Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally

Ipswich Borough Council joins the 21st Century

1 Comment

Ipswich Spy has written a good piece today on Ipswich Borough Council’s appointment of a social media officer to their communications department.

I understand Tory Group leader Cllr John Carnall’s point about additional spending when the public debt pile is rising – with the national public debt increasing by £600bn under the present Government alone – and I certainly could find a hundred ways to save money at Ipswich Borough Council, having been a councillor there for four years.  However, I feel Cllr Carnall’s reaction to the social media officer appointment was a little knee-jerk; would Mr Carnall have used the word “disgraceful” in the context of social media if he was in his 30s and not his 60s? 
Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and a plethora of web-based communication applications are empowering millions today (including people over 60!)? Look how much further Cllr Carnall’s comments now go because of social media. He made his comments to the Morning Ipswich Star but I read them on the blog Ipswich Spy and was no where near a copy of the local paper. The so-called mainstream media is quickly becoming not very mainstream at all – as the Morning Ipswich Star circulation figures clearly show. Undoubtedly, social media is a force which will only get stronger as more people consume their news and debate electronically.
However, I can’t believe the Council could not recruit for this position internally. Are they really saying out of the hundreds of people they employ, not one had the requisite skills to take over the running of the social media function at Ipswich Borough Council? It is not a full-time job, surely? What will they need to do? Send out a few tweets, keep the Facebook site up-to-date, create a guide for less IT-literate civil servants on how to communicate with the public via Twitter and Facebook. A couple of days a week, maximum.
Perhaps, the new recruit could make a start by tweeting when the Area Committees take place? I asked for this, as a resident, back in March but it has still not happened.
Ipswich Spy also made the very pertinent point about how Ipswich Borough Council treats bloggers over the dead-tree press, such as the Morning Ipswich Star. Let’s hope their new social media recruit tells the Borough communications chief that Archant’s circulation is going DOWN whereas blog readership is going UP year-on-year. It makes you wonder why the Council puts Morning Ipswich Star political editor Paul Geater on a pedestal, quite literally, at town hall Council meetings. Mr Geater gets his own table and chair (and, of course, a jug of water) high up with the councillors whilst bloggers like myself and Ipswich Spy have to squeeze into the public gallery.
If I was in charges of communications and the media at the Council, I’d be a little more concerned the future of journalism – the blogosphere – were being kept sweet rather than the dead tress press. Of course, I might not be aware of the Council’s open-all-doors media policy so I’ve today emailed the chief executive, Russell Williams, to ask for a copy of the process for gaining access to the press gallery. I’ll let you know his reply in due course.
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Author: gavinmaclure

IT professional; political blogger, former Conservative councillor

One thought on “Ipswich Borough Council joins the 21st Century

  1. I think you vastly underestimate what it takes to "do social media" properly. If I e-mail any council today with a complaint, or enquiry, I'm pretty sure there will be metrics to ensure I get an appropriate response in a timely manner. Now consider I can bang out a 140 character tweet in a fraction of the time it takes to compose a lengthy ranting e-mail. Someone has to ensure every tweet is read, managed and responded to, and due to the nature of the beast, the expectations for response are greater than ever – faster, more accurate etc. Of course, it depends on your customer base and traffic volumes as to how big the team needs to be, but get it wrong, and it could cost you a lot more than if you had never bothered.

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