LGCYH – Twitter Ye Not?

In the final part of the councillor session at #lgcyh we discussed Twitter.  None of the councillors in the group currently used Twitter so without hesitation we pulled up the brilliant Tweetyhall.  A great way to explain what Twitter is from a councillor perspective.

Cllr Cheetham and Cllr Cooke went through how they used Twitter in their councillor role, passing on a few tips along the way.  These included:

– follow as many councillors as you can – this is a good short cut to finding how councillors use Twitter to good effect;

– remember that followers are interested in what you are doing (don’t underestimate the impact of the “human side” of being a councillor);

– it’s a great way of extending your councillor and officer network – help, advice and different perspectives are only 140 characters away.  It’s cheaper than going to conferences;

– it’s quick, cheap and easily links with other social media tools that councillors might use.

Our discussion looked at how councillors and politicians have used Twitter to good effect, including:

– how #tags are a great tool for bringing discussions together into one place (some councils are looking at making ward based #tags a standard);

– the positive use of Twitter by local and national politicians during the General Election, both as a broadcasting tool and as a means of campaigning;

– a good way to quickly and succinctly get key messages to local people – examples of how Twitter was used during the snow this winter struck a real chord with the group.

As with the other discussions, we also looked at some of the Twitter headline stories – Tweeting in meetings,  Stuart Maclennan and talked through issues around responsible use.  Tweeting in meetings seems to be a subject that divides – the consensus on the day was that it is another way of opening up democracy to the wider public.  That said, there is a developing view in some councils that it is disrespectful and is an indicator that councillors aren’t concentrating on the business of the meeting.  Another, amongst many, social media dilemmas for councillors and councils.

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LGCYH – For Those About To Blog (We Salute You)

We had a great session about blogging. We were able to get Cllr Cheetham’s blog and Cllr Cooke’s blog up on the screen and bring the session to life.

Having the authors in the room meant we were able to go talk about content, complexity and time commitment with reference to real life examples.  Cllr Cheetham showed how to update his blog from his phone (“it’s that easy”) whilst Cllr Cooke demonstrated that “content is king”by reference to his Great Pudding Disaster.

Cllr Cooke’s puddings sparked a good debate about content and public interest.   Both councillors approach blogging from a similar personal (if not political) perspective.  It’s not just about council business and ward work.  Its also about the person, their interests and challenges.  Both agreed that blogging performs a political education for residents but also allows councillors to “be people”.

Discussion moved onto the tensions that can exist between blogging councillors and their councils.  A challenge now, and for the future, seems to be councillors being free and unfettered to communicate their views directly whilst serving on their councils.

The problems that councillors face with council corporate communications proved to be a hot topic.  Blogging councillors can find the the notion of “my blog, my say” sometimes bumps up against the organisation’s determination to “manage the message”. We didn’t have any answers to this challenge but concluded that residents want dialogue and engagement and could see through the “corporate spin”.  File under “To be continued”.

LGCYH – Angry, Drunk (Er no)

As part of the session councillors got onto some of the do’s and don’ts.  There was a real fun side to the discussion with one councillor giving the “sobering” advice – “my tip is don’t ever blog if you’re angry or drunk”.  To which @simonmagus wittily replied, “If that was case I’d never blog at all”

Joking aside there were some genuine concerns about responsible use and personal and organisational reputation management. Councillors wanted to be able to express their views frankly but did not want to fall foul of the National Code of Conduct and the Standards Board.

We discussed the extent to which fears like this were real or perceived.  They were certainly real for the councillors in the room, although the examples of the Standards Board looking at social media related complaints were few (we could only find 2).

Our resident expert councillors provided some reassurance.  It comes down to common sense really.  On a daily basis councillors need to operate in the public spotlight, having regard to a host of rules, standards and codes of conduct.  Those who do this already are merely applying them to another environment.  The message was “don’t be put off”.

We’ve begun to pull together some tools and tips that hopefully begin to address some of the concerns and questions that councillors have.

LGCYH – Concepts or Tools (Well Both Ideally)

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LGCYH – The Presentation That Never Was

Like all good (obsessive?) officers we did all the prep for the councillor session at LGCYH.  We met, we planned, we met again, we even stayed up until 2.00 a.m. finalising our slides and the areas we were convinced we needed to cover.  Our slides were perfectly crafted, designed to cover all the things that our audience of councillors would need to know.

What did we know.  Quite rightly the councillors framed the discussion, ably supported by our two resident experts – Cllr Tim Cheetham and Cllr Simon Cooke.  We covered a wide range of issues, opportunities and challenges.  These will be captured and shared in more detail in other posts.  The main thing to share (its a real learning point for officers) is that sessions such as this need to be flexible, responsive but most importantly shaped and delivered by cllrs.

That said here’s our slides.

Our Experts