The goal of the Broadband Smart House project is demonstrate the use of the real-world applications of the NBN, including home automation, remote health monitoring, video-conferencing, rehabilitation, education, remote business, sensor monitoring, and environmental sustainability.(Source: RDA Northern Inland, 2013)
A smart home in Armidale, NSW has been created to conduct live workshops & demonstrations on the benefits of this new technology. The house is fitted with functioning installations where a typical family of four can try out the new technologies. At first instance the house will also be used by local TAFE and University students to trial and demonstrate various cutting-edge projects across a range of areas.
We spoke to Peter Fitz at Moreland City Council, about the importance of visual content online, and how to make your content compelling. Peter’s work on Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communication(CALDCOM) has recently won the Victorian Multicultural Commission’s Award for customer service excellence, and the National Multicultural Marketing Award for the Government Category.
Moreland is an extremely diverse council region, where residents speak 132 language groups, and half of the local households speak a language other than English at home. The council initially had translated material available for eight languages, leaving the others to ‘fend for themselves.’
Simple messages and using vision conveys a lot more meaning than dot points on a website. The NBN enables this to be taken to the next level – taking whatever graphics you have and bring them to life. We’ve started animating our drawings, testing them with different migrant groups, neighbourhood house settings, ESL courses, and they work well. While the project began as a way of communicating with CALD audiences, it soon became apparent that this was a powerful tool for communicating with the wider community. People can learn about council business far more quickly via images and video.
The storyboard approach has helped address many community problems by helping to get issues from the classroom into conversations at home. Council service issues, such as improving recycling and reducing contamination, and social issues such as gambling, bullying and domestic violence have used this approach so far.
In a recent example, a truckload of asbestos-containing building materials were dumped on a roadside. When council staff arrived on the scene, they found children playing in the hazardous material. Door-knocking in the area revealed that only one of the 25 nearby households spoke English. The council has now created a storyboard that staff can use to quickly communicate the danger of handling asbestos waste.
The time and effort required to create a storyboard varies, depending on the complexity of the issue – though the cost of production and distribution is coming down, as better software and NBN access become available. Boards typically have 6-8 cells: introducing the issue, finishing with call to action, and tackling 2-3 things in between.
Visuals like storyboards and animations quickly convey meaning. Peter notes that writing for them is always a challenge, as you can’t do everything. Treat them as conversation starters instead, to get the audience thinking and asking questions. YouTube has shown that people can create small videos, without needing huge productions, that can can help to solve problems.
We recently spoke to Sue Beatty, Community Relations Manager at Wodonga City Council. She explained how social media has become an important part of her council’s communication strategy.
Wodonga Council’s social media campaigns have allowed them to reach and engage with an audience that previously had little involvement with council services and affairs. They adopted a measured approach to building their social media presence – making sure that each development had been properly considered, and putting policies in place before acting.
Like many councils, one of Wodonga’s earliest social media forays involved a Facebook council page. In order to overcome initial difficulties in getting enough Likes for their content, they ran Facebook competitions that helped them attract more followers.
Wodonga Council was also the joint winner of the 2012 Government Communications Australia award for Best New or Digital Media. This award was received for their YouTube channel, featuring “Mrs Mac’s story time.” Every fortnight, new story book readings are added to the channel – watched by local primary school students, and a growing audience of fans around the world.
Sue’s advice to other councils that are considering their move into social media is to take your time making sure that you have appropriate processes in place. Resourcing is particularly important to consider – make sure you have the staff to react and respond as needed.