A blogger’s keys are mightier than any sword

Impact of Social Media on Public Figures: Lessons from Somerton

We often talk about the power of social media on our website (and on our own blog), and some may think it’s a cliché or perhaps over exaggerated but this latest piece of news would suggest otherwise.

11 councillors in the rural town of Somerton have staged a mass resignation after becoming tired of a critical blogger. This may sound a little ridiculous but the resignations were started by (Ex-vice chairman) Anthony Canvin who said “I’m not going to tolerate it when I’m working for the town…I’ve had enough’ and handed in my resignation.” The councillors claimed that their resignation was due to impossible working conditions (you can read the full BBC story here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/8332616.stm).

The author in question, who apparently wields such great power with his keyboard, is Niall Connelly who writes the Muck&Brass blog (http://muckandbrass.blogspot.com/). Not one to hold back, it would seem, Niall Connolly called members “jackasses” and said a leaflet was “like a Nazi call to arms”. He does also deny that his blog was the real cause of the councillors’ resignations saying “If blaming Muck&Brass helps these ex-councillors to sleep at night then that’s fine but it ignores the truth…These councillors had, for too long, ignored the community which they were meant to serve.”

You would think that it would, surely, come as no surprise to the councillors that people in public life and positions of ‘authority’ are likely to face; scrutiny, questions and, shock horror, criticism from time to time. While not wanting to detract from the apparent opinion forming skills of Niall Connelly, it does seem difficult to believe a single blogger, can have so much sway over elected officials (indeed as stated above Niall denies he actually has this ‘power’ anyway).

It’s unlikely that the council of Somerton has a PR department but if they did what would, or should they advise their client (assuming they hadn’t just resigned!)? Firstly, be honest – this may seem a little too much of a generalisation but without having a policy of honesty in all your communications you can get in an awful lot of trouble (a wise old man once said; ‘never lie to a journalist, because one day they will find out’, and the same goes for bloggers). Secondly, as in traditional PR, if you are at the sharp end of criticism you need to open a dialogue with your ‘attackers’. Ask yourselves, do they have a point/is there some truth in what they are saying, has the blogger misunderstood your message or intention? If so this mistake can be easily rectified. Thirdly, (as we say in our social media training course) the worst thing you can do is ignore the critic, especially when they have a substantial following and are persistent in their negative comments. Chances are that if you start talking, or even posting replies to, a blogger they will appreciate their voice is being heard.

One of Niall Connelly’s comments was that the councillors ignored democracy – surely, since ancient Greece, communication and democracy have gone hand in hand – it just so happens that there are few different platforms upon which to communicate these days.

In short; beware the power of the blogger.

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