Great post here about whether (and if so, how) press officers within government should respond to stories/debates circulating among digital communities on blogs and via Twitter. Inevitably there is real frustration about how slow press officers can be to react to the head of steam which can build up around key issues online before they hit the mainstream. The argument that online inactivity damages departmental reputation must be right. But it does misunderstand, I think, the key reality of a press officer’s life, which is that they must please their Minister. On the whole Ministers still don’t get this stuff and don’t believe that their constituents do either. Some of them blog, a couple are on Twitter (Ben Bradshaw and Harriet Harman, take a bow) But generally their key concern is tomorrow’s front page – in particular the front page of the Mail – or Newsnight, which is why so much activity is short term and reactive rather than designed to build relationships and alliances and deliver a long-term strategy. Many press officers find this frustrating – although a frighteningly large number still don’t get it either. There’s a serious job to be done in some departments to educate press teams as well as policy leads on the possibilities.
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