Monday, 21 February 2011

I volunteer for the Big Society!

David Cameron looked to dismiss scepticism and relaunch his idea of the Big Society with a passionate speech at Somerset House on Monday. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, his intention to reassert that his flagship project was not a smokescreen for privatisation was somewhat hampered by the news that American firms could take over the running of English libraries. Other private companies were also revealed to be ahead of community and voluntary groups in tendering for public services.

So, it didn't go quite according to plan, but here at the Rewarding Marketing Blog, we don't want to focus on the negatives. Instead, I've decide to embrace the ethos of the Big Society and try to volunteer my services. Rather than sign up with a voluntary organisation and doing the usual thing of helping out in a Charity store or some such, I'm going to look to where I can help utilizing my specialist skills in Social Media.

Obviously, as this is voluntary, I won't be employed by eskimosoup. Therefore, I'll avoid any conflicts of interest by steering clear of our usual target markets, such as the NHS, as well as Charities and Social Enterprises. Ideally, I need somewhere who simply wouldn't have the budget to invest in Social Media. so there's no chance of taking work that we might otherwise be paid for.

It would be great to stay within the Public sector though, to keep relevance with our blog themes. In our home city of Hull, one of the least funded and promoted sectors of our society is the arts. We're not alone in this, with many local councils having this way down their agenda and funding in general is usually very limited. In these times of austerity and cuts, this situation is likely to go from bad to worse.

Hull City Council is not actually obliged to provide anything for arts, but despite this, does offer support through their City Arts Unit and manages the wonderful Ferens Art Gallery in the city centre.

Ferens is the largest gallery in Hull and welcomes tens of thousands of visitor to it's permanent and roving exhibitions. It's long running Open Exhibition has just launched, showcasing hundreds of pieces by local artists for the next three months.

The one thing lacking with Ferens is it's online promotion. There's a basic page on the Council website, a wikipedia entry and little else. Hull has a vibrant artistic community and the gallery is well known and regarded by our population, so at the very least, a well presented facebook page could be of real benefit and should be a success. However, with Council budget cuts and art already being near the bottom of the pile, it's unlikely that this will materialize in the near future.

Unless, of course, I create one for them. I already have an interest in arts in Hull and by volunteering my Social Media skills, I'm confident I could really help promote the gallery. I've arranged a meeting and I'll let you know how I get on.

As well as participating in the Big Society, there's a secondary reason for my volunteering. As discussed in a previous article, I'm a strong advocate for Social Media as possibly the most cost effective form of marketing, making it ideal for the current cash strapped climate. If, as I hope, Ferens will be happy to accept my offer, then the project will demonstrate this, showing what can be done with no cost, other than the time of an experienced marketing professional.

Wish me luck!

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