#LocalGov #Content Strategy Group now live on Knowledge Hub

Back in January at UKGC12 Sarah Lay and I said we would create an online community space for those interested in Content Strategy for people in and around government.

It has taken some time, for which we make no excuses other than we have been reflecting on which platform to use to best suit the immediate and future needs of the group. We considered a range of options but have settled for the Knowledge Hub.

Please join and sign up if you are interested…Sarah and I will be facilitating the group, but if others wish to help out then let us know in the group itself.

Digital Content Strategy Group

The ‘digital content strategy’ group has been created as a community space to discuss issues around delivering digital in local government and specific practice around web and digital content creation, curation, delivery and governance. This may include issues around web content, user experience design, content across different platforms, search, social media and methods of delivery and governance such as Agile working and devolved authoring.


#UKGC12 – Content Strategy WTF!


A long overdue post…and I suspect it won’t add a great deal to this excellent summary by Sarah Lay, who co-hosted the session with me but I’ll share my perspective nonetheless.

The whole idea of the session came about because of Sarah and myself chatting and constructively challenging each other over what is and isn’t content strategy in local government.

We sort of agreed that it was an emerging area but most (we believed) was already happening in other councils. Some explicit in their approach (Liverpool) and other less so…so may not have even written any of this stuff down before…

So the Friday session was all about (from my point of view) asking and proposing what people thought Content Strategy was all about and why it was very different to traditional web strategies…

My thoughts on the session itself were that it felt like being the odd one out for a large part of the session…explaining that the previous 10 years of eGovernment had basically caused us to think in the wrong way about our websites and that in large parts Better Connected hasn’t really forced us to think differently either…I’m not going to get into a debate here about the merits or not of eGovernment or Better Connected…they served and still serve a purpose…

I captured some additional thoughts about content strategy on a previous post here, but include the specific comments about content strategy below:

Content strategy is a game changer – changing the thinking built up over the las 10 years since the start of the egovernment agenda – this triggered the anti-user approach in developing websites in my humble opinion…it essentially turned sites that were aimed at users into mediocre corporately assimilated content waste lands…lacking in any meaning as to how to build and manager a community and help move aspects of communications and service interaction into more efficient channels…but that is the past…we can learn from it, but we must first recognise the mistakes we made…not everyone made them but most did…this is all just my opinion of course but localgov as a community needs to think about how it develops its online and digital offering better – perhaps in a similar reboot approach taken by the GDS…it does not matter what you call it…but it does need to think about some key principles, for example one might be.. getting content to people and not people to websites…this then provides the drivers for your content in social spaces as opposed to having a specific focus on social media….this does not mean you shouldn’t develop specific channel standards, in fact this reinforces the need for standards within channels…but based on managing your content flow in it and how you might monitor or measure it.

Moving on….

The more we spoke the more I guess we sounded a bit like a local council version of the government digital service…and this was reinforced when hearing Mike Bracken and his presentation on the Government Digital Service which directly followed our session in the main auditorium…much of what he said was resonating with me and whether or not others thought the same but for me at least i actually felt like i shared the ambitions of central government when it comes to web…this is the first time since i started in local gov web back in 2003…so a major break through in my opinion.

The big challenge is accepting that we can’t all create the same content strategy, but we accepted that we could all contribute to some form of framework or an understanding as to what the core components are….An idea for a saturday “doing session”…

2012 01 20_ukgc12_0013
Taken by iamadonut at UKGC12

The saturday session for me was not exactly what I had hoped for…this was mainly down to the fact that I had naively assumed that the people who were engaged and committed to helping on friday were in fact not there on the saturday…But that didn’t mean the session didn’t prove valuable nonetheless.

Ok, so we didn’t create a framework, we didn’t get to a comprehensive list of components…but what we did get to was as Sarah refers to her summary was that we should create a “Content Strategy Community”.

So yes, we are planning on pulling together a space for a community to come together…we are currently looking at a set of tools and how these might fit together to best suit the needs of a community as well as more formal and sustainable place for it to be hosted.

If you are in local government and work in and around digital content (web managers very much included here) then please leave a comment below or on sarah’s blog or just DM your contact details via twitter to either of us and we’d love for you to get involved…

Reflecting on #UKGC12

I sit here on Sunday, my voice gone, I actually do feel properly ill as well and my head full of things to move forward…

I’ve caught up on the UKGC12 flickr images and hashtag stream today (counting the number of hashtag violations and hashtag security risks – nods and smiles to Dave Briggs) and thought that i should capture my early thoughts…Dan Slee suggested 20 thoughts, so I’ll give that a try, although can’t promise on 20.

Fortunately for me the solo session (Reflective Practice aka the hangover quiet space) I pitched last minute on Saturday when hearing that room 12 would be empty all day provided me with much needed head space and good conversation with the likes of Dave, Jeremy Gould, Sarah Lay and a few others who dipped in and out throughout the day to share in our peacefulness and our snacks (carefully borrowed from the main snack table). I can’t remember them all but they included Martin Howitt, Harry Harold, Mary McKenna, Lloyd Davis…

So my first main reflections on UKGC12

1) I think local government loses out too often and as a sector we should replicate the process that the Government Digital Service is doing across local government in a way that makes sense and maintains local accountability.

2) Spending nearly 5 hours or more in a dark room at Microsoft HQ in London, with snacks, drinks and plenty of interesting and funny conversation reinforces my view that UKGC12 has provided me with not just connections but great friends who I adore and respect.

3) It is a pleasure to participate in an event which has contributed to so much across local and central government that I wish in some way we could provide a benefits map on UKGC across the years as I don’t believe anyone would have progressed as much without these events existing and breaking barriers around digital

4) You never get enough time to simply chat with folk about anything – the reflective practice session should be a standing item at all govcamps.

5) Never go out straight out after a govcamp without at least a backup plan to get food as you will suffer the next day for it.

6) Regardless of what some people may think public service people are great fun, innovative and most of all passionate

7) You don’t need to be in every session to gain value from the event – the time away from work and the space to reflect and be challenged is worth every second.

8) London is very noisy at night…if you are from a quieter part of the country take ear plugs for a better nights sleep.

9) I don’t really think a continental breakfast can be classed as a proper breakfast

10) I’m not sure we provide enough support for noobies who may not be confident to start conversations….maybe we should consider a buddy system simply for the first few sessions with the aim of helping these people meet new people.

11) Everyone praises Dave and Steph and rightly so, but what is more important is that they have ensured that the event doesn’t and can’t be taken over by a government department. The freedom and independence is a major strength.

12) I’m not sure if 2 days works but I did think the making stuff sessions did…so we should allow more flexibility in future events for people to pitch up in a room all day to build something amazing.

13) Attending on a Friday made UKGC12 feel different but I still can’t quite put my finger on how…something to do with the expectation on people to justify the time out of the office…also different people attend on Saturdays for different reasons…one to ponder more!!

14) Paying extra (all from my own pocket) to travel first class on the train is well worth it after a very tiring few days.

15) Finally, people are not aware of the dangers and challenges around hashtag vulnerability, hashtag penetration and hashtag optimisation…if you want to know more contact Dave ASAP.

More thoughts and reflections to come as well as a proper write up of my thoughts and views.

That time of year #UKGC12

So it is that time of year when a dedicated crew of local and central government folk and those who are passionate about moving it forward come together over two whole days.

The event of course is UKGC12 and for me personally represents an opportunity to reconnect with people, get inspired by people and be challenged by people.

I always go into these events with my eyes wide open and I prepare to go home either validating thoughts and ideas or changing direction, but I always go home energised and motivated (even if a little tired).

The first day back at work used to be a downer, but things have changed for me and I know that I’ll go back and be able to make things happen and to contribute to moving things forward for the council.

As the next few days are about to kick off, I look forward to meeting old friends and making new ones.

The UKGC12 events feel like a family reunion, but without the annoying family members who you’d rather not see. There isn’t a single person who attends who isn’t going to offer fascinating conversation. So if you are new to the event, don’t panic, spark up a conversation and don’t worry if you don’t get to speak to everyone you planned to…stay connected online.