I’ve spent some of the weekend reading this year’s SOCITM Better Connected report in more detail.
A quote from outgoing Head of Communications at London Fire Brigade, Richard Stokoe, caught my eye:
Yet the major problem in 2013 is that it is still communication departments that almost exclusively hold the keys to the social media cupboard and jealously guard them. This allows those departments to justify their current spend, blaming this new medium for why their time and budgets are sacred. In turn, senior management and chief executives have been content to leave it in the domain of communications people, partly in fear of social media and partly because of lack of comprehension of its power. This has left the true potential of social media in delivering operational benefits to the public, and cost efficiency to the taxpayer, almost completely under-explored.
I agree with Richard’s comments about the underexploitation of social media in the local public sector – we do generally seem to have reached a plateau in adoption where social media has, to a large extent, become stuck within communications teams and their communications work.
Where I disagree with him is in his swipe at communications teams using social media to justify their current spend. It feels like a bit of a cynical claim that’s slightly detached from the reality. I’m certainly not aware of any councils that have been able to use social media to justify a communications operation – the only thing that can do that is decent outcome-focussed evaluation that really proves the value of communications.
But back on social media, and more generally digital, I think the cause needs champions in any organisation – and that communications people are best placed to be these digital champions. But they must recognise the responsibility this role has to be the advocates of digital in the broader organisations – pushing out the case for digital engagement to be more deeply integrated into the way the public sector delivers services.
Those local public service organisations that do succeed in genuinely adopting digital will be those who have a genuinely strong organisational and leadership understanding of digital – and can harness this to radically reshape their business to the extent that digital has reshaped the world in which they operate. It’s not just about having people Twittering and a decent Facebook page out there. It’s far, far more.
Image credit: Mark Hunter