Trolls and threats: don’t blame social for nastiness

I’ve always enjoyed debate and place great importance on our freedom to challenge opinions we disagree with.

This can be tough, and I have become jaded lately by what I’ve seen and experienced on Twitter in relation to Syria. I stayed away from it for a couple of days last week because of the unpleasantness displayed towards people who expressed different views to opponents of the decision to start a bombing campaign.

Social media enables anyone to voice opinions, unchecked and unfiltered, to the wider world. On balance, this is a good thing. It’s make discourse more interesting and gives an airing to views which are too easily overlooked by the mainstream. If there was ever a time when politicians, media and civic institutions shaped public discourse, it feels distant today.

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If where you live matters, join the #WEbuildourfuture conversation

WEbuildourfuture images
(Created by JBP)

A big conversation is happening around Bristol that could shape local housing and transport for decades to come.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been working with colleagues to get ready for a major consultation which could map where thousands of new homes are built across the West of England over the next 20 years.

The phrase ‘West of England Joint Spatial Plan and Transport Study‘ won’t set pulses racing. But the issues it covers should interest anyone who has views about where they live, how they get to work or school or whether they will be able to keep a roof over the heads in future.

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PR lessons for English football after FIFA debacle

You don’t need to be a football fanatic (or a PR person) to see that the sport’s global governing body has been in the eye of a storm of late.

FIFA and its beleaguered President Sepp Blatter has adorned newspapers’ front and back pages, led the news bulletins and been the subject of an outpouring of online posts that have lasted for weeks.

In the UK and across Europe, the headlines have been overwhelmingly bad. Leading voices have wasted no time in putting the boot in after Blatter eventually announced his resignation in the face of mounting and sustained pressure.

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New era, same principles for engagement

I gave this presentation at JBP’s Bristol office on Monday night about how digital can be used to support engagement activity. The event was attended by professionals who work in planning, development and legal practice.

I was delighted that comms manager from East Devon Drew Aspinwall joined me to talk about activity that has taken place to support the development of the new community at Cranbrook. Listening to the conversation afterwards reinforced my view that Cranbook is out on its own in terms of the pace and scale of delivery and level of support it has locally. Partners can be proud of the community they’re helping to create.

My slides were put together using Haikudeck, which is great for clear and engaging content slides and easy to use if you know what you’re going to say. Like many tools, it seems to have its own quirky ways which can cause frustrations and I have struggled with sharing it and getting it to render properly in this blog which has added a couple of hours onto my day. I hope to get more up to speed with it soon!

My slides are below.

More detailed notes used with the slides can be found on Haikudeck.

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.