Online networking for public sector communicators


An email I received today from a fellow local government communicator started me thinking about how local government and other public sector communicators network professionally.

The email was sent from a council communicator to hundreds of other communicators in a massive cc’ed email. I don’t know where the list of cc’ed recipients originally came from, but the list is used several times a month to ask questions to the other people on the list.

That’s all very well, but when people start replying it all falls apart. Most people answer the original question posed by hitting the “reply to all” button. Then someone else follows up developing the thread further using “reply to all” once again.

Before you know it, the conversation trail is impossible to follow and the great information that people are sharing is lost in a mass of cc’ed emails, signatures and the like.

So I was thinking about how this could be done better.

There’s great value in sharing information between communications professionals working in similar fields – while each area is unique, there are many challenges we face in common where understanding how others have tackled things is really helpful.

And the good news is that there are alternatives – mostly coming from the social media sphere in one way or another.

One worth checking out is the I&DeA Communities of Practice (CoP) site.

I&DeA Communities of Practice site

This site is designed for anyone working in local government and aims to help them share information with fellow professionals. There are hundreds of different communities within the site, and if there’s not one for the area you’re working in you can create one.

The Communications and Marketing community only has 177 members at the time of writing, and doesn’t seem all that active. The most recent activity in the forums and blogs was in the first week of January.

I’m also a member of the Social Media and Online Collaboration community which is larger (458 members) and more active – there’s usually something going on most days. I’ve certainly picked up some useful information from keeping an eye on this community.

It’s also worth mentioning Public Sector Forums (PSF) here too.

Public Sector Forums

PSF has its origins in the ICT and web areas, but has some useful content and discussions for communicators, especially those working with new media and the internet. Like the CoP site, you’ll need to register but it’s free.

So what about other networks for public sector communicators?

There’s an ever growing group of local government people active on Twitter. Dave Briggs has a good list here. It’s also worth following @localgovweb on Twitter to pick up content related to local government.

There’s also a Twitter hashtag #localgovweb for relevant local government content, although to be honest I usually forget to use the hashtag when I post stuff to Twitter.

If you use LinkedIn there’s a group for local government employees (join it here).

However it’s a global group and is open to consultants as well as those working in local government – so the content and discussions are pretty wide-ranging and you need to scan for the stuff that’s relevant to public sector marketing, public relations and communications.

I’m sure there are plenty more networking opportunities and groups out there online for local government communicators – if you know of any more (including the inevitable really obvious one that I’ve forgotten) please post them in the comments to put me out my misery!

Update: The UK’s Local Government Association also has a LinkedIn group called CommsNet 2.0 – you can find it here.