From Herefordshire in the south to Stoke-on-Trent in the north the region and across the Brum and Black Country conurbation continues to blaze a trail for how local government best uses social media channels.
Last year the Best by West Midlands whitepaper and survey gave a snapshot of where authorities were.
This year, the 2014 survey has done the same and have we moved on? Of course we have. You can read the round-up post here.
But a couple of things really stood out and I’ll blog them in the coming weeks. Not least the statistic that comms teams are comfortable with the established platforms like Twitter and Facebook but new channels like Snapchat and WhatsApp? Not at all. Of the 18 channels used – three up from last year the results paint a picture.
Most Used Channels
Twitter 100 per cent
Facebook 96 per cent
YouTube 81 per cent
Flickr 65 per cent
Whats App 4 per cent
Snapchat 0 per cent
Source: Best by West Midlands IEWM July 2014
The findings formed part of a session at commscamp last week and it turns out this blindspot for new channels is not something unique to the West Midlands.
You need a digital comms expert in your team.
It’s something I’ve been banging on about for some time now. The world is changing. You need to keep pace. Unless you have someone horizon scanning you’ll be missing the bigger picture. Sales pitch: that’s a service comms2point0 provides but really as a comms person you need to have a voracious inquisitiveness about how the web is changing your job.
But what is Snapchat?
The low down is that this is a picture messaging service beloved of young people. It’s picture led and is meant to disappear from the web in 24-hours. The sender can opt to save a pic and the the recipient can take a screenshot. There’s a useful parents guide that Snapchat themselves have produced.
Some brands have started to use it like McDonalds who are telling people about changes to the menu and offers, the Philadelphia Reds baseball team giving behind-the-scenes access and the World Wildlife Fund who used a Snapchat-inspired campaign and this short YouTube clip showing endangered species at risk and asking if the images would be their #lastselfie.
You can watch the YouTube clip here:
The stats are that Snapchat is growing although the detail is hard to piece together. A survey suggests 25 per cent of smartphone users in the UK have Snapchat and 70 per cent of users are female.
What is whats app?
It’s SMS without the spiralling charges. You send and receive something that looks like SMS but without the individual charges. As of April 2014, there is 500 million users and the company which was bought for $19 billion by Facebook says it has only just started.
It’s fair to say that marketing and comms people are baffled by what impact this will have on them with predictions of zero impact although others have been creative to engage with it. Like the Israeli chocolate company who created a game for users to play and the Bollywood cinema who created a competition to promote a new film.
But is this something that comms let alone public sector comms has got their teeth into? Not at all.
Your two big challenges
Firstly, you need to know where do they fit in the landscape and secondly, we need to think how we go about getting the skills.
The re-assuring thing in debating this at commscamp is that this feels no different to Twitter in 2007. Those that work in comms and PR at first thought it would go away and then we gradually worked out how to use it. That’s a journey we’ve already been on so shouldn’t be too worried.
It’s fine for us grown-ups to work out what these platforms are so you don’t appear like the magistrate who famously asked: ‘Who are The Beatles?’
The old rules stand true. Go onto a platform as yourself for a bit to understand the language and what works. Then think about using it yourself.
I’ve argued before that there needs to be space to experiment away from the bustle of the day job and campaign evaluation. This is one of those times.
Creative comms credit
Grid: Ann Kempster https://www.flickr.com/photos/annkempster/sets/72157645172301580/
We are all publishers now, we know that, as the internet gives organisations the ability to have a voice in the media landscape. But how to use it?
A good picture is worth 1,000 words and in the medium of short status updates a powerful picture is content that will be shared.
I’ve been an advocate for years of ‘sharing the sweets’ and for comms teams to give social media access up to those on the frontline. Why? Because what you are doing should be shared especially if only a few people are seeing it.
With a smartphone in your pocket this ability has never been easier, so what are you waiting for?
Here are five ways
BIG EVENT SPECTACLE: North Yorkshire Police at the Tour de France
When Le Tour came to Yorkshire people scoffed. But this image brilliantly sums up why those at the frontline are exactly those who should be getting access. A brilliant photograph. A wonderful piece of content shared widely around the web with a quick message on what the police were doing. Pic: https://twitter.com/NYorksPolice/status/485420729631260672/photo/1
TO FLAG UP POLICY ON THE GROUND: Caution: Bison on the Road
Flagging up a link to the YouTube channel with this arresting picture of bison being restored to Yosemite National Park this image makes you smile and invites you to marvel at the work of the US Department of the Interior. How can you stage this? With difficulty. How can you capture it as it happens? With a smartphone close to hand. People don’t care about the piece of paper the policy was written on but they do care about the effect the policy has. So, show it to them.
IN A CRISIS: West Midlands Police
In summer 2011, riots were spreading across the UK. Rumours were being circulated over the web and in particular Twitter. Some forces and politicians called for the web to be banned while others correctly knew that the right way was to engage. This tweet scotched a rumour that Walsall Police station was on fire. The rumour was scotched in minutes by an officer taking a picture and posting it to his force-approved Twitter stream. The image was shared to harness the power of positive networks. http://twitpic.com/63jj73
POP CULTURE: Star Wars and gritting and Linconshire County Council
HUMOUR: English Heritage
So, what are you waiting for?
Four years ago during the World Cup I blogged about how Panini stickers were the original social media.
I’m fascinated at how a Greek defender and a spare Polish midfielder can bring people together and forge connections.
I’m also fascinated at how as an extra layer on top of these human interactions the social web is being put to use.
There’s the inspired Twitter hashtag #gotgotneed that Panini deployed.
There’s stories like Russ Cockburn only spending £90 to collect the entire Panini sticker book because he used the closed Facebook group Panini World Cup Swapsies I belong to with 117 members that I belong to that just grows and grows.
The majestic epic brilliance of the got, got need machine…
But what’s also caught my eye is a web application knocked up by brewcamp colleague Simon Whitehouse from Birmingham. Called the Got, Got Need Machine it’s a way of working out based on maths how many stickers you need to buy in order to complete your collection based on probability and a whole load of sums. You can see it here:
Me and Simon have talked before about open data and data. I’m a bit of a sceptic. When I see it demonstrated it’s brilliant. But I think the open data community are too inward looking and too keen to impress each other rather than impress real people whose lives they could make a big difference to. Open data has not delivered on a promise to change the world. That’s not to say it won’t. But it’s reaching out as this does that will help it.
So, if data crunched to produce something can work for Panini stickers what could it do crunched for other comms projects?
That’s an idea to swap.
But first go and check out Simon’s website.
I posted to Twitter a query that I wondered if people could help come up with some stats to show how amazing the internet is in numbers. And Twitter delivered just as it so often does. Rather than just favourite the responses and move on I thought I’d blog the results.
Six people retweeted the request and four people came back with some results. Here are those results.
It breaks down into the picture today and predictions of what is likely to happen. There’s a health warning to this. You’ll quickly lose track of the numbers and your jaw will hit the floor.
The internet: what is here today
The internet in realtime is a brilliant link that shows how quickly is generated. The figures whizz by across a range of platforms like twitter, Instagram, google, foursquare and others and start from zero from the second you log on.
Alternatively, internet live stats looks at the big picture. The really big picture of how many internet users there are in the world (2.9 billion and counting when I looked) and the number of websites (almost 1 billion when I looked.)
There is also a rather cracking digital marketing website that seeks to pull together a blizzard of stats from across the internet over who is using what and where.
And also the excellent Shift Happens update for 2014 with a blizzard of stats in a YouTube film.
And also the wearesocial global social media survey for 2014.
(thanks @dansutch @sarahlay @brownhillsbob and @annieheath @madlinsugdn @paulwebster)
The internet: what is yet to come
Here is a link to infographics about the internet of things. This is part of the internet that has yet to arrive in a widespread way. This is the device that has its own IP address and can communicate over the internet. This
It also talks about how the internet doubles in size every two years and is expected to rise from 4.4 trillion gigabytes to 44 trillion gigabytes a year. An 8 gigabyte kindle is supposed to store 3,000 books and my brain capsizes at what a gigabyte may store.
There’s also a rather good internet trends deck which is worth carefully studying.
(thanks @straightbatpr and @nicdaviesuley and @6loss)
Have you heard the one about the chatty English book shop and the unspontaneous French cheese maker?
One has 50,000 followers on Twitter and from their smartphone give a slightly idiosyncratic view from Waterstones in Oxford Street, London. It shows how trusting staff can work.
The other President Cheese has 153 followers and employs a company with a team of 13 in a Star Trek-style ‘war room’ that takes up to 43 days to draw-up a tweet in a highly planned campaign.
But for me nothing I’ve come across better illustrates how being human on social media runs rings around the scripted, over agonised and contrived.
Here are a few quick examples:
Don’t be confused. It is a Bank Holiday tomorrow. You can still be awake. There is no work. BOOKS. There is still time. Read BOOKS.
— WaterstonesOxfordSt (@WstonesOxfordSt) May 4, 2014
Who is going to go first? pic.twitter.com/DhYH6yKhfo
— Herdwick Shepherd (@herdyshepherd1) May 25, 2014
— Dave Brookes (@BaggieDab) May 17, 2014
This right here is the culture clash that I come across talking to the traditional comms person who doesn’t want to let go of the reigns, agonises over and wants to measure everything.
I’m not against scheduling some content. Honest, I’m not. The 3am tweet from the NHS to reach the person suffering from stress and unable to sleep is inspired.
I’m not even against measuring things. What people did as the result of some digital content is far more interesting than the size of the audience.
I quite like the 80-20 split that many good social profiles have. The 80 per cent conversation and the 20 per cent things you’d like people to know. The pics of bees posted along with a rescued bat in Walsall Council countryside ranger Morgan Bowers’ work to build an audience. The occasional update about basket weaving gets people along to her sessions.
But the professionalising of conversation just leaves me feeling uneasy and reminds me of a conversation I had with Birmingham blogger Pete Ashton who did much to build the social landscape in the West Midlands. He said he deliberately moved away from the ‘professional social media’ because he hated what it was becoming in the wrong hands.
If you need to outsource your conversation and take 45 days over 140 characters then, Holy Cheddar, you are struggling.
Acknowledgements: Simon Whitehouse who flagged up the original 45-day case study and Chris Ellis for spotting that the cheese account has 153 followers.
So, it was great to be able to sit down with 12 of them and talk to them about social media and how it could work for them. Walsall Council countryside ranger Morgan Bowers came along too and I’ve hardly finished a training session over the past few years without pointing to her as an excellent example of what a frontline officer can do with social media.
For those that don’t know she blogs, she tweets, she Facebooks and she posts images to Flickr. She’s also written an e-book entitled with great confidence and surity ‘The Bees of Walsall Vol: 1.’ Almost 2,000 people have downloaded the e-book which for me redefines how you should approach an audience.
Firstly, here are some links which show what is possible. It’s vital to look outside of the sector that you work in which is what we did here.
Some basic principles
‘Organisations Don’t Tweet People Do’ is a book by Euan Semple. Even if you don’t buy the book – and you should it’s great – then think of the clear advice that sentance gives. Human beings respond to human beings and not logos.
‘The 80/20 principle’ is a good way of looking at a great many things. On the social web it works out as 80 per cent conversational and 20 per cent the stuff you really want people to know. So be sparing with your library events and talk – and share – about other things.
Good social media
Appliances Online Facebook – because they have more than a million Facebook likes by good online customer service done in a human voice: https://www.facebook.com/AOLetsGo?fref=ts
Sandwell Council Facebook – because there isn’t a Facebook page anywhere in the public sector that is done better than this West Midlands council https://www.facebook.com/sandwellcouncil?fref=ts
DVLA’s I Can’t Wait To Pass My Driving Test Facebook page – because it shows that putting aside thr logo and even the name of the organisation works if you get the people to pay attention to pay attention: https://www.facebook.com/mydrivingtest?fref=ts
PC Stanley on Twitter – because it shows a human face in an organisation from a West Midlands Police officer: https://twitter.com/PCStanleyWMP
PC Stanley blog – because it shows a human face and talks about anonymised aspects of police procedure that most people don’t know about http://pcstanleywmp.wordpress.com/
Storify Streetly floods – because it shows how social media reacts in a crisis and how a trusted voice from police, fire and council online can fill the news vacuum http://storify.com/danslee/social-media-and-flooding-in-streetly-walsall
Facebook in libraries
Facebook works best updated two or three times a day with sharable content. Pictures work well. So does video. Be engaging and informal.
100 Libraries to follow on Facebook – blog http://www.mattanderson.org/blog/2013/01/31/100-libraries-to-follow-on-facebook/
British Library https://www.facebook.com/britishlibrary?fref=ts
Library of Congress https://www.facebook.com/libraryofcongress
New York Public Library https://www.facebook.com/nypl
Halifax Public Library https://www.facebook.com/hfxpublib
Birmingham Library https://www.facebook.com/libraryofbirmingham
Realtime updates work well. Pictures too.
Author Amanda Eyereward https://twitter.com/amandaeyreward
Author Carin Berger https://twitter.com/CarinBerger
100 Authors http://mashable.com/2009/05/08/twitter-authors/
Birmingham Library https://twitter.com/TheIronRoom
Orkney library https://twitter.com/OrkneyLibrary
Waterstones Oxford Street https://twitter.com/WstonesOxfordSt
Essex libraries https://twitter.com/EssexLibraries
Just for you here are a few examples of tweets:
— Orkney Library (@OrkneyLibrary) February 20, 2014
— Waterstones (@Waterstones) February 14, 2014
Images are powerful
Images work really well and there are a couple of resources. You can link to images you find anywhere. It’s the neighbourly thing to do and you are driving traffic to their website so people will be fine about that.
You can link to Flickr which is a depository of more than five billion images. See the Libraries Flickr group here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/librariesandlibrarians/
But remember not to abuse copyright. Don’t ever right click and save an image hoping you won’t get found out. There’s a Google app for just that. But what you can use are images which have been released with a creative commons licence. Basically, creative commons allows the re-use of pictures so long as you meet basic criteria. There are several types of licence so check to see which licence has been attached. Often people will be fine for re-use so long as you attribute the author and link back to the original image.
Search the Compfight website ticking the creative commons search button http://compfight.com/
Have a look at Wikimedia which has a lot of specific content. If you are after a creative commons image of Jack Nicholson or The British Library search here: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
You can brighten up book discussions amongst reader groups, or author visits, or bounce and rhyme stories by recording them with people’s permission and post them to Audioboo or Soundcloud. These are applications that gives you three minutes of audio that you can share with the web or embed in a webpage.
Here is author WHJ Auden readingh one of his poems: http://ht.ly/tSdv6
Blogging is made for libraries and librarians. You can host discussions here and allow for comments on different aspects of the library.
Literary blog http://www.internetwritingjournal.com/authorblogs/
Video works great. You can make your own or maybe there is some content around a theme you are looking for. The First World War, for example. Create your own channel or search and share what is there. Look out for the comments section here. They can be a bit ripe.
Birmingham Library http://www.youtube.com/user/LibraryofBham2013
Southend library reading group http://youtu.be/dEh7fBfB_O4
But where will I get the content from?
It’s amazing how once you take a few doggy paddle strokes in the shallow end that all this makes sense and you start over time to get a return on the time you put in. There are no quick fixes. A few minutes a day will help you and as with anything what you get out is what you put in.
Here are 11 things you could do as librarians
1. Record an interview with an author on Audioboo or Soundcloud and post to your Facebook, Twitter or email list.
2. Post details of events to your social media accounts. Use something like hootsuite to schedule when the messages appear so if needs be repeat the message at a time when more people are likely to be around. Lunchtime, first thing in the morning and evening are times when people tend to be online more. Don’t forget though, if you are cancelling the event, to unschedule any queued content.
3. Share things that other people have posted. If it is in your geographical area and a public sector or third sector organisation have posted something share it or retweet it. You’ll find that they’ll be more inclined to do the same.
4. Use a popular hashtag on Twitter around a TV programme. Check the schedules. A link to a book or DVD on dancing or dress making with sequins may work with the hashtag #strictly while Strictly Come Dancing is being shown on a Saturday night.
6. Use an image of a cat from compfight that has a creative commons licence – see the above – to illustrate a campaign on cats and other animals. What you have on your display shelf or window can be repeated online too.
7. Create a Facebook group or a Google group – which works with email – for a reading group.
8. Post book reviews from librarians on your website and onto the social web.
9. Take a picture – with people’s permission – of people using the library or people taking part in an activity.
10. Be creative. Ignore all the above and use your imagination. Make your own case studies.
11. Install WiFi.
Who needs books? http://www.flickr.com/photos/boltron/6175154545/sizes/l/
Sitting reading http://www.flickr.com/photos/jstar/345712329/sizes/o/
Library search engine http://www.flickr.com/photos/47823583@N03/4993073773/
So this, ladies and gentleman, is what I’ve been banging on for years. You give a smartphone and social media access to a frontline worker who ‘gets it’ and gets out of the office and then you sit back.
For the past six weeks swathes of England has been under water with the wettest January for more than 200 years deluging rivers and forcing them to burst their banks. Platoons of soldiers have been deployed as local government, fire, the Environment Agency and others have battled .
Through it all an army of public sector people have worked on in damp, wet and miserable conditions often without credit or recognition.
One of those is Dave Throup, an Environment Agency manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire. When the radio need an update it is Dave who is the voice of the agency giving up-to-date updates on river levels, flood risks and advice.
He also uses Twitter to post real time updates that are hyperlocal and county wide. The state of flood barriers in Bewdley, business as usual messages in Ironbridge and advise not to drive through floods. Often they are basic mobile phone pictures like this one:
Gauging high flows is part of our incident response. Means our data is accurate for warnings & advice pic.twitter.com/2SRT9StodJ
— Dave Throup (@DaveThroupEA) February 11, 2014
— Dave Throup (@DaveThroupEA) February 11, 2014
Why is this brilliant?
If you want the science, the Edelman Trust barometer talks of how staff lower down an organisation are trusted more than those at the top. People who are just like you are trusted even more. For communications people, this changes the game and turns on its head everything. To put it simply, the chief executive may not be the best person to front an interview or a campaign. The officer with the smartphone may well be. I say this repeatedly when I’m training people: it’s not enough to do a good job in the public sector in 2014. You need to tell people too. That’s why the people like Morgan Bowers the Walsall Council countryside ranger works really well on social. It’s a real person talking to a real person.
Why is Dave even more brilliant?
Public sector people get a shabby Press. Why? Because it’s always our fault. Often judged by people who proclaim to know the value of everything and the value of nothing and yet far, far more good is done by the public sector than bad. Dave is brilliant because he cares. People get that too. And yet there are so many people in the sector like him but for some reason he’s struck a chord with the folk who have come to rely on the information that he gives.
He’s also got a fan club:
Some say that there is no such thing as a “Dave Throup” & that it is just a state of mind that elite public sector workers attain to. #hero
— DaveThroupFanClub (@DaveThroupFans) February 11, 2014
So, here’s to Dave. And everyone in the public sector who does a vital job and that state of mind that elite public sector workers attain to.
Just think about what an army of people like Dave can do for the organisation they work in. Or what they could do for yours.
Creative commons credit
River Severn in flood http://www.flickr.com/photos/davethroup/12253595404/sizes/l/
They’re called health and wellbeing boards and while they meet at Town Halls they cover the intersection between GPs, local authorities and patients groups.
They also have a say on spending worth £3.8 billion – an eye watering sum in anyone’s book.
The LGA themselves say:
“Health and wellbeing boards (HWBs) are crucial part of the new health landscape, the drivers of local system leadership and will provide an unprecedented opportunity to bring together local government and health services together to improve health and wellbeing outcomes. Local system leadership is required to ensure that the totality of public resources are brought together to address shared priorities for health improvement.”
Okay, so what?
Well, many of them do great work but there’s a growing feeling that they could do better to use social media to really engage with the communities they serve. So we’re helping see how some social media guidelines can help.
Drawing up social media guidelines
We’re a bit excited that the LGA through their health and wellbeing board integrated care and system leadership have asked comms2point0 to take a look at how this could be improved. That’s a real chance to help connect those who are making the decisions with those who are being affected.
So, as part of this review it would be great to crowdsource some ideas and insight from the online community to help shape the guidelines to be the best that they could be.
What questions should we ask?
I’d be keen to understand – particularly from people working with Health and Wellbeing Boards – if social media could play a role?
If it is playing a role already, what that role is and also what success may look like?
Who should we be talking to?
Should we respond?
What could the benefits be?
What are the barriers?
So, how can you help?
If you work in local government, the NHS or have an interest in the NHS I’d welcome your thoughts.
- There is a #nhssm discussion on Wednesday February 12 from 8pm. Thanks to the brilliant Gemma Finnegan and her colleagues they’re hosting a discussion. Use the hashtag #nhssm to contribute. It would be great if you did.
- Feel free to comment on this blog post.
- Ask your council how they are using social media for their health and wellbeing boards.
That happened listening to Millie Riley a broadcast assistant who was talking on BBC Radio 5’s Review of 2013.
She was talking about how under 24-year-olds consume their radio and how their radio is online, face-to-face, shared… and on the radio.
It reminded me that you can learn things from people outside public relations and I was listening thinking of how this affected me in my job as local government public relations.
Listening to Millie talk about her radio was like listening to someone talk about a foreign country. But that’s fine. I’m not in that generation born post 1982 that are known as Millenials.
Just think of it all as content without boundaries.
As Millie says:
“It’s just to do with great content. Wherever there is great content we will be. The main understanding is that it can be funny, it can be news, it can be documentaries. We can put lots of different hats on. There’s a misunderstanding that we want really funny stuff or just music. Actually, we can do all sorts of things.
“As clichéd as it may sound, wherever there is great content that’s where we’ll be.
“They’re listening to the radio and they don’t even realise they’re listening to the radio. They’ll be listening to clips on the BBC website or whatever. They’ll suddenly realise: ‘oh, that’s radio.’ Everything out there is just an amalgamation. It’s just stuff to be interested and enjoy. It might be radio. They may not even realise it.
“We do have lots of options. But if you create content that’s multi-platform and multi-media and Radio One are really good at this. They’ll create a video and then they’ll talk about it on air and people will watch it online and they just bring the two together and I think that’s the way to do it.
“The more their content becomes ubiquitous and the more they become a name on YouTube and that’s the main platform that they’re using the more people will become connected to Radio One as a brand. They’ve definitely upped their game at the beginning and end as that tells them that it’s Radio One. They’re getting better at that.”
You can hear Millie’s contribution on Soundcloud too here…
So, that leads to this kind of content. A Muse track with a homemade video and 60,000 views.
So, what does that piece of radio advice mean for my corner of communications?
It made me think of something Julie Waddicor wrote on comms2point0 about making friends with creative people from colleges as part of a campaign. That makes sense. There may be some rough edges but you’ll get a different perspective.
By thinking of something more creative you may open the door to something like Melbourne Metro system’s ‘Dumb Ways To Die’ which saw a 21 per cent dip in track incursions and 67 million views on YouTube.
So, it begs the question, what are you doing to get a message to under 24s? And others?
Are you really sure that press release of yours is making it?
Or should there be different talents in the team too?
Tom Foremski’s this-can’t-go-on wail reads as powerfully as a Martin Luther deconstruction of one of the central pillars of the public relations industry.
“I’ve been telling the PR industry for some time now that things cannot go along as they are,” Tom wrote, “business as usual while mainstream media goes to hell in a hand basket.”
There is no point, he says, in writing slabs of text in journalese, and sending them to journalists when the traditional newspaper industry is dying and the news landscape is undergoing a digital revolution whether it likes it or not, Tom argued.
He’s right. The future is the message being shaped as web content and as social media conversation that has to be two-way and authentic, fun and interesting. Public relations people, no, communications people need to realise this if they are to still be relevant.
But that’s not to say that the press release is dead overnight. It’ll be here but diminishing.
Twelve months ago at an LGComms event I pointed to Tom’s post in a presentation and explained why this was something people needed to know. For five years I’ve been pointing to rapid change from my very small corner of the digital allotment.
Other louder voices have seen what I’ve seen too.
Government director of communications Alex Aiken made a similar point although more forcefully in a speech to the PRCA conference reported by PR Week.
Ashley Brown, Coca Cola’s global director for social media and digital communications, recently talked about the wish to end not just the press release but the corporate website too.
“For the first time ever, our PR teams are being asked to think beyond a press release or beyond a toolkit or beyond a launch package. They had to think: ‘Wow, what is a two-minute really high quality video that someone would really want to share with the friends?’”
“We’re finally breaking the last connections to the corporate website. I think the corporate website is over. I think it’s dead. I think everyone needs to start thinking beyond it. How can you turn it into a media property and hopefully the age of press release pr is over as well.
“I’m on a mission. If there’s one thing I do it’s to kill the press release. We have a commitment to reduce the number of press releases by half by the end of this year. I want them gone entirely by 2015. That’s our goal.”
That’s fine for Coke. But how easy is it if you work somewhere else?
Actually, press release murder is a pretty tricky subject to raise amongst comms people. It’s akin to telling people the skills they’ve spent a career crafting are now not so important. It’s telling a room full of sailors to put down their reef knot and lore and learn how to service an outboard motor. PR people are often former journalists who have in any event spent years as juniors crafting the ability to write press releases. Every word is pored over and shaped by committee. That control gives power. To attack the use of the press release is to launch a personal attack on the career history of PR people.
In the UK, the Government Digital Service published a fascinating study - the half life of news – of more than 600 press releases on gov.uk that looked at the traffic they got. Many spike quickly then fade like digital chip paper.
But if the battle is to be won it’s probably not the revolutionary cry of ‘Die, press release!’ that will win in it. It’s not even a study of how effective the numbers are in getting a story across that will lead the victory, although that will be important. It’ll actually be you, me and the people you went to school with who vote with their feet and share the sharable content.
There is nothing so boring, I’ve heard it said, as the future of news debate amongst journalists because what they say will have no bearing whatsoever on what the outcome will be.
It’ll be things like Oreo’s mugging of the Superbowl with an image of a biscuit created on the spot and tweeted and Facebooked within minutes to take advantage of a powercut. It wasn’t the lavish TV ads that was talked about. It was the real time marketing team who made the sharable image and the 15,000 retweets and 20,000 likes it achieved.
What’s real time marketing? It’s people making content that capitalises on real time events. Look it up. You’ll need to know it.
All this is why I’m finding communications utterly fascinating right now.
And you have to ask yourself the question, if you are not thinking of what post-press release life looks like now, what will you be doing in five years?
Creative commons credits
Sorry, no gas http://flic.kr/p/7vtFzZ