October 20, 2006 by Colin
We can imagine plenty of rational reasons why governments shouldn’t blog. There are far fewer good reasons. Especially if the bureaucracy serves a largely retail function:
- plenty of personal contact with citizens, customers or clients;
- a¬ relatively flexible and responsive organization;
- little if any policy-making authority;
- direct effect on people’s lives
In practical terms, this means the government organization:
- speaks to humans on a regular basis
- can turn around a question or a comment in hours, not days
- does not interpret information, only provides it
- works in fast-moving crisis,¬ health or consumer communications
We can all¬ recognize a personality type in these points:¬ attentive, responsive and committed.
This sort of organization is already used to receiving a number of different requests for information, filtering multiple streams of information, and clearly¬ defining how it is involved in the situation.
In most cases, it has already installed a case management system and has developed a database of frequently asked questions. When it comes to public enquiries, the organization has already fine-tuned its response process (and shortened the approval chain) and¬ can respond¬ quickly and confidently.
Ideally, the organization is also used to speaking openly about its function, the details of its work and the limitations of its authority. If you stop to think, you can identify several government organizations who work this way, in areas like public health, consumer products, financial oversight or accident investigation.
Although hampered by the usual inability to communicate in plain english, you can also count government scientists and researchers as possible contributors to a more specialized government blog. (They do all sorts of interesting things – like destroying cars on video (episode 58))¬
The trick, of course, is that most government organizations have a particular interpretation of retail service: help yourself, find the cash register, we don’t take credit and we’ll need to check your bag.
The bureaucracies ready to blog right now have already worked through their significant information bottlenecks, have instilled a sense of customer service in their workforce and know the benefits and limitations of their work thoroughly.
THAT’s the sweet spot for government blogging in the short term.