Engaging communities and public

CHEST Project ReLaunch, Stoke

I do a lot of advice, support, and guidance on effective use of social media, particularly for organisations in the public and voluntary sectors. In this work, I often come across people who think there is some kind of “magic bullet” which will engage a large audience. My response to this is that, yes there are certain things you can do to optimise your presence on particular platforms, but, the crucial thing thing that people often seem to miss, is that it is content which really engages people. So, my advice is often along these lines:

  • do interesting stuff;
  • tell people about it;
  • give people the opportunity to interact and participate online;
  • make it fun.

As well as encouraging people to run their own, fun, engaging events, I’ve also developed something of a specialism in organising exemplar events myself. These include:

  • Twicket, the World’s First Live Broadcast of a Village Cricket Match. This was an event staged on Easter Monday 2011. The village cricket match at Wray, Lancashire was broadcast live to a watching audience of around 3000 and nearly 2000 listeners to a community radio station. Designed as an exercise to promote the case for better rural broadband, this event attracted attention from Stephen Fry among other prominent tweeters, as well as getting mainstream media coverage from The Guardian and Metro Newspapers, featured on BBC TV’s “North West Tonight” and on BBC Radio Lancashire, TalkSport, and BBC London. The event has its own Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twicket, and it attracted world-wide attention, such that I was invited to be a special guest on Radio New Zealand.
  • Here’s the Radio New Zealand interview  


  • And here’s the feature on BBC North West Tonight
  • Can’t Get Online Week In late October / early November 2011, I teamed up with the CLA (Country Land and Business Association) to tour England’s rural broadband “Notspots” (areas with very poor internet connectivity).  Timed to coincide with the official Get Online Week campaign, the intention was to capitalise on the publicity generated by the official week to highlight the problems caused to rural people, communities and businesses by lack of broadband access. The campaign caught the attention of “Downton Abbey” and “Twenty Twelve” actor, Hugh Bonneville who helped launch the week. The tour was covered by numerous local newspapers as I progressed around the country, driving 1300 miles, as well as featuring on BBC Radio 4′s “Today” Programme, BBC Radio 5 Live’s “Outriders”, BBC TV’s “Look North”, and BBC Local Radio stations in Norfolk, Lancashire and Humberside.
  • Here’s me with Hugh Bonneville, and CLA President, William Worsley

Can't Get Online Week Launch

  • And here’ s the Radio 5 Live piece   


The Twicket initiative led to a major project I am currently running, with funding from Nominet Trust, called Celebration 2.0. In this project, I am touring the country helping people to gain wider audiences for their celebratory events using new technologies.

I’m currently planning two further high profile initiatives designed to capture the attention of wide audiences. These are:

  • IslandGovCamp Odyssey -This is a planned social media journey, along similar lines to Can’t Get Online Week. The intention is for me to lead a trip of 5 people (all high-profile social media users) from the Midlands and North of England to IslandGovCamp, an “unconference” on the Governance of Islands, being held at the end of May 2012 in Kirkwall Orkney. I am currently seeking to raise sponsorship for this trip, to cover the costs of hiring a campervan, fuel and ferry crossings. Participants will live report the journey’s progress on a variety of social media platforms, as well as stopping off en route to run events in selected locations. I expect this journey to attract mainstream media attention as well as having an extremely high profile on social media platforms.
  • Alternative Boat Race - an event planned to coincide with the 2013 Oxford-Cambridge University Boat race. I’m seeking to capitalise on the publicity generated by the high profile event on the Thames to celebrate diversity and community. The idea is to have a day of community celebrations focused around a Boat Race of some kind, which, in contrast to the Oxford-Cambridge event, will be about all aspects of community. People searching online for the Boat Race will come across the Alternative event and be given an insight into a different world.

I can help organisations and communities build wider audiences for their events, via a variety of mechanisms, including live video and/or audio streaming, live blogging, recorded video, photography, and social media story-telling. I have considerable experience now of pitching social media stories so that they attract the attention of mainstream media and high profile tweeters such as Stephen Fry and Hugh Bonneville.

And I can also organise and lead events tailored to get your message across to a wide audience via the medium of high-profile, fun events.

If you’d like me to help you get your message out in this way, please contact me:

email. john[dot]popham[at]johnpopham[dot]com

twitter: @johnpopham

Skype:  johnpopham1

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