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Summary of Marketing Industry Roundtable

The Speaker's Commission and IDM held a marketing industry roundtable event on Tuesday 2 July. The event focussed on the Commission's themes of engagement (between Parliament and its citizens), and Parliament's role in facilitating dialogue amongst citizens.


The aim of the session was to hear from Marketing Industry professionals. The discussion was attended by over 50 people. It was jointly organised with the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM) and kindly hosted by Baker & McKenzie.

The above video provides a short overview of the whole event. The full summaries from each of the six tables can be viewed on this slightly longer video:

Topics discussed

Encouraging citizens to engage with democracy

  • Should citizens have more input into the political decision-making process? If so, what is the most effective way of doing this online?
  • Would crowd-sourcing solutions to problems be a useful addition to the consultative process?
  • Could video and webcasting be used more to encourage greater engagement? If so, how best could this be done?
  • How should MPs and Parliament ensure digital inclusiveness?
  • What are the downsides of technology for MPs and how can they be overcome? These might include the additional overheads of using digital and traditional working methods side by side, online abuse, etc.

Facilitating dialogue amongst citizens

  • Should Parliament (or Government) have a role in facilitating dialogue amongst citizens?
  • Is it important for citizens to have an online platform or other medium for discussing political issues and the work of Government and Parliament? If so, who should be responsible for providing it - Government, Parliament or the private sector?
  • Will future tools make it easier to facilitate dialogue, and if so how?

Recurring themes

  •  Parliament needs a rebrand.
  • The language needs to change – simpler, clearer, less jargon.
  • It’s not just about digital – Parliament needs to engage better overall.
  • Digital should add to, rather than replace, other communications channels.
  • Video could be used more.
  • Go to where people hang out – Parliament should tap into platforms and interest communities that already exist.
  • Parliamentary information needs to be accessible on smart phones.
  • More open data.
  • There should be more information and feedback about e-petitions
    Engagement is a two-way process.
  • Parliament and MPs need to determine what the purpose of their engagement is and use technology to manage communication better.
  • Parliament should try out new ideas and be prepared for these to fail sometimes.

Conclusions and recommendations, by table

Cristina Leston-Bandeira’s table
There is a need to make the distinction between Government and Parliament clear. Parliament needs a rebrand with the focus on informing people that it is there for them. Parliament should focus less on creating discussions and more on curating them. The best way of engaging online is to tap into conversations and communities that are already in existence e.g. Google hangouts, Mumsnet, etc; and to recognise the reach of super-influencers on social media.

Edward Wood’s table
Digital is important but it cannot be the only means of communication as some people or communities with little access to the internet for whatever reason (eg, poor broadband coverage) will be left out.  Parliament needs to get better at all forms of engagement. Information produced by Parliament should be accessible on a mobile phone. Something to remember with online conversations is that moderate voices can be drowned out by targeted action by interest groups or by negative or hate campaigns. Parliament and MPs need to be clearer about what they want from engagement in order to make it work effectively. Parliament should be clear about how the data it produces can be used. Parliamentary information and documents should be valued and properly curated. There is a need to move from closed to open networks.  The role of the House of Lords in making changes in legislation should not be forgotten.

Femi Oyeniran’s table
The problem with Parliament is the politics! People respond better to information about Parliament when it is humanised; there should be more person-centred information with simple case studies. There is a need for neutral dissemination of information with greater use of video.  People want to know how legislation will affect them rather than focusing on the politics as some news reports do. There is too much jargon – information should be in plain English. The BBC doesn’t do enough to inform people about how legislation will affect them; MPs could use local BBC channels more.


Helen Milner’s table
Technology is a massive enabler for change and Parliament has to embrace that. A culture change is needed; Parliament and citizens must learn to engage better. A process re-engineering exercise would help Parliament and MPs to enable technology to help them cope better with emails and work more effectively. The language of Parliament needs to be change to the language that people actually use; make it easy, simple and accessible instead of making people feel stupid. There should be a competition to rebrand Parliament. People use Parliament’s “services” every day, and they have the potential to change people’s lives; best of all, people can have a say in what it does; that is a powerful story for Parliament to tell. Other organisations and companies know how and where to push out important messages but Parliament still expects people to come to it looking for information; this needs to change. Parliament needs to open up its data

Meg Hillier’s table
Democracy is a team sport; both citizens and politicians need to engage.  It is easier to engage using channels that people are already using and to engage with interest communities that are already in existence. If politicians are to do more digitally, they need to be clear about what the parameters are, eg that they are not available 24/7 and will sign off in the evening. As 60% of people use smart phones to find information, web content needs to be accessible on phones. More needs to be available as open data. Parliament could “sell” itself better using success stories. The e-petitions pages should contain feedback about what has happened in relation to that topic as a result of the e-petition. There should be greater use of audio-visual content but videos should be no more than two minutes long.  MPs could use Skype more to communicate with constituents. Digital should be an addition to existing channels to enhance what is already there rather than replace it.

Paul Kane’s table
Parliament must try new approaches and be prepared to fail sometimes.  Successful platforms out there are already tried and tested; Parliament should make use of these instead of trying to create new ones. Multiple platforms should be used - it will not work to try to create and use only one platform. People tend to expect immediate results from their online interactions nowadays, but this brings certain risks. If results cannot be given so quickly, this needs to be made clear, so that expectations are managed.  There should be feedback about how e-petitions have worked on the web page.

Image: Parliamentary Copyright