Some reasons why social media matters for public consultation and the media

Our friends at  The Consultation Institute have prompted us to think about social media, traditional media and public consultation.  Here are our thoughts…
  • Word of mouth travels fast – often breaking news come out on Twitter before traditional news agencies pick it up. E.g. Whitney Houstin’s death was announced on Twitter around 27 minutes before it was picked up by the AP.  This is no different for consultations.  Less glamorous, less newsworthy but your stakeholders (friends and foes) will release news about your consultation sometimes faster than traditional media.  It is not this simple but news comes from many sources these days
  • Social networks are a source of news about your consultation good and bad – just search “public consultation” in Twitter and you’ll see
  • Managers and PRs will no longer only be dealing with traditional media.  Instead you may be faced with influential citizen journalists.  These bloggers can have substantial followings and can influence people’s perceptions of your consultation and how genuine it is
  • Journalists are likely to use social networks as  a source for news about your consultation.  You need to know what is being said about it on social media so that you know how the press is possibly being influenced
  • Controversial consultations will spawn Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and blogs against the planned changes.  You need to find them and deal with them appropriately
  • You can’t ignore social networks.  What is said in these places matters and hangs around (it is sticky).  Unless you take time to joust online then you run the risk of handing the debate over to influential third parties.  As a minimum you need to correct misinformation (or it will spread)
  • Social media creates multiple places for engagement.  Not necessarily of your choosing. So you may have an official consultation website but at the same time other people may launch Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs and so on.  These things count whether or not they are part of your formal consultation structure.  The media will take them into account so you will need to as well.
  • Transparency and fair play are more important than ever.  If people think that your consultation is a sham, that any information you provide is inaccurate or misleading then they will put it all over Facebook and broadcast about how bad you are on Youtube, which will be shared on Twitter and passed around the blogosphere.

Do you agree?


4 thoughts on “Some reasons why social media matters for public consultation and the media

  1. Its not just about news of your consultation. Social Media is increasingly becoming a part of the consultation process. Facebook pages used to engage the young, Twitter hashtags to raise awareness and Pinterest to collect images and comments around a paticular issue or topic (City of Salisbury in South Australia are collecting stories/images about an adventure playground using Pinterest and linking to a hashtag and an online form via their website).

  2. Thank you. I have also seen that the SA government here in Australia decided to allow a pretty relxed online forum during their Strategy consultation to allow them to both monitor discussion around the site but also deal quickly and directly with any issues/questions that may arise.

    Some questions that do arise are the measuring of this style of engagement – 140 characters on Twitter, Likes on Facebook etc and also what about incentivising, I read a great case study in a report called ‘Parliaments and Public Engagement’ by Hansard on an internet platform that offers the possability to win an expenses paid trip to Berlin to visit the Reichstag by collecting points for your diffrent levels of interaction.

    • I suppose what I should be saying is how is this reported in the media? Good news, support or will they try to pick holes in it. “Waste of public money” “Council get 3 likes for a policy on care – but how many dislikes” etcetc

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