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Posts Tagged ‘institutional voice

So President Obama has never used Twitter?

Last week, President Obama told Chinese students that he had never used Twitter. Shock! Who sent all those tweets under his name?

I tweet

I am a Tweeter. I enjoy tweeting because I work alone and in a small town. Twitter keeps me in touch with the world beyond my daily existence. It is also a handy diary. I often go back to me tweets to look up something that turned out to be more important than I thought at the time.

But I don’t think everyone must tweet

But I don’t think everyone should tweet just because tweeting is there. I’ve find it strange for example if a surgeon was tweeting. I hope surgeons are concentrating. To tweet about a patient who is unconscious could hardly be done with their consent!

Some people should not tweet, particularly when they are working

I don’t want pilots tweeting while they land a plane. And as a university lecturer, I wouldn’t tweet details about the quality of exam scripts – not because they are private – but because announcing the results is the prerogative of the Registrar. Only the official registry can announce a result.

I don’t expect a President to tweet

Here in lies why President Obama shouldn’t tweet. We voted for Obama, true (or rather Americans did). But we didn’t vote for Obama to do whatever he wants whenever he wants.

We voted him to work within a system and when we voted we assumed that he would be working within a system.

Just as I might ask a pilot to fly a plane, I haven’t asked him to fly any plane. This is a package – you and that plane. Obama and a set of institutions. He becomes part of the institution and it is the institution that is tweeting just as it is the “plane” talking to airtraffic control.

Public office changes the rules

Public office cramps our style! When we accept public office, as President, surgeon, pilot or university lecturer, then we accept that our behaviour is no longer private. And we comport ourselves accordingly. We will say no more on Twitter than we would in the pub. And people are more interested in what our institution does then us personally, it is better not to tweet. Let there be an official tweeter!

Let official tweeters work!

Of course, that means people in high office are not part of the river of information that is available to me and you. Let the official tweeters brief them then! Just as they do about what is being said in newspapers and on the streets.

It is no biggie. But not understanding our institutional role is a biggie. We shouldn’t be in the job if we don’t understand the constraints on our personal lives.

Authenticity means me & my job

And sometimes that means I will be silent

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Computers have never put anyone out of work!

I got my first job using a computer before I could use one!  I had been given a massive job calculating a correlation matrix for 500 or so people on 35 variables and I had 6 weeks to do it.

I didn’t fancy spending my summer doing clerical work, so I took a week’s course in programming, barely understood a word, talked my way into the University’s computer centre, found a programme, and finished the job in 3 weeks instead of the 6 weeks allotted. Two of those weeks were spent looking for a comma, though I didn’t know that then.

The last three weeks of my 6 week job were spent teaching at the Institute of Personnel Management, administering psychological tests to select junior bankers, and writing up the manual for a set of tests.

Herein, I learned three important lessons about IT

#1 Computers really can cut out the drudgery of office work.  Think how nice it is to cut cutting out 90% of the time you spend on paperwork.

#2 When you don’t know what to do, ask. Often the problem is something trivial that is obvious to someone who has done a similar job before

#3 Computers have never put any one out of work.

But will social media or web2.0 put people out of work?

The troubles of newspapers in today’s world has led me to wonder if it is still true that computers have never put anyone out of work. We hear of newspapers shutting because of competition from bloggers and Twitter.

Is it possible that web 2.0 will put people out of work where web 1.0 didn’t?

After some thinking and scouting around, my best guess is no. Work will change and some newspaper owners may not achieve ‘rents’ they achieved in the past. But the work is still there.

Big institutions need to manage an institutional voice

Today I looked at the NZ Labour Party blog and really, they could do with some professional journalists on their staff.

What does it mean to be authentic when you represent an institution

I know we all want an authentic voice on web2.0. I love it that Paulo Coelho is on Twitter and has real interviews every night.

A NZ Labour Party blog though, represents an institution. There is nothing wrong with MP’s dictating their blog post, or drafting it, and sending it to an editorial team who sub it and check it for coherence (dotting the i’s and making sure it toes the party line).

That’s what Obama does with his speech writers. He is in control and they work on replicating his voice.

In a political party, the MP’s would initiate content and the sub’s would tidy it up using the MP’s voice.

Because the Labour Party is a team, an editorial team would also check whether posts support or contradict each other, extract emerging teams and even hold up a mirror to MP’s about what they are saying and how it might be perceived by their audience.

There is nothing wrong with a service like this running in the background. It is no different from teaching people to write and edit, or, taking a degree in politics and history.

After all political voices aren’t ‘born’. They don’t come ready-made. They are cultured.  And we join political parties to work together on something we find important.

Social media creates better work for us all

So no, I don’t think social media puts people out of work. Social media allows us to work together and accomplish more than we did before.

Social media will not put journalists out of work. It will generate more opportunity for them.

And it may generate better work, in new career tracks, with more opportunity to influence the world.  Lucky them to lose old ways and find new.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘institutional voice’ – and the relationship between ‘institutional voice’ and social media – since my interchanges with Paul Seamen about the distinction between bloggers and PR people

And that has helped me understand what, I think, the BBC gets wrong.  And quite possibly, what many organizations get wrong.

BBC is heard globally

The BBC seems to forget that it has an audience. Now, I am not talking about customer-service here. I am talking about a world-wide, global audience.  Britons pay for the BBC.  But the world listens to the BBC.  And what the BBC says, is in their ears, Britain.

BBC should represent Britain as a global-player

Slagging off the government in the hope of gaining a little audience share in the UK is, to use an old phrase, peeing in your own pond – contaminating your own water supply.

Going on and on about Gordon Brown not getting a one-on-one meetup with Obama when the US President is dealing with healthcare, redirecting efforts in Aghanistan, re-moulding American foreign policy in his first speech to the UN, negotiating the climate change agenda, referring the Israel-Palestine dispute . . . well do I have to spell it out?

Sniping to gain advantage at home is not the role of a major media house – and certainly not the role of an institution which is paid for by the tax payer. Leave the minor issues and sniping to the blogosphere!

You should framing the discussion at the right level. This week the big question is where the world is going and how Britain is taking its place in the shaping of history.

To leave that story for the diary management of Presidents and Primeministers represents us as petty.  It represents Britain as a country which does not deserve anyone’s time.

Leave blogging to bloggers! Your job is to filter NEWS!

If a blogger picks up a minor issue that turns out to be a symptom of something bigger, you will find out soon enough through the ‘trending‘ you have set up on top of your Google Alerts.

BBC is not there to peer through windows and rummage through waste baskets. 

BBC is there to filter the news and to give it perspective.

At least, that is why I thought you were given taxpayers money through the license fee.  Wasn’t that the Reith vision?


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