Tag Archives: local authorities

Can TV help prove councils are more than just bins?

A few weeks ago I was really interested to read that Wigan Council had agreed to be featured in the next series of the BBC’s Call the Council series, a fly on the wall documentary going ‘behind the scenes’ at a local authority.

Obviously I’m going to be particularly interested in this, as I work for a (different) local authority, and I actually live within the area covered by Wigan Council.

I also have some ideas of the conversations and considerations that will have gone on behind the scenes in deciding to take part in the programme.

This morning I was reading a piece on the Guardian online by Donna Hall, Chief Exec of Wigan Council, in which she defends this decision after some apparent criticism of them for doing so.

You can read the full piece here – and I recommend you do so.

Of course I had a wry smile when I read the bit about the last strike action, and the hundreds of social media messages of complaint, the common theme being “when am I going to get a refund on my council tax” – I’m sure anyone managing local Government social media accounts is familiar with that one!

But I think Ms Hall’s article really puts across well why they have agreed to do this – so that people will hopefully understand the breadth of services your local authority provides. Many of us are lucky enough not to need many of them – but if you did need them, believe me, you’d notice if they weren’t around.

In this time of cuts and budget pressures on local authorities they need to make sure their voice is heard more than ever. Hopefully programmes like Call the Council will play a part in doing that – and we as communicators need to keep playing our role.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished programme, and well done to Wigan for being the ones to put themselves under the spotlight, hopefully for the benefit of local authorities up and down the country.

Not sure it’ll stop the Facebook ‘haters’, though!

The true ‘value’ of social media marketing

I was reading this post by Neville Hobson: ‘Why the C-suite don’t ‘get’ social media marketing – and how to change that’ the other day and it got me thinking.

It’s quite amazing to me that some people don’t want to accept that social media has changed the world, like it or not. People’s expectations of how companies will communicate with them have changed. Many people I know would be reluctant to use the services of a company which doesn’t have a website – and I think that this will increasingly apply to companies who have no social media presence.

As Neville Hobson says in his post, the best way to get the ‘powers that be’ to understand the value of social media is to get them on there themselves. Let them see for themselves the professional value that being on Twitter or LinkedIn can provide – as a way of networking, information gathering, profile raising, building trust. Once they understand that social media is not all about Justin Bieber and pictures of what you had for dinner, you will have their interest. Once they see how the companies and individuals they admire are using social media, they’ll start to want that for themselves and their company too.

As communications people, we have a duty to help the less social media savvy members of our organisation understand the value of social media. We flag up complaints, possible issues or negative feedback that people post about our organisation on social media. But are we as good at showcasing the positive interactions? You can understand why somebody only seeing the negative side of the picture would wonder: “why are we doing this?”

In the world of Local Government comms, we know, that when we answer a person’s question quickly, efficiently, and actually get their problem sorted out, they’re usually pleased. They’re happy that, with one tweet, they’ve managed to get their bin emptied, flytipping removed, streetlight fixed, whatever. Even the most frequent posters of complaints or issues on to a council’s social media accounts are only looking to have those issues dealt with, and when they are, usually there’ll be a “thanks”. Actually what they’re doing is being an active, engaged citizen, who cares about the place they live and likes to know that they only have to post a quick comment on Facebook, or a tweet, and that information will be passed on and dealt with. That’s pretty brilliant in anyone’s book.

Local authorities are not so worried about monetary ROI as the CEOs in Neville Hobson’s post. But of course time is precious, and everyone in the organisation wants to be sure that effort and resources are not wasted on anything which doesn’t demonstrate a true “value” of some sort.

So it’s important that when good things happen on social media, we’re sharing that with the people at the top, as well the less positive things. If we can get more of those positive examples noticed, that slightly intangible “value” of social media will start to be recognised more. It is about conversations, building relationships, and expanding customer service online into the places where our residents already are.

I’m sure there are far fewer social media sceptics at the top of organisations than there used to be – and comms has a vital role to play in helping the uninitiated understand what they’re missing out on. As for reputational risk – the risk of not using social media far outweighs the risk of doing so – it’s what your customers and stakeholders now expect of you.

It will soon be impossible to ignore the expectations of social media – if it isn’t already.