Ticked off!

All of Scotland’s Category 1 responders with Twitter accounts have now had them verified. We have the coveted little Blue Tick of Trust.

It all came about at a social media/emergencies meeting I attended where Nick Keane was speaking. He explained that all Police corporate accounts in the UK now had blue ticks thanks to a bit of negotiation with Twitter. I think I rudely interrupted to make the point that all Category 1 responders should have the tick because, let’s face it, when the proverbial hits the fan we’re all in it together, with the same message and the same responsibility to warn and inform.

Fair point,” he said. “Leave it with me and I’ll talk to Twitter.”

True to his word shortly afterwards a spreadsheet appeared from Twitter with the headings for information they need to verify accounts and the phone calls began. I sent the spreadsheet off to Twitter before I left work one night and by the time I got home we all had blue ticks – hurrah!

Why is this important? Well, now people know they can rely on our information and that we are who we say we are – essential in times of crisis. The other advantage is that it will stop people setting up rogue accounts claiming to be official – it doesn’t get more official than a blue tick.

I must point out that some of the phone calls made me worry, but I won’t mention names:

  • some Twitter accounts still seem to sit with IT but it isn’t IT who sit on the public comms groups or who put out emergency messages
  • some comms people don’t seem to know the email addresses the account is linked to but you should know your social media channels inside out and not have one person in control – it’s about the channel, not the individual
  • some NHS and fire services don’t have Twitter accounts when all the research points to Twitter being the ideal emergency channel when everything else is failing – it was tweets texted to Twitter that made it through the rubble of the Haiti earthquake, after all

When I announced on Twitter that we had the blue tick I was asked by some English authorities if they could do the same. Quite by chance I was invited to a resilience seminar to catch up with some people over lunch and while there I met Mandy Mackenzie, the Resilience Policy Manager at the Cabinet Office. I mentioned the blue tick to her and lo and behold there’s a process in place for all Category 1 responders to apply. How did we not know about this? Because they shared it amongst resilience bods and contingency planners, not comms people.

Anyway, here are your instructions to apply for a blue tick for your main corporate account, if you are a Cat 1 responder. They need:

  • the name of the account
  • the email address the account is linked to i.e. where the notifications from Twitter go (preferably generic)
  • a secondary address if there are any issues (personal or generic)

This should be emailed to digital.engagement@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk

If you aren’t a Category 1 emergency responder you’ll find everything you need to know in the Twitter Help Center FAQs about blue ticks.

Finally, when I submitted our spreadsheet Twitter came back with some tips:

  • they would expect to see evidence of conversations not just broadcast from emergency responders
  • mention your area/organisation in your Twitter biography so your account shows up in a Twitter search
  • make sure the name that appears on screen before your @name is the actual name of your organisation

Happy ticking.

Leading from the middle for now

Yesterday I graduated as one of the first LGComms Future Leaders and although I don’t have a piece of paper to prove it, I have learned loads since the start of the programme back in February.

This was a partnership between LGComms and the Local Government Chronicle which brought together comms people with other ambitious professionals from local government across the country for a series of events, from seminars, to full-blown conferences and Apprentice-style live exercises.

It was a quick six months with a pick and mix of sessions to chose from.

The first event specifically for comms people was hosted by Westminster Council and was a full day of quick-fire sessions covering leadership, reputation, customer insight, comms measurement and evaluation and crisis comms. It was pretty full-on but the highlights for me were presentations from Cormac Smith and how he dealt with the coverage surrounding the clearing of Dale Farm, @neilwholey‘s LGinsight  presentation and Mark Fletcher-Brown’s talk on leadership in times of change.

The day was also a good opportunity for networking and it gave me the opportunity to meet @kimneville at long last and to have a good chat with @sargo from Edinburgh City Council and @RubyBhattal.

The next event I chose to attend was a regional meeting in York of Future Leaders from other areas of local government. The highlight there was a talk by the Chief Executive of York Council, @Kersten1england about leading from the top and the issues that she has had to deal with since taking the post in 2009. I’ve even stolen the format of the film she showed for York’s 800th anniversary for our own Celebrating Lanarkshire project!

I chose not to take the academic part of the course which was two days of leadership at  LeedsUniversity. I did fancy it but I’ve already completed a PgCert in Leadership and Management of Public Services at Caledonian University plus it was around about the time of the submission date of my Masters dissertation so I was granted special dispensation. I’m told by other Future Leaders that it was a great two days.

The highlight for me was the peer review day when I got the chance to work with @kimneville, @danslee and @darrencaveney at Walsall Council. This was a great way of observing how another council does their comms and I think they learned as much from me as I did from them (at least they said they did!). Darren and Dan are planning a return trip to South Lanarkshire Council sometime soon and you can read more about my day at Walsall on a previous post.

Next up was the LGComms Academy, a three-day event in Birmingham, crammed full of great speakers. I’ve blogged about the Academy before so I won’t go into the detail again.

Last up for me was yesterday’s final event in Blackpooland oh boy, did we finish with a flourish.

The venue was Blackpooland early yesterday morning we all met up with @SJHalliwell, Head of Comms at Blackpool Council. We were given a brief, split into two teams and had five hours to come up with a campaign and present it to Cormac (that’s Lord Sugar to you and I). It was a tough and complex campaign – reconnecting the residents of Blackpool with the town centre which they perceive to be just for tourists.

Both teams (Team Bobsleigh 1 and Team Bobsleigh 2 – ask Lord Sugar the next time you see him for an explanation) gave it their all and although the other team won we were all winners in the end. We were commended for our creativity and they were commended for their watertight strategy – put them together and Suzanne has a pretty nifty campaign on her hands (the consultancy invoice is in the post if you can get it past iProc, Suzanne!).

Now I just have to work out how to put into practice everything that I’ve learned.

The other highlight of the programme was the mentoring. I was privileged to have @davidhold, the Director of Comms at the LGA as my mentor. On our one-to-ones David has always asked me questions to get me thinking about where I wan to be and now that I’m finished the course I have a pretty clear idea. Unfortunately the post doesn’t exist so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, nudge the right people and hopefully the post will materialise one day.

Till then I now have a network of like-minded leaders of the future to support me and a mentor, who I’m sure will still be there to guide me and get me thinking, long after the next cohort of future leaders starts.

I’d thoroughly recommend this programme to anyone working in local government and especially if you work in comms. Keep an eye out on Twitter and I’ll let you know how to apply for the next intake. You never know, one day I may be a Future Leaders mentor – now that’s something to aim for.