Old habits die hard

After the dust has settled on the council elections, one of my first trips out of the office was to the BBC Essex studios in Chelmsford to pick the bones out the result here with the station editor.

My Leader, sitting alongside me, was still very much in doorstep campaign mode. There is still a general election to fight, after all.

One of the issues which came up time and again in Essex was the profile of local candidates, and the strong sense that if people hadn’t had a leaflet through the door, their local candidate and their party hadn’t engaged with them.

Large chunks of Essex are rural and you can’t blame parties with limited resources for focussing their efforts and resources on the division they stand a chance or winning or were fighting to retain - meaning, of course, some residents miss out on doorstep contact with candidates.

But I did wonder if, yet again, this offers a bit of warning against a wholesale shift to digital communication.

Posted on 18th May 2017

‘Man fills pothole’ – that’s not news!

Everyone wants local news. But how local is local, and what counts as news?

In Oxfordshire, we have been researching community information channels. We have found over 600 and still counting.

Let’s assume that coverage was evenly distributed, which it’s not. For a population north of 650,000 that would mean an average potential audience of about 1000 people. So we’re definitely talking local.

These community news sources range from official parish newsletters to a local enthusiast running a Facebook page for their village. Both they want very localised information relevant to their area.

They aren’t interested in safeguarding policy, but firefighters testing electric blankets in their area turns out to be pretty interesting - judged by the digital currency of shares and likes.

Posted on 17th May 2017

Always send your bill at the height of your Appreciation Curve

Wise words from a lawyer friend of mine, noting that fees can be high but the money spent can feel more like a sound investment when you’ve just won in court.

The thought came to mind when reflecting on working with politicians, mainly council leaders, for more than two decades – and on lessons I could share with colleagues keen to understand the challenges, opportunities and warning signs.

Yes, there can be an Appreciation Curve. And yes, there is likely to come a time when you will outlive your usefulness. The key is to recognise when that day has come, not to take it personally (that can be hard as rejection does hurt) and to go quietly, taking confidences to the grave.

Posted on 28th April 2017

Making a Real Change

Asking people to give to charity rather than to on-street beggars is without doubt a difficult message for a local authority.

Social media storms, a flurry of calls to the press office and swift u-turns have often followed the launch of new campaigns on this subject.

Our aim was a simple one – how can our message help to make a Real Change to people’s lives. How could we support the most vulnerable in our society, while addressing some of our unique challenges in Westminster?

Posted on 24th April 2017

Say yes (4 comments)

Write a blog once or twice a year they said. That sounds easy I replied. No problem.

But there is so much good stuff out there and so much expert opinion that it’s hard to cut through the noise sometimes and to think of a subject that has not already been covered to be honest.

As part of a small team with some work to do to improve the way we do things corporately, it is also pretty easy to feel a little inadequate sometimes as you read that dreaded email that says; “Please see attached poster we have already had designed. Please can you send out a media release and send a tweet on this please….?”

So I decided to look at it from a different angle and write something for the press officers out there (that do actually still exist believe it or not!), for the one man bands, and for the small Media and Comms teams that still need to get their Leader on the front page of the local weekly!

Posted on 4th April 2017

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