Okay, heard the one about the unsolicted email from someone offering GDPR services?
I know. Funny, isn’t it?
Or an inbox full of emails asking you to re-sign-up to an email list?
There are changes looming with how people look after other people’s data. It’s causing a lot of people to look nervously for a golden bullet. There isn’t one, of course. You need to read some stuff on the subject youself rather than outsource it.
So, as a break from it all, here are some jokes captured from Twitter. Why a hashtag? To see if people would see the funny side of GDPR. They did. If you can’t laugh you’ll cry. The Erasure one is my favourite. How about you? I promise not to share.
That is none of your business. Data tracking is not allowed under any circumstances and the chicken has not given prior physical consent to being contacted. So you'll have no way of knowing if said chicken reached the other side.#GDPRjokes
Knock knock. Who's there? I'm asking as I need to ascertain who is attempting to gain entry to my joke. I won't use your name for any other purpose and you can ask me to forget (perhaps hit me with a stick) at any time. #gdprjokes
An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walked into a council office – to complain that they’d been identified by reference to their nationality as a result of a data breach revealing special category data #gdprjokes
I’ve often said that the secret to decent digital communications in being human.
What is being human? You recognise it when you see it. It can be sharp and witty. It’s not corporate speak and its not jargon.
Often when I’m training I’ll see a look of anguish on people’s faces. They’d like to be human. But they’re worried about what people would think.
Step forward, the @bbcpress Twitter which has been on fire of late. But rather than be a branch of the entertainment industry the account skilfully switches between the humorous to the rebuttal to the more measured. But that’s fine. Choosing which is what makes the account special and why it should be your new favourite corporate account.
If the BBC can you can
Often, people will be reluctant to be human because they are risk averse. That’s fine. The BBC has been a political football for decades. If they can you can.
The Alan Partridge announcement teaser
There’s a great scene where Alan Partridge tries to attract someone he knows from a distance away. It’s painful. So, the teaser is marvellous.
The Alan Partridge announcement with the Alan Partridge meme
There was a running gag in Alan Partidge’s first series about wanting a second series. Badly. Really badly. So desperately, you could smell it. So, of course an Alan Partridge meme to announce a new series is the way to go.
All this is content that for local government digital media pioneer Alastair Smith and the rest of the BBC Press Office team can share pride in. Good work well delivered in sometimes difficult circumstances.
This is the helpful one. The YouTube clip of the Indian student telling you how to fit a new cricket bat grip or the American showing you how to change a tyre. You look it up to help you. You’re amazed at how easy it is to follow and how complex the written instructions sound.
So, if your content isn’t any of those, should it be content at all?
You know you are in trouble when Kenny Dalglish tells you on Twitter your gritting efforts are rubbish.
A couple of years ago that’s what the former Liverpool manager told Liverpool City Council in 140 characters.
Chances are they’d already been out treating the roads but without regular updates nobody would have know.
Looking out of the window in January 2013 as snow falls after 24-hours of snowmaggedon warnings it’s s different story. There’s real time updates on Twitter, Facebook and in some cases rolling blogs too like at Walsall Council and Norfolk Council. That’s great to see.
It was a different case back in 2009 for local government when some leftfield councils – including Derbyshire, Walsall, Kirklees and others – boldly decided to use Twitter to tell people they were going out. I wrote about it here in early 2010.
Things stepped up a gear in 2011 when the excellent Geoff Coleman came up with the idea of getting councils across the West Midlands to tweet grit alerts using the #wmgrit hashtag so people could see the state of things across the region.
Taking a look at the stream in full effect this morning there’s messages of support being tweeted and a tweetreach stat that paints an impressive picture.
It’s c-c-cold. We gritted last night but grit its not a magic substance so please take extra care. #wmgrit#localgov— Birmingham Newsroom (@BCCNewsRoom) January 13, 2013
Stourbridge Town center has been gritted by @dudleymbc with men n shuvel! well done! town centre snow free to walk around #stourbridgesnow— Dave Baker (@The_Grim_Weeder) January 18, 2013Of course, audience stats aren’t the be all and end all as we know but 134,000 people potentially seeing what is happening on the roads is quite powerful.
114 #wmgrit tweets generated 267,972 impressions, reaching an audience of 134,086 followers within the past 24 hours— wmgrit (@wmgrit) January 17, 2013
Seeing a tweet or update land in your inbox or sail by helps. It saves people ringing up an engineer and asking for information and can even in passing can see that local government is doing stuff for them.
That doesn’t mean sweetless and light has broken out. People still complain they didn’t get their street treated. Or have a pop because they didn’t see a gritter go by. But that’s just it. They’re not shouting into the void anymore and the council can hear and respond.
But as much as I love the grit and winter disruption alerts I don’t think this is the last word. This should be a first word. But we should now be looking to see how else these real time alerts could work.
The digital landscape has evolved since 2009. Much has changed. This stuff is no longer revolutionary. It’s mainstream and being taken seriously. The LGA and DCLG have this month signed off the localgov digital group to try and innovate and share best practice. That’s rather good.
So after grit, what’s next?
As dull as unexciting as it may sound, something around bin reminders delivered in the evening by email or Twitter or by another means would be a rather handy piece of communications.
Sometimes a press release just isn’t enough to tell a story. Living day-to-day as a carer can be tough. To give a flavour of just how tough Walsall Council comms team members Tina Faulkner and Becky Robinson live tweeted four hours to show – with sensitivity – how dementia affects the life of one couple Sheila and Ron. You can follow it here and you can also read their story here. But this one powerful story is just part of a wider drive to highlight often unseen work carried out in social care in Walsall. Tina explains the background to the innovative campaign which uses a mix of old and new media:
If I could wear a t-shirt that best describes how I feel about work right now it would bear the slogan “I heart Social Care”.
I can see some of you now, exchanging a knowing look with your laptop or iphone and thinking, “Yep, she’s a social worker.”
Not a bit of it. In fact I’d be a rubbish social worker. I’d just want to scoop everybody up and take them home with me and we just haven’t got the room. Plus the retired greyhound would have something to say about that. He’s very set in his ways.
No, I heart social care as a press and pr officer who is working to try and dispel some of the myths about this area of work and highlight some of the innovative things that are going on. The things that are making a real difference to people’s lives and should be shouted about.
I have been working with my colleague Becky Robinson, a public information officer, to run week-long multi-media “events” called Who Cares? (see what we did there!) to show a side to social care that’s not picked up on.
The first one we did was last November and we featured the story of a paraplegic man who left residential care after 27 years to live independently, with support.
We Tweeted the calls coming into our social work teams which ranged from adult safeguarding tip-offs to families and carers wondering how to make life easier for loved ones leaving hospital.
We also showcased the stuff done by the community social work scheme which can sometimes be a simple as helping someone find a friendship club in their community to get them out of the house a few times a week.
And our Neighbourhood Community Officers got a look-in too as they go into some seemingly hopeless situations and bring about a sea change.
All in all it was a great week and we know it made some people sit up and take notice.
So it seemed only right to do it all again. And make some more people sit up and take notice.
This time round we’re tweeting from the home of a lady who cares for her husband with dementia to try and convey the relentless demands and challenges that this role brings and to try and make us all a bit more aware of dementia and mental health issues.
We’re tweeting from a carers’ consultation session too and featuring the partnership work being done in our communities to offer people of all ages, something to do and somewhere to go.
And we’re looking at people with learning and physical disabilities who were sent out of the borough for care many years ago, away from their families and communities, who are being supported to come back.
If we can achieve this in social care with all of its perceived “barriers” we can achieve it anywhere.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from all this it’s “Don’t assume people won’t want to speak about their experiences.”
In our experience they have no problem with speaking up – it’s getting people to listen that’s the key.
You can follow the tweets from @whocareswalsall on Twitter or via this link on CoveritLive:
‘I love newspapers,’ wrote former newspaper editor Harold Evans a while back. ‘But I’m intoxicated by the speed and possibility of the internet.’
As a former journalist I know just where he’s coming from. The social web allows you to tell your story directly and in real time to people.
I’ve been banging on for a while about real time events that use Twitter. They’re a great way to use the web and the inescapable truth is that real time conversations – a kind of linked social – are going to become more common.
We’re not far off from being routine the fly-tipped rubbish reported on Twitter will be responded to on Twitter by the council with an update from a countryside ranger also online and in real time.
It’s been really fascinating to see how different ideas have emerged with real time events.
A few weeks back I was asked to Glasgow by the excellent Public Sector Customer Services Forum to talk about them.
Was the title ‘Real Time Social Media Campaigns Can Make Routine Tasks Sexy’ a bit bold? Maybe.
What was timely as it co-incided with the Scottish local government What We Do event which saw 28 out of 32 councils take part to tweet updates.
Since then,the public sector in Norfolk have done good things with an event and Louise Kidney, a passionate innovative officer for Blackburn with Darwen has kicked about successfully the #1515gov idea. The idea is for local government officers to informally tweet what they are doing at 3.15pm every day to give a small rolling snapshot of what we do. It’s a great idea.
But most importantly, I’m a big believer that anyone can do these sorts of things. Small or big. You don’t have to have a Phd from the University of Great Online ideas first. Have a bright idea. Try it out.
It’s fascinating seeing how these platforms evolve.
I’m looking forward to updating this and speaking on the same subject at the Epic Social Media for Public Sector South West event in Exeter on Thursday December 1. You can find out more here.
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.
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.
It’ll be good to see how the Scottish Twitter 24 event develops. That hashtag for that is #whatwedo.
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.
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.
Mayors in Walsall go back to the 13th century. Yes, children it’s safe to say that even pre-dates Friends Reunited.
What helped spread the word then was probably a Town Crier with the useful profile of having a loud voice in the marketplace where people gathered.
Today, the landscape has changed. But a voice in the place where people gather is still important.
Since May when Cllr Garry Perry was appointed to the post he’s been successfully experimenting with digital channels. As a 33-year-old he’s the borough’s youngest ever appointment. As a Facebook native and as at home there as in the Council Chamber it made sense for him to experiment using the channel.
He’s also used Twitter and connected with the Walsall Flickr group. Jokingly, Cllr Perry has spoken about creating the Mayor’s Parlour as a location on Foursquare so he can become Mayor of that too.
But is this just a gimmick? Or have lessons been learned?
A Facebook page was created for the Mayor of Walsall. The idea was to allow the Mayor to post updates and pictures from his phone when out and about. The aim was conversational. It also helps give an idea of where the Mayor had been and the people he’d met. It’s not a dusty civic position. It’s carried out by a person. For an organisation for people.
The stats speak for themselves. More than 160 people have signed up in about six weeks. There has been more than 8,000 page views in a four week period and people have responded posting enthusiastic comments. It’s clear that successful events also draw-in enthusiasm from residents.
The events functionality also allows a good way to flag up fundraisers.
As the Mayor of Walsall Cllr Perry says: “It’s been brilliant for getting feedback from people and for connecting with them. When you’re at an event you can post that you’ve been there with a picture. There’s still a tremendous respect for the office of Mayor and it’s good to be able to meet people. Using things like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr have really helped reach a different audience.”
More than 180 people and organisations have signed-up with updates of visits and fundraising. Cllr Perry’s sporadic previous account was re-named @mayorofwalsall.
A Flickr meet was staged where members of the excellentWalsall Flickr group came along to the Mayor’s Parlour and Council House one Saturday morning.
More than 200 shots were posted by six photographers to a specially created group to capture shots for the day. It was a chance for Walsall people to visit the 1905 building and meet the Mayor. As a visit it was a success. Those who came took some excellent pictures and Cllr Perry’s – and the Mayoress’ – easy going and informal approach saw the council giving a good account of itself. Staging a Flickr meet at a council venue is something I’ve blogged about before.
As a spin-off, and by no means the purpose of the event, the photographers were happy for the authority to re-use the posted pics for the website or for other marketing. That’s a good thing whichever way you look at it. You can see the pictures here.
Yes, we’ll do the traditional things too for old media too. That’s part of the repertoire.
Lessons to learn
1. It can put a human face on an organisation. As Pc Rich Stanley does for West Midlands Police in Walsall so Cllr Perry does for Walsall Council. They use social media to put a human face on the organisation that can sometimes be seen as remote.
2. It depends on the individual. A social mayor who is at home with the channels or willing to learn will prosper. A remote character with few social graces and mistrust of technology won’t.
3. Little and often works. Updates on the routine day-to-day tasks work really well. Don’t think you need to crack the front page of the local paper with every update.
4. It works best if the Mayor writes it. A voice can be unique and despite being a fairly politically neutral post it’s not for council officers to update on people’s behalf.
5. Be prepared to JFDI. Not everything with social media has a 100-year-old record to it. That’s a given. So just try things out.
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.
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.