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March 23, 2011
Doing Well in An 'Open Information Culture'?
 
Pull back a bit for some big picture musings on the world's changing communication environment. Alastair Campbell, who was Tony Blair's information director in Great Britain, sees "an underlying trend of nations today moving – whether willingly or reluctantly – from a closed to an open information culture." And what are the implications of ever-increasing openness not only for governments, but corporations and organizations of all sorts? 

"In systems where TV stations and newspapers are state-controlled, there is little need for skills of media engagement," Campbell writes on Business Day. "But when you lose the power to dictate the news — as, thanks to social media, even some of the more autocratic nations are doing — you need to learn how to convince people of your case through argument, not control. This is not about manipulation, but the basic duty to inform people what a government’s policies are, what leaders think and do on their behalf."

"The basic duty to inform people..." That's going to become ever more important as people expect to be leveled with, to be advised promptly and adequately about your products or policies. Because, increasingly, if you don't do that well, they can get their information, or at least versions of the information they seek, readily at hand from not only traditional media, but new social media, sources on the Web."

"In my time in government," Alastair Campbell adds, "I believed in top-down, centralised communications. But the world has changed, and so has the paradigm in communications. With young populations, mobile and other platforms allied to traditional media, openness in all aspects of government is the answer.

"In the West, not only government departments but every significant company, charity, NGO, public service has a communication department. In North Africa, the Middle East, Central Europe and large parts of Asia, this is not the case. They are being forced to change, but lack the skills or the mind-set to adapt to their new world. It is no bad thing, provided the companies concerned are doing it for the right reasons and in the right way, if that help is coming from London."

Pay heed to the world's opening up to information – trustworthy, reliable communication. Openness is increasingly required. And executives will be needing help from competent, reputable public relations firms to provide it.


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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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