83 gems you’ll need on the UK media landscape from Ofcomm

3100034818_14fe8f64dd_oFour times a year UK media industry watchdog Ofcom publishes a report on the media landscape.

Packed full of insight it is that rare thing of a free report that will help you if you work even just a little bit in digital communications.

It’s also a document that we often keen going back to so this time around we thought we’d fillet it and, because we love you, we thought we’d publish it in bite-sized chunks so it can help you too.

Much attention has been focussed on the fact that adults spend more time engaged with the media – eight hours 41 minutes – than they sleep which accounts fr eight hours 21 minutes.

More hidden in the report is the conclusion that the differing types of communicatin is leading to a generation gap. Where once post and the telephone was universal now young people only send a letter when they absolutely have to while the habit remains with older people.

The figures cover the first quarter of 2014.

An average day for a UK adult aged 16+ (selected)

2’58” watching live TV

1’19” listening to the radio.

0’47” email

0’40” recorded TV

0’36” websites or apps

0’29” phone calls

0’25” social media

0’15” newspapers (print or news website)

0’04” online news but not a news site

0’03” magazines

0’02” photo or video messaging

 

Popular UK social media sites

40.0 million YouTube

35.1 million Facebook

11.9 million Twitter

11.3 million LinkedIn

8.8 million Google Plus

0.9 million MySpace

0.4 million Friends Reunited

eBay overtook Amazon as the most popular retail site with 27.3 million users

 

Social media use by adults

2009 – 30 per cent

2010 – 40 per cent

2011 – 46 per cent

2012 – 50 per cent

2013 – 53 per cent

2014 – 54 per cent

 

News consumption

Television 75 per cent

Internet 41 per cent

Newspapers 40 per cent

Radio 36 per cent

 

General stats

Adults spend more time – eight hours 41 minutes – engaged with the media than time spent sleeping (eight hours 21 minutes.)

We are getting used to following two things at once. We may watch television and use the internet at the same time as 11 hours seven minutes worth f media is consumed in that eight hours 41 minutes.

We watch two hours 58 minutes of TV a day.

There are 83.1 mobile phones in the UK.

8 hours a month is spent on Facebook

Mail has fallen 5 per cent in 12-months

20 per cent of adults didn’t get an item of post in the last week.

77 per cent of all UK households have broadband.

79 per cent of homes have a PC or a laptop.

61 per cent of all adults own a smartphone.

57 per cent of all adults use their mobile phone to access the internet.

44 per cent of all UK households have a tablet.

60 per cent of adults say that technology confuses them.

49 per cent say technology isn’t making a difference to their lives either way.

24 per cent say technology is harming their lives.

16 per cent live in a mobile phone-only home.

Radio remains popular but is falling from 24.3 to 21.5 hours a week.

71 per cent of audio activity is radio.

2 per cent have used 3D printers.

82 per cent of households have an internet connection.

66 per cent say that they rely on the post.

 

Adults

46 per cent say they email fr work purposes out-of-hours.

23 per cent say they email about work while they are on holiday.

80 per cent say flexible working makes it hard to switch off.

51 minutes a day is social media use.

37 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on watching TV.

2 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on print media.

16 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on text.

94 per cent watch live TV.

77 per cent use email.

71 per cent send SMS messages.

18 per cent of their time spent with the media is spent on social media.

41 per cent of adults use the internet to consume news.

 

Adults over 65

50 per cent overall have internet access at home.

66 per cent of adults 65 to 74 have internet access.

6 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on print media.

49 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on watching TV.

7 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on text.

19 per cent play games on social media – the highest of any age group.

 

Young people aged 16-24-years-old

74 per cent use a social network.

4 and a half hours is the time they spend on media activity every day

If they use it they’ll spend one-and-a-half hours using social media a day.

They are watching less TV a day than they did. This has fallen to 148 minutes a day from 154

60 per cent get their news online – three times the amount of other adults.

1 per cent of their time spent using media is spent on print media.

24 per cent of their time spent using media is spent watching TV or films.

23 per cent of time spent using media is spent using text.

 

Young people aged 12-15

30 per cent are likely to use print media – half the adult average.

36 per cent of their media time is spent on social media – double the rate of adults.

 

Young people aged 6-15-years-old

60 per cent use a tablet.

75 per cent say they wouldn’t know what to do without technology.

70 per cent say they tell friends and family about new technology.

18 per cent use Snapchat.

 

Young people aged six-11-years-old

26 per cent of their time using the media is spent using social media.

 

Television stats

Digital TV take-up has risen from 84 per cent in 2008 to 95 per cent.

Smart TVs – web enabled TVs – have risen by five per centage points to 12 per cent in 12-months.

Smart TVs account for 45 per cent of TVs sold in the UK.

Picture credit

TV set 

 


COMMS TIP: Why You Need to Challenge Like a Three-Year-Old

P1030315I’ve blogged about the need to be the grit in the oyster in comms and PR and to the need challenge.

That scheme the chief executive has? It’s going to fail and you need to diplomatically warn them.

That elected member who demands a press release? It’s down to you to tell them that won’t work.

Unless you do you are nothing more than a glorified shorthand typist.

Here’s one way you can challenge… by be an annoying three-year-old.

Or rather, adopt the questioning strategy of a small child who is asking questions because they are just plain nosey.

If you are a parent you’ve been there. Picture the scene in a super market right now somewhere in the world.

‘What’s that?’

‘It’s a tin of beans, Jimmy.’

‘Why do we have tins of beans?’

‘So the food doesn’t go off.’

‘What’s ‘off’…?’

And there we have an explanation to Jimmy of food storage, freshness and the degrading process that makes food dangerous to eat.

Small children have got a brilliant quality of cutting through the crap.

A couple of times recently in a training session I’ve thought of the two-year-old interrogation strategy.

We’re doing a ‘thing’. It’s great.

Why?

Because it’s a good idea.

Why?

Because if we give people some basic information it reduces the chance of them coming back with an even worse problem.

Will that cost you money?

Yes, lots, about £10,000 a time.

How many could we stop coming back with a worse problem?

So, the ‘thing’ moves from being a good thing to a thing that is going to tangibly improve lives… and tangibly save money.

That’s win and win.

It’s also the beginnings of your evaluation because as we know, it’s not the column inches or the tweets but what people have done as a result.

‘Hey, chief executive, we’ve just communicated to a load of people and 100 have gone away with information that could stop them costing us £10,000 each.’

Does that sound better?

So, shouldn’t you be more of a three-year-old?

Picture credit

My daughter.


COMMS ADVICE: Be Bold, Be the bit of Grit in the Oyster

3875021320_445f89a757_b (1)If there is one piece of advice I came to late in my career that I value  it is this… the role of comms is sometimes to be the bit of grit in the oyster.

It was Paul Willis of Leeds Metropolitan University who I first hear use the phrase.

Really?

What the heck does this mean?

My take on it is that sometimes, the role of the comms person is to politely stand your ground and to challenge and to point out where things won’t work.

The chief exec of the water company blamed for water shortage taking questions with a clean bottle of water, British Gas staging a Twitter Q&A on the day of a price hike or senior officer hellbent on back of bus ads… because that’s the way they’ve always done it.

I was reminded of the need for this a short while back in a comms planning workshop where one attendee mentioned the pressure she was under to come up with evaluation weeks after the launch of a campaign to encourage people to sign-up to volunteer for a specific task.

“It’s really difficult,” she said. “I’m getting pressure to show if the campaign is a success but we know it takes six months for it to work.

“It’s been a month and the thing is, it’s really difficult, because it’s a senior person who is asking.”

Of course, in an ideal world that senior person would immediately see the folly of asking how many cars the Forth Bridge had carried after just a week into its construction.

But life is not like that.

So, if tact and diplomacy don’t work, sometimes your role as a comms person is to be the person to draw a line in the sand and point out where something, in your professional opinion, doesn’t work.

When I worked as part of a comms team I’d often find it useful instead of directly rubbishing an idea directly just spelling out the logical sequence of events that decision would bring.

“We can have a back of bus advert by all means,” it’s better to say, “but do we know if the Primary school children we’re trying to get through to drive? And how many signed up for that course last year as a result of it? Could we talk to some parents and teachers to see what the best route may be, too?”

Be professional, be polite but never be afraid be the grit in the oyster. It will almost always be the harder path but if you take it you will almost always win respect. Involve your boss if needs be. Or their boss.

If you don’t are you sure you aren’t just being a glorified shorthand typist?


PROTEST PR: How Comms Should Answer Cuts Questions

8544982977_36a47ac99a_oYou’re a public sector PR person and you’ve got to answer a question from the media about cuts, what do you do?

Forecasts say there will be 40 per cent job losses in some areas of the public sector with £3.3 billion being taken from the voluntary sector over a five year period and £20 billion coming from local government and £15 billion of efficiency savings due in the NHS.

So, what stories are being shaped? If you work in the sector it’s probably long overdue time to think about it.

A)      Apply a positive gloss and insist that yes, efficiencies will be made but frontline services will not be cut.
B)      Tell people that they had their chance to have their say in the budget consultation and they blew it.
C)       Tell people that this is what cuts look like.

All too often people in the public sector have been going for a) to try and minimise panic and upset on the population. But with £20 billion worth of cuts coming down the tracks in local government we need to be above all honest. So, let’s just take a closer look at that, shall we?

What insisting that efficiencies will be made and frontline services will not be cut means

You’ve been cutting millions of pounds from budgets for years. But the frontline hasn’t been affected? Efficiencies? Clearly, you were wasting that money all along so why on earth should I trust you now?

Or, you’re trying to be a bit clever and you know that the frontline will very much be affected but the couple of hours of mobile library visit will somehow make-up for the five-day-a-week building the community used to have. People won’t buy it, or they’ll see through it. So, why should they trust you now?

What telling people that they’ve had their chance means

You’ve pinned up details of a public meeting at the church hall and you paid three times the rate for a display ad in the local paper because it’s a public notice and they’ve got you over a barrel. Twelve people turned up and the Twitter chat you ran reached a fair number but not everyone. In other words, you’ve not done a very good job of this public consultation lark. Why should they trust you now?

What telling people that this is what cuts look like looks like

In Birmingham, this is exactly what Cllr James McKay told the Evening Mail about green bin charges in the City as people were protesting against cuts. Yes, it’s messy. Yes, people won’t like it. But look yourself in the eye. This is the truth. This is going to happen more and more and public sector comms increasingly is going to be about what you don’t do rather than you do.

But at least they’ll trust you more because you are being honest.

A grown-up conversation is needed about communicating cuts and if you work in the area you need to work out which choice you make pretty quick.

Creative commons credit 

Dog protest https://www.flickr.com/photos/16230215@N08/8544982977/


FAIL SUCCESS: It’s time to celebrate failure

5131407407_626de3a9d0_oLadies and gentlemen, I want to celebrate failure.

Not just the small I’ve-forgotten-to-put-the-bins out fail but the epic failures that really leave egg on your face.

So, say it once say it proud, I’ve failed and I’m proud.

Because he or she who really knows the bitter pill of underachieving is dealt a golden weight of life lessons that will make them better.

‘Fail fast, fail forward,’ is a good maxim to follow.

‘Fail and do the same thing over and over again,’ probably isn’t.

So, why celebrate failure?

Let’s look at some of the great success stories, shall we?

Successful failures

  • Walt Disney went bust twice and was reduced to eating dog food before his third attempt worked.
  • Henry Ford went bust before he came back with the winning formula.
  • Colonel Sanders was a failed potato farmer who reinvented himself as a Southern gentlemen with a recipe for fried chicken.

In communications, it’s not so different. Not everything you do will come off. Sometimes things won’t work. But by doing you will learn.

Now, I’m not saying go out and do stupid things. So park up the animation of your chief executive as a botherer of goats.

But in life, the risk of taking no risk is that you won’t grow, that you will live your life in a bunker getting your meals delivered on a tray.

Document1 - Word 03042014 072500

As you can see, there is a relationship between failure and learning. Epic fail, big learning.

Epic comms fails

There are some corking comms fails in PR. Justine Sacco, British Gas’s Twitter chat and the Findus horse meat saga spring to mind.

One of the best presentations I’ve ever seen was Helen Reynolds ‘Our five biggest Social media fluff-ups’ in which she celebrated when things went on. The twitpic of Princess Margaret visiting onmouth which was cut and pasted with a digit missing and linked to a chimp is priceless. What was the learning? Post a pic from within Twitter. The online community are very forgiving if you are straight with them.

Michael Lockwood’s post on how he accidentally used an inappropriate hashtag was one of comms2point0’s most popular. He’s also a highly skilled operator who knows his onions. What was the learning? Do a quick search before you settle on a hashtag and the online community are very forgiving if you are straight with them.

Comms hero – I’ll be talking on this more

At the commsheroes event on May 13 I’ll be talking about my own fails and those of others. One of my own was to give a member of staff access to the council account when the Olympic Torch came to Walsall. He forgot he was using the council account when he posted a series of tweets blasting education minister Michael Gove with the hashtag #saveusfromtheposhboys. We were a Tory council. It wasn’t fun. What was the learning? Use different platforms to seperate work and your own streams. Politicians can be understanding.

You can book a place for the Commsheroes event in Manchester on May 13 here and there’s a rather good line-up including John Popham, Helen Reynolds, Grant Leboff and chaired by Caroline King. The event was put together by Asif Choudy at Resource Housing.

Share your fails

I’d genuinely love to hear – anonymously if you’d rather – your own fails to show that we are all indeed human and we can all learn from your mistakes. Or ones you have seen.

Feel free to post a line in the comments box below or email them to Dan@comms2point0.co.uk.

Creative commons credits

Succesful failure https://www.flickr.com/photos/18259771@N00/5131407407/

 


GOVCOMMS: 7 things to bring local and central government comms people together

9422535872_8e4d08002a_bSo, how do local government and central government comms people work better together?

There was an event the other day in Whitehall which looked at this very topic which I would have loved to have got to. But I work in the West Midlands so that wasn’t going to happen.

It’s a good question and one that I’d given a lot of thought to just recently. Not just because the LGComms Future Leaders course I’d been involved with was asked just this question and asked to come up with a presentation.

One of the good things about being in the public sector is the ability to share ideas and approaches. This doesn’t happen in the private sector. As one person recently put it, they’ll tell you what they did but they’ll just leave out a vital piece of information so you can’t follow. It’s like handing over a car without the spark plugs.

So here are some things that should happen.

6 things to bring local and central government comms people together

1. Realise that each side isn’t the enemy. You’d be forgiven for thinking sometimes reading the Daily Mail that local government was to blame for the banking crisis, Northern Rock and the nationalisation of the banks. Just think what would have happened had local government mis-sold products. Step aside from the headlines and realise that there is more to bring  civil Service and local government comms people together. We both face the question ‘what does communications mean in 2014?’ for example.

2. Paid secondments both ways. A few years ago a secondment from local government into the civil service could have been do-able. Not now. There isn’t the spare capacity anymore in local government. But funded posts could help backfill and share the knowledge. Even better if they are French-exchange-style two way affairs. Better still if they involve co-operation on the same project.

3. Open up central government training to local government. The Goverment Communications Service (formerly the Government Communications Network) stages a range of good training opportunities. It would be great if this was open to local government too.

4. Open up local government seminars to central government. Places like LGComms put on some excellent sessions. The different perspective of a Whitehall comms person would be useful. Just as the comms person more used to dealing with the community would be a benefit to a central government person.

5. Encourage events like commscamp. In February last year more than 130 comms people from Whitehall and local government came together in a joint event for what must have been the first time. There were more than 400 on the waitlist when it was turned off.  The agenda was decided on the day by those who went. Anarchy? Not really. It worked beautifully. It was organised by people in central and local government in their own time. (Disclaimer: I’m biased as I helped co-organise commscamp.)

6. Realise that neither side is better. They’re just different. As government departments put more focus on stakeholder groups local government listens to residents more. At a time when the Foreign Office is putting more effort – rightly – into answering queries on Twitter there’s pr people in Staffordshire or Norfolk who could tell them a few things. They are two different skills. It made me realise that neither side is better. We’re just different.

7. We both work in the public sector and should be proud of that. Sure, the private sector does some good things. But we delivered the Olympics, we save lives, we keep the roads running, our children educated and a whole load of other things too. How much better is that than flogging toothpaste?

EDIT: GCS courses are also now available to local government people. That’s welcome.

Creative commons credit.

Big Ben http://www.flickr.com/photos/mahatsorri/9422535872/sizes/l/


ROUGH JUSTICE: Jo Smith is clearing her name

20130421_083127So, it all started with a whimper and ended with a bit of a bang. 

Jo Smith has taken a massive step towards clearing her name and accepted an out-of-court compensation payment from Argyll & Bute Council rather than press ahead with her claim for unfair dismissal. You can read all about it in the Dunoon Observer.

Okay, isn’t this just a backwater story? Actually, no. If you work in local government, are a  comms person or speak or have ever learned something at a conference this all is pretty significant. Had Jo lost there may have been a chilling effect on all three.

It’s an attractive story on the face of it. Council spin doctor accused by an anonymous source in the Glasgow Herald of saying at a conference she’s been spying using social media. Uproar at conference. Politicians get angry. She gets sacked.

Only thing was it was not true. There was no uproar at the conference. The story emerged four months after it took place. The comments some people attributed to her at the event were not made. People at the conference confirmed this. There were no spy accounts despite a thorough and expensive internal investigation. Jo even topped the feedback as being the most popular speaker with attendees. Some uproar.

Disclaimer: I was at the uproar-less conference and confirmed this less exciting version of events to the Glasgow Herald journalist who first wrote the non-story and failed to quote me. Or organiser Nick Hill. As a former journalist that’s, how shall we say, somewhat disappointing. I also contributed to the internal inquiry along with others who were at or spoke at the event.

You may have heard of Argyll & Bute Council before. They gave the world a world case study in how not to do social media. You may recall they picked a fight with an eight-year-old who was blogging on the Never Seconds blog about her school meals. Jamie Oliver and others came in on the child’s side and they were forced to climb-down. You just know you are on a loser when even a sock puppet makes up a song about you…

You can read BBC technology correspondant Rory Celland-Jones’s take on the Argyll & Bute Never Seconds debacle here.

By the looks of things there are enough people in Argyll & Bute asking questions that now need asking and I think that’s best left to people there.

Jo hasn’t commented on the matter but as organiser Nick Hill this week told Scottish media:

““I organised the conference where the allegations stemmed from and I told both the newspaper involved and the council’s investigation at the outset that Jo didn’t say any of the things she was accused of.

“This has been an extremely trying time for Jo, and I know she wants to thank everyone who has supported her: family, friends, the National Union of Journalists, colleagues and fellow communications professionals. This episode would have been much more difficult to weather without their efforts.

“I know Jo wishes Argyll and Bute Council all the success it deserves.”

Here are seven thoughts…

1. Would the Never Seconds blog debacle have happened with Jo Smith in her post? It was clear that there was no handle on how to respond to bloggers. Or how to respond when things started to go wrong. A Twitter account that was silent but being bombarded with angry tweets is a case study in how not to. It shows the value in having a digital communications-savvy comms person on the bridge.

2.  This shows why it’s a good idea to be in a union. The National Union of Journalism stepped in to offer advice and legal representation. Not everyone knows it covers PR people too. I’m in it because you just never know when you’ll be in a situation that Jo found herself in.

3. Jo Smith is made out of stronger stuff than you or me. Weaker people could have gone under. Heaven knows there must have been some dark times but she battled through and can now hold her head up again.

4. It begs the question of what Jo now does about a sometimes digital foot print. In which some pretty vile stuff remains. She’d be entirely forgiven for taking a long hard think about that with her legal team.

5. There could have been a chilling effect on the sharing of knowledge across local government comms had Jo have lost. Many would have re-thought the benefits of speaking at conferences or even attending when the penalty for mis-quoting is the sack and potential career ruin.

6. Jo is an excellent and engaging writer. We were fortunate enough to take a guest post from her on comms2point0 last year based on her experience as a London 2012 games maker. You can read it here.

7. She now deserves to make a success of her life as she puts her experience behind her. With the determination she’s shown she will. Vindicat PR is her new venture and I hope she’ll continue as a contributor to comms2point0.


FUTURE TACKS: Why every organisation needs a digital comms specialist

6701931811_e69e5e0f1e_bRight, I’m going to say something bold and then directly contradict myself. But just stay with me on this, okay?

We all need to be doing more of this digital communications stuff from the hard-bitten pr to the frontline officer.

There shouldn’t be a digital comms team and a traditional comms team in a different part of the building.

There should be one. Which doesn’t mind if frontline people use digital too.

But this is the tricky bit. Every organisation now needs a digital communications specialist to help make this happen.

Let me explain.

Why there shouldn’t be a divide between digital and traditional comms 

Back in 1998 the newspaper I was worked at with reluctance set-up email addresses. Our office of 12 reporters had one email platform rigged up to one machine. We gathered around like a bunch of Marconis as the first e-mail landed. “Oooooh!” we cooed as it landed and someone plucked up the courage to type a reply. When the inbox filled we didn’t know what to do.

Back then email in the office I worked in email was seen as specialist job trusted to just one person. Times change and now every new reporter there gets an email address. Which is as it should be.

When digital communications emerged to greet the social web a whole new series of skills were required. Cutting and pasting a press release didn’t work so people re-discovered conversation and informality. It became clear that the language of each platform was different to each. People’s media use splintered and people could no longer be found in one place but several.

This is something I’ve blogged about before and others have too and GCN’s Ann Kempster has written:

I don’t see how a modern press function can operate in isolation, not taking up modern communication methods and solely relying on press cuttings and column inches. The world just does not operate this way anymore. We all need to be able to operate across comms disciplines. That goes for digital too – we need to grasp marketing and press and internal comms.

7830838870_5a934c4e1b_bAnd also Jeremy Bullmore in Campaign was at it in 2008:

As soon as everyone realises that digital is nothing to do with digital and all about interactivity and that interactivity allows brands and people to interact as no other medium does then trad and mod will all regroup under the same roof.

To communicate over a range of platforms needs new skills

According to Google, 90 per cent of our media consumption takes place via a screen. Sometimes several screens at once as the Newsnight TV audience contribute via their smartphones to the debate on the #newsnight Twitter hashtag, for example.

Acording to Ofcom’s annual survey, in 2012 more than 50 per cent of adults have a social networking profile with 78 per cent of those aged 15 to 24. It makes fascinating reading.

In short, if you want to communicate with people you need to use a variety of channels.

A press release is no longer your gateway to the media.

A press release, web update, a picture of a nature reserve posted to Twitter on a mobile phone, a sharable Facebook image, a Soundcloud audio clip of a politician speaking or a LinkedIn group contribution from a named officer is. But the thing is. It’s not always all of those things. Knowing the landscape means knowing which will be relevant.

Which is why we need a digital communications specialist.

But won’t a digital comms specialist mean that people think ‘oh, that’s their job?’

I’ve heard it said from people I rate that having a social media officer or a digital comms specialist means that things get chucked over to them to tweet, or whatever. That’s certainly a fair point.

6754500383_898d6ab22d_bBut the specialist whose job it is to share the sweets, advise and train others is vital and won’t let that happen. Think about the teams you’ve worked in. If you are lucky you work with great people who come up with great ideas. But not everyone in the team is always like that. Often, you can only be as good as your least enthusiastic employee and if their grasp of digital comms is poor their delivery will mirror it.

The pace of change in technology is frightening. It’s unrealistic to think that everyone will be equally across it.

Which is why we need a digital communications specialist.

What a digital comms specialist should look like…

1. A trainer…

2. A geek…

3. A solver of problems that aren’t problems yet…

4. A horizon scanner…

5. A builder of an internal community…

6. A source of help…

7. A winner of internal arguments…

8. Someone who knows the channels. Trad and digital…

If you have someone who is already doing this full time you’re quids in. If you’re not your organisation risks falling behind.

Some great work has been done adhoc with digital communications across local government. But without mainstreaming the advances at best will be patchy.

Creative commons credits

TV logo http://www.flickr.com/photos/jvk/6701931811/sizes/l/

Talking http://www.flickr.com/photos/yooperann/7830838870/sizes/l/

Screen http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/6754500383/sizes/l/


COMMSCAMP: Die Press Release! Die! Die! And six other things PR people need to know…

There was once a horror train crash that claimed the lives of 56 and changed communications forever.

In 1906, a de-railed train plunged into the icy waters close to Atlantic City railway stations. Within minutes thousands of onlookers lined the banks to witness the rescue attempts. Journalists were close behind.

As every PR student will tell you Ivy Lee of the West Jersey and Seashore Railroad Company persuaded his employers to issue a statement direct to the gathered hacks… and thus the press release was born.

But in 2013 that trusty war horse, the granddaddy of comms channels is no longer the only show in town.

Shaped for journalists often by ex-journalists it has intro, headline, quotes and notes to editors. It works best as a means of providing content for print. Cut, paste and stick it into other channels it works far less effectively. It’s like starting a telephone conversation: “Dear Sir, With reference to your letter dated June 10…” it’s the wrong language for the wrong platform.

That comms teams – can we call them Press Offices these days? – are so geared up for press releases and print has troubled me for some time. In a digital landscape where digital by default is the aim not just of newsrooms but any forward thinking organisation they appear as outdated as the idea of getting your football scores by waiting in the newsagent at Saturday tea time for the Pink football final to arrive.

All this worrying about press releases isn’t new. Former FT writer Tom Foremski wrote his seminal blog post ‘Die Press Release! Die! Die!’ in 2006. I only came across this a year or two ago but it captured perfectly an iconoclastic wish.

He wrote:

I’ve been telling the PR industry for some time now that things cannot go along as they are . . . business as usual while mainstream media goes to hell in a hand basket.

You can read the original here and I suggest strongly you do.

Now, I don’t agree with all of what is written. And yes, I think the press release still has a future. If a declining one and part of the mix rather than being the only ingredient of the mix.

At LGComms in Manchester I gave a presentation on this and six other things every press officer should know. Some of the points me or others have blogged about them. With commscamp imminent it’s high time I chucked it up onto the web for wider debate.

Six other things…

Every organisation needs a digital comms specialist – I’ve heard the theory that we should all be doing this stuff so we shouldn’t have people specialising in it. In practice, this is cobblers. To make this works every member of the team needs to be as keen and forward thinking as the keenest. Look around yours. That’s not quite true is it? Every team needs someone who is passionate about it. Whose job it is to hunt out new platforms, try them for size and then… share the sweets.

Share the sweets – Because it’s important that comms shouldn’t be the only people to be using social media. The best content comes from people in the field and at the coalface. Look at Walsall Council countryside officer Morgan Bowers, for example, and tell me that’s not brilliant, engaging and wonderful. https://twitter.com/walsallwildlife Footnote: tell the measure-all comms people that this stuff is supposed to be conversation and they can get their tape measures out for when Morgan sells out her courses using Facebook and Twitter pretty much alone.

Marry the traditional with the digital – Don’t just do one channel. Or all. Do the ones that are likely to work. A press release about a street being evacuated is just silly. A web update and a tweet isn’t. Look at Gatwick Aiport. They tweet snow disruption and post children’s stories to Soundcloud so fractious parents can keep their offspring occupied. You can see what they do here. http://www.gatwickairport.com/at-the-airport/gatwick-and-social-media/

Evaluation: Channel shift – It’s not the 100,000 people who read the press release that’s the measure. It’s the 150 who signed-up for smoke detectors as a result that’s the measurement. Even better is the £10k – or whatever the figure is – not spent on call-outs because the smoke detectors give better cover.

Be human – Sometimes comms people in their quest for evaluation forget that being human really works. Or as blogger Adrian Short says: ‘Speak Human.’

Innovate – Experiment, do things differently, see what works, look at what people are doing outside comms for ideas too. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn. Go to an event like commscamp. See what ideas are bouncing off people.

Lastly, a quote I love from 20-something PRO Jarrod Williams on what the new generation of comms people offer. You can read his post here: 

 “My generation of the Web 3.O PR will be a digitally native team with skills… yes there will be the specialists, but I’ll be the cost effective one, the one who will build your campaign, take the photos, make the videos, stick it on a web site, tweet about it and get your brand the press attention you want.

“The future is diverse, and the industry needs people who can adapt and change across all platforms, digital and otherwise.”

If that’s not a wake-up call to experienced comms people then for heaven’s sake what is?

The 1906 Atlantic City train crash.

The 1906 Atlantic City train crash. Pic: Wikipedia

Creative commons credit:

1906 train crash http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1906AtlanticCityTrainWreck.jpg


YOU AND ME: Why we’ll all make #commscamp13 fly

bond3A passion for tea, cake and sharing brilliant ideas work is what will make the first unconference for communications people work (disclaimer: I’m biased.)

It’ll be staged Bond Company in Fazeley Street, Birmingham.

This place used to be a warehouse that shipped ice to London. I mean. How cool is that?

Now it’s a meeting space and offices for Birmingham’s creative industries.

Commscam will see more than 150 people come to put their collective heads together for a barcamp around comms, pr, marketing digital stuff. You can mention the word ‘press release’ too. That’s allowed.

I’m pleased to say there’s a real mix between local government, government and people outside these fields and a mix too between unconference veterans and newbies. That’s just how it should be.

Why am I biased? Because I’m helping organise it with Ann Kempster from the Cabinet Office and Darren Caveney from Walsall Council two quite brilliant people.

Why are we doing it? Because we’ve seen enough of how unconferences work to see that they can be hugely successful and we think there’s things to be discussed and ideas to be shared in our field.

So, what’s the agenda? There isn’t one. It’s a big blank sheet of paper that those who are coming along will help to shape. That’s the beauty of an unconference. It all gets pulled together by those who are coming along. You can find out more about the event at it’s website here and if you haven’t already feel free to mention a session here. You don’t even have to have a ticket as we’ll be livestreaming some of the sessions and we’ll be tweeting too on the #commscamp13 hashtag.

So why are we doing commscamp?

Well, I can’t speak for Darren and Ann but for me… 

We need to share ideas and inspiration. In 2013 it can be tough working in comms in and around government. But those who work in the field can be a hugely passionate bunch. A good idea at the FCO could well work somewhere in local government. Without big budgets sharing the ideas can work.

5847098219_83ee1f5deb_bYou don’t have to be an unconference veteran to get something out of it. Just last week I was up in Manchester for the LGComms social media event. Rather bravely, they tried a loose unconference element. Of the 60 in a room about six had been to an unconference. Was I worried? Yes. People were only too keen to suggest the 12 sessions we had. Commscamp was roadtested and passed.

You need to plug into the West Midlands. Okay, so I’m a bit biased (but I declared that right there at the start) but there’s been a stack of good things in the West Midlands for some time around digital and innovation. Perhaps it’s the beer or the geographical closeness but there’s ideas to be had and shared.

You need to learn from people outside comms. Some of the best ideas and approaches I’ve had have come from talking to bloggers, engineers, police officers and coders. Listen. Talk. Learn. While there’s a focus on PR people there’ll be some input from those outside the sector too.

Local government people need to talk to government people once in a while. There are ideas in Shropshire that may shape what’s done by a government department to communicate to people. Vica versa too.

6743879607_578df3e4aa_bOur sponsors are lovely. There’s a big list of them down the side of the blog here.

If you’ve ever been told: ‘what we need is a comms plan’ and wanted to scream you’ll be in good company. There’ll be a session of primal screaming just to get over this, I’m sure.

Cake is good. Underpinning any unconference is the cake table. Baking is the first social media, I’m sure of it.

Sounding good?

Here’s your call to action right here: 

1)  If you’ve got a ticket say ‘hoorah!’ and think of something that you’d like to see cracked or maybe think of something you are proud of and would like to share. Post it here on the discussion thread.

2) If you haven’t got a ticket go to February 26 in your calender and put the date in your diary along with the words: “Dammit, I  missed a ticket but I can still follow #commscamp13 on Twitter.” There’ll be a livestream posted to this hashtag on the day too.

3) If you’ve a ticket and you can’t go tell us, say: ‘oh no!’ Tell us and we’ll release it to the frankly large waitlist.

4) Take a look at the commscamp blog here.

5) Can you help? See how you can help here and share the buzz. Or as we’re in Brum, point people where to catch the buzz. Take a look here to see how you can help.


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