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


LAST POST: My Reggie Kray story and the future of local news

Okay, so should we start to think of a world without local newspapers?

Or at any rate a place where local newspapers are no longer the only show in town?

Go to Cannock in Staffordshire and you’re closer than you think.

Gone or retreated in the past four years are the Rugeley Post, Cannock Mercury and the Rugeley Mercury.

Another of them, The Chase Post, closed this week as 45 jobs were cut from Midlands titles.

As a young man I spent some time on work experience on the Post learning the ropes.

Mike Lockley, its editor on closure,  was in charge when I was there and recently celebrated 25-years at the helm.

A dynamo of a man powered by his love of a news story he was capable of a generosity of spirit to those looking to find a start in the industry. A generation of staff and work experience people have him to thank. Me included.

So do the school children who saw pink custard back on the menu after some Mike Lockley-fired Chase Post campaigning.

I have him to thank for my first front page by-line. A piece on a Cannock musician whose speculative letter to Reggie Kray resulted in an offer of money from the gangland kingpin and an offer of unspecified ‘help.’

“I was a bit worried when Reggie Kray wrote to me and offered me money,” the musician told me.

“What if he wanted a favour doing? And have you seen his writing?”

He was right. The note handed me  looked like it had been written by a left handed 10-year-old and was signed chillingly ‘Your friend, Reggie Kray.’

Of course, Reggie only became ‘gangland kingpin’ in the stumbling copy that Mike re-wrote. My version was far more boring. But the cutting helped get me a job.

Mike was also an award winning columnist. His piece announcing closure is typical. Wry, amusing and self depracating.

In a piece written a few days before closure was announced Mike celebrated 25 years in charge by writing that ‘a town without a newspaper is a town without a heart.’

So what of the future of news?

The excellent Dave Briggs, who does things with the web in local government, once rolled his eyes at me on this subject.

“The thing is Dan,” he said. “There really is nothing in life as boring as the future of news debate.”

In a sense he’s right.

Because out in the real world it’s not really an issue.

Why?

Because people are finding their own ways of getting news whether its from across the web, Facebook, Twitter or a hyperlocal blog.

Think of the now dead Football Final. As a kid the paper shop was full of blokes at 5.30pm waiting for the Pink to be delivered because they’d missed James Alexander Gordon read the final scores on Grandstand on BBC1.

If football scores have been sorted then what of news?

I’m not sure there is a golden bullet answer. As Alastair Campbell told the Express & Star which still circulates in Cannock, the news agenda today is far more fractured.

Hyperlocal blogs like Connect Cannock are part of the future, there’s no doubt about that.

So are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn streams targeted at micro audiences around a library, a piece of open space or a service area.

So, what does this mean for local government comms teams?

Once again, the need to think about what you are doing and how much resource you point at the web.

Ex-journalists have often been hired in local government press offices because they know how to write and package information for newspapers.

Many of them are changing with the changing landscape.

But as the social web grows how long is it before a blogger gets hired by a local government comms team for their ability to communicate using WordPress, Facebook and Cover It Live?

Picture credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Krays.jpg