Posted: May 29, 2017 Filed under: communications, emergency planning | Tags: emergency planning communications, greater manchester fire and rescue, greater manchester police, manchester attack, manchester attack communications lessons, manchester city council
There’s a school of thought that public sector comms people are a bunch of non-jobs who are a waste of money.
Their budget would be better spent on replacing windows or filling potholes, the argument goes.
Those who make that argument? They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Empty tins sound the loudest. Where were they when a terror attack struck Manchester? They were nowhere. Wheras the Public Sector in Manchester just as the people did responded.
As Google Trends shows, the spike of searches for Manchester and Ariana Grande whose concert was attacked is marked.
Where were the Public Sector communications people?
Late at night and for days after they were communicating with the stunned Greater Manchester public of 2.8 million, 65 million UK citizens and billions around the globe.
Thoughts should absolutely be with those who were killed and affected by the explosion. Thoughts too with the police, ambulance, fire and local government people who responded first.
But as a communicator who has worked eight years in local government I’m absolutely sparing a thought to the comms people too. There are some people in the industry who would have folded faced with this challenge. That’s understandable. A terror attack is a massive event. The response from Greater Manchester Police, Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue, Transport for Manchester, the Combined Authority, both Mayor’s teams, all parts of the NHS, Manchester City Council and others was sterling. No channel seemed to go AWOL. No-one seemed to have left a scheduled tweet in place.
Professional. Informative and well judged. Not just in the aftermath but in the coming together and moments of reflection.
This is what gold standard communications looks like.
Clear, timely precise information under intense pressure for a sustained period.
Class, be like them.
When people talk about ‘non-jobs’ ask them how they’d communicate a terror attack and its aftermath. You’ll get a non-answer.
However, I was reminded by Stephen Waddington’s post about mental resilience in communications. It’s a timely post that asks people to look after their mental health. In the aftermath of huge stress, I’d hope that the organisations and individuals involved bear this in mind. They’re bright people. I’m sure they will.
Here are some standout lessons
The Public Sector is not a single thing but a number of organisations that serve a community. In the aftermath of the attack, organisations shared vital updates. Fire shared police updates, for example. The Mayor’s office shared a newspaper’s frontpage, for example. The strength of the Public Sector is the long reach and broad digital footprint. In an emergency share it.
There’s no question that the public far wider than Manchester identified with the content and amplified it.
Communications to say ‘you can get updates over here.’
One lessons of communicating in an emergency is for the Public Sector to signpost people to where the up-to-date information is. This happened effectively in the Westminster attack and did so again in Manchester. Here, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue acknowledged the incident and pointed people to Greater Manchester Police.
Communications to say ‘we’re on it’ part I
The Ambulance Trust dealing with the attack communicated via Twitter to say they were aware and ask people not to call on other matters unless it was an emergency.
Communications to say ‘we’re on it’ part II
Police acknowledged the incident as it was breaking. This is text book stuff. By doing this they flag-up they are aware and where to follow for updates. The days of waiting to sign-off a press release at a time of emergency is long over.
Communication as a sharable image with need-to-know information
There’s every chance this image wasn’t made by the Public Sector itself. But the lesson this does show is that the key public information in the hours after the event WILL be shared as an image.
Communications as part of the investigation
Content taken at the time and in the aftermath helps police piece together what happened. This tweet encourages people to send their footage in.
A video response and information update
As the aftermath became recovery, the issue turned to transport and what would be running. Video was used here.
Communications as mental health support for an entire city
If more than 20,000 people were at the Manchester Arena many more would have faced an anxious wait to see if their children, family or friends were okay. Updates to say ‘it’s not okay’ were widely shared.
Communications to say ‘we’re bouncing back.’
A week after the attack, sporting events took place across the city. As this video from Mayor Andy Burnham shot and posted within minutes shows, it’s a city refusing to give in.
Communication as poetry
Tony Walsh was invited to read one his poems not just in the event after the attack but at the Great Manchester Run.
Communication as an image to convey breaking news
Greater Manchester Police staged a series of raids and arrests across Manchester in the days after the event. A simple update and sharable image kept people informed.
Communications as infographic
Greater Manchester used an infographic to explain the scope and depth of the investigation.
Communication to say ‘we’re human too.’
If it’s okay to be not okay, it’s also okay to show your staff as being human. A Facebook timeline image shows the Greater Manchester Chief Constable embracing a member of the public. It’s genuine, warm and isn’t staged.
Communications as a captured Instagram street picture
An image on the street spotted and photographed by Greater Manchester Police and shared to their Instagram feed.
Sharing other people’s content
Manchester City Council shared this fund raising link. It doesn’t have to be your own content. It doesn’t even have to be Public Sector.
Making a city proud
Posted: May 17, 2017 Filed under: communications
It’s astounding the number of people playing fast and loose with their organisation’s Facebook pages.
By allowing or even encouraging staff create second profiles to be admin.
That’s against Facebook terms and conditions and those profiles run an increased risk of being deleted. The Sprout Social blog has warned of a fresh clamp-down
on this by the social media giant in the wake of post-Trump criticism. The Facebook account with few friends and only activity on the corporate page is being spotted and removed.
The process, let’s call it the John Smith Work profile approach, needs to end.
What does the t&c’s say?
Facebook terms and conditions are super clear on this.
Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way. Here are some commitments you make to us relating to registering and maintaining the security of your account:
- You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
- You will not create more than one personal account.
And for pages, there’s a warning too. Only real people can admin. So unless you’ve changed your name to John Smith Work you’re in trouble. In a world where Facebook needs to show people they clamp-down on fake news this approach will begin to pose questions of the validity of the page too. That’s not something you want to do.
Here’s what the page t&c’s say:
A. A Page for a brand, entity (place or organisation), or public figure may be administered only by an authorised representative of that brand, entity (place or organisation) or public figure (an “official Page”).
So, an authorised representative only. In law is John Smith Work authorised? Is he even a real person?
Why second accounts exist
I’ve heard it said that people don’t want their own profile linked to a work Facebook page. They’re maybe worried about somehow the work part of their life leaking into the family time. In the days before pages existed that was a legitimate concern.
But people from outside the page can’t spot who the admin is, so your holiday pics are safe.
I’ve also heard it said that people’s passwords may be weak so a collective fake name is better. That’s not a good idea. Bottom line. Don’t go against Facebook t&c’s.
Here’s what to do. Quick.
If people genuinely don’t want to link their genuine profile to the corporate page that’s fine at the end of the day.
But you really need to delete them as admin from your page.
Yes, may be a tough break for your rota and for their career progression. It’s not going to look great at an interview that you don’t know how to manage a page.
But worst of all is the single communal work Facebook account that everyone can log-in to. If that goes – and many will – you’ll be left high and dry without any access.
But pages take years to build and lots of TLC to grow. To risk losing that in an instant is indefensible folly.
What was also encouraging was talk of new uses of technology. The Saturday night sports paper the Sports Argus folded 11-years ago. The pre-internet queues I recall in newsagents for their delivery are now a memory for people aged over 40. But as the broadcast pointed out, the last edition of the Argus couldn’t carry that night’s FA Cup Final score. So a podcast, video content and sports coverage that is more fan-centric is now the order.
Data is being used more and more to look at the stories that people like, the broadcast said.
A story that’s big on a Trinity Mirror title in Newcastle, for example, can be be a pointer for what could be big in Birmingham too.
And yet, older newspaper people will turn in their graves at complaints made in the broadcast about spelling mistakes slipping into content. They’ll be even more dismayed at the level of trolling that can sometimes pollute comment boxes and Facebook threads. This is a bigger issue than many people realise. This is an issue not just for newspapers but for civic life as well.
Video is the driver for engaging newspaper content.
What did strike me was the use of video by newspapers.
Ben Hurst, Post & Mail news editor responsible for video content, in the Facebook Live broadcast said something telling:
About 12 months ago we were barely doing any video. The rise of the smartphone means that if someone is on the scene they won’t just take a still pic. They’ll take footage. It’s completely changed everything operates.
But not just recorded video is playing a part. Live broadcasts on social channels are becoming increasingly part of the media company’s armoury. Reporters are rarely first on the scene with a smartphone to shoot footage but people are. Ben was open about the fact that they are open to use people’s content.
What does this means for comms people?
It means that newspapers are still in the game. Only they’re not newspapers anymore. They are media companies. They’re not the only game in town anymore either. But they are starting to re-invent themselves.
What do you do if you are comms and PR?
It means taking a look at the content you generate. A press release with text is less effective in a landscape where newsrooms want footage and images. Text at news stands shaped by an editor’s news sense once sold newspapers. Today, content refined by data and often driven by video drives the money-creating job sustaining traffic for media companies.
As newspapers adapt so should comms people.
Picture credit: Michael Coghlan / Flickr.
Posted: May 11, 2017 Filed under: communications
A simple question dropped into my Facebook timeline this week: ‘Press releases. Defunct or not?’
Not again, I thought.
But hang on.
Eleven years ago tech journalist Tom Foremski demolished them in his post Die, Press Release Die! Die! Die!. The bottle of wine and frustration-fuelled rant the post was a napalm strike on the pointlessness of sending out press releases in a web-enabled world.
Don’t send words, he shouted.
Send words, images, video, audio and contribute to the debate, instead.
As a compass to steer through changing waters this is a supreme piece of piloting.
Yet, I was struck by the number of people in the Public Sector Headspace Facebook group discussion still using press releases as a primary comms channel.
It’s what senior people expect, was the general gist.
Educate the client
A while back I write a post on the Apple designer Johnny Ives
. I was struck by a poster on his wall that was just as much as a piece of table banging as Smith’s press release takedown. In a long list of reminders the poster argued:
“Believe in your f*cking self. Stay up all f*cking night. Work outside of your f*cking habits. Know when to f*cking speak up. F*cking collaborate. Don’t f*cking procrastinate. Get over your f*cking self. Keep f*cking learning. Form follows f*cking function.
And most importantly of all:
Educate the f*cking client.
Newspapers are not newspapers anymore… and we’re not in Kansas
News will be news. But the ecosystem will explode, and traditional media companies will only be a tiny part of it. If you think about it, that’s already sort of true right now.
Take Debrouwere’s thinking and look around you. Small ads have moved to Buy and Sell Facebook groups. Property ads have moved to Zoopla. News has moved to council websites and neighbourhood Facebook groups. Display ads are on Facebook. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we’re in a different place.
There’s still a place for newspapers. They’ve just changed and the content they need has changed.
But how about the free sheet, I hear you say, that fills it’s pages with council press releases? How long, I reply, do you think that will go on for?
Here’s what I think you should educate the client on press releases.
If you send a press release to many newspapers they go into the bin.
Newspapers don’t see themselves as newspapers they see themselves as media companies who may just happen to print something. Send them images and video that work on the web.
A press release is written in journalese. This is not English. Or the language of the web.
In an emergency, the last thing you want to do is construct a press release. Post to Twitter. It’s where the journalists are.
Yet, if you want to reach a constituency of over 50s who are most at home with printed newspapers then a press release is fine.
You’ll miss other demographics with a press release.
As a primary go-to one channel to rule them all effective channel, press releases are dead.
As one of many tools, they live on.
Use the right channel at the right time.
Educate your client.
Posted: April 1, 2017 Filed under: communications
A good comms plan helps you to get to where you want to go… without one you are almost certainly going to fail.
You can fire a rocket into the sky and you might successfully hit the moon but the chances are you won’t.
Back in 1969 when NASA put a man on the moon they did so with research, resources, planning, science, evaluation and creativity. Without those elements they would have failed.
I’m going to tell you why I realised comms planning was a good thing.
There are many comms plans. This one is mine. You are free to use it. I’ve uploaded it to Google docs here.
Don’t do fig-leaf comms planning
Here’s a thing. I came to realise that comms planning was the most useful tool very slowly.
For 12-years I was a reporter. Forward planning was literally tomorrow lunchtime. It was the here and now of frontpage leads and by-lines.
Moving to communications, I wan’t sure about comms planning. Some people would demand a comms plan when all they actually wanted was eight pages of text to add to a submission.
“See?” They would say. “We’ve got comms covered.”
This fig-leaf comms planning drove me up the wall. Your work as an attachment that’s never looked at again will never work. There was a better way.
Why you should write a good comms plan
A good comms plan makes a difference.
It asks where you are now, where you want to go, who you want to talk to, where they’ll be, what’s the one thing you want them to do, how much worktime and money you have, how long you’ve got, how you’re going to evaluate to see if it has worked. It then looks at the tactics. In other words, the things you’ll do. The content you’ll write.
Comms planning is a tried and trusted process that leads you to the right answers. It may not be the poster that your client first demanded. But that’s okay. You’ll have something better than a poster.
It stops the ridiculous waste of ‘I want back of bus ads’ without the research into whether or not bus ads will work.
But before you sit down with the comms plan
This is the hard part. It can save a lot of time and spare blushes. The purpose of the comms plan is to help someone move from A to B. For example:
– Move from we need 20 new nurses to having 20 new nurses.
– Move from we need 100 sign-ups to we have 100 sign-ups.
– Move from we need 10 per cent fewer calls to the switchboard to have 10 per cent fewer calls to the switchboard.
But here is the tricky part. You need to put a number on the A and the B. Without that you won’t really know where you are and where you are going to. Like a driver with a map, you’ll be going round in circles.
You need – gently – to ask and challenge whoever is asking you for some PR and comms to go away and define where they are and where they want to go to. You need this to be done ahead of the comms planning session.
UK Government executive director of comms Alex Aiken is a big advocate for not doing comms without a business plan. I get that. It’s a handy rule of thumb.
You can’t write a comms plan if they don’t know where they are or where you are going.
And when you sit down with the comms plan
Here’s a simple rule. Have the people in the room who will make the key decisions and those who will carry them out. Four or five people? That’s fine. Just you and one other person? I wouldn’t bother. You want people to feel as though this is their comms plan.
As the comms person, you are facilitating. Time is of the essence. Spend no more than 15 minutes on each of the first nine elements. Set out the timings at the start. This way you won’t be distracted or go up a blind alley.
Find a place where you won’t be disturbed for a couple of hours. Put your phones away. A cup of tea or a drink. Some biscuits, maybe.
Oh, and two things are banned. The word ‘aewareness’. It means nothing. It is nebulous. Why do you want them to be aware? To volunteer? To sign-up? Ask. Challenge politely.
I’ve added timings to this. You can change them for something you are looking to do. It can be maybe 10 minutes far shorter for a small plan, for example. But having timings set out from the off can help keep you focussed.
Where are you now? (5 minutes)
You’ve done this before the meeting, so there’s no need to spend too long on this. This points out on the map where you are.
Where do you want to go and why? (5 minutes)
You’ve done this before the meeting too. This works out where you want to go. Why do it? Because a campaign to recruit 100 new nurses is different to one to recruit 10.
Who do you want to talk to and why? (10 minutes)
This is the part where you work out who you really want to talk to. So, for a campaign to recruit nurses it is members of the nursing profession. You want to talk to them so you can recruit them.
What’s the one thing you want them to do and why? (5 minutes)
Make this a call to action. You want the nurses to go to the recruitment website and apply.
Where do they hang out? (15 minutes)
This is the part where you work out how to reach them. Are there nursing forums or publications? Can you find them on Facebook with ‘nurse’ as a tag?
How much work time and money do you have to help you reach them? (15 minutes)
This is the part where you look at your resources. You may have a day a week of capacity, for example, and a budget of £500. If the budget is zero, this is the point where you establish this and frame if more is needed. If none is forthcoming, this is the point where you manage expectations.
How long have you got? (5 minutes)
How long do you have to recruit people? A month? Six months? 12-months? This sets the timeframe and gives a sense of panic and urgency if that’s needed.
When and how are you going to evaluate? (10 minutes)
This is critical. Be clear at the start so you can see if the campaign has been a success. If you are recruiting nurses, count the number of recruits. But if you just leave it at that you aren’t seeing the full picture. Why do you need to recruit nurses? Because you have to pay agency staff? And how much extra do they cost? £5,000 a year? And how many agency staff are you paying for now? So each one you recruit saves £5,000? So if you recruit 10 you are saving £50,000? This is the point where you may be able to loosen the purse strings if this is needed. In addition, ask what the difference to the organisation will be if the campaign is a success. Will more nurses bring more capacity? How many hours a week? Ask questions. Suggest the research is done. Everyone is busy. But without this data you are flying blind.
Once you’ve got a handle on what metrics you’ll count, look to keep tabs on it. A year-long campaign to cut recruit nurses should be checked at regular stages to see what tweaks are needed.
Who are you going to tell that you are doing this so you can tell them how it has gone? (5 minutes)
This is a simple one. When you run a Marathon you make a public declaration so you need to follow through. Is it your boss? The client’s boss? Work out who that person is.
Whats the timeline of tactics for it all? (15 minutes)
This is something you can start in the session but you may need to work up away from the planning session. Tactics are all the things you’ll look to do. The posters, the Facebook ads, the LinkedIn discussion.
That’s a quick run through. I’m happy to help you. You can find me firstname.lastname@example.org or @danslee on Twitter.
Picture credit: informedmag / Flickr https://informedmag.com/