Increasing Digital Capacity speech

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A presentation for the 2010 Local Government Web Network

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Increasing Digital Capacity speech

  1. 1. Increasing Digital Capacity Jason Richardson, Corporate Communications ManagerI’m Jason Richardson, CorporateCommunications Manager at Leeton ShireCouncil.I’m here to talk about workshops we ran earlierthis year aimed at improving onlinerepresentation of our Shire’s tourism operators. 1
  2. 2. Leeton Shire • Population: 11,683 • Area: 1167.3Km2 • Town of Leeton (pop. 6,828) • Villages of Yanco, Wamoon and MurramiLeeton Shire is located in the NSW Riverinaregion between Wagga Wagga and Griffith. 2
  3. 3. Local Government Web Network Conference 2009I’d been in my role for a bit over a month when Iattended this conference last year and I found itfascinating to meet the variety of people whomaintain Council websites. 3
  4. 4. Quick pollCan I get a quick show of hands? Who hereidentifies as being IT staff? PR? Admin? Anymanagers? 4
  5. 5. From these varied roles and perspectives we’reunited by being at the forefront ofcommunications technology and I think we allknow how daunting this can be. 5
  6. 6. Another quick pollQuick poll, whose council has a YouTubechannel?Who has a Twitter feed?Who has a Facebook page that they haveestablished?It’s funny but, while these names feel familiarand maybe a bit old yet, we’ve been using themfor less than four years.I don’t think I’m alone in saying that sometimesmy head hurts a bit when I think about the rateof change we’ve seen. 6
  7. 7. So I think maybe I can imagine how it must feelfor people who don’t have email. 7
  8. 8. Pop singer Lily Allen used the term “neo-luddite”when she embraced a move away from onlinetechnology.I propose we use a less pejorative term whichrecognises the spectrum of technological know-how in our communities: digital capacity. 8
  9. 9. Digital CapacityCapacity refers to capability.Specifically I’m using the definition of capacityas the ability to hold, receive or absorb; or as ameasure of such ability.The notion of environmental capacity has beenaround for decades and informs discussions ofsustainability. 9
  10. 10. There are challenges for digital capacity inLeeton Shire.Like many country towns there are aboveaverage numbers of young and older people butless than average numbers of those agedbetween 20-40 years. 10
  11. 11. It is quite literally a generation gap and oneobvious in the usage of a newish medium likeTwitter.Here’s a record of tweets from users whoidentify their location as Leeton, taken lastFriday.Obviously this doesn’t capture those who don’tidentify their location, like me, but I’d guessthere are less than a dozen people in LeetonShire on Twitter. 11
  12. 12. Digital capacity became an issue for me when Ideveloped a new tourism website last year.Analytics show accommodation is the mostpopular page but only a third of the businesseslisted there have a website and one does nothave email. 12
  13. 13. For many of our local events the Tourismwebsite is their only online presence, aside fromwhat gets reported on the local newspaper’swebsite.There are nine annual events listed on the sitebut only two of these have their own website. 13
  14. 14. The tourism coordinator Brent and I talked aboutthis and also with our managers and an ideadeveloped to hold a workshop to show tourismoperators some of the free online tools availableand to try and whet their appetites for gettingtheir businesses online. 14
  15. 15. I wrote workshop notes identifying useful sitesand applications, particularly services offered byGoogle, as well as making the argument thatadvertising in the Yellow Pages isn’t enough tobe sure of reaching an audience these days. 15
  16. 16. The media release I wrote to promote theworkshop discussed how, back in 1995, BillGates wrote a book on how the ‘informationsuperhighway’ was going to change our livesand that new business opportunities wouldappear like those when automobiles becamewidely used. 16
  17. 17. The motel, or motor hotel, is one example ofsuch a business and tourism operators shouldknow many visitors currently plan their travelthrough online research and that it’s important toreach them on the web. 17
  18. 18. On the day of the first workshop I pulled up theAnalytics data to show the businesses attendingthat people were visiting the Tourism site to findtheir contact details.It was educational for me to hear the questionsraised, including one about Google businesslistings. 18
  19. 19. I was lucky that Bern’s blog post on managingbusiness listings came my way soon after theworkshop.That’s the one reprinted in Stories this year and,if you haven’t checked what information Googlehas about your council, you really should readthe piece. 19
  20. 20. At the Workshop I talked about Google a lot:setting up an email address with Gmail, puttingup a website cheaply on Google Sites, writing awebsite with a view to search engineoptimisation, seeing traffic with Analytics,advertising with Adwords, monitoring reputationwith Alerts, embedding video with YouTube – allthe good stuff.At the end Brent and I asked what we could doto help and the attendees indicated they werekeen for presentations by people who buildwebsites. 20
  21. 21. We held a second workshop and invited twoweb design businesses to discuss their servicesand prices.Their presentations covered areas we’dpreviously gone over on why businessesneeded to be online and how to ensure you canbe found. 21
  22. 22. Then we crossed our fingers and hoped that thedesigners and tourism operators would go awayand make websites together. 22
  23. 23. But to be honest I don’t think a single websitehas appeared as a result of those twoworkshops and, when only two people showedup for the third workshop... 23
  24. 24. I thought the exercise might be ready to bewritten off. 24
  25. 25. However, when you’re not getting the resultsyou planned it doesn’t mean you’re not gettingresults.You just need to recalibrate your expectationsand find a way to spin the result as a win.So, while the results we’d hoped for haven’tappeared, there were a number of positiveoutcomes for Council. 25
  26. 26. The two businesses at our third workshop wenton to become finalists at the recent InlandTourism Awards and one topped their category. 26
  27. 27. At our last Council meeting the Mayorcongratulated these finalists and the minutesrecord the “enormous benefit” they said they hadgained from the Tourism Operator Workshops. 27
  28. 28. The feedback I’ve had is that the workshopswere successful as a way of building and,particularly, improving relationships withmembers of our community.While the workshops didn’t lead to morebusinesses setting up websites, it wassuccessful as a public relations exercise andthose who attended learned something, thuscontributing to an increase in digital capacity inLeeton Shire. 28
  29. 29. Another good outcome has been seeing mycolleague Brent has since established a Twitteraccount, set up Google Alerts and has beendigging deeper into Analytics. 29
  30. 30. I’d expect all of us know of good onlineresources and, while it might not be consideredcore business for councils, sharing thisknowledge empowers people and can benefitour communities.Leeton Shire Council plan to run the webworkshops again next year and we will openthem up to all local businesses.We hope it will engage a broader sector of ourcommunity with as much success instrengthening relationships and improving digitalcapacity. 30
  31. 31. Questions?• See www.leetontourism.com.au/notes to download copies of the workshop notes• See Tegan Le Page’s presentation at http://teganlepage.com.au/leeton/• Thank you! 31

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