Snapshot of UK govnt use of social tools – and Press Office involvement

Caveat: this is not exhaustive, it does not include all departments (even the Home Office!) It is literally a snapshot and I sincerely hope it will be taken and used by anyone who needs it. I am aware that Ross Ferguson in COI is preparing a repository for this sort of information, so I will not duplicate with another collaborative space, but here is the info for the time being (I have not summarised, nor offered opinion – this is just the information I have been given… enjoy):

DIUS (Steph Gray)

At DIUS, we’ve been experimenting over the last six months with a variety of social media tools and online engagement projects, particularly in the area of consultations and collaboration with stakeholders.

  • We developed an interactive version of the Innovation Nation white paper ( published earlier this year, inviting stakeholders to comment on the text of the document and engage in discussions online with policy officials.
  • The centrepiece of the Department’s Science and Society consultation ( has been a ‘hub’ style site, incorporating a blog, video hosted on our YouTube channel (, shared calendar, links to online mentions of the consultation and ‘widget’ versions of the consultation questions for bloggers and stakeholders to embed on their own websites.
  • We’ve hosted blogs to support the policy development process in some of our key policy areas including Higher Education ( and Informal Adult Learning (, continuing discussions which have started offline, into online spaces.
  • We sponsored ‘Meet the Freshers’, an online soap opera on the social network Bebo (, supporting our £3m student finance campaign. The partnership included input into the direction of the series, video messages and online promotion linking to a campaign profile page on Bebo where young people can ask questions and get advice on student finance issues.
  • Our Science & Innovation news desk use Twitter ( and Flickr ( to promote new events, visits and press notices and provide multimedia materials for journalists and bloggers.
  • Internally, we’ve been helping press and policy teams to keep up to date with stakeholder news and mentions of the Department’s work on blogs with easy-to-use online ‘dashboard’ tools such as Netvibes – including one we set up to help track mentions of the key issues and partners DIUS needs to engage to address the current economic challenges.(

FCO (Claire Collins)

The Press Office in the FCO has an embedded web team managing the digital news output – working closely with other digital/web collegues.

Within the team in press office is a news editor, an assistant news editor and the photographer.

In terms of social media:


We manage the FCO’s twitter channel updating frequently throughout the day on news events. We also use twitter to respond to comments and direct messages. Twitter is now seen as a mainstream form of communication in press office.


As the photographer is based in press office and part of the team – we populate the flickr site – in real time – and the site acts as a photographic news channel supporting our news articles. Press office direct the wires and journalists to flickr to download images rather than distributing via email: Anyone can download the photos and comment on the photos.

Press office blog – hosted on tumblr:

We are ‘beta’ testing a press office blog which will act as a way of rebutting inaccuracies in the press and be a way for us to promote upcoming ministerial events etc. We will also use the blog to highlight letters to editors – all in all a useful tool for press office and getting positive response in testing.


Press Officers regularly commission videos for ministerial visits or events in London which are hosted on YouTube – and pulled across onto the website by the news editors.

FCO blogs – press office are involved with this.

There are also the various campaigns which individual press officers work on – which have a social media angle – such as ’64 for Suu’ or the London Summit. These campaigns are a collaboration between the web team (DDG), press office and strategic communications all increasingly taking into account social media.

DCMS (Mark O’Neill)

We use YouTube for Ministerial films and we are looking at (finally) doing some videoblogging which will be hosted somewhere 🙂

We have internal blogging which is available to anyone who wants to use it – mainly the Board and internal service providers. We have external blogging for Ministers.

We have our own platform for consultations but are looking at Communtariat and UserVoice for some future initiatives.

We are piloting Yammer for internal microblogging but so far there is no demand from the business for a corporate Twitter account. Similarly we have not had any demand for a corporate presence on Facebook though a number of our sponsored bodies are doing interesting things.

Oh and we use Netvibes for simple news dashboards.

Press Office use all the above and lead on content.

DEFRA (Daniel De Cruz)

Beta testing a blogging policy official at Press office enthusiastic but not yet doing anything.

DWP (Neil Franklin)

  • Putting a WordPress environment into place
  • Viral video (youtube etc)
  • Monitoring (using bespoke dashboard – still being built)
  • Talking to Press Office about boosting monitoring capability

DFID (Julia Chandler)

Sent you two quick tweets:

juliac2@hubmum neillyneil covered us I think, but to confirm, DFID is on twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Facebook, Youth reporters too

juliac2@hubmum oh yes – and your question – Press interested but not really involved yet. they do help with checking blogs/moderating comments

Press office are interested, but so far have not involved. As mentioned, they moderate blog posts pre-publication (hasn’t resulted in too much upset, but has helped with a couple of potentially risky comments) and they help with moderation.

Twittering is very experimental – but reasonably steady – again, we sit opposite, so run any drafts past them.

Flickr and YouTube they leave to us, but one or two press officers (particularly those who work with 2 of our junior ministers who are interested) have got involved in doing quick video interviews when the ministers have been overseas.

Our white paper team were involved in our open consultation, but press not really involved.

HM Treasury (Daniel Atkinson)

Externally we have a corporate Twitter account which we used to post the highlights of the Budget and had ministerial tweets during G20. Normally it’s used to announce website updates although we are looking to broaden its usage.

We’ve used our Youtube channel to help explain the Budget, feature Q&A sessions from the G20 summit and highlight ministerial activities.

Flickr we use to share images of the Treasury for those who require them which has helped to cut down on the number of individual requests we receive for generic images.

Internally we have a blog by the permanent secretary. This has proven a popular means of engaging staff  in both the wider work of the department and specific events.

The Press Office has been enthusiastic at our use of social media although we’re working on collaborating more closely. The Press Office also check social media content when necessary.

Twitter responses

Local government/authorities

alncl@hubmum Monitoring of soc med fed back to press team by me (where relevant).

alncl@hubmum Twitter, YouTube and FB at the moment, Flickr in the pipeline. Press office feed RSS to Twitter and FB, more planned with YouTube.

martinxo@hubmum #snappoll SM used by webteam only at the mo’, slowly talking to other depts/services, press office not the best place to start IMHO

Commission for rural communities

russelltanner@hubmum we’re using Twitter, Youtube, wikis (internally), commenting/ discussions on website, led by comms team


neillyneil@hubmum See my lists of gov YouTubers and Twitterers on my blog. & Here at BERR @digitalbritain is led by a press officer.

neillyneil@hubmum …and exploring SNMRs now, inspired by @lesteph

Neil’s blog post is here on UK government on twitter

Please mind the gap

After a few weeks of unavoidably engrossing myself in work (and family) I have neglected to blog. This is partly because of busy-ness but also because actually there has not been much to say. I tend to use this blog to showcase what I notice happening around government and the digital space, and for a while it was a struggle to keep up, now however, there is a gentle acceptance, adoption and movement in the direction of the future. The door is no longer being kicked at, it is open; the job now is to help everyone working in departments to mind that gap of knowledge.

What has become glaringly apparent is the widening gap between the use of social tools for big ‘P’ Politics and Politicians, and then public service. This took me by surprise, but explains why I was slightly frustrated by the projects at Rewired State that tended to focus on Politics and Politicians rather than public service data mash-ups that would help us in our lives (I was about to say daily but that might be a reach too far).

My focus is on the public service use of social media within the departments and by civil servants. This tends to cover four areas:

  • policy consultation – big lesson here is that the current digital environment requires earlier engagement (and more dialogue less monologue by the policy units)
  • marketing – obviously the marketing teams are already savvy to the fact that their online audience is collecting in community spaces (and most are supplementing traditional marketing media: TV, radio, print, with targeted online campaigns)
  • Press – press officers were probably the first to be baptised by fire and so now they are running with the crowd and monitoring what is happening in the social media space: following blogs, twitter streams and utilising flickr and YouTube (no comment); my dashboard-creating mates are very busy at the moment. I also think they should be the ones who gatekeep on behalf of the departments where they work, the tweeting/blogging areas of their departments should remain under the watchful eye of the Press Office (Although there is inevitably a cross over here with Political use of social tools)
  • corporate communication: in this I include information that the department/corporate produce for citizens/business/stakeholders/other departments (so transformational government and website rationalisation puts the onus here on Directgov and however it is here that the most controversial arguments happen with departmental responsibility to the tax-payer: see the ‘free our data’/’give us RSS’ campaigns and the like (both of which I staunchly support)

That leaves a glaring gap for us working in central government: local government. Centrally this is the remit of the department for communities and local government, but in reality this is a whole different ballgame and the choice to engage using social media would lie with each council. (Not going there right now, that’s a whole other post).

It also has created an interesting conundrum for the strategy units, who are perhaps not used to working in a communication world that changes society/community in quite the same way or at the same speed as the digital revolution has created. More and more I see strategy units re-checking the future, not only because of the economic crisis, but also because of the communication landscape and technical revolution. This is a very exciting place to be.

So… the update is: this is now not something ‘new’, it fits, in a way that Second Life never did; it is an external catalyst for change within departments for comms teams, marketing and press; it is re-energising strategy units and more importantly, or beautifully, it is re-humanising the public service, assisting (IMHO) democracy – not so much for the world of Politics maybe, but in utilising the democratic idealism for making sure our public services work well for us.

It is a good place to be, and although there are battles to be fought and won, creaking changes to be made and mistakes, the doors are firmly open, we just need information gap monitors 🙂 (See what I did there? I created a whole new job title).


So, the gaps are:

  1. Between Political use of social media and public sector/public service use
  2. Between central and local government
  3. Between the door being open and the knowledge needed to successfully use social tools