Recently, I interviewed for a job in Katy Gallagher’s office, currently the Chief Minister of the ACT. I didn’t end up getting the job, however it did provoke some personal thoughts about how the current ALP ACT Government is going with their communication methods.
First things first. The existing online infrastructure of the Government is good. There are several websites that aim to engage with the public including Time to Talk and Community Engagement. The ACT Cabinet has recently held two Twitter cabinet meetings. Katy Gallagher herself has jumped onto the Twitter bandwagon with abandon while her deputy, Andrew Barr, uses it effectively for his local audience. In addition, the official ALP site has recently had a revamp and is looking much better than it once did.
Personal websites, such as the Chief Minister’s, also add to this communication mix. It’s clean, simple and directs users to the most common on-sites, such as Canberra connect.
However, through all of this, there is something missing. Searching minister’s sites, blogs, tweets and other, I am struck by the lack of video. There is just none to be found anywhere. If there is something that has come to symbolise an ability to communicate efficiently with customers, clients or voters, it is video. In addition to this, the main video platform of the web, YouTube, has additional benefits. By uploading content to YouTube, you can easily automatically embed video content to your own website or blog.
While some companies are notoriously bad for their video use (the auto-play feature on Fairfax news websites such as the Age for instance), this isn’t a good reason to avoid it.
To me, YouTube and the nature of internet video seems tailor made for politics. I know no Australian politicians can live up to the high standards of that poster boy for white, suburban lefties, Barack Obama, but he really does have it down pat when it comes to his YouTube Channel. The page itself is smooth and simple. The videos are not long or awkward. They feature nearly every single announcement or event that the President is involved in.
How often to pollies speak in public? Nearly every day one assumes. We always hear about media bias, access, feelings of estrangement. Well, video is a simple way to alleviate some of these things. Instead of relying on radio and television news crews to cherry pick bits of press conferences, record them all and post them to YouTube. Providing a video clip of a local school opening or a question in Parliament allows a user (also probably a voter) to see the interaction in an intimate manner, as opposed to mass broadcast on the television.
In the ACT especially, where the community is so local, every MLA should be forced to take at a minimum an iPhone or cheap digital camera with them and record everything they do. It is resource free and allows unique videos to be posted on blogs and websites. Andrew Leigh has highlighted how to use video effectively on his site (although it should be above the fold so people see it instantly), while Barack Obama takes the cake with this screen after the initial spalsh welcome.
Video is often dismissed as a ‘social media’ tool. You won’t find YouTube listed along with LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter on most social media survey activities (for an example, see this Sensis social media report). But this misses a point. It doesn’t cost anyone anything these days to create and upload video content. A Minister for Education (for example) could ask people to video parts of local schools that need upgrading instead of visiting every single school in the district. Competitions asking for responses on local issues could be arranged to encourage initial exposure to citizen-centric video.
Today, I received a glossy quarterly ALP newsletter from Katy Gallagher. Now, I recognise the need for these types of communication activities. Many older people don’t have access or an inkling to participate (however this is quickly becoming less so) and they need to be communicated with. It is also traditional, something which is hard to change. However, I certainly did not need a copy. In fact, it goes straight into my recycling. What I would like would be a short, 3 minute video, hosted on the Chief Minister’s blog, that told me what she had achieved in the last 100 days. It would be something I could tweet, link to on Facebook or blog about. Instead, I get an expensive glossy magazine which I will dispose of.
I understand some politicians might not enjoy ‘posing’ for videos (however hard I find this given they are politicians), however it’s not really a choice any more. It’s a political necessity and it should be sold as one if required.
The ACT Government is doing a good job at slowly dragging itself into the 21st century, however as funds are always tight, it is missing a golden opportunity to cheaply highlight the work it does on a daily basis to the ACT community.