Back in January a one word agenda item for a meeting of the communications team that supports the Adult Social Care Services department at Leeds City Council read ‘Blog’. Now you’d think Blog; communications and marketing staff, telling stories, easy; that’s what they do, ducks to water; social media savvy staff; doing what’s in their blood. Think again.
‘We’ had a team discussion about how ‘they’ were going to do it. Concerns were shared about lack of skills and resources. Few members of the team had even read blogs and most didn’t have active social media accounts. So, we set up the Better Lives Blog using WordPress, and a twitter account, played with them and lurked for a while, shared what skills we had, bought a book, built confidence and eventually took the first steps into publishing. We created a rota of who was going to be blog commander for which week and what the forward plan of posts and the approval process was going to be. There was some nervousness from others whether this was an appropriate thing to do, but we talked them round.
And to be honest, it hasn’t been easy and more than once we’ve adjusted expectations of what’s possible along the way. The permission settings on our IT system prevented us from sending email confirmations to people wanting to follow the blog; it also wouldn’t let us publish pictures through the council network. A couple of calls to our IT helpdesk sorted that. And for some reason we have struggled to get staff to sign up and ‘follow’ the blog – about the good stuff they are doing; there seems to be a hesitance to take that leap and press the follow button. But we are working on that, all part of helping improve digital confidence.
There are still nervy moments when the rota week comes round but people muck in and help each other and stories are being written, case studies and guest posts prepared and interviews being booked. Each member of the team is now on the rota about every five weeks. They are responsible for arranging, getting approval and publishing their articles and then looking after the twitter account and promoting their week. We now have regular posts, and are always looking for new stories to publish.
And whilst to some, this would be perceived as their job, this team should be proud of what they can now do. It makes me proud as team leader to see them now running with this and doing it for themselves, using new tools and working in a different way which all contributes to being more sociable. It really has become part of their day job, not a bolt on and it complements other means of getting information to people by the more traditional means.
So three months after the blog launch, here are the numbers: blog posts: 50, Views: 3,423 – it’s a fair start. We can see how people arrive at the blog from a link in a tweet and from us promoting it elsewhere and we are looking at what works well and what maybe not so much. The number of followers, views and comments are gradually rising, but this was never about the numbers. This was about something far bigger than stats; this was about communications staff contributing to the social care agenda and helping vulnerable people be released from dependency and having a say in how they live their lives – the ‘Better Lives for the people of Leeds’ aspiration. And if the communications team could contribute by telling some of the stories of how we are changing how services are provided and what people think of them then that’s worth doing.
We recently published a post titled. ‘So does this blog work for you?’
The following response was posted:
“I wouldn’t have heard about DALES [a service we fund to help the hard of hearing] without it, now I can hear my doorbell and my neighbours aren’t bothered by my TV”
That person and their neighbours now have better lives.
That so makes what we do worthwhile.