This week’s Day in the Life has a particularly interesting angle, as we talk to Ian Gallagher, the digital media officer at Leicester City Council.
Thanks to Richard III and that car park, followed by Vardy and his party (dilly ding etc), Leicester is firmly on the world map.
But council digital work is more than social media and PR. Let’s get the inside track, as well as some excellent career advice from Ian.
Please describe your job! What do you do?
I’m digital media officer for Leicester City Council, which means I’m responsible for the day-to-day running of the authority’s corporate social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube) as well as creating/editing content on our corporate website.
I curate all the content for the profiles and respond to customer service queries; questions, complaints (and occasionally, praise!).
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
I’m part of a digital team of four which sits within the wider marketing/communications team. The floor as a whole covers media relations, internal communications and marketing.
I report to my team manager Dave Doherty, who in turn reports to our director, Miranda Cannon. Hers is a very wide brief, covering everything from political governance to democractic services, human resources and communications.
In short, we can be called upon to support a very diverse range of subjects which make up the nuts and bolts of how a council operates.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
I need a good understanding of the broad range of services the council offers, and the ability to communicate them in a clear and concise way. My background is in journalism so having a ‘nose’ for an interesting story/subject matter also helps.
I need to be able to work well with stakeholders from a wide range of service areas and explain how these platforms can work for them.
Equally challenging is explaining to people why web/social isn’t the right platform for their content and why we don’t just publish everything we’re asked to without questioning it.
Good written English skills are an absolute must, especially when working within the constraints of a 140 character tweet!
I also need a good understanding of developing trends and platforms and the ability to analyse how these could benefit the council if we were to use them.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Happily, I don’t tend to have two days which are the same as the job is very varied. But I’ll always start the day by dealing with overnight questions/comments; helping customers to self-serve where appropriate or referring queries to the relevant department for action.
The rest of the day can be any number of things – writing and scheduling content for various platforms; dealing with content requests from officers; going out with council teams to highlight their work; taking videos; writing web content or producing social media advertising campaigns.
The nature of the beast means a lot of my work is reactive, which suits me fine. It keeps me on my toes.
I am also responsible for auditing all social media profiles which operate on behalf of the council, to ensure they meet corporate standards, and also produce monthly statistics and sentiment reports.
These are important for tracking the effectiveness what we’re doing and pinpointing areas where we can improve.
— LeicesterCityCouncil (@Leicester_News) June 3, 2016
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Same as above really – it’s very rare that you get the same day twice. My manager Dave gives me a lot of freedom to pursue ideas which I think are worthwhile, and we both work well together on our direction of travel.
We’ll try something and if it works, we’ll repeat it. If it doesn’t work, we’ll ditch it and move on to something else.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to work on some brilliant (and genuinely huge) events, including the reinterment of King Richard III and the Leicester City Premier League victory parade.
This has involved producing real-time communications to help the events run smoothly, as well as storyboarding and capturing the atmosphere for a global audience. Both provided unprecedented spikes in our social media growth and unprecedented levels of positive sentiment.
What sucks? Probably the difficulty we have in explaining to officers when social media and web is an appropriate platform for their needs, and when it isn’t.
Trying to explain the benefits of what we can do to sceptics, and trying to put people off who think social media and web is a magic bullet for all their communications requirements.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Everything we do is driven by our channel shift agenda, to try and help our customers move away from a reliance on face-to-face/telephone contact and carry out the same tasks online.
We have to do everything we possibly can to save the council money, and digital is a big part of that.
In terms of social, there is the less tangible element of ‘civic pride’ and highlighting the good work the council does for its customers, i.e. the residents of Leicester. We try and emphasise the work council officers do to help people go about their daily lives.
It is also a pure promotional tool to advertise the wide variety of events the council puts on, and show people that we don’t just empty their bins and collect their taxes.
We measure how well we are doing by analysing website statistics (in particular, the number of people using mobile devices); the continued growth of our social media profiles and the reach/engagement of the content we post.
Without doubt our biggest/best statistic to date is that content related to the Leicester City parade was seen and/or engaged with more than 1.2m times over two days.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
I swear by Hootsuite for scheduling and monitoring purposes, but a lot of the time it’s just me and my trusty mobile. I try to be as efficient as possible; you can get a lot of work done with very little kit and a bit of imagination.
We also have an excellent photographer, Ian Davis, and graphic designer, Steve Nelson, who supply much of the visual content crucial to what we do.
And as mentioned before, the freedom from my manager to do the job in a certain way.
How did you get started in the digital industry, and where might you go from here?
I worked for a newspaper which moved to a digital-first publishing model and learned the basics of social media publishing there. I’ve just expanded and adapted them to suit a role in the public sector.
From here I’d like to apply what I’ve learned to a role with a bigger service-driven organisation, or return to journalism in a senior digital role.
Which brands do you think are doing digital well?
I tend to look at contemporaries rather than brands, so I’d say Nottingham City Council are a great benchmark for people in our line of work.
They have a clear brand, not very ‘council-y’, and enjoy excellent levels of engagement and reach. They strike a good balance between service-driven content and promotional material.
Leeds City Council are another which tick a lot of boxes for public sector digital comms, posting a good mix of content and responding quickly and efficiently to customers.
Do you have any advice for people who want to work in the digital industry?
A few things I try to work to…
- Work on a trial and error basis – have a go at stuff, don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work. Just try something different and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
- Don’t be too clever – you are aiming for mass appeal and mass communication so stick with the biggest and most well established platforms. Don’t believe anyone who tells you Facebook isn’t as popular as it used to be.
- There are no prizes for originality – if you see a good idea or a trend which works, don’t be afraid to use it yourself.
- Keep learning new stuff and try not to get complacent!