https://beisdigital.blog.gov.uk/2013/06/25/working-with-press-office/

Working with Press Office

iPad laying on a copy of the Financial Times

We wanted to enhance social media monitoring, especially Twitter, in the BIS press office, and show that it could be an everyday part of the job without resulting in extra work.

Though much was already being done, it was often ad-hoc, with potential opportunities for online engagement being missed.

Digital Comms currently manages 2 official BIS Twitter channels - @bisgovuk and @businesslinkgov. These high level corporate accounts were not appropriate in effectively engaging journalists directly.

The BIS Press Office also had a mixed level of skills and knowledge using Twitter.  It was agreed that the Digital Communications team would devise a series of training workshops specifically using Twitter and Tweetdeck as the first part of our ‘embedding digital’ work programme to ensure that everyone had the same level of expertise in using this social network.

The goal

We focused primarily on Twitter as it has become the ‘breaking newswire’ and a primary channel of communication for journalists and the media. We wanted to:

  • empower press officers to use it in a corporate context
  • show how press officers can monitor in real time
  • empower press officers to have the confidence in responding to journalists

Ultimately it was decided that Press Office would manage their own digital channels and tools to keep apace with the constantly evolving media environment.

How we went about it

Though digital tools had been created in the past (online dashboards, lists on the main corporate Twitter account @bisgovuk) take-up from staff was often low due to hesitancy with unfamiliar online systems and the concern this would add to workloads. Some press officers were also uncomfortable in using their own Twitter account or setting up personal accounts (often because it was unfamiliar or they had negative perceptions of how Twitter worked). We proposed the creation of an official BIS Press Office account, and that every press officer was trained to the same standard.

We devised a series of weekly training sessions which were delivered over a 2 month period.  We went into the basics of Twitter; creating your own account; hints and tips on monitoring and using hashtags, and on a practical level, how to highlight and illustrate a minister’s visit using photos and quotes

What worked well

  • The training sessions went well - all press officers attended over the 2 months and we had positive feedback that it was useful
  • BIS Press Office account (@BISpressoffice) was set up and running within one month of the final training sessions (read our blog on its creation and rationale)
  • Within its first week of existence the press office used the account in the rebuttal of inaccurate tweeting by a journalist
  • Press office is now using Twitter and other online tools (such as Tweetdeck) to monitor breaking news regularly
  • Regular correspondence with journalists on Twitter
  • Journalists use @BISpressoffice as a means of asking the Press Office questions
  • More regular tweeting on ministerial visits from Press Officers, with content being shared by journalists

What did we learn?

  • Training sessions need to be kept to a tight structure – and it’s important that you stick to that structure so that less experienced participants do not feel alienated, and everyone is brought up to the same level
  • Keeping up the momentum is important – often colleagues preferred that we run one-to-one sessions to ensure they felt empowered and confident in using the tools
  • This is not a quick process
  • Everyone needs to feel comfortable in learning new tools

What are we doing next?

  • Better process to report back on and share with rest of communications about online monitoring and the tools available
  • More training in the creation of Twitter lists
  • Ensuring that individuals had further one-to-one sessions if needed
  • Continue to review  - helping teams to continuously improve

This is an ongoing progress, but one which is already delivering benefits in how we are working together and the way the department is engaging media online.  And we’re expanding and building on that approach.  For the recent launch of the draft Consumer Bill of Rights, for example, we worked with press office to include more  online contacts in launch and pre-launch events, and that's something we'll be doing more of.

We’ll keep you posted on progress as our approach develops further.

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