Setting up a Councillor Blog – My experiences by @Huxley06

As a brand new Councillor, and a keen evangelist for all social tools and as many ways to connect as possible, I was keen to blog but want to get content and style fit for purpose. So I considered these questions:

  • Who am I blogging for?
  •  Why am I blogging?
  • Where can I find ideas about approach and style?

Who am I blogging for?

My primary audience is definitely my ward communities. I have twitter to talk to work and other connections; I have facebook to connect with activists. Although, I have to acknowledge that there is a secondary set of audiences:

  • Activists (and I want them to be motivated to come out and help me campaign when I need it and also to feel informed about what I have done)
  • Opposition parties (I need to be aware that they will look for mistakes especially nearer election time)
  • Officers – Council officers will read this and my tone must not demotivate them even when I am challenging on issue
  •  Journalists – another local councillor from a different party regularly finds his blog posts in the headlines. There was an interesting twitter exchange between him and the journalist about legalities of using most of a blog post in a story – it is legal btw.

Why am I blogging?  

         Transparency and accountability – First, I believe its right to report back to the ward on how I am spending my time, and how I am prioritising issues.

         Open thinking – I will also describe my approach. For example, I think a ‘back to the floor’ approach essential in understanding the impact of policies at the sharp end. I am also enthusiastic about learning from others and so is my group leader. We will be doing a series of study visits to other councils soon. I am going to blog my experiences…this way, ward communities will understand the steps towards policy formulation as it will be laid out in almost real time.

         Sharing stories – It is important to reflect the community back to itself through photos and stories. This kind of evidence helps when developing a policy which some people aren’t affected by. If they can see that it affects their neighbours and how, they will support me putting time into it. It also demonstrates that I am listening and, also important, who I am listening to.

There are probably other benefits but these are the ones that popped into my mind as my priorities.

Ideas for approach and style

I was looking for a cross party mix of examples, also ones that are more ward-focused than focused at another audience (eg. Politicos)

Brighton and Hove Cllr Graham Cox (Conservative) This blog is very friendly and takes a largely ‘educational’ approach… demystifying decisions and council procedures for the average person ultimately, of course to persuade. Cllr Cox also describes his impact.

Cornwall Cllr Jeremy Rowe (Lib Dem) This blog, at least, for me seemed outwardly focused and very much an opposition style, reporting and critiquing another party. It’s not an approach I would take, but if my secondary audiences (activists, journalists)  were the primary audience…then I suspect it would be very effective.

Devon Cllr Claire Wright (Independent) I was keen to have an example of an Independent Councillor and I really like Claire’s. It’s very clear, she is making herself accountable and people are commenting on her blog which is difficult to achieve. I suppose demographically I relate to Claire too and her photos and bio are very engaging and friendly.

Kirklees Cllr Andrew Cooper (Green) Here I particularly liked the Annual Report post that Andrew does. It’s a nice way of being accountable to his ward. There is a lot of policy narrative on this blog as well, which isn’t, yet, in my list of objectives.

Torbay Cllr Alison Hernandez (Conservative) use of audioboo interviews which is very effective for the sharing of evidence, and the showing people who she is listening to element of my objectives.

Anyway, if you are curious, here is my first post!

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1 Comment

Filed under The Networked Councillor

One response to “Setting up a Councillor Blog – My experiences by @Huxley06

  1. Lorna Prescott

    Hi Emma

    Congratulations on winning the election in your ward. Thank you so much for sharing both your thinking about blogging as a councillor, and the examples you’ve looked at for ideas in relation to approach and style.

    As a result of reading this post I’ve set up a new category in Feedly for councillor blogs and am now following yours and most of those you’ve highlighted above. This will be really useful in relation to work I’m involved in around social media and ways that Dudley MBC (including councillors) does and could engage with citizens online.

    I think your first post on your blog is great, I liked the clearly communicated blend of what you are doing at council level, and the sorts of discussions and meetings you’ve been involved in at ward level. Your link to the full council meeting papers generated a bit of an ‘aha’ moment for me. I find it frustrating that council papers (in Dudley) are buried in a quite complicated ‘committee management information system’ with long urls, and I never remember to look at them – they aren’t in an online space that I frequent! However if local councillors linked to papers in blogs then I might well click over to have a look, it feels much less daunting the way you’ve done it. I can’t completely explain why, but I think it’s partly because your blog is clean, friendly and written in a language humans actually speak in, so I feel less concerned about ending up ending up in a minefield of committee speak and unspeak (http://unspeak.net) when I get to the papers.

    I also like the clear and concise way that you have outlined what was discussed and taken away as action from the Local Action Team meeting – immediately being transparent and open about the action point you have committed to, and will no doubt report back on through your blog as well as at future meetings.

    Finally I think the photo from Pride is fantastic, it says so much more than words ever could. I look forward to reading your blog in future, and feel rather envious of residents in Hanover and Elm Grove for having such an enthusiastic, digitally literate, for sharing both your thinking about blogging as a councillor, and the examples you’ve looked at for ideas in relation to approach and style.

    I look forward to reading your blog in future, and feel rather envious of residents in Hanover and Elm Grove for having such an enthusiastic, digitally literate, and committed local councillor.

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