Posted in Local Gov

Hey, it’s been a long time…

It’s been a long while since I last did a blog post.

In fact it was February. The last thing I wrote about was the LG Comms Digital Seminar in February and A LOT has happened since then.

Both work and home life has taken over. The biggest thing is the fact that I have a baby on the way. That along with the stress of moving house and all the added busy-ness of work it’s just been a little bit chaotic.

So I thought I’d do a little recap and reflecting on what’s happened since February aside from the patter of tiny feet and for sale sign going up.

Team Work
We’re only a small team of three at work but we’ve made a big impact already. Some of the projects I’ve been involved in have been our new intranet – which will be going live soon. I’ve played a role in our efforts for Gravesham in Bloom – mainly on our website and Twitter. I’m already looking into our Christmas programme of events and there’s lots of other projects too – all running simultaneously. Forms packages for stage two of our project, knowledge base for customer service staff, web chat and so much more in-between.

New Website Designs
Since February our website redesign has come on strides. We’ve written a really detail project brief and we’re working with a local web design company to help us realise our vision and aims in the website we want to produce for our customers. The designs are now at the stage where initial concepts are being tested. If you’ve got some time I’d love to get your thoughts on what we’ve done so far. It doesn’t function like a normal website at the moment but there’s a survey to fill in to help us take it onto the next stage. Here’s our designs and the survey.

Content, content, content
I have been plugging away at new content for our new website and it’s turning into a big job for one person but something i really love doing at the same time. I’m juggling lots of different departments at once ploughing through various draft stages and sign offs. I absolutely love to write so this part of the new site is right up my street. It’s been challenging to take the council jargon out of it all considering I’ve worked in local gov now for eight years as I have been sucked into the way it all works. This is why it’s so important to step outside of this sometimes and put 100% into user testing.  Slowly but surely the content is coming along and we’re making real progress. By the time our web designs are plumbed into our CMS, we’ll be ready to upload some real content to test – which is great!

Training
I’ve designed and run some really successful social media training in-house at work, specifically for our planning department to get them thinking about various ways they can communicate the local plan. This was a huge success and has left the team with a real enthusiasm for thinking about new ideas and innovative ways to get messages out. For me this is really great to see and I’m excited to see where they take it once the consultation starts.

Social Media – a question
So one question I’d like some views on is social media accounts for councils and where do you stop? Do you sign up for all of them and see which ones work best. Do you try the biggest ones – Twitter and Facebook and test the water? I’d be really interested to hear what others are doing for this and how it’s controlled internally. Do these channels land on comms or a digital team to manage or is more freedom given to more teams across the council. How do you say yes or no to every single department, project or event wanting its own social media accounts versus this information going through corporate accounts.

MailChimp
At work we’ve been experimenting with MailChimp. We wanted to start reaching out to our residents to keep them in the loop with everything we’re doing in terms of digital services. But one idea led to another and we’ve now extended this to a generic monthly newsletter for council news and information. So far we have 600 people subscribed to this newsletter and our very first newsletter has been opened by more than 60% of people. This is has been very positive to start with so watch out for our August one coming out in a few weeks. If you’re interested you can sign up.

Digital.Together
As part of a Kent Connects initiative I’ve become a Digital Envoy. If you haven’t heard of Digital.Together it’s worth taking a look at the Digital.Together website. It’s basically a year-long idea to promote digital across Kent. I’ve been picked as an ambassador of sorts to help promote the work they’re doing and encourage digital services take up across the county too.

Mentoring
I was very privileged to have a mentoring session with Darren Caveney of Comms2point0. This session was really useful and we’ve put together a skills and experience matrix. Although I haven’t managed to do any further sessions this is something I’d like to pick up in the future. I’ve also been keeping my eye out for when the LG Comms future leaders programme opens for 2015.

And there’s plenty more that’s been going on at work, these are just some of my key highlights.

I’ve managed to take a few days’ leave amongst all of this, have been crocheting baby blankets and baby scrapbooking ready for the big arrival.

Posted in Local Gov

Way to promote a Park

MotePark

I went to an outdoor theatre production in my local park, Mote Park, on Saturday. If I’m being blunt it wasn’t very well attended and that was largely down to the poor weather. It poured it down. But there were a small number of us who stuck it out armed with brollies. And you know what? The sun even came out for about 10 minutes during and it stopped raining while they did their thing and then it started raining again at the end. So all in all it was a lucky evening weather wise. But that would have put people off even attempting to come down. The theatre was great though and the setting was awesome. It was Alice through the Looking Glass, and although the props had seen better days it was a different sort of Saturday night.

But it got me thinking on the way home just what a big space Mote Park is and what more could be done in it and to promote it. And this doesn’t just apply to this park, there’s loads of parks that could benefit from the same. Most of the ideas revolve around a bit of investment but imagine if you could create a super park. The one above is the park of my dreams but please ignore the poor drawing of the dog!

For those who don’t know. Mote Park is huge and it’s in the centre of Maidstone, Kent. It’s had some lottery funding to make it good and so much is being done, but I always wish for more. I use the park on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis so I wish it could be even better.

If I could do anything I’d like to build a big visitor centre in the middle which included a volunteer hub and perhaps a cute little club house for park members. I’d have a membership scheme to help plough some money back in. I’d want different zones – so a dog-only zone and perhaps even a doggy day creche! I’d pay for that, that’s for sure. I’d want a huge crazy golf course, Christmas ice skating, planting ceremonies, memorial benches, a big maze, a nice big allotment and a big restaurant and cafe, where all the stuff is home grown from the park. I’d want more picnic areas, a big annual ‘country show’ event to draw people in, a camping and glamping area, a climbing centre, more outdoor theatre with a whatever-the-weather cover, an outdoor swimming pool and a different way to host the annual Mela. Basically I want it all and I’d promote all this with a website solely devoted to the park, a blogging site, Instagram and Facebook. Badges, membership cards, a whole lotta enthusiasm and most important of all – word of mouth – to promo the big green space right on our doorsteps!