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Do local councils have a role to play in place marketing? Of course they do. But mix up some creative thinking with a social media plan and it makes for a different way to do it…

by Mark Ford

We didn’t invent Somerset Day. I wish we had, but it was the work of some community-minded folk three years ago. But when someone comes up with a great idea, the best thing to do is get behind it.

We love it, but can’t go spending money on it so how can we back Somerset Day, harness its power and positivity and get people talking up the county?

How about a Richard Osman style ‘World Cup of’ Somerset – that pitches the most-loved aspects of the county against each other in a football World Cup format through Twitter polls?

A week or so ago we tweeted out asking for nominations, backed up with a little iMovie trailer. More than 100 came in and were whittled down to 32 (based on frequency and a bit of geographic spread so nowhere feels left out).

Groups were drawn from a hat by a dragon (yes, honestly) and tweeted out in stages last Friday to build a bit of anticipation.

The Wurzels Vrs West Somerset Railway. Glastonbury Festival Vrs Yeovil Town FC. Cheddar Cheese Vrs Carnival. What’s not to like?

I thought 1,000 votes over the week would be pretty cool. I’m writing this on the morning of semi-final day and 6,000 votes were cast in rounds one and two. @SomersetCouncil has gained lord knows how many likes and shares and new followers. We’ll work that out later.

A week-long build-up and a bit of thoughtful tagging – you’ll all know your area’s Twitter big hitters and famous alumni – has helped it gain the critical mass for lift-off. As I sat in a meeting yesterday I watched @edgarwright (from Wells) retweet Group 4. Hot Fuzz put on 500 votes in about half an hour (against Cheddar Gorge, Cider, and Wells Cathedral).

It’s been brilliant to see the way it’s been embraced. It’s a refreshing to be the focus of some positivity social media, something I’m sure everyone working local government can relate to.

So, what’s the point of this? It’s a bit of froth and nonsense isn’t it? Yes and no.

Getting the defence in first, at least 95% of this (including this blog) has been done out of hours in my own time, because it’s fun.

In work hours it’s just been a bit of team interaction and retweeting, so basically zero cost.

But Somerset Day is all about shouting about what’s great about the county and everyone benefits from that. It’s great to see the enthusiasm for the place. How often is social media clogged up with down-beat stuff?

Somerset doesn’t have an identity crisis, but I don’t think its sense of self has been quite as strong as some places. But that’s changing.

Like everyone, we struggle to recruit to key posts and are trying hard to sell the county as much as the roles to attract staff. In some little way this will contribute raising Somerset’s profile.

We’re sign-posting to wider Somerset Day stuff which will hopefully earn us a bit of credit with the various partners and business, which also support it.

At the end, we have gained more followers who will pick up our more everyday info and messages. They wouldn’t be there without the fun bits.

And then there’s the intangible benefit of helping people understand that while we’re a ‘Council’ we’re really just a big bunch of human beings who want the best for the county.

So, if you’ve got an interest in Somerset take a look at #WCoSomerset and #SomersetDay and give us a follow at @SomersetCouncil

Mark Ford is service manager at Somerset County Council

image via Wikimedia

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

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