CommsCamp15 – is Facebook dead?

Facebook thumbs-up icon with meh written next to itThis session was led by David Worsell who you can find on Twitter @dworsell with some input from me asking how can we reach younger people as their social media use diversifies?

  • Is Facebook dead? No, but it’s no longer all-pervasive and, like all channels, its effectiveness depends on the type of audience you are trying to reach
  • Facebook’s advertising capabilities had been used by a range of people in the room who found it useful for targeting demographically and geographically – much more targetable than the classic ‘ad on the side of a bus’
  • according to one delegate, one in seven people use adblockers online, but adblocks don’t apply to Facebook
  • interesting facts and figures about media usage in the Ofcoms’s Adults’ media use and attitudes Report 2015 (as linked to by Neil Spencer include that across all age groups 66% of internet users use social media weekly, rising to 90% in the 16 to 24 years old age group
  • many felt that they originally signed up for a community network and that more was being pushed into their feed from corporate pages and through advertising, the community feel has gone although groups – geographical or interest-based – have increased in popularity
  • social media channels give different experiences and the diversification amongst them is fragmenting audiences
  • the profile of Facebook users seems to have shifted from early adopters to older people, as covered in this blog from the Government Digital Service (GDS) about social media trends in 2015
  • what you post on Facebook of course has an effect on who sees, likes, comments and shares on it – one council’s most popular post was a lost dog photo
  • Streetlife was cited as a local postcode-based social network which one delegate in healthcare had dipped their toe into, it may be that councils and other governmental organisations may be able to access wider areas: find out how Suffolk County Council have trialled using it

Where are all the young people?

  • the GDS social media trends blog post cited earlier, states: “Most importantly for Facebook it is the teen market who appear to be leaving the platform completely, or accessing it less. This could potentially have a snowball effect; if one teen stops using Facebook, soon their friends could follow to new platforms to maintain their communication.”
  • the feeling was that teenagers want to go where adults aren’t, and it doesn’t necessarily follow that organisations trying to reach young people will be welcome in these new spaces
  • Ofcom’s Children’s media lives report following eighteen 8 to 15 year olds was published in June 2015
    • it states: “Most of the children with Facebook accounts claimed not to be using them, and younger children showed minimal interest in joining the network.”
    • one 14 year old explains: “I don’t actually use Facebook any more because, I don’t know, no one’s really on it. I have Facebook Messenger because you can have a massive group all talking to each other but without actually going on Facebook.”
    • Facebook and Twitter were seen as “part of the adult world”, “slightly outdated” and “not targeted at younger people”
    • the report goes on to say that Instagram and Snapchat are popular with young people, the latter partly because of its perceived privacy
    • YouTube is the site most go to for both videos and searching, and vloggers are popular across the age range
  • James Cattell pointed people to a teenager’s view on social media, one view, but food for thought

Photo: Facebook Meh Button by Sam Michel via Flickr


CommsCamp15 – media law

The Defamation Act 2013: Complete and Unabridged

This session was led by David Banks who you can find on Twitter @DBanksy

  • Changes to libel law came in on 1 January 2014 via the Defamation Act 2013
  • 12-month time limit to start legal action for libel if it appeared in print or online – used to be no time limit for online, this has now been brought into line with print
  • libel claimants have to show that their reputation has been seriously harmed
  • if you’ve got something wrong, apologise early and remove or correct defamatory content
  • if a media or other outlet has got something wrong about you, you may be able to ask that a correction/apology is prominently displayed, The Times recently put a correction on their front page
  • apologies and corrections are legally considered to undo any harm caused. This can be significant, as was seen in the Sunday Mirror and Midland Heart Housing Association ‘Benefits Street’ case
  • if you’re issuing press releases or similar about prosecutions, stick to the facts of the case and avoid comment on the character or behaviour of the person who’s been prosecuted
  • if frontline workers are attacked they can take out a personal libel case, councils and other public sector organisations are becoming increasingly politically wary of taking action on individuals’ behalf. In 2012 The Guardian questioned if councils should be doing this 
  • newspapers and other publishers are not immediately liable for unmoderated comments under their articles, however they do become liable if they’re notified of an issue and don’t do something about it
  • the comments function on Facebook pages cannot be turned off or moderated, but comments can be hidden or deleted. Facebook would be liable for comments made if they were notified of libellous content and they didn’t take any action
  • a council cannot sue for libel, as reported by The Independent following an action brought by Derbyshire County Council against The Times and others, “because any governmental body should be open to uninhibited public criticism and to allow such actions would place an undesirable fetter on freedom of speech.”
  • What is the definition of a ‘publisher’? If you have more than two people publishing news-related content, you may be defined as a publisher and be sued for libel as outlined in the Crime and Courts Act 2013. Exceptions include public bodies and charities publishing “news-related material in connection with the carrying out of its functions.” and multi-author blogs that come under “microbusiness” definitions
  • From 3 November 2015, publishers that are not part of a charter-approved regulator, and are sued for libel or harassment, may end up bearing both their and the claimant’s costs (again, as outlined in the Crime and Courts Act 2013)
  • The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) which replaced the Press Complaints Commission post-Leveson inquiry, will not be charter-approved, but another regulator – IMPRESS – aims to be

Photo: The Defamation Act 2013: Complete and Unabridged by RobertSharp via Flickr

Does local government PR need some PR?

Three sewing dummiesA few years ago I went to a PR student speed dating event. I was one of about 20 practitioners speaking to undergraduates about the sectors we worked in and what our working days were like.

Students from two colleges spoke to each of us in turn for five minutes. The group was mainly women – two thirds of practitioners are according to the CIPR’s State of the PR profession survey –  and, when I asked which sector they were thinking of going into, a high proportion said: “fashion PR”. As far as I can remember, not one mentioned any kind of public sector PR.

I’ve pondered for a long time about why this might be.  When you’re in local government, you realise just how fast-paced and varied public relations is. No day is the same as the next. The media want to and will engage with you. You’re dealing with a range of services, specialists and communities. Politics – local and national – is fascinating. You can help make a real difference to people’s lives. There are some remarkable things going on, especially with digital, and it’s a sector where people want to share and do.

I know that local government PR isn’t all rosy, that the nature of some of our services mean that when things go wrong they go seriously and life-threateningly wrong. That you generally have a budget of nil to work with and need to counter general negativity towards councils; but I do believe that the pros outweigh the cons.

If I know this, and others in similar jobs know it too, why didn’t these students know? Why hadn’t we told them? Why did their eyes invariably glaze over when I told them where I worked?

I can take a stab that plenty of 18-21 year olds probably aren’t that engaged with councils and neither know nor care what we do – I know I didn’t . Perhaps we’re guilty of not offering enough entry-level positions like Solihull Council’s graduate internship. If we gave more people their first break, we might be more visible on career radar.

And while I understand that fashion PR probably sounds a lot more glamorous than working at a town hall – where it’s more brew than Bolly – it seemed a crying shame that these students as a whole were missing the vast potential of exciting jobs they could be taking on. Perhaps our branch of PR needs some PR.

Photo: SewingMachine-0281 by University of Derby Teaching & Learning via Flickr

Open source mapping

A map of South Cambridgeshire District Council

© OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA

This was the second of three topics at #Brewcamp on 6 October led by Stu Lester – @stu_lester and My Brain Dump

Stu spoke about open source mapping (OSM) – a completely new topic for me – and the huge potential it offers to councils and communities to collaborate on local mapping. It could also save local government huge amounts of  money – always a winner in these straitened times.

OSM can apparently be just as good, if not better, than paid-for information. And if it’s good enough for the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) ….. The UNEP is working with Vizzulaity on mapping methane info around the world. They take feeds from Wikipedia and link with Flickr and Youtube. Using Wikipedia as a Content Management System, UNEP pushes out data that other people can see and use.

Humanitarian relief has also used OSM. After the earthquake in Haiti, Open Street Map used aerial photography from Yahoo to map the country and help direct aid and other activity.

Current GIS products are often hard to use for non-experts. It’s easier for councils and residents to use OSM. New York City identified potential areas for hurricane issues earlier this year and produced PDFs for locals to download. Bloomberg announced them and the NYC site promptly crashed. The PDFs were instead posted to Tumblr – easy access and a social media win.

Open source has fostered a sense of community. Stu cited that 15 to 20 people tend to work on systems based around the world, meaning there’s potentially 24/7 responsive IT support. If users come across functionality that would be handy it can be suggested and perhaps incorporated. It may be free, or could need a small amount of seed funding. Cheap bug ransoms can also help to iron out creases. It’s a real collaboration.

And just because OSM is free, doesn’t mean it isn’t sound. The same goes for other online tools and sites. The website that kept coming up was Open Street Map – a free, editable map of the whole world. Yes, the whole world. Wow.

Local uses for OSM include:

  • taking a screenshot of a map and adding it to your blog. As long as correct credit given, it can be used freely. Doesn’t matter if you’re an indivdual or an organisation
  • crowdsourcing to create information quickly and accurately – accessible public toilets – The Great British Public Toilet Map – and places of faith both examples cited – local government releases an area map and people/groups add their own details. It’s free, useful and the data is then available for everyone else to reuse
  • while people can and will abuse open source maps, others will correct it. If it’s a critical system, you can download a local copy and now and again fetch an update
  • The University of Nottingham is studying OSM to assess if it is better quality than other mapping. Open Street Map apparently has more correct roads that Ordnance Survey
  • Surrey Heath Borough Council is using Open Street Map data for tourist information
  • Open Street Map has even been used by artists to create new work.

This is an area that is bound to become more prominent in local government. It’s very exciting and has the potential to create great working relationships between councils and our communities, and produce really useful information for people who live in, work in or visit our areas.

Links – from @stu_lester and as tweeted by @siwhitehouse, @pigsonthewing and @mappamercia
Stamen Design – the poster boys of the GIS world (apparently!) – push all their tools out as open source
Indigo Trust – great example of user-generated content on OSM helping a community in Kenya
Open Street Map – provides old, out-of-copyright Ordnance Survey maps
Mapquest – personalise, save and share maps
Quantum GIS – free, open source geographic information system
Creative Commons: Map image of South Cambridgeshire District Council downloaded from Open Street Map. It was my first visit to the site and I found it  really easy to locate and download the image. Give it a go!

Connecting with councils

Statue of a girl holding her hands to her earsThis was the first of three topics at #Brewcamp on 6 October, led by Nicky Getgood – @getgood plus Getgood Guide and Digbeth is Good

Nicky told us about her work with the Digbeth Residents’ Association and the frustrations involved in trying to engage with her local council. Lessons were:

  • local groups want a relationship with their council
  • groups should be included in big consultation projects, not left to find out about events and information by accident
  • Plain English information is vital if you want good feedback
  • if you advertise an event, make sure it goes ahead or the cancellation is well publicised – one roadshow event didn’t go ahead due to a photoshoot being scheduled instead. Local people didn’t know, went along and felt stood-up
  • press offices can’t afford to ignore bloggers and local interest groups – after being fobbed off a number of times, Nicky resorted to an FOI request. Bloggers have niche and often important audiences, engage with them
  • Councillors should reply to emails – in one case, of three councillors being contacted only one replied and that was to forward the email to a council officer. Who didn’t reply
  • Councils should develop ways for local groups to access funding, signposting and support for grassroots ideas and projects – frustrating for people to be constantly knocked-back
  • when community posts are deleted or left unfilled, groups who have worked with the officers in those posts need to be informed and given new contacts where possible.

In contrast, the Association’s relationship with the Police is good. Representatives tend to go to meetings and lines of communication are open. Shows it can be done.

Chat after Nicky’s talk centred on positive ways that local groups can try to engage with their Council. Requesting a meeting with the Mayor/Chairman, approaching officers and Councillors through different channels and doing everything with a positive attitude were all cited.

Creative commons: What’s on your mind? by Carol VanHook on Flickr


Full coffee cup with a heart shaped into the top of the drinkI went to #Brewcamp in Birmingham yesterday (6 October). It was cracking.

I’ve been reading about the #Teacamp movement on Twitter and online for a while now, and wanted to see for myself just how it works.

About 15 local gov types pitched up in their own time to share ideas and listen to three interesting speakers. Add hot coffee and what’s not to like?

We heard from Nicky Getgood about issues her residents’ association has faced in trying to connect with the council, Stu Lester about open source mapping and the potential it has to save money and build community ties, and from Si Whitehouse about the freshly-launched Birmingham Civic Dashboard.

It was a eclectic mix of subjects but they were all relevant and thought-provoking in different ways. Everyone was passionate about their subject, making each talk really grab you. I gained more from two hours sitting in a coffee shop than I reckon I would in many an expensive training session (of which there seem to be so many for social media).

West Midlands public services are using social media in positive and open ways and have organised lots of ways of getting together to do and share. It’s hugely impressive and something that other areas can learn a lot from.

A huge thank you to Dan Slee and everyone else for making me feel so welcome and giving me lots of food for thought. Hopefully see you all again in the future!

Creative commons: Cafe D’atre Latte Art Cropped by I Need Coffee / Coffee Lover on Flickr

Keeping up with our customers

Two telephone operators wearing headsets

Changing to meet customer needs?

Thanks to a great lunchtime seminar programme at my Council, I get the chance to listen to some fascinating speakers. This week may have been the most interesting yet.

Dr Nicola Millard, Customer Experience Futurologist from BT isn’t someone you want to listen to you if you’re complacent about how you deal with your customers. These are my notes from her presentation “Clouds, Crowds and Autonomous Communities”:

Changing customers

– organisations are built to last rather than change – but our customers and employees are changing faster than those organisations.

– what’s holding us back is culture rather than technology – we need to embrace new technology because an increasing number of our customers have and will.

– customers are now using multiple channels to contact us – often at the same time. They are also talking to each other, not us. They don’t necessarily trust us

Your website

– we’ve reached a critical mass of internet users – they have access to more information than ever before but they have no more time or energy to process it

– people don’t go direct to council websites to look for information, they go to search engines which can pull up a lot of content, much of which is useless to them

– don’t direct customers to your website if the information they want isn’t on it – is your site truly built around your customers?

– customers want organisations – private and public sector – to make it easier for them to do business with us

– Councils are being compared with commercial businesses – not other councils. Our customers expect the same levels of service from us as they get from Amazon and John Lewis

– webchat can be much cheaper, instant and better tailored than email

phone shop advertising smartphonesThe impact of smartphones

– according to OFCOM, 52% of UK have smartphone access

– smartphones are turning the internet local – 52% of Google searches are now hyperlocal

– customers with the internet in the palm of their hand will self-serve to a certain extent, but are actually more likely to call a contact centre, and will have more complex queries

Looking wider than office-hours

– employ flexible and home-working practices. Office-hours-only isn’t what customers expect or want anymore

– workers in the cloud can help to address call spikes, cover antisocial hours and still get to work even when snow is drifting over their front door

Multichannel contact

– contact centre teams – and all council officers – have an increasingly complex job to do, with more channels to monitor and use than ever before. Customers have changed and the traditional contact model is no longer applicable

– staff need to embrace the need for different ‘voices’ across  channels and should identify which staff are better deployed on which channels

– need to have a networked team of experts across the organisation who can respond to queries – the ‘one council’ approach

YouTube Logo on a computer screenSocial media

– the majority of customers still use traditional methods to contact us, but social media is now a permanent part of the mix

– young people don’t use email to communicate – they use email accounts to sign up for FaceBook and other social media, that’s where you’ll find them

– you need to monitor online forums to hear what people are saying about you

– you cannot control the SM dancefloor, but you can go and dance

– who are your customers, where are they dancing and when is it appropriate to dance with them, rather than sway to the music on the sidelines?

– Youtube – what are your most frequent requests for information? Make it into a movie and it will come up in search listings, also reaches younger customers

– social media is very much a conversation, not a broadcast – forget this at your peril

– people are entitled to an opinion, but if they have a problem that you can help with, make that offer

– never forget that social media is totally transparent – never say anything that you wouldn’t be happy to see reproduced elsewhere

– social media channels need to be part of Business As Usual – no need to panic!

Dr Nicola J Millard blogs at and is on Twitter as @DocNicola

 Creative commons: Telephone exchange by Elgin County Archives; Android Smartphone Sale by ianfogg42 and YouTube logo by codenamecueball all on Flickr