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.


  1. Gemma Melling · July 13, 2012

    Great post – its reminded me to chase ours as I emailed a while ago and have not heard back yet. Not as speedy as your blue tick! I’ll have to get back onto it…

  2. Matthew · July 13, 2012

    Really helpful post Carolyne. Do you have any tips for those of us who do not have GSI email accounts and therefore cannot send an email to the address you list?

    • carolynemitchell · July 23, 2012

      Hi Matthew,
      I’m not sure how government email works – maybe someone else reading this can help. Have you tried and it bounced back? I don’t always put the gsi in my email address when I’m giving it out but it’s still there in the background. Let me know if you’re still having problems and I’ll see if i can do anything to help.

      • Alexis Bailey · July 11, 2013

        I just tested my email address without using gsi and it still works, so what is gsi?

      • carolynemitchell · July 16, 2013

        It’s all to do with levels of security and I’m not sure myself. I think that with a gsi email account we get access to some databases but I’m told these are used by people like the DWP and JobCentre Plus staff. To my mind the reason for local gov using gsi is lost in the mists of time and is now preventing people like me doing my comms job because the only devices licensed to work with gsi won’t let me ‘do’ social media on the move properly.
        If there’s anyone out there who knows the background to gsi please write a blog post and clear it all up for us.

  3. Ross · July 14, 2012

    This is fantastic stuff. I’ll be hunting down the blue tick for us first thing next week. I also have a fantastic twitter story to share in this sort of vein involving storms and a lightening strike.


  4. Clive Murray · July 25, 2012

    Thanks Carolyne – content added to note of recent Use of Social Media in Emergencies Working Group meeting for benefit of cat 1/2 colleagues wishing to verify Twitter accounts.

  5. markbraggins · July 8, 2013

    Really useful post, thanks Carolyne. I’ll share with local colleagues and BlueLightCamp as well

    • carolynemitchell · July 16, 2013

      You’re welcome. I think there was confusion around the whole thing – contingency planners tend not to be the people in charge of Twitter accounts but the comms people sometimes don’t understand the importance of social media in an emergency.
      I hope I helped in some way to bridge the gap 🙂

      • jacqui semple · September 4, 2013

        Hi Carolyne
        Just for info – this didn’t come via contingency planners either:)

  6. Richard · August 7, 2013

    Hi Carolyn. I wonder if you got a response when you emailed? I’ve emailed the address above but haven’t heard anything back, almost like it’s gone into a black hole. I did ask for a confirmation to say they had received the email. This was a couple of weeks ago now.

    • carolynemitchell · August 7, 2013

      Hi Richard,
      We had a different process in Scotland and I only found out about how to do it as an English responder when I bumped into the person at the Cabinet Office who was dealing with the requests. Unfortunately she has since left and when I phoned they seemed to be unaware of the generic email account that had been set up. Try emailing gary.preece@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk as he offered to help out Northumberland Council when they hit the same problem as you.
      Let me know how you get on.

      • Richard · August 7, 2013

        Hi Carolyne. Thanks for taking the time to reply. I’ve dropped Gary an email and I’ll let you know how it goes. Appreciate your help! 🙂

  7. Matthew · August 22, 2013

    Well it’s taken more than a year and there was a time when I thought this just wasn’t going to happen, but Gary Preece has sorted this for us and we now have our blue tick. Thanks for this post Carolyne, and for following up our questions.

    On GSI, this stands for government secure internet. It provides a complete network of infrastructure that allows government bodies of all types to communicate with each other without any data using the world wide web at all. The problem I had was that the recipients’ email server knew that we had a GSI connection, but I didn’t have a GSI account, so my emails were rejected. I eventually got round that by asking a colleague to email on my behalf.

    • Alexis Bailey · September 3, 2013

      I also asked about gsi on LinkedIn and got this explanation from Sebastian Crump from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office:

      The GSi is a network of government department networks that meet certain security criteria – regularly audited – that are allowed to handle classified material up to RESTRICTED.

      So if you send an email from a .gsi.gov.uk email address to another then it gets routed only within the GSi network. Therefore, in theory, if you send RESTRICTED material to a non gsi.gov.uk email address when one is available you could be in breach of security if it gets routed via the general internet. In practice, however, most IT networks will route via GSi by default if possible.

      It doesn’t affect who can send you email – again in theory the .gsi.gov.uk email goes through a centralised email gateway, whereas without the .gsi they could go direct to the department. Again, in practise, most departments on the GSi route all their email through the gateway for ease of configuration and other services such as virus scanning.

      Different network rules apply to different organisations.

      This is not just restricted to emails however, there are a number of websites on the GSi, e.g. the FCO’s FCONet is currently available on the GSi. You can see a list at http://www.gsi.gov.uk/gsi-sites.htm (obviously that link will only work if you’re on the GSi).

      Another thing that might be worth mentioning, for information, is that technically the GSi no longer exists. Contractually it ended last year and is being replaced by the Public Service Network (PSN), which will be a more flexible system. As far as I can gather this will allow a mix of connections including public bodies that do not handle classified material.

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