A few months ago I spent a pleasant hour-or-two talking about social media with Mark Bee, the leader of Suffolk County Council. It had been arranged by the council press officer, Andrew St Ledger who had invited me along with another blogger and a MSM journalist.
I remember saying that social media involved two way conversations and that people at the council had to be trusted. They would have to be brave and accept risks, to gain the benefits.
Since then I have not seen much sign of change (these things don’t happen overnight), but think Mark Bee and his colleagues, might like to know what is happening at Monmouthshire County Council. Or, rather, let Helen Reynolds, a communications officer at the Monmouthshire council, tell them.
She has written an excellent blog post at We Love Local Government, about what has happened since they opened social media access to all staff. she writes:
This seems to be a rare thing in the public sector, I don’t know another organisation that has done it. People often ask how it’s going and my answer is usually ‘well, the world hasn’t ended’. In fact, it’s really breathing life into our council and communities at a time when our organisation is going through a lot of change.
As we said in the staff e-zine when we first opened access, one of our values is openness and our staff are trusted to make the most of the networks and conversations possible using social media. Social media is a great way for us to engage more effectively with colleagues, residents and partners so it’s an opportunity that can’t be missed.
We’ll make some errors and we still have work to do on getting better at using these channels but we’ve made a start.
I usually take these “look how forward thinking we are” pieces with a large pinch of salt. But I have taken a look, and think they really are doing something fresh which almost certainly reflects a big cultural change in the Cwmbran offices.
Here are some links for those who want to explore:
- Compare the official Suffolk twitter feed and Monmouthshire’s.
- Paul Matthews, chief executive of Monmouthshire uses twitter for conversations.
- How they are using a Yammer, private social network, for communications with and between foster carers.
- In addition to the official county council website they have a WordPress blog which is a good place to get a better idea of their use of social media.
- The county council is backing a Wikipedia project to cover the whole town of Monmouth. Special codes at places of interest will link smart phones to more information via a free wi-fi network.
- And here is Helen Reynolds’ guide, Someone’s talking to my organisation using social media – what do I say back.
I found it exciting. I hope the people in Endeavour House, Ipswich, can see the possibilities.