Monday, 5 December 2011

Thanet District Council, Her Majesty The Queen, the publicity and the complaint.

Despite assumptions to the contrary I very seldom make complaints or foi requests to the council. The council’s failure to publicise the recent royal visit was an exception and I think a valid one, as one of the great benefits of this visit was the extra money that would be spent in Margate by visitors from outside the area.

With the onset of winter and having visited Margate yesterday, I genuinely think that this potential extra trade could have been make or break for some businesses. 

When it comes to the internet the council have taken the top spaces for “whats on in Thanet” searches, having used their resources to put their sites at the top of the list, then they have an obligation to bring home the goods.

I did what I could to get them to publicise the visit, even did a blog post about the problem see and in the end I submitted an official complaint to them, in the hope that they will do something about the dreadful way they handle their web publicity.

So below my compliant to them in blue, their response in red, my reply to their response in blue.  

Subject: official complaint 71111
Date: 07/11/2011 09:43:45 GMT Standard Time
Reply To: 

I wish to make an official complaint about the web publicity relating to the royal visit on 11th November.

Some details of this were posted on the council’s website homepage this week and on Friday the council issued a press with a more detailed itinerary, this press release wasn’t embargoed.

At some point on Friday the existing details of the visit were removed from the councils website homepage leaving no details of the visit on the council’s websites whatsoever.

The three council funded events/tourism sites and don’t mention the event at all. Visit Thanet has two conflicting events listed:

“Fri 11 Nov 2011            Margate Old Town      History Walkers MargateMargate Visitor Information Centre, The Droit House, Stone Pier, Margate, Kent            12:00   01843 223300 Fri 11 Nov 2011            Margate's Historic Shops   History Walkers Margate Margate Visitor Information Centre, The Droit House, Stone Pier, Margate, Kent            11:00   01843 223300”

The councils Facebook wall hasn’t mentioned the event the councils Twitter account is silent about the issue, see!/ThanetCouncil

The details of the itinerary publisher in the press release on Friday also appeared on the royal website on Friday, so this can’t be a security issue.

I should point out that the cost to the local economy, in terms of lost visitors due to the council’s failure to publicise this event, will be considerable.   

Best regards Michael

In a message dated 02/12/2011 17:02:43 GMT Standard Time, **** writes:
Dear Mr Child

Customer Feedback Reference:31999/1908116

Thank you for your communication which was received on 07/11/2011. I do apologise for the time it has taken to respond to you.

The Queen's visit was publicised on the TDC website as soon as we were given permission by the Buckingham Palace press office to do so. Prior to this permission the information was strictly confidential.

The information was posted on initially to publicise the visit and was then updated to give full details of the visit. There was a short period of time between taking down the first post and posting the more detailed post which was unavoidable.

The event wasn't publicised on the Warming Words website as this is aimed specifically at literacy themed events. The details were not posted on Visit Thanet. However, it was promoted via the Visitor Information Centres.  The event was not publicised on the Community Portal as this is a portal that only the local community use. TDC provide the portal but do not post on it.

The Visit Thanet website could have posted something but this site is controlled by Tourism and not the Communication team. As a result of your enquiry I will encourage closer working between the two departments should similar high profile events occur.

The Queen's visit was successfully promoted via Twitter, Facebook, national, regional and local press. We also arranged for national, regional and local press to be present on the day and received extremely positive press from all. The visit was a great success and we have received positive feedback from the Palace staff.

We hope that this resolves the matter to your satisfaction.

If you are not happy with our response, you may write to us with your reasons within the next ten working days, requesting a further review. 

In order for us to respond as efficiently as possible, please ensure that you quote the above reference number and address your communication to ******** - Business Support Officer, Business Services.

Yours sincerely

Business Information & Improvement Manager

**** I will post the complaint up on the blog with your response, but without your name as I posted the complaint when I made it so some people will be looking out for the response.

As I have said before there are some serious problems with the way the council is handling publicity and press releases, much relates to faults in their basic handling of IT, as an example the councils notification of Wednesdays strike appeared on their facebook wall yesterday, Friday.

Obviously I won’t put this forward for review as it serves no purpose and only increases officer workload.

Best regards Michael

What to me in all this is the pits is that the council have now started backdating their feeds, so that although the information appears as though it was posted on the right day, it doesn’t actually appear until after the event.

The picture above is a screen shot taken just now, the red boxes around the councils feed and today’s date on my computer, as you see they actually posted the notification of their strike late, after the event.

If however you look on their facebook wall, see you will see that the post is dated 23rd November.

A further look at their facebook posts and you will notice something really odd, the dates of the posts are not sequential. 

Now I am fairly adept with ITC and I could do this and I am sure all the geeks who read this blog could explain how it was done, and may well do so.

But two questions here;

Could you do it?

If you could do it, would you continue to do it consistently after it had been pointed out to you?

As it was, with the coverage of the royal visi,t which only appeared, predated after the event and after my complaint.  


  1. Why should TDC put effort and cost into advertising something that was 'front page' all over the press and was free ??

  2. It was only in the local press. Not much good for those thinking of visiting Thanet & wondering what's on.

  3. TDC have always been very bad at pre/post dating information, I have received a letter from them dated 7 days prior to the postmark date. I think the problem is that they really don't care, and the people of thanet are probably a nuisance as far as they are concerned.

  4. TDC cant even give a decent reply, no times or dates and the sentence "There was a short period of time between taking down the first post and posting the more detailed post which was unavoidable." shows how poor their IT skills are.
    Everybody that maintains web sites knows that it only takes minutes to replace complete web sites let alone just a section.
    In the commercial world you wouldn't stay in business long if it took you days to do an update.

  5. Just for clarity here the “short period of time” was the whole weekend before the event, when I assume most people would have looked to see if there was anything on in the area. Combined with the event not appearing on any of the council’s what’s on sites, the cost to the local economy must have been considerable.

    The site they say is “aimed specifically at literacy themed events” is currently promoting “Shakin' Stevens - 30th Anniversary Tour” there were I think two tweets from the council before the day of the event and nothing on their facebook wall until after the event.

    The real problem here and this applies to numerous events that the council have failed to promote properly online, is that the council have the sites, encoded with the tags and witht eh readable writing saying that they have the information about local events, so that a person looking at them and seeing nothing on, is inclined to believe there is nothing on and that would include journalists.

  6. Even the Shakin' Stevens referance is out of date - the concert was yesterday.

  7. I thought I detected a tremor!

  8. Peter, Its not unreasonable that the warmingwords web site leave past events in situ.
    Like November's "From the Jam".
    Bring back "Johnny Moped" I say.
    I wonder how much this web site is costing TDC and KCC as google does not seem to find it for Thanet events or whats on.

  9. All these various websites must be costing public money and there is a lot of duplication. All I want is one public funded comprehensive what's on website to visit. This could have filters for those who want to find literacy themed events but I'm not sure they would expect Shakin'Stevens, From The Jam or The Burlesque Show to be identified as such! I don't know why literacy events need their own website and it seems like it's creating duplicate work funded from public funds.

  10. Some time ago I gave up on my Promote Thanet website because exactly this reason. I pointed out to TDC they were running a far far less than good website, I phoned up when things were wrong and guess what YEP THEY STAYED WRONG. So I have given ip promoting Thanet after all if TDC cant be bothered why should I even attempt to Promote Thanet.

  11. Navel gazing is too good for you michael!!!

  12. "It was only in the local press" - I don't live in Thanet and still knew... It was well publicised on Meridian and BBC news before it happened

  13. As ever cryptic and to the point, Peter.

  14. I suggest that all these 'anonymous' posts are in truth from one and the same person. If you read them with this in mind the comments become quite amusing.

  15. Shows just what you know John.
    if you acnt tell the difference then you need to tke a look at the other Thanet blogs and spend a little time to work it out.
    As Michael probably knows from his stats there are regular anons and the one time posters.

  16. From twitter post at side of blog: ThanetCouncil: Want to have your say about how the council should spend its money? Complete our Budget Consultation and tell us what matters most to...

    This a chance to give views on this type of thing presumably. I'm going to try and track down the link and find out more so that I can make my views known.

  17. To anon at 12:10,

    Thank you for your advice. Which I heed. I suspect that your are Sir Percy Blakney


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