Minutes of the Communications Committee meeting 2nd August 2016

Status: Agreed 4th Aug 2016


Mike Winterbourne (Master), Deb Baker (Committee convener) Pete Jordan (Vice Master) Viv Nobbs (Immediate Past Master and PRO) Heather Frazer   (Basingstoke District) Ros Brandwood (Guild Trasurer) Rosalind Martin (Webmaster) Graham Hounslow and Andrew Glover (District webmasters)

Notes on the Minutes:

The meeting ran for 2:45 hours and there was not time to discuss every topic in complete depth. Extra information not shared at the meeting which is relevant to headings, has been added to these minutes in Italics.

Recap for new officers on what the Communications team are doing now and where they would like it to go in the future using communications to bind the Guild together.

The vision for the website was to provide a “website” for every tower and District whether or not they are lucky enough to have a webmaster of their own. Historically some towers and Districts have had websites but are vulnerable to the webmaster moving away or giving up the role.

This has entailed a complex structure of a news stream for each tower, each committee at District and Guild level, and for special interests such as Surprise Royal Ringing.

There are already 1800 pages on the site, (some current, many in the archive). News is being posted by a growing team of people and technical developments are done by Rosalind Martin and Graham Hounslow. The team’s structure is flat and support, discussion and decision making largely takes place in the closed Facebook Group “WP Communications Squad“. Currently the Master sits in that group as a mostly silent observer.

One Saturday  training course “How to be a website editor” has taken place and 5 more people are on the wating list for a second course.

Areas of responsibility are flexible (in case of holidays etc) but currently different people monitor different social media and gather news (with appropriate permission) from them. As needed, instructions on how to post different types of news are being added to the website and shared with the team.

  • Lisa Ashforth posts all Portsmouth District News including from the Portsmouth Facebook Group
  • Graham covers C&S District
  • John Stock posts much of the Isle of Wight News, some bits picked up by Rosalind
  • Andrew Glover currently posts all the Winchester District News; Bruce Purvis is planning to take on posting his own Secretarial communications.
  • Rosalind covers CCCBR news, other Districts (ie Andover, A&P, Channel Islands), Guild-level news (eg Mid Monthly Meetings and Surprise Royal, AGMs etc)
  • Rosalind currently manages most updates to the Contacts System and the Tower Pages because these are being upgraded on a rolling program so that all towers have to opportunity to have mutli-page “websites” and properly archived news. 

The team’s short term plans are to upgrade all the tower pages and news streams (as above) and continue to recruit and train news makers especially in Districts where there are none. Despite the business of the site, there are still many towers that have shared no news yet. There is much scope for development.

Guild Database

The database was approved in principal by the Exec and by members at the 2015 AGM, as part of the Guild Action Plan, so members of the project team are free to start work and report back to the Exec and Members as they go.

It was strongly felt among those present at the meeting that we are currently planning almost blind, guessing what the ages, skills and aspirations of the membership are, and that it would be advantageous to have an accurate view of the members.

What worked very well in C&S was to ask all members for their contact details (name, email, FB etc) but then to separately ask for information for planning purposes, a census if you will, such as age, skills level, training needs, and other things, which was processed anonymously and a report was used to overhaul the District’s program of events.

The “database team” is flexible and (because of time available, and technical knowledge) will be led by Rosalind Martin. Graham Hounslow (who can contribute technical understanding) has also expressed a desire to help.

Discussion about the email system led to agreement that we should use email to send out weekly news to all members in geographical zones starting with districts to keep things simple. (C&S and A&P are already up and running but only to their email groups, not to all members of course). All the District News pages are already prepared for this so it can be quickly implemented if webmasters are added to the relevant email groups.

The first stage will:

  1. Identify key stakeholders who could benefit from using a database of members, eg the Treasurer, Guild and District Secretaries, Organisers of special events, etc, and report back with a list of future benefits to the Guild of having a database.
  2. Identify possible problem areas (Data Protection, Data Management and changing roles of District and Tower Secretaries,  are already on the list) and address those properly.

Then the second stage (of identifying suitable technology, and implementation) can be planned and shared with the exec and membership.

The key perceived benefit of the new system is that news and information will be delivered directly to each member rather than (as at present) going through several layers of the organisation where news may be lost at each interface. The current system is complex and there are is a patchwork of different email systems in place, only some of which have any relationship with the website at all.

The website has already given grass roots members the facility of being able to look up news and information online; the database takes it one step further, a regular delivery of relevant news by email.

How Principal Officers might drive /work with the Communications team.

  • As noted above, the Master is already sitting in on team discussions on Facebook.
  • A plea was made to any officers not already on the Facebook Communications Group to join us because there is a huge increase in productivity within discussions on Facebook over Email. Debates can be quickly read and comments appear properly organised, in chronological order by topic. Training and support will be provided in (a) how to get started with Facebook and (b) How to tune the notifications so that you are not sent unwanted information.
  • The communications team will need strong support from the Principal Officers  to design and implement the database, so their active involvement and engagement is needed.
  • At forums where District and Tower officers are talking to Principal Officers, a simple message of “Use the website, this is the benefit, and this is how to do it” needs to be delivered. This started well in the winter ADMs. Potential recruits and visitors to our open ringing, will use the website to size up a tower, and an accurate, informative and positive set of pages and news items will support a band. We have had a model of website-based communications in C&S for some years now and a good sense of belonging to the district, and good use of District events, has been the consistent outcome.
  • If reservations or compliments about the website are received by anyone it is best if they are passed on to the communications team so that they can be taken into account. 
  • If anyone notices an error or similar on the site, they are encouraged to use the “comment” box at the bottom of the screen to let the team know.
  • Since all officers are also band members they can model sending in news items.

Review the Communications section of the Action Plan.

This item refers to page six of the action plan.

“Districts will be encouraged to link their websites to the central site and, for those districts which do not have websites, there will be a chance to develop a site within the new website”

  1. C&S and Winchester District web presence now wholly inside wpbells.org, with Southampton City Ringers website fully dovetailed in (see point 6 below)
  2. Isle of Wight (Steve Noyes’ website) correctly cross-linked – this carries details of all bells and of local pubs. Information which could be transferred to wpbells.org if desired but after discussion with RM, Steve decided to leave the website as it is. It is up to date. No Action needed
  3. Portsmouth (Andrew Glover) website is drifting out of date and Andrew not responding to messages/emails. However Lisa Ashforth (District Secretary) is posting regular news onto wpbells.org so this is more a loose end than a problem. Action: Mike W to talk to the Portsmouth Team.
  4. Channel Islands (Duncan Loweth??) No formal contact has been made and the District is not sending any news or event information in to the wpbells team. Action: Mike W to talk to the CI Team.
  5. Andover and A&P District Secretaries are sending news to the wpbells email address and it is posted by the duty webmaster. Few towers are sending any news in or posting it on existing networks with the exception of Eccinswell. Mike noted that he is an Andover ringer and there is a lively program of Quarter Peals which would be interesting news reports which the team were unaware of. Action: Please can Mike tip off the team!
  6. It was noted that it is perfectly possible to dovetail wpbells.org with another website (especially ones with RSS-based newsfeeds such as WordPress)- newsfeeds can be shared, and with care and a local webmaster, it gives towers the choice to have a completely bespoke website which is also linked live to the guild’s news streams. For example see the dovetail between sotonbells.wordpress.com and https://wpbells.org/sotonbells/ – this close coupling was achieved quickly, simply and with benefit to both sites.

Newsletters will be sent out electronically.

An 8-page Guild newsletter was created just after Firsts Fortnight by Viv and Rosalind and sent out on all the usual channels. Very few copies seem to have been printed out and spotted in towers so we agreed to stick to single page newsletters like the very successful “first fortnight is coming” one that was produced in January.

There are fewer District Newsletters these days but they are welcome on the website.

For members who do not wish to use email, some information will be posted to them. It is hoped this will be a small  number, to keep costs down.

This was noted. At this time, apart from receiving an annual Guild Report, it is unclear what members might wish to receive by post. Action: ??

Consideration will be given to the membership details being transferred directly from the database to the Guild report.

This was noted and will be included into the database planning process. It also should be noted by the Guild Report Working Party

Have Communications Team been recompensed financially and are they happy submitting a budget in November 2016.

  • It was agreed that it would help if the Treasurer set a mileage rate.
  • The group does not need an excessive number of meetings – the next one probably needs to be before the March Exec to agree Database Project Plans
  • Most communication is online, between meetings, in the FB group.
  • Ros Brandwood noted that the Guild Rules need slight amendment to allow expenses to be claimed to meetings other than the regular Exec meetings.
  • Rosalind M noted that some chairmen hand out expense claim forms at the end of every meeting to remove a sense of “oh, I shouldn’t claim”.
  • Viv noted that many individuals claim, then subsequently donate the amount back.
  • It was agreed that we planned to claim mileage. Deb Baker to follow up and build into our budget.

WW1 Focus Group.

Viv reported excellent progress so far with Rachel forging ahead with her research and finding there is lots of material. Viv to aim for a Heritage Lottery Fund Application for nicely bound volumes, at an appropriate time. This will need Exec approval, probably in November.   (Can be up to 100% for a project).

Scope for all ringing to be included not just peals and quarters.

“Slides” and how they can be shared or used effectively.

3 slide shows – the Wickham Experience, the RWNYC championships, and Elva’s CC slides on leadership, are available for the Guild to use. Action: Rosalind to post onto website.

 Website – details from Guild meetings owned and held by Tony Smith. PLUS item Archiving of Guild Minutes.

It was noted that previous email discussions about the issue of the holding and format of Minutes and other Exec and AGM documents have not yet led to an agreement which is acceptable to all parties. The issues of ownership and format, and the possible uses of the material, were discussed in sufficient depth for those present to understand what is involved. Action: Viv and Mike to follow this up.

Website multi-pages.

The aim is to upgrade the design of the website so that every tower and District can have a multipage “website” of semi-permenant pages, within the website, and easily add to, and amend, that. This is in addition to the ongoing “news” items which are more temporary. For examples see:

Action: Rosalind and Graham are in the process of agreeing a design for the generic tower “website” and Rosalind intends to complete the redesigns by end 2016. Once complete, it will be simple for any webmaster to add/remove/amend pages for a tower.



This is an ongoing concern for many of our towers. Increasingly people judge and organisation by its website, so it pays to be on the ball!

There are three simple steps that the web team can support a band with:

  1. Have a “learn to ring at…. ” page which appears both on the tower’s own “website”, and also on the Guild’s “Learn to Ring” page https://wpbells.org/learn-to-ring/. This gives the right message to would-be ringers who arrive on the website seeking training.
  2. Put the Tower’s web address on every poster and communication that the band generates. These have been made as short and simple as possible  from www.wpbells.org/abbotts-ann/ to www.wpbells.org/Yateley
  3. Arrange for mutual links with the church’s own website and make sure the ringing information on the church website is fresh.

Support for internal communications IE social media and email

There are many busy working groups, committees and ad-hoc groupings of people discussing matters online. This can create a sense of overload as endless emails arrive. As a general principal, add hoc groupings are best managed though facebook messages, and more stable groups well served by Facebook Groups  Action: Any officer or member feeling overloaded please contact Rosalind or Deb  – demand for this service is not outstripping supply yet!

Using ‘catagories’ in website posts and continuing training.

These are the technical method we are using to manage the complexity of the site. There are aleady 282 categories which is unusually high as WordPress websites go. The team agreed that the complexity is both necessary and manageable, so no simplication will be planned. Action: continue the “how to” posts on the website to maintain all webmasters’ levels of training as new categories are added.

Any Other Business

  • Ros Brandwood noted that Ecchinswell page has some very out of date news in it. This is caused by its “old style” news feed which did not acknowledge archiving. Action RM Now Upgraded and fixed. RM also upgrading all tower news feeds ongoing.
  • Discussion about success of Bradfield and Hereford courses (double demand for every place) and potential for another residential course. Helpers love it. Bradfield have made a conscious effort to have 50 50 gender split among Helpers.
  • Striking Competition discussion – idea of a Knockout at a practice night between 2 towers.  Action: Deb to mull over this and liase with Mike and with Greg Jordan.
  • As of 5th August the website has received 89,398 hits.

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