Moderating the Social Media Marketplace of Ideas

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director

Blog button medWhen we launched this blog nearly five years ago, we thought it would be a great vehicle for informing the public of the NRC’s activities. We also expected that the comments feature might be a new channel for dialogue with our readers.

On the first goal, we believe, the blog is a resounding success. We have posted more than 600 posts on a whole range of subjects, which, we think, have provided additional insight and understanding into the NRC as a whole, as well as into the actions we take and decisions we make.

With the comment section, we’re not so sure. One recent commenter observed: It soon becomes obvious to the casual reader that a short list of the usual suspects come here for no other purpose than to disrupt the conveyance of information from the regulator to the public.

And it is true that a small number of people submit a substantial number of comments to our blog. It’s also true that they tend toward the critical. (Six individuals account for 40 percent of the most recent 1,000 comments.)

As we approach the blog’s fifth anniversary, we have considered various changes — including the possibility of closing the comment function (as many federal blogs do).

We were reluctant to do this because of the NRC’s commitment to openness and transparency. We here in the Office of Public Affairs, which administers this blog, are proud to deal daily and forthrightly with members of the media and public who call, email, or post comments asking questions about the NRC’s activities.

We also decided at this time not to change our comment guidelines. We already ask that submitters refrain from personal attacks – and while some comments may come close to that line – the vast majority of comments submitted are approved and posted.

In the end, we decided it is important for now to keep the platform open to all points of view – even those critical of us or with which we might disagree. We do continue to ask for civility, though. And we hope that an expanded number of blog readers will see fit to contribute to the comment dialogue.

We will continue to try to address direct questions posed in comment, and to occasionally point out factual errors in comments. We will continue to refrain, however, from weighing in on every comment discussion. We feel it more appropriate for the blog visitors to be given the opportunity to share their views civilly with us and each other.

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions on how to improve the blog.

The Open Forum is Open for Business

Holly Harrington
Blog Moderator

communicationwordcloudWe created the Open Forum section of the NRC blog more than four years ago. It was not part of our original plan, but our blog comment guidelines stipulated that comments needed to be related to the topic of the post to which they are submitted. We quickly realized there were a number of comments being submitted that didn’t adhere to this guideline and would have therefore not been posted, but otherwise met the comment criteria. And we wanted to be able to post them. So we decided we needed a place where anyone could bring up any topic they wish (related to the NRC).

And so the Open Forum section was created.

Since its creation there have been more than 300 submitted comments on a wide range of topics including climate change, nuclear power’s future and solar storms.

Comments on the Open Forum (as with the rest of the blog) are moderated and must adhere to the Comment Guidelines. Otherwise, the platform is open for any NRC-related topic you’d like to bring up or to comment on. It’s important to note that blog comments are not considered formal communication with the NRC. Questions and concerns can always be submitted in a variety of formal ways. Safety or security allegations should not be submitted via the blog, and will not be posted if submitted. For more information, go here.

You can easily find the Open Forum section listed on left side of every page of the blog. You can also sign up to receive notice of new comments to the section by clicking on “Reply” at the bottom of the comments and then clicking the “Notify me of new comments via email” box.

Celebrating a Facebook Milestone

Stephanie West
Public Affairs Specialist for Social Media

Facebook1Now we can start measuring the life of our official NRC Facebook page in years. One year ago we published our very first Facebook post. In that welcome message we said we were excited about using our new platform to enhance interaction with the public. We think we’ve had some success in this area. Our posts are certainly viewed and shared by the Facebook community, our links are clicked, and some of our posts prompt comments.

So far, about 1,900 people have liked our page, and more than 17,000 have engaged with our content in some way.

Though some ideas for content have been less popular than others, we’re enjoying the process of learning what our audience finds most interesting. For example, we’ve discovered that people are most engaged with our Facebook posts that highlight and link back to this blog. That’s important to us because we see that our strategy to cross-pollinate our social media platforms is effective. It broadens our audience. After all, we want to reach as many people as possible.

Also well-received are posts that leverage the popularity of social media trends like Throwback Thursday and those that shine a spotlight on the people who make up our organization. We’re learning that our audience is best served by a mix of content that covers both the serious and complex nature of our mission, and which allows us to be a little more lighthearted. Check out the post we published on July 15 recognizing National Ice Cream Month, and how the NRC has a hand in making this delicious treat.

We’ve been using social media for several years now, but we are just getting our feet wet with social networking. So we’ll keep plugging away trying to refine our communications on Facebook and our other platforms to best inform, engage and expand our community.


Come visit us on Facebook!

Stephanie West
Social Media Public Affairs Specialist

FacebookLogo(1)We are always looking for fresh ways of sharing information about our activities with the public. And the rise of social media has provided us an array of tools to expand our interactions, and reach new and ever-growing audiences.

But as a government agency, we take a deliberative approach to doing something new. We launched this blog more than three years ago, started tweeting later in 2011, and in 2012, debuted our YouTube channel and moved our extensive photo collection to Flickr.

Today we’re expanding our social media presence by launching the official NRC page on Facebook. We hope you will check it out, like us and visit often—we have lots of interesting things planned. We’d also like to hear from you. Comment on our posts, and send your ideas and questions to us at At least once a month we’ll host an open forum and we welcome your input.

As we said when we launched our blog, social media is not the place for formal communications with us. Visit our website,, for further information on interacting with the NRC in an official way. If you have a safety concern, you can contact us here.

We are excited about using this new tool and hope to hear from you on Facebook!

Let’s Chat – What Are Your Thoughts?

Holly Harrington
Senior Advisor
Office of Public Affairs

The NRC launched a pilot of a new social media platform – Let’s Chat – in April. It’s somewhat similar to this blog, but it Picture1features a real-time discussion on a specific issue with an NRC expert responding to the questions.

So far, we’ve held three Chats – on the history of nuclear power in the U.S., on the Japan Lessons Learned Directorate and its activities, and on the role of the resident inspector. We appreciate everyone who has stopped by and sent us a question. (By the way, they are archived on the site.)

Our next session is today from 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern with Len Wert, from our Region II office in Atlanta. He will speak about his experiences during the many hurricanes he’s dealt with, as well as how nuclear power plants are built to withstand a whole host of severe weather events.

Now we’d like some feedback from you. Have you been to a Chat? What did you think? Are the times and days of the week convenient?

We also like to hear your topic suggestions. We do have some limitations on topics for the Chat. It’s not the place for regulatory issues currently before the Commission or likely to come to the Commission, for example, or actively being adjudicated. But if you suggest a topic and we can make it work, we’ll put it on the schedule.

Thanks for your input!

Let’s Chat – Coming Soon to the NRC

Holly Harrington
Senior Advisor

Picture1The NRC is expanding its social media program next week by launching a pilot of a live discussion platform known as NRC Chat. The first Chat is scheduled for April 30 at 2 p.m. EST on the subject of history of U.S. nuclear power with the NRC’s historian, Tom Wellock.

The Chat is similar to the existing NRC blog, and is also hosted on WordPress, but it features a real-time discussion. Each one-hour Chat session will focus on a specific issue with an NRC expert responding to the questions. Some sessions we hope to hold in the future will include such topics as Japan “lessons learned” activities, hurricane preparedness and “waste confidence.”

Chat addresses a key element in NRC’s Open Government Plan — enhancing the agency’s communication with the public and other stakeholders through the use of social media technologies. Information on Chat comment guidelines is here.

We’ll post the future schedule and topics soon, and will always tweet reminders. We expect to hold two Chat sessions a month for about six months. We’ll then evaluate the platform, and solicit your input.

You can submit questions early by sending them to Please put CHAT in the subject line.

We hope to see you at the Chat!

Happy New Year and Some NRC Blog Updates

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director

newyearMH900190865Two years ago, at the end of this month, the NRC made its first foray into social media with this blog. We didn’t know what to expect, but we knew we needed a new way to provide information to the public about – and explanations of – the important, but frequently complex and technical activities of the agency.

We were pleased with the initial interest in the blog, which sky-rocketed during the March 2011 events in Japan, and which spiked again during the August 2011 earthquake in Virginia and this fall’s Hurricane Sandy. Some stats for 2012: we put up 138 posts and approved 893 comments, and got some 126,000 views. And we have 700+ subscribers.

Also during those 12 months, the NRC sent out 540 tweets (to 2,996 followers), posted 47 videos on YouTube (which got 17,170 views) and posted 1,100 photos on Flickr, with 93,000 views. We are continuing to look at new ways to make our social media program interesting and relevant to you, and we may have some news in that regard later in the year. So stay tuned.

We are making a few small changes to the blog for 2013. We’ll be using more specific tags to make it easier to find our content. We’re also moving the bylines up to the top, so you’ll know right away who has authored the post. And when we can, we’ll be adding more links and more interactive content.

We hope to continue to see the lively conversations in the comments to our posts. We approve and post comments several times a day to reduce delaying the conversation. In only a few instances, we have not approved comments because they didn’t meet our blog comment guidelines. If the comment is determined to be an allegation, for example, it will not be posted (but you will be contacted by our allegations team.) If your comment is a personal attack, we also cannot post it. Some comments lately have drifted into this category, so we ask that you be respectful to other commenters and their points of view so that we can approve your comments.

Also remember that comments need to be related to the post under which they are submitted. If they’re not, we’ll move them to the Open Forum section. We encourage you to post there when there’s something you want to talk about, but about which there is no recent post.

Which brings me to my last point. We would love to know what you’d like us to cover for the new year. What topics are of interest to you? What do you want to know more about – or perhaps get a plain language explanation of? Please let us know in the comment section below and we’ll try to tailor future content to your needs.

Happy New Year to you, and thank you for reading the NRC’s blog.