I work with government departments on their social media policies. Both politicans and public servants have some of the same issues. Often showing them case studies of other immigration, tax, heritage, whatever in other countries or other States can help them see how they can sell the idea of conversation into their risk averse cultures. It’s all about knowing the fears then gently leading the fearful through the issues, which include

  • staff doing inappropriate things online (get a policy),
  • how to handle negative user opinions,
  • staffing and resource issues (how much time do we have to dedicate),
  • what if no one comes
  • what if the press are negative
  • why do we have to do this
  • can we fake it (PR or fake blogs called flogs)
  • what if we look stupid

Showing examples gives concrete working prototypes that they can relate to. (see below)

Why not, at the beginning try blogging and wikis behind the firewall – this will reveal a number of things.

  • First, who in your organisation are already blogging, video, photosharing and podcasting. You need people who ‘get’ it to create content internally. Plus you can see how they relate to their audience that may be yours. Well,the audience may not be if the staff member is blogging a hobby, but if they are passionate about their job, your staff member who blogs may share your target demographic. This will lead to an external social media participation policy. Once you identify they have experience with podcasts or blogs, they may be the ones you put to work to blog internally. Every community needs leaders and evangelists, this is one way of sourcing them internally.
  • Then you’ll figure out how to handle the behaviour of staff who behave inappropriately – dirty jokes on their blog, SHOUTING in comments on another department manager’s blog etc. Better they make booboos in private behind the firewall than on a client’s blog. This will lead to an internal social media participation policy.
  • You’ll find out the triggers and hot topics. H.R. blogs look boring until someone posts about toxic bosses and staff bullying. Then stand back and watch the communication flying around. Finance department blogs look less than enthralling until you open up a discussion a pet peeve, maybe travel restrictions or something. This will help you decide on topics to encourage/avoid in your industry sector.
  • Remember if you can’t build a coherent community internally, you are really going to struggle with external communications. Staff will be saying different things, pushing petty fiefdom issues into the public domain. Or even sabotaging your work by over-zealous loyalty to the organisation. Seriously, practice internally first!

and so on.

The UK Government has a site called I AM A CIVIL SERVANT. It takes you through the dos and donts of being a public servant. Here is their social media participation policy for Civil Servants:

I am a civil servant

Principles for participation online

  1. Be credible
  2. Be consistent
  3. Be responsive
  4. Be integrated
  5. Be a civil servant

So I thought I’d have a look around at civil service/public service social media and social networks online.

This is just a random list of Public Servant blogs with a few Government forums and wikis thrown in. Feel free to add your own in the comments and I’ll add yours in (include a link, and I’ll linkety-link back to you too! ) Except for a few, it’s examples of either public servants blogging anonymously to ensure their employer doesn’t find out or else it’s top level, country leaders blogging.

Gov Gab (USA gov blog)
Barack Obama on Twitter
Margot Wallstrom European Commissioner (EU)
ChicagoCrime.org -mashup of maps and crime statistics
Future Melbourne (wiki)
Juwono Sudarsono, Minister of Defense Indonesia
Ambulance Driver (UK Blog)
Building Democracy Ministry of Justice site, I think
Anonymous UK Magistrate
NHS Doctor UK
SentDown UKPrisoners forum
Craig Thomler eGov and Child Support Agency public servant Australia
The Network of Public Service Communicators New Zealand
The Police Act Review New Zealand Wiki
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran
Akira Amari Japanese Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry
Yesterday. Singapore -National Heritage Board
Victoria eGov (Australia)
A gazillion librarians blog
Lots of Police blog – see blogroll there and also here.
Congress Ratings – Rate your politican (US)
ADDED: National Training Register (group blog – thanx NathanaelB for pointing it out)

You’d figure if the President of Iran can blog, more Australian public servants might too. heh.
Anyway it’s nowhere near a complete list, just some of the more interesting social media gov and politics sites that I found, that I might point to in coming conference and workshop presentations. You know, here’s an example of an ambulance driver blogging anonymously, here’s a magistrate that blogs, here’s an Act before Parliament wiki, here’s the leader of a country that blogs. Thought I’d share them with you, tis all.

Ogilvy break up government blogs into different types.