Tram bosses employ dedicated 'tweeter' to give work updates

IT IS the building project that has got everyone talking.

Now Edinburgh's tram bosses have unleashed a new weapon to fight back against the rumour mill – by employing a dedicated "tweeter" to lead an online PR offensive.

Howard Elwyn-Jones, of tram firm TIE's communications team, is now providing regular online Twitter updates after bosses were stung by criticism that not enough information was being relayed to members of the public.

He also posts updates and photos of work in progress on the 545 million scheme to rival site Facebook.

A series of podcasts, including an update on medieval skeletons unearthed by tram workers in Leith, have also been produced and can be downloaded via Apple's iTunes Store.

The use of social networking sites is part of a recent overhaul of PR operations by TIE, which has seen it take on new members of staff to handle both the media and customer relations.

Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie, a vocal opponent of the tram project, said TIE deserved praise for embracing new forms of technology to get its message out. He said: "I don't have a blog and I don't Twitter, but a lot of people get their information from these types of media now – it's a sign of the times.

"TIE have been lambasted in the past for not getting information out to the public, so we can't have a go at them now."

Mandy Haeburn-Little, director of customer services and communications for the tram project, said:

"We have an obligation to engage effectively with the public, not just on improvements and positive stories but also around things that may not be popular with some parts of the community, and this is a fast and effective tool which demands very little time and resource to maintain.

"It also fosters two-way discussion which in turn allows us to fix things that aren't working and tells us what is working in a way that more traditional tools cannot."

Predictably, however, the response has not been overwhelmingly positive.

Embattled traders today dismissed the use of Twitter as a "missed opportunity".

Alan Rudland, chairman of the Leith Business Association, said: "Being on Twitter gives TIE a nice soundbite, but they really need to do something useful with it.

"At the moment, they seem to be putting up PR-type statements once every couple of weeks. The information needs to be constant. They need to be using the technology to reach out to a younger demographic and to give us the news, both good and bad."

Yesterday the News revealed that the first set of trams is set to be delivered to Croydon for testing before coming to Edinburgh.




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