Can we get an RT? Number 10 turns to Stephen Fry's Twitter following to get their message across

 

They may be unaware until now but Stephen Fry and celebrities like him with millions of Twitter followers could become the prime targets for the new generation of Coalition spin doctors selling Government policy.

Number 10’s head of digital communications has hit the return button on a “culture change” in Downing Street which he hopes will transform the way politicians interact with the public.

Anthony Simon outlined a vision this week which included endorsements from influential people on Twitter he said can have a “great impact” on the Government's campaign work, referring in particular to the Government’s recent dementia campaign.

Speaking at the UK’s biggest technology and marketing event, Mr Simon said that the ability to get Stephen Fry to retweet the Government’s message about dementia, despite Fry not being a “natural fan” of many Government policies, was an important part of its communications strategy. The QI presenter has promoted National Dementia Awareness Week on his feed as well as other links and messages of support for Alzheimer’s sufferers.

With his 6.62m Twitter followers – 11 times more than David Cameron and nearly three times more than the official Number 10 feed – it is easy to see why a Fry endorsement is so warmly received.

Mr Simon told The Independent he was “trying to encourage people to think more digitally” in the Prime Minister’s and Cabinet Offices and that digital communications planning should not be left to specialist teams.

He said: “We don’t have a list of [celebrity] targets but it is important for people to think who their main influences are. Someone with millions of followers retweeting a message can raise its awareness considerably.”

Mr Simon cited Whitehall’s responses to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the Syria crisis, and the recent badger cull, as examples where the Government’s digital communications worked “incredibly well”.

He said: “I want all Government departments to get to that level and for senior people not to think that digital is done by someone else. As long as we have specialist digital teams that exclusively do digital work, we will never get that culture change. We need everyone to be thinking digitally.”

Mr Simon said the Cabinet Office has been using social media to change the way the Government communicates with both the public and media. He said the department tries to “leapfrog” traditional methods wherever possible.

He said: “The last couple of reshuffles we were tweeting the names of new ministers, rather than sending out traditional press releases. It’s democratic, fast and effective. We’ve been doing things in an old-fashioned way, and we try to leapfrog wherever we can to do them in a modern way.”

The United States may be home to the best digital brains in the business when it comes to election campaigning but Mr Simon said Americans “look jealously” at the UK Government’s online communications.

Barack Obama’s social media star Teddy Goff – the digital director behind the 2008 and 2012 Presidential campaigns - managed to raise $690 million online, build a Facebook fan base of 45 million people and a Twitter following of 33 million people. He also registered more than one million voters online. But whereas Mr Obama has 41.7 million Twitter followers, The White House feed has just 4.61 million - Number 10’s has 2.68 million followers in a population one sixth the size of the US.

Mr Simon said: “We also have the gov.uk website as the one online home for all Government communications and it was excellent during the floods crisis where everyone could go online and find information easily in one place – the US does not have that and Americans I have spoken to look jealously at it.”

The British public however does not respond in quite the same way to Government social media. The photo of President Obama hugging his wife Michelle after re-election in 2012 became the most retweeted tweet of all time. By contrast, a photo of Mr Cameron watching boxer Nicole Adams win gold at London 2012 was ridiculed on Twitter – although it received a much more favourable response when posted on Facebook.

Mr Simon said part of Downing Street’s plan is to use Facebook for more emotional content with a Twitter focus on breaking news and policy.

News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA/BA - Agile

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

PPA Supply Teachers

£121 - £142 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Early Years, KS1 & 2 Prima...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per annum: Randstad Education Luton: Early Years, KS1 & 2 Prim...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Primary supply teacher Hertford...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?