Ben Lowndes #viewsoncomms

A perspective on PR, development and life in the South West

Category Archives: Social media

The anti-social media election: digital can do much more for parties

“Fighting a word of mouth campaign and having conversations is absolutely what political parties should be doing. But they have to be genuine conversations which means ditching the antiquated simplistic messaging formulas. Slavishly repeating exactly the same phrase over and over again just turns people off and makes them tune out. You can continually repeat the idea behind the message, but only if you constantly adapt it to the circumstances and use your own words.”

Stuart Bruce blogging about election campaigns in January 2015

Labour's campaign poster on the NHS

Depressingly familiar: campaign scare tactics made noise but didn’t cut through

It’s taken me until now to write about the election.

After months of conversations about preparing for another hung parliament, or even a minority government and second election later this year, I was massively surprised by the result. I’m still in shock about the outcome and can’t begin to explain it; the Westminster crew will doubtless spend the next six months pouring over every detail in its search for answers.

One aspect of the election I can offer a view on relates to my experience of the campaign over the past few weeks. There wasn’t any direct contact with my family, even though we live in one of the most marginal seats in the South West – where former MP Tessa Munt won the seat of Wells in 2010 by around 800 votes. This was a race with just two horses, with a 1% swing to the Conservatives enough to unseat the incumbent Liberal Democrat MP.

Save for a few drab leaflets through our door, nobody came to our street to talk to us or our neighbours. It may not have made a difference to the result, such was the scale of Tessa’s defeat. But the quality of direct campaigning was a depressing feature of the election for me.

I’ve read lots recently about the extent to which this was the ‘social media election’, with digital campaigning techniques spawning a ‘new era’ of engagement and parties reaching out to people. It was claimed that whoever won the social media campaign would win the keys to Number 10, which has been put into context by Stephen Waddington this week. I’d go further than those who’ve said the social media campaigning has been depressing and one-dimensional. While there was much to enjoy and fascinate, the main party campaigns were largely anti-social and a turn off.

A bit harsh? Read Stuart’s blog piece from January about why campaigning has to change and ask whether it really did.

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Purdah principles for modern comms

It’s that time of year when public sector comms practitioners must carefully consider all activity to ensure that they are not seen to compromise their neutrality or favour any political group as the local and European elections approach.

This will be the last ‘purdah’ period before the Scottish referendum in September and next year’s general election, when we can rightly expect to see stringent guidelines which will affect promotional activity, speaking engagements, events, political visits and, in some cases, even business decisions.

I’ve blogged about purdah before and have become used to managing communications around this time. The guidelines are looked at in time for every election and I was interested to read this blog post from former local government comms pro Dan Slee who provides some pointers around social media. Should give food for thought for those who manage Twitter, Facebook and other accounts, to go with the official guidance that is issued.

@SouthWestUK drums up support for business on Twitter

I was fascinated to read South West CIPR chair Sarah Pinch’s recent blog post about a campaign which has started since the terrible weather we’ve endured propelled the South West into the headlines.

Sarah is calling for support for a Twitter campaign started by Maureen McAllister using the hashtag #openforbusiness to highlight the fact that life is continuing here, despite the deluge.

It has generated traction with people, businesses and media organisations from across the South West using it to remind people that the region is not completely cut off by the elements. I had a look at some results generated by up to 2,000 tweets on the topic using the tool Tweetbinder, which can be used analyse hashtags used in campaigns. Have a look at the dashboard and some of the stats, which includes some data on reach, influence and original tweets and content (as opposed to retweets and ‘noise’).

Here’s another blog post from another comms professional who has helped the campaign recently. Good to see people taking some positive steps to support the South West. I’ll be offering my support to see if it can make a difference.

Links I like 13.10.29

Three Ways To Get Cool Stuff Done Quickly At Work – Paul Taylor blog
Ever wondered how you’re going to get ‘that idea’ off the ground, when obstacles litter the path to its progress? It’s the sort of thing Bromford‘s Paul Taylor and Monmouthshire County Council’s Helen Reynolds have touched on before, so it’s only right they’ve come together on this post which has generated good comments since it was first written. I particularly like the tactic of asking opponents of a decent proposal to develop a business case for not doing something to demonstrate the case against it. After all, if an idea is good enough to fly…
Follow these guys on Twitter: @PaulBromford and @HelReynolds.

Media say old habits remain with ‘new’ PR

It’s beyond doubt that PR has changed massively, and continues to do so, thanks to the opportunities created by digital communications and the diversification of traditional media.

CIPR president-elect Stephen Waddington asked a room full of comms people at the South West Communicators’ Conference in Bristol recently how many had bought a newspaper that morning, and only one confirmed that they had. It’s possible that some people in the room were too busy on their tablets or smart phones to realise he was asking them a question. But he had made the key point; that the media is changing rapidly and communicators must respond to this. Many operators in the South West are rising to this challenge with some great work, as Bristol agency Spirit demonstrated with its support for the Gromit Unleashed campaign in the city.

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Traffic tweets make the news

I was one of a group of commuters who took to Twitter after being held up in traffic caused by a survey on the way into Bristol this week. I set off early yesterday to start a busy week and hit an hour-long crawl coming off Wells Road as drivers were ushered onto the roadside and asked to complete a census.

I was late, and not happy, and my tweet said as much.

I wasn’t the only one to do this, as the Western Daily Press and Bristol Post reported today.

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Knowledge Hub no more

More than two years after I blogged about the Communities of Practice online networking platform, people are expressing their disappointment that its successor the Knowledge Hub is likely to be closed down.

Dan Slee’s post yesterday is one of a growing number from over the last few weeks (I’ve left a comment under his post, so won’t repeat it here). If you have something to add to the debate, check out the latest and have a say.

Links I like 13.06.03

“Don’t be a dick” – the golden rule of news website comment threads – currybetdotnet
I’ve been researching the many different types of social media guidelines out there recently and have found they vary in length, tone and the extent to which colleagues are encouraged to get involved (‘do’ or ‘don’t’). A lot of what’s said however can be boiled down to Martin Bellam’s ‘golden rule’ which I came across today. I won’t be using this in any professional guidelines, but the sentiment is bang on and worth sharing here.

‘Forgive me, for I have sinned’ – A Shiny World
Civil servant Louise Kidney blogs about using social media without compromising her neutrality. As she points out, it’s a balancing act we manage without concern in just about every other part of our professional lives – but one which raises questions when social media is involved.

Can housing bridge the digital divide?

I got an insight today into the role the affordable housing sector could play in getting more people online, which is one of the aims set out in the Government’s recently launched digital strategy.

I was with comms colleagues who work for providers across the South West, talking about how digital media can be used to build stronger relationships with key stakeholders, make transactions more efficient and cost effective and convey messages to a wider, more significant audience. More than anything, social media can be used to achieve the ‘gold standard’ of two-way communications, where organisations listen and respond to what they are hearing in a way that satisfies their audiences, and ultimately supports their business.

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People aren’t grieving when retweeting celebrity comments

I’ve been reading about something called Celebrity Death Twitter Harvest, or the tendency for people to express collective sadness on social media when someone famous dies.

The recent death of Dad’s Army star Clive Dunn led The Guardian to ask today why celebs (or anyone who tweets) mark the passing of someone famous with such a tribute. Well, it contributes to the conversation taking place in the Twittersphere for a start. And it’s easier than buying flowers.

I’ve always thought some of the tweets seem insincere, but it doesn’t stop me from doing it to acknowledge the death of someone who has made an impact on my life. And doesn’t this go with the territory?

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