Brown web initiative blasted by bloggers

Gordon Brown's latest digital comms moves have been widely panned by bloggers and PROs, who claimed his web outreach 'smacks of gimmickry and desperation'.

Ask the PM: on YouTube
Ask the PM: on YouTube

This week saw the launch of Ask the PM on YouTube, the latest in a line of digital initiatives from new Downing Street web guru Mark Flanagan (PRWeek, 3 April).

Despite reams of coverage in the nationals for this online version of prime minister's questions, well-known bloggers have criticised the moves as too little too late.

'With online video and Twitter feeds having been used to great effect by politicians such as David Cameron and Barack Obama in the past, this is Brown playing catch up,' said Drew Benvie, a widely read PR blogger and director at tech agency Hotwire.

Even Labour bloggers were unsure whether the new tool will have any effect. 'It won't be as good as it could be,' said Staniforth partner Mark Hanson, media manager for the LabourHome blog. 'He'll still be talking like a politician.'

Despite Flanagan's attempt to connect Brown with young voters through new projects like the Downing Street Twitter feed, bloggers and PROs still see the Tories as winning the web comms battle.

'The Tories' embrace of online media seems natural and intuitive,' said Daljit Bhurji, MD of Diffusion and the PRO behind the comms blog Under Strict Embargo. 'Ask the PM smacks of gimmickry and desperation from Brown to connect with the YouTube generation.'

But, as Hanson pointed out: 'Webcameron is also scripted.'

'BROWN LOOKS UNCOMFORTABLE' - Nikki Scrivener, Co-founder, Fourth Day PR

- 'Unfortunately a big problem lies in the fact that Gordon Brown is not a natural communicator, whether that is in an analogue or digital world. Could anyone look any more uncomfortable? Comparing Ask the PM to Webcameron is like comparing apples and pears. Webcameron looks incredibly polished and slick.'

'A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION' - Alex Burmaster, European web analyst, Nielsen Online

- 'The polls show that Labour has some catching up to do and Gordon Brown's use of YouTube is a step in the right direction. To be fair, it is probably the most personable and natural side of him I've seen. Social media give Brown the opportunity to reach people who traditionally have had little interest in politics.'

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