A guest post from Jacob Quinn, first posted on his blog, Life and Politics.
What is the point of having a media unit if they cannot filter and influence what messaging makes its way into the public from your organisation? This is a question that political parties need to ask themselves when deciding on how to manage their MP’s media releases, blog posts and media interviews.
It is common practice for media staff, most of whom are ex-journalists or at least have developed understandings of how media works and how issues will likely play out, to coordinate interviews and press releases. So why would you leave them out of having input to (and more importantly, oversight of) a party political blog, that you’ve set up to communicate political messages and to engage with interested voters and journalists.
Today’s blog post by Labour MP Raymond Huo, and a couple of other noteworthy examples from 2011, are examples of well-meaning but ultimately counterproductive pieces of political communication, that, had they been put under the nose of a press secretary, would have stayed in the drafts column, never to see the light of day.
This is why you pay press secretaries. Even if you are an award-winning writer or a former journalist yourself, you cannot keep your political antennae on 24/7 – especially in the wake of a personal attack or when reacting to something that you feel particularly emotionally charged about.
In the heat of the moment you lose your cool and write something that turns out sounding silly. It hits the press, you are embarrassed, your colleagues are embarrassed, and then your leader has to have a quite stern word with you. Now you wish you’d run it past someone in the media unit.
I am of the view that to minimize the risk of embarrassing or counter-productive communications working their way into the public domain political parties must include their communications staffers in all external political communications, including blog posts. Press officers tend to be available (almost) 24 hours a day, they have smart phones, and the sign-off processes needn’t be overly cumbersome or bureaucratic.
Political party blogs like what Labour and the Greens have are incredible useful communications tools. Conversely, blogs which consists of newsletter links and rehashed press releases are not worth the $25 a year it costs to register the domain name. Labour and the Greens should be commended for running real blogs, with real opinions on current issues, but they are foolish if they don’t bring these tools within their broader communications strategies and oversight mechanisms.