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24/09/2006

Labour needs bloggers - but doesn't seem to know it

Telling that the Business & Media section of the Observer sees fit to talk about the power of bloggers at the start of the Labour Party conference. Telling also that they picked a Tory to do it...

Iain Dale says that Labour are lagging behind the other parties in embracing social media:

Last week the Lib Dems held a fringe reception for bloggers. At the Conservative conference, 'blog surgeries' will be held for those who want to know what it entails. I will be one of the Blog Doctors on call. And what is the Labour Party doing for bloggers this week? Virtually nothing. Labour understands only too well that their media operations cannot control blogging. They are offering all their members a blog, but these will be read only by other party members, and comments on them. Typical.

Labour is a party that won and held power by mastering mainstream media, and as Mr Dale puts it "Blogs are a spin doctor's worst nightmare come true". That's bad news for the current ruling elite.

Labour in the nineties drew on inspiration and media "management" methods of American political spin doctors. Now they have stopped learning it seems, for now awareness of and positive engagement with bloggers in the US is a must for political campaigners.

I fear Labour will probably not embrace social media - and I really do appreciate the irony in that - until it experiences a real crisis of confidence, one that the coming leadership contest and perhaps a loosening or a losing of the reins of power.

: : I'd also say that there was a lesson here for brands about dealing with social media. The Labour Party is paying lip service to it and you can almost see its culture recoil from the idea of networks and openness. That could cost them dear - at the very least in not opening up to the energy, ideas and potential that social media / networks represent to an organisation which basically runs on those things.

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Comments

Maybe it's because blogging promotes transparency and they fear the lack of control over comments and feedback. Do they really want to hear what people say? social media is a great tool for opposition, but Government doesn't seem able to handle it in a way to connect with the electorate. It's a missed opportunity for them.

Have you seen Michael Meacher's blog, he is a former minister who has been rumoured to want to stand for leadership, maybe he is hoping it will get his message over:

http://www.michaelmeacher.info/

Hi Anthony
Here's a snippet from an email I received thirteen months ago.

"We are currently satisfied by the media and new media presence of our Labour politicians"

You said. "I fear Labour will probably not embrace new media..."

Obviously somebody there thinks they have already!

It's important that political parties start looking at blogs as a key comms tool... but I worry that too many - especially within Labour - think that blogs are a cure all to public engagement.

I would argue that to re-engage with voters a radical change in political attitude is necessary. This needs to reflect current cultural values such as openness and transparency - values that can be facilitated by social media. Have a butchers at: http://simoncollister.typepad.com/simonsays/2006/09/politics_needs_.html

Thanks for the link, Ellee. I think you're right about social media working for you in opposition better - you've everything to win and want to attack on every front. When you're in power you

Reading this article - http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=7950099 - in the Economist this morning I also wondered if the younger demographic people assume bloggers / social media users also made it less of a priority in the eyes of those planning Labour's communications.

Neil - that's interesting to hear. It actually mirrors attitudes for many in communications and media. They think because they have website, email press releases and get online coverage in mainstream media that they "have it covered".

Simon - I agree that substance is also required! Cheers for the link too...

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