A prime minister’s experiment in brand journalism

It came in a tweet. 24 Seven, a new online video series giving Canadians a weekly glimpse into the Prime Minister’s schedule, rolled out without fanfare to Stephen J. Harper’s 400,000 plus Twitter followers early this January. You can catch all the heavily sanitized hair-raising action on the PMO’s website and YouTube channel.

Can we safely call this brand journalism? All the critical elements are present: digital publishing tools that drive directly to consumers, the journalistic sensibility, the discernible point of view. And if this is brand journalism, then the PMO’s experiment with it raises an interesting question. Namely, whose interests does 24 Seven really serve?

If you were a prime minister looking to rejuvenate your image among the “plugged in” millennial set, a highly targeted exercise in curated video content, distributed through the right social media channels, wouldn’t be a terrible strategy. In fact, it would be far from the last idea to cross your mind. Just saying.

At best, 24 Seven is a tool for keeping Canadians informed and engaged; at worst, it’s a vehicle for spreading propaganda that uses tax-payer dollars.

Which leads to yet another question: After nearly a decade of frosty relations with Canadian media, is the Prime Minister’s Office trying to control the story with its own brand editorial? Or is 24 Seven simply the new public service announcement?

I wonder what the Senate has to say about this.