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Hedgehog Hall of Fame: Northumberland County Council - Social Northumberland

13th August 2013

Company: Northumberland County Council Campaign: Social Northumberland Category: Public Sector Campaign of the Year - North - Shortlisted   Objective Northumberland County Council wanted to develop its use of social media to engage with local people and support some key events and activities from the council. Northumberland is one of Britain’s largest counties with more than 300,000 people spread out over large geographic distances and we identified social media as a key tool in communicating and engaging directly with local people. In the past year we’ve really integrated social media in the heart of all our communications work, striving to make Northumberland one of the most social council areas in Britain. Ultimately we want to embrace online communities and have conversations that support local people in new ways. In 2012 we wanted to give a new impetus to some of our core projects by harnessing the power of social communities and increase the number of people using them. One key social media project was the annual Residents’ Festival where we really wanted to mark out the council’s role in promoting this much loved event for residents. This year the county was also lucky enough to have the Olympic Torch relay within Northumberland for three days, and we wanted to get a real buzz among the social (and physical) communities as it passed through. The Northumberland News magazine has been established as one of the most important ways that the county council talks to its communities but because of the need to make savings we turned to social media to help with distribution. Objectives - Engage with local residents and harness social media. - Promote council services/events in new ways. - Ensure key messages are still heard as local paper readership declines. - Create a social buzz around key events in Northumberland. - Offer real-time information that’s accessible on the move via mobile phones. - Create a community that offers feedback, ideas and intelligence. Strategy & Target Audience In the past 12 months we have placed far more emphasis on social media, ensuring we think digital on every issue. As well as the key outputs mentioned below, we have also used our website, council magazine and the local press to let people know about the exciting new social media activity and how it could benefit them. We used our profiles to target niche, hard to reach groups of residents more effectively. For the Northumberland Residents Festival, we used a mixed media campaign including PR and online advertising, including downloadable vouchers, but really focused increasing effort on social media. To prepare for activity around the Olympic Torch Relay we started promotion of #NlandTorch a month before the event, including a web-page explaining how to use it and encouraging people to ‘help tweet the torch through Northumberland’. In Northumberland News we wanted to create a digital magazine that could exploit new digital channels and encourage an online community, as well as gaining online subscribers who will engage with the council. We have made extensive use of our website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to both advertise and distribute the magazine. Action • As well as our established channels on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter we have added Google+ and Pinterest pages. • We sourced prizes for the best tweet from a residents’ festival event. • Set up dedicated twitter # to start conversations online. • Promoted unique downloadable online vouchers. • Harnessing Pinterest’s visual search to promote each town in Northumberland and the key attractions. • Started promotion of the #NlandTorch a month before the event, including a web-page explaining how to use it. • During the build-up we stressed the ‘tweet the torch’ message and encouraged people to help us by re-tweeting our messages and uploading and sending in images. • A new digital magazine based on an interactive website, promoted via social media. • Actively monitored social media to take the temperature of issues affecting Northumberland. • Introduced a new policy so that all social media questions, claims or enquiries about the council are treated in the same way as media enquiries. • Used social media as a consultation tool to get feedback on key service issues. Results • Attracted more than 31,000 followers & friends to our social media profiles. • Local media including the BBC taking our lead on social media and even using/promoting the # and profile pages we set up for the Olympics. • Acting as a social leader for everybody in Northumberland on key events. • 340 positive tweets from the public about the resident’ festival. • Gained massive credit from tourism venues and the public, especially online where social media users posted hundreds of positive comments. • 2,024 #NlandTorch tweets were seen by 487,616 people on Twitter 3.6 million times (on average people saw seven tweets each). • Developed a gallery of over 500 social images from community photographers via social media. • More than 420,000 people viewed a copy of the Northumberland News magazine online in the first year (after using social media to distribute). • The council got key messages out in a new, exciting way. • We were publicly praised by the Facebook and Twitter community for our new approach. The PRmoment Golden Hedgehog Awards 2014 are now open for entries. Here are this years updated categories.

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