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/


SOCIAL NATION: Further adventures with 24-hour Twitter

Like a wild flower seed a good idea can take root in unexpected places, grow and get better.

One such idea is the idea of using Twitter to tweet in real time what local government is up to.

Starting with snow, ice and grit alerts in 2009 the approach went stellar in 2010 when Greater Manchester Police tweeted calls it recieved.

As a local government approach, Walsall 24 saw a 24 hour snapshot of what local government does from crossing patrols, complaints about rats as big as badgers to missing people reported to social care staff at 1am.

As proud as I am to be involved with that project, we always hoped that a little further down the track that idea would be eclipsed by something far more impressive.

Go, Scotland!

With practically the whole of Scottish local government coming together to live tweet what it does that moment looks to arrived. And then some.

A total of 28 of 32 local councils in Scotland are taking part from noon on Tuesday September 27. You can read about it here.

It’s a fantastic achievement just to reach the start line and yet to me this is no surprise. There are some hugely talented people in Scotland. I met some of them on a trip to an LG Comms seminar in Dalkeith  near Edinburgh earlier this year.

I’m looking forward to meeting many of them again at the Public Sector Network event in Glasgow on Wednesday September 28.

It’ll be good to see how the Scottish Twitter 24 event develops. That hashtag for that is #whatwedo.

Go, Bracknell!

It’s also brilliant to see Bracknell Forest Council in Southern England look to stage a 24 hour event using 140 character updates. On Monday September 26 using the hashtag #yourbfc for Your Bracknell Forest Council. The single council approach definitely still works and the benefits both internally and for Bracknell residents in knowing more about what their council does will be worth it. You can read more here.

Should real time Twitter only be used on large scale 24 hour events? Hell, no although there’s a place for it. I’m convinced the approach can work on a smaller level and become part of the comms mix routinely. In other words, it can become something that’s part of everyday use.

For example, if you’re looking to explain a new traffic scheme, yes write the press release but also walk the route with the engineers, tweet in real time and take pictures or video footage to help explain the project.

Curating and storing 

The one thing I’d always suggest would be to find a way to store and preserve some of the content.

There was some recent research that showed the lifespan of a tweet to be three hours. Something like Storify can preserve what you’ve produced as well as allowing non-Twitter users to see what you’re up to. This is a Storify from Walsall 100.

Some other useful linked social events

Water Aid 24 Saw a water charity span the globe from Australia to Zambia over a 24 hour period to tweet from the frontline as well as from its support centres. It’s something I blogged about before. The press release is here. The piece in Brand Republic is here.

Shropshire 360 Saw Shropshire County Council tweet over the course of a week focussing on different areas of what it does every day. Press release.

Walsall 100 Saw West Midlands Police join with Walsall Council and public sector partners to tweet on topics over a seven day period. This covered a police initiative against errant drivers to a Q&A with regeneration staff LGC Plus, council web page, blog on the aims, council website, residents’ local history blog,

Mole Vale District Council during #molevalley15 became the first district council to use the linked social approach and tweeted day-to-day tasks. They reached 3,000 people against a following list of 300: Press release.

RSPCA the animal charity staged a 24 hour Twitter #rspca247 event to highlight the day-to-day tasks it does. Sky News.

Tameside Council. 24 hour Twitter in June 2011 focussing on day-to-day tasks. Council press release,  Manchester Evening News, The Guardian.


SOCIAL TOWN: Using social media to tell a town centre’s story

With Walsall 24 we told the story of what a council did across a borough in 24 hours.

With Walsall Town Centre 100 we’re looking to go a step further and tell a different story.

We want to tell a hundred things about the life of a town centre across seven days from May 17 to 23 2011.

It’s not just about litter getting collected this time. It’s the faces on the market, the people in the shops and what gets done to keep people safe and protect law and order.

In effect it’s the council, the police, businesses and other partners joining forces to tell people what they do. It’s also about letting residents speak with Q&A sessions for key people.

All these factors make up the life of a town centre.

In many ways, Walsall is a typical town. It competes against bigger neighbours in Birmingham and the Merry Hill Shoping Centre in Dudley 14 miles away.

There’s three indoor shopping centres, 400 shops, an 800-year-old market, a circa 1905 Council House, a New Art Gallery, two museums and a 35-acre Arboretum giving a splash of green on the edge of the town centre.

It’s a town with civic pride built on the leather industry and one that was once known as the town of a hundred trades – hence the name of this experiment.

What are the channels?

We’re looking to use the council website walsall.gov.uk, the Walsall police web pages, Twitter, flag up some locations on Foursquare and also keep people informed via Facebook. There’s even geocaching too and a Flickr group to celebrate the beauty of the town.

The purpose is not to use a whole load of web tools just for the sake of it.

It’s to talk to people on a platform they might want to use.

How can you follow it?

You can take a look at three main Twitter accounts as well as the #walsall100 hashtag.

@walsallcouncil from the council.

@walsallpolice from the town’s police force.

@walsalltown from the town centre management team.

There’s also historic updates from @walsalllhcentre.

There’s a web page on it to tell you all about it here.

Why more than one organisation?

Because what happens in an area isn’t just down to one. It’s down to several.

Why use social media?

Because it’s a good platform to communicate and listen.

What will it look like?

If you’ve seen Walsall 24, that was a barrage of information in real time. This is slightly different. There may be a background noise of tweets with more focussed on events this time.

For example, We’re live tweeting a pubwatch meeting, a day on the market and a Friday night with the police on patrol. All this is part of what makes a town centre tick.

What else?

There’s a Peregrine Watch staged by countryside officers, RSPB Walsall and the West Midlands Bird Club, a walk in the Arboretum and other things.

There will also be a chance to ask questions with Q&A sessions.

The full list is here.

Why seven days?

To show all parts of the town centre from Saturday morning shopping to a Friday night on the town to a regular weekday morning.

This is what linked social is about. It’s a range of voices from a range of places with input from residents and shoppers too.

Will there be resources from it?

With Twitter being the live action, we’ll look to pull together Match of the Day-style  highlights with storify.com.

Hats off to the following for their role: Kate Goodall, Jon Burnett, Jo Hunt, Gina Lycett, Darren Caveney, Morgan Bowers, Helen Kindon, Kevin Clements and Stuart Williams.

Pictures:

Peregrine Falcon on Tameway Tower http://yfrog.com/hs90k9j

Walsall images from my Flickr stream http://www.flickr.com/photos/danieldslee/


WALSALL 24: Case study: 12 thoughts on tweeting what local government does in a day

Funny how an unremarkable Spring day in the West Midands can go down in history.

From 6am on March 4, an audience of 116,273 on Twitter got to hear about the Walsall 24 experiment staged by Walsall Council.

Those figures are tweetreach.com, by the way. Not mine.

Historically, this was the first time a council had tweeted a snapshot of what it was doing in real time in the UK. Quite possibly this was a world first. That’s worth a ‘woot!’ in anyone’s book.

Yet, every day local government does tens of thousands of things for its residents.

Trouble is, we rarely tell people about the bread and butter things leaving some people ignorantly thinking ‘all I get is my bins collected.’
It was this lazy myth we looked to explode with Walsall 24.

There’s a blog post one day in the brass tacks of how the event was done.

By the way, this is an idea I’m proud to have played a role in amongst quite a sizable cast.

Statistics


1,400 tweets

116,000 potential audience

10 per cent rise in @walsallcouncil audience

9 Twitter accounts used


But there’s also in the days after 12 things that struck me:


1. The tipping point has been reached. It’s not about whether or not local government should use social media it’s how.

2. The internal battle has been won. People who 12 months ago were sceptical were keen to get involved. How do we channel that?

3. It’s not about network access. In the opening minutes of Walsall 24 we tweeted on a Blackberry because the network decided it didn’t like Twitter.

4. It’s ALL about network access. ‘This is great,’ one member of staff said, ‘but I couldn’t log on to my PC to follow it.’ Opening up social media internally would have been a powerful way to tell the story to the staff.

5. This could only work through collaboration. It was a neighbourhoods officer Kate Goodall that did much of the groundwork to get people on board and head of comms Darren Caveney that secured very top level buy-in. Without this it would have looked threadbare.

6. People like being told how their council tax is spent. No matter how routine. One person said that they didn’t like the updates. That was after the event.

7. Having people in service areas savvy with social media is a good thing. Spread the joy. Don’t hog it.

8. Getting people together in a common cause makes a bigger noise. The noise made by more than a dozen is more than an individual.

9. Innovation is a good thing. It makes you look at things in a different light. In the old days something like this may have been bought in from outside. Not any more.

10. This is the future. It’s not a hypothetical theory. It’s real and it’s here.

11. Free is good. Doors opened because there was no charge to this.

12. I never knew local government had people out at dawn investigating noisey cockerels. But we do.

Blogs

Sarah Lay ‘A Day in the Life.’

Carl Haggerty ‘Even More Determined’

Adrian Short ‘#walsall24 – Whats the Point of a Tweeting Council?’

Resources

The Guardian ‘Walsall Council Live Updates.’

Walsall Council @walsallcouncil on Twitter

Walsall Council Walsall 24 diary


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