It's tricky. There's potholes in the ground. People are complaining. But how do you tell people what you are doing? Isn't it making a boring subject interesting? Sometimes creative thinking is needed.
Last week we released our video, "At Work in Highways", starring our Highways Manager, Jon Fraser, clad in his tuxedo and singing his own pothole-centric version of Frank Sinatra's My Way.
Our first foray into using videos as communications devices in this way was inspired by Torfaen County Borough Council in Wales, who's singing Elvis informed residents and businesses about gritting and the maintenance of roads during the winter season. Potholes are a regular concern for residents in Worcestershire, so we wanted to follow Torfaen's example and try out a video which lets people know how to go about reporting them in an engaging and memorable way. The video follows Jon as he shows how to report a pothole, and what happens next as a result of the report.
We've received some inevitable criticism as the result of creating this video. People are concerned that it is a waste of their tax money, a waste of council staff time, and that we are more concerned with making videos than fixing the still existent potholes. Luckily we've been able to address the issue of money as it was made fairly cheaply by a local film company, and was funded by our contractor rather than our Highways budget.
The video didn't take long to make either, and from our perspective in the comms team, the time spent making it was time very well spent. It has raised morale for staff across the council, not just in the Highways team, which is increasingly hard in the current climate. For every concern raised by a commenter or tweeter, we've had several highly positive responses. People have been finding the video funny and useful, which is exactly why we made it. Even those who did not like the video are still better informed about potholes than they were before the watched it. We've been able to raise awareness on potholes in a way that we haven't been able to do nearly as effectively through other channels, even if we have also opened ourselves up to criticism by doing so.
In fact this is part of our goals in our drive to increase our use of new and digital media in innovative ways as part of our communications strategy. Social Media is nothing if not a forum for instantaneous and responsive discussion, and we couldn't (and wouldn't want to!) micro-manage everything that was said about us in that sphere. Jon Fraser has said that a lot of the feedback he has received shows an appreciation of the Council showing its human side. This has been our aim in creating this video; we want to communicate with people in new ways which capture their interest and get them to engage with us without the distance traditional comms can create. We feel we've been able to achieve this with "At Work in Highways", and we want to carry on doing it. We want to generate the conversation and be part of it.
Watch the video: http://youtu.be/9adUVUogc8E
Sophie O'Neill is marketing and business development officer at Worcestershire County Council.