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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. Paulthehitch

    Paulthehitch Member

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    Indeed so but it takes ages and would have needed twenty years to have made any real impact by now.
     
  2. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

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    But, you are talking about social media marketing in it’s simplest form, at the heart of it is engagement which this provides. I agree that you that you don’t need particular skills to answer the basic questions, the skill is in the knowledge which content to create and when.

    Social media is important, you need to put something in to get something back. I agree even basic replies would be an improvement.

    However, looking at the bigger picture, the value WSR currently put on the importance of social media significantly underestimates both the value and potential. We both agree on that, I do disagree with getting a professional in is admitting defeat. If you have someone who can do it, great. However, if you don’t then why not bring someone in with those skills. I think that’s a bit like saying getting a project manager in for seaward crossing is admitting defeat.

    The reality is that compared to the millions needed to keep the railway afloat, the budget required to achieve getting some targeted professional marketing for social media is tiny. Certainly, I am of the opinion that the benefits outweigh the cost, not just financially but also to improving the marketing situation as a whole. Once you consider this and decide it’s beneficial to do so, another benefit is that as part of the package they are offering, they will answer the more mundane questions, as it goes hand in hand with what they are trying to achieve.

    I am less suspicious to the reasons for unwillingness to engage. I think it is simply a case of a lack of knowledge and understanding of social media. Remember content is key and needs to be regular or else your posts do not appear in peoples news feeds. Instead, you end up out of sight and out of mind. If you look at their Facebook page, they do post, but not enough. An example is the appeal. There has been one post on the page about it. Since then nothing, that means in three weeks it has been and gone from peoples news feeds, the only way to see it is to go to the page and read it there directly. This is one of the reasons why when I look at the page likes vs post likes, the ratio is low in comparison to other railways. I contend this lack of understanding is the a very big part of the reason.
     
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  3. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Agreed. 2020 was a weird year for donations to unspecified appeals, but the general pattern in my experience is that the vast majority pf people prefer to donate to restricted funds, i.e. with a specified purpose.

    As evidence of that, in the 2019 Bluebell Railway Trust accounts (pre-Covid), some figures are given:

    Donations - £508k, of which
    - Unrestricted: 3.4%
    - Restricted: 96.6%

    Legacies - £696k, of which
    - Unrestricted: 90.8%
    - Restricted: 9.2%

    The pattern is very clear - donors overwhelmingly prefer to donate to a restricted fund (i.e. for a specific outcome). Legacies are more commonly left to the unrestricted fund.

    That is a charity of course - the plc is presumably basing its appeal around share purchases, which by their nature are basically "unrestricted" (but also miss out on Gift Aid :rolleyes:) But I see no evidence that a company that has raised a bit over £2m through share sales in the last 40 years is suddenly going to be able to raise £1m+ per year from now on through share sales. Even less so given my contention that most donors want clarity about what they are being asked to donate to.

    I checked the WSR's own page as to what they need the money for and got:

    This will help us to:
    • Meet the shortfall between our operational costs and predicted revenue for the season;
    • Cover our overhead costs which the PLC is working to keep to a minimum this year;
    • Provide additional funds to prepare for the winter infrastructure engineering programme; and
    • Prepare for and carry out essential work in mechanical engineering and operations in preparation for the 2022 season.
    2020 aside, which was exceptional, I think the first two items are a really hard sell for an appeal. The last two are more reasonable, but really need some clarity as to what.

    Tom
     
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  4. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Though without track, the carriages won't go very far :rolleyes:

    Tom
     
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  5. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Being generous, my sense is that the WSR is about 10 - 15 years behind other comparably large railways in its level of maturity of fundraising, stakeholder engagement etc. Most large railways have had problems in the last decade or two with provision of motive power, carriage overhauls, infrastructure replacement etc, but a critical point has been the degree of candidness with which they have explained those issues to their core stakeholders (volunteers, members and donors). Evidence is that those stakeholders can be very generous, but have to be engaged. You can't for example, just go overnight from "everything is fine" to "we need to spend millions renewing our p/way" and expect people to fund it without facing some questions along the lines of "hang on - up until yesterday you were telling us everything was fine".

    Tom
     
  6. Kje7812

    Kje7812 Member

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    Lol, true.
    But I do feel sometimes people focus too much on locos. Track and carriages are very important parts to the equation.
     
  7. toplight

    toplight Well-Known Member

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    You can get tyres from Germany according to this website https://www.railwaywheelset.co.uk/tyres.html Ultimately it is down to how much demand there is. How many tyres for steam locos are made per year, not that many.
    Railway preservation is still just a hobby, with very few paid jobs especially in Engineering/restoration, so no investment today in the skills.
     
  8. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    As regards the WSR ,And social media, there would be no point in getting anyone to do it, if some ones ego were to get in the way, for instance, you get 9 constructive ideas, and 1 that is critical, the ego blows up over the one critical, and ignores the 9 good ones, someone would need to be very hands off, Can you see that happening? My Railway, and all that, see good management has to trust those people that are tasked with delivering a public face of the railway, and the various boards on the WSR, seem to have an abundance of egos, over common sence, they take criticism personally, my view is that such are the animosities, that changing board members, only creates new areas of friction, only a totally new set up, with none of the antagonists, on either side, holding influence would stand any chance of mending the internal war that is the WSR, and its supporting groups, Unfortunately, for that to happen, the railway would have to hit the buffers, and possibly go to the wall, losing everything, before there could be any truce and common ground found, but of course, by then, its too late,
     
  9. John Palmer

    John Palmer Member

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    @jma1009 has told us that:
    This is the only recent post I have seen that sheds further light on the nature of the agreement for use of 53808, and it's one that suggests a rather different state of affairs as regards the due date(s) for overhaul to that apparently assumed by several recent posters (which was the reason why I tried to sound a cautionary note about speculating as to the agreement's terms). Has someone with actual knowledge of those terms shed further light upon them since @jma1009's post above? If so, can someone please indicate when and where?
     
  10. free2grice

    free2grice Well-Known Member Friend

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    I've received an email from the Swanage Railway asking for donations towards their Herston Carriage Shed appeal. It was well set out and polite. I have donated.

    Unfortunately I haves not been tempted to donate towards the £1,000,000 WSR appeal to cover their wage bill and legal fees. <BJ>
     
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  11. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    Not really, to have a proper, targeted, social media marketing campaign needs a professional approach just as much as the Seaward Way Crossing project. It's just a bit daft to have almost no engagement on social media on the grounds that it needs a professional, either volunteer or paid, and there isn't anyone nor is there any money to hire anyone in. Any sort of engagement from someone literate working from home has got to be better than silence.
     
  12. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    Exactly what I said, but in much fewer words.
     
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  13. gwralatea

    gwralatea Member

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    This was actually the bit of your post that I was meaning to respond to this morning but got sidetracked (sorry)... If you give it to someone at home who doesn't want to travel then you need x many other people supplying them with content.

    Ideally, if you're using volunteers, social media should be an active volunteer who is on site, and can take pictures, etc, as they go about their work. This is especially important if something's happening that needs social media engagement on the spot (and is the downside of using an off-site professional just as much as an off-site amateur). Though to be fair I've elided two scenarios there - no one should be tweeting while doing something safety critical obviously.

    But the 'out and about on the railway' style is more effective than using twitter/facebook/etc as essentially a conduit for press-releases, once a week, at 1200. I would say though that even that's better than radio silence!
     
  14. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    I can't see Salcombe being popular with those who don't know it and are used to the continental tourist hotspots. The only entertainment is that which you make yourself, definitely no amusement arcades and nightclubs and pig racing and the quiz at the Ferry Inn is about as exciting as it gets. I'm definitely going to be a loser in my annual holiday in the South Hams this year if my worst fears come to fruition. Last year was bad enough when people could still go abroad but I can see the beaches will be relatively busy rather than being almost deserted, as they usually are. I dread to think what the roads will be like, as well.
     
  15. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

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    We both agree something would be better than nothing, although the fact remains that a lack of understanding of this means it falls under the radar.

    Just to be clear, I don’t think that not having a professional is grounds for no engagement, rather a solution to a very real problem. It’s clear from the evidence there is no one who can resolve it internally, logic then says bring in someone from the outside. The expense is not significant to do so and it solves the problem, while giving you a base to work the rest of the marketing around. You can have the best rolling stock in the world, with as many locos as you like, with immaculately maintained track (all are important components to the puzzle), but if no one knows about it and visits, then you don’t have a viable railway. It’s as important to invest in your marketing as all three other examples, it’s just another piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

    The railway needs to improve the marketing as a whole if it is to survive, that is clear and illustrated by your comments on donating to the appeal. I agree it’s not precise and as Tom pointed out earlier, we have gone from turning it around to now needing millions. That kind of talk doesn’t inspire confidence, especially when considering the loose, vague descriptions of where the money is going. I am reluctant to donate if all it does is reduce the liability the receivers have to raise. In the absence of detail, it’s hard to see my money’s ultimate destination.

    Social media is a big thing. It won’t go away, things of changed forever. Marketing a tourist reliant attraction which the WSR is means you need to recognise this, the peers have long ago. This is why it’s important not to ignore it, but, also understand that if the skill set or even just a volunteer offering simple replies to queries doesn’t exist in your organisation, you need to get someone in.
     
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  16. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    I would agree with that.

    However there is a difference IMHO between the "here's is todays news from the WSR" media broadcast type of activity and the simple "answering questions" activity (ie the 'can I take a dog', or 'do you carry wheelchairs' questions etc). I do not see why the latter at least can not be done by one (or more, on a rota) volunteers working from home, armed with all the necessary 'facts and figures' and a list of 'phone numbers of people who they can ring at MD for answers if necessary.

    Nothing p****s me off more than organisations who provide a 'contact us' facility, yet either answer far too long afterwards to be of any use or simply not at all. If they can display such apparent dis-interest in potential customers, why should I make the effort to be one? End of rant.....:)
     
  17. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    While the local papers dont have a great circulation these days, both the S&DRT & the ESR are pretty good at getting in the local paper at least once a month, again something the WSR should be working on - for the right reasons!
     
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  18. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    I was about to say before your last caveat, that is one thing the WSR is excellent at! Noteworthy that it's often the case that it's the WSR Plc management themselves that send the press releases to local papers telling them all about the latest argument (and often libelling individuals in the process...)
     
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  19. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

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    I’m completely agree. Locally to me the SVR are good at generating press interest. The GWSR is another. They also provide an example of how to use the press when in a not so good position. They were faced with closure due to Covid. Rather than a negative story about how bad things were, Gloucestershire Live ran a story on how the railway faced with closure, had excess catering stock and how rather than waste it, donated it to food banks (GWSR actually did this twice and got a feature each time).

    The articles did go on to say that the railway faced an uncertain future and there was an appeal.

    However, the headline was the donations to the food bank, which to me showed the railway as a part of the wider local community. Compare that to reading the releases about the problems the WSR has. If it’s not the internal support groups falling out, it’s some other issue. Even the seaward crossing project had to feature some sort of blame game with their partner in the project. It’s not pretty reading!!!

    Professional support for the social media would be a start. In the wider context, it was clearly a mistake to let the marketing person go without replacement. I suppose possibly the trouble is in redundancy you make the role redundant, not the person, maybe that influenced the decision, but even with the best intentions, the current solution doesn’t work. It doesn’t follow that if you are a great engine driver you are a marketing genius, that marketing genius wouldn’t know how to drive the engine, so why is the opposite way any different? There was the post the other day from @Signals which was very enlightening. One of his comments was to justify his expert knowledge, asking one poster what his qualifications in the subject were. Turning that question on it’s head, I’d ask who on the board holds any marketing qualification? Okay, safety isn’t an issue with marketing but given it’s impact surely the same logic would apply?

    I think the board are naive to think they can do the marketing themselves. It’s great to talk about everyone’s strong points, but, you need to identify the weak spots, especially at board level if those missing skills cannot be found elsewhere inside the organisation. This is something the WSR has so far failed to do.
     
  20. Downline

    Downline Member

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    The redundancies made (assuming we are referring to the ones made in 2019 and none have happened since?) was the Head of Commercial role, not a marketing role. Although with that role removed, chances are those employed in a commercial role will likely to have taken on the HOC's duties, potentially leaving gaps in there initial employment duties, such as marketing.

    I would note the WSR are actually quite good at social media, key skills are the deleting of posts they dislike from there official facebook page and a certain 'Friends' Group which is moderated solely by Plc staff, along with current and past board members over the last 12 months.

    But I have noticed that people, who I believe are WSR volunteers, do reply to some comments made by the general public on the WSR Plc's posts to some of the general questions. Responses are in my opinion alot better than the general answers you see from some corporate companies, and from the WSR Plc. So maybe all it needs is for these volunteers to be given access to the account, and they can do the interacting for the Plc staff if time (and effort) to interact is an issue.
     
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