Andy's Blog

A Blog about me, Andy. The name says it all.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Who should protect the blogger?

I was at a course today for work, which was discussing the use of new media for PR, fundraising and campaiging.

We'd thought about this stuff before at work. Mainly because it's an exciting new way to get our message across, rather than trying to generate user-driven content, especially not service users as ours are in developing countries and don't have access to a PC.

However, the other people on the course had some very interesting issues to tackle that I'd never considered before. They were concerned about how to protect their service users and their organisation.

For the latter, I think that they were being a bit over protective. If you can't deal with someone complaining about your organisation, then you really need to have a long and hard think about being in the charitable sector. I've had lots of people come and complain to me, not just about our organisation (e.g. why are you bothering to help mentally ill people? They're possessed by demons don't you know?) but about the sector as a whole ('too much money spent on fundraising; you're all just on holidays; bloody hippy etc etc) and whilst some of the comments are undoubtably true (especially the hippy one as I've just bought a pair of sandles), most of them aren't and you are compelled to fight your corner. If you're organisation in particular is getting attacked, then maybe there's something you're doing wrong. And if not, blogs give you the ideal platform to nip the complaint in the bud before it becomes a PR disaster.

The former, however, was an angle I'd never considered. Service users are fragile people (probably by definition). I think that they do need a degree of protection. But how much? And from whom? I think that refusing a service user the right to blog on these grounds is stupid. I can see many more reasons why allowing, say, a recovering alcoholic or drug abuser the chance to tell their story and then have other people share their experiences as being of massive benefit. To remove this chance because you're frightened someone is going to write something abusive in the comments box is silly. Sure, the charity must give the service user support in writing the blog, being safe online, and coping with responses, but is this beyond the scope of charities. Do service users not face this same kind of abuse everyday when they step outside? I can see abuse being a real issue when it comes to issues of stigma, especially with things like race or mental illness. But again, this can be an opportunity. A service user, perhaps with the help of the charity, could take this as an opportunity to defend themselves and breakdown barriers; perhaps a chance that is not afforded to them in the street.

So I guess what I'm saying is, blogging in the third sector should be given a chance. The charitable sector used to lead so much in many fields (especially Direct Mail) but now we just seem to be playing catch up, being too concerned over managing our images and brands than doing what we used to do best: seeing a problem, developing a clever solution and changing lives. More often than not, I think that charities are too concerned with simply protecting their monopoly for working in a specific field rather than trying to help the people they've set out to help. Engaging with new technology is another sad example of where our sector is lagging behind.


At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Paul Caplan said...

Thanks Andy... my further thoughts at:

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