I used to think a digital press office was all about platforms and hardware: screens bolted to the wall, flip cams (this was 2011) and having their own twitter account. Now I’m not so sure.
So, what am I looking for in a truly digital press office?
1. A team, not a person
The whole team applying digital as part of their routine work. A ‘digital press officer role’ is just that – only a role, not a team.
Does the team have a clear sense of their purpose and responsibilities? I’m thinking in particular of any distinction being made between PR activity and media relations. If this isn’t clear, then it is difficult to know how digital can be useful to teams and individuals.
3. Real people or spokespeople?
I expect to see press officers using real names and profiles, not generic corporate ones, to engage with media online. Tracey does this well.
4. Prepared to say something
While I’ve always admired a press officer’s ability to say ‘no comment’ a million different ways, I’m not sure that the equivalent radio silence works online, particularly in the jaws of an emerging crisis. The best press officers quickly refer back to what they can say at least: linking to previous statements or other types of content.
5. Open minded about what media looks like
This is the big change for me. I always assumed that once traditional press offices could see all the conversations, blogs and forums online, using their shiny new platforms and hardware, that this would herald a new way of thinking about the breadth of media. I’ve yet to be convinced this has happened universally, particularly in the public sector where it still feels a little all-or-nothing: newspaper front pages and Today are still king. Someone prove me wrong on this?
6. Making the case for online coverage
Linked to number 5 – will the team confidently report on online coverage alongside offline, or is it only for quiet days?
7. A culture of coffees as well as deadlines
The happiest and most productive press offices I’ve encountered have been those where individual members of staff are in charge of their own diaries. There is an expectation that, like a traditional newsroom, people are more often out of the office than in. People succeed on the strength of their contacts book, and the effort they put in to networking and meeting journalists, bloggers, hackers and commentators.
8. Being of the internet, not just using it
Another common characteristic of a happy, digital, press officer are those who contribute to the web: they’re connectors of people, writers of blogs, contributors to forums, sharers of interesting or funny content.
This is a tough one to reverse-engineer, but I’ve yet to meet a team where there isn’t someone with a genuine (sometimes hidden) passion for digital. It is imperative that the senior team lead by example, set objectives and recruit with this in mind.
I’m as excited about the prospect of a digital press office as ever, but, I am moving the goalposts, three years on. Technology and platforms are only part of the story – it’s attitude and experience that brings digital to a press office.