CAMPAIGN JUSTICE: What Journalism 2.0 Looks Like and What You Can Learn

(5) Birmingham Mail - Google Chrome 21112014 110418It was around 2010 and as depressing conversations with a reporter go this one took quite some beating.

I was in local government communications and we had started to post gritting updates in real time on Twitter. We were talking with our residents directly without going through the Priesthood of journalists.

“The thing is,” the reporter said, “When you post your updates to Twitter, newsdesk want you to give us a call as well, so we know.”

I declined. I pointed out that they needed to be on Twitter themselves. I shook my head in despair.

Despair

I started in newspapers in the early 1990s and spent 12 years as a journalist. I still love them despite themselves and despite a further eight years in a local government communications team.

There was a time when I despaired of local newspapers utterly. Declining newsrooms, re-locating to ‘hubs’ far away and shedding staff still make me shake my head.

But just recently, I’ve had cause to think that maybe the penny is dropping and that newspapers really can use the social web and create journalism that will be relevant to the channels of the future.

Telling a story with the web

Making brilliant use of the web are the Evening Mail in Birmingham. They are telling the story of the Birmingham pub bombings which killed 21 people 40 years ago today. They are doing so with imagination and passion. The incident remains an unhealed wound in the city. Nobody has been brought to justice for it. Six people were imprisoned wrongly.

They are using thunderclap to gather support for the case to be re-opened. You sign-up using a social channel and agree to share a message.

For audio, they recreated the IRA telephone call to the Evening Mail offices which came minutes before the explosion.

Birmingham pub bombings We name the man who masterminded the atrocity - Birmingham Mail - Google Chrome 21112014 102057

For images, they created a gallery of news images from the time from their archive.

On Twitter, they used the hashtag #justiceforthe21 and #BirminghamPubBombings to promote the call to bring people to justice.

On the web, the posted the news story in which they name the man, now dead, they allege is responsible for the attack.

On Facebook, they shared content and drew scores of responses.

Also on the web, they hosted as as if real time recreation of the 24-hours leading up to the incident. Anecdotes and snaps of life from those who were living their last day. It is a docudrama told in realtime and you can see it here.   

Birmingham pub bombings Minute by minute - 24 hours that changed our city forever - Birmingham Mail - Google Chrome 21112014 103025

This is what future journalism looks like. Story telling on a range of platforms. It’s sharable and commentable and has a purpose. But above all it is human. I just can’t tell you how much I like this.

They still make me shake my head do newspapers. The public subsidy they get through the government insisting local government pay them for print small ads for public notices at a time of 85 per cent internet connectivity is plain wrong.

But the Evening Mail have shown peerlessly how to tell powerful stories on the web. This really does tower over anything else I’ve seen in the 21 years I’ve been involved with local journalism. Sincere congratulations to them. Buy shoe polish and make sure your suits are pressed. You’ll need them for the awards.

Brilliant work and the lessons to take

This is brilliant work. Genuinely brilliant. This is using the social web to tell a very human story. It’s powerful. It’s moving. But it has a sense of purpose. The purpose is to mobilise public support for a specific aim. It is is to press for justice.

Yet there are lessons here for the public sector where I now work. Just recently the #housingday initiative saw a 24-hour campaign which saw housing people talk about the jobs they do and the people they serve. Very soon #ourday will do a similar task for local government. I’m an advocate for them. They tell hundreds of stories that tell a bigger story. They empower people. They connect people too.

But wouldn’t it be something if that wall of noise was made easier to follow with a live blog? And wouldn’t it be something if there was one single call to action, whatever that was? What is the biggest issue facing housing? Or local government?

What would that campaign be?

Wouldn’t it be something if that energy was pointed at something?


EASY CLIMBING: some crowdsourced social media guidance we helped shape


3875296575_9f1eb0d77b_bWhen I left local government six months ago I said that this was to do more in local government and the public sector.

Every week being full-time on comms2point0 has been quite literally an
adventure. One of the adventures was to write social media guidance
for part of the public sector that is struggling with it. Health and Wellbeing Boards are where the NHS, charities and councils come together to make billions of pounds of spending decisions.

The Local Government Association (LGA) listened to members who said they were struggling in this area and commissioned us to draw-up some guidance. It is with huge pleasure that I saw that the LGA published Connecting Health and Wellbeing Boards: a social media guide.

But wait.

If you think that guidance for this arcane corner of the public sector
has nothing for you, I’d ask you to swing by and take a look. I think
you’ll find some principles that can help you out whereever you are.

Climbing a challenge one step at a time

So, how do you persuade organisations and people that don’t use social
media to start using it?

There was a long list of things that health and wellbeing boards should be doing. Live tweeting meetings, posting slides used at meetings to slide sharing website slideshare and using social media to listen are all there.

But nobody wants to look at Mount Everest on their first day in walking boots.

So, we made it easy. We made slow steps possible. We created five steps – or five stars – that made progress not only possible but measurable.

We made the first star deliberately easy. All you had to do was post the date and time of your meeting on a social profile. Simple. Congratulations. You’ve got a first star. As any walker will tell you
once you conquer your first hillock your eyes turn more readily to something a little bigger.

That, we think, is the powerful and encouraging thing that can make these guidelines work.

We crowdsourced

What I’m most proud of is that we didn’t just write this in a vacuum.
We asked the online community and the offline community too. My role
as author was less a writer and more a facilitator. What should these
guidelines look like? Gemma Finnegan at the weekly #nhssm chat which discusses social media in the NHS steered two discussions that had a profound effect. I don’t have my name on this document. I have
comms2point0′s logo. But we have thanked everyone who conrtibuted to
those discussions and the survey which shaped it. I also spent a lot
of time chatting to people. If you want to look at an authority doing
a trailblazing job look at Louisa Willoughby at Sheffield City Council
and Cllr Simon Allen at Bath and North East Somerset. And some of the work that @claireOT has done in sketching out what things could look like.

Thanks also to Kristian Hibberd who has now left the LGA for pastures new and to Laurence Meehan and Caroline Tapster who remains.

We used data

We surveyed people and we used those results to shape the discussion.

* 53 per cent thought their council uses social media badly for health
and wellbeing boards.
* 81 per cent are in favour of live streaming.
* 83 per cent said that space should be given to the public to ask questions at meetings.

We had five basic principles 

From my time in local government, I’ve been in favour of a framework of
basic principles rather than a dogmatic policeman of highly prescriptive. Nobody wants the guidance that says you must use MySpace. So we came up with this:

  •      Be engaging: interact wherever possible with users and reflect the
    debate.
    •        Be timely: post information at a time that is most convenient or
    relevant to the audience.
    •        Be jargon-free: use language that works on the platform of choice
    without jargon and language that people outside the health and
    wellbeing board would struggle to understand.
    •        Be connected: look to share content from partners and from across
    the public or third sector where is relevant.
    •        Be informative: look to inform and to educate.

If you work in the public sector and want to chat further drop me a
note by email to dan@comms2point0.co.uk or on Twitter @danslee.

The #nhssm discussion of the LGA health and wellbeing board guidelines
takes place between 8pm and 9pm on Wednesday November 19.

 


140 STORY: 15 Tips For Joining In A Twitter Event

8237167016_0317889078_oSo, you are wondering whether or not to join in #housingday, #ourday or a similar real time Twitter event.

But I’ll bet you think that you’ve nothing to say and not many people will find what you are doing interesting, right?

Good news. You couldn’t be further from the truth and by taking part you’ll be lending your voice to create a far louder noise around an area that no doubt doesn’t always shout about itself.

Back in 2010, me and some colleagues staged #walsall24 which was the first real-time Twitter event in local government. We won the first LGComms gold social media award and for a day the borough was the centre of the digital universe. People from across the council used Twitter to post the day-to-day things we were doing.

We’d taken the idea from Greater Manchester Police and tweaked it. It’s great to see others now take the idea and tweak it further so it’s the voice of a sector and not just one authority.

The #housingday initiative has grown from strength to strength as a way of telling the social housing story. Like any success, it has many fathers. But Ade Capon from Yorkshire Housing is the man responsible for first taking the plunge.

Here’s 10 ideas to help you make the most of the day

  1. The more mundane it is to you, the more interesting it is to them. Trust me. Everyone thinks they do a fairly dull job. To others its madly interesting.
  2. Tweet the little things. Tell people about the drain cover you just fixed, the window you are replacing, the meeting you’ve been to. It all builds a picture.
  3. Take a picture. A picture tells 1,000 words and when you’ve only got 140 characters that’s pretty useful. People like pictures. They get shared more too. You don’t have to be David Bailey.
  4. Take a video. With Instagram you have about 14 seconds of video that can be shared to Twitter.
  5. Take some audio. Soundcloud is a cracking app that lets you record people talking. Ask someone to say who they are, what they do and what they are doing today. Then share it to Twitter.
  6. Share some content. Press the retweet button and share what other people are doing.
  7. Ask a question. Ask what people think. Ask the for their own experiences.
  8. Follow a member of staff. Pick someone who does a frontline job. Then follow them around. You can tweet about what they are doing and where they are in realtime.
  9. Stage a Q&A. Persuade a senior person to be available to answer questions on a topic. Promote it. Share the answers.
  10. Embed your Twitter stream on the organisations’ website so non-Twitter people can see what is being said.
  11. Build it and they will come is silly. Go offline. Tell people about it. Email them. Put it in team briefings. Shout. Shout. Let it all out.
  12. Capture the tweets you’ll send and the comments you’ll receive on the web. By all means use Storify to capture what is being said. That’s an easy drag and drop web application you can use to preserve things.
  13. Capture the tweets you’ll send and the comments you’ll receive as screenshots. Take a screenshot. Email it to people. The officers in the repairs team. People like that.
  14. Feature the residents. How long has Mrs Smith lived in that house? What does she think of her windows? What could she suggest to improve the area she lives in?
  15. Ask people to do something. Don’t just let the day be just noise. Here’s the thing you’d like people to sign-up for. Here’s the consultation you’d like them to get involved with. Channel all this to help you make a difference.

Picture caption

https://www.flickr.com/photos/70285332@N00/8237167016/


OUR AWARDS: Celebrating the #comms20unawards

IMAG1205So, we’ve gone and hired a cinema for a bit of a celebration and it would be wonderful if you could join us.

More precisely, we’ve hired the Electric Cinema in Station Street, Birmingham which is the oldest working cinema in the UK. The date is Thursday December 11.

We’re doing three things. We’re having an awards ceremony, we’re watching a film and we’re showing that you don’t have to spend a fortune and go to London for an awards bash.

The event is the comms2point0 unawards and I’d like you very much to come along and to enter. It’s going to be great. December is a chance to celebrate and its a chance to think back to what you’ve done well.

If there’s one thing that irks me about comms teams it is their inability to celebrate their own work. Stop it. It’s not clever.
So pick a category, enter by November 12 by emailing dan@comms2point0.co.uk or darren@comms2point0.co.uk. More details are here.

If you don’t fancy picking a category come and watch the film. It’s Armandoi Iannucci satire ‘In the Loop.’

1. Best communications team chosen by the overall event sponsor

2. Best communications officer (this includes digital too) public vote sponsored by Alive – The Ideas Agency 3. Best small team (from one-man band up to three people max) public vote sponsored by David Banks Media Law 

4. Lifetime achievement to comms public vote sponsored by Touch Design 

5. Best post on comms2point0 in 2014 public vote sponsored by Alive – The Ideas Agency 6. Best internal communications campaign sponsored by All Things IC

7. Best communications for change activity sponsored by Public Sector Customer Services Forum

8. Best piece of creative comms sponsored by Capacity Grid

9. Best freebie or low cost communications campaign

10. Best email marketing sponsored by GovDeliveryUK

11. Best social media campaign sponsored by Digital Action Plan

12. Best private sector/agency comms campaign or initiative

13. Best ‘Worst comms’ (this can be anything from use of clip art, worst poster, silliest random request – feel free to be creative) sponsored by Alive – The Ideas Agency

14. Best collaboration sponsored by Knowledge Hub

Big thanks to Emma Rodgers who is helping stage the event and Andy Mabbett who will compere.


OUR MAN: ‘We Need to Communicate Like Insurgents.’

51470257_e1c8bb2ac8_o“What we need to do,” said the man in the blue jacket and the crisp white shirt, “is to communicate more like insurgents.”

An arresting comment to make, particularly  as the man in the jacket was HM Government’s Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher.

The comment was made – and a whole host of others – at the tail end of a fascinating two day event in Jordan hosted by the Foreign Office for their Middle East and North Africa comms staff.

A week later and it’s a comment that keeps rattling around.

We need to communicate more like insurgents. What does that mean?

It could mean a whole host of things. To nail the obvious, it’s not about communicating beheadings. To me, it’s more about having an overall framework to work in and allowing people on the ground to be flexible, creative and agile. What I took was that it was about being not hemmed in by procedure. It’s about creating sharable content that is going to be shared. It’s seeing what works in the field and replicating it.

Here’s a second arresting comment from the event that keeps re-occuring.

“Al-Qaida’s leaders view communications as 90 percent of the struggle.”

Think for a minute of that group and what do you see?

Ossama bin Laden in a fuzzy vhs video?

The Twin Towers?

Both are powerful images which frame the first 14 years of the 21st century.

They are communications.

They were framed by communications people.

The Ambassador is of course right. Sometimes we can be too hemmed in by process to think agile, creative, sharable and flexible.

To have such a green light from the top is a gift to cherish.

Sometimes the play book comes not from the institution or the old ways of doing things. It comes from unexpected quarters and what your enemy does.

It also poses the question that if communications is 90 per cent of the issue then are you doing enough? More importantly, have you got the support to do enough?

Spanish poet Baltasar Gracian said that a wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.

So, how can you learn from your enemies?

Picture credit

Magic bullet https://www.flickr.com/photos/45175402@N00/51470257/


SOCIAL CONTENT: Are You Getting the Balance Right?

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for comms planning and having a purpose.

If the aim is to do something then it makes sense to have your comms pointing at that.

The only thing is that social media isn’t like that. It’s social. So, a stream of call-to-action updates just won’t work. It’s as social as a stream of flyers being pushed through your letterbox.

So, what’s the answer?

There needs to be a balance of the social and the stuff you want people to sign up for, buy or do.

Often in training I’ll refer to an 80-20 split. The 80 per cent is conversational and engaging content. The 20 per cent is the things you’d like people to do.

In a fascinating interview on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Bottom Line’ Asda’s social manager puts the balance at 10 to 1.

Dominic Birch, Asda senior director of marketing, innovation and new revenue, said that the social media team has now become part of the wider PR team.

“We didn’t have a budget. So it wasn’t the case of advertising that we were on Facebook. Each time we posted some content we had to rely on even a very small number of people at first liking it for that content to be seen my anyone else otherwise we would be speaking to ourselves.

“We averaged two or three posts a day, every day, so maybe 20 posts a week.

It started to get interesting when they started to get customers to chip in with decisions. Nothing big. Customers chose the design for Christmas tea towels.

“What was really interesting was that 4,500 people went to the bother of asking whether they liked design ‘a’, ‘b’ or ‘c’. Actually, it was that moment that with 18 million customers we understood that if you connect to the right ones they really do care about what you do, what they say and why wouldn’t they? Ultimately, they’re going to come into your shop and choose to buy it.”

Big numbers is not the answer as fewer people see the posts. If the people who like your page are true customers it’ll cost you less effectively to reach them through Facebook ads.

“There is a danger that social media becomes diarrhea. We had a rule of thumb that for every post we wanted to push or sell something to be very blunt about it we had to put 10 other posts in the bank. They are there solely to engage our customers. We have to have done hard work  talking about what the customers wanted to talk about before we have the right or licence to push something out.

“It’s a two-way dialogue social media. It just is. Our starting point is not to sell. It’s to listen. A few years ago we had a Christmas ad that was based on insight that it was Mum who does the heavy lifting, organises the present, gets the tree, cooks the meal and we depicted this advert and were met with a media backlash. Some people thought this was filmed in the 1950s and Fathers for Justice were going to do protests in the turkey aisle but we had three or four thousand comments saying things like ‘I nudged my husband awake when that came on the TV and said:L ‘that’s how it really feels.’ If you’d have gone back two or three years there would have been a high level meeting and the advert would have been pulled.”

That’s useful insight. Are you getting the balance right?

 

Creative commons credit

Balance https://flic.kr/p/9herYu

 


DIGITAL CLASH: Comms and Social: Have we won the War?

272900992_18af4400c3_oA few things have crossed my timeline of late that reminds me that comms and social for all their outward signs are struggling to fit.

Sure, there are still dinosaurs. But they’re dying out and have lost the battle so let’s not bother with them.

Ignorance is being replaced with the realisation that social media can’t be ignored by comms and PR people. Great.

But have we truly won the war? I’m not at all convinced we have.

There is a mindset that sees digital as a one way tick box exercise that exists only to generate likes or calls to action. In other words, it’s an extension of what traditional comms has always tried to be.

I absolutely get the need for comms teams to demonstrate worth. You sit down with the organisation, you listen to how you need to recruit 10 more carers to save £100k. Then you communicate to the right people at the right time in the right place. You record the new carers. Then you report back what you did.

I get that in spades.

I also get enthusiastically the idea that comms is not the size of the audience but what that audience has done as a result of what you’ve done.

I can also get the need to base comms on evidence and business cases to cut out the pointless vanity comms. You know the sort. The sort that needs this doing because we’ve always done it because the Director likes it.

I get that too.

I also get much of Rachel Moss’s post on not slavishly sticking to digital and doing traditional things too. If a poster works, use a poster. There is no earthly point, I’m guessing, for a LinkedIn group aimed at under fives.

I don’t think that comms people have fully realised what social is. It is not driven by likes, sign-ups and results. It is driven by conversation, sharing and stories. The return on investment comes as a spin-off and is all the more powerful for that.

Think of it in postal terms. It’s the difference between junk mail asking you to buy, buy, buy and the handwritten postcard addressed to you on your door mat.

I think of the police officer I spoke to early in my career who was one of the first to embrace Twitter. A senior officer he had a face that looked as though it had been in a few scraps in its time. I would not argue with that face if he asked me to move my car.

He used Twitter, the policeman told me, in exactly the same way as he would use conversation as if he walked down a parade of shops on his beat. He’d say good morning. He’d pass the time of day. He’d share a joke. He’d then ask someone once the ice was broken to remember to shut their windows when they went out in warm weather. Simple. And human.

The real return on investment for that officer comes in an emergency where there is a pre-built network of people willing to share their message.

Police officers get that you need to be human on the social web to be listened to. I’m not sure if comms people look at .

I think of the brands who tried to ‘leverage’ their audience with 9/11 tweets. I think of Pete Ashton one of the first people in Birmingham to use this thing called Twitter and work out what the social web was all about. I think of the chat I had with him on how he had consciously divorced himself from the growing social as numbers professionalisation of social media.

I think of the Best by WM survey that shows that digital comms in the West Midlands social has stalled at Twitter and Facebook and the new channels are not being explored.

It all points to this as a conclusion: social media and digital communications is one set of tools in the mix.

Use them if you think they’ll work but don’t be a channel fascist.

Share, inform, entertain and engage.

Be timely.

Measure if you like. But don’t let the tape measure drive you.

Explore with it. Experiment. Learn. There is so much wide open space to be experimented with.

Always, always, always be human with it.

If a police officer with a broken nose can get this, why can’t more comms people?


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