VITAL STATS: 63 useful things comms people need to know from the Ofcom report


If you are even vaguely serious about communicating with people in 2017 there is a document Lord of the Rings-style rules them all.

The 246-pages of the Ofcom communications marker report gives you a snapshot into the shifting sandbanks of the communications landscape. I simply can’t overstate how much it can help you do your job.

The document always brings surprises and this year is the same as other years. I strongly suggest you download it and spend a couple of hours with it. You can do that here. There are also inserts for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

To whet your whistle, here are some things public sector communicators should know.

63 things comms people need to know about how people are using the media

We are more mobile and more powered by smartphones

Faster networks go hand in hand with increased data. Data used by each mobile phone have risen by 44 per cent to 1.3 GB per handset. More than 90 per cent of people own a mobile phone and 76 per cent use a smartphone.

Homes are connected, 88 per cent of households are now connected to the internet and 66 per cent use a phone online.

TV and DVD ownership s declining while people are binge-watching TV on demand. More than a third watch back-to-back TV programmes while 30 per cent sit down with the family once a week.

Most popular UK social media channels

YouTube and Facebook still dominate. LinkedIn has fallen away and Twitter has gained ground.

YouTube 42.0 million

Facebook 39.7 million

Twitter 21.9 million

Instagram 19.4 million

LinkedIn 15.9 million

Pinterest 12.4 million

Snapchat 10.3 million

Google Plus 8.7 million

The most checked app is Facebook

Those with the Facebook app on their phone check their accounts almost 12 times a day. This is higher than 10 times for WhatsApp, twice a day for Spotify and once a day for YouTube.

Ownership of internet-enabled devices

It is not just the desktop PC that people are using to go online.


What the internet is used for

General surfing and browsing is most popular (87 per cent) with email (85 per cent), online shopping 69 per cent with social networking 61 per cent, watching TV and video 53 per cent, short video clips 43 per cent. A flat 40 per cent use the web to visit local government or government websites.

Young people watch YouTube most but over 55s are the biggest audience

The peak time for YouTube is 5pm to 11pm.

Most dedicated YouTube viewers are 18 to 24-year-olds with 31.9 hours consumed a month. But this demographic (13 per cent) is smaller than the over 55’s (22 per cent) who consume 6.5 hours of video a month.

There is a generational gap amongst favoured plaforms

Facebook is most favoured by 18-to-24s, with 83 per cent using it. This outstrips the two thirds of over 55’s who use it. 

Almost three times as many 18-to-24s use YouTube (68 per cent) compared to over over 55’s. Twice as many of the younger demographic (42 per cent) use WhatsApp compared to their older colleagues and almost double (35 per cent) use Twitter.

Android apps

Google Play leads the field with 96 per cent of android phones carrying the app. Following behind, 88 per cent navigate with Chrome, 86 per cent use maps, 80 per cent YouTube 80 per cent and gmail users are at 71 per cent. Facebook is used by 64 per cent and Twitter 45 per cent of android users.

Winding down is a generational thing

Adults on average turn to live TV with almost 50 per cent using this as a crutch. But 12 to 15-year-olds mostly turn to social media to unwind (27 per cent).

Most look on YouTube and Facebook on a laptop and PC

With YouTube, the PC or laptop is used to view by 71 per cent. Jusy over half use a smartphone and 39 per cent a tablet with 33 per cent using a TV.

With Facebook, PC or laptop is favoured by 67 per cent, 63 per cent for smartphone and 36 for tablet. Just six per cent use TV.

We keep in touch by sharing images and video not SMS

In 2012, SMS was the most favoured way to stay in touch. This has become images and video.

Almost all smartphone users – 97 per cent – use the device to view pictures and images and almost two thirds post images and video themselves.

Holiday pictures are the most popular images shared

24 per cent share holiday pics

20 per cent share pets and animals

20 per cent share landscapes or buildings

19 per cent share funny images 

16 per cent myself

15 per cent friends

13 per cent sunrise, sunsets and nature

Emojis have become mainstream

Far from being niche, they are being used more and more. A quarter use them every day while one-in-five think they’re important to their communications. A majority – 80 per cent – think they are fun.

Audio remains important

Radio numbers dominate with almost one-in-nine listening to the radio every week with the average 21.4 hours a week. A third use podcasts every week.






A PLANNING PLAN : Bad comms plans and Anthony Scarramucci


I do try and avoid commenting on news stories on this blog. Others do it perfectly well. But this is a doozy.

You may have noticed that blink-and-you’ll-miss-him White House Director of Communications Anthony Scarramucci lasted 10 days in the post.

What emerged in the last 24-hours is a draft comms plan posted by a blogger sympathetic to Scarramucci. You can read it here.  You can also read Buzzfeed’s confirmation that this is not fake news and also a take down of it here. I suggest you do. It’s jaw-droppingly bad.

Bad comms plans and Bob Dylan

Sure, it is in draft format. But it appears an unstructured list. Poorly thought through. With not much sense of direction. No evaluation. Like Bob Dylan in ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ it has no direction at all.

Good comms plans

Good comms plans involve a round table of input from people you want to work with. They are strategy and they are the tactics of how to do it.

They look at where you are now, where you want to go, what the one thing is you’d like people to do, who you’d like to talk to, where they hang out, what time and money you have and how you are going to evaluate.  You can add who you are going to tell you are doing this and a timeline for the things you’ll do too.

There are many comms planning templates. This one is mine. You are free to use it.

Picture credit: Loco Steve / Flickr.

THEIR DAY: 14 ideas to reboot your Twitter day


In the near future planning for #ourday will swing into view… a day when local government posts what it does in realtime across 24-hours.

It’s an event that is close to my heart. It is modelled in part on #walsall24 a day which I was involved with six years ago.
As an experiment, at the council I was at we posted updates to Twitter from the mundane to the significant. The aim was to create a wall of noise and in doing so told the bigger picture of what local government does.
I still remember the feeling of unique stress and, frankly, loneliness when I opened the office and fired up the PC to send the first tweet. Would this work?
Bright sparks at the Local Government Association have since picked-up the ball and run with it since to turn it into a national initiative.
Six years is a long time. I got to thinking that it is maybe time it had a bit of a re-boot. This should be much more than Twitter. It should be more than council staff talking to each other although I do recognise a real benefit to this.

What should a day of online activity look like?

It needs to tell day-to-day stories… think of how best to do this.
It needs to focus on real people.
It needs real people telling their own stories.
It needs to have people who use the service and live, work and play in your area.
It needs some employees but only if they are named.
It doesn’t need offices. Go outside the ivory tower to see what people do.
It doesn’t need to Twitter, either. It is the fifth largest UK social media channel. Use other channels. Go off-line too.
But don’t just make noise set a few targets too. Sign-up for a library. Pledge to use a park. Pledge to exercise. Whatever.

Here are 14 ideas to make it more interesting

1. A Facebook Live Q&A on the local newspaper’s Facebook page with a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum stores. There is a trove of fascinating items. It would be great to hear someone talk about them. Give people a chance to see and put stories to their heritage.
2. Video clips of real people talking about the job they do for the organisation while out actually doing it.
3. Live tweeting shadowing the contact centre posting a snap shot of the calls they recieve.
4. Get people to sign-up to something. Join a library. Make the process easy to do online. Make a target. A hundred. Five hundred. Whatever.
5. Create a Facebook quiz to ask how much people know about what their council does. Do that here.
6. Use Twitter’s Periscope app to live broadcast a Q&A with the Leader of the Council on the budget. What should they do less of? And more of?
7. Plug into an existing campaign and create some content. You need more foster carers? Live tweet what a carer does for an hour or two.
8. Celebrate your area. Encourage people to post pictures on a hashtag that celebrates their area. Instagramers may warm to this. The best pic gets hosted on the homepage. Or as part of the website’s banner image.
9. Talk to people at a library event. What brings them to this book club? What book do they recommend?
10. Go behind the obvious and get others to join in. What goes on in school during an average day? There’s a breakfast club? No way? How does that work? Schools are getting better at posting their own content. Invite them to play.
11. You have a niche job? You look after the borough’s trees? Tell us about that. Give us a tour of what to look out for. Shadow the officer if needs be.
12. Adult social care is a growing issue? What do service users look like? Heck, he looks like my Dad. He even talks like him too. Can he talk about growing up in the area? And what help he gets from the council?
13. Aggregate your content in the one place. Pull a page together where people can follow all your stuff.
14. Make it live after the day. Two thirds of Facebook live views come after the event. Can you capture and share it in a storify? A pdf? An email?
Look for the real people and create some content there. Move #ourday on a notch. You work in an amazing sector so go and share some of the amazing stuff.
Picture credit: Marco Verch / Flickr

PIC TIPS: Three ways you can be your own newspaper picture editor and use better pics online


Just last week while delivering training something struck me that had been right under my nose.

You do not need a picture editor on the internet. The thought had never occurred to me before.

A picture editor when I was a journalist was the gatekeeper who decided what image went where. They could pick a page one pic over an inside lead. Always, on the newspaper I worked on they were upright shots. Why? Because that’s the size of the hole on the page template. Always, they were people pictures. They were ‘tight, bright and upright.’ Portrait sized, with groups of smiling people with every piece of the picture busy. It’s an art.

News pictures are dying

A while back I carried out an audit for a council press office. The aim was to see what content worked across print, web, radio and TV in the city they served.  The result was surprising:

Half of pictures in the print edition were news pictures. Posed with a caption. But not a single one was used by the newspaper online. Police mugshots, CCTV stills, user generated content and library images were instead used.

With that in mind, the skill should be how to source your own images to attach to content that you post or send out. Once you’d send out an image with a caption aiming at the print edition. Now, send out a stock image to aim for their Facebook page.

Yet images remain powerful. So what do you do?

Sourcing your own images

I’ve written before about the amazing compfight that searches Flickr’s six billion images. Remember to search for creative commons pictures and you have images that you can re-use. Here is a list of alternative copyright free sites but be warned. Many are not searchable.

Sourcing your own image library

Flickr isn’t nearly as cool as Instagram and hasn’t been for years. But it is an effective place to upload and tag your images. And it costs about £30 a year for a Pro account. Make them public to save yourself the hassle of finding that image and sending it on.  Give them a creative commons licence to allow them to be re-used.

Sourcing residents images as user generated content

With sites like instagram growing like topsy, millions of images are posted across your area. Go onto Instagram yourself and approach people for permission to re-use an image on the website or elsewhere.

Picture credit: rpavich / Flickr 

FAKE NEWS: It’s time to get serious with fake admins for your Facebook page


It seems as though the noose is tightening around Facebook pages that are run by a overlooked-until-now dodgy practice.

I’ve blogged this before but let me explain. To run a Facebook page you need a profile and you can’t have more than one. Its against the platform’s terms and conditions.

Many people in the past created a separate work profile. They did this because they wanted to keep work and play separate. Often this second account just had the word ‘work’ added to it.

How this dodgy practice works

So John Smith had his ‘John Smith’ account. He also created ‘John Smith Work’ as a way of logging onto the corporate page. Cunning, yes?

Well, not that cunning at all. Not least because it is obvious even to Inspector Clouseau that this is a second account. And before you dash-off to create thinking a John Brown account is an even safer bet don’t. But Brown, you think. That’s not my name. They’ll never guess. Actually, Facebook are really good at spotting  through an algorithm accounts with few friends that just happen to be a page admin.

Why Facebook are doing this

You may have noticed but Facebook and others have been getting it in the neck for their role in ‘fake news’. Governments don’t like them. Nor do users. Accounts that are clearly fake are the first steps to tackle this. The platform have agreed to act. Fake users are first in the queue.

But you’re blue in the face

Of course, the wise people know that they need to change. They’ve even argued for the need to.  Many have persuaded people that this is the best course of action.

But even then some people don’t want to change.

The common arguments are:

I don’t want people from work being my friends.

I’d rather keep work and family seperate.

I won’t add my real Facebook profile.  

In the olden days, they may have had a point. But no-one can see who is the admin of a page. You don’t have to accept friend requests.

An approach: It’s time to get serious

I’ve noticed a very heated debate on the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group flagging up the issue.

Firstly, tell are admins you want your page not to break Facebook’s terms and conditions. Tell them their access may be removed without warning. This is an issue if you all have fake John Smith Work accounts. Tell people you are moving everyone to Facebook Business Manager. You’ll need a profile. It just makes the day-to-day tasks easier.

If people still say no, you may have to trim down the number of admins who are effectively posing a risk to your page. If some people don’t want to, they may just have to have ‘managing Facebook pages’ off their CV.

Go and tell the person in your organisation who is responsible for information governance of the broader issue. See what they think. They’ll agree with you.

Go and tell the emergency planning team what they think. They’ll agree with you, too.

Take these opinions, this blog and your opinion to your manager, manager’s manager and chief executive if you have to. Set out to them in writing the reasons why ‘fake’ profiles are a danger to your organisation. If you have to, list the people who have fake profiles in your organisation. List the people who don’t. Explain that you need everyone to either have a real profile or be taken off admin to the Facebook page.

You have flagged-up the risk.

You have shared the risk.

When Facebook catch you – note, not ‘if’ but ‘when’ – you have an audit trail without which you’ll be pretty exposed. Who knows. The process may even get some movement.

It sounds drastic, but it’s not as drastic as access to your corporate Facebook page being lost overnight.

Picture credit: Michael Coghlan / Flickr.

LIKE PRACTICE: How do I practice a Facebook Live without anyone seeing it?

fblive logoI get it. You like the idea of Facebook Live but you just don’t like the idea of looking stupid in front of your friends. Well relax. This is for you.

The great thing about Facebook Live is that you can set the functionality so that no-one can see it. Just you can. So you can mess about and kick the tyres and no-one will see you. That has to be a good thing.

This is a trick that we include in our Skills You’ll Need for Live Video workshops (more here). But if you are looking to learn more you can do it too.

To start, pick up your device.

Step 1: Go to Facebook

Go to Facebook. You’ve seen this view a thousand times already. Tap that you want to share an update.


Step 2: Tap Go Live

Once you’ve tapped that you want to make an update you get a list of options. Tap ‘Go Live’ as that’s what you want to do.



Step 3: Set your audience

You can pick who you are going live to. See that? That’s for friends. If you want to broadcast to your friends, that’s fine. If you want to broadcast just to yourself as practice you can adjust that. Tap ‘friends’ or whatever your audience is.


Step 4: Set your audience to ‘just me’

Then you can pick your audience. Here, I’m setting it to ‘just me’ if you just want to broadcast to yourself.


Step 5: Your audience is ‘only me’ and add a title

Nearly there. You are broadcasting to yourself. Add a title. Go on. It is good practice. Make it interesting.


Step 6: Hit live, chat and then when you are finished hit finish

Keeping up? Now is your chance to shine.

Step 7: When you finish you’ll see this

A dark screen that tells you you’ve finished. Simple?


Step 8: Publish, don’t publish

Now you’ve shot your practice you can change its status from ‘only me’ to ‘friends’, ‘public’ or other settings depending on your mood. You can also download to your device.

And that’s it.

STUDY: ‘I saw the news today on Facebook, oh, boy’


Beatle John Lennon once sang ‘I read the news today, oh boy.”

Had he sung it today it would have been more accurate to say: “I saw the news today, oh boy. It was on Facebook but I can’t remember which page it was on.”

The trend away from the family group gathered around the 9 o’clock news and to something else has been real for some time.

The Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford have published a useful whitepaper called ‘I Saw the News on Facebook’ where they look to map the scale of this. You can find it via here. Antonis Kalogeropoulos and Nic Newman compiled the short report.

Here are a couple of stand-out facts that comms people should be aware of.

Most news is found indirectly

People don’t go and consume the news. News comms to them from search, social media, email, mobile or from aggregators. That’s a landscape to know.


Most don’t remember where they saw the news

Interestingly, the report said that 37 per cent of people could correctly recall where they read or saw the content through search and 47 per cent if it was social media.

The take-home for comms people

In the past, PR and comms people used to working with trusted brands such as the local newspaper and it’s rarely changed masthead.   The newspaper of record was just that. A single outlet in the community it served. Now that voice is spread and often comes through Facebook.

This does raise the question for comms people of the need to be on Facebook over and above everything.

Picture credit:  Mark Morton / Flickr.