Public sector must get with web times

Over the next few years PR professionals will have to move to a new level of understanding of the way we talk and listen to the people with whom we are trying to communicate.

The Alastair Campbell days of being able to tightly control messages to a small coterie of journalists are well and truly gone and we all have to move with the times.

Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Bebo, blogging, poking, Delicious, Digg, reddit, StumbleUpon, YouTube, MySpace and virals are all some of the new phrases that comms people have to deal with in the wonderful world of web 2.0.

The public sector is generally miles behind the times in using 21st century comms methods. One only has to take a look at government department websites to see how far behind the public sector is in using the myriad different social networking developments that have sprung up in the past few years.

The Local Government Association is, like many organisations, playing catch-up on reaching online audiences. To try to start moving into the later noughties era, we have launched our latest campaign online rather than through broadcast or print media.

The website is a starting salvo in helping us gear up to the challenges that the ever-changing internet brings and will be one of a series of forays that try to tap into audiences that until now have been untouched by local government.

Communications experts must now broaden their expertise to encompass the web and its rapidly changing use.

Already gone are the days of sites being just an information source. Interactivity is now one of the key ways to make sure that people not only use your information, but more importantly, digest it.

How organisations and PR people influence peer-to-peer social networking and how we use these new and exciting channels of communication will, in the long term, determine how successful the public sector is in informing, persuading and involving the younger generation of people who use their services. 

We will ignore this challenge at our peril.

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