CLA Midlands Comment: Rural Business and Social Media
To Stephen Fry, it might be a drop in the ocean, but that most traditional of associations in the Midlands – the CLA - is feeling justifiably pleased with itself as it welcomes its 1,000th follower on the social network Twitter.
The CLA has been around since 1907 and, as its membership developed to encompass landowners, farmers and around 250 types or rural business, the Association has wholeheartedly embraced new technology and new forms of communication. Indeed one of the major issues facing its members today is the lack of access to broadband in rural areas, an issue on which the CLA has been lobbying for the ten years.
Providing advice, support and representation on a wide range of often complex issues for over 6,000 members across the Midlands, the CLA has to work hard to communicate with members and with politicians, the media and key influencers, and it has found that social media can help.
CLA Midlands Communications Manager Mike Ashton explains: "People seem surprised when they hear that we use Twitter, but the CLA is all about people, and surely that is the point of social media.
"Our members follow us to keep up to date with developments in legislation, to see the news - which we can filter to make sure it's relevant - and politicians follow us to make sure they are well briefed on our lobbying stance. It is also a good source of stories for the media.
"It's a two way process. The people we follow provide us with useful and timely information, which can have some bearing on how we approach an issue. If we signpost members towards other sources of information that adds value to our own communication. The good thing is that you have to opt-in. People must actively follow us, and we know that if we get it wrong, they will cease to do so.
"Rural businesses across the Midlands are embracing social media in all its forms, which combined with the internet and e-mail means that operating from a remote location no longer means being remote from your customers. Given the right tools, and that must include fast, reliable broadband, rural entrepreneurs can lead the recovery."
CLA Midlands - @clamidlands - represents the interests of members in Cheshire, Derbyshire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire and Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire. You can follow the activities of the team at www.twitter.com/clamidlands
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Mike has worked in communications roles for the CLA for over ten years and has extensive experience in PR and marketing in the public and private sectors.
He is responsible for regional communications with members and the media and firmly believes that the CLA is about people, and that its strength comes from its members.
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