I have written a lot about the benefits of using social media to all companies, but particularly to the public sector who have diminishing budgets. There is so much that can be gained by taking a long look at what is there, knowing your organisation and then finding a way forward. Today I was given a chance to talk about the approach, options and some real examples of using social media speaking to the national police press officers course.
A lot has happened in the last five years and the police service has been at the forefront of making the most of the developments in technology. But it still surprises me how many communicators have little or no daily contact with social media. I worry that we may have developed our communication approach in a silo way focused on channels rather than looking at the opportunities of what we can do.
There remains a big issue about the controls that senior people try to put on the use of social media. For me, the minute you start to build in layers of bureaucracy in attempting to deal with an individual or issue on social media then you have lost. We don’t have the luxury of time to allow for checking and double-checking. If we have to wait for someone to approve a response the people will have moved on to sharing the complaint wider. Communicators have to be given some autonomy to be able to deal with day-to-day queries that come in without having to refer to others.
I have focused on an approach in the past five years that has been about seeking forgiveness if we need to rather than asking permission. This is a key issue for any digital leadership work. We have to ensure that senior staff are aware of what is being done but are clear about when and how they can get involved. To really have creativity and innovation we have to get to a position where things can be attempted, developed or removed based on research.
If senior staff want to be able to make the most of social media then they will have to relinquish the concept of control and instead use it to empower employees.