Interior Dept. digital strategist talks importance of communication

Gigi Schumm welcomes Danielle Brigida, Interior Department's social media guru, to talk about how digital tools can advance your career, and your agency.

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On this week’s episode of Women of Washington, Gigi Schumm welcomed Danielle Brigida, the acting deputy director of digital strategy at the Interior Department. Previously, she served for four years as social media manager for the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. Her Digital.Gov bio says she’s “a wildlife geek who loves being outside and playing online with purpose.”

Danielle Brigida, acting deputy director of digital strategy for the Interior Department

Brigida said a lot of her day-to-day activities center on content creation for the agency’s social media channels, as well as keeping an eye on analytics — usually via Google — to help develop a strategy of how best to reach their followers. The Interior Department’s mission is a unique one, she said, and their digital strategy is focused mainly on how the agency can open better communication lines to promote the public lands it manages.

Moving from a smaller agency to a department-wide position is often a large jump that comes with a lot more responsibility. Brigida said through the transition she was able to really get to know Interior, all of its bureaus and its broader scope.

“We’re nicknamed the department of ‘everything else’, I think,” she said. “Because we do cover a lot of ground. I think the difference is just the broader mission and how we kind of incorporate those messages in a way that makes sense for our audience … and how you can really actually communicate, not just say words at them, but really talk with them and hear them too.”

Her team is currently focused on two main objectives with the digital strategy: Providing updated technology to all of the bureaus and programs, and problem-solving. She said one of the biggest things she wants people to walk away with when coming to the Interior social media pages is to see the progress the department has made and what they’re continuing to do to ensure public lands and programs flourish.

Those channels also make it easier for Interior officials to interact with the public and receive their feedback.

A graduate of Christopher Newport University, Brigida studied technical writing. She said if she hadn’t joined the federal workforce, her career would still center on content creation, or writing. In the field of digital media, she said it’s important to have both a creative and analytical side.

“Some days, I’m really trying to stick to creative, [and] it’s actually really challenging to balance between the two,” she said.

If her resume didn’t already reflect her interest in nature, one of her hobbies will. Brigida said she likes to go birding during the weekends, as her parents instilled a love for animals and the environment in her from a young age. She also enjoys sketching and has recently picked up the guitar.

Sometimes even a digital strategist needs a break from the online world.

“I try and get outside, but a lot of my fun, personal time is actually doing stuff that relates to work. That’s just kind of part of it,” she said. “A lot of people worry about work-life balance, and that’s certainly a concern of mine, mostly because digital is all so engrossing and people are spending so much time on their phones. So when I go birding, most of how I interact with digital is just taking photos … I try and step away from electronics when I can.”

Career progression, advice

Brigida started using social media in the same way most did, via Myspace and Facebook. She was also part of the Ecology Club which used these free channels to keep in contact — and work to get recycling on campus.

This led her to join the National Wildlife Foundation, where she worked for eight years and which she said was just like one big ecology club. Brigida stressed pursuing a career path that you actually like.

“I think if there’s something you’re really good at or if there’s something you like doing, you should do more and find ways to do more of it, even if it’s not necessarily paid,” she said. “I think the expectation that we’re all going to always love our job and never find it to be work is not a great message for millennials.”

All jobs have highs and lows. Identifying where you can add the most value and not being afraid to ask questions are two important skills to have when working for a government agency, or in general.

When she first began her social media journey in the workplace, people were often confused on its purpose. Brigida said there is always value when opening the communication lines between a company or agency and it’s stakeholder.

“Follow-up and follow-through is really the key — then recognizing and thanking people as you go as much as possible,” she said. “I always want that gratitude to shine through my work. I hope that it does.”

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