Politician or personality?

Mick’s doing sterling work liveblogging.. but I’m at the Irish bloggers conference as well. Where the broadest theme of the day so far is identity..

A strong identity can make or break your blog. During his presentation, Guido Fawkes talked about how he established his brand – and how important it’s been to the success of his site.

By way of contrast, the politician bloggers in attendance – Ciarán Cuffe, Dominic Hannigan and Damien Blake – all spoke about how they treat their blog differently to their official website/party site.

It’s frustrating to watch people – who should be applauded for leaping into a new medium – come so close to getting it, but fall at the final hurdle. These contrived differences between the blog and the official sites seem to mirror the artificial divide that we have had for so long between the politician and the person, the man as he acts in the Dáil and the man as he acts late at night in the pub.

Politicians – be yourself. If and when we read your sites, we want gossip, we want entertainment, we want engagement. Your blog should be a social space first, but a political space second. You can do everything in the one place. Get that right and you might find that people hang around to talk policy with you as well. We don’t care about press releases, but we do care about why an issues really matters to you.

All this content can live in the same place – and it should. It’s the best way of addressing your audience – much better than maintaining these tired official sites that interest no-one.

See also Guido’s post here.

Technorati tag: irishblogcon

  • Aaron, my “blog” is my only website.

    The point I was trying to make was that I treat this current blog/site differently to the website I had before, as I try to operate it on the personal/direct level that blogs should be, moving away from the “press release” style of thing.

    For the record, I do put press releases on the site, but they don’t appear on the front page.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    Fair point Damien, sorry for not making that clear above. I still felt from all three of you though that there was an arbitrary line between the things you did that were “bloggy” – ie, personal – and the bits that were “official” – ie, professional. You seemed closed than any of the others to squaring that circle, though.

  • I think you’re squaring your own circle there, Aaron.

    As a younger politician, at a relatively low level on the political ladder, the things I do are much more “bloggy”, more personal and more direct. There’s no campaign team, no fundraising events. I don’t wear a suit every day.

    The politicians who blog are a bit different from what we would normally consider the “official”, professional figure, most commonly the older, established politician.

    In that regard, I’d consider that we’re definitely trying to draw the line you’re talking about, and position ourselves on the open, personal, transparent side. Not only in blogging, but in politics in general.

    Blogging should be positioned as more of a manifestation of this change in our general position, rather than a different way of handling websites.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    comment above should read.. “you seemed closer to squaring that circle”..

    The politicians who blog are a bit different from what we would normally consider the “official”, professional figure, most commonly the older, established politician.

    In that regard, I’d consider that we’re definitely trying to draw the line you’re talking about, and position ourselves on the open, personal, transparent side. Not only in blogging, but in politics in general.

    I think that’s a very positive move. I just think it needs to be 80% personal and 20% open. Guido claims that people are more interested in gossip than hard facts and policy, and I think he’s largely right. I get a feeling from most politician blogs (not singling out yours) that the best bits are still hidden from us. Give us juicy insider info – obviously you can’t reveal everything, but give us the impression you are. Make us co-conspirators.

    Blogging should be positioned as more of a manifestation of this change in our general position, rather than a different way of handling websites.

    Agreed.

  • There’s a balancing point to be found.

    I try to stay away from discussing national issues and issues from outside Letterkenny/Donegal, as they aren’t relevant to the core target of my website.

    I appreciate that gossip is very attractive. It’s why the Phoenix is still going after all these years, and Guido is doing so well. But there is other considerations. Simon McGarr talked today about Libel, which is very relevant. As well as that, at the end of the day I’m still a public rep and have to behave in a manner which upholds the dignity of the position (I’m sure many will doubt the presence of dignity in an Irish politician, but I still see some). I don’t think it would be proper for me to post about rumours I’ve heard, no matter how well I could insulate myself from being sued.

    I think we’re coming at this from the same side.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    I think we’re coming at this from the same side.

    Agreed.

    I don’t think it would be proper for me to post about rumours I’ve heard, no matter how well I could insulate myself from being sued.

    As you say, there’s a balancing point to be found. I don’t think there’s any need for politicians to reach guido’s level!

  • I don’t think there’s any willing to either!

  • I’m not sure I agree with Aaron there. On one hand I think it is important we know a bit about our politicians but at the end of the day I will support a politician primarily because of his/her stance on various issues. (I must be getting old)
    What I want from a blogging politician is his/her honest opinion (and not the party line) on various topics of the day i.e. what’s in the news, what’s on peoples minds at the moment.
    So gimme 80% issues of the day, 20% personal.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    but maca, surely genuine opinions are part of the personal aspect?

  • Firstly – great blog post. Really interesting subject matter that is going to have a great effect on the future of politics and our world.

    In response to Maca: I think you do essentially agree with Aaron. The truth is, at least in America, that it is practically impossible to know a politicians’ true and honest opinion on the “issues of the day” without the politician revealing him/herself personally and socially.

    Therefore, if you don’t want “the party line” opinion as you aptly put it, then the politician must meet you at a social level either in person or via their blog.

    Furthermore, the predominent personal life of a politician is concern for the issues. I think when you are thinking of the 20% personal, you are thinking about things more like “the politician likes to go swimming”, “the politician has two daughters”, and “the politician loves to cook”. But the “personal” mostly concerns opinion and dicsussions on political issues.

    I grew up in a political family, and I our dinner table conversations will all passionately about the issues of the day, and most of that the public never saw. My parents’ friends did see that though, and that is what I think is so neat about political blogging. The politician can share his/her passion, gain increased involvement from his/her constituents, and affect change.

    sorry. that was kind of a long comment, but I just found this blog. It is a good one.

  • Aaron (& Scott)
    Perhaps I didn’t get quite what you mean, your talk of ‘social space’ etc had me thinking of Bebo 🙂
    If by ‘personal’ you mean honest opinions on current issues then of course i’m in agreement with you.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    i think we’re in agreement then 🙂

    thanks scott, you’re too kind

  • Mick,

    I still defend having my website separate from my blog. If I’m addressing a march outside the Dáil through a megaphone I speak differently than in the Dáil chamber. If I’m writing a press release the format is different again. You adapt your message to the medium. The various mainstream media outlets pick up different messages that you put out, as do the new media formats (and search engines for that matter). Blogs have a different audience than websites. The Irish Times attracts a different readership to the Southside People (a freesheet). Sometimes the difference is small, but it is there, and I think it is worth thinking about who might be reading / listening / looking at what you post. Compare my blog posting of 2 June last with the press release of 31 May on my website. Same issue (statutory rape), different tone, different audiences, methinks. Apologies for being unable to post the links. I hope that clarifies my reasoning.