Video contest inspires public to answer GSA's everyday questions

Monday - 12/5/2011, 10:35am EST

Jessica Milcetich, social media strategist, General Services Administration

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By Michael O'Connell
Web Editor
Federal News Radio

Gazillions of ears and eyeballs listen to and view YouTube videos every day. For the General Services Administration, that's a good reason to have government information posted on the popular video website. For the second year, GSA has sponsored a contest in which both professional and amateur film-makers create short videos about government services.

"We wanted the public to help us to create videos that answered some of the most common questions we get about government benefits and services," said Jessica Milcetich, the social media strategist with GSA. She appeared Monday on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris. "We figured asking the public is a great way because they're the ones that actually have these questions and provide the answers."

The requirements for the contest were simple: videos had to be short, between 30-90 seconds in length and they had to be based on data provided at Answers.usa.gov. Entries focused on answering questions in five categories.

"It was up to them to take the creative element and kind of run with it and make it into a fun, educational and informative video," Milcetich said.

GSA received approximately 50 entries, which were evaluated by a panel of judges made up of people who answer questions from the public about the government every day. This came in handy with the first requirement — accuracy.

"We want the videos to be able to help the public," Milcetich said, "so we had to make sure that everything in the videos were correct."

Next, judges evaluated the videos on their entertainment value and whether they would hold the viewer's interest. Eventually, the judges were able to winnow the list down to the five best, with each of the winners receiving a $1,000 prize.

"One of the videos we got was dealing with the question of how do you change your address with all the government agencies when you move," Milcetich said.

The winning video showed two children getting into a fight with their parents, moving to a treehouse in the backyard and registering the treehouse's address with the Postal Services and other federal agencies. "It was a fun way to show how easy it is to change your address once," she said. "It was a nice creative take on it."

All of the winning videos are currently available to view at faq.challenge.gov. According to Milcetich, GSA hopes to embed the videos on its faq database, so that when people come seeking an answer, they'll have the choice of reading the answer in text or viewing it on one of the videos.

"While we at GSA.gov don't have concrete plans right now for another challenge in the works, GSA is committed to doing more challenges in the new year," she said. "You can definitely expect to see lots of new opportunities for more challenges coming in 2012."

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