Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Do Australian governments agencies need to appoint Social Media / New Media Directors?

A rising trend in overseas governments is to appoint people specifically into a role such as New Media Director with a responsibility for developing guiding an agency or department's online participation initiatives.

In the US Federal Government this type of role is becoming so important that it is becoming a political appointment (as are the various Secretaries, CTO and CIO positions) rather than simply a bureaucratic hire.

To my knowledge there are few if any Online Media, New Media or Social Media Director or SES role across the Australian Public Service and a search of APSjobs resulted in zero results for all three terms.

I am interested in your views;

Do Australian government agencies need to begin formalising their commitment to new media channels by hiring appropriately qualified individuals as their New Media or Social Media Directors?

Is the talent pool in Australia deep enough to support this?

Should we keep the role buried in another area, such as the Online Services or Online Communications Team or within a Media or other Customer Communications group?

Should the Australian government engage with new media channels at all?


  1. From an organisational change point of view it might be good to appoint New Media or Social Media Director. However, in doing that we should be careful not to focus entirely on external facing social media. The introduction of social media at the front end of government ultimately needs to be reflected at the back end too. I also don't think it matters that they aren't social media "gurus". If you look at the people behind Patient Opinion in the UK, they were driven by the objective of improving health services, not social media. I'd take passion for change and innovation in a public sector "New Media or Social Media Director" over guru status.

  2. The trouble is that without an official position with the power to bring about change, it is unlikely to happen. In the Australian context, the position of New Media Director would legitimise the use of New Media in an agency. Obviously, the outcomes should drive the use of New Media, but in an environment which is traditionally conservative, without a formal position charged with providing advice (and ultimately, accepting responsibility for the deployment of New Media), I doubt the type of large scale adoption which the US is pursuing will happen here in the short to medium term. As to the talent pool, if we don't have these positions now, who will bother obtaining the skills which will inevitably be needed in the future?