Now it’s the politicians. After the corporations having struggled with the two-way nature of blogging and even podcasting, it’s now on the politicians to realize that (though their propaganda-experts probably told them otherwise)
traditional media send messages, blogs start conversations (thanks, Loïc !) — and react with frustration if no-one is there to listen.
So, being a professional podcaster myself, this is my
Hints and Tips section for politicians to avoid common mistakes.
- Respect the Blog/Podcast as a personal two-way Medium
This is a huge difference from the way most of you have been told about dealing with media, since (as you may readily have experienced… ) these ones are going to hit back.
So if you decide to use blogging/podcasting as part of your communication arsenal, be sure to assign the budget, your own time and some workforce to care about the backchannels. Yes, that’s right, you have to open your very holy homepage for open-minded political exchange. To blog or not to blog means either publishing your opinion for discussion or letting the discussion go on without you. If you are not willing to accept (or "risk") other opinions on your site (and don’t even think of censoring !!!), just quit it. Or the audience will do that for you.
To interact with your readers there are basically two ways provided by traditional blogging software (please see below for details). If you would prefer to use you existing CMS instead, this is fine, as long as you have someone implementing the back-channel features which ship with conventional blogging software; as there are:
A functionality which enables other blogs’ writers to notify you, that they dealt with a certain article’s issue on their own blog.
These enable your visitors to directly leave a note below a certain Article you published.
Finally when you implement these functions, make sure they appear as they are supposed to on the page:
While Mrs. Merkel’s page shows-off the traditional one-way propaganda approach ("open minds not appreciated here"), which is not considered very appealing by many readers, the former French Prime Minister, Mr. Raffarin, not only takes full advantage of the blogs’ communication potential, but also shows this to his readers by appropriately coloring the links to interactive features below each article.
- We all know you sit in the ivory tower…
…you really don’t need to remind us all the time.
Weblogs and podcasts live by their honesty. So the absolutely worst thing you can do for a podcast, is put yourself into a dark TV studio and read a text someone else has written for you from a teleprompter.
If you are really keen on using podcasting to get your views and opinions closer to the people, you will have to face reality and get out of your office, come down to the real world, talking to real people about real issues. Yes, it costs time and money, but aren’t the people who voted for you in the last election worth it, to address them in an appropriate way ?
- Choosing the right Producers for your Weblog/Podcast
As they will have tremendous influence on your public appearance, select the people to build your new window to the world with the most appropriate care. Don’t just ask your default web-agency to do it. Nor will traditional TV production companies necessarily be able to deal with the special demands of interactive online presentation. Do a public invitation to tender and meticulously review the applicants’ references. Don’t just give the order to the production-firm of some fellow party member’s son-in-law.
So you may also have to watch out, that if an Autobahn is running right through your head, you don’t accidentally adjust your face accordingly…
- Good Value has hardly ever been for free
I’m not aware, how much Mr. Raffarin’s podcasts actually cost, but there has been public protest in Germany, due to the fact that Mrs. Merkel’s obviously cost € 6.500 — way too much, isn’t it ? After I heard this I did a quick re-calculation of how much we would have needed to charge the chancellor for a comparable production. I came out at somewhere between € 5.800 to
€ 6.200. Only marginally lower than the amount originally published. I don’t know, if the difference has been a "chancellor-surcharge" or additional editorial expenses.
Fact is, that if you will want such thing done right, it will cost its money one way or the other — or electorate’s goodwill.
- Don’t oppress a Politician’s natural Character
There are several kinds of people in this world. Mr. Raffarin is a great actor, Mrs. Merkel isn’t. Even though reading his speech from teleprompter, Raffarin has lively mimics, regardless of the superfluous "on-topic" book someone has put on his chest. Chancellor Merkel (who is known to be great at dealing with real people, as known from her public appearances) just seems to be bored by always reading preformulated stuff into a camera.
It’s a shame her producers do not pay care to the fact that not all politicians are to be presented equal. Give her the chance to explain her concepts in natural language and to real humans, and her on-screen performances will improve immediately. As will the public acceptance. Because Merkel’s natural way to act is presumably one of the key factors her voters appreciate.
Hopefully these guides can help anyone producing political podcasts or weblogs to make them more successfull — especially as these are becoming increasingly popular on the local level, even in my hometown Mainz.