Speaker's Commission talks to the PR Industry

27 November 2014

The Speaker’s Commission held a Public Relations industry event on Monday 24 November in order to test some of our potential draft recommendations. Microsoft hosted the event with The PR Guild at its state-of-the-art Central Working facility in Whitechapel.

The event was attended by members of the PRCA and the Guild of PR practitioners. They gathered for a morning discussion event with the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP.

The event was in two parts. For the first half,  Mr Speaker opened with a speech about why he set up the Commission and the work it has been doing. He then took questions from the floor. After this, the room broke away into small groups to discuss the answer to the question:

How can Parliament use digital to help people to understand the work it does on behalf of the public and what it is currently focussing on?

Commissioner Femi Oyeniran attended the event as did Pippa Lansdell, Senior Media and Communications Officer from the House of Commons and each of them led discussion groups. Some the points that were raised were:

Content

  • Content should be digestible across different multimedia platforms.
  • Content should use shorter, more digestible forms e.g. use of video.
  • Navigating content should be made easier. The Parliamentary website does not have a good search function.

User needs

  • Parliament should be aware of the digital divide and take account of those people not online.
  • Parliament should demystify its own information.
  • Accessible language.

Online voting

  • E-voting card or using passport for voting?
  • Internet banking is secure so online voting should be possible.
  • Concerns over online voting in elections. 
  • Electronic voting could be subversive.
  • Don’t substitute electronic for the ballot.

Advertising/ getting the message out

  • Parliament should have proper engagement updates so that the electorate can easily track progress.
  • Parliament should develop a Portal, using a news-style format so it is easy follow and navigate.
  • Use keywords.
  • The DDC should learn from overseas and domestic examples. (E.g. Camden Council) as well as sharing best practice.
  • Engagement has to be a 2-way process.
  • The DDC should try to publicise its work to the masses.
  • Start with a single idea or issue every year that Parliament can campaign to engage people with. 
  • Take account of security issues e.g. cookies when browsing.
  • Parliament needs to have Open data and hacks to engage and develop talent.
  • Develop pull as well as push strategies for disseminating information.
  • Geo-data: location tags to enable people to find out things happening in Parliament that are relevant to their area ( e.g. London Fields Map where you can find out about local issues). What interests people most is what happens in their back garden.
  • The constituency model of representation is outdated.  Consider having MPs for other communities of interest including online ones.
  • There is a challenge to separate parliamentary openness and the political process.
  • The Scottish constitutional convention, which was set up by civil society and then paved the way for the creation of the Scottish Parliament, was a great innovation.  Can you do that across the whole of the UK?

The second half of the event was introduced by Edward Wood, he presented the Commission's early findings and what recommendations people have been making to us to present in the report.

The attendees also gave the DDC some useful tips on how to best publicise the report and some intial thoughts of what we might say in the report. Thank you very much to all who attended the event.

Pictures of the event, courtesy of the PR Guild, are available here

PR Week article on the event is here

Image: Community Film Unit

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