Steph Gray, who built it, deserves immense credit for putting it together. Based in the South East, a former head of digital communications at BIS he has done a lot of good work across Central Government. For my part, I was rather honoured to add a smidge of local government content along with Al Smith of Greenfinch and a man who I rate terrifically highly.
But digital engagement? How does that affect comms people? Isn’t that a bit of a touchy-feely way of saying consultation? Frankly, as web 2.0 develops boundaries are being blurred ever more often and the strict distinction between many job titles is starting to look obsolete. Besides, if you are looking to use social media as a comms channel it just won’t work unless it’s a listening channel too. For the press officer used to firing out press releases into the ether that’s a big change. But an exciting one.
Here are five belters from the Digital Engagement Guide
The US Army Social Media Guide– Few large organisations do social media as well as the US Army. Millions follow their Marines Facebook page alone. But how do they do it? Aren’t there security risks? This link to the guide itself sets out how new channels are used successfully. If the US military can use social media why can’t your organisation?
BBC English Regions Social Media Guidelines – You can almost substitute the word ‘BBC’ with ‘local government’ and it’s a good foundation for how officers should use digital channels. This is excellent. Always post different content to Facebook than to Twitter. Don’t use txtspk. You’ll find yourself nodding like one of those dogs in the back of cars.
New York City Council’s Customer Use Policy– Much gets written on how officers should use social media. There’s not too much about how customers should use it. These public guidelines from New York are an excellent starting point.
Gangway collapse at HMS Belfast – Ben Proctor from the likeaword consultancy is brilliant at crisis comms. He’s also really good at piecing together case studies. In this one he shows how official Twitter accounts working together build a picture and fill the information vacuum that takes place when something goes wrong.
So here is my list of bulletpoints, in no particular order (and I’ll be adding to them in the days to come):
It’s like Glastonbury for government geeks. It’s big. It’s brilliant. You plan to see a big act on the main stage. You end up in setendipity.
A Saturday barcamp is what good people would do every day if bad people, obstacles and emails were removed.
There are town centres whose shops and shopkeepers are connected digitally.
There are creative people who work in their back bedrooms who could be connected digitally.
We don’t put inspiring people in a room often enough.
Suits won’t ever come to a barcamp. Some will. Most won’t. But half way house events that have a bit of both can work.
Nick Booth is one of the Holiest Saints who ever walked this earth.
Archant are a newspaper group in London who ping out daily emails with headlines and links in. As well as print. That strikes me as being like news 2.0.
Philip John is a bright kiddie.
Dave Briggs and Steph Gray should be revered as Lennon and McCartney for organising this.
Talk is good. But doing something on Monday morning is more important.
Use local government services like a resident would to see how you can improve things. Then tell someone how it can be improved.
The golden bullet answer is there are no golden bullets. Just lots of different solutions.
People in Ludlow were behind a hyperlocal site that celebrates their town.
People in central government don’t have a budget for photography.
Everyone is paranoid of releasing Flickr images as creative commons in case someone does something silly. But people scratch their heads when asked if they can come up with an example.
People would love us forever if local government came up with a way to issue digital bin night reminders.
People in central government talk about strategy and policy lots. Less so in local government. They tend to talk of case studies and doing.
Nobody has come up with a killer solution to return on investment for social media. That’s the score that looks at what you spend you get as a return. Followers are a bit important. But it’s what you and they do together that matters.
The new single Alpha gov platform .gov.uk website will save pots of money. My 50p says that it’ll be offered / handed to local government next.
The idea of a two day event gives space for people to come up with problems to fix. That’s a compelling thing
The people at Microsoft are jolly good hosts.
I’ve come away with a list of people I’d wish I’d met / spent more time with. Again.
If links are the web’s currency of inspiration then some shine as bright as a gold coin on a summer’s day.
Vivid and memorable as wild flowers they can sow seeds that bloom into bright ideas.
Some challenge while some crysyallise half thoughts.
They can be blog writing, tweets, news stories or images.
Over the past 12-months I’ve read thousands. Mainly in spare moments. As December trudged towards Christmas in downtime I’ve reflected on those that have shaped my outlook.
I’ve not gone online to remind myself but instead racked my brains for writing that has stayed with me.
There are scores of good writing. Many of them can be found on the pages of the blogroll on the right of this webpage.
A couple of them are mine. Mitigation for this is that they capture collaborative working.
Using Twitter to Stop Riots. As rioting spread and London police hip shootingly spoke of switching off the internet Wolverhampton shone. Superintendent Mark Payne used Twitter to shoot down rumours circulating online and off. Blogs such as WV11.co.uk and Tettenhall.co.uk plugged into this to retweet and shout via Facebook. Public I did a useful study.
The Icelandic Facebook page. With the country in financial tatters the Icelandic government started a root and branch review. The constitution which dates from 1944 was being re-drafted. Rather than whack up a 500 page pdf they broke down proposals into bite sized chunks and crowdsourced it. More than 2,500 Icelanders took part. In a country of 250,000 that’s astounding. You can read how here.
Changing how council news is done. In a second post Adrian points out the folly of presenting press releases verbatim on a different medium. It needs reading if you care about local government and what it does. Read it here.
Birmingham City Council Civic dashboard. Critics say open data stands more effective in theory than in practice. This website starts to answer that and stands as a landmark.
Trust me I’m a follower. Scotland has some amazing people in the public sector. Carolyn Mitchell’s piece on the changing landscape is essential. As a former print journalist she has an eye for a line. That a senior police officer spoke of how he trusts his officers with a baton so why wouldn’t he trust them with a Twitter account is one of them.
Stop being irrelevant. Explains why I think comms people need to see their changing landscape and evolve to stay relevant. It drove my thinking throughout the year.
Localgovcamp. The event in Birmingham in June brought together creative thinking, ideas and inspiration. The posterous here captures blogs that emerged from it.
Brewcamp. I’m proud to be involved in this. It’s a platform for like minded people to come together, share ideas and drink tea. You can read it here.
@walsallwildlife on Twitter. That a countryside officer can attract 800 followers by tweeting about her day job of bats, ponds and newts astounds me. It shows what can happen when bright people share the sweets.
Joplin Facebook. Thousands of homes were destroyed and hundreds killed when a tornado levelled the town. It was residents who self-organised with sites like these. This shows the power of community sites.
Look how not on fire this is. When the shadow of rioting overshadowed Walsall in the summer rumour the town police station was burning was dismissed in real time by a police officer with a phone camera and a dry wit. PC Rich Stanley’s image had more than 2,000 hits.
The Walsall Flickr group. There are more than 9,000 images here from 130 members. This shows the power of community sites and the good things that can be achieved when local government can work with them as equals as we did on this town centre empty shop scheme.
The Dominic Campbell youtube. I love the idea of ‘militant optimists’ pressing for change in unlikely corners of local government. It strikes a chord. This is a good 15 minutes to invest.
Twicket. Because John Popham and others live streaming a village cricket match is a good idea and shows good tech is less about the tech and more about fun and community. The big picture stuff sorts itself out. Read it here.
The end of crisis communications. Jim Garrow is a US emergency planner. It’s called emergency management over there. He writes with foresight. Not least this piece on why real time social media is replacing the set piece emergency planning approach. I’m proud he talks about one of my projects but this wider piece crystalises why real time events work.
Comms2point0. I’ll blog about this more at a later date. But this is a place where comms people can share best practice and best ideas. It’s largely Darren Caveney’s idea. It’s brilliant and so is the photographic style guide.
Digital advent calender Number 1. Many say the media is dying. David Higgerson, of Trinity Mirror, proves that there is a home for good journalism on the web. His collection of writing is a directory of excellent tools of gems.
Digital advent calender number 2. Steph Gray steers Helpful Technology and helps people understand that technology is an opportunity not a minefield. He is that rare thing. A geek who can communicate with non-geek by speaking human. His advent calender will be pulled out and consulted far into 2012 like a Playfair Cricket annual is to a summer game enthusiast sat on the boundary at Worcester.