Frontline LocalGov – A Blog for Families

At the beginning of May 2012 I ran a social media campaign called #WeAre12. As part of that campaign I launched a blog for the service I manage, which is a local authority Family Information Service. Last week the blog passed the 2000 view mark. We ate cake to celebrate.

Under the Childcare Act of 2006, each local authority has a statutory duty to deliver information to parents. Research showed that 70% of parents feel they need advice and support in their parenting role, yet many are either unaware of the services that already exist or they have difficulty in accessing them. I have been working in family information for over 10 years and know how vital it is to reach out to parents and carers. Our service works with quite vulnerable families and delivers information, advice and support face to face – and this is the most appropriate channel for families who need early help intervention and prevention.

We also deliver information digitally and over the last 12 months have been using social media channels more, building up a digital family, responding to requests for information online and shifting customers, who have the ability and opportunity, through the channels.

Setting up a blog felt like an appropriate platform for the service, we deliver information on lots of topics and provide advice on those topics, so for us the blog was

  • An opportunity to highlight the range of information available (it is anything and everything)
  • A new social media channel to reach parents (the self-servers) who prefer to use the internet as a route to absorb information
  • A way of having a dynamic rather than static web presence
  • To create a ‘go to’ place for Family Information
  • A chance to involve parents and carers – encouraging them to write blogs, providing real life stories and being a peer to peer support
  • An opportunity of inviting guest bloggers to showcase and highlight the work of their service and organisation working with and supporting children, young people and families
  • A chance to champion the use of social media for frontline services
  • A way of raise the profile of the service internally

I linked with our corporate digital comms who were brilliantly supportive. They suggested Word Press and we are more than happy with the design options, functionality and statistics it provides. I purchased the domain name from Word Press for the blogsite, which has made it easier to promote on marketing material.

I also linked with Information Governance and had to complete a Privacy Impact Assessment to ensure we were compliant with Data Protection, but this was a simple checklist which didn’t pose any issues but an important formality to do.

We’ve really pleased with how the blog has been going in the 3 months since it was launched

  • Our busiest blog day was from a mum sharing her very personal account of post natal depression. The response from other parents was incredible
  • We are now getting approached by people who want to be guest bloggers
  • Some guest bloggers are committing to one blog a month or a series of blogs
  • There is now a waiting list for guest posts, scheduled in amongst our own planned/topical posts
  • The guest blogs have cut down on our work load – always good
  • We are now facilitating the space to allow other views to come through. It’s not about our service, we haven’t written a blog about what we do. It’s about appropriate information to parents, keeping focused on the needs of the user
  • Other services in the council are approaching us impressed by what we are doing and want to find out how we went about setting it up
  • We are lucky to have a modern apprentice in the team who is a designer. This has given us more control, any changes could be made instantly, and we have the skills in house.
  • When we post a new blog we push it through our other social media channels – Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
  • As one of the largest employers in Shropshire, we figure a high proportion of employees might also be parents so we make use of Yammer and the intranet notice board
  • The latest figures are 2,328 views – which calls for more cake.

It you want to have a look at the site it’s here Shropshire Family Info Blog, feedback always welcome.

Kate Bentham

1/8/12

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