Do You Really Need a Press Officer?

Yet another reason why you should be on Twitter is the amazing people you meet. I’ve been chatting with some folks in England recently who work in the government communications field. After getting to know them a bit, I’ve decided that if you want to know where some of the greatest, most forward thinking people in our little corner of the world are, well, it might just be these folks.

Many of them have contributed to the most excellent (or ace, as they would say) comms2point0.co.uk blog, so that’s a great place to start. Run by Darren and Dan (hey guys!), the blog relies on guest posts from an amazing array of similarly forward-thinking folks. Comms2point0 has simply become one of my favorite stops on the Internet.

To that end, and as an example of the thought-provoking fare you’ll find there, I direct you to last night’s post by guest blogger Ben Proctor. It’s pretty much what I’ve always thought I’d do if I were Communications Director. It’s out there. It’s off-the-wall, and it’s just the sort of radical transparency I think we need to restore the public’s faith in government:

Press offices though, it seems to me, are 20th century solutions to a wider problem. They were developed with 1950s technology and have evolved slowly. We have better technology now. It may be time to scrap this solution and design a new one from the ground up.

I think press offices in the public sector are a bad idea and that we should get rid of them.

His modest proposal?

  • We would replace press offices with a digital space and give citizens the same privileges to ask questions and demand explanations that are afforded to journalists
  • We would go headlong into open data
  • We would stop issuing press releases

Mind you, he’s not putting us out of work, in fact in this world, we’d be charged with:

A massively important role, to develop and build communities around the data. To train, and encourage, mentor and support professionals (and politicians) to play more active roles in public spaces. To tell the core stories in the organisation so that stakeholders understand what the organisation is about, what is important to it and what it is seeking to achieve.

It’s truly a phenomenal piece, and I’ve already printed a copy to throw up on my wall at work. Do yourself, and your community, a favor and go read it. Bravo, sir, bravo!

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2 thoughts on “Do You Really Need a Press Officer?

  1. Wow, Jim.

    I’m actually a bit speechless. It’s not just ace, it’s full of aceness to read such a glowing response to something that’s on Comms2point0. The credit though must go to Ben who wrote the post. It’s been a topic that’s been kicked around a little online in the UK government community just recently and while I don’t agree with everything Ben wrote myself the thrust of I can’t help but nod in full agreement with.

    Read Ann Kempster’s blog on the subject here: http://annkempster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/and-or-neither-nor-press-and-digital-in-2012/

    The comments in that are pretty good too.

    I know I’m very lucky to live and work in local government in the West Midlands here in the UK. There is a thriving community of people who are doing brilliant things and ideas tend to bounce off each other.

    On Saturday, there is #localgovcamp in Birmingham. That’s 120 people coming together from across the UK to plot, scheme and dream up wheezes that could make the world a slightly better place.

    Later this year, there is a barcamp for museums staff, for librarians and another regional event in the West Midlands. Added to this is brewcamp an informal session held in a cafe after work finishes.

    The theory that underpins it all is quite simple. It’s about being a militant optimist (not my phrase, that’s borrowed) who believes that things can be made better if you do and share.

    “It’s great living in the West Midlands,” as one person put it. “but wouldn’t it be really cool if Jim Garrow lived here too. Just imagine what you could do then.”

    That’s no word of a lie.

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