Manchester City Council

Get the Message?

It's the Executive Committee today. Might say a few words about that later but for now I want to concentrate on the vexed question of Council communications.

More specifically I want to talk about 'new media' and the Council employing a new media manager. It's not just about Twitter or Facebook although criticism of the Council seeking to make effective use of social media is a bit rich coming from a source that now covers our Council meetings by tweet, happily employing somebody to do so.

The biggest and most important bit of 'new media' we use is our website. Over one and a half million page views average in the first nine months of the year. People looking for a whole range of information (jobs is top of the list and the link to Job Centre+ is one of the most used) and people ordering repairs, paying bills and doing a whole range of transactions with the Council. The average cost of these transactions done face-to-face is £26.40, the average cost on-line is 14-18p. So a well-designed, highly functional, interactive web-site not only provides a better, faster, more convenient service, it also saves the Council, and the Council Tax payers money.

Along side the web we have the Council's Intranet, our internal website which reaches over ten thousand employees. Then there are hundreds of other things the Council does that include a communications element that benefit from new media expertise but I'll make do with two or three examples. Using digital means the Council managed to save 40% of the previous years budget promoting our Spring Markets with better and more measurable outcomes. Recently we have, with schools, run successful school attendance campaigns and started to improve our historically very poor attendance record. If we want to communicate effectively with young people in particular, and there are proportionally a lot of young people in this city, then social media sites are likely to be far more effective than traditional print media. Over the last eighteen months we have been running our very effective Helping Hands campaign, both web and print based, aimed at providing support to individuals, families and companies affected by the recession. These are all part of the Council's core business and if we are to do them well then we have to employ people with the right skills to do them.

One last thing. We regularly carry out residents surveys and one of the things we are told over and over again is that residents and businesses want us to keep them informed. Again we can't do that unless we employ and invest in people with the right skills.

There are 20 responses to “Get the Message?”

  1. Dubious Says:

    Im not sure the citicism is directed at employing someone to utilise social media, more the timing of it and the exhorbitant salary attached to the post, which really cant be justified at any time let alone days after a 7.1% pa reduction.

    However I am quite confident that there will be numerous posts about the ever expanding Comms Team (who do not a lot bar annoy the rest of staff at MCC), as well as DoT, which also seems to expand whilst accomplishing very little!

  2. Squidge Says:

    'criticism of the Council seeking to make effective use of social media is a bit rich coming from a source that now covers our Council meetings by tweet, happily employing somebody to do so'

    Its not a bit rich in the slightest. Private companies can spend their money how they see fit, councils are responsible for managing public money and will inevitably come under fire when the public perceives that a council is squandering their money on unnecessary projects. Your argument that a new media manager is essential to take the council's useage of new media forward does not hold water. The council's website has been in existence for some years and is not a result of the new media manager post. The council seems to have done well with new media so far, why employ another manager in an organisation that is already incredibly top-heavy?

  3. bicolouredpythonrocksnake Says:

    Manchester City Council currently has 339 friends on Facebook, which works out at over £112 per friend.

  4. howardtheduck Says:

    Instead of spending the money on things with intangible benefits, why not instead invest the money in Apple trees for the peace garden so that hungry passersby get something nutritious to eat when they (the apples) come in season?

  5. will Says:

    You still don't get it Mr Leese. Why don't you go out into Albert Square and ask the Council Tax paying public what they would prefer, a Twitter Zsar or a front line job like a teacher, social worker, care worker etc

  6. Simon Says:

    You need someone to proof your posts before posting them. You are, after all, the leader of a council and therefore spelling and grammar shouldn't be beyond you. On your main point about the social media story, you are doing what all politicians do when they've been caught out, blaming the source of the story rather than the problem the council created. Advertising for a highly-paid social media expert at the very time the public sector was put on notice of mass redundancy was either misjudged or just foolish. Either way, it doesn't reflect on your existing corporate communications department very well at all. If you read the article in the MEN, you'll see they report on criticism from the Lib Dems. It's entirely up to the MEN how it spends its money. You, however, have to justify your spending to the public and the question you haven't answered is why you need an extra person to engage in social media when so many other authorities do it within their existing communications teams. Perhaps you need to start looking outwards more.

  7. Ian Says:

    I'd like to hear what Richard thinks about the idea that Suffolk Council are bringing in, were all council services are available via the Council web site. They are hoping that by outsourcing all services (ie they become a virtial council) they will make a saving of at least 30%. By outsoucing to local companies they hope to push start the local economy, any reasons why this can't work for Manchester.

  8. JamestheTory Says:

    It is strange I have just moved to Manchester from the Home counties.

    Its like walking back into the 70's watching the way MCC spend the poor taxpayers money. Manchester must be in a time bubble the amount of waste that this council operates.

    Lets be honest there are too many people employed in the council, have you been around first street when all the highly paid staff are entering and mind thats only one office among many counncil offices so take a leaf out of the well run Tory councils and get rid of some of the highly paid staff.

  9. fed up Says:

    One and a half million views in 9 months alone! Golly gosh! And the jobs page is the most visited, you say? Expect a lot more views next month when most of the admins contracts expire (not to be renewed). Merry Christmas!

    But no bother! We’ve got a super shiny new media communications expert! Gone, are the tin cans and string of yesteryear! Now we have the wireless internets! We can communicate with the young people! Instead of sending out boring old letters for them to ignore, we can now send out funky new ‘electronic letters’ for them to ignore!

    It’s nice that you can keep us up to date of council goings on via facebook status updates, though:

    “jus spent £154 mil of ur £££’s renovatin twn hall & movin offices…..LOL!!!!!”

  10. Richard Leese Says:

    Simon it's not a new post. The existing post holder has got a new job and is being replaced and Will it isn't a Twitter Czar either whatever one of those is. Yes Squidge there has been a council web-site for many years and it's recently been re-designed because the old one didn't have the functionality to allow easy navigation for both getting information and carrying out the sort of transactions referred to in the blog entry.since the redesign usage has gone up significantly and the site didn't redesign itself which really is the point. Effective communications save us money ( money that can be used to employ more frontline staff ), helps us recruit and retain those frontline staff, helps them do their job, helps us provide better services and better value for money for residents. If we want good, modern, cost-effective communications we need to employ people with the right skills. Slightly of the main thrust Ian but Suffolk are now claiming they have been misinterpreted and aren't planning to outsource everything. There are lots of examples by the way where outsourcing has brought short term gains for long term pain.

  11. Squidge Says:

    Thank you for the reply Mr Leese. If it is the case that the post has merely become vacant and isn't actually incurring any additional costs, why don't you ask the MEN to publish this fact?

  12. Layla Says:

    I completely agree with the Leader that the council should employ a new media manager, and I believe that the current person(s) have done a great job in revamping the MCC website (which was well overdue an upgrade), as well as getting out key council messages through various other mediums.
    We live in a digital age and the web is an essential communications tool that is used extensively throughout the public and private sector - are people suggesting that the council shouldn't have a website? Get real.
    HOWEVER,I think it would be wise for the Leader and Sir Howard to question the abnormally high turnover in the Communications department and understand why staff are leaving this team almost as quickly as they are recruited - ut isn't cheap to recruit staff, and I dread ot think of how much money has been spent on advertising these posts over the past year, only to have personnel leave almost as quickly as they have joined.
    To paraphrase Marcellus in Hamlet, there's something rotten in the state of Manchester....

  13. Tyler Durden Says:

    Re Ian:
    Where is the proof that this has worked for Suffolk? Estimated savings do not take into account the quality of services received by the residents. If the model works, it may well be used by other authorities but it is a big if. I applaud Suffolk for their vision and having the courage to try it out but the model can't be used as an example to other authorities when it isn't even operational yet.

  14. Clarky Says:

    Mr Leese says that this not being a new post somehow makes it better.

    It doesn't it just shows the Council has been wasting money on this all along !

  15. Alan Salter Says:

    You could ridicule just about any job by picking the least important part of it and adding "Tzar" onto it. In fact, I think the salary is a bit mean for such an important role...and for that reason...I'm out.

  16. Richard Leese Says:

    Might need a consensus on the spelling of Tsar

  17. Ian Says:

    RefTyler Durden

    As you say well down for Suffolk for trying something new. If it works a big if any saving is great for those that pay the bills

  18. BSL Says:

    Comparing MCC to the home counties is astoundingly short sighted, there appears to be a lot of people here who believe everything they read in the MEN, I suppose you can forgive them for getting their facts in a muddle, trying to report on Manchester matters from all the way up "in't th'ills" must be tough, can you even get twitter & wikipedia up there?? How will they cope?
    Like it or not the internet's the future & no amout of "old man shouts at cloud" ranting will change that, MCC needs talented people with vision to keep us moving forward & if people don't understand that then I don't realy think they understand what makes Manchester a such a great city

  19. James Says:

    to BSL

    We might not understand it but its our taxs that pay for all these liberial left wing ideas that are dragged out by this council, please explain why after 30 years of a labour council there are still two areas on Manchester that fall in the top ten most deprived areas of the UK not just the North West. Waste waste waste thats what this councils good at

  20. JS Says:

    Tsar or Tzar - both are acceptable and permissable (also Czar) - perhaps one of the Media Managers or Director of Communications and Council Spokesperson can advise which is the most media friendly



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