Tag Archives: facebook

Elect Social: your handy cut-and-paste social media purdah guidelines

This was originally posted by Dan Slee on his blog. We have reblogged this in order to share it further and make it available in the Welsh language, as it’s a really useful resource and a fantastic guide for Local Authorities in Wales.

Elect Social / Etholi'n Gymdeithasol

Gone are the press releases from politicians and in comes quotes from officers. Why? To ensure that the council cannot be accused of political bias in the run up to polling day.

It’s been around for decades and local government comms teams have got a pretty good grasp of what this entails. It means under The Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity (Local Government Act 1986) that newsletters, press releases, conferences, badges and web pages are affected.

The code says:

The period between the notice of an election and the election itself should preclude proactive publicity in all its forms of candidates and other politicians involved directly in the election.

Publicity should not deal with controversial issues or report views, proposals or recommendations in such a way that identifies them with individual members or groups of members.

However, it is acceptable for the authority to respond in appropriate circumstances to events and legitimate service enquiries provided that their answers are factual and not party political.

Members holding key political or civic positions should be able to comment in an emergency or where there is a genuine need for a member level response to an important event outside the authority’s control.

Proactive events arranged in this period should not involve members likely to be standing for election.

What this means is that the council’s resources must not be or even appear to an observer to be used for party political ends in this period of heightened political sensitivity.

Six golden rules during Purdah

  1. No publicity will be given to matters which are politically controversial.
  2. The general presumption will be that no references will be made to individual politicians in press releases (except where there is a valid emergency as set out below)
  3. Great caution will be exercised before undertaking any significant media exercise unless it can be demonstrated that this was included in the forward diary before the election was called.
  4. No photographs of candidates in the election will be issued
  5. Before any request for council photographs and other materials is considered, enquiries will be made as to the use to which they are to be put and an appropriate restriction on use imposed if supplied.
  6. The position of Mayor as the figurehead of the authority is different and material will be issued, providing it is not of a political nature.

But what teams struggle with is social media. How does this affect the Twitter stream? Here’s a cut-out-and-keep guidance for people who operate council social media channels (disclaimer: check it with your legal team first).

Twitter

  1. Please explain that as a council channel of communication you are governed by Purdah in a period before an election. It may be helpful to tweet a link to an explanation of Purdah for guidance.
  2. Do not retweet political parties, politicians or political opinion.
  3. Do not tweet on matters which are politically controversial.
  4. Do not tweet images of political parties, politicians or subjects which are politically controversial.
  5. Do not stage a significant Twitter-based campaign unless it can be demonstrated that this was included in the forward diary before the election was called.
  6. Tweets by and about the Mayor may be retweeted as long as they are not of a political nature.
  7. In exceptional circumstances please first seek permission from the communications unit to tweet or retweet a comment by a politician during Purdah.

Facebook

  1. Please explain that as a council channel of communication you are governed by Purdah in a period before an election.
  2. Do not post or share updates from political parties, politicians or political opinion.
  3. Do not post or share images from political parties, politicians or political opinion.
  4. Monitor your page and delete any content which is politically controversial with an explanation that this has been done so because of the rules that govern Purdah linking to this advice.
  5. Tweets by and about the Mayor may be retweeted as long as they are not of a political nature.
  6. Do not stage a significant Facebook-based campaign unless it can be demonstrated that this was included in the forward diary before the election was called.
  7. In exceptional circumstances please first seek permission from the communications unit to tweet or retweet a comment by a politician during Purdah.

YouTube

  1. Please explain that as a council channel of communication you are governed by Purdah in a period before an election.
  2. Do not post or share updates from political parties, politicians or political opinion.
  3. Do not post or share images from political parties, politicians or political opinion.
  4. Monitor your page and delete any content which is politically controversial with an explanation that this has been done so because of the rules that govern Purdah linking to this advice.
  5. Videos by or about the Mayor may be added as long as they are not of a political nature.
  6. Do not stage a significant YouTube-based campaign unless it can be demonstrated that this was included in the forward diary before the election was called.
  7. In exceptional circumstances please first seek permission from the communications unit to add a YouTube clip by a politician during Purdah.

Third party social media profiles

Council staff who update third party social media profiles as part of their job are governed by Purdah. These profiles include business partnership profiles which the council supports.

There are two options:

  1. Opt out: For the duration of Purdah hand over ALL admin to a non-council member of the partnership and allow them to add Purdah-restricted content that council staff are unable to post. Resume adding content and managing after the election.
  2. Opt in: Council employees can continue to add content or share admin duties but ALL content is governed by Purdah restrictions.

Flickr

  1. Please explain that as a council channel of communication you are governed by Purdah in a period before an election.
  2. Do not post or share pictures from political parties, politicians or political opinion.
  3. Monitor your page and delete any content which is politically controversial with an explanation that this has been done so because of the rules that govern Purdah linking to this advice.
  4. Images by or about the Mayor may be added as long as they are not of a political nature.
  5. Do not stage a significant Flickr-based campaign unless it can be demonstrated that this was included in the forward diary before the election was called.
  6. In exceptional circumstances please first seek permission from the communications unit to add a YouTube clip by a politician during Purdah.
  7. Please disable the ability to download images of politicians during Purdah.

Creative commons credit
Election van: https://www.flickr.com/photos/48600108001@N01/463965443/

Social Scrutiny

Scrutiny

What, you may ask, is Huw Lloyd Jones thinking about in writing a blog that focuses mainly on the use of social media? Surely someone who is beginning to catch glimpses of the paradise of retirement through the mist must have something better to do with his time?

You may be right! I’ve been a Linked-In user for a while but I confess that, until recently, I’ve used it as an older person’s equivalent of an autograph book. My attempts to open a Facebook account were met, within seconds, by an avalanche of horrified texts between my grown-up children (though not addressed to me), followed soon after by an unequivocal Facebook Ban from my wife. ‘You’ll get yourself into trouble’, she said.

Huw Lloyd-Jones

So, when the Wales Audit Office decided to encourage its staff to use social media, I thought to myself, ‘Leave it to the youngsters’ (and the trendy-but-not-so-young)! When I saw that a session at a staff training day was devoted to Twitter, I was sceptical. But I duly turned up, listened and asked a few questions. What impressed me most, perhaps, was that, in practising our rudimentary skills, we got an instant (and witty) response from an only-just-ex Welsh Government Minister! I guess that this alerted me straight away to the influential power of social media!

To cut a long story short, as an open-minded (aka gullible) trainee, I signed up to Twitter. In doing so, I managed to delete everything on my Blackberry, but I got there in the end! I have no interest in what celebrities had for breakfast so I decided to focus mainly on following:

  • the six councils I work with; and
  • education stuff.

So what have I learned as a result of my ‘experiment’? First of all, a couple of generalities for anyone else who’s thinking about opening a Twitter account:

  • Even if you only follow a small number of other Twitter users, you could spend all day every day looking at what comes in. Get yourself something like Hootsuite that allows you to sort your incoming Tweets into different categories. It’s not like email – you can afford to miss lots of ‘messages’ because, if they’re important, someone will Retweet them.
  • You don’t need to send lots of Tweets. I’ve made some horrendous gaffes (particular apologies to @Snowded and @whatsthepont as well as anyone else I may have offended). Think carefully about how your not-so-carefully constructed 140 characters will appear to others before you light the blue touch paper and send the Tweet!

What about ‘my’ six councils? It was quite an eye-opener in terms of the differences between them in the way that they’re using Twitter. As an auditor, you’d expect me to introduce some data somewhere, so here are the ‘basic’ Twitter statistics for the six councils at the time of writing:

Council

Tweets

Following

Followers

A

1197

0

2735

B

2046

14

3402

C

6992

174

6597

D

3156

31

4097

E

1783

182

1646

F

6586

3078

5273

So what? I guess that the number of tweets reflects, to some extent, the length of time that the council has been using Twitter. Also, tweeting in both languages adds to the count (and engages more people, too). It’s interesting that the number of followers seems to match quite closely the number of tweets!

What caught my attention, though, was the number of other Twitter users that each council follows. Following lots of people and organisations means that you receive hundreds of tweets every day – time consuming, and possibly of little benefit! On the other hand, if you follow very few others, the only tweets you receive are those directed specifically to you. You miss out on what your partners are up to and on what the media and influential individuals and groups within the community have to say.

The variation in the type of information that councils tweet has also been fascinating. Some tend to tweet information about vacancies and things like unexpected school closures. Others use Twitter to proclaim good news stories and to advertise events that they are running, usually via links to the council’s website. Those that follow their partners often retweet information about their work. In my area, for example, the police make great use of Twitter and those councils that follow the police can significantly increase the audience for police tweets by passing on the message, as well as reinforcing the fact that the council and the police are working together closely.

Just one council so far has used Twitter to advertise an ongoing consultation – just think how many more people now know that the consultation is ‘live’ compared with the numbers that might have stumbled upon the information via the website! And another council has begun to hold ‘Twitter surgeries’ where Cabinet members respond to tweets from members of the public about their areas of responsibility. There hasn’t been a great response thus far, but what a great idea in terms of engaging with the public in a forum that’s open to anyone who’s interested!

Tweeting information about forthcoming committee meetings happens only rarely and inconsistently. Our recent work on scrutiny across Wales has identified that most councils feel that they could engage more effectively with the public in the way in which they hold decision-makers to account. Why not, therefore, take the opportunity to tell all those followers about meetings that will focus on important issues? Even better, why not use Twitter beforehand to allow people to express their views and to gauge public opinion? The potential is huge!

So, to quote an oft-used phrase, What’s the PONT?

  • You’re never too old to use social media, but think before you Tweet!
  • Councils vary hugely in the extent of their Twitter engagement and the nature of what they tweet.
  • The potential of social media such as Twitter to engage with the public is huge.
  • Councils’ scrutiny functions, in particular, could make much more use of social media to engage with the public and to reflect their views when holding decision-makers to account.

Huw