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16th September, 2009

With a general election in the UK less than a year away, I’m fascinated to see how it will play out online, with digital media and social media at a vastly advanced stage compared to 2005, and with Obama’s ‘social media victory’ still fresh in our minds.

As Jon Bernstein points out “remember that when the 2005 General Election campaign kicked off, YouTube was barely a month old.”

So, it was interesting to see the above video as a taste of things to come. It’s going to be an interesting 10 months…

hat tip

continue reading: How the (online) general election will be fought?...

10th June, 2009

The Twitterverse was today privy to a debate that, in pre micro-blogging days, might well have taken place behind closed doors.

The Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger and outspoken Labour MP (and blogger/Twitterer) Tom Watson engaged in a bit of tweeting on the subject of the Guardian’s treatment of Gordon Brown and Rusbridger’s own anti-Labour editorial last week:

Oh to be a fly on the wall at that morning conference (the daily meeting where the paper’s editors gather to discuss and plan the day’s coverage).

Later, Rusbridger also confirmed that Watson would be writing for the paper tomorrow as well:

Great to watch the media v politics drama unfolding and kudos to the two protagonists both for the offer and the acceptance!

Read the coverage of the story on the Guardian and Journalism.co.uk

continue reading: Ding ding – Rusbridger v. Watson...

3rd May, 2009

Yesterday on the Guardian website, Hazel Blears sent out a (thinly) veiled criticism of Gordon Brown and, in particular, his recent YouTube video (above), the reception to which has been pretty poor to say the least.

Blears comments:

“People want to look their politicians in the eyes and get their anger off their chests. We need a ministerial “masochism strategy”, where ministers engage directly and hear the anger first-hand. I’m not against new media. YouTube if you want to. But it’s no substitute for knocking on doors or setting up a stall in the town centre.”

In uttering this statement, Blears demonstrates her ignorance of social media (done properly). Say what you like about her communication strategy (some think this was a perfectly timed outburst for the Blarite, others feel it will do her own career a great deal of damage), but her real attack here is not against YouTube, but against the way it has been used.

Pick the right medium for the right person for the right message

Putting Gordon Brown on YouTube, where he clearly doesn’t feel comfortable, is as much a mistake of his publicists and spin doctors than anyone else. And the above is essentially political suicide. Especially when the comparisons with Mr Obama are plain and just too easy to make. That is a battle the PM is never going to win.

So perhaps Blears is onto something. Brown should focus on what he knows and is comfortable doing. Whatever you think of his policies (and I fear he won’t last the summer), you have to admit that this does him no favours at all.

I don’t want to suggest that politicians should focus on trying to become public-friendly celebrities or that they should be PR-ed to the hilt (that did and didn’t work for Tony Blair). But a little bit of positive coverage could be vital for the beleaguered PM.

Thought leadership without a thought leader

But then perhaps the problem lies deeper. Perhaps this isn’t about mediums or personalities.

As PRs and marketers, we are all working with what we have. Is everything marketable? Only to a certain extent. Don’t expect someone to write about your product if its not a purple cow. You can’t sustain thought leadership without a thought leader.

Far too often, we try and take something mediocre and put a (false) gloss on it. Sometimes it works, usually it doesn’t. And you feel that part of the ‘bad press’ the PR and marketing industries get is purely down to this.

And, increasingly, social media is being seen as a magic wand for this stuff. Traditional techniques aren’t working, so let’s just set up a YouTube channel or start twittering or blogging.

This is a dangerous strategy, where the ‘online world’ is less forgiving; Number 10 has been forced to close comments on the above video! This is especially dangerous. Why use social media if you disable the ‘social’ element. And this from a government that harps on about transparency.

The desires of Ms Blears – We need a ministerial “masochism strategy”, where ministers engage directly and hear the anger first-hand – is easier to do with social media than anywhere else. But not when the strategy and its output is so shortsighted.

So what does this tell us about the above video, the Prime Minister and the current government?

Something is wrong here. Is it the message? The messenger? Or the medium? I expect YouTube will still be around, long after the current PM and his policies have been confined to the history books.

continue reading: Oi Blears! Dont blame the medium...

1st February, 2009

“Our digital networks will be the backbone of our economy in the decades ahead. We know that every aspect of our lives – every school, every hospital, every workplace and even every home – will depend on the services the digital network provides.”

Gordon Brown, PM, 29th Jan 2009

What does he expect? Stop stating the bleeding obvious.

It’s no surprise, from the government that believes it is worth exploring age-ratings for websites.

I’m really starting to get pissed off with politics.

Others have highlighted further examples of the shortsightedness of the Digital Britain report, and yes, I know, we’ve only had the first part. But why bother with this bit?

As Emily Bell states, there is nothing in the report to argue with. But, there’s also nothing that inspires confidence about how we might survive (and lead?) the digital age.

Why bother merely summarising what everyone already knows? Digital is hugely important to our economy. We know. It will become even more important. We know. Everyone needs to have access to high speed internet access. We know.

How?

That’s the question.

How are the government going to do this? How will we achieve these things?

The time for simplistic analysis is over. Other countries are plowing full steam ahead. We need action and we need it sooner rather than later.

For once the opposition are spot on:

Jeremy Hunt, Tory shadow culture minister: “We thought the report was going to contain a strategy.  In France and Germany they are laying fibre, in Japan they already have it.”

Don Foster, Lib Dem culture, media and sport spokesman: “We’ve spent lots of money on reviews, but all we now have is a strategy group, an umbrella body, a delivery group, a rights agency, an exploratory review, a digital champion and an expert task force. This report has been a complete damp squib.”

Come on Gordon. Action, not words.

Rant over.

continue reading: Digital Britain? No sh*t. Too little, too late...