joe lycett kitchen extension opening.jpg

Social media can still be a force for good. And opportunities to engage on social can come from the most surprising places. So when the taxi of opportunity comes along make sure that you jump in…

by Emma Brady

Birmingham’s Lord Mayor carries out, on average, between 900 and 1,500 public engagements each year, varying from the extremely formal (meeting high profile visitors such as the President of Ireland or American ambassador) to less formal school visits and local community events.

As you can imagine, the Lord Mayor’s Office also has to decline many invitations, either due to his or her availability or because the invitation is to attend a private function.

Earlier this year Brummie comedian Joe Lycett invited the then Lord Mayor (Cllr Yvonne Mosquito) to open his new kitchen extension. As with other invitations to private events, the Lord Mayor’s Office declined the invitation and wished him the best with the opening of his kitchen extension.

Joe’s tweet ‘bad news guys…’ which let his half a million followers know that Cllr Mosquito wouldn’t be able to open his kitchen extension gathered over 200 comments, more than 1,000 retweets and 16,000 likes.  While the First Citizen of Birmingham is an important civic figure, our Lord Mayor doesn’t usually generate a huge amount of interest outside the city – so we saw this an opportunity to raise awareness of the Lord Mayor’s Charity Appeal (each Lord Mayor selects charities and promotes fundraising events during their one year term of office) and show a more human side of the office of Lord Mayor.

It was also an opportunity to humanise what is a ceremonial role and show that the Lord Mayor was capable of having fun, while raising the profile of the charity.

We got back to Joe to say the Lord Mayor would be able to open his kitchen extension if it became a ‘public’ event and so he organised a raffle to offer four of his fans the opportunity to come along to the kitchen extension opening.  As part of the raffle, Joe also asked his fans to donate to the Lord Mayor’s Charity Appeal.  A simple ‘Delighted to be invited, Joe’ tweet we issued from the Lord Mayor’s Twitter account received 70 retweets – far more than we had ever got from that relatively small account before.

From there the story took on a life of its own – a kitchen extension in a house in south Birmingham became ‘The Mosquito Wing’, thousands of members of the public entered a raffle to attend its opening and almost £4,000 was raised for the Lord Mayor’s Charity Appeal.  The promotion of the event and the charity was done by Joe and the excitement continued to build in the week leading up to the kitchen extension opening.

Until then, all the event promotion had been done by Joe with minimal input from us, apart from retweeting and dealing with media enquiries that came in to our press office.  On the day itself we filmed a short video from the Lord Mayor saying she was looking forward to it and one lucky press officer accompanied Cllr Mosquito to Joe’s house to mingle with celebrities including Katherine Ryan, while capturing content for the council’s and Lord Mayor’s social media channels.  This is the same amount of resource we would assign to an event such as covering a key committee meeting.

Two other members of the team volunteered to spend their evening based in a nearby bar (not an unfamiliar evening’s activity for them!) to listen to the event live on Radio 1, watch Joe’s Instagram Live and put out content sent to them from the kitchen extension on our social media channels. 

By seeing an opportunity and with very little resource implications from us, we managed to achieve unprecedented engagement with our social media channels, overwhelmingly positive responses from the public and thousands of pounds for the Lord Mayor’s Charity Appeal.

The story came full circle in July when Joe came to hand over a cheque to Cllr Mosquito (now Deputy Lord Mayor) – which again attracted some good social traction (19.4k impressions, 5k video views and 5.6% overall engagement rate) and media coverage, namely on Midlands Today, Birmingham Live and BBC WM. Better still it raised over £3k for the Mayor’s charity.

So what did we learn? Lots! When an unexpected opportunity presents itself, embrace it with good humour, people really love seeing the human side of a civic figure and sometimes you can achieve great results with very little effort.  Oh and always keep an eye on the building work local comedians are having done! 😉

The key analytics are set out below, followed by links to media coverage

Twitter: Lord Mayor of Birmingham

  • Number of impressions over the month of May: 849.6k (of which 393k were between 1 and 15 May) up from 5.8k impressions in April and an increase in engagement from .7% to 2.5%.

  • In May it gained 210 new followers and number of profile visits was up by 2,675% to 16.2k

  • Click throughs from social media to the Lord Mayor’s Charity page on council website 2,850

  • Top tweet: Video –The commemorative plaque being unveiled: over 400k impressions, c.4.9k likes and positive comments, with over 39k engagements and 135k views.



@JoeLycett live streamed the arrival, ribbon cutting and speeches – attracting a live audience of 10k-plus, and continues to update his Insta story: The latest headline being the BBC News Online report is the second most read story today on the website!

@bhamcitycouncil most popular post is also the plaque being unveiled, which has had over 1,200 views and its Insta story has been viewed more than 600 times.

 Media coverage:

Nick Grimshaw Show – 14/5 (listen from 20:45)

  • BBC WM: Drivetime 14/5 (listen from 10:05-14:50)

  • BBC WM: Breakfast with Daz and Sam



Emma Brady is press and pr officer at Birmingham City Council and you can say hello on Twitter at @smileygirlie72. And if you’re not following Joe Lycett – hello – you’ll find him at @JoeLycett

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

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