(It’s totally pathetic that I can only get to cranking one of these out per week. Just had to say that.)
In my last post, I proposed a decentralized communications model for adopting social media in government – in which the program or service level gets most of the action in terms of participating in the social web.
In the comments, @nickcharney was intrigued and asked me to flesh out my thinking a little.
Do you envision a movement from a centralized (departmental) communications function directly to the program level?If so, can you elaborate on what you think that would look like? If not, what do you envision?
Actually, @chamika put it best, when she tweeted @ me: “… program folk should be out there, with comms help.”
That’s pretty much how I see it – and in a lot of ways this is similar to what already happens. Leaving aside social media, a lot of web (and other) federal govt communications is led by programs and sectors. Sure, media announcements/media relations and advertising is mostly centralized in corporate communications shops, but in my department at least, most other communications activities happen at the sector or program level. Us in the communications shop are there to help, but we don’t lead.
So no, I don’t envision social media as causing a movement from a centralized communications function to a decentralized one — we are already operating that way in many respects.
The merits of this can be (and are) debated endlessly. It’s just that in terms of social media at least, I think that it makes most sense to have the programs out there on the front lines.
Think of some of the obvious business drivers for starting a social media campaign or program:
- customer service: government services are always delivered at the program level
- consultation: for instance, a policy shop requesting input on a specific issue
- brand awareness: increasing recognition of specific programs or services (e.g. Weather Office specifically vs Environment Canada generally)
- outreach and stakeholder relations: by nature this is targeted to specific groups or subject matter
- recruitment: the HR program or sector would usually lead this
In each case, the natural lead would be a specific program or sector rather than a corporate communications group.
Sure there are times when “corporate” social media might make more sense:
- crisis situations – when there’s need to get the word out quickly, and show strong senior management leadership
- launching a new department or agency – which would fall back to corporate communications by default, since orgs don’t spring to life fully formed
But compare the two lists – the latter are situations that arise more rarely aren’t they?
Last word: I want to be clear – I definitely see a role for corporate communications when it comes to government doing social media. As with other forms of communications (such as publishing and marketing), this role would be more in terms of providing coordination and leadership to assist programs with their efforts.