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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Do social media suit public service, minister asks | Catherine O'Mahony, The Sunday Business Post, Ireland

In Ireland, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has questioned whether social media are suited to public service. He was speaking at the Public Relations Institute of Ireland's annual conference.

Spoketh Howlin:
Managing the challenge of using social media and other digital communications while retaining some degree of control over the message is not easy.
Yet, we could overestimate the potential here too. We need to bear in mind too that communication via social media faces the same challenge as faces more traditional channels. What you say is as important as how you say it or the medium you use.
But before establishing a firm position, apparently, Howlin says he's willing to wait for the results of deliberations about "how best to marry the competing challenges of 'speed of response' and the retention of some semblance of control over the message."

I believe he's speaking hogwash. This bandwagon has left the station, to rephrase a cliche.

Professional communicators can't wait to climb on a bandwagon that  everyone else on the planet is already riding. The fact is that the technology of social media is now an essential, effective tool of communication. In fact, Howlin is proposing to turn back the clock. Professional communicators are already on that bandwagon--as they must be. 

Sure, communicators must consider the concerns Howlin is raising in Ireland. I don't question their validity, though I believe we must reconsider our attitudes toward "control"--especially when we're talking about the democratic institutions of government. But we must consider his concerns as we continue to use--and benefit from using--social media.

To be fair to you and Howlin, here's a much longer report on his conference comments: Howlin to spin doctors: ‘social media may not be suited to public service.’


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