Thursday, March 29, 2007

E-MPs

In response to the Power Report, Leader of the House of Commons Jack Straw successfully passed a motion that will see MPs given an annual allowance of £10,000 to build and maintain a web presence in order to "contribute to better public understanding of what this Parliament is about and what it does". There is a logic here, e-marketing and e-communication literature suggests that the Internet has the capacity to allow relationships to be established between sender and receiver and for interaction to level out social inequalities. Studies of party e-newsletters confirm that this is possible for political communication, and the potential of blogs is lauded; yet currently this potential is untapped. The parliamentary debate centred on the question of the main function, how could it be about promoting understanding while rejecting campaigning: this left some fundamental questions seemingly unanswered.

  1. Are MPs websites really the way to encourage understanding of parliament?
  2. Will they have the interactive elements that makes the Internet a tool for relationship building?
  3. Is there evidence based on visitor surveys to the COI site that there is a demand for interaction with political institutions?
  4. What would be the 'pull' factor to encourage visitors onto these sites?
  5. In an age of impression management and permanent campaigning, how do we define what is or is not campaigning?

The lack of answers means that this 10,000 x 659 MPs could be a gross waste of money. Particularly given that each MP, or at least those in the marginal seats, will create their own website anyway in order to campaign online. Given this, are Power's concerns really going to be solved by the emphasis on e-political communication, more importantly is trust and disengagement a problem with the media or the sender and their message?

3 comments:

David Phillips said...

Of course, one would not encourage anyone in public life to be involved in social media without a proper strategy analysis such as the one we teach at Bournemouth. I would be very happy for Jack Straw to join a the Online PR course... for a fee (£10,000 sounds about right).
Shooting from the social media hip is ok for spotty teens and MP's but not for PR professionals.

Darren Lilleker said...

As you have on your signature: Pull good, push bad - so where's the pull Jack???

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