Why leaders should blog?

Nick Booth from over at Podnosh has tried to answer the questions of “Why leaders should blog?”.  He goes into some depth and backs his arguments with evidence from other sources.  Paul Caplan from Internationale is slightly more blunt summarising his arguments as if they don’t “they will be sitting in their corner of the party – Billy no-mates, talking to themselves.”

I left a comment somewhere in between:

I think the issue is simpler.  Leaders lead by being visible and inspiring.  It is a rare leader who hides away without communicating.

Take local Councillors.  They lead by being in their community holding conversations, doing radio and press interviews, writing letters, attending and speaking at public meetings.  It is their bread and butter.

They, and other leaders, are being left behind though.  Those conversations, those public meetings are happening online too.  In blogs, in forums on email groups.  Leaders need to participate in those conversations too or risk becoming half a leader.  It is difficult to participate fully without being there with your own blog.

Therefore leaders must blog or ignore a significant and increasingly important part of their leadership role.

Councillors, what’s your view?

5 thoughts on “Why leaders should blog?

  1. At the risk of annoying you Shane, I had a post up a while ago on how blogging can / doesn’t make democracy more deliberative.

    http://nevertrustahippy.blogspot.com/2007/02/do-weblogs-make-democracy-more.html

    My argument could be summarised here saying thta public officials – elected or otherwise – will not serve either themselves or the public interest by blogging. But if they could nurture a climate in which a lot of the people they represent DO blog (and use other tools to promote civic conversations) then they would be able to eavesdrop upon conversations that would genuinely improve their ability to represent people properly.

  2. How could commenting on the blog annoy me? 😉

    Having re-read your piece i’m still not convinced by your assertion that “public officials …will not serve .. the public interest by blogging”.

    Burke informs us that representatives should live in the strictest union with their constituents, but not sacrifice his unbiased opinion. You tell us:
    “But, if you can’t reason with the public, you end up having to act as their delegates. This is what Burke was worried about – and what should worry us today.”
    I argue that without a blog you restrict your ability to reason with the public. I agree with you that representatives should spend time listening in the blogosphere. More time than they spend blogging. But I would argue that without their own role they will never really be accepted in the blogosphere. Finally on a practical point there will be times as a local leader when they need to initiate the conversation. Their own blog will be an obvious place for that.

  3. Prof Tony McWalter said the other day

    ” We need constant contact between the representatives of the people and those who run the country. ”

    Politicians are representatives and as leaders, ought to blog as part of their deliberative discourse.

    Civil servants – another matter and I think we are experimenting still.

  4. The thing is, Shane, they won’t be able to do it properly. Blogging is an argumentative – not a conversational – medium when it comes to political issues. Politicians and bureaucrats will always waste tons of time trying to think up restrictions to put on themselves and each other.

    I drew the comparison between the minister / civil servant attempting to use blogs and ‘Lt Hauk’ in Good Morning Vietnam trying to show that officials *could* be DJs without breaking any of the rules. Tim Ireland found the soundtrack of this – it illustrates the point beautifully.

    http://www.moviewavs.com/php/sounds/?id=gog&media=MP3S&type=Movies&movie=Good_Morning_Vietnam&quote=apologies.txt&file=apologies.mp3

    I blogged about what happened when David Milliband set up his site:

    http://nevertrustahippy.blogspot.com/2006/03/minister-blogging-yet-another.html

    And where politicans / bureaucrats *don’t* think up lots of rules and restrictions, it will rapidly come back to bite them. Unless you’re fairly tough minded (or not in a senior post) blogging will be a bad and regrettable experience.

    Alex, apologies for (again) linking back to my own site, but I’ve got the whole quote from Tony McWalter here:

    http://nevertrustahippy.blogspot.com/2007/02/oh-yes.html

    His point was ‘distributed moral wisdom’. He argued for better communication between the PM and MPs – note, I’m not arguing that MPs and councillors need to spend less time communicating with the public. I AM saying that it is for others to create the conversational climate that representatives can eavesdrop upon. Blogging demonstrably does the exact opposite most of the time.

  5. Don’t think I can agree with that Paul, for the same reason I don’t think that Stephen Coleman is right.

    Politicians ought to use a range of mediums to explain their decisions. If you’re a national politician then while the mass media may be a useful way of letting the majority of people know what you’re up to it does have the disadvantage of John Humphries interrupting you every 10 seconds. If you’re a local politician then again local mass media is great for trying to let more people know, but it too has limitations.

    Blogging’s limitations are obvious too; very few readers, tendency for flame wars to break out, trolls etc.

    But, and it’s quite a big one as part of a communications strategy blogs are hard to beat. Relatively simple to use, increasingly understood by the public, flexible, and if not discursive at least a better stab at it than the average leaflet.

    But “either / or” is a false dichotomy. Not being involved seems to me to be the safe, conservative, zero sum type of politics that puts off lots of potential voters.

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