Use Social Media to ‘Personify’ your Local Authority

Personification; it is just about my favourite word at the moment. It can be defined as: “To think of or represent (an inanimate object or abstraction) as having personality or the qualities, thoughts, or movements of a living being”. I believe personifying your local authority is integral to connecting with communities and assuming greater control over your image.

For example, I wrote a blog on ‘Change’ a few months ago, from the angle of personifying it in order to get my point across. Personification is used as a literary tool in novels, journalism or poetry. I’ve heard it used in football commentary, where an act of great skill (or a kamikaze tackle) is described as thus…”Well, that just personifies what Eric Cantona is all about”.

This personification of a person is what interests me; it seems on the face of it illogical that you can do this, as the person already exists and is not an inanimate object or an abstraction! So, what does this mean?

Quite simply, to me it is the creation of an image for that person, an existence that is talked and written about beyond that individual’s control. Of course, that person can influence positively or negatively that image, dependant on their own actions and Cantona is probably a prime example of this influencing. Yet, at the end of the day, the journalists writing and broadcasting in the media were the exponents of his image, the personification of him, whether it was to talk lucidly of his brilliance or demonise him for his arrogance. Either way, an image was created around him: “If people talk about me, whether good or bad, it means I exist” – Eric Cantona. It is clear then you can personify a person, via image creation.

I allude to my own personification in a previous blog, Kirklees Council, Social Media and a visit from Ingrid Koehler, in which I highlight my beginning to more widely utilise social media tools; Twitter, WordPress, Quora, LinkedIn, Flikr and Facebook (which I currently use purely on a personal basis). As there is not the same interest in me as an individual as there was in Cantona, my personification of me as a person is self-generated through use of these social media tools and linking them to one another; thus, creating my image.

What of a local authority then? It is not a person! Is it an abstract? It certainly is not inanimate! To me, it is a living breathing organism, made up of many individuals, whom represent a whole and work on behalf of those to which it is subject; its citizens.

In social media terms, it is not enough for a local authority to be on Twitter, or Facebook, blog on WordPress, or post videos to YouTube. It needs for these things to be linked, to make direct connections through these interchangeable tools, utilising them via the subtle differences each allows, enabling integration into public mind. In this way, coupled with and complimenting traditional media and engagement, local authority can better place itself in the minds of the people it serves, encouraging greater interaction, providing better quality information, leading to more informed collaboration.

The word personification is great, as it allows entry into an abstract world. But what I am interested in is the practical application of personification; to create an image that citizens feel is representative of, and represents them as people. Local authorities need to pursue this path of personification if they are to better engage with communities, learn from them, and in some way become part of those communities in an arena of shared vision and understanding.

I have a feeling of getting lost somewhere along the way here, but I am refusing to go back and edit. I’d rather it raise comments, opinions and criticism!

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