some learning for comms people from scotgovcamp

Scotgovcamp was an unconference that drew people together from in and around local government. Ideas were shared. Here's what one comms person took from it.

by Lorraine Spalding

As a traditional comms person, the pace of developments in digital and social media have at times left me playing catch up (or at least feeling as though I’m playing catch up)  – an observer, rather than a participant. 

I dipped a toe in the water of ScotGovCamp 2011 via Twitter and connected remotely with IslandGovCamp 2012 and so ‘in person’ participation at ScotGovCamp 2013 simply seemed right so that I could be part of the change. 

The full event is summed up brilliantly by @marcommskenny here

In this blog I will focus on the session I facilitated and reflect on my learning as a result of the discussions. 

Partnership working and social media

When I pitched this idea I was thinking we would talk about social media tools and online platforms - which ones, how they work, what they can do to support partnership working.  In reality the discussion focussed more on creating the right environment for using digital channels as part of a strategic and integrated approach to communication. 

We heard a fabulous example of using digital comms in a targeted and strategic way from  @KirstenUrquhart from Young Scot and this exemplar highlighted for me the importance of a purposeful approach and knowing your audience when using digital platforms.

We talked about establishing visible advocates, creating digital leaders, unpicking the practical barriers (firewalls, accessibility, permissions).  We discussed levers to enabling digital participation (commissioning, co-production, efficiencies ).  We covered leadership and how leaders should lead by example (see @louisemac), the benefits of reverse mentoring, the importance of education, coaching and sharing good practice.

However the discussion that had the biggest impact on me - and it was covered in more detail in a session led by @danslee - was about trust.  Trust in ourselves, trust in each other and in the application of digital tools as an integral component of effective communication strategies.  My challenge – and I suspect this is a challenge for other managers too - is to see digital as core to business as usual (which I do really).  Digital and social media are all about content; content builds interest, communities and relationships – and this builds trust.  

360 degree culture

Our challenge is to make all of this real in meaningful and productive ways – to normalise the use of social media as a legitimate workplace tool, to enable staff to have a voice and provide them with development opportunities via digital platforms, to grow with our colleagues as part of a 360 degree culture. 

The work places of tomorrow will function in very different ways to the workplaces of today, we will operate as partners and collaborators both on and offline and communicate with those who use our services in ways unimaginable just a few years ago.  Empowering staff to think and act digitally, sharing and transferring knowledge and expertise will result in a new blueprint for job descriptions and new ways of approaching leadership.     

These are the overarching themes arising out of our discussion session: Leadership, Levers, Partnership, Thinking Digitally, Education, Making Change Happen, and Change is Here.

Call to action

It would be great if these themes could be shared and considered more widely using a range of channels and approaches to shift thinking and practice, stimulate action and create a new narrative around digital.  For me that narrative is all about mainstreaming and normalising digital and social media, not just at GovCamps but across our workplaces – to join up conversations.  I guess my call to action goes something like this: how can I make digital relevant, meaningful, accessible and doable in a work context.  Happy to collaborate !

Lorraine Spalding is managing director of Ossian Communications.

Picture credit.