Musings on mice, men and social media at Muir

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

How can a housing association train its employees and embed its values when using social media?

Muir Group Housing Association in the UK has been in the business of providing affordable housing to those in housing need for the last 47 years. Here Kathryn Smith,@KathrynS_Muir, its Head of Communications, writes for my blog to share their social journey.

Over to you Kathryn…

photoA good solid, well-respected and some might say ‘traditional’ organisation, Muir has adapted to the opportunities and challenges presented to the housing industry in a steady, strong sort of way.

What we specialise in doing at Muir is looking at what others do and deciding whether we should do it too and if we do, how we can do it better.

This is much how we’ve viewed the move towards being a digitally connected business.

It is safe to say that despite how long we’ve been around, we are not so much the early bird as the second mouse!

I’ve been working for Muir for nearly six years now. Our social journey at Muir is very much my social journey too.

When I arrived at Muir, we had all the necessary social tools of the trade – a website, and an ‘under the parapet’ sort of approach to social media.

Three years ago, we set about developing a plan to determine how we would use social media to support our communications strategy as well as develop our online service offer to our residents.

We implemented our plan as follows:

We took the view that we should have a social media policy in place to help guide staff about their use of social media in a broad sense and we have actively encouraged them to view it as more about ‘safeguarding’ than control.

In 2012, we held a workshop on social media at our annual staff conference, we introduced our social media policy and revealed our social media plan to colleagues.

Our plan was to provide all our staff with basic training about how to use social media with an emphasis on Twitter encouraging them to ‘go where people already are’ whilst at the same time giving them the freedom to develop themselves and offering them an opportunity to have a two-way dialogue with our partners, customers and contractors.

Our first Twitter training session led by @johnpopham included our CEO and the Director of Housing who are now successfully engaging on Twitter.

Once colleagues have attended a training session, which we now run in-house, they are given a ‘Muir Twitter Account’ which is their first name, the first letter of their surname followed by underscore Muir. Mine is @KathrynS_Muir.

Activity is monitored by the Communications Team. The corporate account @MuirGroupHA is used not only to deliver content about Muir services and activities but also to support staff when they Tweet about their specific activities on behalf of Muir.

Every member of staff is encouraged to develop their own personality and interests.

We have underscored this activity with a process for supporting and handling comments and queries which may go beyond an individual member of staff’s sphere of influence.

Attending a training session does not mean that the use of social media by trained staff during their working day is mandatory.

Most of all, our approach is based on our belief that colleagues possess bucket loads of our core values: caring, responsive, passionate, inclusive, dynamic and honest and embrace Muir’s mission to invest in people and communities and change people’s lives.

Where do we go from here?

quote_1So far 40 members of staff have attended our social media training sessions which we now run in-house.

Out of those 40, some ten members of staff are very active on Twitter – most colleagues have chosen to ‘dip in and dip out’ when something is happening in their area of expertise.

We also advise when industry initiatives are coming up, for example, colleagues were very supportive of #HousingDay – brainchild of @AdeCapon(See my article about HousingDay from 2013 – Rachel)

We believe that we need to make social media as much a natural part of our working lives as it is our social lives. (Tweet this)

This will help us make the transition to being a proactive digitally connected business giving our customers a choice when it comes to accessing our services whilst providing us with an opportunity to direct our services to those who need them most.

I think I can say that so far, I have a goodly lump of cheese in my office but no animals have died in the process of writing this blog!!

Post author: Kathryn Smith.

About Kathryn: After graduating, Kathryn started work as an assistant on a magazine before discovering the wonderful world of PR. She has had various communications roles across a broad range of industries including in leisure, life sciences and food. Eight years ago she took on an interim role as Communications Manager for Plus Dane before moving to Muir Group where she has been for the last six years as Marketing Manager and more recently, Head of Communications.

Thank you for sharing your story Kathryn, I like the approach you’ve taken, particularly the flexibility and fact training does not equal mandatory use.

You can see some examples below of how they are Tweeting:

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Further reading
300+ examples of social media policies
101 social media marketing resources via Heidi Cohen
Social Media Friendly Mark
Increasing staff engagement with social media
Guide to using Twitter for comms pros
Charity Comms guide to using social media



First published on All Things IC blog 11 February 2015.

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