11 Things A Public Sector Social Customer Services Should Have

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It’s always good to see slow burning success… and even more so when it comes for people who have worked hard on it.

John Fox spent a fair chunk of time at Sheffield City Council on a range of projects and working to get customer services engaged with the social web was one. I helped John wearing my comms2point0 had for a couple of days with this by showing what was possible. The baton has now been taken up after John’s departure which is good to see.

John has moved on to other things but Sheffield City Council has emerged on Twitter and has a dedicated customer services stream. It is early days but shows all the signs of being a success with a human voice.

It’s prompted me to re-blog the customer service post I made a while back and re-issue the reminder to comms teams to demonstrate their worth as a nit by making friends with this service and see how they can work better together – particularly on the social web.

11 things a public sector social customer services stream should have…

Have a dedicated customer services Twitter. Yes, I know your organisation probably has at least one already. But plan with scale in mind. You may be answering three or four a day now. But once your generic enquries email was doing that too. Just as you have different email accounts for different things you need different social accounts for different things too.

It should say when it’ll be monitored. 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday is fine so long as you make that clear. You’ll get more brownie points dealing with things out-of-hours but sometimes this just ain’t possible.

It should be staffed by real people. It should be authentic. Human. It should talk about the weather if it’s raining cats and dogs. That’s fine.

It should speak human. It should talk in a recognizably human way. Like real people do. It shouldn’t talk in jargon.

The actually doing it…

Start the day with a tweet from a real person. Close it the same way, too. Train operator London Midland do this beautifully.

Acknowledge the query. People don’t expect fully formed answers within the hour to complex problems. They know life isn’t always like that. But they do want to know you are on the case. The tweet that says: ‘Thanks for your tweet. Will find out for you’ is fine in the short term.

Get back in 24 hours or less. And make a point of saying this on your Twitter bio.

 Have a few people trained up. Not just one.

Never argue with an idiot, is what my Uncle Keith once told me. How right he was. How much of a web visionary he was, too. If you can help then help but if people shout, swear or troll you are probably better off spending your time answering other queries. Michael Grimes of the Citizenship Foundation’s seminal blogger engagement guide works well.

When in doubt think what you’d do if this conversation was taking place on the telephone. Which, when you think about it, is a lot more tricky than Twitter. You have to talk to people directly in real time. How tricky is that?

Use the channel as two way. Getting a flood of telephone calls about bin collections? Maybe a Twitter update and a piece on the website can help.

Creative commons credit

Help duck https://www.flickr.com/photos/16289690@N00/4040455314/


FUTURE COMMS: A comms plan to help people sleep at night 

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Well, it’s had a great innings but can we now finally bury the idea that using social media ad hoc in an organisation is going to change the world?

But what great days we did have.

We had a mantra of JFDI in local government – just flipping do it – and we did things under the rader without permission.We would chuck up a Facebook page knowing that IT didn’t know what it was so they couldn’t block it.

We could tweet election results without too much interference, snigger behind our hands and we could push the envelope.

But those days are over. We learned lots but no, we didn’t take over the world even though it felt as though we would. Today, many public sector teams have been cut back too far to have space to innovate. Even more worryingly, teams haven’t found a way to tackle the big issues that really matter to make a difference. They haven’t found a way to get the resources to do so either.

Sure, the trojan mouse idea of testing out four or five ideas to see where it’ll take you is one I enthusiastically believe in to help you experiment and see what works. But to really make a difference bright communications people need to take all that experience and find out what is keeping senior people awake at night. Then go hell for leather to tackle that, that and only that. But make sure the senior people know exactly what you are doing by reporting back using every means neccesary. Infographics are particularly good. Make yourself a sandwich board if you have to but just flipping do it.

Here’s a few ideas to help you…

Are you helping senior people sleep at night?

Here’s an exercise I came across during the LGComms Future Leaders programme at a session at Leeds Metropolitan University with Anne Gregory and Paul Willis. It was the best piece of training I had in the eight years I spent in local government and I suggest you do this quick exercise.

  1. Get a piece of paper and draw a blob in the middle. 
  2. Think of six people you do most of your work for in your organisation and write their names on the paper… the more important they are the closer to the blob you can write their name.
  3. Write down some things – let’s say six things – that keep those six people awake at night.
  4. 5612074901_1378aec493_bAsk yourself, are you really spending time with the really key people? 
  5. Ask yourself, are you really doing things to help the really key people  sleep at night?

My own conclusion to doing this exercise was that I wasn’t really tackling the issues that matter for the people that matter and I’ll bet you a slice of Victoria sponge that you aren’t either.

The goal of the bright communications team should not be vague ‘reputation’ or ‘awareness’. It is to prove in pounds, shillings and pence if needs be the value of the team before it is too late. It’s why I’ve long been convinced that channel shift and customer service are things that comms teams need to be closely involved with.

So how can we help tackle the issues that keep senior people awake?

If I had a pound for every time someone told me the words: ‘What we need is a comms plan,’ I’d have been rich. What they meant was they wanted you to tick a box for them. What they really wanted was to outsource the responsibility to you when we all know to be effective it should be a joint thing.

What you really need is a comms plan agreed jointly with the senior people around a table. This can take many forms but they need to have the following:

  1. Where they are now.
  2. Where they want to go.
  3. Something measurable and tangiable to show when they’ve got there.
  4. Who they want to talk to and how they can do it.
  5. Some ideas of resources.
  6. Some idea of evaluation.

Some of what’s in your plan will be traditional comms and some will be digital. You’ll have a mix of both and you’ll be working to make a difference to your organisation for the people who are going to be making big budget decisions in the not too distant future.

If yuo get this right your bosses’ boss will sleep at night.

And you won’t be sleepwalking towards a cliff either

By the way, I’m now available to help you with all of this and would love to do so. I’m dan@comms2point0.co.uk and @danslee on Twitter.

Creative commons credits

3:33 http://www.flickr.com/photos/7774088@N08/4131391566/

We will awake https://www.flickr.com/photos/25028863@N00/5612074901/


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/


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.


INFO SKILLS: Essential social media skills for librarians (and others)

6175154545_79fc17d7e8_bIn all my years in local government I’ve not come across anyone so Militantly passionate about the job they do than librarians.

So, it was great to be able to sit down with 12 of them and talk to them about social media and how it could work for them. Walsall Council countryside ranger Morgan Bowers came along too and I’ve hardly finished a training session over the past few years without pointing to her as an excellent example of what a frontline officer can do with social media.

For those that don’t know she blogs, she tweets, she Facebooks and she posts images to Flickr. She’s also written an e-book entitled with great confidence and surity ‘The Bees of Walsall Vol: 1.’ Almost 2,000 people have downloaded the e-book which for me redefines how you should approach an audience.

Firstly, here are some links which show what is possible. It’s vital to look outside of the sector that you work in which is what we did here.

Some basic principles

‘Organisations Don’t Tweet People Do’ is a book by Euan Semple. Even if you don’t buy the book – and you should it’s great – then think of the clear advice that sentance gives. Human beings respond to human beings and not logos.

345712329_f1375f13c0_o‘Be human.’ is good advice on how to engage with people over the social web. In fact it’s good advice for life.

‘The 80/20 principle’ is a good way of looking at a great many things. On the social web it works out as 80 per cent conversational and 20 per cent the stuff you really want people to know. So be sparing with your library events and talk – and share – about other things.

Good social media

Appliances Online Facebook – because they have more than a million Facebook likes by good online customer service done in a human voice:  https://www.facebook.com/AOLetsGo?fref=ts

Sandwell Council Facebook – because there isn’t a Facebook page anywhere in the public sector that is done better than this West Midlands council  https://www.facebook.com/sandwellcouncil?fref=ts

DVLA’s I Can’t Wait To Pass My Driving Test Facebook page – because it shows that putting aside thr logo and even the name of the organisation works if you get the people to pay attention to pay attention:  https://www.facebook.com/mydrivingtest?fref=ts

PC Stanley on Twitter – because it shows a human face in an organisation from a West Midlands Police officer:  https://twitter.com/PCStanleyWMP

PC Stanley blog – because it shows a human face and talks about anonymised aspects of police procedure that most people don’t know about  http://pcstanleywmp.wordpress.com/

8146367606_dae8e82d70_oStorify Streetly floods – because it shows how social media reacts in a crisis and how a trusted voice from police, fire and council online can fill the news vacuum http://storify.com/danslee/social-media-and-flooding-in-streetly-walsall

Facebook in libraries

Facebook works best updated two or three times a day with sharable content. Pictures work well. So does video. Be engaging and informal.

100 Libraries to follow on Facebook – blog http://www.mattanderson.org/blog/2013/01/31/100-libraries-to-follow-on-facebook/

British Library https://www.facebook.com/britishlibrary?fref=ts

Library of Congress https://www.facebook.com/libraryofcongress

New York Public Library https://www.facebook.com/nypl

Halifax Public Library https://www.facebook.com/hfxpublib

Birmingham Library https://www.facebook.com/libraryofbirmingham

Twitter

Realtime updates work well. Pictures too.

Author Amanda Eyereward https://twitter.com/amandaeyreward

Author Carin Berger https://twitter.com/CarinBerger

100 Authors http://mashable.com/2009/05/08/twitter-authors/

Birmingham Library https://twitter.com/TheIronRoom

Librarycamp https://twitter.com/LibraryCamp

Orkney library https://twitter.com/OrkneyLibrary

Waterstones Oxford Street https://twitter.com/WstonesOxfordSt

Essex libraries https://twitter.com/EssexLibraries

Just for you here are a few examples of tweets:

Images are powerful

Images work really well and there are a couple of resources. You can link to images you find anywhere. It’s the neighbourly thing to do and you are driving traffic to their website so people will be fine about that.

You can link to Flickr which is a depository of more than five billion images. See the Libraries Flickr group here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/librariesandlibrarians/

But remember not to abuse copyright. Don’t ever right click and save an image hoping you won’t get found out. There’s a Google app for just that. But what you can use are images which have been released with a creative commons licence. Basically, creative commons allows the re-use of pictures so long as you meet basic criteria. There are several types of licence so check to see which licence has been attached. Often people will be fine for re-use so long as you attribute the author and link back to the original image.

1140607337_e05a4b2a4a_oSearch the Compfight website ticking the creative commons search button http://compfight.com/

Have a look at Wikimedia which has a lot of specific content. If you are after a creative commons image of Jack Nicholson or The British Library search here:   http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Audio

You can brighten up book discussions amongst reader groups, or author visits, or bounce and rhyme stories by recording them with people’s permission and post them to Audioboo or Soundcloud. These are applications that gives you three minutes of audio that you can share with the web or embed in a webpage.

Here is author WHJ Auden readingh one of his poems: http://ht.ly/tSdv6

Blog

Blogging is made for libraries and librarians. You can host discussions here and allow for comments on different aspects of the library.

Author reading: http://www.sarahsalway.net/2012/03/01/pop-its-the-last-day-of-the-pop-up-poetry-reading/

Literary blog http://www.internetwritingjournal.com/authorblogs/

YouTube

Video works great. You can make your own or maybe there is some content around a theme you are looking for. The First World War, for example. Create your own channel or search and share what is there. Look out for the comments section here. They can be a bit ripe.

Birmingham Library http://www.youtube.com/user/LibraryofBham2013

Southend library reading group http://youtu.be/dEh7fBfB_O4

But where will I get the content from?

It’s amazing how once you take a few doggy paddle strokes in the shallow end that all this makes sense and you start over time to get a return on the time you put in. There are no quick fixes. A few minutes a day will help you and as with anything what you get out is what you put in.

Here are 11 things you could do as librarians

1. Record an interview with an author on Audioboo or Soundcloud and post to your Facebook, Twitter or email list.

2. Post details of events to your social media accounts. Use something like hootsuite to schedule when the messages appear so if needs be repeat the message at a time when more people are likely to be around. Lunchtime, first thing in the morning and evening are times when people tend to be online more. Don’t forget though, if you are cancelling the event, to unschedule any queued content.

3. Share things that other people have posted. If it is in your geographical area and a public sector or third sector organisation have posted something share it or retweet it. You’ll find that they’ll be more inclined to do the same.

4. Use a popular hashtag on Twitter around a TV programme. Check the schedules. A link to a book or DVD on dancing or dress making with sequins may work with the hashtag #strictly while Strictly Come Dancing is being shown on a Saturday night.

4993073773_09ef5a6093_o5. Connect with other librarians so you can build a network of other people doing a smilar job to you. This works especially well with Twitter.

6.  Use an image of a cat from compfight that has a creative commons licence – see the above – to illustrate a campaign on cats and other animals. What you have on your display shelf or window can be repeated online too.

7. Create a Facebook group or a Google group – which works with email – for a reading group.

8. Post book reviews from librarians on your website and onto the social web.

9. Take a picture – with people’s permission – of people using the library or people taking part in an activity.

10. Be creative. Ignore all the above and use your imagination. Make your own case studies.

11. Install WiFi.

Picture credits

Who needs books? http://www.flickr.com/photos/boltron/6175154545/sizes/l/

Sitting reading http://www.flickr.com/photos/jstar/345712329/sizes/o/

US poster http://www.flickr.com/photos/jstar/345712329/sizes/o/

Library search engine http://www.flickr.com/photos/47823583@N03/4993073773/


#NHSSM #HWBlearn can you help shape some key social media guidelines?

8437560643_19ffc287a9_oYou may not know this but there’s a corner of local government that’s has a major say in decisions that will affect how your family is treated when they are not well.

They’re called health and wellbeing boards and while they meet at Town Halls they cover the intersection between GPs, local authorities and patients groups.

They also have a say on spending worth £3.8 billion – an eye watering sum in anyone’s book.

The LGA themselves say:

“Health and wellbeing boards (HWBs) are crucial part of the new health landscape, the drivers of local system leadership and will provide an unprecedented opportunity to bring together local government and health services together to improve health and wellbeing outcomes. Local system leadership is required to ensure that the totality of public resources are brought together to address shared priorities for health improvement.”

Okay, so what?

Well, many of them do great work but there’s a growing feeling that they could do better to use social media to really engage with the communities they serve. So we’re helping see how some social media guidelines can help.

Drawing up social media guidelines

We’re a bit excited that the LGA through their health and wellbeing board integrated care and system leadership have asked comms2point0 to take a look at how this could be improved. That’s a real chance to help connect those who are making the decisions with those who are being affected.

So, as part of this review it would be great to crowdsource some ideas and insight from the online community to help shape the guidelines to be the best that they could be.

What questions should we ask?

I’d be keen to understand – particularly from people working with Health and Wellbeing Boards – if social media could play a role?

If it is playing a role already, what that role is and also what success may look like?

Who should we be talking to?

Should we respond?

What could the benefits be?

What are the barriers?

So, how can you help?

If you work in local government, the NHS or have an interest in the NHS I’d welcome your thoughts.

  • There is a #nhssm discussion on Wednesday February 12 from 8pm. Thanks to the brilliant Gemma Finnegan and her colleagues they’re hosting a discussion. Use the hashtag #nhssm to contribute. It would be great if you did.
  • Feel free to comment on this blog post.
  • Ask your council how they are using social media for their health and wellbeing boards.

Thank you!

Dan


GOVCOMMS: 7 things to bring local and central government comms people together

9422535872_8e4d08002a_bSo, how do local government and central government comms people work better together?

There was an event the other day in Whitehall which looked at this very topic which I would have loved to have got to. But I work in the West Midlands so that wasn’t going to happen.

It’s a good question and one that I’d given a lot of thought to just recently. Not just because the LGComms Future Leaders course I’d been involved with was asked just this question and asked to come up with a presentation.

One of the good things about being in the public sector is the ability to share ideas and approaches. This doesn’t happen in the private sector. As one person recently put it, they’ll tell you what they did but they’ll just leave out a vital piece of information so you can’t follow. It’s like handing over a car without the spark plugs.

So here are some things that should happen.

6 things to bring local and central government comms people together

1. Realise that each side isn’t the enemy. You’d be forgiven for thinking sometimes reading the Daily Mail that local government was to blame for the banking crisis, Northern Rock and the nationalisation of the banks. Just think what would have happened had local government mis-sold products. Step aside from the headlines and realise that there is more to bring  civil Service and local government comms people together. We both face the question ‘what does communications mean in 2014?’ for example.

2. Paid secondments both ways. A few years ago a secondment from local government into the civil service could have been do-able. Not now. There isn’t the spare capacity anymore in local government. But funded posts could help backfill and share the knowledge. Even better if they are French-exchange-style two way affairs. Better still if they involve co-operation on the same project.

3. Open up central government training to local government. The Goverment Communications Service (formerly the Government Communications Network) stages a range of good training opportunities. It would be great if this was open to local government too.

4. Open up local government seminars to central government. Places like LGComms put on some excellent sessions. The different perspective of a Whitehall comms person would be useful. Just as the comms person more used to dealing with the community would be a benefit to a central government person.

5. Encourage events like commscamp. In February last year more than 130 comms people from Whitehall and local government came together in a joint event for what must have been the first time. There were more than 400 on the waitlist when it was turned off.  The agenda was decided on the day by those who went. Anarchy? Not really. It worked beautifully. It was organised by people in central and local government in their own time. (Disclaimer: I’m biased as I helped co-organise commscamp.)

6. Realise that neither side is better. They’re just different. As government departments put more focus on stakeholder groups local government listens to residents more. At a time when the Foreign Office is putting more effort – rightly – into answering queries on Twitter there’s pr people in Staffordshire or Norfolk who could tell them a few things. They are two different skills. It made me realise that neither side is better. We’re just different.

7. We both work in the public sector and should be proud of that. Sure, the private sector does some good things. But we delivered the Olympics, we save lives, we keep the roads running, our children educated and a whole load of other things too. How much better is that than flogging toothpaste?

EDIT: GCS courses are also now available to local government people. That’s welcome.

Creative commons credit.

Big Ben http://www.flickr.com/photos/mahatsorri/9422535872/sizes/l/


#VOTECARL: Can you help us make a statement?

Hello Reader… I’d like you do me a quick favour.

Normally, I try and post some ideas, case studies or things that have impressed me about digital communications. If you’ve got something out of them then great. If that’s the case they I’ve a favour to ask.

I’d like you in the words of Deelite to vote, baby, vote. For a local government digital comms manager Carl Haggerty. Would you do that for me? And spread the word with your friends and colleagues?

Who is Carl Haggerty? He’s been nominated for the Guardian Public Services Awards and the Leadership Excellence shortlist. You can see the shortlist here – and vote Carl while you are at it.

Sure, there’s some great people that shortlist. There’s a local authority chief executive, a chief constable, a chief prosecutor and a bloke who is doing great things at the heart of government with digital. Each of these no doubt deserves the accolade of being shortlisted. There should be more good people in the public services.

But I’d still really like you to Vote Carl.

But I’d also like to tell you some reasons why I’d like you to do me that great favour.

Because he’s at the sharp end. Carl is digital communications manager at Devon County Council. It’s probably an unfashionable place to some. But it’s got a great recond in the field. They were the first council in the country to use Twitter. They have a good grasp about what digital skills are and people who are involved with digital are encouraged to blog as part of their learning.

Because they’ve encouraged innovation and learning. They encourage people to learn and share skills through innovative ways. They stage internal events that take a different slant at what they are learning about. Like this event that encouraged people to learn through playing a board game.

Because Carl likes dogs. Look at this picture. What a lovely dog. Another reason to Vote Carl.

Because of localgovdigital. A peer led group set-up with the help of the LGA this is bringing together and sharing good work from across the country. Carl is chair. He’s really good at it and has got a good sense of direction about what needs doing. It’s starting to get stuck into some good work. Our blog is here. (Disclaimer: I’m also a member.)

Because like me Carl has been shaped by the unconference movement. In local government training budgets are largely a thing of the past. As the challenge of digital looms we’ve never been in a worse state financially as we are now. People like Carl are staging events to encourage learning for free. Because they want to. And because in an era of no experts we’re all learning and all contributing.

Because this will make a difference to all the above. It will. Honest. It will bring recognition and allow Carl and people like him to do more of the things that local government needs to do.

Because just imagine what kind of statement we can make. A bloke in Devon who is a leading light in making digital work better in local government who connects people using social media and who builds on them and gives back a heap of things can take down a load of very respected people to win an award.

How cool would that be?

Please do your bit and Vote Carl.

Thank you,

Dan xx


BREW EXPORT: 22 things I learned at two events with tea and cake

8597572574_a81f34dcee_bAn ace thing happened this week. Twice.

We saw the brewcamp idea exported first to Dudley and then to Stafford.

It worked beautifully in both places too.

What’s a brewcamp? It’s an idea that has its roots in unconferences. It’s shared learning through conversation, coffee and cake. Like a coffee morning for militant optimists.

How does it work?

Find a cafe willing to open up after work. Find three topics and people happy to lead a discussion on them. Set up an eventbrite. Tell people about it.

It’s that simple.

But the value is less what the speakers tell you, but the connections you make and the realisation that even after a difficult day you are not alone. Other people still care about the public sector. What’s the value of knowing that it is not you, it’s them?

In truth, both were quite individual. In Dudley, it was called Bostincamp. Bostin being a Black Country word for ‘great.’ In Stafford it was Oatcakecamp. Oatcakes being a North Staffs delicacy that doubles as an expression of regional pride.

ELEVEN things that struck me at  Bostincamp…

  • In Dudley CCG’s media officer Laura Broster they have someone busy re-writing what a comms person should look like in 2013.
  • There are people at Dudley Council who are starting to wake up to social. What they’ll do with it will be amazing.
  • Barriers are being eroded all the time. Often by the people who used to build and maintain them.
  • You can’t argue against case studies that West Midlands Police have. They are a tweeting trojan horse for doing good digital things.
  • Academic red tape is gummier than local government.
  • Lorna Prescott is amazing.
  • The Secret Coffee Club in Pearson Street, Brierley Hill has free WiFi and would be a good place for co-working.
  • If you can’t trust your frontline staff with digital how the hell do you trust them to do the rest of their job?
  • Comms people still need to convince their managers that digital conversations on the frontline are a good idea. Jim Garrow has written well about the Edelman Trust Barometer here. It basically gives a pile of research to back up the idea that people trust the postman more than the chief executive of Royal Mail.
  • There are issues for doctors to use social media. But they are not insurmountable.

ELEVEN things I learned at  oatcakecamp…

  • As training budgets vanish we face a critical challenge of where our learning comes from.
  • At some point there will be a price to be paid for training ending. It may take years but it will come.
  • Bright people do their own learning.
  • If something is free, does that make it have less worth than something that costs £500 to attend?
  • Some people won’t look out of their sector for learning. Some won’t look out of their town.
  • Wolverhampton Council have a cracking Facebook page. But they need to tell people about what they do.
  • Comms people can learn more about good comms from people who in the past we wouldn’t let near comms.
  • The MOD still invest in people. Local government has stopped doing this in many areas.
  • Emma Rodgers is amazing.
  • An oatcakecamp in a fire station sounds cool.
  • Hyperlocal blogs can be patchy in quality but there are some gems like WV11 and A Bit of Stone. If we add some content they may be interested in to general releases we can amplify our message.

I absolutely urge you to go along to one of these when they are staged next.

If there’s not one near you, start your own. Here’s how.

Picture credit

Tea pot http://flic.kr/p/e6C3Yx


DUB LINKS: Dublin and social

3327293399_7874c95926_oThere’s something hugely inspiring about seeing other people who are passionate about what they do.

This month I got to go to Dublin to talk to some great people from Dublin City Council who are looking, like we all are, to better understand how the internet is changing what they do.

There I got to meet The Studio a kind of crack team of people enabling change with skills from different parts of local government.

I also got to hear how Carmel McCartney, a community worker for the council has built and nurtured a Facebook page to serve the Crumlin community in the north of the city . There’s also Pauline Sargent who runs a hyperlocal blog in the community of Drimnagh who has met and connected with Carmel.

Carmel, although she doesn’t know it, is doing things that in years to come with be second nature to community workers. She set-up a Facebook page for one of the community she serves. She’s savvy enough to know that the 83 likes she has on her page isn’t the measure of what she’s doing. What is is that when she posts other neighbourhood Facebook pages pick up on this and share her content which allows her to reach thousands.

At the heart of it is a simple thing. It’s basically the council talks to it’s residents at the place where they’re gathering.

There should be more people like Carmel and in truth there are. But they’re often the people and in places you’d least expect.

Similarly, hyperlocal blogger Pauline Sargent is another glimpse of what things should look like. Her hyperlocal site Drimnagh is Good seeks to better tell people about what is going on in the community and sites like hers should be welcomed as part of the news landscape. They won’t always say great things about the council. But then newspapers don’t either but we think nothing about engaging with them where we can.

The whole relationship between blogger and local government is something that will become more important. Just because we never have is no reason to never will. I’ve written about what the blogger – press officer relationship should look like before.

But as Pauline and Carmel show it all just boils down to building good, human relationships. Offline as well as online.

Creative commons credit

Pub http://www.flickr.com/photos/jyryk/3327293399/sizes/o/


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