You don’t need to be sat in the office to be able to do the comms job effectively. We’ve known that for years. But this new case study proves the point…
by Louisa Dean
The royal birth was an announcement we’ve all been waiting for, for what seemed like ages. We’ve had media crews in Windsor for the last week and it looks like they will be here for a while now especially with the first wedding anniversary of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in a few days time.
The comms team had been talking about the royal birth since the beginning of the year especially with the Croydon hospital April Fool (you got some of us!) But the day they announced the birth was a bank holiday and only a few days since my team had worked through the night on the local elections. I also happened to be in Birmingham catching up with fellow comms pro, Holly Bremner.
Holly and I had been talking about comms plans and strategies when we decided to get another drink. As I pulled out my purse, I could see a bunch of messages on my phone about the baby and that the announcement was due soon.
Did I panic as I was miles away from Windsor and my computer? I would have done previously but not this time. And the reason why, we had planned and prepared all we needed in advance and I knew the team were ready.
In the last few weeks, Maddie, who manages the comms team on a day to day basis, had worked with our designers to produce a tweetcard offering our congratulations to the Duke and Duchess with options depending on whether they had a girl or a boy. She had also developed a protocol for what would happen when the announcement was made, including when to start tweeting as well as liaising with the Royal Household for media arrangements.
Good relationships with the Royal Household and the Crown Estate have been a key part of our stakeholder mapping particularly since the Royal wedding last May and since we hold more royal events in the town than most it makes sense to put time and effort into developing and maintaining these relationships.
The team picked up the breaking news on social media. We all know that this type of news is likely to break on social media first so as soon as the team saw it, they got to work. Within half an hour of the breaking news, the official news was out and within a minute of the Royal Household tweeting the official statement we had tweeted the Royal Borough’s best wishes. This quick work saw our Twitter post gain nearly 500 likes and over 100 retweets in less than 24 hours. Our Facebook post gained nearly 200 likes. Some may say that this type of communication is frivolous and not needed by a council but, and here’s the thing, this type of communication isn’t about need, it’s about providing a human edge to our communications; to be seen as an organisation within the borough we serve that is active and involved.
Some have asked what was the secret behind being able to react so quickly to this breaking news? In two words: We planned.
I used to hate planning but I can see the real benefits. Part of hiring a senior press officer (Maddie) was to have someone in a senior comms post to plan ahead and ensure we are ready for things we know are coming up. Maddie is the owner of our planning grid and we develop materials for events like this at least a month in advance. This type of planning also ensures that when something unexpected happens we have the breathing space and capacity to deal with it. It’s easy to plan your content especially with something as straight forward as this and it takes away the stress of having to do work when it’s the weekend.
Once we had sorted the social media out and ensured that we didn’t need to provide any media support, the team and I were able to go back to enjoying their weekend.
I just had to text the leader and the managing director and then got back to my drink with Holly. Our next discussion was the important issue of names for Baby Sussex, we had quite a list (but did it include Archie? Darren)
I’m really proud of the team and the work we achieved over a Bank Holiday weekend. Now we are using social media creatively to promote our Grade I listed building, The Guildhall, which you can hire for naming days and weddings as well as our tourism marketing team who are promoting all the amazing attractions you can visit when in the town – and there are a number of people in Windsor at the moment!
Louisa Dean is communications and marketing manager at the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead – you can say hello on Twitter at @LouisaDean23
image via Nationaal Archief