Managing news & social media

Engaging with your community and keeping parishioners informed of plans and decisions is essential for every town and parish council.   Newspapers, radio and relevision, and social media can help to keep your council's activities fully transparent, and your councillors more aware of public opinion.

In the earliest years of town and parish councils, parishioners often heard local news through the efforts of their parish clerk.  As recently as the Cold War era, parish clerks were expected to alert residents to imminent nuclear attack by riding through the parish on a bicycle, ringing a handbell, reminiscent of the town criers of earlier centuries.

We're not suggesting that clerks should be provided with parish megaphones, but one can see their usefulness!

Until the era of telecommunications, news and information travelled with people along the 'superhighways' of their time.  One of the earliest, the Roman Great North Road is still the primary route connecting the north and the south of England with thousands of HGVs travelling the road every day.

News is not news unless it is relevant to the person receiving it. 
News is not news if you have heard it before. 
An event or incident is not news unless someone reports it 
News means verifiable facts in context

Previously,  the term 'the media' meant radio, television, and newspapers.  Today it is hugely segmented and the distinctions between these segments have become blurred by fast-deveoping technologies.   

Not only can we listen to radio on demand, but we can watch it too.  Newspapers no longer have copy deadlines, and editors never 'hold the front page'.  News is instantly accessible to all, every minute of every day, almost anywhere in the wrodl.

There is so-called mainstream media, social media, news media, print journalism, community journalism, advertorial and broadcast news.  Each element of this complex news machine has its specific audience and purpose.  Sometimes this purpose is not iimmediately obvious.   

Of concern to all of us, in recent years, other types of news have been prfevalent, namely 'fake news' and 'false news' leading to the setting-up of organisations whose sole purpose is to check what we see, hear and read.   Every day, hundreds of millions of people publish 'facts' on social media.  Identifying the news that is reliable and correct is becoming more difficult as more platforms are launched.

The sophisticated and 'hi-tech' are not always the most effective forms of communication.   Locally, the traditional village or parish noticeboard and local shop window are still valuable, straightforward and reliable means of publishing news.  Posters in shop windows are also always noticed.  Local newsletters and community newspapers are widely read.   In recent years, community radio stations have become a very important source for local news.

Council websites, blog posts and social media accounts are inter-related.  Each has its role and can these roles can be used to guide people towards one or the other.   

I am a former BBC Senior Broadcast Journalist and was a member of a BBC Local Radio management team.  If I can help you to connect with local media outlets in your area, please contact me.