do your job in the 21st century.
Mobile technology allows us to share wherever we are. We have to get in the habit of using social media in the field. As we're out serving clients think about how many other people in your county, state, and nation could use the same help? If you can snap a picture of that weed, that invasive species, or that pasture, sharing your expertise and insight, how many more people could you help? How many more people will recognize and associate the Extension brand with trust?
Smartphones can do more than allow you to check your email on the road. iPads are for more than playing bejeweled (I always see agents playing this game at conferences). If you're already mobile, then download a ton of apps and spend time figuring out how they work, inside and out. On a daily basis I use Dropbox, Google Drive, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Google Hangouts, Picstitch, Rhonna, LinkedIn, Feedly, Pinterest, Snapchat, Asana, Evernote, Google, Maps, Podcast, YouTube, SlideShark, TED Talks, iTunes U, Reminders, Notes, calculators, unit converters, mobile banking, and stock market apps just to name a few.
There are a handful of Extension professionals whom I've met over Twitter that are upending the status quo in Cooperative Extension. For David Doll, Victor Villegas, Anne Mims Adrian, Jim Langcuster, and Jamie Seger it's not business as usual. They are the outliers. They will not accept average. They overpower their lizard brain. They use bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And they take their work personally.
I want to know about your ideas and what you are doing. Please tweet me or find me on Instagram and lets share. I want to fix Extension (#FixExt) together.