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Jimmy Leach » Digital Engagement, London

Getting the digital debate going

Statistically, there’s (almost) certainly a correlation between chandeliers and successful diplomacy. I might not be able to prove it, but over the years, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has conducted its high-level business in high-ceilinged rooms, chandeliers all a-glitter above the men in suits. So the upcoming London Conference on Cyberspace is a very different beast indeed to the sort of discussions this department is used to. The FCO has an ‘approach’ to the digital world … Read more »Getting the digital debate going

International and hyperlocal – taking the message to market

Occasionally, I’m asked to do presentations and discuss what the Foreign Office does, digitally speaking. The fact I never get asked twice by the same people is something I prefer to gloss over. What I try and get across in these explanations of strategy is that if we’re trying to communicate, we have to take the message to market, not wait for the market to come to us. Much of … Read more »International and hyperlocal – taking the message to market

Searching for the best way to spell Qadhafi

The Foreign Office has been around for a long time, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Organisations that have survived for over 200 years (and there aren’t many of them) tend to create their own culture and language. In our case, those linguistic habits seem, to me at any rate, to be mostly initials and acronyms. I’ve had to stop conversations and refer back to a colleague’s statement seemingly made wholly … Read more »Searching for the best way to spell Qadhafi

The Foreign Office doesn’t sell trainers – but we’re using QR codes anyway


I mostly come across QR codes while I’m waiting for public transport. Standing on a High Road somewhere the advertisements on the bus stop or in the nearby shop windows often have that increasingly familiar square full of squiggles. For those who have been secretly puzzled by those funny little shapes, they are Quick Response codes – a barcode readable on (most) smartphones which can direct you to specific digital … Read more »The Foreign Office doesn’t sell trainers – but we’re using QR codes anyway

What Sunderland can teach us about using social media

It’s not often that Joey Barton crops up in international diplomacy. For those who don’t know him, he’s a premiership footballer, currently with Newcastle (though not for much longer). Talented, but bogged down with ‘anger management issues’, he’s in dispute with his employers for tweeting about internal issues. Transfer-listed and made to train on his own, he’s becoming an increasingly esoteric figure (his profile picture is Che Guevara) , tweeting … Read more »What Sunderland can teach us about using social media

Avoiding a bad case of tweet in mouth

FCO Twitter

Every now and again, there is a kerfuffle when a civil servant or a senior figure says something on social media that they shouldn’t. These days, it’s usually on Twitter. Sometimes, it’s semi-deliberate – they itch to show how ‘in the know’ they are and tell too much about future plans of their department, or perhaps they just know who has just got an injunction and want the world to … Read more »Avoiding a bad case of tweet in mouth

Government departments still need homepages

Those who have been paying attention will have noticed the AlphaGov project – a prototype of a single government domain, of what it might look like if all government services and information were put in one place. I was a (slightly dislocated) part of the team, and think it’s the right thing to do, but it does leave me a little conflicted – because one quite important question hasn’t been … Read more »Government departments still need homepages

Is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office a brand?

Talk of government departments as ‘brands’ makes many civil servants uneasy. If they wanted that sort of talk, they’d go to Hoxton, not Whitehall. Yet when the concept of, for example, the FCO as a brand comes under some threat, then there’s a different kind of uneasiness.That uneasiness includes me – earlier this week, I was in an email discussion with some people in touch about using our travel advice … Read more »Is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office a brand?

The Foreign Office on Foursquare

The regular reader of these chunterings will have noticed a pattern. How you decipher that pattern is up to you. Where I see the ‘dissemination of relevant content through all available channels to established audiences across the digital sphere’, you might see ‘obsessive bandwagon jumping, ticking off social media trying to look trendy’. Either way, you won’t be surprised to see the Foreign Office now hopping on to Foursquare. Foursquare … Read more »The Foreign Office on Foursquare