Last summer a gambling company called Paddy Power won an appeal against an east London council trying to prevent it from opening a betting shop.
Hackney, another London borough, was fighting the proliferation of gambling establishments and wanted to piggyback on the news.
Hackney posted a sharp statement from the mayor, calling companies like Paddy Power “financial vampires, preying on vulnerable people in areas of high deprivation.” Then communicators tweeted key media, scoring coverage, even though Hackney wasn’t a party to the suit.
The tweet proved the success of a strategy of eschewing press releases in favor of blogging and targeted tweets, says Polly Cziok, head of Hackney’s communications and consultation.
Part of the credit goes to PressPage, the social media newsroom platform that the borough uses for its main council website and for its Destination Hackney, a visitor-oriented site. (Find out how PressPage helped MasterCard Netherlands.)
“What PressPage has allowed us to do was to provide a commentary on that story, and send it straight out to our social media channels and target it to individual journalists via Twitter,” Cziok says.
“What that resulted in was really, really strong coverage for us … It wasn’t our story. It was somebody else’s story, but it allowed us to respond to that story in a news blog style.”
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Opera reviews and a ‘ghostpoet’
You can’t fire off a press release every time you want to comment on the news, Cziok says. But you can blog your position and spread it socially, which PressPage makes it easy to do.
The council website targets the borough’s 246,000 residents looking to pay a fine or figure out library hours, drawing 300,000 users per month. Its old newsroom was just a list of press releases and downloadable images. Hackney turned to PressPage.
“We’ve been looking to create a much, much more interactive newsroom for our website,” Cziok says.
The visitor-oriented Destination Hackney is an appealing site resembling the Time Out London guide. It touts Hackney restaurants, clubs, and events. There are tabs at the top for things like “what’s on” and “food and drink,” and Destination Hackney provides information on topics like clubs. It posts opera reviews (“Aida“) and articles (“Ghostpoet to perform at Hackney Empire“).
A richer home page
Unlike many organizations, Hackney used PressPage to create the front page, rather than just the newsroom. PressPage allowed Hackney to cheaply get more mileage from a website that otherwise was creaky and old-fashioned. The home page is much richer in video and images than the rest of the site, Cziok says.
This means that page looks better than the rest of the site, but “it was so much easier and cheaper just to shove PressPage on the front than to completely redesign the site,” she adds.
The simple platform is easy for communicators to manage, so that everyone on the team can update it, Cziok says. This means content stays fresher.
The social media-friendly platform makes it easier to optimize the content for search engines. A content editor on searched Google for “What’s the best place to get a drink in Hackney.” Communicators were delighted that their page came up second only to Time Out.
“That was brilliant,” Cziok says, “because obviously Time Out is such an established London brand—and for us to come in just behind that is fantastic.”
Destination Hackney (and its YouTube channel) are also landing coverage and mentions places like Blog London, which posted a video on “Hackney’s best markets.”
The new platform, both for the city and its tourism efforts, encourages staffers to be more creative, Cziok says.
“They’re not just thinking, ‘Is this story a press release?'” she says. “Well, no, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t. You can do something else with it instead.”
Russell Working is a staff writer at Ragan Communications.