With public engagement and consultation high on the political agenda it’s imperative that local government starts to look at ways of delivering engagement which is effective, but requires little resource and importantly, little cost.
Cornwall Council kicked off its 2014-2019 budget consultation recently with such an approach, aimed specifically at our online audience and which can be easily replicated.
It was a first for the Council, centred as it was on our existing Cover it Live chat account but (and here’s the clever part) integrated on our website, through Facebook, Twitter and You Tube – each platform synchronised, simply and seamlessly.
Cover it Live – which labels itself as the World’s Real Time Experience Leader – provides the heart of the event. Using our existing enterprise account (delivered as part of our webcasting offer) we were able to dig deep into its inner workings.
If you’re not familiar, Cover it Live (CIL) allows you to host and moderate online, real-time, text and media-based discussions.
Put simply, you create an event, invite people to submit their comments and then add them into a real-time chat timeline, all with the ability to moderate (add, reject, private message) individual’s comments as they come in.
You can embed the chat window pretty much anywhere so your one conversation appears on a variety of platforms, ranging from your website (see image below for a shot from our page) to Facebook. Sending the embed codes to the local media allows them to run (and promote) the chat via their own websites too.
In fact, the ability to integrate the chat window onto your Facebook page (via easy installation of the Cover it Live app) is a fantastic boon for leveraging page fans into the conversation.
On Twitter, rules can be set up to pull in Tweets from certain users or hashtags (in our case #haveyoursay), each with or without prior moderation and each can be easily added to the live chat after moderation. You can also simultaneously post your comments to both the live chat window and your Twitter account.
Cover it Live even allows for keyword or people searching all from within the platform so you can grab social media and online content that you may want to add to the conversation.
If this all sounds complicated, fear not. Cover it Live benefits from excellent, clear and concise support which guides the user painlessly through the process (such as allowing you to launch your event in prep mode and see exactly how it will look and act before making it live).
One other key benefit we discovered is the ability to have individual panellists (with their own avatar and name) contributing to the same conversation.
So, as well as the chat moderator, our Cabinet Member Alex Folkes was able to write his responses from his own event studio, on his own computer. (Worth noting out here that in order to keep the conversation logical that your panellists ‘reply’ direct to individuals questions and comments rather than just submitting a fresh post each time. This helps to keep the conversation clear and chronological.)
This panellist approach really opens up the software to the possibility of online chats with several contributors to the same, themed conversation – perfect where you may require a moderator as well as several specialists discussing the one topic.
We discovered that Cover it Live also has some great functionality around adding media to the timeline. You can upload your own content direct within the platform or easily integrate You Tube films, images or links into the conversation.
The day before our event we produced seven short films covering some of the most frequently asked budget questions likely to crop up. Then, when the relevant question was asked we seamlessly added the film from You Tube into the chat timeline as a rich media response.
This visual impact is important to keep your chat feeling fresh and relevant. As is Cover it Live’s ability to customise the look of your chat so as well as a chronological stream, you could decide to display a media rich content wall. You can also customise your chat by adding your own branding logos and title page.
It goes without saying that all of this is accompanied by a pretty decent statistics package so measuring and evaluating the success of your chat is a given.
Such was the success of our initial engagement efforts that we’ve already committed to doing a similar event, but this time for employees only.
This is on top of our more ‘usual’ Cover it Live offerings that accompany our standard and one-off webcasts.
Certainly in the online space I don’t know of a better, current solution. It’s free, easy to resource and opens up the prospect of pulling in a potentially massive audience. This could be a boost for your communications and the reputation of your Council and I’d recommend you give it a try.
So all in all; Cover it Live pretty much Covers it All.
To see Cover it Live in action, follow THIS LINK to view the archive chat from our Budget 2014-2019 event.