Last week I explored the ways in which the government succeeds at its online marketing, but even then I had to admit that these bursts of brilliance are few and far between.

Unfortunately, sometimes our leaders and public servants just get the
whole thing so very wrong. Here are a few of their worst offences but
please feel free to add your own. It is like bad call centre
experiences, everyone has a story!

Governement family planning advice

Disseminating information

Parliament has to make available information such as what MPs voted for on what issue. This is to protect democracy, so it is arguably pretty vital.

Despite this importance, such information is horribly buried within sites like Hansard. It is difficult to find, it is unappealing when you do find it and the whole thing feels inaccessible, even to a geek like me.

To combat this, a series of heroic citizen websites were created. Sources such as and The Public Whip present this information in a far more navigable way.

For the government, this means the voters have the information anyway but that they are not receiving it through an official site, potentially damaging trust and making our democratic process appear less transparent.

Failure to share

A public sector department can have the most brilliant set of services going, but if it does not tell people then it has failed just as surely as if it didn’t offer them.

For a prime example of this, look no further than the excellent blue badge map, a Directgov offering that shows the viewer where all the blue badge parking bays are in their area and across the UK.

What a useful service and yet no one uses it because no one knows where it is. A highly specific Google search will bring it up but the person has to know to look for it. What a waste.

Belligerent anti-blogging

If staff are indentifying themselves online as a company’s employees, it is vital that the company issues some guidance.

They can do what they want under their own identity but when they align themselves with their employer’s brand, some rules are called for. Otherwise, you end up with situations like the Dominoes debacle or the Ryanair ridiculousness.

Despite this, the government has not issued its many departments with guidance on how best to use blogs, Twitter and online communities.

However, seemingly heavy handed tactics have followed the launch of blogs such as the popular Civil Serf, or soldiers using Facebook.

The trouble is, when you are the government, such clamping down can appear to be censorship. It is far better to lay out initial guidance than mop up afterwards.

Visible advice

As David Iwanow pointed out in my last post, many public sector departments and local services clearly fail to grasp search engine optimisation (SEO).

The main sites do quite well and Directgov ranks highly for pretty much all of its advice.

However, this has clearly not filtered down to local councils and services, and even the devolved powers.

Many citizens use localised searches but if someone in Cardiff searches for ‘debt advice Wales’, they will predominantly see private companies. The two government pages that do come up on page one are simply press releases about debt advice services, not those services themselves.

Why are these releases ranking higher than the services they promote?

Failing to bother

Of course, the examples I have listed here today showcase where the public sector’s online efforts have not achieved success, it is harder to illustrate the lack of effort so many local services and councils show.

When I see library websites offering a picture of the building and an address, or state-sponsored children’s services without any online information, it is incredibly frustrating.

These organisations will have marketing budgets, however small, and the best place to maximise their returns is the web, with a small amount set aside to ensure the offline minority is also kept informed.