Posted: November 21, 2017 Filed under: communications, government, local government | Tags: 2018, bath and north east somerset council, derbyshire dales council, Facebook, instagram, lga, local government, local government association, nick grimshaw, oldham council, ourday, periscope, periscope local government, twitter
A day a year local government shouts about what it does.
I raise my hat to everyone who took part in the day and created content.
Seven years ago, this was purely a Twitter thing when it started as #walsall24. Over the years the Local Government Association has got involved to support it.
But now that Twitter is the 4th most popular social platform should it just be Twitter? I’m not so sure. If it is true to its aim of reaching people to tell the story of what local government does it needs to find the best platform. Probably, this is an array of platforms.
An additional worry in a discussion on the Public Sector Facebook group is that people struggle to create the time to make #ourday really work. But anecdotally, this does work as internal comms. It also works to encourage service areas to share their stories.
Here are five pieces of content that caught my eye
Radio DJ Nick Grimshaw posting about council gritters on instagram
Nick Grimshaw has 1.3 million followers. He is from Oldham. The winner of their name-a-gritter competition was ‘Nick Grit-shaw’. So, as an Oldham boy made good he shared it with his followers attracting 30,000 likes.
Why is this good? This isn’t the council talking about what they do, it’s a Radio One DJ. That’s far cooler.
An interactive be-a-council-officer game
There used to be a cartoon strip called You Are the Ref where you were given a scenario and had to choose the correct outcome. Doncaster Council used Twitter to create a similar scenario only being faced with the challenge a council officer would face. It gave a taste of the difficulty council staff face.
Why is this good? It’s not saying ‘here’s what we do.’ It asks: ‘what would you do?’
A poem set to video
There are 1,200 services that local government does. It’s hard to cover them all. But a video of just over a minute covers much of the ground. Well done Bath & North East Somerset Council.
Why is this good? It uses video so autoplays in your timeline. It covers a range of things in a short space of time.
The most popular Facebook update wasn’t a council service as such but a lost dog. Of course it was. It was never going to be an engineer filling in a pothole, was it? You can see it here.
Hello, regular people
One of the benefits of #ourday is putting faces to names and to be able to tell people what they do, as this Derbyshire Dales Council tweet shows.
Why is this good? Because it tells you who those familiar faces are and what they do.
A Periscope broadcast to explain a guided walk
South Cambridgeshire has many attractive places and guided walks encourage older people to step out. Here the council used Twitter’s live streaming app Periscope for a council worker to talk about what the scheme is.
A clip-on mic helps to improve the sound.
Why is this good? Because it is getting out of an office and experimenting with technology.
Posted: November 23, 2016 Filed under: communications | Tags: examples, local government, PR, virtual reality, VR
For the last 18-months or so I’ve been helping deliver video skills workshops with one of the brightest people I’ve come across in a long time.
Steven Davies is a freelance cameraman, University lecturer and throughly good chap. A while back I asked about how he saw the future of video.
Virtual reality, was part of the answer.
Virtual reality is footage shot that allows someone with a headset to be immersed in a different world. Google cardboard can be bought for a few quid and is a way to view the content.
For young people
I’ll paraphrase him, but the problem with talking about virtual reality is that it’s like dancing about architecture. It doesn’t really work. So seeing this Google clip at #firepro on what virtual reality – or VR – can do in classrooms is inspiring. If you are not sure what it is take a look at this for 90 seconds and see the reaction of schoolchildren. It’s amazing.
And it’s older people too
Don’t think it’s just for young people, too. There is this example where VR works with old people. It puts them in a safe recognised environment and works well with dementia sufferers. You can take a look here. The older person is immersed in an environment.
The opportunites for PR people are immense. It is entirely a new exciting blank piece of paper. The ability is to place the VR headset wearer in an environment. I’ve blogged about this before.
Shout if I can help firstname.lastname@example.org and @danslee.
Picture credit: Maurizio Pesce / Flickr
Posted: April 3, 2016 Filed under: local government, Uncategorized | Tags: cipr, cllrs, elected members, guidance, local government, members, NUJ, officers
It can be truly great working with politicians. It can also be tricky. You can be pressured to help one side or the other. But if you do you’ll be in the cross-hairs of rival politicians. Here’s a simple guide to avoid pitfalls. Not just during Purdah but all year round.
Here’s a scenario for you. You pick up the phone to an important politician who is up for election.
They’re asking about that picture you took of them at the launch of the new play equipment.
Can you just send it across?
You’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the image will go into her campaign leaflet. So you ask what the picture will be used for.
Of course, if it is for a leaflet you don’t send it. It was taken using public resources so shouldn’t be used for political campaigning. But how do you say ‘no’ constructively?
Take it from me, unless you have chapter and verse in front of you that conversation is going to be a little bit tricky. At best, you are going to look a bit evasive and unhelpful. At worst, you are going to look uninformed and when the politician complains you may have more pressure put on you to do the wrong thing.
Of course, in an ideal world, every elected member knows what they can and can’t expect you do and wouldn’t dream of leaning on you to bend the rules. But, of course, we aren’t in an ideal world.
In my experience, every authority has at least one elected member who will try and push the rules. Especially with junior members of staff. And every authority has at least one elected member who will spot what you’ve done and attempt to nail you to the floor. Comms teams can often be accused of being ‘political mouthpieces.’ Mainly by people who don’t understand the role they do. My advice is don’t let them. But to do that successfully you’ll need to know very, very clearly what you can and can’t do.
It’s not just councils, either. This covers partners, police, national parks and very often fire services too.
Why three minutes and three hours?
It’ll take you three minutes to read this post. It’ll then take you three hours to do the groundwork you’ll need to do. Put it off until the merde hits the fan and it could be too late. Do you and your team a favour and put the work in ahead of time. It’ll be one of the best things you ever do.
What do you need to do? You need to read through several key documents. You need to cut and paste the passages that govern what you can and can’t do for elected members. Don’t paraphrase. It’s far more effective to read back the page, paragraph and chapter and verse. Make sure all your team know it, have a copy and have access to it.
Read your media protocols
Every communications unit needs a media and publicity protocols document. This sets out what you’ll do for elected members. It also sets out when and where the team get involved. Normally, this will be agreed between you, the chief executive and Leader. It can change and be updated two or three times a year. It’s an important document but not the best one in your armoury.
The Council DCLG Code
The Department for Communities and Local Government has issued eight pages of guidance on what councils should and shouldn’t do. In England, the guidance from 2011 can be found right here. You may want to cite one of the key principles of the guidance that it is even-handed, for example. For Scotland and Wales the guidance dates back amazingly to 1988. You can find it here.
If you work in a local government comms team you should know your guidance backwards. It’ll also give you some good ground rules on what you can and can’t do.
Your authority’s constitution
It’s a funny thing but your constitution has a power over politicians that is practically unmatched. Your protocols they can debate. The DCLG code they can decide to defy. The constitution? That’s a whole different thing. It’s the day-to-day rules they are governed by. You’ll find things in there about publicity, sure. You’ll also find things about the staff – elected member relationship and probably some safeguards against undue pressure too.
Professional codes of conduct
Back when I was looking through my council’s constitution there was explicit reference to professional codes. For comms people this can provide two helpful routes. Firstly, the National Union of Journalists. Their code applies to comms people just as much as reporters as they have comms members. The line: ‘Strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair,’ is a particular favourite.
Secondly, you can also draw on the Chartered Institute of Public Relations code of conduct too.
The LGA have written some excellent Purdah guidance for 2016 which you can see here. We’ve also blogged some guidance on Purdah and social media and you can read that here. If you are central government, look out for Cabinet Office guidance that will be published ahead of elections.
In short, there’s some legwork involved here. Yes, I know you are busy. But this could save your skin in the long run.
Once you’ve pulled things together, publish it on your web pages and make it public. Let the leaders of each group know the contents on the internal guidance too so they can’t pretend to be in the dark.
Picture credit: Clemens v Vogelsang / Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/iWUJBn