Communication excellence in Northumberland
Another week and another award for excellence at Northumberland County Council. Last night Ross Wigham and the communication team at Northumberland County Council walked off with the Best Use of Digital in the Public Sector at the Digital Impact Awards in London, hosted by Communicate magazine.
I have more than a passing interest in the work of the Council. It empties my bins at home in Northumberland and it makes a brief appearance as a case study in Brand Anarchy.
The Digital Impact award is the Council's latest piece of silverware for its work engaging with Northumberland's 300,000 citizens and promoting the area outside the region.
Northumberland has some unusual communication challenges.
It is the largest but least populated county in England. We've got a lot of space which is why I like it. But it means a lot of its citizens are located in remote locations. I have never done the maths but I reckon that I live as far as it’s possible to live away from a Starbucks or Tesco store.
In the hard winter of 2010 the communication team at the council pioneered the use of a Facebook page to alert residents to road and school closures. There were lots. My kids worked remotely using digital learning methods for almost three weeks.
Since then Northumberland County Council has put social at the heart of all of its communication activity.
In the last 12-months it has curated content around the Olympics and a Royal visit. It has held residents weekends and has established strong social channels for day-to-day citizen engagement. It’s award-winning.
Northumberland faces a significant challenge in securing the funding for the rollout of superfast broadband to deeply rural locations. Our broadband is creaking and mobile networks don’t exist outside major towns.
But the Council's use of digital shows the need for strong data infrastructure to support communication with its citizens.