Friday, November 30, 2007

The Public Affairs Sector Needs to Wake Up to the Internet

What proportion of the Uk population do you think read blogs? According to a new poll conducted for Edelman, and reported in Public Affairs News, it's about a quarter. Out of 1,007 random UK adults polled, 262 said they read blogs. I must admit, I find that statistic unbelievable. I'd have though it was under 10%. In the same poll, 38% said they had signed a petition within the last 12 months and 18% had attended a local meeting on local issues. The poll was used by Edelman to demonstrate that lobbyists should make more use out of internet campaigning.

This morning I chaired a session at the Public Affairs News conference and was both amazed and appalled by how little importance the two speakers in my session, and indeed many of the audience, gave to using the internet to persuade opinion formers. The same was true in a session last week with I did with Lynne Featherstone at an NCVO conference. For voluntary organisations and charities, the internet ought to be manna from heaven - it's more or less free and it's used by everyone. For those without large budgets to spend on public affairs blogs, Facebook and the like and a great way of spreading the message. Yet all we heard were bleats about the time it takes to blog and the difficulty in measuring success. Very disappointing.

Just as the internet can help candidates and politicians to get their message across, it can do the same for companies, interest groups and charities.


Old BE said...

You are certainly blogging hard today Iain!

AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

Campaign financing has to be an issue to watch. Look at Ron Paul in the US. He raised $4.2 million in one day. Adjusting for population, that's very roughly £400,000. Anyone fancy some of that?

purplepangolin said...

Difficulty in measuring success? I would have that that it was easier than measuring the success of an advertising campaign using posters or tv. You have traffic stats to analyze which give you an idea how many people have seen your message, you can check the referring site and all sorts of things.

Anonymous said...

There are still a considerable number of MPs who have yet to get a wedsite and email address (both Lab and Con)It is about time they woke up to the 21st century.Any contituent should be able to contact their MP this way.

Unknown said...

You're absolutely right, Iain, particularly about charities. But the public sector is a villain here, too, and I think is missing a trick to save money and be more responsive to the public.

I think George Osborne has talked about the desirability of government going "open source" wgere possible, but if it also used more wikis for knowledge management and blogs for communications, you could see a fair amount of improvement and saving. But my experience in the civil service was if you mention any of this, top managers just think you're loopy, or trying to get down with the kids because you're in a mid-life crisis.

Anonymous said...

Do you know what the Lords debated today?

Should think sliced bread be banned from supermarkets?

I kid you not.

Anonymous said...

If the survey was conducted online then that might account for the higher than expected figures for blog readership (i.e. it was self selecting)

Agree though about the public sector running scared although, to be fair to them, it takes any big organization considerable cojones to have a useful blog (not just a bit of bland PR) and I think this applies to the public and private sector.

It's just that the private sector recognises it as another sales tool whereas the public sector has different ways of measuring a return on investment and so have less reason to blog.

I think this is rot of course: if a faceless bureaucracy can become a little more human through blogging, it will probably find that productivity in certin areas improves and people are more pleasant to it.

Atlas Shrugged said...

One conclusion we could come to is.

That the powers that be, know that the wishes of the British people are largely irrelevant to anything of much importance these days.

Opinion polls and elections do not reflect at all well the peoples wishes.

What they do show is how well or not, state and/or corporate propaganda is working.

Generally all that political parties do is mess about at the margins of issues trying to steal a march on their opponents. Which is all very nice but it will not protect our individual hard died for liberties in the future.

This can only be achieved with a concerted effort to gain for liberty a written constitution on a single tablet of British granite stone. Not 500 pages of recycled European toilet paper.

The British people are now so confused and diverted by the BBC especially, from the really Big issues facing this nations future.

That when David Cameron talks about British constitutions and localism, hardly anyone can even be bothered to find out why these two things in particular are so damned important.

The public think a thing is important, because the MSM, in all its most gruesome and insidious incarnations brainwashes them into believing that the majority of the rest of the people think it is important.

This little 1984 type trick works so well because.

A very small amount of normal people want to be abnormal. Thats the main reason why people generally appear to be so bloody normal, when they are indeed completely mad.

If the 100s of thousands of two faced lying bastards employed in the indoctrination industry can persuade us that MMGW is true reality.

Even more incredibly. That somehow any type of politician or human being can, or even should attempt, to do anything whatsoever to slow it down.

They already know we are all so incredibly stupid, they lost interest in what we require, a long time ago.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

ITV news about a minute ago.

"internet bloggers have a lot more influence nowadays"

Anonymous said...

I thought it was just me reading internet blogs.

You mean I might not be alone?

Anonymous said...

@ mr scruff

itv news are just saying that because they found just found out how to get on to the internet, and then they found blogs, and found out they haven't been up to date with the news all this time.

at least we dont pay them a licence fee

Anonymous said...

Yes, you are right about the suspicious blog-reader stats, I am constantly amazed how many techy type people do not read blogs, and I would imagine the proportion of the general population who do is even smaller.

Yes, you are right that charities could use the internet better, I work for a charity which desperately needs more publicity. A blog would help us to pass news of our activities between ourselves and could interest others. However, one big worry is the libel laws. Politicians like publicity, and expect to get knocked about a bit in the media on occasion. The bigwigs in our world who we might accidentally expose as idiots or hypocrites do not live in that sort of world, and may well be managing their image in pursuit of honours etc. Suing us may not look good, but they could probably force a humiliating apology out of us because we could not afford to go to court. I doubt if I could get the agreement of our board to run such a risk. There is the related problem of publishing facts or speculation that a big cash sponsor preferred you hadn't said. I don't think my fun blog of amusing little charity-related incidents is going to go live any time soon.