I received some surprising and happy news yesterday evening: I have been nominated for the Social CEO awards. Very exciting and really quite lovely, especially when I look at those who have won awards before like Polly and Clare. The excellent Matthew Hodson won last year.
As I took on my post at the helm of the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA), social media changed for me, I waved goodbye to my semi-anonymous and informal accounts of the past; I went live as a Social CEO.
As a newbie, and only a borderline millennial, I went looking for any advice I could find. International social media award winner and online campaigner (#DontStreamAndDrive) Sgt TCS was kind enough to share a coffee and his wisdom with me. He was able to calm some fears, encouraging me to show personality, to engage with others and be part of a wider conversation. His wise words set me up well.
Showing personality can be a bit scary, but also essential on social media. Sure, I sometimes get the odd threat when I share a strong opinion, but they pale into insignificance compared to what I have gained. Most of my most important professional and personal relationships over the past few years started on Twitter. I also get rewarded by the occasional bizarre experience. Once, when speaking to a Police Fed representative online, we got caught in conversation with author Jon Ronson and the ex-wife of one of President Trump’s advisors.
ICVA is a tiny organisation and Twitter gives us reach beyond anything we could hope to replicate outside of social media. We have used social media to break our own news. My colleague and I, depressed and frustrated with some terrible menstrual care in police custody decided to blog about it. My brilliant colleague‘s post went viral, some amazing barristers read it and offered pro bono legal advice. This will ultimately end in a change in legislation. I was later delighted to blog about improvements on the ground. These simply would not have happened if it weren’t for Twitter.
A smart phone in your pocket gives us all incredible power. Over the past year, I have filmed interviews with colleagues, senior politicians, comedians and volunteers so that I can share our perspective with you. It’s a privilege to be a CEO, it means that I spent the past week with Frances Crook, with ministers, with PCCs and international human rights QCs. An iPhone in my pocket and a Twitter feed lets me share these experiences with the thousands of volunteers we work with.
Moreover, social media has increased our reach in more traditional and newer media. Buzzfeed have hosted a number of exclusive stories for us off of the back of Twitter interactions. This has given us hundreds of thousands of readers who would not normally be aware of the work of independent custody visitors or conditions in police custody. I have been dizzy with delight seeing articles in Teen Vogue (how I wish this had been available to me as a Teen), The Pool and I have written for the i.
It’s been a brilliant journey so far, but I also have lots of ideas for the future:
ICVA has been particular about what social media we use (yes to Twitter, no to Facebook) and I’ve been held back from an instagram account. I may well use this award as a reason to get going on insta. I mean, a police choir sang Leonard Cohen songs at our last conference. It seems a waste that this is not on instagram.
We will also use social media to invest in our volunteers. We have our own YouTube channel where we use both public and unlisted videos to share information and upload YouTube tutorials and webinars. We have developed a podcast. We want to build on this, taking the opportunity to record and share the work of our brilliant stakeholders. We meet so many amazing people that we could easily have a full-time member of staff working on these videos alone.
Social media has become a place to connect with our schemes, our volunteers, our stakeholders and to bring them together under our shared aim to protect human rights and promote better custody. It’s heartwarming to be nominated for an award. It’s even more heartwarming to hear from our brilliant contacts each day. Thank you to everyone who has got us this far and let’s hope we can further amplify your voices with a win next month.