It’s that time of year when public sector comms practitioners must carefully consider all activity to ensure that they are not seen to compromise their neutrality or favour any political group as the local and European elections approach.
This will be the last ‘purdah’ period before the Scottish referendum in September and next year’s general election, when we can rightly expect to see stringent guidelines which will affect promotional activity, speaking engagements, events, political visits and, in some cases, even business decisions.
I’ve blogged about purdah before and have become used to managing communications around this time. The guidelines are looked at in time for every election and I was interested to read this blog post from former local government comms pro Dan Slee who provides some pointers around social media. Should give food for thought for those who manage Twitter, Facebook and other accounts, to go with the official guidance that is issued.
Local elections 2012: predicting the 50 councils to watch – LGiU blog
The Local Government Information Unit charts the more hotly contested local councils elections this year, which have yet to turn the heads of many people if my (very basic) tests of public opinion represent a wider view. It identifies a number of councils in the area I cover, including Southampton, Portsmouth, Swindon and Reading (where I have reported on elections in the past) amongst its ‘top 50’. Informative and useful. Lewis Baston makes interesting points in his post too.
Councils warned about politically sensitive posts during purdah – PR Week
It wouldn’t be election time without a warning in PR Week about purdah, with the latest edition containing an article about the use of digital and social media in the run up to polling day. In the piece, Alex Aitken makes the point that I’d like to hear more of: “The business of the council continues and reassuring people that we’re fixing potholes and looking after the vulnerable should continue to be communicated.”
Now purdah has started in almost every area where local elections are being held, communicators can expect to deal with various queries relating to what colleagues can and can’t say during the run up to the poll in May.
The video below (courtesy of Simon Wakeman) shows Alex Aiken, Director of Communications and Strategy at Westminster City Council, outlining the key things to consider in relation to purdah over the next few weeks.
The main message that comes through is that as public bodies we are duty bound to communicate with the public about the decisions we make. This remains the case whether purdah is in place or not.
It seems like weeks since the general election last year, which resulted in a period of political sensitivity (aka ‘purdah‘) that lasted until well into the summer while the new Government was establishing itself.
Purdah is the term that covers the regulations restricting what can (and mostly can’t) be said and done before an election. The unusual events that followed last year’s poll meant that many forms of communication were suspended for weeks during the initial negotiations between the coalition partners.
Continue reading “Purdah poses challenges – but it shouldn’t shut us up”
The Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election (which concluded yesterday) has thrown up a familiar issue for those who work in or with the public sector, albeit in a rather unusual way.
The Guardian and Labour Party blogs were yesterday reporting that Local Government Minister Andrew Stunell had apologised for a series of events which led to complaints that purdah regulations were breached.
Continue reading “Election publicty rules raise their head in Oldham”