Trying to communicate the finer details of new legislation about dangerous dogs was always going to be a challenge. It was a challenge that the team faced today and they approached it in a number of ways. As well as media interviews one of the key things was a Twitterchat with officers who understood the details around dangerous dogs. I admit I wasn’t convinced it was going to get much interest particularly midweek and at lunchtime. What happened was a whole series of questions that kept the officers busy for two hours. Clearly, there was a lot that people wanted to know and a lot of questions that they had.
It reminded me of how valuable social media can be because it has provided a really clear and quick link into organisations. Although customer service through social media should not be a quicker and better thing, it is and lots of people embrace it. The key is for organisations to make sure that they can take the opportunities that this brings.
Twitterchats have proved to be very popular with people. The way we generally run them is to publicise them for about a week in advance using a clear and consistent hashtag #askGMP. It gives people the chance to put their questions in ahead of the date and time chosen for the chat. They usually run for a couple of hours and can take place at any time during the day although they work well at lunchtime and after 6pm.
One important aspect is to keep a clear theme. We usually link this to some emerging issue, area of concern, or as in this case something new that needs clear explanation. The relevant expert is brought in to answer the questions and highlight the key elements of the issue. Often, as with the dangerous dogs issues, there are a whole variety of questions put forward that people have been concerned about but don’t know where to go to have them answered.
We never shy away from answering questions and being as open and honest about the situation. If there are operational reasons that we can’t share the detail then we try wherever possible to explain that and to identify what can be given. At times it can be challenging but that is a good thing as people feel able to air their views and opinions.
Above all, we know that people value it because there are lots of thank you messages that come through when questions are answered. The answers can then be retweeted and shared outside of the chat so it has a longevity that you may not immediately identify. The key learning for me today was never underestimated how important some subjects are to people even if they are not top of my list.