CHART POST: My top 10 at being in the top 10

2782376836_7de66e1f4a_bLadies and gentlemen, I’ve made the charts new in at number four.

An unexpected email dropped the other day from the nice people at Cision. They’ve rated this blog as 4th in their list of UK PR blogs.

I haven’t a clue what metrics they’ve used but I suspect pictures of cake have played a role in this. Still, this did make me smile.

It also prompted me to take a look back at what I’ve written and knock up a quick top 10.

If you’ve not come across this blog, then hello. If you’ve read it before, welcome back. It’s a blog that looks mostly at digital communications in local government and whose ideas, I’d suggest, can transfer to other sectors.

Why blog? To contribute to the debate, to float an idea and to chuck up an idea to see if it works. Even though I’m posting a lot to comm2point0 these days I’ll always look to cross-post here too.

A top 10 of posts

‘Die Press Release Die’ and Six Other Things PR People Need To Know - In 2006 Tom Foremski wrote a blog that was a scream of frustration at how public relations hadn’t grasped that the world was changing. I loved it and when presenting to LGComms gave a presentation on the idea and what it now means.

Channel Shift – A Future for Public Sector Comms in 2013? – A post about why we need to have an end result to what we do and how that can be powerful when its linked to a major aim for an organisation.

Why Solutions Not Shiny Matter Most  – A post about a comment from a chief executive that we should stop being evangelists and go with digital as a solution if we really want to make a difference. He was right and still is.

5112453782_90e3801e25_b37 skills, abilities and platforms for today’s comms person – A post about the skills we need today’s comms landscape. I wrote this in a deckchair in Devon with a cup of tea which is why I’m particularly fond of it. I’m sure cake was involved too.

11 Rules of Social Media in an organisation - A post about the ingredients you’ll need to make things work using social media in an organisation.

Twitter Gritter: Gritting and Social Media – A post about the idea of when local government goes out and does something that it tells people. What a fine idea is that?

27 Ways To Give Your Organisation a Smiley Face With Twitter – Which was the first blog post I wrote where I found a voice back in 2009 and began to hit my stride. We’d been using Twitter for six months and looking back it’s a bit perscriptive and you can pick and choose I’m still rather proud of this.

Stop Being Irrelevant: Five Things Every Comms Person Should Know – For a while I was getting quite irritated at the stick-in-the-mud head-in-the-sand attitude of the PR industry. It still irritates. But I get the sense that the penny has dropped and things are evolving. This was a shouty wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee post.

‘I’m Showing Two Colleagues Twitter. They Say They Don’t Get It.’ – When I wrote this @twitter picked it up and shared it and 23,000 people came and saw it in the space of a month. Mad, really.

Why I Blog And You Should Too – Sets out why I do this and still do.

And 10 blogs you need to look at


The Face of the Matter

Bentham Towers

Paul Bromford

Stephen Waddington

A Day Without OJ

Kate Reynolds

Asif Choudry

Weekly Blog Club



So, thank you for reading and thank you for sharing.

Picture credits 

Rolling Stones


CHANGE THE MODEL: 10 predictions for local government communications in 2014

4554851174_87e6b96177_o“I’d rather not predict,” US Democratic strategist James Carville once said, “I’d rather affect.”

Seeing as the only thing I’m affecting between Christmas and New Year is a large cake tin and a box of celebrations I’ll be ignoring the man who helped put Clinton in the White House.

But first here’s a few things I predicted 2013 would have in store for us in my corner of local government communications on my own blog in 2012.

For those who’d like to point and laugh here is my 2011 predictions too for 2012

The ones that came off…

Comms teams have been becoming smaller. The recent comms2point0 survey revealed to 31 per cent thinking their team would shrink as against 19 per cent who thought they would grow.

Twitter defamation lawyers4u will become a reality. Partly true. The Speaker’s wife Sally Bercow settled in the High Court over a defamatory tweet and action was taken against scores of others. But ambulance chasing hasn’t quite happened yet.

Innovation will wither as spare capacity is cut. True. It’s certainly harder to experiment in a far smaller team just as the need for experimentation has increased.

The private sector has been better at innovating in digital comms. They’ve the budget and the will. But this doesn’t always mean private is better than public in all cases. They have different decision making processes.

5743993819_fe0f9e9f05_oSocial media box ticking needs to be guarded against. True. “We need Twitter,” is replacing “we need a press release,” as the non-comms call to action. No you don’t. Not all the time any way.

The LGA-backed localgov digital project is a good idea whose time has come. Is bang on the money and chair Carl Haggerty winning a digital leadership award at The Guardian awards proves this.

Social media is fracturing. Is true. While 10 platforms were mentioned in the 2012 comms2point0 poll it now stands at 30 in the same poll a year later.

The ones where it’s too early to tell…

Smart comms people will realise that channel shift may the reason they survive. The jury is still out although it’s fascinating to hear some case studies where people have been experimenting with this.

People will see social media isn’t a golden bullet. People are gradually waking up to the idea that while this is important it’s part of the mix and a Facebook page on its own won’t change the world.

Digital comms specialists are needed. Skills need to be developed and shared.

The one that didn’t…

Facebook as a local government platform is over. There are some god ones but with fewer and fewer people seeing updates from pages it is no longer the wunderkind. Give this one time.

10 predictions for local government digital comms in 2014…

5165377895_ccd93e6654_bThere will be more shared comms teams. People will look at how this can work across a geographical area and also between authorities.

Teams will continue to get smaller. The ones that fail to grasp the nettle and look at what they are doing will wither.

Heads of comms will become fewer. As a result of the first two.

Better evaluation is needed. The 1980s idea of story counts and positive, negative and neutral need to go. Now. What will replace will be shaped by results. Like channel shift or user growth targets. Failure to do this will see teams become irrelevant.

Local government comms will become the poor relation of public sector PR. With training budgets gone, workloads increasing teams will struggle to do the basics without major recalibration.

Digital will continue to mainstream. But the digital specialist will need to be a jack of all trades and must be able to shape content for all manner of platforms – from the village magazine to YouTube to Twitter to a press release and web content.

Teams will be outstripped by the pace of change. When revolution is needed slow evolution will be allowed to occur.

Digital comms will step up a gear from simply tweeting press releases to tackling the really thorny problems. In local government these insoluble issues are called ‘wicked issues.’

Digital comms will continue to be a frontline officer task. Giving people the tools in the field will continue. Policy and training will need to come from the centre as the role of digital comms becomes part of all areas and not just a specialist.

There will be a major emergency in 2014 where digital comms plays a decisive role. And they’ll do a good job and more people will see the worth. But senior officers will still roll their eyes.

Teams will need content creators. Not press officers.

Teams that overlook internal communications – and in particular telling their own story internally – will suffer. 

Picture credits

Change the model

Learn or retire


LOVE THESE: 13 Inspiring Links from 2013

8298068701_59923f3d46_bFor a good long while now I’ve strongly felt that if you stop learning you stop growing and with the pace of change learning has never been more important.

The ideas that fire me are not from one organisation or institution. They come like refreshing drinks from the firehose of the internet that shares and spreads ideas.

Every working day myself, my colleague Darren Caveney or from time-to-time a guest editor will trawl the social networks looking for content that will help make sense of this fascinating landscape we find ourselves in.

Now the year is coming to an end I racked my brains for some links that really stopped me in my tracks. There was plenty and this is just a snapshot.

Good? Jim Garrow isn’t good he’s brilliant. He’s a blogger who works in public health and emergency planning in Philadelphia in the US. Nobody has written more challenging stuff than him in 2013. From a fistful of possible posts The Rise of the New Media on how journalists have lost their pre-eminent position is excellent at describing the landscape we live in.

And that’s the secret. I am the new media. You are the new media. They are the new media. Anyone can be. While the media laments their diminished (but absolutely not disappeared) role as, “breakers of news,” there are still other roles in the news-making world that they can fill.

Monmouthshire County Council’s digital manager Helen Reynold’s post Your Organisation Doesn’t Need a Social Media Expert It Needs Its Experts on Social Media articulates perfectly why social media shouldn’t be the preserve of PR people.

I work in PR though, there’s a great need for PR. But it can’t be about polishing turds, smartening up text to make press releases and pushing out stories on Facebook and Twitter. That’s old news. PR should be helping our experts to communicate well.


US blogger James Altucher in 10 Reasons Why You Have To Quit Your Job This Year takes the last 10 years of your career levels them, scoops them up again and repeats it. Ten times. You should read it.

You’ve been replaced. Technology, outsourcing, a growing temp staffing industry, productivity efficiencies, have all replaced the middle class. The working class. Most jobs that existed 20 years ago aren’t needed now. Maybe they never were needed. The entire first decade of this century was spent with CEOs in their Park Avenue clubs crying through their cigars, “how are we going to fire all this dead weight?”. 2008 finally gave them the chance.

German art students shot a short film about getting closer to nature. It was a surprising internet sensation.

We miss you.

In 2013 I was involved in Best by West Midlands a white paper that celebrated social media use in local government across the region. Why? Because we’re quite good at it. And because there are more than 30 case studies worth celebrating.

Contained in this document are some case studies from the towns, cities, villages and – quite literally – farms across the West Midlands.

Many councils across the UK have one bright person who is shaping their digital presence. Often, they don’t look at the clock and care passionately about what they do. One such is Claire Bustin at Sandwell Council who deserves to be revered as someone who shaping the best Facebook page in local government. Her 11 Things You Should Do With Your Facebook Page should be read and re-read.

There’s nothing that will turn people off your page quicker than warning people about “inclement weather” when what you really mean is snow. And say “I” or “we” rather than “the council”. It reminds people there’s a human being updating your Facebook page. Use smiley faces where appropriate.

The best social accounts come from unexpected quarters. To prove this, here’s a sheep farmer from Cumbria. The @herdyshepherd1 account gives insights from a thousand feet up and it is breathtakingly good. This a piece in The Independent.

I’m feeding a flock of our sheep surrounded by the fells of the Lake District. So a mass of grey fleeces and bright white heads… I see it every day, but I never get bored of it.

Eddie Coates-Madden’s post for comms2point0 on the world where we are is compulsory reading. PR is Dead and Just For Good Measure Newspapers are Dead Too tells the tale of a talk he gave.

And I ended with my prediction of the future for journalism; that it will be fast, fast, fast; that stories are everywhere, not on a Press Release; that everyone can be a journalist (not necessarily a good one, but everyone can break stories and has the tools to publish); that journalists have become a brand in themselves; that  broadcast without response is dead; that there will be ever more accountable journalism, more easy disgust, more easy offence and that accountability is every organisation’s to handle, and that there are more easily targeted campaigns and more moral tensions. activism is clicktivism and that might mean more and more difficult challenges, to freedom of expression, politically unpopular views, financial security, even – when wrongly done – to personal safety.

There’s much to admire in Service Before Self an anonymous post on the We Love Local Government blog. But most to admire is the sense of heart-on-the-sleeve honesty. This is what it feels like to be a senior officer trying to make cuts.

“My lifeline has gone; I am alone. No-one has explained why the cafe has shut. Doubtless some suit I will never meet will write a strategy to tell me what I need. I know the cafe isn’t coming back.”

I am the person that writes strategies like that. I am the person who will have to decide where to find the savings from. I am The Suit. I constantly try and apply the so-what test to everything I do. I am 8510599726_27c28f402f_hmy own greatest critic.

When diplomats leave they leave a valedictory. It’s a note where they can be brutally honest as a kind of payback for years of diplomatic silence. Emer Coleman left a valedictory when leaving the government digital service. We have a choice, she wrote:

You will remember the scene when Morpheus offers Neo the red pill or the blue pill. If he takes the blue pill everything stays the same – if he takes the red pill (like Alice in Wonderland) he falls through the rabbit hole and sees things like they really are. We are at a juncture in society and technology where the system (and government) keep taking the blue pill struggling to deal with a new generation who swallowed the red one years ago. It’s a bit like the arrival of email – I still remember colleagues who used their PC monitors as a place to stick post-it-notes (this computer-email-thingy-will-never-catch-on).

Intranet Directions dropped into my Twitter stream the other day with a series of downloadable cardsbased loosely on the Oblique Strategies cards that Brian Eno drew-up in the 1970s. They were there to help musicians make decisions but these tweaked can make anyone make decisions. They look brilliant.

Use them at your desk, in a team meeting, in a workshop or pop them straight into the recycling bin, it’s completely up to you. We’ve got four suits of themes.

Matt Bowsher is assistant director for social care for Dudley Council and on leadership that can work elsewhere too.

One of my favourite maxims is “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You can design the best strategy in the world, if people don’t shape it, buy in to it and then have a clear role in delivering it, expect it to be confined to the dustbin of history.

One of the most inspiring things from 2013 I was involved with was commscamp which was staged along with Ann Kempster and Darren Caveney. Both brilliant people. More than 120 people came from central and local government and ideas were shared and debated. It was ace. This link rounds up an explosion of ideas that emerged from the event.

Well, that was fun. The day was great… but sitting back and reading what comes out of it is even better.

Commscamp for this co-organiser was tiring, exhilarating, challenging and rewarding. But most of all worth it.

Sometimes on the day you can be so busy talking to others to see the whole picture and it’s only in the days and weeks later that the full picture does emerge.

Picture credits




DIGITAL STEP: Can we use the web to solve the big problems now?

#7 DecaySo, if the high water mark of social media in local government is tweeting gritting call-outs we’ll have failed.

Sure, getting those messages out represents a big step to what went on before but the achievement as I’ve said before shouldn’t stop at that.

I’ve pondered for a while what the next steps may be from my own corner of the digital allotment. Occasionally I look across at people like fellow local government officers Carl Haggerty and Phil Rumens who think big picture digital things and I sit back on my shovel and I ponder.

For comms people it’s getting involved with channel shift and helping an organisation score some savings while offering people a better service. Yes, but what else?

As barriers blur and the internet changes everything it’s fascinating for a comms person like me to think beyond the argument that press releases are dead.

There’s been a fascinating debate just recently by a post from SOCITM president Steve Halliday who suggested that digital in local government should be helping to solve ‘wicked’ problems.

What’s a wicked problem? It’s the term given to particularly uncrackable local government issues that tend to crop up in places like social care or planning.

In this world he suggests information sharing using a secure web to network could maybe bring professionals together to crack those particular thorny headaches. It’s a measure of how things have evolved that people are thinking of using this social media stuff to tackle the real grown-up problems.

On the question  of whether we should use digital to tackle these ‘wicked’ issues he’s absolutely right.

Then a few things that keep nagging at me like the clunk of a mobile phone left inside a coat that’s being put through the washing machine that asks you to do something about it.

Firstly, there was a bold call to action from Coventry City Council chief executive Martin Reeves who at the #10by10wm event 12-months ago in Coventry told a room full of geeks to stop evangelising about social media but come armed with solutions… which incidentally may have some social media in them.

On that, he’s absolutely right.

And there’s a third snippet which has lodged in my head from former civil servant Gerald Power. He  said that to make a big difference you need to tackle the big problems in your organisation the really big ticket issues need to be tackled. Not the little ones.

On that he’s right too.

But all that Big Problem tackling would take time, effort and resources at a time when there is none. But if that Big Problem affected 100 of the 350 or so councils and cost, say, £1 million a year then would a one-off £50,000 project make sense?

Of course.

But who is there to identify the problem and scrape together the time, effort, collective will and resources?

The mantra of JFDI – just flipping do it – has taken us a long way but this feels too big and too important to leave to people working under the radar.

What’s the answer? I’m just a comms person fascinated with how we can use the internet better to make a difference. I’ll leave that for other people to ponder.

Picture credit

Allotment notice

RUSSIAN SOCIAL: 18 things from a digital debate with the Russian Ambassador

So, what’s to share from a trip to the Russian Ambassador’s residence in London for a discussion on how the internet shapes political decision?

Actually, quite a lot and not just that it’s a very large house in Westminster.  And no, there was no Ferrero Roche. It was hosted by Jimmy Leach the former head of digital at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and had Tom Whitwell the head of digital operations at The Times and Sunday Times and Guido Fawkes blogger Paul Staines. Conservative MP Douglas Carwell began with a discussion on the birth of what he calls ‘i-democracy’.

Maybe it was because we are British but the alleged treatment of dissidents was not raised until almost the end of the session and it was Guido Fawkes who mentioned it in passing.

For all that it was a discussion about democracy and what it looks like and is shaped by the web in 2013 there were some useful take-homes for someone interested in digital communications.

Here are 18 things I learned from the event

  1. The Russian Ambassador’s residence is a mighty grand place.
  2. At Westminster, there are backbench MPs who have a greater profile than ministers in government.
  3. We are not yet at a stage where elections are decided by social media.
  4. E-mail played a major and unheralded part in the election victory of Barack Obama but it’s never had the attention that social media had.
  5. People really, really hate spammy or insincere emails.
  6. Digital democracy can also include unsubscribing from spammy and insincere emails.
  7. At the next election, the difference between the two largest parties is that the Conservatives are favouring Facebook and Labour are focussing more on Twitter.
  8. At the last UK general election, social media gave a skewed view of what would happen at the polls with more traffic for Labour not equating to votes.
  9. In Telford, the election of the police commissioner was won by a candidate who tweeted once and the one with the biggest online profile finished third.
  10. There is a feeling that it is only a matter of time before the UK government more closely regulate social media.
  11. Under current defamation laws, a 15-year-old tweeter is treated just the same as a newspaper editor.
  12. Twitter has democratised comment and there are political commentators who have been rendered obsolete by it.
  13. Until 1918, an MP seeking to join the government by being appointed a minster in a re-shuffle had to resign and stand again in a by-election before taking office.
  14. The smoked salmon at the Russian Ambassador’s residence is very good.
  15. The e-petition asking for Jeremy Clarkson to be PM wasn’t deleted when it was first posted because Jimmy Leach was ‘too tired.’
  16. The screening mechanism for angry letters is well developed in government. Less so for social media. Twenty people write on a topic and little happens. Twenty tweet and it gets seen as a movement and consultants get called in.
  17. A good blog is simply good stories well told, say The Times.
  18. Twitter may not be a force for democratic good. It’s owned by one company in America. The jury of history is still out.

HOUR DAY: How #walsalltownstories will try to tell a tale

5742745475_d0ebb84166_oI love Twitter. I really do. But sometimes you need more than 140 characters to try and tell a story.

That’s why with the Walsall Town Stories event we will try and use it to give an idea of the people who work in the town centre.

Twenty people whose jobs are often celebrated will be featured as part of the initiative on Friday October 25.

Starting at 6am, for an hour each they will be shadowed and their story relayed via @walsallcouncil before they pass on to someone else.

There will be a range of people from Walsall Council staff who do an uncelebrated job like the street cleaner and the trading standards officer to the market trader and the curry house worker.

Two things have helped shape it. The @sweden account which is passed to a new Swede every week and also the wonderful Kabul: A City At Work series which uses film and a blog post to ask who the people are who do day-to-day jobs.

Why those two? Because they allow a human face to develop.

When we did #Walsall24 a few years back we wanted to develop the idea to see where it would take us. It’s a simple model that can work in all sorts of organisations and the LGA have done some great things with it in pushing it out as a national initiative called #ourday. But it will be interesting to see how an hour of time can tell a human story.

You can follow the event by following @walsallcouncil.

I’ll whack up a storify after the event here too.


EXTRA COVER: 21 ways a cricket club can use Twitter (with lessons for organisations)

3927614158_c53c151264_oCricket? That’s pints of beer, the smack of leather on willow English summer days, isn’t it?

When I played for a 4th team in the North Staffs League it was also vicious grudge matches, a batsman who could only score fours and sixes and cows at cow  corner.

My greatest contribution? Probably to persuade the club to be one of the first in their league to adopt Twitter.

Mostly, this blog is about digital communications in local government. Now my son has started to play for a team himself I’m more thinking about how a team can best use the 140-character platform. There’ll be lessons for all organisations, of course.  Stick with me if cricket isn’t your bag. It’ll be back to Facebook and PR next week.

So, isn’t Twitter just people talking about their dinner?

If you want it to. You can just use it for people talking about bacon sandwiches. But you don’t have to. When you buy the Sunday papers you end up throwing most of it away. You may be interested in five or six subjects. Twitter allows you to search on those subjects to find other people interested in them. As well as experts, bloggers and magazines that talk about them.  Social media is a conversation and Twitter is one way of chipping into that conversation.

Three things to think about:

Be social. Talk. Contribute. Listen. Check your replies and replay back. It’s far more social.

Be timely. Things work best in realtime. As they happen. Not six hours after they have.

Be a champion. For any cricket club to make it work you don’t need a digital native. You need someone who loves the club, loves cricket and has a mobile phone.

21 ways you can use Twitter as a cricket club


1. You can use the #cricketfamily hashtag to connect with other cricket people

A hashtag is quite simply a word with the # symbol added to it. On Twitter you can create one on any subject that you like. But you’ll find a whole bunch of people talking about the subject. During the Ashes, you didn’t need to listen to Test Match Special if you were away from a telly. You could check the #ashes hashtag to get an instant idea on what was going on.

A year or two second XI skipper Marcus Charman saw the plight of Langwith CC who were down on their luck and the #cricketfamily hashtag was born. It’s a hashtag where the good and positive side of cricket could connect with each other.

Marcus and Langwith CC’s tweets about club cricket flew back and forth, earmarked through #cricketfamily and other clubs began to use the hashtag to ask questions and swap ideas.

As is the way with the astonishing speed of social media, the growth of cricket clubs on Twitter (which has mushroomed in 2011/12), led to hundreds interacting and helping, from fundraising to friendlies.

You can read the full story here.

2. You can tell people when the teams are picked

3. You can tell people where the fixtures are

4. You can arrange fixtures through the @sundaycricketer Twitter stream

Back in the day if you wanted to arrange a friendly you had to rely on your brother-in-law’s mate who played for a cricket club. You’d send a text. You may get a reply. There was also an 84-year-old in Old Hill who used to act as an unpaid fixture arranger. But tweet the @sundaycricketer Twitter and you can arrange a last minute friendly or a tour game.

5. You can tell people score flashes on matchday

You’re sat at Endon playing for the 4ths and you need to know what the 1st XI are doing in a must-win match. There used to be text. But what happens when the textee is out at the middle? Twitter allows you to post score updates as the game progresses. Twitter works really well as a place to post real time information.

6. You can celebrate individual performances

So, when one of your players has played a blinder you can celebrate the fact with a suitable tweet. Even though they get bowled next ball.

7. You can promote events that are taking place

Post a flyer onto Twitter to share the events that are taking place that you’ve lovingly organised.

8. You can celebrate what younger players are doing

Good teams have a decent youth set-up. With the permission of parents you can add a picture of the next generation to keep parents informed and the children a pat on the bat. You’ll need parental permission of course.

9. You can tell players about meetings

Nets, AGM, EGM and all that jazz. The sort of things you’d like players to go to. You can stick it on Twitter as another way of reaching people.

10. You can tweet what your ground looks like

Trying to tempt people down to enjoy a drink / play / make the tea? Maybe a shot of the ground in the sunshine may be a way forward. Here’s a shot from a Sydney ground.

11. You can tweet weather flashes

With your ground under water and the covers on the temptation is to shut-up shop. Heck, no! Post a picture and show the world the puddles on the outfield.

12. You can remind people they can come and enjoy watching cricket at your ground

It’s baking hot. It’s a lovely summers day. There’s a new barrel on. So, why not tell people and make them welcome down at your ground? Yet, very few clubs really open the door to the rest of the community when their ground is the best place to be anywhere in England.

13. You can recruit new players

When you are down on numbers a shout on Twitter can help you track down a new opening bat, a six-year-old who fancies a game or maybe an overweight purveyor of dibbly dobblies who can hold down third man and long off.

14. You can arrange nets

Every Thursday there’s nets staged at an indoor sports centre in Tividale in the West Midlands. It gets arranged every week via Twitter if there are enough people. Sometimes we remember to add the #jiminycricketnets hashgtag.

15. You can be part of the community

If the social club, community centre, charity or football team  in your town, village or estate has an event and posts details of it online then share them. That way you are being part of the community and they’ll share what you are saying too. Everyone loves a sharer.

16. You can market events and fundraisers – if you are not too salesy

Nobody likes junk mail. That stuff that gets pushed through your letterbox. It’s not very social. Nobody likes the car salesman who is trying to sell cars to his friends and family when he’s out at the pub. So don’t do it. Think about a balance of things you’d like people to do and buy with some interesting content they’re going to find engaging. An 80:20 split weighted towards the interesting and human is fine.

17. You can post audio to the Twitter stream

Wollaton Cricket Club have a brilliant soundcloud stream where they grumpily interview each other as to how the game went. Soundcloud is an application you can download to a smartphone. It’s very straightforward to use.

18. You can post coaching tips to the Twitter stream

There’s a stack of free content that’s out there on YouTube already. Make the most of it. Here’s how Michael Vaughan used to carry out the cover drive like a young Dan Slee.

19. You can livestream a game

It wouldn’t be right not to round-up suggestions for Twitter and cricket without mentioning Wray v The Rest of the World which was livestreamed thanks to John Popham and others. Initially, this was a demonstration of how broadband could be used in a rural setting. But after Stephen Fry supported it it got global coverage. The story is here. But it does beg the question why cricket clubs can’t livestream footage on a Sunday afternoon. With applications such as Bambuser they can.

20. You can talk about how good the cricket teas are

Seeing as nothing brings people together like cake there’s plenty of room to expand on this. With pictures too.

Twitter works best when you realise that this is not a sales machine but a conversation. You can contribute to the conversation. That’s the case whether you are a cricket club, a company or an organisation.

21. You can post pictures

Of the game that’s being played and the idyllic summer sky. Then in winter you can look back and in the words of The Kinks’ Ray Davies, prove that summer existed.

#BESTBYWM: Why I’m proud of the Best by West Midlands whitepaper

9374406595_ca3faa4838_oCelebrate what you want to see more of is a good maxim for life. Which is why I’ve been been involved in a project that celebrates some of the best local government social media use not just in the West Midlands but, let’s be honest here, the best in the UK, Europe and frankly the World.

It’s not often in life we put down our pens, pause and actually celebrate the things that we’re good at. In the West Midlands we’re good at social media. Not just good but really good. We know how to do it well and we’d quite like the chance to do more of it, please.

That’s why we wrote the Best by West Midlands whitepaper which I’m hugely proud of. I strongly urge if you are intereseted in digital communications as a comms officer or if you are on the frontline you download it or you take a look at the microsite.

It offers a take on where we are and it shows where we need to go to. Why do I like it? Bercause it shows that people are passionate about improving the services that are offered to people where they live. Even when things are difficult and when their jobs are on the line. One local government officer postponed her holiday just to be at the launch. That’s quite amazing. But not if you know people who are working with social channels and passionately believe in the difference they can make.

What is the Best by West Midlands whitepaper?

This cracker of a thing is a 16-page report and microsite. It’s something that I’ve been involved with wearing a comms2point0 hat for the excellent IEWM. In a word, it is brilliant. Its brilliance comes from the good work being carried out across the region at museums, in woodland, by social care, by people in their community taking pictures and also by communications teams who act as enlightened gatekeepers who are sharing sweets and building capacity.

In one of the slides at the launch event I posted the words ‘Wake up London, you’re dead.’ This is probably overdoing it a bit. But only by a bit. But the underlying point of that statement is this. The community in the West Midlands that helped shape Best by West Midlands are not looking and waiting for an edict from London to do good things. They just are doing good things. They’re looking to other places for inspiration across the region and across different sectors from Monmouth, Cornwall and Northumberland too.

It’s the culmination of five years of work

For me, at any rate, this is a the continuation of a timeline that started five years ago listening to talk of the possibilities of social, to four years ago localgovcamp in Birmingham which changed how I do and think and to events like Hyper WM, brewcamp that I’m involved with and others like UK Govcamp that you can’t help but learn from.

How you can use Best by West Midlands

You can download the whitepaper so that offline people can read it.
You can get some tips on barrier vaulting

You can get tips of barrier vaulting past the gatekeepers

You can – if you are a chief executive or a senior officer – deploy some arguments as to why your organisation should be dragged along.

You can learn more about evaluation and ROI. In short: yes, you can. No, it’s not audience. It’s the numbers that are actually the ones that matter to you most.

You can learn more about the digital landscape in the West Midlands.

Birmingham Pylon

You can use the survey headline results

We surveyed 31 of the 33 councils n the West Midlands and boy we tried with the remaining two. We found that trust and training are barriers and that elected members were using it in greater numbers than senior officers. When 97.5 per cent expected their use to increase this is cause for concern. You can see the full stats here and here is a snapshot.

  •  All West Midlands councils have at least one Twitter and one Facebook account
  •  85% of respondents said that is very important that their councils uses social media
  •  And 92.5% said it is very important to use social media in their roles
  •  Yet only 37.5% claimed their council’s usage was high
  •  And only 25% claimed that their council’s use of social media was effective
  •  47.5% of communications people said that their use was high
  •  Training and trust are the biggest barriers to greater use of social media today
  •  Only 15% of respondents said that there were no barriers

So, what is the challenge?

Have we got everything nailed? Is this just backslapping? Actually, it’s no to both. While we think we’re doing a good job the challenges get bigger. Gritting is one area we’ve got nailed. Everytime we go out we tell people. But if we’re still talking of this as being at the cutting edge of where we are at with digital we will have failed.

The real challenge is to see how social can make a difference where it is needed most. Ask yourself where people within local government are most worried. What keeps them awake at night? Universal credit. Public health. Housing. They’re the big ticket areas we need to tackle that in truth we need to tackle.

Acton Scott, Shropshire

Creative commons credits

Best by West Midlands report

Birmingham Pylon

Acton Scott Historic Working Farm

WORN STORIES: What tweets about carpets tells you about WH Smith

3488574676_8164da6c68_bFor a while now the line between digital and boundaries have been blurring.

Job descriptions we used to have don’t hold up anymore. There used to be a dedicated customer services team but as Eddie Coates-Madden has said on many occasions we’re all now customer services now.

Why? Because once you start to use digital channels you open a door to anew world. It’s one where people can talk back to you, ask questions, be snarky, be nice and to ask why haven’t the bins gone out.

Customer services on Twitter really fascinates me. For the first 18 months using @walsallcouncil I was it. When I asked for Christmas Day dinner to be postponed for 10 minutes because we were going out gritting and I had to tweet it I kind of new I was probably in too deep.

There is a rather fascinating new Twitter that has sprung out of leftfield. It’s called @whs_carpet and it tweets pictures of carpets in WH Smiths branches across the country.

How niche! I hear you say. You’d be right. But what this does is actually shine a light on the customer services and priorities of this High Street and train station shop for newspapers, books, pens and bars of chocolate for a pound.

It’s also really quite fascinating.

What it says in a very subtle way is say that if the shop can’t be bothered about the state of the floor, what does it say about how it treats its staff and its customers?

Or more directly, the impression you get from the stream is (parental advisory required)

But Dan, this is supposed to be a blog about comms and social media? Yes, it is. But we’re all customer services now, remember? Besides, I’d love to see how the WM Smiths comms team – and customer service – address it. Right now, it’s an elephant in the room and no-one from the organisation, as they say, has been available to talk about the biscuit crumbs in Brighton, the worn vinyl in Hitchin or the growing stain on the company’s reputation.


You can also read Stefan Czerniawski’s post on poorly handled online customer service complaints here.



Creative commons credit

WH Smith

POST RELEASE: What are you doing writing just press releases in 2013?

8663411512_c1e34869d2_bIt seems as though I’ve spent much of the last couple of years that no, you don’t always want a press release. What you actually want is a webpage, a series of tweets on Twitter or an audio clip.

Earlier in the year I presented this rather fine deck of slides to LGComms in Manchester and wrote a blog post around the subject of Die Press Release, Die! Die! A post partly inspired by the rather fine Tom Foremski post of the same name from way back in 2006. A whole load of text words and images.

It turns out I was wasting my time. What I really should have done was to just show this table from Fred Godlash from the BusinessWired blog. It talked about a post they wrote in 2007 that put the price of a press release at $5,000. The equivalent price is $7,500 they surmised. Oh, how I wish that was the case for the corner of the public sector that I work in that collectively put out more than 1,000 in the previous 12-month period. You can read the full post here.

But what really caught my eye was a table that set out the reasons for writing a press release in 2007 compared to 2013. I’ve reproduced it here:

Fullscreen capture 04072013 222814

Why? Because it really nails the motivation behind getting a message out. In the past the aim was ink inches and coverage in the local newspaper. Today, the aim for any communications person is to think both print and digital.

The question is, are you? And how are you doing it? If you are not what are you doing about it?

Creative commons credit 



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