Alright, so we didn’t have quite fifteen feet of snow this year (or at least not yet!) but we had enough for me to put together five thoughts about digital comms in winter weather.

  1. Customer service and information provision is needed around the clock – it was more obvious than ever this year that social media is now a natural part of a great many people’s lives. This we already knew from recent stats (link) but it’s interesting to see it happening in reality on your own profiles. What was even more interesting / frightening is that people have no concept of ‘out of hours’ online. If they can find you in a digital space they expect an answer as quickly at 11pm on a Friday night as they do a 10.30am on a Wednesday. Dealing with this ‘always on’ presence is something that needs to be tackled.
  2. Responsive design to suit your audience – the speed at which mobile / tablet is taking a share of the digital audience is really quite phenomenal, and it shows no sign of stopping. This means, right at the top of your to do list, should be finding ways you can better reach and provide information to them. My flag is firmly planted in the responsive design camp – make your site and your content transform dependent on the device accessing it.
  3. Findability and not being complacent about search – In the past I’ve been as guilty as any of being complacent about search, about skimming the surface of how things get ‘found’ and thinking SEO is mostly a dark art. But my mind began to be changed when I read the still-excellent ‘Search’ by John Batelle four or five years ago (ish). Search is more important than ever, and is changing. No longer can you purely rely on the authority of your domain, but need a cohesive approach to triumph in both organic (and the value of this is diminishing as display space is at such a premium on smaller devices and paid-for get’s prime position) and paid-for results. If people can’t find you it doesn’t matter how much great stuff you’re doing, the benefit melts away.
  4. Resilience and making sure you can take the load – of course, if people can find you then may come in a blizzard, huge drifts of traffic threatening to overwhelm your website. Common sense but be as sure as you possibly can that your website can take the numbers if and when they do come, and have a back-up plan to get back online quickly or push info out through other channels while you dig your server out.
  5. Analysis and making a plan for next time – the most important part of anything you do; finding the evidence, learning from it and using it to inform your plan for next time. If you don’t know the finer details of reach, engagement and quality of interaction you’re using digital socially and not for business or service delivery. Get your measurements in order and know how to interpret the data you gather. A vital skill for digital comms practitioners that is rising ever higher in the mix you need to perform well.

And one final thought; recently snow has become sexy in local government comms. Everyone wants in on that grit action and although there are some fairly complex business processes being redesigned in the digital wake, as well as a nudgenudgenudge at culture change this is quite low-hanging fruit in the wider digital service delivery picture. That’s not to say it isn’t important, that it doesn’t touch the lives of a big percentage of the population, or that it isn’t a fine fast-paced open-field in which to learn, adapt and deliver digital comms.

It is all that, but it’s also not the end. Principles developed here, experience gained, should be pointed toward other services in need of the amplification and digital delivery treatment. And the general conversation needs to move on from Twitter Gritter to a more mature model for this topic and all the others too.

The title of this post refers to a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds song – check out the video for 15 Feet of Pure White Snow here.

Sarah also writes about music at Louder Than War – read those words here.