WATER HERO: Why tweeting from the riverbank frontline works

12253595404_a7240a9652_bSo this, ladies and gentleman, is what I’ve been banging on for years. You give a smartphone and social media access to a frontline worker who ‘gets it’ and gets out of the office and then you sit back.

For the past six weeks swathes of England has been under water with the wettest January for more than 200 years deluging rivers and forcing them to burst their banks.  Platoons of soldiers have been deployed as local government, fire, the Environment Agency and others have battled .

Through it all an army of public sector people have worked on in damp, wet and miserable conditions often without credit or recognition.

One of those is Dave Throup, an Environment Agency manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire. When the radio need an update it is Dave who is the voice of the agency giving up-to-date updates on river levels, flood risks and advice.

He also uses Twitter to post real time updates that are hyperlocal and county wide. The state of flood barriers in Bewdley, business as usual messages in Ironbridge and advise not to drive through floods. Often they are basic mobile phone pictures like this one:

He’s using basic technology to post real time information at a time when people need it most. He also shares other people’s tweets and blogs here. He posts to Flickr too.

Why is this brilliant?

If you want the science, the Edelman Trust barometer talks of how staff lower down an organisation are trusted more than those at the top. People who are just like you are trusted even more. For communications people, this changes the game and turns on its head everything. To put it simply, the chief executive may not be the best person to front an interview or a campaign. The officer with the smartphone may well be. I say this repeatedly when I’m training people: it’s not enough to do a good job in the public sector in 2014. You need to tell people too. That’s why the people like Morgan Bowers the Walsall Council countryside ranger works really well on social. It’s a real person talking to a real person.

Why is Dave even more brilliant?

Public sector people get a shabby Press. Why? Because it’s always our fault. Often judged by people who proclaim to know the value of everything and the value of nothing and yet far, far more good is done by the public sector than bad. Dave is brilliant because he cares. People get that too. And yet there are so many people in the sector like him but for some reason he’s struck a chord with the folk who have come to rely on the information that he gives.

He’s also got a fan club:

So, here’s to Dave. And everyone in the public sector who does a vital job and that state of mind that elite public sector workers attain to.

Just think about what an army of people like Dave can do for the organisation they work in. Or what they could do for yours.

Creative commons credit

River Severn in flood http://www.flickr.com/photos/davethroup/12253595404/sizes/l/

#OURDAY: Some tips for telling your story during a Twitter event

3176885291_2c6d7bd3c3_oLocal government is brilliant. It can save lives. It can give your children a good head start in life and it does more than 800 different services.

800? Really? Absolutely.

Chances are if you leave your house you’ll have come across something that the sector has done or helped with.

Trouble with such a vast thing that most people struggle to name more than half a dozen things that local government does.

“The council?  They empty my bin and gave my next door neighbour planning permission for their horrible extension,” may be a common answer.

The struggle of how to tell people what local government what they get for their council tax is a timeless one and never been more important.

One way to tackle it is the Local Government Association’s Our Day which aims to put Twitter in the hands of some of the unsung heroes who do some of the unseen jobs.

Using the hashtag #ourday on October 17 2013 local government people will be using it to talk a bit about what they are doing in real time. There’s a Storify of the sort of thing they are after here.

Back in 2011 at Walsall Council I was part of a team which was the first in the country to use Twitter in real time to tell people what a council did across 24-hours. It won the inaugural LGComms social media gold award. It’s a model of communicating with people that quiet fascinates me. It breaks down barriers. It shines a light. It informs and educates.

Some tips on live tweeting a Twitter event

There’s lots of different ways but here’s some things to bear in mind.

Everyone thinks their day job is boring. But everyone else finds it interesting. That may be your 12th pothole of the day. But you use what to fill it? And it’s outside the school my children go to, you say? And the council has done 4,000 so far this year?

Routine tasks build a broader picture. You’ve got a team that cuts overgrown hedges. They do it every day. I didn’t know that. They’ve done 11 streets today. That’s important to the people who live in that street that is now safer to walk in at night. Tell them where and when.

Pictures work better than text. People are four times more likely to open a link to a pic than a link to text.

Yes, you can talk about programmed work. If you are collecting bins in those three estates then tell people. (See: routime tasks build a broader picture.)

Sharing the sweets is a good idea. Get the librarian to talk about her day on a library account. Get the museum to do something on theirs. All of a sudden it makes sense to have different voices.

Use the main account for sharing the other accounts. You won’t want to run everything through one account. Use several. Create some if you have to.

Get people to channel shift. If you’ve got a web form to report potholes promote it.

News is people. My old editor’s maxim rings true. Talk about the people who do the service. Bob the lifeguard or Keith the caretaker who has been doing this job for 12-years.

Capture it and share. Create a storify to allow you to capture what was said at 2.37pm that Monday afternoon. Tell people and embed the library’s story on the library pages. It’s more interesting.

Schedule some content. If you are sure it’s going to happen and to save you some time you can schedule content via something like hootsuite.com. It’ll lay down some background noise for you.

Avoid Twitter gaol. This is where Twitter doesn’t like you posting more than a certain threshold and thinks you are a spammer. Avoid going over 20 tweets an hour from one account and you should be okay.

Capture it and share it internally. More than anything an event on Twitter will be an internal comms thing. You’ll be telling staff about the organisation they work in. You’ll also be telling people about social media who just think it’s Stephen Fry eating breakfast.

Have fun. Be creative. Tell your story.

3209638395_f80fb1b3b1_b

Creative commons credits

School bus http://www.flickr.com/photos/loop_oh/3176885291/sizes/o/

Highway http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/3209638395/sizes/l/

 

 

GUEST POST: Live tweeting to tell a human frontline story

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”.

Sheila and Ron Haynes. Sheila gives round-the-clock care to husband Ron.

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:

http://www.coveritlive.com/index2.php/option=com_altcaster/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=d21510425c/height=550/width=470

Links:

A social care blog: The Who Cares Walsall blog

A tweeting social worker: @ermintrude2

Shirley Ayres: Why social media is important to social care: challenges and opportunities by Shirley Ayres

The Guardian: Walsall uses Twitter to ask who cares about social care

The Guardian: Social care and social media live discussion round-up 

Community Care: Time for social work to embrace social media

Creative commons credit:

Flowers: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alijava/6210239598/sizes/l/in/photostream/

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