A couple of weeks ago I received a very welcome but random message from Dan Slee, it basically said “Do you fancy an all expenses paid trip to Dubai” – “PS this isn’t a spam message” or something along those lines.
My response was obviously Yes, although it nearly didn’t happen as I’d already planned to attend a weekend in Cornwall with some friends. After some last minute flight changes, I was set to fly on Tuesday morning….
The event was the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) Social Media Summit, held at the very nice Ritz-Carlton Hotel and I was speaking on Day 3 following the topics that Dan had previously set but with a Devon Spin of course…
- What does Devon County Council do?
- How we won the internal argument
- How we took the first steps
- The broad set of principles we navigated by
- This is what we did
- This is what you can do
So after taking the night train journey, an hour and a half sat at Reading train station at 4am and a 7 hour flight I found myself in a very nice hotel room in Dubai (I stayed at the Ritz-Carlton as well), wondering what I was actually going to say, even though I’d created a few slides…
My aim was to be helpful and honest and to avoid the kind of humour i would normally throw in as it would simply be too local to Devon and the UK…I think it worked out ok!
It is slightly weird knowing that you are being translated live into Arabic and in the back of my head I kept thinking how would this translate? I received some positive feedback from people in the room so I am assuming it went ok…most people said they thought it was very practical compared to some of the other speakers.
I’ve included a link to my slides but I’d like to share some of my reflections from the event (I only attended day 3)
- The challenges faced by governments in the GCC aren’t that different from those faced by UK localgov and by sharing the learning from here it would make a really good input into our thinking back in the west.
- One of the interesting differences is that money is not primarily an issue, although it isn’t free flowing either but let’s just say there are no budget cuts…just think for a minute, what would you actually do if your budget was whatever it needed to be? I thought about this and struggled to think that we’d do things that differently to be honest…although getting additional equipment and a few extra people would probably be the most obvious
- When you are in a country where politicians are not elected, it makes you think very differently about why and how they would use it….it is more like organisational use in that listening, responding and acting is still very much the approach. But it does make you think that the “selling message” to politicians is a much harder battle than in the UK.
- Content Strategy got more than one mention and it’s link to the effective use of social media is critical and I’ve mentioned this before and believe that compelling content is essential…It was held as a core component in any future strategy.
- I found that most conversations around social media focused on the use of Facebook over twitter – Facebook was very much seen as the priority social media channel over others. I found this really interesting as in my view we have few successes in the UK with Facebook, particularly around “good engagement”. In Devon we tend to use Facebook for a focused level of engagement, for example children’s centres, youth participation etc. The use of twitter and facebook are complimentary in my view and should not be seen as one or the other, but clearly use the tool which best meets the business outcomes and objectives you have set…it is likely that you’d need more than one channel and more than one approach
- No one has a silver bullet and no one has the answer to all of this stuff…but the more we connect people and the more conversations that happen the more solutions and opportunities arise – this event which had people from all over the world and GCC region speaking meant that they had local learning and best practice as well as external challenge and ideas from further a field
- Inspiration is inspiration no matter what language you speak
- Story telling is a very powerful way to share learning and when it is does well, it is very empowering
Here are a set of photos from my stay in Dubai