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Does your office blog? Charles Mabbett
31 May 2017

blogging

A few months ago, our office asked our international privacy and data protection watchdog colleagues to let us know if their office was using blogging as a communications tool. The results received have been mixed and modest.

Out of the 115 members that make up the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC), we received only seven positive replies. While many data protection authorities are happily using some social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to promote their activities and messages, it appears few are using blogging as a communications tool.

There’s a strong argument for government agencies everywhere to communicate their work and messages better to the taxpayers that fund them. Finding important information about how people can get what they want from a government agency is often hard and not easily explained.

Blogs can explain stuff better

Blogs have the capacity to humanise the often impersonal bureaucratic face of government. Aside from producing an annual report (which few people read), trying to get the news media’s attention, and having an up-to-date website, blogs give government agencies an alternative way to showcase their work.

By blogging, agencies can explain reports which are highly technical and legalistic in plain language. They can allow interested parties and the media to republish posts (as well as quote from or link to them), widening the reach of a blog post’s message or a lesson learned. They can also build a way to allow people to give direct feedback to a post by building a comment function.

Norwegians love their blog

At the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, all staff members are encouraged to write posts about their specific areas of expertise. A senior adviser, Gro Stueland Skorpen, told us her agency’s most popular post last year was on whether Norwegian businesses would be in compliance with the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation. Other popular posts were about genetic testing and ID theft from information in discarded mobiles.

Ms Skorpen says some of their best output is published on their blog, rather than on their main website. “One reason is perhaps that the blog format enables us to sweep across themes, such as privacy and technology development, privacy and new business models, privacy and the rights of children, privacy and new legislation and so on, in a manner that is conducive to analysis in a complex and ever-changing field.”

With over 100 posts, the Norwegian Data Protection Agency has been blogging since February 2013. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has published nearly 300 blog posts since August 2007. In New Zealand, our office has racked up just over 200 blog posts since May 2014. Our approach is also to have a one team approach with everyone contributing posts offering insights on different aspects of its work.

Getting the best of blogging

If your agency doesn't have a blog, we encourage your agency to be inspired by what some data protection authorities are doing. There are few rights or wrongs when it comes to blogging, as long as you follow some basic rules:

  • Use photos, colour, infographics, video and other types of images
  • Keep it short, if possible - otherwise it will be TL:DNR (too long, did not read)
  • Use concise and punchy headlines
  • Make that introductory paragraph exciting
  • Share the post using email and social media
  • Respond to comments where appropriate
  • Try and inject light and shade among your range of blog subjects
  • Be personable, be human!

Did we miss anything out? Tell us if we did. Despite the low number of data protection agencies which use blogging as a communications tool, for the group that are doing it, the case for blogging appears to outweigh the case for not doing so.

Image credit: Creative Commons licence via Pixabay.

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