TRAINER TALE: What a student’s Adidas advert can teach the public sector

There’s been a trend for story telling by video that packs an emotional punch.

The Polish Christmas commercial and the John Lewis advert are things I’ve blogged about.

There’s been a second trend of students making ads in the style of these. The lad who made the pastiche John Lewis ad which was so good it was taken for the real think springs to mind.

Another one has dropped into my timeline. It’s beautiful. It’s an old man in a home whose yearning to break free is awoken when he re-discovers his old trainers. You can see it here:

It’s lovely. It’s emotional. But stop. Adidas don’t need the extra help.

So much of what I do is in the public sector.

So, what story telling can be made of things in the public sector?

The child whose imagination comes to life through a trip to the library?

The widower who has discovered a new lease of life through a regular visit?

So many potential stories.

What stories could you tell if you tried harder? And communicated differently?

SOCIAL RIPOSTE: The greatest public sector tweet in a long time is also mildly depressing

​This is the greatest tweet I’ve read from someone in the public sector in a long time.

It may also be one of the most depressing.

It was sent by a police officer to a football supporter complaining that his tax was being spent on an officer tweeting.

The reply pointed out that he was doing most of it in his spare time:

Why is this great?

A police officer pointing out politely that he was doing this largely unpaid because he and others saw the value in it.

Reaction to it was overwhelmingly positive.

Why depressing?

Because surely we’ve reached a point where using the social web to keep people informed is core activity.

That’s not to have a go at the officer. Far from it. He deserves huge credit. Not just for tweeting but the way he handled his critic.

But almost a decade since the first public sector social media accounts emerged this isn’t seen as a fundamental requirement? 

CAKE TALKING: why #brewcamp is back

brewcamp-cinemaIts back… and God, how I’ve missed it.

A few years ago long before comms2point0 was a thing me and a few friends staged a few events to help us understand this new online landscape that we were intoxicated to explore. One of them was brewcamp. This was a simple idea. Find a cafe or a pub. Pick speakers for three topics. No slides. Discussion. Cake. Coffee.

It’s huge and genuine joy for me was listening to people outside of my area of expertise explain what was possible. We’d stage it every two months and we’d move it around the West Midlands.

One time Lloyd Davis came to Walsall and turned Starbucks into a cinema. Another time we went to Oldbury and the Sandwell Council chief executive Jan Britton helped start a winter gritting project.

But then all of us slowly left local government and it was put on the shelf for a rainy day without ever quite being thrown out.

Why is it back?

Myself and the excellent Andy Mabbett have taken the idea down off the shelf and are running it again. Why? For me, it’s because purely of a thirst to learn things. And that there are some good people still I don’t see enough of. i love running events for comms2point0 where people leave with a skill. This is a place just to kick around a few ideas.

Where is it and what are the topics?

It’ll be at Cherry Red’s cafe bar in John Bright Street in Birmingham. It’s 6pm for a 6.30pm start on Wednesday January 25.

Post and Mail: a 100 per cent digital news engine. The Post & Mail have led the way in digital innovation. At the centre of this has been Marc Reeves Trinity Mirror’s West Midlands editor-in-chief. Marc will talk about what newsgathering looks like in 2017 and beyond and why that matters for the public sector.

Why Open Rights matters. Open Rights Group is the UK’s only digital campaigning organisation working to protect the rights to privacy and free speech online. Francis Clarke from Birmingham’s Open Rights group explains.

Fake news and the public sector. The Trump election and Brexit have highlighted the serious problems that can face institions if rumour dressed as fact go unchallenged. comms2point0’s Dan Slee and Andy Mabbett, Wikipedian-in-Residence with the likes of Ted Talks and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Can I have a call to action right here?

You can. You can get a ticket here. Do come along.

VR WOW: What virtual reality journalism and comms may look like

syria“One of the most boring debates to have is the future of news debate,” someone I rate once said.

“The only people who care about it are journalists. Everyone else is off getting their news from Facebook.”

This is largely true.

I’ve been keeping a weather eye on virtual reality for a while and came across this fascinating TED talk by US virtual reality journalist Nonny de la Pena. In it, she explains about how she is turning story telling on its head by taking the facts and audio from real life scenarios and creating  them in virtual reality.

In other words, you can be standing on the site of a key news event.

She re-created based on source footage a bomb exploding in a street during the Syrian civil war. You can see it around 5’30”.

It’s a fascinating idea.

The risk of fake news isn’t far away.

But just journalism? Or can this be used for story-telling and for giving people a flavour of what it’s like to be on a particular spot?

In a fire?

In a warehouse with slave labour?

In a home with a man with dementia and his carer?

COMMS CHALLENGE: How could public sector organisations challenge post-truth?

‘It wasn’t supposed to be like this,’ is the first line of a blog post about post-truth and the internet I never got around to finishing.

Why didn’t I finish it? Maybe because the very tools that I had such faith in when I first came across the social web are the tools that have helped make facts redundant.

If you work in PR or communications you need to know that there is much thinking, reflecting and most importantly doing that you need to do about post-truth.

Stephen Waddington has written a tremendous contribution to this debate as a manifesto for public relations in a post truth world. I suggest you read it and let it soak in. This doesn’t have all the answers but the questions it asks are the right ones.

So what?

Steven is dead right to identify that Trump and Brexit had the stronger message and appealed to the heart not the head.

He’s right to identify that news cycles are gone and will go. The Trump cycle of bombarding the internet and then moving on has proved effective.

Stephen also makes a valuable point:

If you’re working on a campaign for 2017 use tools to establish a hypothesis and then put them down and go into the real world to talk, and more importantly listen to your publics.

He’s also right to say that social capital will play a part in whatever comes next. What’s social capital? It’s the undefinable credit you get for doing something good, kind or useful. You can find it everywhere. In the classroom when you were a kid when you lent someone a pencil. In the office when you pick-up someone’s slack. But here’s a confession. I’ve always struggled with the term. It works for academics. It doesn’t work outside the boardroom or the classroom.

I prefer thinking of it as people who give a stuff.

So, how does a public sector organisation challenge post-truth? Why, on Facebook, stupid

Let’s take the myth that the council’s Deputy Leader gets paid £100,000 for doing his council job. It’s a disgrace. It’s almost more than the Prime Minister. Only, it’s not true.

Where can you find that myth? You don’t have to go far on a community Facebook group or page to find something like it. There are hundreds in every town and city. Even the smallest village usually has one.

So, how do we challenge that?

Shouldn’t council comms people be going to Facebook groups and pages as individuals to engage – factually not personally – with people?

If you think you are too busy, how is it working out for you not engaging?

This is a difficult question to answer. But I’m convinced it needs to be worked out. I did a small part of this myself for five years while looking after the corporate Twitter and Facebook. I added my name because I wanted people to know I was a real person. Was it tiring? Actually it was. Not physically, but mentally if you are doing it round the clock.

What do you think?


SOCIAL PROBLEM: The trouble with communicating social care


Social care is in crisis and there are warnings it is about to pull local government and the NHS into the abyss.

The loud crack that we first heard in 2008 coming from the foundations is about to turn into something else.

This is one view. The other is that there’s enough money in the system. If only councils would cut councillor’s expenses and non-jobs we’d all be fine. Or something.

Social care is the safety net that catches your Mum, Dad, Gran, Grandpa, son, daughter, brother, sister or you when you need it.

The trouble is, however, that social care has got a communications problem.

Everyone loves the NHS because at some point they know their family will need it.

And the NHS is personified by the doctor and the nurse in that big building called a hospital which is there to care for you.

But what about social care?

There are no hospitals, nurses or doctors.

No-one plans to get dementia. Or live alone.

There’s just people like you or me helping other people in the community. Like my Aunt Jean. They’re invisible.

And because they’re invisible not enough people care.

Head v heart

If a trend in 2016 has been for communicating to the heart over the head what does that look like?

It’s not words like ‘re-enablement’.

It’s not spreadsheets or financial projections.

It’s communicating the 75-year-old man called Alan who only speaks to someone once a week for five minutes.

Or the 88-year-old called Maude who looks like your Mum who needs help every day getting out of bed.

Painful, human stories of people whose names you know who are looking straight at you. Straight at you.  And one day soon you could be one of them.

Picture credit: Brian Tomlinson / Flickr

EMOTION CONNECTS: The Polish Christmas TV ad… not a dry eye

Look, I’m slow to this, alright? But remember that stuff we were talking about on head v heart?

All that gubbins about head v heart and the Christmas TV ads use emotion to connect with people?

Have you seen the Polish Christmas TV ad? It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a long while:

I don’t want to get all click bait but I had your actual tears in my eye.