I have just come across a document titled “Template Twitter strategy for Government Departments“. The document is prepared by Neil Williams — Head of corporate digital channels at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (@neillyneil). There is also a blog about its release which makes an interesting read for those who would like to follow the thinking behind the publication of this document.
Over the last couple of years online engagement has matured from initial experiments to a broad range of proven methods. While the technologies and practices still have to prove whether they can handle the scale of engagement on a national level, online engagement has now become mainstream in government, business and non-profit work.
Rather than replacing traditional face-to-face approaches to civic engagement, the Web has added new tools to the toolkit, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
[excerpt from Promising Practices in Online Engagement. download PDF]
Ragan Communications and Pollstream conducted a study and recently published a report about the importance of press releases. Ragan quote Vanessa Horwell, chief visibility officer for ThinkInk saying that between 55 percent to 97 percent of press releases sent to media outlets are never acted upon. Horwell observes that “we need to create interest first, but people keep pushing out press releases because companies think that the more they’re sending out, something’s going to stick”. The observation about creating interest is what is truly interesting in the context of the hype around social networking.
The press is undoubtedly a very important player in the formation of public opinion about anything! But, can it be argued that the demand for a particular news is now also affected by what bloggers and Facebookers are pushing? A Consumer Intelligence report published by market research organisation MRI shows that 16.1% of those aged 25-34 have visited a blog in the last 30 days. This is a very relevant portion, considering that 74.1% of the U.S. population uses the Internet. But blogs and social media generally also have a captive audience with a steady decrease in activity amongst higher age groups. Does the press pay attention to what’s going on in the online channels before deciding what goes to print? Should communications offices be more intelligent in combining press releases with research of what’s being said online and through active blogging?
And a word about how this fits in Gov 2.0!
Governments worldwide are blamed for not interacting enough – communication is seen to be one way (as with a press release!). The European Commission’s webpage about the eParticipation Information Day which took place in July hints that “perhaps voters feel … that their concerns and opinions are not being listened to or acted upon.” In a society where Governments are striving to give voters the right degree of involvement in the policy-shaping process, how should Governments use the press in best combination with the online social media? There is never one magic formula. But what makes a news item interesting is definitely that it is credible, well targeted and articulated in a way that makes its content valuable to its recipient.
The abovementioned Ragan report states that the study also shows that 45 percent of respondents believe that press releases are losing relevance because of the growth of social media. Furthermore, 23 percent blamed the decline on the demand for a more trustworthy and/or engaging information source. Does that mean that if Government communications offices used the social media better, they would recapture a sizeable portion of those who are hooked to newer media? Is social media more engaging? Does its open, interactive nature make it more trustworthy?
The press release is not dead and it won’t die but communication certainly needs to change!
The crinkling and crankling of the Web 2.0 wrapper is so loud now that, for governments to remain relevant they also also need to be in-step with this ongoing transformation. Soon I will be posting a feature on governments riding the digital wave but I had to get this video out to you as soon as I came across it.
Back in June (2009) the new Rudd administration in Australia set up the Government 2.0 Taskforce. The video below was created for a presentation to the Minister for Australian Capital Territory. In the words of those who uploaded it on YouTube it seeks to communicate some of the “life reflecting art, reflecting life” aspects of Web 2.0 and modern culture.
You go forth and ride… You ride that Internet…
The last decade has seen an evolution in terms of the participatory role of the Internet user in the lives of other users. The evolution has been brought about by what Tim O’Reilly termed Web 2.0 (2005). O’Reilly discovered the rising phenomenon, tagged it as Web 2.0, and analysed the success factors which characterise some of its most successful products – FlickR, Wikipedia, blogs, syndication etc… Governments have been slow to adapt and have traditionally been stuck in the Web of hyperlinks, venturing slowly to RSS feeds but staying away from blogs and social networking which are probably deeemed to need a degree of control before they can be used safely in an e-Government context.
Governments have not yet jumped on to the Web 2.0 bandwagon… but SocialGov.EU (http://www.socialgov.eu/) is knocking at their door! This new social networking site markets itself as the “Social Networking for the EU27 and beyond” and as yet, has but a few enthusiastic members from Malta. However, it promises to bring together stakeholders interested in Europe’s governments from across the continent and probably beyond its shores.
(blogged on http://www.ePractice.eu 31/10/2009)