Back to the beginning (for me at least)
Over the last few years Twitter and blogging, as well as other platforms, have become increasingly mainstream in the public sector. With more and more people (particularly those in formal leadership positions) entering these spaces, and with the advent of social media guidelines for pretty much every professional group, Twitter and other platforms are increasingly being recognised and promoted as legitimate spaces for professionals to occupy.
Are the stakes higher?
My sense of what happened to @mentalhealthcop is that the stakes feel suddenly higher than a week ago – anyone can say something flippant (goodness knows I have…) make an error of judgement or have a well-intentioned tweet misinterpreted, but it might shock us to think that this could end up the subject of public debate and even hit the mainstream media. The separation of professionally led journalism and citizen led journalism (such as blogging) are increasingly collapsing – with one informing the other and in reverse.
It is important t(hat people in public positions are impeccable in their behaviour in social media spaces – following guidelines and applying the offline rule ‘what would I do if this happened offline?’) I was struck by the kindness and support of @mentalhealthcop’s online community – his strong personal and professional reputation paid off. For the institution concerned it was another matter – a warning to others that what appears to be a draconian or disproportionate approach may have negative reputational implications. Institutions (or that is their bosses and communication functions) needs to be thinking as much about their own reputation as do the people who work for them.
One tiny bit of speculation
The one and only bit of speculation I will allow myself in this post is to wonder whether the police force in question acted proportionately and if the consequences of their behaviours in managing this situation may have negative/draconian ramifications for public sector professionals and institutions in the future. I do hope not. Time will tell.