ELECT SOCIAL: your handy cut-and-paste social media purdah guidelines

463965443_019f28a0db_oThere’s this funny period in the run-up to an election which sees local government comms team change behaviour.

Gone are the press releases from politicians and in comes quotes from officers. Why? To ensure that the council cannot be accused of political bias in the run up to polling day.

It’s been around for decades and local government comms teams have got a pretty good grasp of what this entails. It means under The Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity (Local Government Act 1986) that newsletters, press releases, conferences, badges and web pages are affected.

The code says:

The period between the notice of an election and the election itself should preclude proactive publicity in all its forms of candidates and other politicians involved directly in the election.

Publicity should not deal with controversial issues or report views, proposals or recommendations in such a way that identifies them with individual members or groups of members.

However, it is acceptable for the authority to respond in appropriate circumstances to events and legitimate service enquiries provided that their answers are factual and not party political.

Members holding key political or civic positions should be able to comment in an emergency or where there is a genuine need for a member level response to an important event outside the authority’s control.

Proactive events arranged in this period should not involve members likely to be standing for election.

What this means is that the council’s resources must not be or even appear to an observer to be used for party political ends in this period of heightened political sensitivity.

Six golden rules during Purdah

  1. No publicity will be given to matters which are politically controversial.
  2. The general presumption will be that no references will be made to individual politicians in press releases (except where there is a valid emergency as set out below)
  3. Great caution will be exercised before undertaking any significant media exercise unless it can be demonstrated that this was included in the forward diary before the election was called.
  4. No photographs of candidates in the election will be issued
  5. Before any request for council photographs and other materials is considered, enquiries will be made as to the use to which they are to be put and an appropriate restriction on use imposed if supplied.
  6. The position of Mayor as the figurehead of the authority is different and material will be issued, providing it is not of a political nature.

But what teams struggle with is social media. How does this affect the Twitter stream? Here’s a cut-out-and-keep guidance for people who operate council social media channels (disclaimer: check it with your legal team first).

Twitter

  1. Please explain that as a council channel of communication you are governed by Purdah in a period before an election. It may be helpful to tweet a link to an explanation of Purdah for guidance.
  2. Do not retweet political parties, politicians or political opinion.
  3. Do not tweet on matters which are politically controversial.
  4. Do not tweet images of political parties, politicians or subjects which are politically controversial.
  5. Do not stage a significant Twitter-based campaign unless it can be demonstrated that this was included in the forward diary before the election was called.
  6. Tweets by and about the Mayor may be retweeted as long as they are not of a political nature.
  7. In exceptional circumstances please first seek permission from the communications unit to tweet or retweet a comment by a politician during Purdah.

Facebook

  1. Please explain that as a council channel of communication you are governed by Purdah in a period before an election.
  2. Do not post or share updates from political parties, politicians or political opinion.
  3. Do not post or share images from political parties, politicians or political opinion.
  4. Monitor your page and delete any content which is politically controversial with an explanation that this has been done so because of the rules that govern Purdah linking to this advice.
  5. Tweets by and about the Mayor may be retweeted as long as they are not of a political nature.
  6. Do not stage a significant Facebook-based campaign unless it can be demonstrated that this was included in the forward diary before the election was called.
  7. In exceptional circumstances please first seek permission from the communications unit to tweet or retweet a comment by a politician during Purdah.

YouTube

  1. Please explain that as a council channel of communication you are governed by Purdah in a period before an election.
  2. Do not post or share updates from political parties, politicians or political opinion.
  3. Do not post or share images from political parties, politicians or political opinion.
  4. Monitor your page and delete any content which is politically controversial with an explanation that this has been done so because of the rules that govern Purdah linking to this advice.
  5. Videos by or about the Mayor may be added as long as they are not of a political nature.
  6. Do not stage a significant YouTube-based campaign unless it can be demonstrated that this was included in the forward diary before the election was called.
  7. In exceptional circumstances please first seek permission from the communications unit to add a YouTube clip by a politician during Purdah.

Third party social media profiles

Council staff who update third party social media profiles as part of their job are governed by Purdah. These profiles include business partnership profiles which the council supports.

There are two options:

  1. Opt out: For the duration of Purdah hand over ALL admin to a non-council member of the partnership and allow them to add Purdah-restricted content that council staff are unable to post. Resume adding content and managing after the election.
  2. Opt in: Council employees can continue to add content or share admin duties but ALL content is governed by Purdah restrictions.

Flickr

  1. Please explain that as a council channel of communication you are governed by Purdah in a period before an election.
  2. Do not post or share pictures from political parties, politicians or political opinion.
  3. Monitor your page and delete any content which is politically controversial with an explanation that this has been done so because of the rules that govern Purdah linking to this advice.
  4. Images by or about the Mayor may be added as long as they are not of a political nature.
  5. Do not stage a significant Flickr-based campaign unless it can be demonstrated that this was included in the forward diary before the election was called.
  6. In exceptional circumstances please first seek permission from the communications unit to add a YouTube clip by a politician during Purdah.
  7. Please disable the ability to download images of politicians during Purdah

Creative commons credit

Election van: https://www.flickr.com/photos/48600108001@N01/463965443/


GOODBYE BUT HELLO: I’ve left local government for @comms2point0

“Mixed Media Installation by Peter Liversidge: Hello, 2013 (58Dear Reader,

Try to be happy. I’ve left local government so I can do more in local government and the rest of public sector.

For the past eight years I’ve been proud to be at Walsall Council helping to put them on the digital map and at times doing a bit to define what that map looked like. It’s been exciting. But it feels absolutely the right time to move on. March 31 was my last day and yes, I realise that breaking news on April 1 before midday carries risks. But this is no April Fool.

I’ve now become a freelance digital communications consultant turning comms2point0 into a start-up which means I can bring my expertise, drive enthusiasm and insight to help you do a better job for your organisation. That’s something I’m really, really excited about.

Three moments of epiphany

Former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans once said that he loved newspapers but he was absolutely intoxicated by the power and possibility of the internet. Me too. My first of three moments of epiphany came in 1993 when I discovered that I loved the art and craft of piecing together a story for a newspaper.

The second moment came in 2008 as a press officer when I heard the line: ‘With social media we no longer have to go through the Priesthood of journalists to talk to our residents’ and the third in 2011 when a chief executive spoke of the need to stop evangelising about social media but bring solutions that may just have some social media in.

In the next phase of my career I want to bring all three of those together and I’m massively excited and not a little nervous.

My proud moments

In leaving Walsall Council, I’m intensely proud of what I’ve helped do there. I was massively fortunate enough to have worked with a head of communications Darren Caveney who saw what the future would look like and trusted his staff to learn, grow and innovate. We both saw early that social media was not just a communications function. We shared the sweets with others. In leaving Walsall I leave more than 70 social media profiles and more than 100 staff trained. Some of them have gone on to develop into nationally significant digital innovators in their own right. Countryside ranger Morgan Bowers, for example. Environmental health officer David Matthews too. Dan Carins. And Kate Goodall. I’ve worked with some amazing people during my time there too numerous to list.

I’m proud I listened to Darren and Kate and that we were the first council in the country to use Twitter for 24-hours during #walsall24. We won the first LGComms social media gold award for that but best of all we shattered glass ceilings and in a day we embedded social media overnight. That makes me smile.

On Walsall

There’s a record industry giant you’ll not have heard of called Steve Jenkins. He was MD of Jive Records and was a key part in the success of Pete Waterman and Stock Aitken Waterman. He’s from Walsall and I got to know him quite well. He’s proud of the place. He used to have a railway sign from the town’s station over his desk in his office so people who came in would have to acknowledge it. “Where’s ‘Walsall’?” they’d ask. He’d fix them with a steely glare and say: “It’s nine miles north of Birmingham… it’s nine miles north of Birmingham.”

Walsall is big enough to be it’s own place and has a digital community whose vibrancy that will surprise you. The YamYam is a news aggregation site that brings together traditional newspaper websites with the websites of clubs, societies and bloggers. There’s more than 100 sites linked to it. Some are good, some are bad, some are contrary, some not.

It’s not always been straight forward, but I’ve grown to genuinely respect and admire many in that digital community. They care about their town. Their voice is part of the borough’s debate and discussion. At Walsall Council I’m leaving a stack of people who deserve to be garlanded daily for trying to make a difference in sometimes grim circumstances.

On local government comms

For those left behind in local government communications I’d say be proud, be determined and be very clear that you are a professional bringing value and demonstrate that value. Be the grit in the oyster and challenge. That’s your job.  There’s a whole load of stuff I’d like to write about that.

So, what’s the very exciting what’s next?

I’ll be working at comms2point0 full time. It’s now a company. Three years ago my colleague Darren floated the idea of comms2point0. It’s an idea we kicked around and shaped one sunny day watching a cricket match. We mapped it out with sticky notes, pens and paper. What is it? We post six links a day for comms people on Twitter and we have a blog which has mushroomed to more than 400 case studies ranging from 10 Downing Street, Unicef, Orkney Council, Unicef and the EU. We now have reached 30,000 unique users a month. That’s a bit crazy, really.

We’ve helped run events, we’ve trained people and for IEWM we’ve written the best whitepaper on using social media in the public sector that has ever been written (disclaimer: I’m biased.)

I’ve been nominated to be a Fellow of the RSA and I’ve been appointed to The Guardian public leaders editorial board. I want to carry on with pro bono work for the localgov digital group.

When I’ve been working late at night on comms2point0 I’ve joked with my wife that this would help me get my next job. It’s now become my job and with Darren continuing to play a big role I’m nervously bouncing with excitement at what it will help people to achieve and is already helping.

I’m working and will be working with IEWM, Public Health Wales, the LGA, a number of councils, the Langstone Society and several others. I’m grateful to those people on my journey I’ve asked for advice and who have been generous in giving it.

The free element of comms2point0 will remain. There will be links. There will be a blog – now more than 400 – there will also be a reactivated regular email. But other rather good things are in development. If I was American or younger I’d be calling them: ‘awesome.’ I’ll still be blogging on my own blog that’s in its fifth year.

So, in saying goodbye I’m also saying hello. It would be good to hear from you to hear what your challenges are and maybe see if I can help. Or maybe just to wish me luck. You can do that via @danslee or @comms2point0 on Twitter or via dan@comms2point0.co.uk.

I’m excited but nervous which is just how it should be. I’m taking a leap but it already feels like the right one. But if you’ve gained something from something I’ve written or shared I’d love to help you further  and tell your friends too. I’ll get you a slice of cake next time I see you out.

Yours,

Dan Slee

Creative commons credits

Hello https://www.flickr.com/photos/48973657@N00/8921138110/

Hello, Lionel https://www.flickr.com/photos/79294591@N00/5506213445/

cake https://www.flickr.com/photos/78749146@N06/10470758366/


INFO SKILLS: Essential social media skills for librarians (and others)

6175154545_79fc17d7e8_bIn all my years in local government I’ve not come across anyone so Militantly passionate about the job they do than librarians.

So, it was great to be able to sit down with 12 of them and talk to them about social media and how it could work for them. Walsall Council countryside ranger Morgan Bowers came along too and I’ve hardly finished a training session over the past few years without pointing to her as an excellent example of what a frontline officer can do with social media.

For those that don’t know she blogs, she tweets, she Facebooks and she posts images to Flickr. She’s also written an e-book entitled with great confidence and surity ‘The Bees of Walsall Vol: 1.’ Almost 2,000 people have downloaded the e-book which for me redefines how you should approach an audience.

Firstly, here are some links which show what is possible. It’s vital to look outside of the sector that you work in which is what we did here.

Some basic principles

‘Organisations Don’t Tweet People Do’ is a book by Euan Semple. Even if you don’t buy the book – and you should it’s great – then think of the clear advice that sentance gives. Human beings respond to human beings and not logos.

345712329_f1375f13c0_o‘Be human.’ is good advice on how to engage with people over the social web. In fact it’s good advice for life.

‘The 80/20 principle’ is a good way of looking at a great many things. On the social web it works out as 80 per cent conversational and 20 per cent the stuff you really want people to know. So be sparing with your library events and talk – and share – about other things.

Good social media

Appliances Online Facebook – because they have more than a million Facebook likes by good online customer service done in a human voice:  https://www.facebook.com/AOLetsGo?fref=ts

Sandwell Council Facebook – because there isn’t a Facebook page anywhere in the public sector that is done better than this West Midlands council  https://www.facebook.com/sandwellcouncil?fref=ts

DVLA’s I Can’t Wait To Pass My Driving Test Facebook page – because it shows that putting aside thr logo and even the name of the organisation works if you get the people to pay attention to pay attention:  https://www.facebook.com/mydrivingtest?fref=ts

PC Stanley on Twitter – because it shows a human face in an organisation from a West Midlands Police officer:  https://twitter.com/PCStanleyWMP

PC Stanley blog – because it shows a human face and talks about anonymised aspects of police procedure that most people don’t know about  http://pcstanleywmp.wordpress.com/

8146367606_dae8e82d70_oStorify Streetly floods – because it shows how social media reacts in a crisis and how a trusted voice from police, fire and council online can fill the news vacuum http://storify.com/danslee/social-media-and-flooding-in-streetly-walsall

Facebook in libraries

Facebook works best updated two or three times a day with sharable content. Pictures work well. So does video. Be engaging and informal.

100 Libraries to follow on Facebook – blog http://www.mattanderson.org/blog/2013/01/31/100-libraries-to-follow-on-facebook/

British Library https://www.facebook.com/britishlibrary?fref=ts

Library of Congress https://www.facebook.com/libraryofcongress

New York Public Library https://www.facebook.com/nypl

Halifax Public Library https://www.facebook.com/hfxpublib

Birmingham Library https://www.facebook.com/libraryofbirmingham

Twitter

Realtime updates work well. Pictures too.

Author Amanda Eyereward https://twitter.com/amandaeyreward

Author Carin Berger https://twitter.com/CarinBerger

100 Authors http://mashable.com/2009/05/08/twitter-authors/

Birmingham Library https://twitter.com/TheIronRoom

Librarycamp https://twitter.com/LibraryCamp

Orkney library https://twitter.com/OrkneyLibrary

Waterstones Oxford Street https://twitter.com/WstonesOxfordSt

Essex libraries https://twitter.com/EssexLibraries

Just for you here are a few examples of tweets:

Images are powerful

Images work really well and there are a couple of resources. You can link to images you find anywhere. It’s the neighbourly thing to do and you are driving traffic to their website so people will be fine about that.

You can link to Flickr which is a depository of more than five billion images. See the Libraries Flickr group here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/librariesandlibrarians/

But remember not to abuse copyright. Don’t ever right click and save an image hoping you won’t get found out. There’s a Google app for just that. But what you can use are images which have been released with a creative commons licence. Basically, creative commons allows the re-use of pictures so long as you meet basic criteria. There are several types of licence so check to see which licence has been attached. Often people will be fine for re-use so long as you attribute the author and link back to the original image.

1140607337_e05a4b2a4a_oSearch the Compfight website ticking the creative commons search button http://compfight.com/

Have a look at Wikimedia which has a lot of specific content. If you are after a creative commons image of Jack Nicholson or The British Library search here:   http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Audio

You can brighten up book discussions amongst reader groups, or author visits, or bounce and rhyme stories by recording them with people’s permission and post them to Audioboo or Soundcloud. These are applications that gives you three minutes of audio that you can share with the web or embed in a webpage.

Here is author WHJ Auden readingh one of his poems: http://ht.ly/tSdv6

Blog

Blogging is made for libraries and librarians. You can host discussions here and allow for comments on different aspects of the library.

Author reading: http://www.sarahsalway.net/2012/03/01/pop-its-the-last-day-of-the-pop-up-poetry-reading/

Literary blog http://www.internetwritingjournal.com/authorblogs/

YouTube

Video works great. You can make your own or maybe there is some content around a theme you are looking for. The First World War, for example. Create your own channel or search and share what is there. Look out for the comments section here. They can be a bit ripe.

Birmingham Library http://www.youtube.com/user/LibraryofBham2013

Southend library reading group http://youtu.be/dEh7fBfB_O4

But where will I get the content from?

It’s amazing how once you take a few doggy paddle strokes in the shallow end that all this makes sense and you start over time to get a return on the time you put in. There are no quick fixes. A few minutes a day will help you and as with anything what you get out is what you put in.

Here are 11 things you could do as librarians

1. Record an interview with an author on Audioboo or Soundcloud and post to your Facebook, Twitter or email list.

2. Post details of events to your social media accounts. Use something like hootsuite to schedule when the messages appear so if needs be repeat the message at a time when more people are likely to be around. Lunchtime, first thing in the morning and evening are times when people tend to be online more. Don’t forget though, if you are cancelling the event, to unschedule any queued content.

3. Share things that other people have posted. If it is in your geographical area and a public sector or third sector organisation have posted something share it or retweet it. You’ll find that they’ll be more inclined to do the same.

4. Use a popular hashtag on Twitter around a TV programme. Check the schedules. A link to a book or DVD on dancing or dress making with sequins may work with the hashtag #strictly while Strictly Come Dancing is being shown on a Saturday night.

4993073773_09ef5a6093_o5. Connect with other librarians so you can build a network of other people doing a smilar job to you. This works especially well with Twitter.

6.  Use an image of a cat from compfight that has a creative commons licence – see the above – to illustrate a campaign on cats and other animals. What you have on your display shelf or window can be repeated online too.

7. Create a Facebook group or a Google group – which works with email – for a reading group.

8. Post book reviews from librarians on your website and onto the social web.

9. Take a picture – with people’s permission – of people using the library or people taking part in an activity.

10. Be creative. Ignore all the above and use your imagination. Make your own case studies.

11. Install WiFi.

Picture credits

Who needs books? http://www.flickr.com/photos/boltron/6175154545/sizes/l/

Sitting reading http://www.flickr.com/photos/jstar/345712329/sizes/o/

US poster http://www.flickr.com/photos/jstar/345712329/sizes/o/

Library search engine http://www.flickr.com/photos/47823583@N03/4993073773/


GOVCOMMS: 7 things to bring local and central government comms people together

9422535872_8e4d08002a_bSo, how do local government and central government comms people work better together?

There was an event the other day in Whitehall which looked at this very topic which I would have loved to have got to. But I work in the West Midlands so that wasn’t going to happen.

It’s a good question and one that I’d given a lot of thought to just recently. Not just because the LGComms Future Leaders course I’d been involved with was asked just this question and asked to come up with a presentation.

One of the good things about being in the public sector is the ability to share ideas and approaches. This doesn’t happen in the private sector. As one person recently put it, they’ll tell you what they did but they’ll just leave out a vital piece of information so you can’t follow. It’s like handing over a car without the spark plugs.

So here are some things that should happen.

6 things to bring local and central government comms people together

1. Realise that each side isn’t the enemy. You’d be forgiven for thinking sometimes reading the Daily Mail that local government was to blame for the banking crisis, Northern Rock and the nationalisation of the banks. Just think what would have happened had local government mis-sold products. Step aside from the headlines and realise that there is more to bring  civil Service and local government comms people together. We both face the question ‘what does communications mean in 2014?’ for example.

2. Paid secondments both ways. A few years ago a secondment from local government into the civil service could have been do-able. Not now. There isn’t the spare capacity anymore in local government. But funded posts could help backfill and share the knowledge. Even better if they are French-exchange-style two way affairs. Better still if they involve co-operation on the same project.

3. Open up central government training to local government. The Goverment Communications Service (formerly the Government Communications Network) stages a range of good training opportunities. It would be great if this was open to local government too.

4. Open up local government seminars to central government. Places like LGComms put on some excellent sessions. The different perspective of a Whitehall comms person would be useful. Just as the comms person more used to dealing with the community would be a benefit to a central government person.

5. Encourage events like commscamp. In February last year more than 130 comms people from Whitehall and local government came together in a joint event for what must have been the first time. There were more than 400 on the waitlist when it was turned off.  The agenda was decided on the day by those who went. Anarchy? Not really. It worked beautifully. It was organised by people in central and local government in their own time. (Disclaimer: I’m biased as I helped co-organise commscamp.)

6. Realise that neither side is better. They’re just different. As government departments put more focus on stakeholder groups local government listens to residents more. At a time when the Foreign Office is putting more effort – rightly – into answering queries on Twitter there’s pr people in Staffordshire or Norfolk who could tell them a few things. They are two different skills. It made me realise that neither side is better. We’re just different.

7. We both work in the public sector and should be proud of that. Sure, the private sector does some good things. But we delivered the Olympics, we save lives, we keep the roads running, our children educated and a whole load of other things too. How much better is that than flogging toothpaste?

EDIT: GCS courses are also now available to local government people. That’s welcome.

Creative commons credit.

Big Ben http://www.flickr.com/photos/mahatsorri/9422535872/sizes/l/


#OURDAY: Some tips for telling your story during a Twitter event

3176885291_2c6d7bd3c3_oLocal government is brilliant. It can save lives. It can give your children a good head start in life and it does more than 800 different services.

800? Really? Absolutely.

Chances are if you leave your house you’ll have come across something that the sector has done or helped with.

Trouble with such a vast thing that most people struggle to name more than half a dozen things that local government does.

“The council?  They empty my bin and gave my next door neighbour planning permission for their horrible extension,” may be a common answer.

The struggle of how to tell people what local government what they get for their council tax is a timeless one and never been more important.

One way to tackle it is the Local Government Association’s Our Day which aims to put Twitter in the hands of some of the unsung heroes who do some of the unseen jobs.

Using the hashtag #ourday on October 17 2013 local government people will be using it to talk a bit about what they are doing in real time. There’s a Storify of the sort of thing they are after here.

Back in 2011 at Walsall Council I was part of a team which was the first in the country to use Twitter in real time to tell people what a council did across 24-hours. It won the inaugural LGComms social media gold award. It’s a model of communicating with people that quiet fascinates me. It breaks down barriers. It shines a light. It informs and educates.

Some tips on live tweeting a Twitter event

There’s lots of different ways but here’s some things to bear in mind.

Everyone thinks their day job is boring. But everyone else finds it interesting. That may be your 12th pothole of the day. But you use what to fill it? And it’s outside the school my children go to, you say? And the council has done 4,000 so far this year?

Routine tasks build a broader picture. You’ve got a team that cuts overgrown hedges. They do it every day. I didn’t know that. They’ve done 11 streets today. That’s important to the people who live in that street that is now safer to walk in at night. Tell them where and when.

Pictures work better than text. People are four times more likely to open a link to a pic than a link to text.

Yes, you can talk about programmed work. If you are collecting bins in those three estates then tell people. (See: routime tasks build a broader picture.)

Sharing the sweets is a good idea. Get the librarian to talk about her day on a library account. Get the museum to do something on theirs. All of a sudden it makes sense to have different voices.

Use the main account for sharing the other accounts. You won’t want to run everything through one account. Use several. Create some if you have to.

Get people to channel shift. If you’ve got a web form to report potholes promote it.

News is people. My old editor’s maxim rings true. Talk about the people who do the service. Bob the lifeguard or Keith the caretaker who has been doing this job for 12-years.

Capture it and share. Create a storify to allow you to capture what was said at 2.37pm that Monday afternoon. Tell people and embed the library’s story on the library pages. It’s more interesting.

Schedule some content. If you are sure it’s going to happen and to save you some time you can schedule content via something like hootsuite.com. It’ll lay down some background noise for you.

Avoid Twitter gaol. This is where Twitter doesn’t like you posting more than a certain threshold and thinks you are a spammer. Avoid going over 20 tweets an hour from one account and you should be okay.

Capture it and share it internally. More than anything an event on Twitter will be an internal comms thing. You’ll be telling staff about the organisation they work in. You’ll also be telling people about social media who just think it’s Stephen Fry eating breakfast.

Have fun. Be creative. Tell your story.

3209638395_f80fb1b3b1_b

Creative commons credits

School bus http://www.flickr.com/photos/loop_oh/3176885291/sizes/o/

Highway http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/3209638395/sizes/l/

 

 


#VOTECARL: Can you help us make a statement?

Hello Reader… I’d like you do me a quick favour.

Normally, I try and post some ideas, case studies or things that have impressed me about digital communications. If you’ve got something out of them then great. If that’s the case they I’ve a favour to ask.

I’d like you in the words of Deelite to vote, baby, vote. For a local government digital comms manager Carl Haggerty. Would you do that for me? And spread the word with your friends and colleagues?

Who is Carl Haggerty? He’s been nominated for the Guardian Public Services Awards and the Leadership Excellence shortlist. You can see the shortlist here – and vote Carl while you are at it.

Sure, there’s some great people that shortlist. There’s a local authority chief executive, a chief constable, a chief prosecutor and a bloke who is doing great things at the heart of government with digital. Each of these no doubt deserves the accolade of being shortlisted. There should be more good people in the public services.

But I’d still really like you to Vote Carl.

But I’d also like to tell you some reasons why I’d like you to do me that great favour.

Because he’s at the sharp end. Carl is digital communications manager at Devon County Council. It’s probably an unfashionable place to some. But it’s got a great recond in the field. They were the first council in the country to use Twitter. They have a good grasp about what digital skills are and people who are involved with digital are encouraged to blog as part of their learning.

Because they’ve encouraged innovation and learning. They encourage people to learn and share skills through innovative ways. They stage internal events that take a different slant at what they are learning about. Like this event that encouraged people to learn through playing a board game.

Because Carl likes dogs. Look at this picture. What a lovely dog. Another reason to Vote Carl.

Because of localgovdigital. A peer led group set-up with the help of the LGA this is bringing together and sharing good work from across the country. Carl is chair. He’s really good at it and has got a good sense of direction about what needs doing. It’s starting to get stuck into some good work. Our blog is here. (Disclaimer: I’m also a member.)

Because like me Carl has been shaped by the unconference movement. In local government training budgets are largely a thing of the past. As the challenge of digital looms we’ve never been in a worse state financially as we are now. People like Carl are staging events to encourage learning for free. Because they want to. And because in an era of no experts we’re all learning and all contributing.

Because this will make a difference to all the above. It will. Honest. It will bring recognition and allow Carl and people like him to do more of the things that local government needs to do.

Because just imagine what kind of statement we can make. A bloke in Devon who is a leading light in making digital work better in local government who connects people using social media and who builds on them and gives back a heap of things can take down a load of very respected people to win an award.

How cool would that be?

Please do your bit and Vote Carl.

Thank you,

Dan xx


EMBEDDING DIGITAL? It’s the trust stupid. And knitting patterns

874865119_0a252ffd35_bTrust, trust, trust. Forget everything else. It’s not technology. It’s trust that you need to make social media fly in an organisation. That, ladies and gentlemen and knitting patterns.

It’s trust from people out there who you want to communicate with and trust back there from the organisation to allow you to do good work.

Too often we don’t see the wood for the trees. We think when we’ve got permission to use digital for an organisation or a company the battle is over. It’s not. It’s ongoing and will take years to win.

I’ve been mulling over the whole trust thing for a while. Ever since the IEWM Best by West Midlands put trust and a lack of it as one of the biggest barriers to embedding social media. Almost 40 per cent of people pointed to it.

The mulling continued at Scotgovcamp where I led a great discussion with some fine people on the subject. You can read a great post by Kenny McDonald on the event here. As the session wrapped up and almost as an after thought I asked how long it would take for digital not to be seen as a dangerous threat.

‘Five to 10 years,’ was the answer.

That scares the heck out of me. It’s too long. And Eddie Coates-Madden in his post is right to say as much.

Former Police Assistant Chief Constable Gordon Scobbie says that he trusted his officers with a baton so why wouldn’t he trust them with a Twitter account? He’s right. But it’s more than that. Top down trust is rare and should be celebrated. But it’s the winning it from the frontline up that’s the tricky part.

With trust you can start to prove the worth of what you are doing. You can shout about your successes and you can store up some house points for a time when the budget decisions are made and a bad day when things go wrong.

Here’s six things about trust you need to know

Trust is something that your social channel needs to earn with the outside world

The authentic works on social media. The corporate voice doesn’t. This doesn’t mean adding a sad face to a post about the passing of a former Mayor. It just means using a human tone and language. It also means being a named human being online just as much as you need to be offline to build trust.

Your internal comms for digital is never ending

Congratulations. You’ve won permission to use digital for the organisation. That doesn’t mean it’s embedded. It just means you’ve convinced enough people to put a toe in the water. The thing with toes in water is that they can be taken straight back out again. You’ll need to maintain the internal comms about what you are doing.

Take and share screen shots

That sucessful Facebook post that went viral? Take a screen shot and share it. Ping it to officers on the frontline and 5183452474_437b37fdbc_bthose higher up too. Let them see that you’ve connected with people and you are gathering useful feedback. The engineer sceptical about tweeting gritting was an early convert back in 2009 when he saw positive feedback.

Build up an understanding of social among senior people

Some say that your chief exec needs to tweet. I’m not so sure. I’ve seen organisations where the man at the top seems a digital native but the rest of the place lag far, far behind. You don’t need them blogging. You just need them to have a basic understanding of what digital communications is. That includes the pitfalls as well as the positives.

Knitting patterns can sometimes rock

One good point about engaging senior people is by working out what their interests are. Sit down with them and understand what they do away from the day job. Is it cricket? Football? Macrame? Or as one person at scotgovcamp said maybe it’s knitting? This is where a Twitter stream about knitting patterns can do a lot of good. Once they can connect with the social web in a fun informative non-work way they’ll bring that understanding with them.

Training and a policy

Yes, you need to train and you need some guidelines. But you need to make sure you leave space for creativity to take you places you never thought possible.

Creative commons credits

Green knitting http://www.flickr.com/photos/breibeest/874865119/sizes/l/

Orange knitting http://www.flickr.com/photos/48559365@N05/5183452474/


BIG PICTURES: How pictures make Facebook posts fly (and where to get them)

How much difference does it make to add a picture to a Facebook update? Lots. Or to be more precise 147 per cent.

That was the figure when we posted two updates within minutes on a broadly similar subject.

The first celebrated a Britain in Bloom win for towns in Walsall Council’s boundaries with a picture of flowers in Aldridge drew 37 shares, 88 likes and an audience of 3,,508 on the authority’s Facebook page. I’d be the first to admit that this image isn’t the most arresting in the world. But it says both place and colour and that’s enough.

Fullscreen capture 22092013 065857

The second posted without a picture a few minutes later celebrated recognition in the same competition for a school and nine pubs. That drew four shares and 12 likes with a reach of 1,415.

Fullscreen capture 22092013 070026

Okay, the subject matter is slightly different: towns compared with school children and popular pubs. But there’s enough there to draw some conclusions.

It’s an approach that the ECB takes when the England Test team are playing. It’s something I’ve written about before. Rather than just posting a text score update they post an image of the man of the moment with text too.

If you can, adding text through a simple picture editing tool is a great idea. A phone number or a message works. For that you can use Google’s own Picasa3 software.

What do the numbers teach us?

Firstly, sharable content is important on Facebook and in this case so is a celebratory upbeat message.

Secondly, people are really keen to share messages. Obvious. But it’s important to remember this.

Thirdly, having a stack of pictures available to you is helpful.

But where do you source pictures?

Google images?

This is potentially a bit of a minefield. No, you can’t go to Google images right click and save. Copyright applies to images online just as much as they do online and people have ended up in hot water. Google also allows people to search for a specific image online so if you think you’ll be safe hiding in the fire hose of information that is the web think again.

Your image library?

The basic fact under the 1988 Copyright and Designs Act is that when someone takes a picture they retain copyright. Even if you have paid them. If you’ve, say, commissioned a freelance photographer to take some shots of a night market you are buying a licence to use them for a specific purpose. That can be as broad as marketing and promotion on your website, in print and with the local paper. It may not include social media and you’ll need to check this with the photographer. This NUJ link on copyright and photography is helpful.

Your own?

And by your own I mean one that you’ve taken yourself with your smartphone or camera. Handy if you have time and ability. Not so good if you need an image of flowers in a town centre at a moment’s notice.

Stock photography?

You can, but it costs. Istock is one example of an online image library but there are charges. It’s even more for a Getty shot.

Creative Commons?

One of the great things about the social web is the ability to share. Creative Commons licences are licences which a photographer – amateur or professional – can attach to an image when they post it onto an image library. They’re basically saying that they’re happy for their image to be re-used under certain laid out conditions. The US government, for example, releases virtually all images with a creative commons licence.

So where do I go for creative commons images?

Without doubt the best place on the web is compfight.com. This is a site which works with Flickr’s API to search for key phrases and words. It also searches through a variety of filters from the non-creative commons to the creative commons to the most liberal of all – commercial creative commons which allows a broader re-use.

Fullscreen capture 22092013 071501

It’s not great for specific locations, I admit. There’s a handful of images creative commons for Walsall, for example. But it comes into its own when you need a stocjk pic, like boxing gloves, a coffee cup or clouds in a sky.

It’s a brilliant site. But please, don’t forget to attribute and share where the picture has come from. It’s what makes the social web work.

Legal disclaimer: Always, if you need specific legal advice go and see a lawyer rather than base it on this or any other online advice.


BREW EXPORT: 22 things I learned at two events with tea and cake

8597572574_a81f34dcee_bAn ace thing happened this week. Twice.

We saw the brewcamp idea exported first to Dudley and then to Stafford.

It worked beautifully in both places too.

What’s a brewcamp? It’s an idea that has its roots in unconferences. It’s shared learning through conversation, coffee and cake. Like a coffee morning for militant optimists.

How does it work?

Find a cafe willing to open up after work. Find three topics and people happy to lead a discussion on them. Set up an eventbrite. Tell people about it.

It’s that simple.

But the value is less what the speakers tell you, but the connections you make and the realisation that even after a difficult day you are not alone. Other people still care about the public sector. What’s the value of knowing that it is not you, it’s them?

In truth, both were quite individual. In Dudley, it was called Bostincamp. Bostin being a Black Country word for ‘great.’ In Stafford it was Oatcakecamp. Oatcakes being a North Staffs delicacy that doubles as an expression of regional pride.

ELEVEN things that struck me at  Bostincamp…

  • In Dudley CCG’s media officer Laura Broster they have someone busy re-writing what a comms person should look like in 2013.
  • There are people at Dudley Council who are starting to wake up to social. What they’ll do with it will be amazing.
  • Barriers are being eroded all the time. Often by the people who used to build and maintain them.
  • You can’t argue against case studies that West Midlands Police have. They are a tweeting trojan horse for doing good digital things.
  • Academic red tape is gummier than local government.
  • Lorna Prescott is amazing.
  • The Secret Coffee Club in Pearson Street, Brierley Hill has free WiFi and would be a good place for co-working.
  • If you can’t trust your frontline staff with digital how the hell do you trust them to do the rest of their job?
  • Comms people still need to convince their managers that digital conversations on the frontline are a good idea. Jim Garrow has written well about the Edelman Trust Barometer here. It basically gives a pile of research to back up the idea that people trust the postman more than the chief executive of Royal Mail.
  • There are issues for doctors to use social media. But they are not insurmountable.

ELEVEN things I learned at  oatcakecamp…

  • As training budgets vanish we face a critical challenge of where our learning comes from.
  • At some point there will be a price to be paid for training ending. It may take years but it will come.
  • Bright people do their own learning.
  • If something is free, does that make it have less worth than something that costs £500 to attend?
  • Some people won’t look out of their sector for learning. Some won’t look out of their town.
  • Wolverhampton Council have a cracking Facebook page. But they need to tell people about what they do.
  • Comms people can learn more about good comms from people who in the past we wouldn’t let near comms.
  • The MOD still invest in people. Local government has stopped doing this in many areas.
  • Emma Rodgers is amazing.
  • An oatcakecamp in a fire station sounds cool.
  • Hyperlocal blogs can be patchy in quality but there are some gems like WV11 and A Bit of Stone. If we add some content they may be interested in to general releases we can amplify our message.

I absolutely urge you to go along to one of these when they are staged next.

If there’s not one near you, start your own. Here’s how.

Picture credit

Tea pot http://flic.kr/p/e6C3Yx


DUB LINKS: Dublin and social

3327293399_7874c95926_oThere’s something hugely inspiring about seeing other people who are passionate about what they do.

This month I got to go to Dublin to talk to some great people from Dublin City Council who are looking, like we all are, to better understand how the internet is changing what they do.

There I got to meet The Studio a kind of crack team of people enabling change with skills from different parts of local government.

I also got to hear how Carmel McCartney, a community worker for the council has built and nurtured a Facebook page to serve the Crumlin community in the north of the city . There’s also Pauline Sargent who runs a hyperlocal blog in the community of Drimnagh who has met and connected with Carmel.

Carmel, although she doesn’t know it, is doing things that in years to come with be second nature to community workers. She set-up a Facebook page for one of the community she serves. She’s savvy enough to know that the 83 likes she has on her page isn’t the measure of what she’s doing. What is is that when she posts other neighbourhood Facebook pages pick up on this and share her content which allows her to reach thousands.

At the heart of it is a simple thing. It’s basically the council talks to it’s residents at the place where they’re gathering.

There should be more people like Carmel and in truth there are. But they’re often the people and in places you’d least expect.

Similarly, hyperlocal blogger Pauline Sargent is another glimpse of what things should look like. Her hyperlocal site Drimnagh is Good seeks to better tell people about what is going on in the community and sites like hers should be welcomed as part of the news landscape. They won’t always say great things about the council. But then newspapers don’t either but we think nothing about engaging with them where we can.

The whole relationship between blogger and local government is something that will become more important. Just because we never have is no reason to never will. I’ve written about what the blogger – press officer relationship should look like before.

But as Pauline and Carmel show it all just boils down to building good, human relationships. Offline as well as online.

Creative commons credit

Pub http://www.flickr.com/photos/jyryk/3327293399/sizes/o/


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