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

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

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

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

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

Three moments of epiphany

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

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

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

My proud moments

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

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

On Walsall

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

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

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

On local government comms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours,

Dan Slee

Creative commons credits

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

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

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


COMMS2POINT0: Here’s a rather fine website for comms people

For the past three years I’ve believed in the powerfully simple idea of ‘do and share.’

It’s amazing how if you do share good learning end up learning far more yourself in the long run.

It’s something that underpins this blog and powers some amazingly creative people in local government.

It’s also the ethos behind a project called Comms2point0 which I helped co-found. It’s somewhere online that comms people in and around the public sector can make sense of the changing landscape with case studies, resources and ideas. We created it because there wasn’t somewhere dedicated for comms and pr people working in the public sector that did that.

There’s a comms2point0 website where people can blog about an idea or a campaign they’ve tried. You can read it here.

There’s also a Twitter stream that posts six links every workday morning we think comms people may find helpful. They’re delivered on a plate by around 8am. You can follow it here.

I say I helped co-found Comms2point0 but in reality the drive for this has come from the excellent Darren Caveney who I’m fortunate to work with at Walsall Council where he he is head of comms. Darren and his press office manager Kim Neville have created an ethos where good ideas can be tried out and so much of the credit for the good work I’ve done should be reflected for them. Like the look of Comms2point0? That’s Darren that is and his wife Carol Caveney. They built it. They also went for the retro creative commons pictures that illustrate the site. You can find many of them on Flickr as part of the Documerica project. That’s here.

What works on Comms2point0? It doesn’t have to be just cool social media stuff. What’s really good is when it’s a mix of digital and non-digital. That’s when it gets really interesting. It’s how to get an idea or a message through to the iphone user, the newspaper reader and the Facebook enthusiast all at the same time is what really fires my imagination.

Who is it for? Mainly for public relations, communications people and marketing types who are looking to learn. Nobody has it all cracked. But with the old certainties dliding away, budgets disappearing the landscape is changing. Fail to evolve and learn and you are heading for irrelevance.

More than that, it’s for people who are looking to understand the new landscape. No matter what job they do.

Not everyone wants the time and effort to blog. But you’d be amazed at how unphased comms people are at writing 400 words to order on something they’ve done.

Five months on and we’ve reached 2,000 unique visitors a month and we’ve gone past 850 followers on Twitter. We’re a bit proud of that.

We’ve also chipped in with Nick Hill of Public Sector Forums to stage a rather nifty conference in Birmingham where a lorry load of bright ideas were taken away by 60 people – myself included – about Facebook. We put the resources here. Take a look if you didn’t go. We’re off to Glasgow soon too.

All this we’re quietly ever so proud of. Especially as it’s all been done outside of work time sometimes first thing in the morning with a piece of toast in one hand or last thing once the children are in bed and I’ve got Kraftwerk playing on the headphones.

Here are five blogs randomly selected you may like:

Five Comms2point0 belters

Social media and the council mag - in an era of slashed budgets the council magazine is often first to go. Critics would have you believe they are full of spin. The reality is more prosaic. It’s the bin times and the changes to the leisure centre that people don’t always get to hear about. Either because the newspaper isn’t that interested in council good news or because people stopped buying them a long time ago. Northumberland County Council’s Ross Wigham shared this post. I like the fact that there are good things happening in places far away from unconferences too.

Birds in the nest - Walsall Council’s Darren Caveney wrote this and I love it. It’s a mix of personal and professional and gives advice on how to cope with the changing landscape. Learn new things. Do new things. Shout about them too. Everyone working in comms should read this. Or local government.

Twitter… the next industrial revolution - There are things the public and private sector can learn from people. In this post Danks Cockbain PR’s Russ Cockbain tells of how he helped put Black Country manufacturers onto Twitter and how one secured £500,000 of publicity on the back of connections made via Twitter. Thems big numbers. It made me more happy than I can tell you that this case study was cited at UK Govcamp in London. “If Black Country metal benders can do it, what are we waiting for?”

It started with a tweet - There’s some really interesting things taking shape at Cornwall Council. Matt Bond talks about how they are trying digital tacks but are bringing their elected members along with them.

Feeling the love for infographics - Gillian Hudson is someone I came across first at the Home Office. She’s a bit talented. She’s now with the 10 Downing Street press team and in this post she talked through how she used infographics as part of a wider campaign. It’s really good stuff.

If you’ve missed it, do follow us at Twitter on @comms2point0. Feel free to contribute too. I’m at daniel.slee1972@gmail.com and Darren is darrencaveney@gmail.com.

Picture credits:

Firefighter http://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/3926783572/sizes/l/in/set-72157622388618276/

Biy and girl http://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/3887099143/sizes/l/in/set-72157622329537002/

Tollroad http://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/3931003747/sizes/l/in/set-72157622403855822/


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.)


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