At some point before early June we’re going to be having a general election, which for civil servants and local government officers means a purdah period between when the election’s called and polling day itself.
As a council communicator I’m very familiar with how the purdah rules affect the business of communicating, but civil servant Steph Gray’s blog post about how he will be avoiding blogging and using Twitter during purdah started me thinking.
Steph’s doing this because to him the whole nature of using social media while under purdah rules is too risky. The chance of being misquoted or inadvertently involved in a political debate is too great for him to risk his job over.
I understand what he’s saying and have been contemplating similar thoughts myself recently as the intensity of political activity grows both nationally and locally.
However my blog and Twitter content has never and will never be in any way political as long as I’m a public servant. The rules are very clear and I’m always very careful to only write about topics that are relevant to the blog and not politically biased.
But in the heat and excitement of a general election, particularly with the role that online media will play this time around, I’m guessing virtually any topic that I write about here could be construed as politically sensitive. Because I write about public sector communications (and mainly local government), comments about an organisation, for example, could easily be taken out of context and given a political angle that was never intended.
Similarly with Twitter I know that a number of local and national politicians from all political parties follow me (and indeed I follow them too). Which means, in theory, there’s a chance that political nuances could be given to my Twitter messages and I would need to steer clear of Twitter conversations with politicians during the purdah period.
I agree completely with Steph’s view of the risk here – my job as a public sector communicator is my livelihood and keeps a roof over my family’s head. I would be foolish to risk that job – but I’m still weighing the risks up against the professional benefits that I get from blogging and using Twitter.
I’m not sure what I’ll do yet, but I guess I’ve got a few weeks to decide yet. I will, of course, be posting my conclusion here before purdah starts.
What are other local government bloggers and tweeters thinking about doing during purdah?