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

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

800? Really? Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some tips on live tweeting a Twitter event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have fun. Be creative. Tell your story.

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Creative commons credits

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

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

 

 


K-HUB: What have the Somme, Glastonbury and Knowledge Hub got in common?

767632737_65fb8dd35b_b (1)There’s never been more need for a place for local government people to share, innovate, ask questions and search for answers. I know. I work in it.

Working in local government at best can be inspiring and life affirming. At worst can feel like a cross between a natural disaster and the battle of the Somme.

Great landslides are appearing overnight in an old familiar landscape and the normal ways of doing things have gone. I loose count of the number of bright people I know who have left or have been forced to leave.

Against that backdrop the LGA have reacted to a major funding cut by calling into question their walled garden Knowledge Hub be closed. The thinking is that this job can maybe be done by social media without the need for an expensive to maintain website and small army of mostly voluntary curators.

I feel for those in the LGA worrying for their jobs. I’ve been there. Those at risk would rather Knowledge Hub closed in a flash if it meant their jobs were saved. I know I would. When you are in a trench being shelled old soldiers would recall how you would hope the next shell doesn’t land on you. You are not thinking of innovation and better concrete-lined dugout.

If unconferences like localgovcamp is a kind of digital Glastonbury which brings the cutting edge together then the Knowledge Hub is the Top 40. A mainstream place to ask questions.

I’m an infrequent visitor to Knowledge Hub and I get my ideas and inspiration from Twitter. But I know that this isn’t for everyone.

I help with comms2point0 whose blog gets 10,000 visitors a month for comms people. I know how much work it takes.  I simply don’t see similar platforms emerging for the 600 tasks local government does.

I’ll leave the debate on what and how to others like Steve Dale who were involved in the original concept for how Knowledge Hub should look and know that it didn’t quite work out that way.

The truth is obvious. There is a need for a central safe platform where  people can ask, share and be inspired in.  It’s madness to think otherwise.

Creative commons credits:

Glastonbury http://www.flickr.com/photos/toadiepoo/767632737/sizes/l/


DIGITAL COMMS: How #ourday helped tell the local government story

Okay, so the stats of the #ourday event tells one story but there is so much more to tell.

What was it? It was a chance to see what local government did over a 24-hour period.

A load of unglamorous unheralded tasks across the 700 services that your council does to help improve people’s lives.

A total of 10,161 tweets reached a potential audience of 768,227 people, according to organisers the Local Government Association.

And 3,967 accounts tweeted or retweeted the updates. That’s a large set of figures.

Hats off to Sarah Jennings and the Local Government Association team for attempting to herd cats and encouraging people to take part in the event.

Lovely stories

It goes without saying that the snippets of stories that emerge point to why things like this work.

The officer talking about the public art in Walsall or the barking dogs being investigated.

Tales like this is beauty of campaigns like #ourday.

It’s a model that does work.

But what next?

Back in March 2010 at Walsall Council we staged Walsall 24 an idea we shamelessly borrowed from the inspirational GMP 24 which saw every call logged to Greater Manchester Police’s call centre.

It was fun, inspiring and brilliant to do and we learned loads.

But it dawned on us that actually, this is how it should be everyday. If we’re doing good things then we should tell people in a variety of channels.

But most of all it underlines why devolving social media access is important and that the sweets should be shared. Something I never tire of banging on about.

It’s public relations that’s taken out of the pr department. Or comms that can be done by non-comms.

Because stories from the frontline handcrafted and authentic are like bullets of gold in telling the local government story.

Making the most of a Twitter 24

The big lesson we learned in Walsall was that things like this shatter glass ceilings.

This is the important bit.

Take screen shots of what you’ve done. Print them out. Circulate them. Turn them into posters. Put them where people can see.

Add them to your intranet.

That piece of praise for the parks department that came back from a resident? Tell parks.

That shot of the roadmending machine out and about? Put it on the noticeboard in the Town Hall.

By taking things offline we can show the benefits of using digital communications to people who may never have thought that this is for them.

I bet that’s what the real legacy of #ourday will be if you’re careful.

Wouldn’t it be good if…

Next time we did this there are lots more of the difficult stuff to cover. The social care people, the binmen, the teachers and the housing staff.

And wouldn’t it be good if there was a single issue – as well as everything – to focus on too. Whether that be signing people up to a library. Or doing a specific task.

But maybe more important than that is the fact that it starts conversations and makes local government appear what it can be best. Human.

Creative commons credit

Urban initiatives http://www.flickr.com/photos/watchlooksee/4525612637/sizes/l/

Man http://www.flickr.com/photos/watchlooksee/4526163424/sizes/l/


SPEED DATA: Ideas for local government spending transparency

Only the wisest and stupidest men never change.

Confucius said that. Only, thing was he never worked in local government.

Speed of change in open data is blisteringly fast and getting faster.

In the Spring I thought all this would be important in 12 months time. Wrong. It was important TWO months later.

Local government in the UK has been asked to publish spending over £500 line by line.

A few months back Maidenhead and Windsor Council were hailed as a shining example of how to do this.

A few months on and the shine is wearing. Yes, they deserve praise for innovation but bright people have pointed out that you can do so much more if you publish a little bit more than a handful of categories.

Change was one of the themes of a session in Birmingham by Vicky Sergeant of SOCITM and hosted by Birmingham Council on the subject of publishing spending transparency open data.

It was a chance for people to bounce ideas and was an alphabetti spaghetti of a gathering with SOCITM, LGA and LeGSB.

Will Perrin from the Local Data Panel that helps shape data.gov.uk policy delivered a clear message:

There will be no spoon feeding from on high.

Eighty per cent of problems have been solved with blog posts such as this, he says.

It’s now down to councils to be brave and stand on their own two feet.

In the words of social media pioneers: Just Flipping Do It.

The combined efforts of the groups at the meeting are likely to publish at some stage some valuable advice on how best publishing spend can be put on line. These are things that struck me in the meantime.

Here are 12 key pieces of advice I took from the day

1) Publish open data-related FOI requests. Great idea. Further research shows you’ll have to be careful about publishing personal data not just in the name and address field but also in the text of the response.

2) The size of the dataset would double if it included ALL spend.

3) You can run a programme if you are clever to remove – or redact – at source personal data from social care and children’s services data.

4) You may need to make it clear to suppliers that this change is taking place. Not all are following this whole debate. In fact, I’d be amazed if any of them are.

5) Commercial confidentiality is a grey area. As Will said, the Information Commissioner’s presumption is to publish in the public interest but there is worryingly no case law to show where this has been tested.

6) Publish a unique identifier for your authority when you are publishing open data. Finance people will know what this is. It identoifies the line of data as being from a specific council.

7) Put an email address as a first point of contact for residents queries. Maybe people don’t have to go down a 20-day Freedom of Information response route first to get an answer.

8)Set-up an Open Data Panel in your council to keep-up the pace of publication.

9) Use the licence that can be found at data.gov.uk. It’s been looked at by government lawyers. Creative Commons while great hasn’t really been tested in  law in the UK.

10) There are a lot of codes in local government finance. If you don’t know what a CIPFA BVACOP code is make friends with someone who does.

11) Don’t plough a lone furrow. As a council or an officer don’t be alone. The Communities of Practice website is an excellent place to learn and discuss.

12) Guidance maybe getting drawn-up but don’t let this stop you. The LGA, SOCITM and others are looking what would work best. Don’t wait for them, however.

13) Communications is important. You need to explain it internally as well as to elected members, residents and suppliers.

14) Getting management on board. Yes, local government is being asked to do this. Yes, a enthusiastic volunteer is still better than 10 pressed men.

15) Publish monthly. Some in the web community are baffled as to why publication can’t be done at the end of every working day. As a compromise the Local Data Panel are saying publish monthly but within a month of month end.

Ian Carbutt from the LGA made some excellent points at the meeting. He points out there are three main areas that have several sections to them.

  • What and who its for: Local authority ID code, directorate, goods and services, service department.
  • Payment details: invoices, invoice number, net amount, VAT, gross amount, date of payment.
  • Supplier: name, contract title, supplier company number or VAT reference.

Pick from those three paints a better, more complete picture and may lead to fewer FOI requests.

LINKS:

Pezholio blog on the SOCITM Birmingham local data event. A useful summary and some very useful comments.

Creative Commons

Money: Glamlife


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