I asked once whether early adopters in social media were ready for the arrival of a new wave of competitors. I predicted that, if they had traditional media experience, they would be quick learners and, if they worked within defined communities, that their followers would grow rapidly.
Today’s guest post is by Edward Welsh Programme Director, Media and Campaigns, at the UK’s Local Government Association. He has years of traditional media experience – having worked on national papers in the UK (disclosure: my brother). His current job places him in the midst of a defined community – communication experts working for government.
This is his story.
My main audience is the 60 million people who live in the UK. I am responsible for enhancing and defending the reputation in the mass media of a sector with a budget of more than £100 billion a year, 20,000 councillors and which employs 1.6 million people. The LGA targets national newspapers, television and radio, proactively generating stories and rebutting negative coverage to influence the news agenda on behalf of more than 400 councils in England and Wales.
Why do I use Twitter?
1. To respond to a challenge from John Welsh (my brother and the man behind this blog) to familiarise myself with social media.
2. To see if and how news stories can be generated through Twitter.
3. To find out how councillors and councils are using Twitter.
4. To improve communications with our member councils.
5. To find out how private sector PR people are using Twitter.
What have I found out so far?
1 My brother was right. I needed to get up to speed. The following explains why.
2. I have not yet cracked how to generate news stories on Twitter but
- The terrorist attacks on Mumbai, the aeroplane crash in the Hudson and Stephen Fry stuck in the lift have shown that Twitter can help shape or drive breaking news stories,
- A lot of our work is proactive rather than reactive.
- Perhaps hashtags are a way forward. I’ve created #lgapac for a survey of supermarket food packaging we are to publish on Tuesday.
- Or maybe news is better managed by using an institutional Twitter, such as UK Parliament’s Twitter or Hillingdon’s Twitter, rather than through a personal Twitter.
3. Twitter is suddenly taking off in local government, admittedly from a very low base. The number of councillors Twittering has doubled in the past fortnight to 100 and growing. Perhaps 40 or 50 councils are using it, most recently to keep residents informed about how the heavy snowfalls have affected services.
4. Twitter could be a very useful way of complementing how we communicate with our member councils and, even more importantly, garner their views to feed back into what we do.
5. I have yet to work out exactly how private sector PR people are using Twitter. Clearly, they see it as a marketing tool but I need to explore further how their use could shape mine.
I’ll update you when I know more.
Photo credit: jurvetson