Every week being full-time on comms2point0 has been quite literally an
adventure. One of the adventures was to write social media guidance
for part of the public sector that is struggling with it. Health and Wellbeing Boards are where the NHS, charities and councils come together to make billions of pounds of spending decisions.
The Local Government Association (LGA) listened to members who said they were struggling in this area and commissioned us to draw-up some guidance. It is with huge pleasure that I saw that the LGA published Connecting Health and Wellbeing Boards: a social media guide.
If you think that guidance for this arcane corner of the public sector
has nothing for you, I’d ask you to swing by and take a look. I think
you’ll find some principles that can help you out whereever you are.
Climbing a challenge one step at a time
So, how do you persuade organisations and people that don’t use social
media to start using it?
There was a long list of things that health and wellbeing boards should be doing. Live tweeting meetings, posting slides used at meetings to slide sharing website slideshare and using social media to listen are all there.
But nobody wants to look at Mount Everest on their first day in walking boots.
So, we made it easy. We made slow steps possible. We created five steps – or five stars – that made progress not only possible but measurable.
We made the first star deliberately easy. All you had to do was post the date and time of your meeting on a social profile. Simple. Congratulations. You’ve got a first star. As any walker will tell you
once you conquer your first hillock your eyes turn more readily to something a little bigger.
That, we think, is the powerful and encouraging thing that can make these guidelines work.
What I’m most proud of is that we didn’t just write this in a vacuum.
We asked the online community and the offline community too. My role
as author was less a writer and more a facilitator. What should these
guidelines look like? Gemma Finnegan at the weekly #nhssm chat which discusses social media in the NHS steered two discussions that had a profound effect. I don’t have my name on this document. I have
comms2point0′s logo. But we have thanked everyone who conrtibuted to
those discussions and the survey which shaped it. I also spent a lot
of time chatting to people. If you want to look at an authority doing
a trailblazing job look at Louisa Willoughby at Sheffield City Council
and Cllr Simon Allen at Bath and North East Somerset. And some of the work that @claireOT has done in sketching out what things could look like.
Thanks also to Kristian Hibberd who has now left the LGA for pastures new and to Laurence Meehan and Caroline Tapster who remains.
We used data
We surveyed people and we used those results to shape the discussion.
* 53 per cent thought their council uses social media badly for health
and wellbeing boards.
* 81 per cent are in favour of live streaming.
* 83 per cent said that space should be given to the public to ask questions at meetings.
We had five basic principles
From my time in local government, I’ve been in favour of a framework of
basic principles rather than a dogmatic policeman of highly prescriptive. Nobody wants the guidance that says you must use MySpace. So we came up with this:
- Be engaging: interact wherever possible with users and reflect the
• Be timely: post information at a time that is most convenient or
relevant to the audience.
• Be jargon-free: use language that works on the platform of choice
without jargon and language that people outside the health and
wellbeing board would struggle to understand.
• Be connected: look to share content from partners and from across
the public or third sector where is relevant.
• Be informative: look to inform and to educate.
The #nhssm discussion of the LGA health and wellbeing board guidelines
takes place between 8pm and 9pm on Wednesday November 19.
But I’ll bet you think that you’ve nothing to say and not many people will find what you are doing interesting, right?
Good news. You couldn’t be further from the truth and by taking part you’ll be lending your voice to create a far louder noise around an area that no doubt doesn’t always shout about itself.
Back in 2010, me and some colleagues staged #walsall24 which was the first real-time Twitter event in local government. We won the first LGComms gold social media award and for a day the borough was the centre of the digital universe. People from across the council used Twitter to post the day-to-day things we were doing.
We’d taken the idea from Greater Manchester Police and tweaked it. It’s great to see others now take the idea and tweak it further so it’s the voice of a sector and not just one authority.
The #housingday initiative has grown from strength to strength as a way of telling the social housing story. Like any success, it has many fathers. But Ade Capon from Yorkshire Housing is the man responsible for first taking the plunge.
Here’s 10 ideas to help you make the most of the day
- The more mundane it is to you, the more interesting it is to them. Trust me. Everyone thinks they do a fairly dull job. To others its madly interesting.
- Tweet the little things. Tell people about the drain cover you just fixed, the window you are replacing, the meeting you’ve been to. It all builds a picture.
- Take a picture. A picture tells 1,000 words and when you’ve only got 140 characters that’s pretty useful. People like pictures. They get shared more too. You don’t have to be David Bailey.
- Take a video. With Instagram you have about 14 seconds of video that can be shared to Twitter.
- Take some audio. Soundcloud is a cracking app that lets you record people talking. Ask someone to say who they are, what they do and what they are doing today. Then share it to Twitter.
- Share some content. Press the retweet button and share what other people are doing.
- Ask a question. Ask what people think. Ask the for their own experiences.
- Follow a member of staff. Pick someone who does a frontline job. Then follow them around. You can tweet about what they are doing and where they are in realtime.
- Stage a Q&A. Persuade a senior person to be available to answer questions on a topic. Promote it. Share the answers.
- Embed your Twitter stream on the organisations’ website so non-Twitter people can see what is being said.
- Build it and they will come is silly. Go offline. Tell people about it. Email them. Put it in team briefings. Shout. Shout. Let it all out.
- Capture the tweets you’ll send and the comments you’ll receive on the web. By all means use Storify to capture what is being said. That’s an easy drag and drop web application you can use to preserve things.
- Capture the tweets you’ll send and the comments you’ll receive as screenshots. Take a screenshot. Email it to people. The officers in the repairs team. People like that.
- Feature the residents. How long has Mrs Smith lived in that house? What does she think of her windows? What could she suggest to improve the area she lives in?
- Ask people to do something. Don’t just let the day be just noise. Here’s the thing you’d like people to sign-up for. Here’s the consultation you’d like them to get involved with. Channel all this to help you make a difference.
In September, some of the brightest minds in public sector comms will come to Birmingham for our rather fine #commsforchange14 event. It’s been drawn-up by comms and pr people especially for comms and pr people. Know what’s even better? We’re also publishing a whitepaper at the event and we’re launching a survey to help shape it. Can you help?
by Dan Slee
The single biggest problem with communications, George Bernard Shaw once said, is the illusion that it has taken place.
After 20 years of working for and with the media I’ll add another one. The biggest problem is that it rarely happens with enough time.
We’ve all been there. The service area who tell you via email at 6.08pm about a major project launch in the morning.
Does it have to be this way?
It’s one of the reaons why we are staging the #commsforchange14 event with PSCSF in Birmingham on September 24.
We didn’t want this just to be a run-of-the-mill go-through-the-motions conference. We care about this. That’s why we have some cracking speakers in the morning and an unconference in the afternoon where the agenda is put together on the day.
It’s why we’re putting together a whitepaper specially for the event to capture some of the expert opinion and some tips to share.
We want to give you at the event the tools to position you and your team closer to the top table and to service areas so you can better communicate change. The better you communicate the better you get to look.
What will the whitepaper tackle?
This white paper will cover:
- How soon should comms be involved?
- How can you position comms close to the top table?
- How can the relationship between service areas and comms be improved?
- How important is internal comms?
- Some cracking case studies to help you.
How can you get the whitepaper?
Attendees to #commsforchange14 get their own printed copy and a chance to chat to some of the contributors. They’ll also get an electronic copy emailed to them.
You can get a copy emailed to you within days of the event just by contributing to the survey.
We’d love it if you could take a few minutes to complete a survey to help us prepare a snapshot baseline picture that tells us where comms people are.
There’s the theory and the reality. We’d like to check where reality is before we work on the theory.
So, please do take a few minutes to complete the survey on this link here. We’d love you forever. That’s two links in three paragraphs.
So, why is comms getting involved early a good idea?
There’s a whole list of reasons why getting comms involved in a project early is a good idea. The earlier you do it the better chance you stand of winning.
Here are seven. Feel free to add more.
We look forward to seeing you at the event.
First thought is ‘did that really just happen?’ and second is ‘how the hell do I process all that information?’
The answer to the first is ‘yes’ and to the second: ‘with a bit of time and space, if that’s okay?’
This isn’t going to be your traditional list of things I learned at an event post but rather a quick chance to chuck up a few paragraphs after a bit of time has passed. There will be a proper ‘thank you’ post in the next couple of days and there’s a load of people to thank.
It isn’t just about eating cake. But cake is a trojan horse that disarms people. How serious can you be when discussing the merits of Victoria sponge as an introduction?
There is value in an unconference. I’ve said repeatedly, that I started to think differently after the first unconference I went to. That was localgovcamp in 2009 a rather seminal moment for myself and a whole load of other people too. There’s something in the format that allows people who don’t get the chance to have a voice and that’s really powerful.
There’s a cycle in event organising that runs from having a great idea, then starting the ball rolling and then doing the work, then wondering if this thing will work, then realising that it will and then repeating. If someone came to commscamp and is a bit inspired to run something the advice is to do it.
Evaluation, evaluation, evaluation… is the thing that’s going to either save pr and communications or kill it. And there’s a blog post brewing about what you can do and how to do it. If you evaluate you can show your worth and show how you are making a difference. Without it you are an expensive luxury that people think that they can do without and let’s face it, if you are not telling your story, who can blame them? Forget the new shiny channel for a second. Think of the fundamentals and spend time on this. It’ll save your life.
If you think that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn are the last word in social media you’re dead wrong. One of the conclusions of the IEWM survey was that local government in the West Midlands isn’t touching Whats App and Snapchat. Stats would tell you that it would be a good idea if we all did. The web keeps moving. But the lessons pioneers learned in the foothills of 2008 when convincing places to use things like Facebook are lessons that will see us all through.
The thing that makes me smile is people with light bulbs going on above their heads. It’s the thing that makes my day worthwhile now comms2point0 is a company. Going somewhere and training and then seeing someone’s face when they realise how powerful the web is and how they can use it. It’s brilliant. I think at commscamp there were people with light bulbs popping all over the shop and that for me is brilliant.
There’s never enough time to blog and I’ve counted five I’d like to tackle in the next few days. Why blog? Because it’s working things out that lets me go back and look at the workings out a bit later down the track.
Thank you for helping make commscamp a success. There really are some great people out there.
Creative commons credits
@Blangry eating cake: https://flic.kr/p/nYq2w4 by Ann Kempster
Two people talking: https://flic.kr/p/odZ2kE by Leah Lockhart
A good thing is about to happen. Localgovcamp is taking place in Birmingham.
Localgovcamp. It first happened in 2009 and has happened sporadically since.
You put more than 100 people in a room and you let them to set the agenda about what’s discussed. Ideas, connection and inspiration emerge and ideas, magpie others and make connections.
For one day job titles are left at the door and everyone has a say in working out how the internets plus people and enthusiasm can make a difference. I learned more about the social web in its early days from people who went to localgovcamp than I did from anyone from PR.
So much has happened…
The first one made me think differently. It was a Road to Damascus moment. I realised my view counted and that the future was going to be digital. We could see the future and that we could shape it.
But not all for the good…
And yet change hasn’t happened as quickly as it needs to. Some of those early travellers have fallen by the wayside gone but not forgotten. The revolution didn’t happen overnight and austerity has stopped much innovation in its tracks. Yet the pace needs to pick up. Change in a sector shouldn’t be left to enthusiasts doing things in their spare time.
And the trajectory is onwards….
Some bright people are doing good work in part because of the freedom of thought and network attending a govcamp has brought. The Localgovdigital group is one of those heading forward though not nearly as fast and with none of the resources the sector needs.
And a bunch of freelancers emerged…
A long while back talking to Al Smith on Twitter I tried to guess how many from the first event had left local government. A while later using the orginal eventbrite and LinkedIn I worked it out.
28 were from local government itself.
Of the 28 from local government 13 have left and 8 now run their own businesses. I’m one of them.
I used to think unconferences like localgovcamp would change the world. I was wrong. Not on their own they don’t. They can provide the ideas and inspiration. But it’s the action that counts. Yet, if they do things like this they must carry on…
@danslee it gave me the confidence to chuck a well paid secure job to go it alone and do something different (ish) :) I’ve never looked back
— Mrs Douglas (@drama_mama_7) Juneh 20, 2014