Tech & society

Blogging and Public Affairs

I’m on a panel Wednesday morning with Robert Scoble and Pam Miller: "Blogging: Its power and impact on public affairs and the media" is a panel discussion before an audience of public sector PIOs in Seattle.

blog genres
What to say, what to say? I could start with my comments from a PRSA workshop earlier this month. Or maybe with this image from EuroBlog 2006? (tip) Or this post by Steve Rubel – DoS hosts webchat with David Kline. Ummm …. let’s start by advising folks to watch EPIC2015 — because blogs are just one part of a larger social ecosystem that will change politics and media. And work.


Back To Europe
Fortunately, the presentations are in English! Dr. Ansgar Zerfass offers a way to think about blogs in terms of communications strategies:

  • Sharing: knowledge, information
  • Persuading: defining issues, building reputations, supporting contracts
  • Argumentation: establishing relationships, resolving conflicts

Just as we may find ourselves stumbling over the fact that "blog" means so many things (the platform, the publication, the unit of publishing, the author) … we may not realize that we

  1. Use a blog to enable ease-of-publishing — in other words, the blog is another soapbox (but a really easy-to-assemble one!)
  2. Use a blog to develop and maintain relationships — in other words, how we use the blog can connect us with core constituencies (or disconnect us, as the case may be)
  3. Use a blog to enable rapid communication in a time of crisis — in other words, this may be the best tool in your kit when you’re faced with your version of Katrina or Valdez …. IF (yes, it’s a big if) you’ve already done #1 and #2.

Let’s take these one-at-at-time:

1. Ease of Publishing
This is what the tool is best-known for. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can now create compelling content (at least, in appearance).

2. Building and Maintaining Relationships
We do this by enabling RSS feeds and comments as well as cross-linking on our sites … and then by subscribing to (and reading) feeds from others and making appropriate comments (how else to do those cross-links?). Is it time-intensive? Yes – but aren’t all networks?

The best part, though, is that when you enable RSS feeds, your publics most interested in your story are going to hear about your latest news … without your having to do anything more than publish it! That’s because they’ll subscribe to your RSS feed!

3. CrisisComm
With these two key ingredients in place, you have the platform to get the news out as quickly – and as frequently – as you need to. Example: Movable Type with response to pricing change.

This is seismic! However, government (and traditional corporate)communications professionals are going to have an uphill battle. With, if no one else, the lawyers. Because this is the opposite of command-and-control communication.

Let’s see. What else?

  • Be conversational. (This is not command-and-control communication!)
  • Be honest. (You should not ghost write a blog.)
  • Be transparent. (Don’t hide under Internet anonymity when posting elsewhere.)
  • Blog yourself. (There’s no substitute for experience!)
  • Read blogs with an RSS reader (Bloglines is browser-based and easy) to get a feel for the community.
  • Consider a community blog for the organization (Push-button publishing with Drupal – it’s open source! I’m using Bryght‘s hosted service for a site my content class is building this spring.) Benefits: a resource of government bloggers who can help one another.
  • Learn from practitioners outside of government.

My Stuff

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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