Avoid being Civil Serfed

So it seems the Civil Serf case is causing something of a stir.

For me the bigger issue here is how we can encourage management to let people blog about their work. Particularly people working for Government. I suspect governance/regulation can only provide minimal assistance on this matter, what we need is common sense.

Personally I have never read our companies’ blogging policy, I think we have one, but there are some pretty common sense rules which have managed to keep me in work so far :

– Be authentic and honest.
– Don’t bitch – If you must then make sure you back it up with evidence.
– Justify what you say.
– Make your Mum proud, my mum doesn’t understand most of the stuff I blog about but I like to think she would be proud if she did understand.
– Learn from your mistakes.
– keep secrets secret.
– Talk to your boss about what you’re blogging and why.
– Abstract away from events/people/companies/parties and talk about anonymous examples.
– Don’t be afraid of being wrong (this one does depend a bit more on your employer)
– Make it clear that the views expressed are yours and not that of your past, present or any future employer.

I am quite fortunate in that my boss and his boss are bloggers with a good understanding of the blogosphere.

There is one key thing here, the people at the top need to realise that the “one voice culture” cannot be maintained. There will always be a variety of opinions in any organisation; it’s often the variety in opinions that result in great innovations. To stop your customers talking to your staff about ideas does not seem to make sense. When you take it a step further and stop politicians/civil servants talking to voters it makes even less sense. My understanding of the role of civil servants is quite limited, but I suspect we need to encourage them to debate topics in public using the same level of professionalism that they would use when discussing any given issue with their boss. Jeremy’s Whitehall Webb blog provides a nice example.

I was pleased to see that MP Tom Watson seems to get the idea; let’s hope his colleagues see the benefits of his conversations and start their own.

Exclusively positive blogs don’t work. People can tell when a PR machine has been working away on a statement, even when it’s cunningly disguised as a blog post – the tone of voice lacks authenticity. You need to let people talk about negatives, but at the same time empower them to turn them into positives.

Most complaints start with a small fault which only becomes a complaint through poor communication/management.

Forming tight guidelines on what you can and cannot say is never going to encourage people to blog, quite the opposite – and besides, lengthy policy documents never get read.

Just to confirm, The Guardian quotes me as saying that I believe that Civil Serf has been sacked. I actually said “If the civil servant has been identified and sacked it will be a real shame for the civil service”. In fact I suspect ‘she’ may have pulled the blog to avoid being sacked. It’s mainly for this reason that I have not re-published the blog posts which google reader stored nicely for me.

Is/Was ‘She’ really an Asset?

Well she started an inevitable conversation which is never a bad thing. Looking back over the Civil Serf posts I don’t see any comments. I’m not sure if that’s because they were never enabled or they have not been cached. I would like to have read over peoples reactions to the blog. If there was no ability to add comments the blog was effectively just a scratching post.

As for setting back Government 2.0…I’m no fan of terminology 2.0 mainly because people seem to use such terms to describe things they don’t understand or can’t explain. I suspect we can learn a great deal about Government 2.0 and the issues that need to be tackled in order to make it a reality. Whatever that reality may be.

If you want to learn more about blogging in Corporates I can recommend reading Naked Conversation from Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. Its a good read.

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One thought on “Avoid being Civil Serfed

  1. Honoured to be mentioned! Just to prove I do sometimes read your blogs, even if I don’t understand all of it!!!

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