DIGITAL LEADERS: Vital lessons from a human leader and a lone dancing nut

Three great things happened in local government in the West Midlands last week and it’s been a while since that happened.

Firstly, new Birmingham City Council chief executive Mark Rogers posted his first blog in his first week in charge there… and it was human. It didn’t fall into the trap of councilspeak. Or jargon. It felt like it was written by a real person. Online, the mood of staff and those who care about the city rose by several degrees. You can read the blog here and see some of the reaction here.

Ready, Steady, Go  - Google Chrome 09032014 081308

Okay, so this is a small step and ranged against the good times is the small matter of the £822 million that needs to be saved from Birmingham’s budget, the need to sell-off the flagship NEC, the 1,000 jobs that will go this year and the need to turn around the giant super-tanker pretty darn quick.

The task facing Birmingham City Council is immense. It’s going to hurt. But the knowledge that there is a human being in charge gives an injection of hope and the knowledge that the city stands a chance. You could argue that from this point on Mark will never be as popular. You could also say that times must be bad for public sector when a demonstration of being obviously human behaviour from someone at the top gets such a warm welcome.

And engaging on Twitter

Secondly, Mark started to engage with people online and Twitter saw a few human interactions between the bloke in charge and the bloke who does things for him as a far smaller part of the wheel. He even quoted Joe Strummer.

Lessons from a dancing nut

Thirdly, and rather wonderfully someone in Mark’s network Liz Newton shared a link that Mark suggested people go watch. It’s leadership lessons drawn in under three minutes by a dancing guy in a field at a festival. At first, it’s just one dancing guy but in under three minutes the field is transformed.

(QUICK NOTE: THE YOUTUBE CLIP REALLY IS A KEEPER SO DON’T SKIP IT.)

To quote the narrative spoken by Derek Sivers who posted the video:

First of course, a leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he is doing is so simple it’s almost instructional. This is key. It must be easy to follow. Now here comes the first follower with a really crucial role. He shows everyone else how to follow. Notice how the leader embraces him as an equal so it’s not about the leader anymore it’s about THEM the plural. It takes guts to be the first follower. You stand out and you brave ridicule yourself. The first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint the first follower is the spark.

Now here’s the second follower… this is the turning point. It’s proof the first has done well. Now, it’s not a lone nut and it’s not two nuts. Three is a  crowd and a crowd is news.  A movement must be public. Make sure outsiders see more than just the leader. Everyone needs to see followers because new followers emulate followers.

Now we’ve got momentum. This is the tipping point. Now we have a movement.

Leadership is really over-glorified… there is no movement without the first follower. When you see a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.’

So, that’s three lessons for leaders delivered by social media by one lone bloke in a suit in less than a week.


COMMUNICATE BETTER: On putting the show on right here

8509492809_a9766a9e56_bIt’s like a line from a Sixties ‘B’ movie: “Hey everyone, let’s get a converted banana warehouse next to a canal in the West Midlands and put on an event! With no agenda! It’ll be a sell out!”

Which is pretty much what we did with Commscamp the first unconference for communicators in and around local and central government.

Held at The Bond Company, a lovely converted warehouse in Birmingham’s creative quarter of Digbeth, we drew people from all over the country. It’s 135-capacity we could have sold four times over.

More than 170,000 saw the tweets on the day, a tweetreach survey revealed, and more than 500 joined in the debate on Twitter. More watching the sessions which were livestreamed.

People left the day fired with ideas with connections having been made with the unconference format allowing debate to flow over the tea, coffee and cake.

What is an unconference? It’s attendees deciding what gets talked about and voting with their feet to choose the break-out sessions they want. Want to crack a problem? Pitch a session and help run it yourself.

A revolutionary approach? Not really. It’s based on the success of sister events like UK Govcamp, localgovcamp, librarycamp and Hyper WM with many of them being staged in the highly networked city of Birmingham.

Why has there  been such an explosion? Simple. A perfect storm of budget cuts, new technoplogu and people excited a little by the new and better things they can do with them.

A couple of years ago I talked to Home Office press officers.

“Why would I bother with a few thousand people on Twitter when the frontpage of the Sun gets read by two million?” one asked.

A few months later the riots struck and those organisations without a Twitter presence were hopelessly exposed.

I thought of that press officer when the streets burned.

But commscamp was far more than just geeks needing to understand how the web has changed.

It was also about the real human day-to-day problems of how not just to do better for less but how to do completely different for less too.

There was the central government comms person sharing in her session how they coped when their team was cut by two thirds almost overnight.

There was the local government officer talking about how comms people should be letting go of the reins and allowing frontline staff to use social media to tell their day-to-day story.

I’m biased, but people like Morgan Bowers, Walsall Council’s tweeting countryside ranger should be revered and held up as an example to every organisation. You can connect with people with a realtime picture of a newt. Morgan does.

There was the heated debate over the future of the press release. Some thought they had just as important a role as ever. Me? I’m not so sure. Not when you see what things like Torfaen Council’s excellent singing Elvis gritter YouTube can achieve with its 300,000 views. That’s just brilliant.

There was the local government press officer who button holed me with the words: “I just didn’t know comms people could help democracy” or the central government comms person almost drunk with the ideas and possibilities they’d breathed in the asking anyone who would listen how things like commscamp could be repeated.

But the simple answer is it can. With enthusiasm, some volunteers and a smidge of sponsorship you can run your own and it was heartening to hear how others were planning their own.

The fact that it was planned by three people – two local government people myself and Darren Caveney – along with the Cabinet Office’s brilliant dynamo Ann Kempster really shows the power of a good idea, drive and some free social media platforms. The helpers who helped on the day showed that too.

The real value of unconferences is not just the lessons learned on the day and there are plenty. But it’s the connections made and the experiences shared that will still be paying back in 12 months time.

There’s no question that local government and central government have got so much in common and can learn from one another. Fire and rescue people too. And NHS. And the voluntary sector. We need to work with each other more because we face the same problems.

But the golden thread that ran through everything was a determination to do things better by sharing ideas. That, people, is just a bit exciting.

A version of this appeared on The Guardian.


YOU AND ME: Why we’ll all make #commscamp13 fly

bond3A passion for tea, cake and sharing brilliant ideas work is what will make the first unconference for communications people work (disclaimer: I’m biased.)

It’ll be staged Bond Company in Fazeley Street, Birmingham.

This place used to be a warehouse that shipped ice to London. I mean. How cool is that?

Now it’s a meeting space and offices for Birmingham’s creative industries.

Commscam will see more than 150 people come to put their collective heads together for a barcamp around comms, pr, marketing digital stuff. You can mention the word ‘press release’ too. That’s allowed.

I’m pleased to say there’s a real mix between local government, government and people outside these fields and a mix too between unconference veterans and newbies. That’s just how it should be.

Why am I biased? Because I’m helping organise it with Ann Kempster from the Cabinet Office and Darren Caveney from Walsall Council two quite brilliant people.

Why are we doing it? Because we’ve seen enough of how unconferences work to see that they can be hugely successful and we think there’s things to be discussed and ideas to be shared in our field.

So, what’s the agenda? There isn’t one. It’s a big blank sheet of paper that those who are coming along will help to shape. That’s the beauty of an unconference. It all gets pulled together by those who are coming along. You can find out more about the event at it’s website here and if you haven’t already feel free to mention a session here. You don’t even have to have a ticket as we’ll be livestreaming some of the sessions and we’ll be tweeting too on the #commscamp13 hashtag.

So why are we doing commscamp?

Well, I can’t speak for Darren and Ann but for me… 

We need to share ideas and inspiration. In 2013 it can be tough working in comms in and around government. But those who work in the field can be a hugely passionate bunch. A good idea at the FCO could well work somewhere in local government. Without big budgets sharing the ideas can work.

5847098219_83ee1f5deb_bYou don’t have to be an unconference veteran to get something out of it. Just last week I was up in Manchester for the LGComms social media event. Rather bravely, they tried a loose unconference element. Of the 60 in a room about six had been to an unconference. Was I worried? Yes. People were only too keen to suggest the 12 sessions we had. Commscamp was roadtested and passed.

You need to plug into the West Midlands. Okay, so I’m a bit biased (but I declared that right there at the start) but there’s been a stack of good things in the West Midlands for some time around digital and innovation. Perhaps it’s the beer or the geographical closeness but there’s ideas to be had and shared.

You need to learn from people outside comms. Some of the best ideas and approaches I’ve had have come from talking to bloggers, engineers, police officers and coders. Listen. Talk. Learn. While there’s a focus on PR people there’ll be some input from those outside the sector too.

Local government people need to talk to government people once in a while. There are ideas in Shropshire that may shape what’s done by a government department to communicate to people. Vica versa too.

6743879607_578df3e4aa_bOur sponsors are lovely. There’s a big list of them down the side of the blog here.

If you’ve ever been told: ‘what we need is a comms plan’ and wanted to scream you’ll be in good company. There’ll be a session of primal screaming just to get over this, I’m sure.

Cake is good. Underpinning any unconference is the cake table. Baking is the first social media, I’m sure of it.

Sounding good?

Here’s your call to action right here: 

1)  If you’ve got a ticket say ‘hoorah!’ and think of something that you’d like to see cracked or maybe think of something you are proud of and would like to share. Post it here on the discussion thread.

2) If you haven’t got a ticket go to February 26 in your calender and put the date in your diary along with the words: “Dammit, I  missed a ticket but I can still follow #commscamp13 on Twitter.” There’ll be a livestream posted to this hashtag on the day too.

3) If you’ve a ticket and you can’t go tell us, say: ‘oh no!’ Tell us and we’ll release it to the frankly large waitlist.

4) Take a look at the commscamp blog here.

5) Can you help? See how you can help here and share the buzz. Or as we’re in Brum, point people where to catch the buzz. Take a look here to see how you can help.


LINK LOVE: 16 blog posts that have inspired me in 2012

20120728155907Back in the day my glittering media career was launched with a review of the year in the Stafford Newsletter.

Two days I spent going through old editions of the paper in the corner of the aircraft hanger of a newsroom.

Proudly I picked up the next edition to read a double page spread with my name on. What do I recall of that? Very little. There was a nun who got charged with drink driving and the Holstein prices at Uttoxeter were especially high in March that year.

Over this past year I’ve read scores of blog posts and news pieces links. At times I’ve been stopped in my tracks by a turn of phrase, a perceptive argument or just a good piece of writing. Here are 14 from 2012 that I’ve rated particularly highly.

CAMPAIGNS ARE DEAD: Nobody has done more than Jim Garrow in 2012 to challenge my thinking. He has a skill of turning a vague idea you may have had into a compelling argument engagingly written. He also asks questions of things people take for granted. Jim does public health emergency planning in Philadelphia in the US. He’s brilliant. His blog is worth subscribing to and there’s plenty of good ones to choose. This one here on the death to the campaign is particularly good. Comms people love campaigns. It makes them feel as though they’ve changed things. No they haven’t he argues. You can read it here.

WEEKLY BLOG CLUB: If no one single blogger has done more to challenge than Jim then the Weekly Blog Club is the website has been the best collective source of writing and inspiration. The idea is simple. You blog something once a week and post it on Twitter using the #weeklyblogclub hashtag where it finds a ready audience and will be collated into aweekly round-up. Janet Davis has taken this idea, polished it, showered it with love and made it something that brightens my timeline. You can read it here.

RAILWAY INSPIRATION: Good blogs shouldn’t just be about your corner of the world. John Kirriemuir is a librarian who often writes creatively. This carefully observed piece on a fellow traveller in Birmingham New Street Station is powerful. All too often we can pass through without looking at who we’re travelling with. John does. You can read it here: 

RE-SHAPING PRESS TEAMS: Ben Proctor is a digital specialist who has experience in local government and working as a consultant. His modest proposal to get rid of press offices suggests that change is inevitable and gives a few ideas on what this may look like. You can read it here.

FUTURE COMMS: The Cabinet Office’s Ann Kempster sparked a creative and much-needed debate on the future of press teams and digital teams with this cracking post which generated a cracking set of comments that show the vibrancy of debate in the public sector in 2012. You can read it here.

7973076834_a68abc4470_bFACEBOOK IS DEAD: A former colleague Matt Murray is now doing great things in local government in Queensland, Australia. For a while I’d been wondering uneasily about the turn that Facebook had taken when Matt wrote a post that spelt out why it is no longer the go-to platform. You can read it here.

DIE PRESS RELEASE: This is actually from 2006 but I’d only chanced upon Tom Foremski’s Die Press Release, Die! Die! post earlier in 2012. It spells out why the traditional press release is dated and what the thing that should replace it should look like. You can read it here.

CASE STUDY: Hackney Council’s Al Smith doesn’t blog enough. This post from his time at Cannock Chase District Council shows why he should and spells out the steps he took tio help crack down on domestic violence one Christmas.It’s imaginative and effective stuff. You can read it here.

GOOD WRITING: Tom Sprints‘ post about a chance encounter in the shadow of a mountain was lovely writing. If you missed it you can read it here.

DIGITAL STATS: Emer Coleman of the Government Digital Service wrote this cracking piece on the measurement of social media and what we should be looking out for. For anyone looking to get a handle on the changing landscape it’s essential. You can read it here.

A GOOD REMINDER: Sometimes we can spend too much time online. Sometimes we can spend too much time not doing the important things. This short post from Phil Jewitt asks us to re-assess and think of those around us who matter most to us. You can read it here.

FRONTLINE BLOG: People on the frontline should be given access to social media. Comms people are often resistent. Walsall police officer PC Rich Stanley is a case study of why access should be opened-up and the sweets shared. You can read one of his posts on his day job here.

OLYMPICS GAMESMAKER: Jo Smith founded Vindicat PR in what has been a difficult year for her. She spent time as a London 2012 Gamesmaker and saw close-up how the city fell for the clentgames. Volunteers like her were part of the secret. How did they manage it? Good internal comms. You can read it here.

DAN HARRIS: If London 2012 was joyous then the memory of seeing BBC News 24 carry pictures of medal triumph with the confirmation of Dan Harris‘ death on the ticker was a bitter memory. I’d met him a few times and corresponded often. His death devastated those who knew him far better. He’d agreed to write for comms2point0 a website I help with and had written this fine post a few weeks before. You can read it here.

GANG MEMBER: Digital can bring people together and can share stories. Steph Jennings of Podnosh’s account of meeting a former gang member at a social media surgery was arresting. You can read it here.

ANOTHER LONDON: Gillian Hudson of 10 Downing Street’s digital team wrote a cracking blog to capture some of the work she had been involved with over the Olympics. It spoke about comms with a human face and it was cracking. You can read it here.

There’s been far, far too many things I’ve read that have stood out over the past 12-months. If I’ve ever retweeted, shared or quoted a link you’ve been involved with then ‘thank you.’
Creative commons credits
London 2012 http://www.flickr.com/photos/danieldslee/8327395938/in/photostream
Children: http://www.flickr.com/photos/danieldslee/8299745515/sizes/o/in/photostream/

GOAL! 29 good things and a poor football anecdote from #localgovcamp 2012

There’s this sinking feeling you get as a football supporter when you look down the team sheet for the first game of the season and see a lot of the old faces missing.

There’s no-one you know in the back four and your midfield playmaker is missing. You know it could go one of two ways.

So it was for the fourth year of localgovcamp in Birmingham with a lot of the old timers missing and new people coming through.

What is localgovcamp? It’s an event for local government people who give up their time to kick around ideas on doing things better. There’s no agenda. It’s decided on the day and anyone can put up their hand to suggest a session. As a comms person I go to get ideas and inspiration.

So in football terms how was it?

Very well, actually. Very, very well. It was another convincing victory and the newer faces really stepped up to the plate. Team manager Dave Briggs could go home happy he’d recorded another triumph and the digital trophy cabinet that has been well stocked since the event first started has been added to.

A good unconference can be powerful. Ideas can flow, connections can be made and your opinion counts for just as much as the chief exec who had come along to see what the fuss was about.

Why do I go to these as a senior press & publicity officer? For the inspiration, excitement, beer, curry, discussion, connection and learning.

In previous years I’ve waited for a week or so before blogging. Now after an event I try and chuck some thoughts up.

those 29 things…

1. localgovcamp doesn’t need a big number of veterans to make it work.

2. There is absolutely a need for it in the calender.

3. It inspires people. It makes them think in different ways. That’s powerful.

4. It can remind you why you work in local government. Despite everything.

5. The new people came to the fore. In one session, on local government blogging, I was really happy to sit back and see some cracking feedback from people who hadn’t been to one of these things before. That’s brilliant.

6. Blogging is a good idea. But telling your boss, pinging them what you write and making sure you’re not an idiot are good things to do.

7. Kabul is a place we can learn from. I just don’t care how many people I tell how great a project and a model for story telling kabulacityatwork.tv is. Start at ‘Who Is The Taxi Driver?’ if you haven’t come across it before.

8. Comms people are coming in good numbers. That’s brilliant to see.

9. There seemed to be fewer open data sessions. With fewer of the open data community there.

10. Si Whitehouse reminded comms people that open data can tell stories too. Good work, Si.

11. There appeared to be less about the shinyness of tech platforms and more about getting things done.

12. Mess about with new platforms as an individual. Evaluate. Then see if they’ll work for you in local government.

13. Lloyd Davis will write a book or thing that I’ll re-re-read in years to come to remind me what it was like to be around when the social web was relatively new. I’m sure of it. And it’ll stand the test of time. I can’t wait for this to happen.

14. Some people are unduly precious about the word ‘geek.’ To me it’s a word that celebrates someone who knows their stuff backwards and gets excited about the detail of it. There were a lot of such geeks here.

15. It’s not the social media platforms your organisation adopts, it’s the culture that matters (thank you @simon_penny)

16. The Anchor in Digbeth, Birmingham is just a brilliant pub.

17. Press officers must realise that they need to do more than just write press releases to survive. More are realising this.

18. I wish I could have had a proper chat with many people. Like Peter Olding, Nat Luckham, the bloke who does @actonscottmuse, Kate Bentham, Paul Webster and bunch of others. Including Simon Penny.

19. Post-it notes don’t stick to whiteboards without bluetack. Definite learning point.

20. localgovcamp is actually a place to make connections and ideas. It’s not about the suits who do or don’t go. I see that now. It’s not even about the ideas you’ll put into place on Monday morning (and there’ll be some.) It’s about coming across ideas that’ll hove into view in your day job two, six, 12 and 18 months down the line. Then knowing who to talk to about them because you heard / met / saw / followed them on Twitter at localgovcamp.

21. Digital press offices are a good idea.

22. I missed speaking to the old timers who didn’t make localgovcamp. But when I see them next I’ll tell them they missed out on some terrific first timers.

23. How do you handle augmented reality as a comms officer is a question that’s around the corner.

24. There is a splintering of unconferences to focus on more niche things. That’s fine.

25. Some of the best ideas I’ve had as a comms person have originated in conversations with coders, bloggers, policy people, engineers and others.

26. It must be great to have free time. The free time that Gareth Young and Glen Ocsko have now they’ve retired from We Love Local Gov. Yes, I’m jealous.

27. The West Midlands is a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant place to be working in digital.

28. It would be great to find a way to get first timers pitching session ideas. Maybe postcards into a cardboard box is the way forward? Yes, I know it’s not web 2.0. That’s the whole point.

29. Some of the possibility and excitement we glimpsed at localgovcamp in 2009 is coming true. Best bit? We’ve only just started.

Creative commons credits

Shoot! Hartlepool Museum http://www.flickr.com/photos/hartlepool_museum/6925401413/sizes/l/

Gareth and Glen Peter McClymont  http://www.flickr.com/photos/iamadonut/7575785604/sizes/l/in/set-72157630588436326/

Pitching Peter McClymont http://www.flickr.com/photos/iamadonut/7575811056/sizes/l/


HELLO CAMPERS: Three years on from the first localgovcamp… so whats changed?

So, It’s localgovcamp this week. Yippee.

On Saturday, 120 people from local government will head to Birmingham to share ideas, scheme and try and make the world a better place.

It’s an unconference which means the agenda gets decided on the day by those who go. Andy Mabbett’s guide for newbies is here

Seeing as it’s been three years since the very first one organised by Dave Briggs and people from Birmingham City Council I thought it high time to look back at how things have actually changed.

Back in 2009 at Fazeley Studios in Birmingham, there was a feeling of excited idealism. Tom Watson MP stood in the queue for coffee talking to a press officer while a web manager from Yorkshire was busy talking to a blogger from Brum.

This new thing called Twitter was connecting people in a way few people understood but all who were in on it were excited by.

It was brilliant. Sarah Lay, who I rate, wrote this piece in 209 that hasn’t dimmed with time.

So what’s changed?

Me. It made me think differently. It made me see new ideas and the confidence to try some of them out. My job title says press officer. I actually do far more than that.

Knowing bright people. It’s not always what you do first thing Monday morning that made localgovcamp. It’s making connections – so when you need WordPress skills further down the line you turn to Philip John. For open data Si Whitehouse. Localgovcamp 2009 created a network that has built and thrived and rebnews itself each year. That’s an amazing achievement.

Some bright people aren’t here anymore. Jack Pickard, who I met briefly at localgovcamp, died a short time after. He was someone I rated from a distance. I’ve never unfollowed him.

Some bright people have fallen by the wayside. Not everyone with talent is valued by an organisation. Some bright minds from 2009 haven’t been given the space to shine. They’re shining some of them at other things instead. Some have dazzled then faded.

It’s an ideas factory. Some ideas first come across in 2009 took three years to be relevant enough to put into practice. But that’s okay.

Unconferences work. One question asked in the run-up to the 2012 event was if people are fed-up with them. For me, you only have to look at mailcamp, museumcamp, librarycamp, hyperwm and others to realise that’s not the case. They’re getting more niche and more specific.

The web is making job titles irrelevant. At a barcamp you are a sticky badge who stands or falls on your willingness to share – and most importantly listen. That’s rather good.

Suits are starting to come. In small numbers. For the first time a chief executive is on the 2012 guest list. That’s a good thing.

Unconferences can have the same faces. That’s fine because people connect and re-connect. But there’s a danger of staleness if there’s not new faces. Seeing a new idea from a new person fills me with impish glee.

Others have picked up the baton. Those that came in 2009 have been organising their own things like a glorious domino effect. It led to events in York and London that led to events in Walsall and Warwick. And elsewhere.

Meeting people broadens horizons. The answers for being a better communications officer, I’ve found, can be found by talking to coders, to bloggers, to residents, to officers, to elected members and to people who do other things.

We are winning. The basic idea of localgovcamp 2009 that the social web could make peoples lives a little better remains the same. You doubt it? Look back at where you were three years ago and think how far you’ve come.

Links

The 2009 localgovcamp attendee list

The 2011 localgovcamp attendee list

The 2011 localgovcamp posterous of blog links

The 2012 localgovcamp page

Creative commons credits

Fazeley Studios in 2009 http://www.flickr.com/photos/arunmarsh/3656735854/sizes/l/

Sticker http://www.flickr.com/photos/1gl/5845598435/sizes/l/in/set-72157626866274047/

Laptop chairs table http://www.flickr.com/photos/arunmarsh/3655949531/sizes/l/in/set-72157620328138849/


WE LIKE: Ideas for a good Facebook page timeline

It’s the easiest thing in the world to create a Facebook page. It’s a lot harder to do it effectively.

As a platform used by almost 900 million people the question is not ‘how’ government and local government uses it but ‘if.’ There are some cracking examples of how to use Facebook outnumbered by scores of absolute stinkers.

As part of a brilliant session at the rather wonderful Comms2point0 and Public Sector Forum event in Birmingham we looked at how the introduction of timeline Facebook pages would impact.

As the session wore on it looked pretty fundamental. Think timeline is just the chance to stick a big letterbox picture on top of your page? Think again.

Here’s some collected learning gathered at the event and some extra.

Thinking about it afterwards, I can’t help but think that what’s needed for an effective Facebook page – timeline or not – is:

  • Good content to connect to people.
  • Shouting about it online.
  • Shouting about it offline (which is actually the most important than shouting online).

The getting started: ‘We need a Facebook page’

It’s almost as common a thing to hear as a comment on the weather. It’s what people want. But ask a simple question: do you really need a Facebook page?

Ask if people will monitor every day and are prepared to respond. If they’re not, don’t bother. If they’ve never used Facebook before don’t start with a page. You’ll fail. Start by creating your own profile and then using it for a month or two to work out how it all works. If you are none of the above you are better off chipping in to the corporate page or someone else’s page.

What does good content look like?

A couple of posts a day or three at most so as not to drown people with noise. Make it engaging. Post pictures. Stage polls. Link to YouTube. Think beyond the ‘I’m linking to the press release.’ Make it fun. Make it timely. Make it informative.

With Facebook timeline, what’s the same…?

Facebook pages are still the platform for using Facebook as local government. You get loads of stats as an admin you won’t if you don’t have a page. With timeline you can still add posts, add pictures, links, video and create polls. You still have to have your own profile in order to create a page and become an admin. It also doesn’t change the frequency of how often to add content. More than two or three times a day and it starts to get a bit noisy and people will switch off and yes, you do need to add text in a way that works on Facebook.

Don’t be stuffy and formal.

Be sociable.

But we all know that, don’t we?

Ally Hook’s Coventry page is a good place to look to for ideas. It’s something I’ve blogged about before here.

What’s different with timeline compared to the old pages?

There’s a stack of extra features I’d either not noticed with the old page or have been slipped on with the new timeline approach. Here’s a quick run through of some of them.

Admin

When you first navigate to your home page as admin you’ll see the under the dashboard part of the page right at the top. Helpfully, there’s a natty chart which tells you the reach of the page and how many are talking about it. In other words, how many have posted a comment or liked.

You can have a cover pic

It’s the letterbox shaped image that’s right on top of the page. Facebook are keen for this to be not predominantly text so a nice shot of your borough, city, parish or county will do just fine. Or if its a service maybe it’s a shot of them doing something. But change it every now and then.

For me, this is where good links with Flickr members somes in handy. With their permission use a shot and link back to their page.

Dawn O’Brien for Wolverhampton Parks has used this rather wonderful shot of one of their parks, for example.

You can still have a profile pic

It’s just not the main emphasis of the page anymore. But try and keep it interesting. Use Ally Hook from Coventry City Council’s time honoured tack of not using a logo. They’re not terribly social things are logos.

There’s a funny info bar just under the cover pic

It’s a handy place to see how you are doing with likes as well as a place to search for pictures. That’s a bit tidier.

You can create and add content to a historic timeline

One person at the Birmingham event pointed to Manchester United‘s Facebook page as a trailblazing way to use a historic timeline. They were formed a long time ago and this particular bit of functionality means you can add old, historic content from years ago. It’s actually really good. Click on 1977 and you can see a shot of two members of the FA Cup winning team. Clearly, as a Stoke City supporter they remain a plastic club with fans who live in Surrey but I can live with this screenshot as it has a picture of Stoke legend Jimmy Greenhoff on.

I was talking through this change to Francesca from Walsall Leather Museum.

All of a sudden her eyes lit up. “Wow,” she said. “We can add old pictures to the timeline.” She’s right. You can. The possibilities for museums and galleries are pretty endless.

Even for a council page you can add historic images that build a bit of pride. You can do this by posting an update and then in the top right hand corner clicking on ‘edit.’

You can select a date that best suits it. Like 1972 for Stoke City winning the League Cup, for example.

What the edit page button can do

You can let people add content to your page whether that’s a post or video.

Many councils, especially during Purdah, are a bit nervous about letting people do this. Especially when they are not monitored around the clock. Allowing it builds an audience but it’s a judgement call. There’s also the moderation block list. That’s not really something I’d noticed before but you can add terms you are not happy with.

I’d use it sparingly and not to stiffle debate.

It’s also probably worth adding the swearing filter.

For a few days there was a setting to pre-approve all content. That’s now disappeared and a good thing too.

This star post thing

On the top right hand of each timeline post is the star icon. Click that and your post gets larger and is seen by everyone who navigates to your page. Obviously choose the best ones for that.

The pinning a post thing

In the top right hand of each timeline post is an edit button. Click that and you’ll see the option to pin. That sends the post to the top and something that will remain at the top until its unpinned. Save that for the really important ones.

Insights are your new best friend

If Facebook have gone to the trouble of providing you with a pile of stats for free the least you can do is use them. Let people know. Sing from the rooftops. Include them in reports. Tell people what you are doing. Don’t think that everyone will notice.

Don’t forget to use Facebook as a page

It’s something I’ve blogged about before but needs repeating. You can find out how to do it here. Your page is a very small allotment in a country the size of France. Use the principle of go to where the audience is so add and comment on larger pages.

Facebook adverts From the Birmingham session there are few cases of big numbers coming from ads. However, Shropshire Council have used it for specific job ads with some results. A blend of shouting offline and good content to interest if people do drop by would seem to be the answer to building useful Facebook numbers.

A successful Facebook page makes lots and lots of noise offline

It’s amazing how it’s easy to fall into the trap it is of only thinking Facebook to shout about your page. Actually, that’s one part of it. Look at how others do it.

1. Put your a link on the bottom of emails. Tens of thousands of emails get sent every week. They’re mini billboards.

2. Tell people about your page via the corporate franking machine. Tens of thousands of items of post go out every week. They’re mini billboards too.

3. Put your Facebook page on any print you produce. Leaflets, flyers and guides.

4. Put posters up at venues with QR codes linking straight to the page. I’m not convinced QR codes are mainstream but I am convinced its worth a try.

5. Tell your staff about a page – and open up your social media policy to allow them to look. As Helen Reynolds suggests here and Darren Caveney here.

6. Don’t stop shouting about your Facebook page face-to-face. If people enjoy a visit to a museum tell them they can keep up on Facebook.

7. Use your school children. Encourage schools to send something home to tell their parents about the Facebook page.

8. Create a special event for Facebook people. For events and workshops create something special only for the very special people who will like your very special page. Like a craft table at a family event. Maybe use eventbrite to manage tickets.

9. Stage on offline competition. Get people to enter via Facebook. That’s just what Pepsi are doing with a ring pull competition. Send a text (25p) or add to the Pepsi Facebook page after you like it (FREE.)


EMERGENCY COMMS: ‘Whatever you do, put social media in your emergency plan.’

Fire, storm, pestilence or just a burst water main, in an emergency local government can swing into action.

In the UK it’s known as emergency planning and in the US emergency management. Whichever part of the world you are in it’s the part of the public sector that has plans for every eventuality.

For a comms person, it’s often only when there’s a problem you’ll speak to the emergency planners. Don’t let that happe  n. Make a pact with yourself.  Go and speak to them as soon as you can and sort out what to do with social media. Here is why.

At localgovcamp in Birmingham this year Ben Proctor, who runs the Like A Word consultancy, ran an excellent session on emergency planning and the social web. It’s something he writes about well too. His blog is well worth a look.

Catherine Howe, who does things with Public I, made the closing but clear point: “Whatever you do put social media in your emergency plan.”

Of course, I reflected smugly, my council has. There’s 3,000 people following the our corporate Twitter stream. What could go wrong?

Overnight there had been a minor incident that I’d missed on my Blackberry which had ran flat. Thankfully, it wasn’t more serious. But it showed very clearly where we’re blindsided.

If only comms people have the keys to the Facebook and Twitter things can easily fall down. What’s the answer? Go to where the audience is. Give them access to the corporate account. They’re generally very sensible people and know what to say. If the situation develops you can always step in.

So, what sort of role does social media play in an emergency?

In a true disaster the web falls down before SMS. But people are instinctively running to it.

A tornado in Joplin – In in the Mid West US town when a milewide tornado struck, the community rallied by building their own space on the web. At first this was to search for missing people and then as the disaster turned to recovery it charted that phase too. The moral? People have the tools like this or this community Facebook page to build things for themselves. They’re not waiting for the council to do it. They just will.

The EDL in Birmingham – When the far right English Defence League first rallied they used Twitter to spread misinformation. The police monitored by were powerless.  Third time they came they had an officer monitoring Twitter, Mark Payne checking each claim and then re-butting within minutes point by point.

Facebook in Queensland – When floods struck 3,000 comments a day were posted on the Queensland Police site. It took a 24-hour effort to monitor, explain and rebuff wild rumour.

The report into the Queendsland event singled out social media as part of a range of channels to take action with. Ben Proctor has blogged on it here. A key finding is to talk, prepare and practice. That’s as just as much relevant to comms people as anyone.

An interim report into the Queensland flood made a series of comments and recommendations. On social media it stated:

“As it may be possible for the public to post information directly to an official social media site there are concerns that a member of the public may post false information. For example, inaccurate information was posted on the Western Downs Regional Facebook page. However, where there are enough staff to monitor content social media can be a useful tool to respond to rumours in the community.”

Seven things comms people need to know

1. Share the keys – Give emergency planning an awareness of what social media is, encourage them to monitor and respond and give them the keys to the corporate feeds.

2. You can’t control the message – As if the main message of our times is needed to be repeated.

3. There’s a shorter turn around time to respond – Speed may be of the essence.

4. It’s not just about social media – It’s one channel of several. Important and growing but don’t think that everyone will be on Facebook.

5. It’s good for combating rumours – As a comms person that can save yourself time.

6. Journalists will follow and like – You can save time and effort by creating channels of communications.

7. If the balloon goes up it’ll take resources – Social media is free is a bit of a myth. The platform is free. The time spent to manage it, listen and update isn’t. The lessons of Queensland are that it can take up resources. But you do get valuable return on investment for doing so. Regular monitoring when there is a crisis is absolutely critical. Don’t link to a press release and forget about it.

Creative commons

Fire http://www.flickr.com/photos/danieldslee/5075758029/sizes/m/in/photostream/


BETA BLOCKER: Is comms at risk of being the new IT?

The only difference between a stumbling block, a barrier and a stepping stone is the way you use them, apparently.

There were a lot of stumbling blocks talked about at localgovcamp in Birmingham.  Many such obstacles were were from corporate comms. They were the corporate branded elephant in the room.

Heard the one about the comms team’s response to snow? Instand updates via facebook or Twitter? Nope. Book a half page advert in the local paper?

Oh, how we laughed. As a comms person myself it was more a case of nervous laughter.

I believe strongly that there’s an argument for having a light touch on the tiller from enabling comms people.

When you put online and offline channels together they can be incredibly powerful. You’re delivering a similar message on the platform people want using the language of the platform.

But then again, if you’re reading this on Facebook or Twitter you already know this even if you haven’t admitted it out loud.

So, what’s localgovcamp?

It’s an event that saw more than 100 people giving up their free time on a Saturday to help make their corner of local government bloom a little more. It’s Glastonbury for local government geeks. There was web people, open data people, comms people, hyperlocal bloggers and even an engineer.

Attending the first event at Fazeley Studios two years ago changed the way I think about my job. I’ve heard the same said from others too. It’s been brilliant seeing the light bulbs going on above people attending their first ever localgovcamp.

Two years ago one of the main frustrations was some IT people who were keeping the social web in lockdown. Many, but not all, think progress ended with the Commodore 64. Of course, it goes without saying that the IT people I work with are all hugely helpful and forward thinking.

That battle to use social media seems to have be getting won. Slowly in places but the it’s irreverable. The battle now is with unenlightened comms people and it’s a subject I keep returning to.

For people in a PR job it’s about waking up. For those not in PR it’s about helping wake them up. And yourself and colleagues while you’re at it.

So, because I can’t write a blog post without a heap of links, here’s a heap of links to help those who don’t get it wake up…

A heap of links…

Whats the role for local government comms and social media?

I’d suggest anyone reads this excellent blog post by Ingrid Koehler of FutureGov which she wrote when she was still with LGiD http://ingridkoehler.com/2011/01/what-role-for-localgov-comms-and-social-media/

How does the social web work in practice?

Social by Social is a NESTA-produced landmark text that shows how the web can be used for a social impact both by government and individuals. http://www.socialbysocial.com/

How does the social web work in practice?

When a tornado struck Joplin killing 154 people the state support networks were overwhelmed. A website http://joplintornado.info was launched as a place to log missing people and phone numbers. It evolved into a place for info and help. More than 48,000 people ‘liked’ the Joplin Tornado Info page set up as a http://www.facebook.com/joplintornadoinfo?ref=ts

How can the public sector use social media in an emergency?

In Queensland when floods struck Facebook became the prop people turned to. The talented Ben Proctor has blogged on how they responded here. http://www.benproctor.co.uk/2011/02/five-things-we-can-already-learn-from-queensland-police-use-of-social-media/ You can see the Queensland Police page here: http://www.facebook.com/QueenslandPolice?ref=ts

Can local government do Facebook outside of a crisis?

Stirling Council has more than 3,000 ‘likes’ http://www.facebook.com/stirlingcouncil?ref=ts&sk=info Coventry chose a nice picture of their city rather than a logo and have 18,000 signed-up http://www.facebook.com/coventrycc?ref=ts You can search the book data base via the Manchester Library and Information Service http://www.facebook.com/manchesterlibraries?ref=ts

Can local government use Twitter?

An organisation that has the right tone http://twitter.com/MonmouthshireCC. A venue with an engaging manner http://twitter.com/OrkneyLibrary and an officer who puts a human face on the service http://twitter.com/walsallwildlife

Can local government use YouTube?

Stirling Council used a short video as part of their bag it and bin it campaign http://youtu.be/bMoMNK3tX6A But it doesn’t have to be broadcast quality. An apprentice gritter driver made this short film of how he helps treat the roads http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TClrk-VDthM

Thanks to Ben Proctor for the crisis comms links, Corrine Douglas for Stirling Council YouTube.

Thanks Si Whitehouse, Dave Briggs and others for organising localgovcamp.

The original post: http://wp.me/pBLBH-sc

Creative Commons credits

Barrier: http://www.flickr.com/photos/selva/424304/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Localgovcamp room: http://www.flickr.com/photos/1gl/5845534577/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Stickers:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/1gl/5846133704/sizes/z/in/set-72157626866274047/


SLIDE SHARE: How pictures can be used for civic good

A good picture jumps from a page with the power to make you laugh, smile, wonder or be inspired.

I’m passionate abut the fact you don’t need to be a photographer to do civic good with images on the social web.

What’s Flickr? It’s a photosharing website. I’m a big advocate of it and I’ve blogged about how it can work in local government before.

The very nice people at Future Gov and Local Government Improvement and Delivery organised Local by Social Midlands ediction in Coventry.

This brought residents, web people and local government together.

The format is simple and powerful. A few speakers to inspire. Circulate a pre-collected list of residents’ wishes.

Then with the residents, sit down and try and work out a solution using digital tools.

This was the presentation I gave on Flickr. Hopefully it helps answer the questions: what is Flickr? How does Flickr work and how can it be used for civic good?


View more presentations from danslee.

It has a summary of how Flickr works and four case studies of it in action.

Case study 1:

The Walsall Town Hall Flickr meet. How photographers from the community can take pictures of a landmark. You can see more of the images taken at the event here.

Case study 2:

How Flickr images taken by the community can be used by a public sector website as a way to celebrate the area and individuals’ work.

Case study 3:

The Caldmore Village Festival. How Flickr photographers recorded an event and shared the images to a wider audience. It’s mentioned on this blog too. Here are some shots taken at the event.

Case study 4:

Newman Brothers: How a campaign for funding harnessed the power of photography through Flickr. Here are some shots taken by amateur photographers and posted to Flickr.

Case study 5

This arrived too late for me to include in the presentation but acts as an excellent way for residents and local government to connect. Paul Clarke took a shot of a street scene when he was back in his native Ormskirk.

When he spent time looking at it properly he was appalled at a right yellow canopy from a cheque cashing outlet. Traditional routes failed but using Flickr and whatdotheyknow.com pressed planners to take up the case. You can read Paul’s excellent blog on the subject here.

Should local government fear this route? No. Not if people want to deliver a better service.

That shows that photography doesn’t always showcase the best of a borough.

Sun rise above Quarry Bank in Dudley. An image posted to several Flickr groups and celebrates this corner of the Black Country.

That’s a point echoed by Mike Rawlins and Nicky Getgood from Talk About Local.

Shaming pics of abandoned cars work on a community blog and can help prod a council into action, they argued.

A functional pic of a pothole can work on fixmystreet.com as a way to report a problem.

shot of the sun rising over an allotment, stained glass in Walsall Counci House or Spring bulbs celebrate an area.

Each stream is just as valid but has an entirely different character.

It can shame, remind and celebrate.

That’s the power of a good image.


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