Guest Blogger: Mark McCaskill

Mark McCaskill

This week’s guest blogger brings insight from an arena that we haven’t dabbled in too much…organizations that serve our communities.  Mark McCaskill works at an agency where my husband is a volunteer.  I know from hearing about what is going on at the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission that these folks work very hard help make the best use of resources.

What social media platforms are you on?  And how do you use social media? 

I am mostly on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  I will answer the questions from both the professional and the personal perspectives.  The two perspectives can reinforce each other.  For example I can personally “like,” “share,” or “forward” something that my work put out on a social media channel in order to help create a critical mass.

Professionally, I am a department Director of the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) function of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC).  I know that is a mouthful.  It essentially means that RVARC is the lead staffing agency and fiscal agent for the RVTPO which is governed by a separate Policy Board.  RVARC has other functions and programs and there is an Executive Director of the larger agency whom I report to.  In our case the RVTPO has a Twitter account @roanokempo and a Transportation Blog (  RVARC has a Facebook Page.  There are LinkedIn Groups that serve the statewide association of Planning District Commissions (RVARC) and statewide association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (RVTPO).  As you can see, Social Media is an Omni-channel world.  There are various nested and intertwined options.

What platforms do you feel are the best to engage your audience or ideal client?  

As a public sector agency, at a basic level the entire citizenry is our audience.  Unlike a private business, we cannot “fire customers” and send them to our “competition.”  Also, we are not seeking a “financial transaction” like a private business, instead we seek feedback, cooperation, information and co-creation of value from citizens and communities.  That said, there are some populations, who may be traditionally underrepresented in the public involvement process and to whom we would like to make a special outreach effort.  Often these populations are busy working multiple jobs or have other barriers to physically showing up at public meeting.  Social Media holds great promise to reaching more groups and communities.  However, as previously noted Social Media is a very rich but fragmented Omni-Channel World.  This makes matching Social Media channel to target community very challenging.  So far, we have not adequately solved this puzzle.  We often pursue a hybrid approach in which we print paper surveys that also have an electronic survey link or have printed links to webpages, twitter accounts or Facebook pages.  Not everyone is on Social Media, despite popular assertions, and paper still plays a role.

Share one or a few things that have surprised you about using social media.

I was surprised by what is often called “content shock.”  Since Social Media is open and accessible by design, there is a lot of noise out there.  It is very difficult to get what some would consider “serious content” noticed.  We can try to be accessible, but in the end, there is no way to deliver the long-range plan in the form of a cat video.  It is difficult to get critical mass and any sort of viral sharing when we are dealing with public policy and long-range planning.  The only exception seems to be when something in controversial.  Controversial subjects go viral on their own.

Thank you!

Thank you Mark for taking time out of your day to share your social media point of view. Each of our guests have so much to offer to the readers on how they use this tool to spread their message.

We love to hear from the readers here.  If you have any comments, suggestions, or if there is a topic you would like for me to explore please add a comment in the box below.


Mary Lu

Mary Lu Saylor

Connect with me:  


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Twitter: @marylusaylor

Instagram: @marylusaylor

Mary Lu Saylor is an Emmy-award winning journalist who spent 30 years in the television news business. Her experience includes work as a videographer, newscast video editor, and ultimately as the newsroom Assignment Manager at WSPA-TV in Spartanburg, SC. Mary Lu is currently pursuing her passion of social media, which began during her years at WSPA-TV. She is a Social Media Specialist with


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