Make the Most of a Local Offer Subscription 

The importance of a good Provider Profile page

Content is key. Making sure all sections of the registration form are completed is essential. The common failing is that services offer too little information, assuming that other people know what they do, or that visitors to the site will leap-frog straight onto their own website. Don’t assume knowledge, but explain in a language that is friendly and professional, and not littered with acronyms and jargon. If it doesn’t make sense to the moderator, it’s unlikely to make sense to visitors to this site.

Add detail of what services you offer, and address the audience directly, with a welcoming introduction. If you have a series of separate services, detail these in priority order. According to your subscription, you can add live links which help direct readers to key content on your own site. Case studies can also be added, according to subscription level, sent separately as pdf documents that are then uploaded to your Profile Page or shared under Provider Articles.

Make sure all your social media links are functioning and represent the platforms where your audience are most likely to interact with your service.

Consider your Key Business Activities and ensure these are aligned to your content. These are a bullet point summary of your services, but even in their brevity, still need to make sense.

Remember to add all relevant search categories, as that helps visitors find your service. Also ensure that you regularly review what local authorities you are shown in, if you expand your reach or gain new clients.

Engage on Social Media

The Local Offer uses the following social media platforms:

Twitter              @hmstack & @thelocaloffer

LinkedIn            group page and company page

Facebook          The Local Offer

Instagram         @thelocalofferuk

How many of these are you currently engaged with?
Are you alert to a Membership Benefit (Blue level and above) which is the sharing of your service via social media? 
Do you Retweet or share posts about your service sent by The Local Offer?

The more you engage, the more opportunities there are to expand the reach of your key messages. Social media is designed to be social. It is ineffective in isolation. The Local Offer fulfils its obligations to members by sharing content on social media. To gain from this visibility, you need to engage by retweeting or sharing the post.

Know What’s Available in Your Annual Subscription

Be alert to what Membership Benefits your subscription level offers so you can maximise the use of those that matter to you. If your only consideration is cost, you can miss out on what’s significant or will bring about the most gains, not just in terms of increased business, but new opportunities or avenues to develop your service.

If you are the budget holder and have responsibility for subscriptions, look for the subscription that meets your needs best and can be aligned to your business goals and marketing strategy. All subscriptions can be offset in year-end accounts under Professional Subscriptions (please ask your financial adviser for guidance).

Fixed benefits include:

Make the Most of Your Membership Benefits

Many registered providers have a clear focus on what they want to achieve, with ‘increased business’ the primary goal. The Local Offer does not set out to generate new business for any registered service. It gives a platform for education, health & social care services to share their specialist provision accessing this site’s network of visitors and contacts. It does not track referral numbers, but respectfully asks those using the site to reference The Local Offer when contacting a SEND Provider.
The Local Offer has a clear Mission Statement which sets out its purpose. Registration assumes that those registering have looked at Membership Benefits, have read at least some of content about The Local Offer and how it operates. The Local Offer may be a part of your marketing strategy or your business online networking. Its IAG pages can be linked by any service, adding value to your own Service Offer.
It remains a challenge encouraging Services to engage with all aspects of The Local Offer subscription benefits, with a few features more popular than others – use of The Local Offer logo, social media promotions, inclusion in specialist magazines, discounted conferences places, adding live links to Profile pages and uploading case-studies being the most regularly used features. Being aware of Membership Benefits means that you can engage when relevant. Not being aware risks losing out on some good offers, and marginalising the impact of your registration.

Identify what you want to achieve with an Annual Subscription

Having a clear idea of what you would like to achieve with an annual subscription with The Local Offer can help measure impact and determine future actions.

What does it mean to sign up your service to The Local Offer? Is this just a compliance exercise, because you feel you should be registered somewhere, or is this a purposeful act as part of a planned process of awareness raising, reaching out to new audiences and tuning into sector-specific news and knowledge?

Identify what you want to achieve at the start of your subscription and share that information with The Local Offer. That way you can determine actions for the year ahead and an evidence-base for your decision making.

Add content to the site

Site stats are checked regularly and often daily. Information is checked against the following categories, which include: unique visitors, pages visited, successful, far-reaching content, top 10 downloads on the site, top 25 most viewed pages, connections to the site from other services or organisations, top 10 search key phrases.  

Appreciating there are far more sophisticated social media policies, nevertheless, these simple checks give information to show that –

  1. Providers who engage with the site, add content, update their profiles at least termly, and have social media links on their page, gain the most views
  2. Those Providers with content, case-studies of FAQs about pages, consistently feature in the top 25 pages on the site
  3. Engagement on Twitter and Facebook with good content (not advertorial) can reach thousands of views/impressions very quickly.

Do you have articles you have written for magazines, or for your own website, or a blog post? If these are free to share, pass them on to The Local Offer and they can be embedded in your Provider Profile page or added under Provider Articles & Case Studies.

Final Comments

Local Authority local offers enable specialist & targeted services to register for free on their sites. Sadly, it is still the case that many parents & carers seeking specialist support, and many providers registered with their local offer, are discontented about how well that local offer meets their needs.

“Many parents do not know what the local offer is; others find it difficult to access information via the published version and most who have used it do not find it helpful. Most services are not actively involved in regularly updating the local offer and do not promote its use to parents. The local offer recently changed with little consultation.”

Comment from Ofsted & CQC – Local Area SEND Inspection Report, 2018

This social enterprise receives no grants or external funding and does not have access to any central government funding allocated to local authorities to manage their local offers. Its services are charged for by way of annual subscription.

There is no automatic renewal but all registered services are sent renewal notices approximately four weeks before a subscription expires, asking for notice for cancellation. This is always a good opportunity to review content, something that is prompted and encouraged, and to review also, what is the goal of a subscription for the year ahead.

Working in partnership, great things can happen.

 

Heather Stack
Founder, The Local Offer
1st August 2018