Listening and connecting with yourself as yourself online is a powerful way to connect, as one comms person shows.
by Sara Hamilton
At the time it didn't feel scary, or risky, just the Right Thing To Do. I was, after all, a human being, talking to another human being, albeit via social media. Actually though, I was a stranger, approaching a stranger, on behalf of a big bureaucratic organisation, possibly raising her expectations, as well as risking the reputation of my employer. Fortuitously, it appears that the risk was worth it.
As a precursor to my tale, let me say that I believe that comms for the public sector should be about local residents being proud of their local council, as in the quote in the title, but in reality how often is that actually the case?
I also believe that the role of comms, to be most effective, isn't just about messages and campaigns as an add on; it's about the whole approach, and using what customer insight we gain as part of our work to influence and shape policy and ways of working in local government for the better.
And that is, for once, what happened in this case. The title line, the quote, is from a blog by local resident, Sarah. Sarah heads-up a campaign to improve changing facilities in toilets. Specifically, for older children with disabilities that mean they are in nappies for longer.
I read about the campaign in a tweet from Sarah a few months ago, saying how she wanted to improve public toilets. "We have public toilets!" I thought. "I'll talk to the manager of those very loos, let him now about this, and maybe we can look at changing how public loos are designed." And do you know, that is exactly what we are doing. The tweet, and our 'listening' to it, led to Sarah meeting with us, her local council, and the public toilets we provide will soon have the facilities that the campaign is asking for.
And I have the sentence "I am so proud of my local council" to bask in.
My learning point from this, yes listen on social media, and yes, if you have weighed up the risks, "Don't be scared..." why not go ahead and join in those conversations, as it can lead to real results for the community.
Sara Hamilton is communications manager at New Forest District Council.
Picture credit: National Archief / Flickr