A WordPress blog to communicate weather service disruption

Every winter when the snow falls and temperatures drop we’re faced with the same problem – how to get information out to people quickly.

School closures, gritting, road closures and bin collections can all be hit and it seems people want information faster and faster. So, in 2012 we decided in-house to use WordPress to build a blog which could be updated in real time.

We created http://www.walsallweather.co.uk/

Here’s why I think it worked well.

Resident involvement. We have nearly 500 pictures on the site and almost all came from residents answering requests we made via Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. Pictures were credited linked. On the site’s busiest day we had 9,548 views with the residents gallery (1,065 views) coming only second to school closures with (1,717).

Social media drove traffic.When we didn’t use social media viewing figures dropped.  The importance of sharing the site on Facebook and Twitter can’t be stressed enough. Twice as much traffic came from Facebook than Twitter. Maybe that’s because more women and children are on it.

http://flic.kr/p/4Dk8PP

Snow signpost, Walsall

Site layout and implementation. All new information was driven to top of site and easy to find. This is where the website and blog thing kicks in, as we had static information as on a traditional website – such as school closures – but the homepage was more like a blog with new information being constantly pushed to the top.

It was commentable. All resident’s comments positive and negative were published, and enquiries were dealt with by either Jo Stewart or by the council’s Streetpride. There were 329 comments made in all.

Flexibility. On days when not much information was coming through we would scan Twitter and Facebook to find out what people were looking for such as public transport disruptions and we’d add them to the site.

A simple straight forward name.  It does what it says on the tin and can be used in other extreme conditions such as rain or heatwaves because of its generic title. So, if we need it to allow public health to let people know what to do in a heatwave it’s already there.

Bloody hard work. We were there 24/7 and at times it was life consuming. Myself and Jo Stewart bore the brunt and anyone thinking of this needs to be aware it’s hard work.

 

by Helen Burrows,

Walsall Council

 

Picture credit

 

 

 

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