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it's time to talk about email: great new guidance launched

If email isn’t part of your communications strategy then now is the time to factor it in. The Local Government Association have drawn-up some excellent guidance right here - and we've contributed.

by David Holdstock

Emails may have been around for a long time but this technology is seeing a revival among council communicators across the country. And it’s easy to see why. With budget pressures and demands on local services continuing to rise, communications budgets are being stretched – so savvy comms professionals are turning their hands to this cost-effective tool.

There’s a strong business case for using email: research from GovDelivery shows that email is a useful way to increase your online audience, reduce call volumes and increase online transactions. So if email isn’t currently part of your wider communications strategy, then it is definitely time to re-think this.

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snapchat: here today, gone tomorrow… but see you again soon

Wondering if and where Snapchat might fit into your comms mix? This great case study from a leading social media manager in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sheds a very helpful light on a platform you may not have yet used.

By Steven Hardy

Snapchat - some stats:

- Approximately 50% of users 18 or under

- Real-time images and videos that disappear once viewed

- Messages that only allow 37 characters of text

At first glance Snapchats vital statistics do not appear the ideal fit as tool to communicate the nuances of diplomacy but its relentless growth encouraged some further examination.

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another nail in the coffin

The public sector has seen huge budget cuts over the past five years with local government cut more than most. One communications head ponders on what the latest cuts mean for those in local government communications.

by Paul Morris

The Chancellor’s spending review hammered another nail in the coffin of local government. As one commentator predicted, several councils will go bust in the next year because there are no more buildings left to sell, services to close, savings to capture or staff to slash.

Our resilience has been stretched to breaking point; enough is enough, was the tone of his message.

This paints both a worrying and confusing picture for our residents, many of whom depend on their local council in one way or another.

As leisure centres, children’s centres, libraries, museums, day centres and other community essentials shrink their offer, or stop completely, where does that leave those people who rely upon them?

There was a time when we offered so many services it was recommended we produced ‘A-Z of services’ guides to help our citizens navigate through them. Now we face the opposite challenge. How do we explain what’s left?

Our challenge as communicators in the coming year is four-fold, in my view...

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crisis comms: it's about people not processes

People often argue about the definition of what's a crisis and what's an emergency. That's maybe missing the point. This post highlights the really important thing - how it affects people.

by Christine Townsend

Having been asked to be part of the judging panel for the UnAwards is a real honour for me. Seeing colleagues and fellow comms people work hard in the public sector is always heartening and I'm proud to count myself amongst their number.

The crisis comms category sits comfortably with me as it's where my experiences lie. For once, I want to be comfortable and not challenged - this is something I'm enjoying doing without running on adrenalin, squinting at a screen, getting wet whilst plastic tape flickers in the background and I'm trying desperately to get reception on my mobile. I've had sleep, I've eaten a meal that consists more of a soggy sandwich and countless donuts and I'm ready to go. 

However, this made me wonder what a crisis really is and seeing the entrants has done exactly the opposite of what I was looking forward to - challenge me. Or rather, challenge my perceptions of what a crisis is. 

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test me baby one more time

Planning, planning. In the end it all comes down to good planning whatever the size of your activity or campaign.

We asked one of Scotland's top comms pros to share some insight and lessons on the extensive planning activities which local government and partners undertake in Scotland.

By David Grindlay

Local government is very good at making plans.

Big, bold and usually in Times New Roman, they sit majestically on shelves in offices across Councils ready to be thrown on to a table at a moment’s notice.

A plan for every eventuality, every scenario and for every type of situation that can arise.

Yes, we have a plan. It looks great and there it is on display for everyone to look at.

But wait.

How does a plan become a reality and make an impact?

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40 UK stats you need if you work in comms in 2015

We know we live in a changing  landscape. Yet, every year out of the fog like a lighthouse beam comes a moment of clarity. That moment is the Ofcom communications market report. Here are some stats to know by heart. It’s 400-pages. We read it so you don’t have to.

By Dan Slee

Research, said astronaut Neil Armstrong, is creating new knowledge so how often do we really do that?

Alone on a sea of change it is easy to feel as though you are bobbing around on the water uncertain and very often alone. Sure, there’s snippets of information out there. Often it can be confusing and only casts light on a small corner.

All this is why as a communications person you need to spend time a few hours with the Ofcom communications market report 2015. I mean it. You do. It tells you far better than anything else the direction of travel in the UK. Once more, it is free.

A week or two back I sat down and read through it all.

It is shaping what I’m doing. It doesn’t have all the answers but it has many and it’s the starting point of everything that you need to do.

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twitter chat: doing better facebook 


Facebook. When you think you've cracked it the algorithm goes and changes. So we've gathered some pearls of wisdom ahead of a Twitter chat.

by Dan Slee

Every organisation needs to be aware of Facebook but very few do it well. So, we decided to stage a chat on Twitter about tackling it better and we asked a number of people to be on a panel to chip in.

Across the UK, more than 30 million people have Facebook accounts with the platform emerging as the most popular.

But how should an organisation use it? 

We believe that ideas are transferrable and inspiration in one sector can work elsewhere. So, we asked two people who run charity pages, two who use local government and one fire service to be a panel for the Twitter chat. Here are some of their pearls of wisdom to get the ball rolling.

The Twitter chat itself will take place on the hashtag #BetterFB15 at 12.30pm on Monday November 23. Pop by and chip in.

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let them tweet cake: why its not ict's job to police social media

It's still a problem. Still. Blocking social media for staff. Sometimes there's good reason for some departments. Often, there's not. This post by an experienced head of ICT and consultant will help you knock the false arguments out of the park. 

by Martin Sadler

I presented an ICT strategy report to a local government Cabinet about 5 years ago but before I was allowed to start, one of the cabinet members began with a news update;

“It said on the news this morning that YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are merging” she said. “It’s going to be called YouTwitFace”.

Now it was not a new joke even then, and as true words are often spoken in jest it signaled the presence of social media and almost it’s arrival in the public sector as a “thing”.

 A call to action for ICT managers to embrace and love social media.

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#unawards15 – the shortlist

Well that was fun.

Yesterday saw the end of our public vote and the announcement of the #UnAwards15 shortlist. I went slightly bog-eyed watching it all unfold but we now know the runners and riders in all 15 categories.

By Darren Caveney

Over 140 entries poured into the UnAwards15 from across the UK and from as far afield as Norway.

Central government, local government, NHS, Police, Housing, Fire, Higher Education, third sector and the agency world all took part and our 14 external judges have had quite a task in getting down to our final shortlist.

The standard of your entries this year has been high. We know this because some of our judges are hard to impress, But impressed they were.

Our love and respect for this fabulous comms, PR, marketing and digital community, which we all exist in, just grows and grows and thank you so much for supporting the #UnAwards15.

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internal communicators: here’s your guide to employee engagement, zombie style


by Caroline Roodhouse

There’s been some spine tingly spooky goings-on down at Alive HQ as we’ve gathered together the latest stats, advice and best practice on all things employee engagement, and put it all together in this up-to-the-minute zombie tribute.

Peculiar irregularities…

According to widespread survey results across a stack of organisations, employee engagement rates are regularly coming in at 70% and above. That’s not to be sniffed at. BUT, the CIPD 2015 Employee Outlook Survey indicated that the employee engagement index within the UK is at just 39%. That’s quite a disparity. So what’s the score? Can we rely on survey results alone? The smart organisations are exploring alternative metrics, examining other areas of the business and considering the potential pitfalls when it comes to engagement surveys. And they’re well aware of what’s causing the problems too.

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the role of mobile user experience in the digital communications plan

Here’s a quantitative look at how user experience and usability can influence user conversion on an organisation’s own website.

by Sarah Gill

The experience of your target audience when interacting with your app or website on a mobile device should be an essential consideration in every digital communications plan.

Users form their emotional reaction to your organisation very quickly and if their information needs aren’t met swiftly, abandonment will surely follow.

Not to be confused with usability, the consideration of the user experience represents a holistic approach to all aspects of a user’s interaction with a business, it’s service and products. User experience and usability are terms often used interchangeably but there are key differences...

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why you need to get involved with #ourday

The #OurDay initiative aims to paint a picture of what local government does. And with key decisions on spending coming up there's never been a better reason to get involved. And there are tools to help you, too.

by David Holdstock  

On Wednesday, councils across the country will be taking part in #OurDay, the fourth annual tweetathon to highlight the huge range of work that goes on all day, every day in local government. Last year, over 8,000 accounts tweeted 16,500 posts to more than three million people in 24 hours – and with #OurDay 2015 taking place just one week before the Chancellor’s Spending Review, we want this year’s event to be even bigger. We need to make sure that people know just how much local government does, making people’s lives better through everything from day-to-day tasks right up to life-changing interventions.

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shut up about the digital divide

'The future is already here,' one commentator once said. 'It's just unevenly distributed.' But in a challenging post about the digital divide one view is that surely much of the debate is now over?

by Natalie Corney

I turn on the news this morning to hear that HMRC are going to be closing 137 offices and opening new regional centres.

How did I react to that? I said 'oh ok,' to myself and carried on eating my breakfast.

How did the BBC react? With an interview posing a number of questions, followed by the big hitter – but what about all those older people that can’t use the internet?

Seriously, can we all just get a grip?

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12 things to make your #ourday or #housingday go well

Four years ago when still at Walsall Council myself and fellow comms2point0-er Darren Caveney staged something called #walsall24. It was the first time local government had used Twitter to tell a 24-hour story made from all the routine things it did. We always wanted the ball to be picked up and ran with. They’ve since become sector-wide initiatives in housing and local government.

By Dan Slee

So, there we were 10 minutes before 6am at the start of #walsall24 and still not sure if it would work.

What was this? We were using Twitter to tell people a snapshot of all the things our council did in real-time over the course of 24-hours from a pothole on the A41 to a Zumba class. Nothing would be too small.

We’d got some content lined-up. Lists of scheduled work from road engineers, leisure centre programmes and had someone stationed in the social care contact centre in the small hours.

Would it work? We checked our first potential tweet and knew that it would… it was environmental health officers investigating a noisy cockerel in a built-up area. Wow. I didn’t know we did that.

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why talking business makes sense

A new resource, launched at the Public Sector Communications Academy last week, is designed to help local gov communications people better engage with local business.

By Darren Caveney

56% of the sole contact your local businesses have is with just one part of your council.

56%. Who is it? Well it’s not Communications Teams, it’s not Customer Services and it’s not elected members.

It’s your regulatory colleagues.

There is so much more to this area of work that just sending out a press release when a rogue local trader is caught and fined by Trading Standards.

For example, do you know what the excellent Primary Authority initiative is? No, I wasn’t fully aware either.

In fact when I reflect back on my 11 years leading local government comms teams I realise that I did very little with business customers, almost all of my focus was on residents. And that’s missing a trick.

From talking to other comms colleagues I was not alone.

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