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A great way to distinguish between personal social media and professional views

March 14, 2012

This morning I heard a great response from a politician who had to explain the contradiction between his views expressed via social media and by his professional persona. To start with, I’ll give you an example to compare it to of someone who did it very very badly just a few days ago – also in a political context.

Having spent a lot of time growing up in America, I’m not a huge fan of the English and Australian ‘party politics’ style of running a country. I prefer to elect someone who can tell me what they stand for, and know what they will fight for if they represent me, than vote for someone who will tell me what their colleagues have decided is best for me. Party politics to me seems to produce a lot of great legal minds who are expert at fighting their way through boardrooms and policy debates, but often lack real leadership, charisma, or magnetism. It also results in debacles such as occurred a few years ago with the elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – elected by the people on the back of the famous ‘Kevin 07’ campaign, then later overthrown by his own party because it turned out their opinions were more powerful and important than those of the voting public. Its crazy. Anyway, I digress – the point is, what happens in party politics quite often is that someone’s personal views are not represented because the political party has already decided what that elected person’s views should be. So you then have two warring factions of drones – the elected and the opposition – who don’t really represent what they personally believe in.

Recently I saw Campbell Newman, candidate for the Queensland elections asked by the media: “yes or no, do you personally support gay marriage?”. On at least four separate occasions during the interview, he was unable to convincingly tell the reporter why his position on this had completely backflipped due to party politics. “I have previously expressed a view,” he repeatedly said, “But that view is not the view of my party”. He of course supported gay marriage  before joining the party, and was forced to give up on that view in order to assume a position of responsibility. Party politics.

Now before you think I’m  too political, this blog is not about politics. This blog is about how people use social technologies and other media to better communicate and do business with each other. What really impressed me this morning was a response under pressure from Bob Carr, the recently appointed (controversially, I might add) Foreign Minister of Australia.

Under immense  pressure from TV presenter David Koch to explain why his stance on certain  issues had changed after his appointment, Carr’s response was such a clear and concise way to distinguish one’s social media profiles from their professional responsibility. The response was a lesson for any of us  who use social media on a regular basis to express a viewpoint that may not marry with our professional lives. David Koch referred to Bob Carr’s blog, and how since being appointed Foreign Minister he was now contradicting many expressed views.

Very clear in my memory, the response was this:

“David, I know what I’ve blogged, and when I blogged, I was blogging as a private citizen. I had the liberty of being out of politics. Now, I speak for Australia, and that is a change in responsibility.”

He went on to say “I’m very very happy to be proved wrong”, having learnt what he has now in his new role.

Yes, of course he was still playing politics when he said this, but it really resonated as a way to distinguish between the professional responsibilities we all carry when making public comment about issues and our off-the-cuff opinions about how to solve the world’s problems (which are normally expressed via our blogs, facebook profiles, and so on).

It’s a great lesson for anyone that is trying to cope with having that distinction. This very blog is a personal opinion, and I don’t always have the most considered views or the best knowledge of things – but our social profiles are a great way of documenting thoughts and starting conversations that further educate us, so that when we do take that next position of responsibility – we can understand the machinations of decision making a little bit better.

The full video of the interview is found here if you’re interested:


From → Business, General

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