Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Identifiable public service social media voices no longer required in Australian government

The new Twitter profile pic for former
DIAC/DIPD Twitter spokesperson Sandi Logan.
Officials from the Department of Immigration and Border Control (formerly the Department of Immigration and Citizenship) have confirmed that Sandi Logan is no longer required to be a spokesperson for the department on Twitter (using his @SandiHLogan account).

Reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, from comments at the IPAA ACT Social Media event yesterday, effective immediately the Minister is the only spokesperson on Twitter, with the rebadged @DIBPAustralia account focusing on policy and programmatic 'good news stories'.

Sandi has already changed his Twitter profile image and changed the tone of his tweets.

I conjecture that he may even be required to close down the account, based on it having been established as a departmental asset and it being difficult to hand this over to an individual when the following has been built on the account being an official one (see my post on this topic, Is it theft if you personalise & retain an official social media account when you leave an organisation?)

More importantly this step has emphasised a 'do what I do' shift in how public servants may engage via social media. It sends a strong message that public servants may no longer be acceptable as identifiable public spokespeople for their departments.

This has significant implications both for current spokespeople and high profile social media users in the public sector and a much broader impact on the willingness of individual public servants to use these channels for legitimate customer service, policy engagement and service delivery.

While the Department's official account (@DIBPAustralia) remains and has been reinforced as an official channel, individual public servant voices will be hidden behind a departmental name.

I suspect this will only increase the reluctance of public servants to engage in public debates, reducing public understanding of how policy and services are developed and correspondingly reducing the public's ability to participate.

It will also likely reduce the ability for the broader community to understand the value, importance and difficulty of public service roles - damaging employment intakes for the public sector and the reputation and standing of the APS.

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