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« what the k-hub can do for comms people | Main | when a digital pioneer takes a giant leap... »

the view is everything

by Darren Caveney

I don't know about you but I think that one of the easiest (bad) habits to fall into as a comms person is that of jumping both feet first into the next project without taking adequate time out to 'think it through.'

Yes, we all know the theory and yes we all know the importance and yes when it really matters of course we think it through. But with busy workloads, greater demands and the need to pull comms rabbits out of problematic organisational hats it's extremely easy to underplay thinking and planning time. And worse still, it's easy not to ask the customer what they actually want.

And so this week, when I attended my first LGcommunications national executive meeting in Blackpool, I was asked to pull together a seminar on digital engagement I immediately began pulling together ideas and scribbling notes about the format and content of the event.

I've been involved in a few of these types of events these past 12 months and so I could (incorrectly) think that I have all of the answers.

So, I thought about it some more today and decided that actually it would be far more beneficial to ask folk what a seminar on digital engagement should include.

 So, here goes, I'm keen to get your views on...

- What would get you to a seminar on digital engagement?

- What would like to hear about and discuss?

- Who would you like to hear talk - which organisations inspire you?

- Who would you like to grill on their approach?

- Who has effectively mainstreamed social media into their key customer contact channels?

- Have we got digital engagement cracked in terms of emergency planning?

- What are the next challenges for us all to overcome?

- How far would you travel to get to such a seminar?

- What format do you prefer - powerpoint-led, unconference-style, or a mix of the two?

- and, do we need more or less of these seminars?

Answers not on a postcard, thanks.


p.s. The seminar is being held on 30 January at the brilliant new Manchester Metropolitan University campus.

Darren Caveney is co-creator of comms2point0 and vice chair of LGComms

photo by me






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Reader Comments (7)

An LGComms unconference would be a bit immense. But you'd need a bit of back-up from people who know what they are doing and have run / been to one before.

Perhaps the half WU house if the trad in the morning and tbd the afternoon idea.

July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDan Slee

Having been to a number of local gov seminars on digital engagement recently I think what we're crying out for is private sector speakers and examples. People are doing great things in public sector and there's lots to learn from, but we should be looking outside this too. Hearing the BBC speak at the conference was inspiring - further case studies from how radio 1 uses social media for example would be really interesting, in relation to their news agenda, events and general engagement of people. Going beyond this, proper private sector service org examples could also be made relevant, and consultants who work across both public and private could be even better.

July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterViki Harris

I'm with Dan on the half trad, half unconference day. And like the idea about hearing from Radio one/BBC. Also interested in using social media for crowdsourcing/innovative consultation. And people doing digital press offices really well. Birmingham/Midlands good location. Whatever, I'm sure you'll pull together something really useful. Looking forward to it!

July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFran Collingham

Thanks all for the feedback

Absolutely agree about the need to look further afield (and oversees) again, along with strong case studies which demonstrate clear customer benefits, to reinforce that these channels are important and not just the latest fad,

Will put my thinking cap on...



July 6, 2012 | Registered CommenterDarren Caveney

Just had to Google 'unconference'. Now I get it. Sorry, this may not be the kind of feedback you're looking for Dan, but in response to your first and last questions, I'm genuinely envious of fellow comms people in the public sector who are able to attend professional seminars, conferences, networking events and even externally provided training. God knows comms budgets are being squeezed enough, and training, events and other perceived nice-to-haves are usually the first to go. Of course, this may be wrongheaded and counter-productive, in that the knowledge we might gain could deliver us savings and smarter ways of working in the long-term. Yes, occasionally colleagues get to attend events like these and bring back useful nuggets of best practice and innovative thinking that they share with the team. But in the four years I have worked in local government the budget for such things has dwindled, while workload pressures have increased so that a day out of the office is a precious thing. Meanwhile, the number of comms conferences and seminars - particularly around social media - seems to have ballooned. For me, and no dounbt most people, the only readily available source of ideas, best practice and new thinking is online and the chances of getting out to seminars and the like is remote and rare. So, I would ask, how do you manage it? Do you self-fund? Do you have particularly open-minded budget holders? Or do you need to be the budget holder yourself, and convince senior management of the value of such developmental, knowledge-gathering opportunities for you as an individual, your team and your organisation? Apologies for the heavy note of world-weary cynicism - call it austerity fatigue.

July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike Carhart-Harris

Darren - sorry! I'm not having the best time of it on your comments board. Last time I misspelt my own name. Call myself a comms officer...

July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike Carhart-Harris

Hey Mike, hope you are well. Many aspects to the really good points you raise here.

I think that 'training budgets', as we used to recognise them, went several years ago. And many comms folk had the development tap switched off some time back too.

But we all know there lots of ways in which we can learn new stuff and this was part of the ethos behind the comms2point0 website - sharing best practiice, learning and mistakes for free with other comms folk.

But, yes, some things do still cost. It might be the cost of a train ticket to go and talk to an organisation elsewhere who has done good things. There are some great free events out there which attarct plenty of sponsorship to mean they can be free to attend - like #LocalGovCamp - and some events cost because there are costs involved in laying on an event. Comms budget holders do still have some decison making abilities in my experience and upskilling has never been more important or needed to my mind.

It's also possible to set up a free event in a coffee shop or pub where you can chat to local folk about the big issues of the day.

Of course I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know but I think it's important for us all to quickly grab learning opportunities when they do come along - it will make us better at our jobs and it is down to us to take control a little of our own destiny.

You are doing good things, which others would want to hear about, and there are loads of good, like-minded comms folk in your neck of the woods, Devon and Cornwall who would be up for this Im sure. comms2point0 would love to get down there and be involved in something like this too so maybe we could talk some more about this.

And if you ever fancy jumping on a train to Brum we'd love to share a cake, a coffee and some ideas with you.

best wishes


July 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDarren Caveney

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