My name is all over the internet. I’ve got numerous social media profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Pinterest, Google+, Bliphoto, you name it I’ve got it. I’ve even got a Bebo profile lurking somewhere out there in the ether which I would delete but I think might be back as a retro social media one day. I’ve also got my name on our websites as I’m responsible for out sections of the big Council and Neighbourhood Partnership sites. Its a conscious effort and a large part of my full time job to ensure that I publicise as much of our work as possible. It also helps that I have an ego which means I like having my name up there too. Which made one of the events of this week so perplexing to me.
When we have a proposed project in an area it is our standard practice the officer who is leading on this is responsible for making sure that we communicate what we are proposing with those that live there. We use a variety of methods but the “little black dress” of our communications arsenal for work in small areas is a letter drop. We draft up a letter saying what we are proposing, why its being proposed, give details of how to contact us, give a timescale to get back in touch and say whom in particular to contact ie the lead officer. We then post it through all the doors of the houses surrounding the area of the proposal. Depending on the feedback we get we then move forward with the proposal, do further consultation or choose not to proceed with the work.
Inevitably the lead officers over the years that carry out these small consultations will encounter some negative responses and criticism from local residents who don’t like what is proposed. Thats fine. Thats one of the reasons why we carry them out, to get feedback good or bad. No-one particularly likes getting an angry phone call or email from a customer but thats part of the job. If its your work your details go out and you take the positive with the negative.
We recently had a project we were proposing in one of our areas. So as we do the lead officer sent out letters to all the residents in the area of the proposal. One resident in particular was against this proposal and not only contacted us to inform us of their objections but also sought to promote the reason he was objecting. This resulted in them putting a piece in a local hyperlocal site. We have no problem with this which is good because theres little we can do about it if we did. Its all part of living in a democracy and if anything our jobs is to get people involved and engaged with us to make the area a better place to be. Objections are just the other side of the coin. However, in their piece they used the name of the lead officer as taken from the letter which they had received when we did the mail out. There was no personal attack on the officer in the piece but they did use the officer’s full name.
I didn’t think anything of this piece when I saw it other than my usual concern about if it was factually accurate. As I said at the beginning I spend a lot of time and effort trying to get the work of our teams, as well as my own work, publicised. However, the lead officer was genuinely upset about having their name “in the paper” and that I as the local comms guy had allowed it to happen. We have a good critical friendship with the publication and when we contacted them they kindly agreed to remove the officers name from the piece. The officer later sought me out to apologise let me know that the issue was not personal. They were just upset that this had happened. I accepted the apology, tried to make light of it and we both quickly moved on to other things.
BUT I’m still not entirely sure what the issue is. As it only happened this week I decided to let things cool off a little before I speak with the officer again to find out exactly what it is that has upset them about this. After all they speak at public meetings all the time, do lots of letter drops in the area with their contact details on them and are well known by all the residents who live there. They also have the full support of our senior managers in everything they’ve done with regards this proposal and we have had no further negative contact from the public as a result of this piece. So, what is it about getting your “name in the paper” that is so upsetting?
I’m blogging this up as its been quite an eye opener for me and I thought it was worth sharing. I’ve also been very careful to anonymise the parties involved for obvious reasons.
Anyone else had a similar experience? Am I just being really naive about this?