Wanted: a public sector leader to build and run Victoria's new data centre, the Victorian Centre for Data Insights.
The Mandarin is now moving into its third year of publishing, and we're immensely proud to have you invest your time with us. However, government isn'
Government agencies around Australia are standing up to support the campaign to end violence against women today for White Ribbon Day.
ALL THINGS P: The federal government wants to know which open data would be most useful to business, researc
If policymakers are involved in commissioning and support research, how will they know they're getting bang for buck? What’s the best way to measure
We recently moved our readers to a new system. You may need to reset your password here to login.
Not a member ? Join here for free.
Forgot your password?
Home Portfolio Communications & Technology Tom Burton: know your social media risk and learn to love the noise
Text size :
DEPARTMENTSAustralian Border Force, Department of Immigration and Border Protection
TAGS Australian Defence Force, e-government, Open government
All agencies are struggling to learn how to be relevant in the modern media world. Learning from the inevitable mistakes is critical if government is to be an authentic participant in a complex and disorganised world, writes Tom Burton.
I recall in a previous government life authorising the republishing of a tweet of someone who had tweeted that Alan Jones’ 2GB audience were “a bunch of douche bags”.
Jones was in regulatory hot water over some provocative statement and my young social media producer — far more sensible than me — asked my advice if it should be included in a Storify compilation showing the range of opinions about the issue. I went to the source of all wisdom, the Urban Dictionary, and convinced myself the term was often used as slang for know-it-alls, and that it was OK to be included as part of the suite of different views on the topic.
2GB’s regulatory affairs people didn’t share my same sense of humour and the predictable lawyers’ letters followed.
Managing public affairs these days is a fraught business. On any day there is some organisation trying to recover from a so called gaffe — be it Woolworths and its ‘Fresh in our Memories Anzac Day’ promotion, or just last week, the Australian Defence Force anti-ISIS Twitter account getting a hard lesson on what is on and off the record.
Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.
The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.
Tom Burton is publisher of The Mandarin based in Sydney. He has served in various public administration roles, specialising in digital engagement. He was a Walkley Award-winning journalist and executive editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. He worked as Canberra bureau chief for the Australian Financial Review and as managing editor of smh.com.au. He most recently worked at the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Read Related Content
Agree with your points Tom, however there are ways for government agencies to better manage the blazes they light on social channels.
There’s still unfortunately a low level of understanding of the potential far reaching consequences of negative social media commentary, particularly at senior bureaucratic and political levels – which leads to a view that online discussions are just lights and noise.
At more junior levels in government there’s still very uneven capabilities across government – with several agencies exemplars in their effective use of social channels to meet their organisational goals, many others ordinary or below average, and a few that still treat social media as a fad that will go away any day now.
The issue is that unless, and until, agencies take social seriously, the resourcing, training, support and attention paid to the area will remain inadequate, exposing agencies to significant public and political risks that can damage their reputations for years, lead to lower public compliance or co-operation, derail government policies and even end careers.
Until agencies internalise social as their primary engagement approach – internally and externally – they will continue to see ‘Border Force’ like events, and continue to damage the governments for which they work – directly breaking their obligations and making it harder to work with politicians as well as the public.