Earlier today I came across a great post by Candi Harrison about “Government Websites Are Not Newpapers”. In her blog post she says that
…she is noticing that some agency websites seem to be slipping backwards, featuring agency news rather than top citizen tasks on their home…
…It appears that agency public affairs staffs are really getting into websites (and web management) – which is a good thing – but they haven’t yet learned this truth: the public comes to government websites to do things – perform tasks – not read the news…
…Successful websites are audience-centered. That’s not an opinion – that’s a fact. So please…let’s get our government websites back on track. Let’s use them for service and engagement and collaboration – not as surrogate newspapers
I have noticed the exact same thing, mostly connected to the growing interest or enthusiasm for social media. Many of the calls I have had lately on government 2.0 were with Public Affairs or Communication officers, strategizing about how to modernize their web sites or how to established a presence on public social networks.
As Candi advises politicians to keep their hands off government websites, some make an even more intense political use of department websites. As she says, this may well be a learning curve and we may be seeing soon a return to citizen-centricity (or, as I put it, citizen drive) in how websites evolve.
The bad news for public affairs officers, though, is that there is very little they can do on their own websites to create compelling content: audiences on the Internet are shifting interest and trust toward social networks and self-organized content. To succeed in this new game, public affairs officers need to learn how to communicate with and be relevant to a multitude of different audiences, on the audience’s turf and terms.