The Preston Social Media Toolkit

A bit of a flurry on Twitter about Preston City Council’s ‘Social Media Toolkit‘ which describes itself as

a complete guide to joining the social media revolution

It costs £199 (plus VAT).

I wish them luck. I do this stuff for living and it’s very, very hard to make money from content. Apparently newspapers and record labels are finding it tricky too.

My preferred method is to give it away, publish it for free, and gain a reputation for helpfulness and perhaps a little expertise. That reputation, somewhere down the line, turns into paid work. That’s the theory anyway.

So would I advise any councils to buy this document? Probably not. There’s plenty of free content out there – possibly on this blog, if you take the time to hunt for it.

But if it’s easy to read documents you are after, then download Social by Social and Local by Social for free. The latter is a fantastic general document on the practicalities of using social technology, and the former puts it all into the local government context beautifully.

Another read is the 21st century councillor one for that particular group of people – and I understand that it’s being refreshed at the moment.

I did put out the idea of perhaps writing something like this collaboratively, on a wiki, for the benefit of everyone, but that might not even be necessary. Maybe we just need to produce a list of links to public, freely available blog posts written by people like Dan, Carl, Sarah, Sharon, Ingrid and others (sorry if I missed you out) which already have all that info in them.

That way, newcomers have a curated list of great content that will answer most of their questions, and the authors still get the clicks and the page views, which may or may not be important to them.

23 thoughts on “The Preston Social Media Toolkit”

  1. My thoughts exactly. When I read about the expensive pdf, I said to anyone in the office who was listen ing, “But why pay for something that will date very quickly when it’s all out there for free, written by people respected for their social media nous and savvy?”
    That’s you and the people mentioned above btw!

  2. Sorry, Dave, but this is a terrible post. Here are some public sector people setting out to earn £m for their hard-pressed authority by selling valuable assets (well, PDFs) to… umm.. other hard-pressed authorities. Innovative, entrepreneurial, cutting-edge and… umm.. well, basically all the things the public sector needs to be to protect essential services in Preston from the impact of cuts. And all you do is rubbish their efforts and recommend downloading some stuff that isn’t nearly so.. umm.. pretty.

    Wow, I nearly managed to type all that with a straight face.

  3. A lot of that content needs curating Dave. Preston have curated that content for the reader. Not sure it’s quite worth that. But I’d sure love to get a hold of that document to see what’s in it. But not £199 worth of curious.

    I would be very willing to go back through my old posts to highlight or tag content that might be appropriate, if others would do the same.

    The Connected councillor guidance has indeed been refreshed – should be out next week. It’s not been overhauled though.

  4. Chapter 8 is social media good practices and their example for facebook is none other them themselves (with a whopping 94 people liking the page). Oh dear.

    1. @NWYank

      If you read the last SOCITM report, we had over 3500 friends on Facebook but we have now added a page which are currently building which is what you are referring to.

      Preston City Council

  5. Naturally we have been following the Twitter and blog posts with much interest, and as one of the creators of the Social Media Toolkit I think it is important that we set out some context to what we have done…

    Yes there is social media guidance available online, but what we have done is, for the first time, pulled it together in one easy to read and accessible document.

    Also much of the guidance ‘out there’ is generic rather than sector-specific and tailored to local government (Connected Councillor excepted). As local government professionals we have written the toolkit specifically for a local government audience – focusing on the various budget, political, organisational and cultural issues that our sector faces when using social media.

    The result is an excellent living document (yes, it will be updated) that gives professional, targeted and practical help and advice all ‘under one roof’.

    And what is wrong being entrepreneurial and trying to generate revenue from such a resource, when as a council we are one of the 20 hardest hit in the UK for budget cuts?

    Larger councils (e.g. Westminster) generate revenue from sharing services, being an outsource provider for local government communications. As a small team we simply don’t have that capacity to do this so we look to other opportunities for raising an income.

    £199 is a small price to pay for this step-by-step, tailored guidance.  When authorities are willing to spend several hundred pounds, plus travel costs, on attending various social media seminars and events, our £199 offers real value for money especially as it can be used and shared across the whole organisation.

    There is a market out there for councils who see the potential of social media but face all sorts of barriers and hurdles into using and engaging with it properly.

    It is disappointing that some people have chosen to criticise the toolkit without actually having read it, but I suppose the ‘proof of the pudding is in the eating’ and we are looking to receiving feedback from those councils who have already bought it.

  6. “It is disappointing that some people have chosen to criticise the toolkit without actually having read it”.

    OK. Please provide me with a review copy.

  7. We have sent review copies out to some key people in the industry but we have had to keep this to a minimum to ensure it doesn’t get passed around.

  8. There is a preview copy on their website. I just hope that it didn’t cost more than £200 in man hours to produce. It’s diabolical and was clearly written by someone with a passing interest in the subject matter. It certainly can’t be considered as a professional guide. 168 pages – how many of them are taken up by screenshots?

  9. Not sure the CoP where you learned many of your skills is the place to be marketing such a product tho.

    And I’d be delighted to receive a review copy too.

  10. Obviously a preview copy is just that, maybe you should read the full version before posting such misleading and misinformed comments. The people that have bought like it and the cost…less than a standard, open second class return Preston to London.

  11. Stephen Parkinson, if you truly understand social media then can I suggest you avoid falling into one of the pitfalls which you have doubtedly (yes) written about. You should avoid flame wars if you are trying to maintain a professional front and represent a brand/organisation.

  12. @Carl: You won’t send me a review copy in case I breach your copyright? Now you appear to casting doubt on my professional integrity.

    @Stephen So the preview copy isn’t representative of the contents as a whole?

  13. Personally I support Preston in this endeavour and for pushing the boat out and trying to generate revenue.

    They have been kind enough to talk at several of our events and the localbysocials on this subject and if people want a well packaged product that saves time, effort and mistakes then fine – we live in an open market and whilst some might want ‘free copies’ this perhaps just shows that there is some inherent value in this. People are selling books on this subject after all.

    In terms of pricing, based on an FTE salary of £23k with 20% on costs this paper needs to save an organisation less than 2 days of research to get to the same point which feels good value. Cheaper than a train ticket to London too or watching a few relevant videos on policyreviewTV.

    Perhaps also some of the people commenting on this arent also aware that communications teams in councils have been decimated in the current cuts processes as they’re seen as ‘non core’ in the main. There are mets in the NW with 2 people in the comms team now and they just dont have the time to be trying to pull all this information together and would struggle to justrify a ‘social media consultant’ to come in at £400+ a day and they cant travel to events.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and contributing to the debate, Phil – your mocking speech marks in that last sentence have been noted!! 😉

    2. Communications teams in councils may have been decimated but they have had plenty of time to get ‘social media’ it isn’t a new invention. All the team of two have to do is talk to the youngsters at coffee breaks, they have more knowledge of how IT works than most consultants. In fact I don’t know any decent ‘consultants’ apart from the social media surgeons, who freely admit learning something else at every surgery they hold.
      I think its time to listen to the grassroots.
      I spoke to the head of communications at a council the other day. I asked the person what his/her name was on twitter. The person said ‘I don’t tweet’ but added he/she is in charge of the team that do the tweeting for the council, and they had 900 followers now. I checked the tweet stream and couldn’t find an instance where the team had RTd or replied to anyone other than a direct request for an election result, and then it was a standard reply with a link to the council website.
      Any comms junior at the watercooler could put that team straight. Same with the facebook, same with the ‘out of office’ replies which greet anyone sending an email after work about council stuff, etc etc.
      Its basic knowledge of how IT works which is lacking the higher you go up the tree. I don’t think I would buy a pdf. I may look at one if someone recommended it, but if I want to know anything I ask the kids. Or I tweet a question and get an answer within a few minutes.
      Or I JFGI.

  14. “whilst some might want ‘free copies’ this perhaps just shows that there is some inherent value in this”

    No. I asked for a review copy in order to determine what, if any, value it has.

  15. Don’t forget you get a free Adobe Reader with every copy…

    Seriously though, there may be some value to this document but I won’t be paying £199+VAT to find out.

    I think with all due respect Preston City Council have got the price point wrong, very wrong. I’m not sure how it was derived, it looks like from the comments made, the cost of return train tickets to London, (the home of Social Media) was the driver for pricing. Maybe if they had created this and knocked it out at say £25 they would sell more copies, not just within the Local Government sector but also elsewhere where the content could be relevant.

    We have seen it many many times before where someone has come up with the genius idea of bottling a free product and trying to flog it on.

    Now I would not be so bold (or stupid) as to say that this fine publication has done that, but it will be interesting to see if it is all genuine newly researched content or merely just repurposed content from the many excellent free resources out here on the interwebs.

    i wonder if we could run it through Churnalism?


  16. The real scandal is why an Open Return from Preston to London is £289! Yes £289!
    I could by a book and half of Social Media Guides for that …. oh wait ….

  17. You said ‘And what is wrong being entrepreneurial and trying to generate revenue from such a resource, when as a council we are one of the 20 hardest hit in the UK for budget cuts?

    Larger councils (e.g. Westminster) generate revenue from sharing services, being an outsource provider for local government communications. As a small team we simply don’t have that capacity to do this so we look to other opportunities for raising an income.’

    If you have capacity to create such documents then your department is over staffed- generate efficiencies by reducing staff, not wasting Preston tax payer’s money on a document that doesn’t add any value to Preston taxpayer’s life.

    I will be watching and looking forward to your response.

  18. I work at a small council in East Anglia and have recently been tasked with pulling together a social media toolkit. I mentioned the PCC toolkit to my manager who told me that he would get ‘slaughtered’ for spending that kind of money. £50 tops he estimated.
    According to PCC’s FOI response, they have sold 3 so far. Believe me, if they’d priced it more sensibly, they would have sold many more.

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