Regarding Red Alert

Much has been written about the Labour MP’s group-blog, Red Alert. When it first launched in May 2009 almost all the feedback was positive. I even heard a senior party source say “It makes me think that Trevor Mallard is a real human being”. However, since then, and particularly post-election, it has come under some considerable criticism, largely due to certain MPs making some terribly inappropriate posts.

The Dim-Post sums up the situation rather well…

I think the idea Labour needs to grasp is that writing a blog is a form of public communications – the media (and many others) read it and they’ll turn it around into a story if its newsworthy. It’s like sending out a press release, or giving a media conference.

Now, I’m pretty sure that if Clare Curran wanted to send a press release to all the media telling them she thought they were terrible at their jobs, or if Darien Fenton wanted to call a press conference and encourage the nation to boycott the Mad Butcher, there would be processes within the party that stopped them doing that. But for some reason they can just jump on their blog and say whatever they want.

So I’d keep Red Alert, but fold it into the general communications strategy. That means planning. Oversight. Co-ordination. If the leader announces a policy on the same day Trevor Mallard blogs that he’s waxed off all his body-hair to decrease his wind resistance, the latter will be what leads the news. Labour’s MPs have been very slow to grasp this.

If I were them I’d stop issuing press releases and make Red Alert the primary communications tool for the party. But if they can’t control it they need to scrap it.

I’m not sure I agree 100% with Danyl’s solution.

I may be wrong, but I would assume that regardless of how well your online communications strategy is, there is still a need to put out press releases for traditional media (though I’m sure there would be value in re-assessing the volume of press releases, and the process used to release them).

Also, as I mentioned earlier with my annecdote about Trevor, Red Alert does serve one very valuable purpose that is very difficult to achieve with more traditional media – it humanises Labour MPs (for the record, you’ll be pleased to know I have no plans of sharing my holiday photos or favourite music on The Progress Report).

So while I wouldn’t advocate turning it into a pure party message machine, I do think there needs to be better controls around what is put up. There are many examples of it being used as a very useful tool, I just think there could be more.

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