My first reaction to the news that West Sussex County Council had spent serious cash producing a film demonstrating how to wash your hands was that West Sussex must be home to some pretty dim and grubby people.
The Council has a YouTube channel for which they generate content. It appears to be part of an overall communications strategy, designed to get important information out to local residents. It is reported that a dedicated unit was created to produce films for the channel.
Critics of the initiative say at £40,000 to set up, plus a further £26,000 annually to run, the money could be better spent on local services which are already under the cosh and in dire need of funding. These figures made national headlines, with West Sussex County Council being painted as an extravagant and out-of-touch organisation.
There is clearly some debate to be had about the topics featured on the YouTube channel, but I find myself in the unfamiliar situation of defending my county council. I feel that in this age of modern technology it should be acknowledged that those running West Sussex are moving with the times and embracing new methods of communication. Surely this is a good thing?
Critics say some videos on the channel have been viewed only a few hundred times and this hardly represents good value for money. I would argue it will take time to get people used to the idea of logging on to the internet to watch a film that gives them useful information, but that it will become commonplace.
I spent a fascinating hour on the channel watching a varieYy of films, including a British citizenship ceremony, an interview with council leader Louise Goldsmith and a piece that explained why some schools are choosing to become academies.
Before the internet got going you could rely on the traditional media of press and broadcast to relay this sort of information. But now technology gives us so many more methods to consider when trying to communicate with the masses, including blogs, podcasts, text, e-mailing and of course internet video.
Organisations wishing to communicate effectively must embrace these methods or run the risk of being accused of not doing their jobs properly.