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Promoting information, advice and guidance sites

Having recently renewed their contract for the Connect to Support Birmingham information, advice and guidance site, Matthew Cloke from the council recently joined our quarterly northern clients group meeting and posed the question to his peers of how they have approached the promotion of their similar information, advice and guidance sites.

Carl Wain from York City Council kicked things off, saying that it had been quite a journey, with the biggest challenge being to get other Council departments onboard with the benefits of the Live Well York site and what it can offer in combination with, rather than in competition with, the corporate website. A key element of the success of the Live Well York site has been making deliberate connections with 19 other health and social care partners, who are strongly represented across the site.

Julie Green from Lincolnshire County Council talked about how the council had leveraged their relationships to directly promote their Connect to Support Lincolnshire site to 75,000 pension group members, and Matthew Cloke said that one of the areas that Birmingham is looking at is how to leverage the council’s relationship with the 65,000 social housing residents in the area. Lincolnshire  also highlighted the importance of working with partners, such as Age UK, and promoting the site not as one run by the Council, but backed by it, as they acknowledge too close a connection to the Council may put off some users.

Gary Hass from Hull City Council discussed how they have focused on social media to spread the knowledge of their Connect to Support site, with a dedicated Twitter feed and Facebook group run by the social media team. They also put a lot of effort into drip feeding information into the community through newsletters, noticeboards, working with Occupational Health, and updating the community directory.

There was some acknowledgement that Covid-19 has acted as a catalyst to driving more engagement. Julie Green from Lincolnshire talked about how the council’s staff and members have referenced their Connect to Support Lincolnshire site in various local news and radio interviews, which has led to an increase in visits. Ben Oxlade-Parker from Bradford Metropolitan District Council highlighted that because their network of adult social care providers use the Connect to Support Bradford on a daily basis, they had been using their site to act as a one-stop shop for providers for all Covid-19 related updates and resources.

One key theme was the timing. Carl Wain from York acknowledged that there are no quick fixes, and that it has taken them over two years to fully engage and win people over. Ben Oxlade-Parker from Bradford said that lessons had been learnt previously launching sites to the public too early, which can lead to people losing faith if the site isn’t ready. Accordingly, Bradford have focused on engaging social care staff and providers over the last couple of years, and will be building on this to promote it to individuals in due course.

This led us in to the other key theme that was discussed, which was that internal comms and buy-in are arguably just as important as external comms. Several people referenced the pushback they had faced in differentiating and/or justifying their social-care focused information, advice and guidance sites compared to the council’s corporate website. Things that helped with this include: emphasising the specific nuances and language of social care; developing a ‘look and feel’ that engages third sector and health partners as well as individuals; and highlighting the additional tools available in the site (such as interactive images, videos, connections to other information, self-assessment tools, personalised information booklets). Both John Sell from Calderdale Council and Gary Hass from Hull City Council related to this discussion, and it was agreed that the next user group would focus on exploring this theme.

Attendees at our Quarterly Northern Client Group meeting.