Good Gossip

Image courtesy of Kamshot on Flickr. the photo links to the original.

I’ve long been interested in the positive power of gossip to strengthen networks and share social mores.  The report “Communications: some lessons from the New Deal for Communities programme” concludes that:

The development of positive word of mouth networks provides a strong
base of awareness and a means of identifying and addressing problems.
Word of mouth communication between residents is one of, if not
the most effective means of communication and encouraging resident
engagement.
– Some word of mouth communication will occur naturally as the
programme develops however there is a need to facilitate its progress
by encouraging all residents to share their experiences with their friends

and by training a group of dedicated residents to act as ‘ambassadors’ –
people who will get messages out to the community, answer questions
and quash rumours.

And also cautions:

For all the importance of word of mouth communication, local activists
with negative opinions can be very damaging – word of mouth
communication can also be negative.
– Communication strategies need to be prepared to counter negative
‘word of mouth’ – by picking up local intelligence and ensuring local
champions counter unfair negative commentary.

Besides what the report says about press relations the lessons seem to be that good comms means building good relationships with the right people, putting the right knowledge into the right networks.   That is also largely the approach to take if you want to succeed on the social web.

3 comments

  1. David Barrie says:

    Great u picked this up. Word of mouth *is* critical to area-based regeneration. It is also the life blood of successful local networks. But a note of warning. The pleasure of word of mouth is that it’s visceral, free and out of control. So putting in “communication strategies” to “counter negative ‘word of mouth'” seems totally dumb and worthless. Be flat earth about it. Let the bird out of the cage. It might just charm something out of the sky that’s unexpected and beautiful – or not.

  2. Nick Booth says:

    I know what you mean about the warning, but isn’t that really also the illusion of strategy? Just because something is put in a strategy doesn’t mean it can be controlled. Often programmes like the NDC have enough people on their board and on their paid team to establish sensible real relationships with people, rather than aloof, managed relationships. The key is to intend that from the start and recruit accordingly.

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