THE SO TOOLKIT
09. COMMUNICATIONS PLAN - INCLUDING SOCIAL MEDIA
WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA
We also very lucky in that we had a volunteer to design our website for us. This took a few months to get up and running, and time to build up with information, pictures, blogs, videos. We also played around with the structure a bit as projects came online. For example, we changed the original “clean” front page to a more “patchwork” approach where people could click on what they were looking for. This also enabled us to add things easily. We also linked it to our Twitter feed.
SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY
At first this was very ad hoc. One issue, which I believe may be common to many parish councils, is that most of us were not very social media savvy. We had some people who used Facebook – which is our main communications tool at the moment, although Instagram is building fast with a younger profile audience. We had a very kind offer from a friend, who’s PR company Lucre Communications produced a brilliant report for us - link here to show how we could develop our social media strategy, including getting the right visuals and message for each channel, as they are very different. Our current social media strategy can be found here. For example, Instagram is more about beautiful pictures and simple stand-out messages, and for a younger audience, while Twitter is more news -based information, and good for retweeting relevant things. There is a local government guide here.
PRESS AND OTHER MEDIA COVERAGE
We regularly write articles (with pictures or photos) for some local publications, some local free press and magazines, and try to send out press releases of things to all media including the Hampshire Chronicle when we have something to say. We have had some success. There are also radio stations which we have not targeted as yet. We have worked well with our own Overton TV (link here) who’s founder Darren Wingham set up to entertain and inform people during COVID, and he has interviewed us and put some of our videos on YouTube.
Embrace social media – and ideally recruit young people: Not every parish council may be particularly au fait with social media, partly perhaps due to the age profile of many PC’s. It’s therefore important to attract younger, media savvy people to help with this. It may seem scary to some of us – but actually it’s really fun and effective, and a brilliantly cost-effective way of getting messages out and engaging with your community.
You may need to upskill yourselves or find people who are knowledgeable.
Each media has a different profile: For us, we found Facebook was our best communication vehicle, particularly with families, but this is now being challenged by Instagram (a younger profile, and more about beautiful pictures and simple messages). Twitter is also useful for retweeting interesting news articles, and again a different target group. The website is important as a place where all your information, videos, news, Twitter feed etc can be communicated. Also, as a place where people can sign up or express an interest in helping out.
Ensure you have people who can post relatively regularly, to keep it fresh and interesting. Currently we’ve got a different person for each channel.
Ensure you check any responses: make sure you respond to any queries quickly – these might be potential volunteers, or have useful information to give. It also makes you look professional, and efficient.
Scheduling: You can also schedule messages and find effective ways to managed this.
Team members might need help doing this: It can be sometimes difficult to encouraging the teams to provide things for social media – either because they are busy, or they don’t use it so don’t really understand what we are asking. You may have to find other ways of getting the content you want.
Recruit more younger people to assist with social media.
Encourage diversity and involvement: It’s worth approaching people in the community who know about certain things – e.g. if someone has made a fabulous bug hotel, why not ask them if they would make a video of it to show others how to do it. Also, then you have a different selection of people of different ages which creates more diversity and makes the website more interesting.
SOME OF OUR PROJECTS
INITIAL COMMUNICATIONS WITH EASY HINTS AND TIPS
This was our first communication (picture). We tried to keep it simple, introduce ourselves, and keep costs down by printing in black and white. This went out in our monthly newsletter hand delivered to each household. We also took it round all the businesses and tried to get it put up in their windows. Most businesses don’t like doing this as a policy. Or at least have some on the tables/counter. This worked quite well in pubs. There are other options that we could explore such as the Doctors Surgery perhaps (post-COVID), and other media.
SLIM YOUR BINS
This was our second insert in our parish newsletter.
GREEN BIN GAME
We also adopted the wonderful “green bin challenge” from the Whitchurch Green Fair, which we ran on a stall in our monthly indoor market in St Mary’s Hall.
In essence, you have a large plastic or cardboard box labelled “black bin”, one labelled “green bin” and on labelled “other” (for example things like tetrapacks that can be taken to a local supermarket, batteries that can go to a local shop, aluminium etc that can go to our small recycling point in a local carpark.
You then have a big shopping bag of examples of each item (plastic bottles, wrapping paper, margarine tubs, meat or fish plastic containers, egg boxes, aluminium wrap, crisp packets, pizza boxes, fast food containers, batteries etc).
The challenge is for people to put each item in the correct box. Sounds easy? The majority of people were pretty confused about this, and also angry about the lack of recycling in Hampshire, as some had come from other counties where more plastics are recycled.
It’s important to understand the current policies in Hampshire, and to know exactly what does where, so that people can be informed. This was eye-opening for many people, and has hopefully made a difference. They are either not recycling things they should, or recycling things they shouldn’t, or putting dirty pizza boxes or wet/dirty stuff in the bins, which contaminates the load. Good to have some information to either hand out, or direct them to clear website information
PLASTIC FREE JULY AND PLASTIC SWAPS
We joined the Plastic Free July movement, now coming up to its 11th year. If you sign up here, it gives lots of ideas and advice, as well as free resources to use. We did our own insert (above), as we wanted to build our SO brand, and also tried to get it up in as many high street shops as possible, but you can use their free resources. This was quite challenging, particularly if the shop has lots of plastic, so we would suggest start with the easier targets - e.g. our cafes are all really hot on eco stuff. We tried to promote businesses in our newsletter too, to inform people that for example you can reuse your plastic bread bag in the bakers, or bring your own cloth one, which they will use to cut your bread into. We also produced posters, both to advertise the movement, and to put into local shop windows (below).
SAS PLASTIC FREE CHAMPIONS
This is a great way of getting Single-Use Plastics on the agenda, and out of people’s shopping.
There are ready-made resources and programmes for schools, communities here, and businesses, as well as plenty of advice for individuals. This is an easy way of engaging with people, and where collectively we can make a real difference. It’s relatively easy to obtain plastic free status for your village/area.
BEAD AND TERRACYCLE RECYCLING
As HCC/Hart only collect a small proportion of plastics, we set up a TerraCycle crisp packet drop off point in our playgroup, which we then pack up and post to TerraCycle, as they will only grant so many collection points in an area, and we cannot currently have one. We have now worked closely with St. Mary’s Church in Overton to set up a Bead recycling point at the church, where most plastics (1-6) can be recycled. For more information on what can and can’t be recycled, click here. More information on BEAD recycling can be found here. You will need volunteers specifically to manage the material collected as it’s quite a lot of work. We also set up a separate Facebook group (linked with SO) for the bead recycling, partly to reflect that it’s being run by the Church along with SO in collaboration, and partly so as not to overload the SO Facebook page with bead recycling information and posts, as these are plentiful. Although halted temporarily for the lockdown, in the first few weeks we already needed more bins and regular emptying, showing there is a demand for this.
The concept of a repair café is that
we retain the knowledge and expertise
of people who can fix broken things,
and pass it on to others. Fix instead of
throwing away. We visited various
repair cafes in Andover and Reading,
and contacted others to learn from them. We have recruited “fixers” – mainly electrical is in demand, but also bike repairs, sewers, etc. We also have a list of people wanting things fixed. We have had to delay our launch twice due to COVID, so we are aiming for a Spring launch perhaps. You will need insurance for this – as volunteers must be covered for anything they fix, as well as obviously protecting the users and the parish council. We have found the premium very large for full cover, reduceable by attaching it to the Parish Council insurance, but still high. Also, people require relevant qualifications on the electrical and bike front, and electrical items need to be PAT tested by someone who is qualified to do this. Luckily, we have these in place. You will also need supplies, forms for people to fill in, people to meet and greet, ideally someone to provide tea and coffee when COVID regulations allow. More information can be found here.
WALK TO SCHOOL
There is already a great Hampshire County Council campaign in conjunction with Living Streets. There are lots of easy ways to do this and engage people. It’s a big problem in our village, where really everyone is within walking distance of the school unless they live outside the village, have mobility issues or have timing problems with dropping children off en route to work. Additional HCC resources can be found here.
CLEAN AIR CAMPAIGN/NO ENGINE IDLING
Again, a huge problem with parents/carers is they arrive early to get a parking space, and leave the engine running. HCC has some great banners and stickers/keyrings that can be given out to educate, as does Global Action Plan (link here). All the messages can be echoed in our social media and newsletters to underline the message. We could also add in more innovative ideas too for the future.
GREEN WEEK (VIRTUAL)
This was planned to happen in September but had to be made virtual a week beforehand due to the rule of 6.
SWITCHING TO A GREEN SUPPLIER
We gave some information in our newsletter, and on our website/social media, as this is an easy quick win.
We ran social media campaigns to recruit volunteers to do litter picks. We ran a socially distanced one too during lockdown.
SO’S FIRST BIRTHDAY
We wrote a piece on what we had achieved in our first year, and did some social media posts also. This was important so that not only residents but also the team can be reminded of what the whole team have achieved.
We produced this insert to give people some easy and money-saving ideas to have a greener Christmas. It’s important to keep a balance between giving suggestions and allowing people to have fun (e.g. big outdoor Christmas light displays). We are also planning to run a post each day in an advent calendar format in the run up to Christmas.