Further developing the Content Strategy

It has been a fascinating process developing the councils first content strategy, the personal learning and development which I’ve had to do as well as helping others understand the benefits of what we are calling a content strategy has also been an interesting and rewarding challenge.

In an email conversation with Sarah Lay (my unofficial content strategy peer review person) we touched on the issue of whether the content strategy I am creating is actually what the content strategy community would recognise as one…we both agreed and concluded that it didn’t really matter, as long as it did the job!

We touched on the fact that in #localgov we are really getting to a point where a group of disciplines are coming together and depending on your organisation it is likely to approach it slightly differently.

The types of things the content strategy is informing, linking to and dependant on are (in no particular order):

  • Communications strategy
  • Engagement Strategy
  • ICT Strategy
  • Information Strategy
  • Access Strategy

It has replaced a traditional web strategy altogether in my mind as we recognise that the “web” as a platform is essentially how we will manage our ICT infrastructure.

So unpicking the old web strategy further, a new strategy which is the responsibility of my ICT colleagues is an Application Strategy – this is essentially the strategy that informs our delivery of online services.

In my informal consultation on the draft content strategy, it has become clear that:

a) everyone agreed with the spirit of the document but it relied on conversation and explanation to answer people’s questions as they weren’t found in the document < but this is what the process was intended to tease out.

b) I didn't clearly articulate the strategic direction and focused too much on the 2 year roadmap < people were actually more engaged in where we are going than I had anticipated.

c) people didn't understand some aspects of what it is being proposed and the full extent of how we would apply a global experience language < My view is that it will be a complete rule book covering our web domain and not just the visual design of it, it will also form a critical and core part of a future procurement and commissioning framework for web/digital stuff.

One of the benefits of developing a content strategy is that I don't feel we need a social media strategy now. If we get the content strategy correct then our use of social media platforms to increase the engagement and interaction with our content will naturally increase…this does not mean that our use of social media will simply go crazy…but more than we will focus on the needs of the content, where the audience is and how we connect our content with the audience…the logical conclusion is that it won't be on our website but in social spaces.

And it is this strategic direction which people are really supportive of and are really engaged with…I've got one more week of informal consultations then a period of refinement and amendments on my document (which I've already started) then the content strategy will be ready for formal sign off internally by our corporate leadership team (gulp).

The next few weeks are going to be interesting.


Internal Blogging

Last October my team worked with our Internal Communications colleagues to develop an internal blogging platform (WordPress) to allow our new 14 Heads of Service to share thinking and updates about the council’s direction as well as updates from within their services areas.

We have had experience of internal blogging before – the chief executive used to blog, but that essentially faded away and was replaced with an internal email newsletter from the chief executive.

I remember having conversation with people back then and many said that they did like and value the chief executives blog but many thought that a more localised view from their head of service would make more sense….so here we are a few years down the road and we are now in that position.

So in the 3 months that they been going, my personal view is that they are successful – ok, not all heads of service are actively blogging yet, but we didn’t create or set any expectations for any of them. BUT and this is the good bit a good number of them are actively blogging and in my view are doing a great job.

So I thought I’d share some interesting high level stats in the short time they have been going – The stats are from 13th October 2011 to 12th January 2012.

  • 4,482 – visits
  • 1,850 – unique visitors
  • 18,733 – page views
  • 4.18 – pages a visit
  • 3 mins 09 secs – average time on site
  • 61% – returning visitors
  • 26 – comments

In my view – this is fantastic, really good. The kind of stats we couldn’t have actually hoped for initially. My only concern is the number of comments, but this is a cultural thing really as well as the content in the blog posts…not all are written to encourage comments, some are purely information only…so we will be looking to add a “like this post” option so we can get a sense as to whether or not people are finding the posts valuable.

What we will be doing with our internal comms colleagues is providing some individual reports for those heads of service who blog to help them understand the details of their blogging pattern and style, for example which posts received most visits.

The most successful writing style is one which brings in elements of humour as well as the personality of the individual themselves…i guess a natural style…so our challenge is to encourage and support them to write more consistently like this when appropriate.

It is great to see and be part of a team (the wider communications team) who are making such great progress.

Beware the labels you apply to yourself

Earlier today I went to a meeting in my capacity as a school governor and like you do in meetings where you’ve never met people before you often introduce yourself and explain a bit about your background and skills etc.

Well I broadly introduce myself as someone who is interested in Social Change but works (in a professional sense) in and around the areas of Web, Communications and ICT as well as social enterprise business models and I’d like to help my school and the wider learning community improve outcomes for children – nothing too complicated but saves me going on an on about what I believe in…wouldn’t want to bore people I’ve not really met yet, plus we were limited for time.

It was a very interesting meeting and had a very wide range of skills and interests in the room from Head Teachers (Primary and Secondary) to School Administrators to Solicitors to Architects to Procurement people and well me!!

The first thing that made me chuckle and got me thinking about the label I had given myself was that the projector didn’t work  – so one person commented “ask the IT guy!” Well obviously I got up and pushed some buttons and looked like I knew what I was doing but it was someone behind me who actually turned the plug off and then on again which actually resolved the problem – that old chestnut!

But what I found interesting about this was the assumption that I knew how to fix it, just because I said I was interested in ICT meant I knew how to fix projectors  to other people 🙂  ICT is a very big domain and most (not all) people think it is all pretty much the same…

The funny thing about this to me, is that I do not consider myself an IT guy, however that is informed by my interaction with far more technically gifted people than I, but sometimes (and generally too late to change anything) I forget that simply saying IT to most people means that you can fix the computer, as well as probably being able to build one, fix the projector and sort out the broadband or wi-fi problems as well….Lesson learned and note to self: change my introduction and be more specific when describing my interests.

However I will get my chance to contribute in an area I feel confident in as I was the obvious first choice for a sub group around communications and websites.

So not all bad….but I fear that I will become the “IT go to guy” from now on…





The increasing impact of social media on the political landscape

I am not going to write formally about my views on politics in general but with Americans voting in Barack Obama for what is being hailed as a historic and landmark event in global politics, i feel i need to mention a few things and ask one of two questions.

It has been widely recognised that one of the key support tools Obama used during his campaign were the new and social media platforms that are available. These tools were simply not as widely supported before so their reach did not generate the same effect this time round. What is interesting about all of this, is i believe that politics and elections across the globe will never be the same again.  That for me is a good thing, because living in the UK i don’t think i have ever felt part of the US Elections as i have done this time round, due to the social networks that i belong too and the different means in which the media has been presented and shared across the world, for some reason, i felt i also wanted to vote, that is very powerful considering i am over 3000 miles away.

Jeremiah Owyang posted “Snapshot of Presidential Candidate Social Networking Stats” on the 3rd November which showed the following stats


Obama: 2,379,102 supporters

McCain: 620,359 supporters

Obama has 380% more supporters than McCain


Obama: 1792 videos uploaded since Nov 2006, Subscribers: 114,559 (uploads about 4 a day), Channel Views: 18,413,110

McCain: 329 videos uploaded since Feb 2007 (uploads about 2 a day), Subscribers: 28,419, Channel Views: 2,032,993

Obama has 403% more subscribers than McCain

Obama has 905% more viewers than McCain


Obama: @barackobama has 112,474 followers

McCain: @JohnMcCain (is it real?) 4,603 followers

Obama has 240 times more followers in Twitter than McCain

But if you look today (5th November) there is already an incredible increase in followers and supported for Obama. The main questions i have though is will these media tools still be used as pro-actively now that he has been elected?

The thought occurred to me, as i am sure it has with many people recently, can this be replicated in the UK for our general elections, or even local elections?  well i doubt it, whilst we (general public) seem to be fed more and more information by the media about the personalities and celebrity of current MP’s, it doesn’t quite seem the same to me, we don’t really vote for individuals, although “the leader” does play a part. Tony Blair being a great example of this. But the reality is we still after all is said and done vote for a “party” and a “view”.

Chris Reed posted on this very subject and highlights 4 examples of how it could be utilised by UK politicians  – he writes:

1) Motivating the supporter base. Preaching to the converted remains important. They’re the ones who help get the votes out on the day

2) Fundraising. We haven’t seen the levels of individual donations that the US elections rely on, but given recent ship-based discussions I predict that the parties will have to tap more voters (i.e. not just party members) than ever before in the next election

3) Policy development and argument. The internet is basically a pub. It’s where people talk, and clever people listen. Sometimes it’s an early warning system. Sometimes it’s an echo-chamber. But it provides unrivalled access to what people are actually thinking. Political parties of all shades should take note, and tweak their policies accordingly

4) The personalisation of politics. Rather perversely – being friended by a politician can sometimes be akin to being “followed” by a celebrity on twitter (@stephenfry anyone?) All politicians are looking for that “personal” touch. Using social media wisely can help to make individual supporters feel special, and, when used appropriately, can also help answer critics’ questions in a sincere and honest way.

In relation to the impact of social media on the US Election, it is hard to demonstrate exactly what impact is has had, but if you understand how social media and social networks are used then it can start to demonstrate the potential for increased communications and dialogue with people. A recent news release in Science Daily highlights research that Dr. Paul Haridakis, associate professor of Communication Studies at Kent State University is doing where he states “Many people, will watch videos and use traditional media like TV to acquire political information about the candidates, but they also are going to the Internet and using social networking sites to see who people they know support. The information gleaned from their social networks may be the information they find most credible and persuasive”  This basic level of peer to peer confirmation was validated in our recent consultation with young people, where they said social networks are places they meet and hang out with their friends. We are in a society where consumer empowerment is becoming increasingly more accessible and this will only get more pervasive as time goes on.

The impact of your friends views and the fact that by there nature social media tools are global it does raise some interesting questions about external influence from peers around the world on an individuals choice Dahna M. Chandler’s blog – Getting Social Media Savvy recently posted Social Media and the U.S. Presidential Election: What if the World Could Vote for US President?, This website shows an amazing result in favour of Obama:

Barack Obama        87.3% (758,041 votes)
John McCain           12.7% (110,103 votes)

So why such interest in the US Election? Is it because we all do really care who is in charge of one of the most powerful countries in the world, or is it because the tools we now use on a daily basis, which connect us to the lives of people who actually do need to make a choice and that in itself inspires our interest. Or is it something bigger, something more social.

The US Election has done a great things for social media and social media has done great things for the US Election, but has it changed the world, have we all started to realise more and more that we are truly one community connected by our interests and that our geography is no longer a barrier to networking. Has it also made big business and future political leaders sit up and take notice of the power of consumer/citizen engagement. Martin Bowling guest posted back in October on searchenginepeople How The US Election Is Changing Social Media, Online Rep Management & The World where he tsalks about 3 keys things that have occurred.

  1. The partisanship/overtly political statements that people are so willing to put out there without regard to online reputation management issues
  2. The effect of partisan/overtly political comments on the relationships that people have worked hard to form online and finally
  3. The transformation of twitter from a simple conversation tool to a full blown memetracker

If you want to see how much social media “stuff” is out there just for the election then Jarrett Martineau has posted Social Media Mania and the US Election: the Best Links & Resources

I am still left with the question, “will it all continue?” after reading all the websites i have read in the last few days about the impact, it would be a shame to loose the momentum that it has now gained from this event.

Finally, we do seem to be entering a period of change, lets hold on and ride the wave.

Catching up with social media

The tricky thing with social media is that there always seems to be something new appearing to play with, that will radically change the way we work and communicate.

In my role as the business lead for web strategy and development, i always try and focus on what the business is trying to achieve and what problems they are trying to solve and then look at the landscape to see what will work for them. I know many people from different organisations get a “thing” and then look for business problems. For me this is the wrong way round and we should focus on blended solutions to help people reach our variety of customers who choose to use various contact methods.

I came across the Social Media Manifesto by Brian Solis, which is about a year old now but i was unaware of it and i have found it a great read, especially alongside Clay Shirky (yes still going, i know i should have finished but i keep going back over some parts as they are so good). What i liked about what Brian Solis wrote was the simple but effective (getting started) bit…he writes:

“Below are your action items for placing your company on course for the Future of Integrating Marketing and embracing the world of social media to enhance relationships with press, bloggers, customers and all other unforeseen influencers:

  • Experiment with social media as a person before jumping in as a company spokesperson
  • Talk to the corporate marketing team, discuss the options, and divide and conquer
  • Listen – find the tools that work for you (technorati, GoogleBlogSearch, BlogPulse, etc.)
  • Determine where you customers participate, listen, read, and speak with them on their terms
  • Assign a community manager or multiple managers and start commenting, reading, writing, sharing, and participating
  • Participate as a contributor and not a marketer
  • Create company profiles and share relevant content on every important social networks – don’t forget to manage your presence in each one
  • Create videos, screencasts, and demos and upload to YouTube
  • Broadcast and receive relevant updates through Twitter, Plazes, or Jaiku
  • Webcast relevant videos
  • Podcast and/or host a video blog
  • Set up del.icio.us profiles for corporate bookmarks, industry trends, competition, and press/blogger coverage
  • Create special Linked in profiles for company executives
  • Establish contacts in all major IMs for specific company contacts
  • Expand the company blog to support multiple spokespersons
  • Add a blogroll that links to other relevant sites and ensure that each post trackbacks to other resources and references to increase visibility
  • Participate in comments
  • Create blog profiles in Mybloglog and Bloglines to reach dedicated users
  • Build company and campaign-specific profiles (where appropriate) on Facebook, Myspace, etc.
  • Develop your own social networks specific to the company and current activities a la Ning and Ideastorm
  • Host a regular talk show on blogtalkradio or blogtv
  • Create an account and Digg relevant stories – not just related to you
  • Write more than one release – experiment with social and SEO releases and create new distribution methods to get them in front of customers – the wire services are no longer the only game in town.
  • Analyze web statistics to measure traffic and referring sources”

Now i just need to tick these off and work my way through as best possible from a local government context…..but keeping up with social media tools themselves will prove to be a harder and more challenging role.