haters gonna hate? can we get them on board?

This month local government posted a snapshot of what they were doing during 24-hours using the #ourday hashtag. Loads of good content got posted. But as with any campaign it attracted critics who just don't like the sector. So, how should we connect with them? Should we even try?

by Will Mapplebeck

Council wasters getting upset about hijacking of #ourday tag. Well stop tweeting and do the bastard job I pay you to do.

Maybe the private sector should spend a day on Twitter telling you how awesome they are. Oh, that’s right, they have work to do #ourday

The other week the Local Government Association held #ourday, a twitter campaign designed to highlight the diversity of what councils do.

It did its job, it highlighted the massive amount of great work that goes on in town halls, community centres and other council buildings across the country - but it also attracted a minority of negative tweets.

They mostly focused on the traditional bugbears of those who are not fans of local authorities, in fact any authority at all.

Tweets abounded of lazy, overpaid staff, bins that weren't collected, incomprehensible jargon, endless meetings, and silly job titles.

It's the kind of thing we're used to hearing, often recycling old myths or building on small examples of corporate silliness to label an entire sector.

Often the tweets had a political motivation, there are some on the right who still see local government of whatever colour as an assault on liberal values.

And there was also that old chestnut of the productivity gap between the private and public sectors.

So how about #Myday. Get up at 6.30. Stopped work at 12 midnight after chatting to customers. Take no break, Risk MY capital to build a business...

Regardless of the motivation, there are always going to be haters and as @danslee noted, they are always going to hate.

But I'm interested in how we get our messages across to those with a deep distrust of their local council. I don't think its enough to dismiss these people as cranks or impossible to reach.

I'm realistic enough to know that there is a deep anti-authoritarian streak in British political life. In many ways that's a good thing - it may explain why we're less prone to political extremes than other countries - but it does mean there will be a section of people who will always be deeply suspicious of those in charge.

I think we need to be realistic - engage where we can, rebut the myths and we shouldn't be afraid to have some 'robust' conversations with campaign groups and media outlets who have an agenda.

And I think we have to be open and honest about our weaknesses too. The kernel of a few of the criticisms - particularly around jargon and job titles, my pet hates - I'm sympathetic to.

I think that from time-to-time, some in our organisations are guilty of forgetting who pays the wages and can act as if they are in some kind of civic bubble.

Its important we don't forget about how every action we take will look to citizens, the people we are ultimately responsible to.

Too often it is communications who have to make the case for openness, it should be the default option for all council departments.

That's where we as communicators can be useful. we won't stop the haters hating, but we can do our bit to correct the myths and remind our organisations of how actions can be seen at grassroots level.

Will Mapplebeck is a senior communications advisor at Newcastle City Council. 

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