BE PROUD: Things 11 comms people admire and are proud of


You can learn a lot about what other people admire and what they are proud of.

As an experiment, I asked comms people in a Facebook group I’m admin of the two questions.

The answers were compelling, fascinating and illuminating.

Sometimes people aren’t always keen to shout about the things they do but are happy to applaud things they may see.

I think we should always be proud to celebrate the good work we do as comms people.

For a long time I’ve argued that PR is actually pretty bad at its own PR.

The first step on the road to tackling that is to stand tall and be proud of the things that we do.

If we can’t be proud how the heck do you think other people will respect what we do as a sector?

We should all be proud of making a difference in what we and what others do.

What are you proud of?

“Being involved with an animation which helps women and men going through the abortion process. Now adopted in four other countries including Ireland soon, which is a really big deal for me.” – Leanne Hughes.

“I was part of the team that launched the #CitizenGirl project for Girlguiding Scotland which is all about encouraging girls to learn about politics and use their voice now and in their futures. One year on, I still see lots of girls with their Citizen Girl badges on their uniforms and it gives me all the feels every time.” – Mairi Gordon.

“Asking myself if I am making a difference to communities I can serve, help or improve in the best way possible. If it is, then that work is what I am proudest of.” – David Grindlay. 

 “I think the thing I’m most proud of is the brand we’ve built over the last decade or more, its coherence, consistency, and creativity, and the genuine sense of pride and belonging, both at a place level, and an organisation level, that it has contributed to.” – Polly Czoik. 

“Social media-led rape prevention campaign for Thames Valley Police getting the message through worldwide, being mentioned by the Incredible Hulk – Mark Ruffalo –  and used by the Chicago Tribune to bash Donald Trump’s idiotic claim integrated armed forces is reason for rape.” – Victoria Caddy.

“When you get feedback at how your comms helped people or they enjoyed your joke on social media.” – Nartari Venning.

What do you most admire?

“Comms colleagues who retain a sense of humour and help each other surf the silliness with kindness, expertise and a sense of self. Also creativity. Always.” – Claire Robson.

“People based deep within council services who appreciate the value of taking the time to look into difficult enquiries that my team gets from time to time on social media.” – Nick Moore.

“Brands and organisations who get that narrative and human-interest are the key to engagement and place them at the heart of their strategies.” – Eimar Fitzpatrick.

“I admire the diligent colleagues scheduling posts, testing ads, fighting for sign off against all odds and answering social media messages at 11pm – because they care. Superstars with hearts of gold.” – Rachel King.

“The willingness of the people I work with to go the extra mile in all corners of the council, but especially the lovely comms people.” – Mary Willis.

Thank you to the members of the Public Sector Headspace Facebook group for contributing to this post.

Picture credit: Flickr / US National Archives.


HER STORY: Good content for International Women’s Day… and a reminder


It’s International Woman’s Day and a chance to celebrate the role that women play in all our lives.

It’s also becoming a chance for organisations to celebrate and also, frankly, try and change our ideas.

When it works best its planting a flag in the ground to say that women can do any job they want.

In 2019, the sad thing is that we still have a way to go to make everyone see this.

Me? I’m a feminist and I became a feminist when my daughter was born. Why the heck shouldn’t she have the same chance as someone else’s son?

Here are some pieces of content that caught my eye.

At their best, they show the organisation up in a better light.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue’s school visit video – YouTube

A video with a twist. Three women go into school. They ask the children to draw the job they’d like to do when they grow up. They ask them to guess what they are and then the big reveal.

At two minutes 20 seconds this is good YouTube length, there is a big reveal when jaws hit the flaw and they show IT staff as well as firefighter. The length is slightly long for Facebook.

Manchester Survivors Choir – Twitter

A post that simply photographs members who are all girls. By focusing on the members they show a pride in them. That there is a choir at all based on survivors of the Manchester attack just fills my heart.

If you include real people those real people and their friends and families will share the content.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue – Twitter

A quirky picture that shows a fire appliance not with a red nose but with a mock-up bra. Wry and witty it shows a sense of humour to put across the fact that women can be firefighters, too.

I also love the fact that it is shared by a senior firefighter on their own profile.

University of Padova – Instagram

An image of artwork that celebrates the first ever female University graduate in the world. If anyone female has been through University you are standing on her shoulders. What determination she must have needed.

An image works best on Instagram and this combination of artwork and text works. I’d love to see how they could include female graduates past and present in next year’s content.

#8marzo Oggi #Unipd festeggia con #Elena. Buona #FestadellaDonna! #8march Today Unipd celebrates with #Elena. Happy #Womansday! #ElenaPiscopia #Piscopia #WomeninHistory #internationalwomansday #festadonna #IWD2019 #BalanceforBetter

A post shared by Università di Padova (@unipd) on


Journalist Vicki Turk – Twitter

There’s a serious danger that events such as International Woman’s Day can fall into box ticking. This tweet from the Wired editor Vicki Turk calls out such tokenism. This is a brilliant reminder that it is not what you say but what you do that makes good PR. If you wheel out your token women on this day you’re hugely missing the point.

On a wider perspective, good content shouldn’t be a one-off. I dearly wish people generally would be more creative the whole year round.

Women are for life and not just International Woman’s Day.

So is creativity.

Full disclosure: I’ve trained South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue.

Picture credit: US National Archive / Flickr

USEFUL DATA: What your most effective content is for your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages in 2019


I often use a slide which has a scientist with a slice of cake to make one the most important points of the day.

Why? Well, the scientist represents the data and numbers you needed to know.

The cake is a reminder you need to craft content that speaks with a human voice.

The point about the data is an important one. Social media is slowly changing and evolving. What worked 10 years ago does not work now.  Even 12-months ago the tricks have changed. Like a swimmer knowing when the tide is going out you need to know when its safe to act and how to act to stop yourself being swept out to sea on a blow-up lilo.

Algorithms govern what works and what doesn’t.

Knowing what those algorithms encourage and discourage is one of the important things you’ll do as a comms person.

A company called RivalIQ have crunched some interesting numbers in their 2019 Social Media Benchmark Report. This looks at 1.6 million Facebook posts, 06 million instagram updates and 2.4 million Twitter posts.

It looks at posts from 12 markets from sport clubs and fashion to alcohol to non-profit and higher education.

It looks at what content works best.

For the public sector, there are some broad principles that can be used as takeaways.

Engagement has fallen

Strikingly, the amount of engagement on social media has fallen. For Facebook, on average, each posts sees engagement from 0.09 per cent of followers. In other words, a fraction of those who like the page will comment, share or like.

For Instagram , the broad number is 1.6 per cent  and Twitter it is a measly 0.048 per cent.

iq median

Organic has taken a battering

For some years, commentators have been saying that organic reach will decline. In other words, what you post without being supported by cash will reach fewer people.

For many organisations, this is the only option.

So, what are the options?

I’m drawn, to several ideas. Firstly, that Facebook groups and their rich and broad reach are a gold plated option for comms people. The ability to search, identify and make friends with comms people is an absolute must. I’ve blogged about this before. Looking at these numbers, this approach is more and more important.

But also, the numbers in the RivalIQ report do give some broad pointers about what content is most effective at reaching people. They give some evidence to help shape your content.

I’ve gone through the numbers across 12 sectorsand re-crunched them to look at some broad lessons.

Video is the most effective Facebook content in 2019

  • Video is the most engaging content on a Facebook page.

The RivalIQ survey across a range of sectors showed that video was the most effective way to create engaging content followed by photographs. The numbers for a posted link and a simple text status update are embarrassingly small.

Video 0.16 per cent engagement

Photographs 0.07 per cent engagement

Link 0.05 per cent engagement

Status update 0.02 per cent engagement

Photographs remain the most effective Instagram content in 2019

  • Photographs are the most effective content.

For all Instagram has been pushing video, it is an engaging photograph that still works most effectively on the platform. A carousel of images which showcases multiple images in a post is narrowly second.

Photograph 1.47 per cent engagement rate

Carousel 1.45 per cent engagement

Video 0.94 per cent engagement

Video is the most effective Twitter content in 2019 and links are not

  • Video is the most effective way of using video.

Video is six times more engaging than a link posted to Twitter, the crunched RivalIQ figures show. That’s a striking stat.

I’d heard that the Twitter algorithm now frowns on link posting and the stats really show this trend. To someone who remembers the early days of Twitter as a place of links and engagement that’s a little sad. But this isn’t about how I’d like Twitter to be it’s about what it is.

Video 0.24 per cent engagement rate

Status update 0.19 per cent engagement

Photographs 0.05 per cent engagement

Link 0.04 per cent engagement

This is a starting point

Of course, the simple thing would be to post video to Facebook and Twitter and piocs to Instagram. But the bright comms person may use these figures as a starting point.

Try things out.


Look at the data and see what works but stay human, okay?

Picture: Shutterstock used under licence.

How to shape effective content features in my Essential Skills for Effective Communicators in 2019. For upcoming dates  or to enquire about in-house training click here. I’m Shout if I can help. 






GAME CHANGING: Facebook has made it loads easier for pages to join and connect with groups


Some huge game-changing news has dropped. 

For the last few years I’ve been banging on about a few things.

Four years ago I said that video would become a really significant part of the landscape and it has.

Two years ago I said that we need to wake-up to Facebook groups and they’ve steadily become a vital tool.

There was always a fly in the ointment for Facebook groups and that was how to connect with them. 

That’s suddenly got really simple with the announcement from Facebook that pages will be able to join groups by default.

It reads:


This means that one of the chief concerns about connecting with groups has been taken away.  That’s the game-changing bit.

Old concerns about Facebook groups

For the last few years groups have been a rather pure place.

In order to join them you had to use your personal profile. Facebook’s terms and conditions insist you can only have one account. They’ve also been hot at clamping down on second or ‘fake’ accounts.

But the concerns for organisations boiled down to:

I don’t want to use my Facebook profile in a group so people know I work for X.

This is really understandable. One public sector social media manager told me that he got sworn at online between 9am and 5pm. He didn’t want to see it in his own timeline at 9pm once the kids were in bed.

The old workaround for Facebook groups

My best advice used to be to use your Facebook profile to private message the admin who are easily identifiable, introduce yourself and see if they could share some relevant content for you.



The more recent state of play

A few months ago Facebook announced a move that now looks like it paved the way to the current development. Pages could join groups if group admins changed their permissions.

Mind you, I still thought that knocking on the door of the admin was a best first step.

What this new change means

The new announcement that allowing pages to join groups by default will be rolled out is really significant.

It means that pages will be much freer to join groups. For open groups, this means you should be able to join straight away just like a person. For closed groups, you’ll have to apply and wait for the admin to let you in just like you would do if you were a person.

Of course, it’ll take time to roll out and the admin can change the setting to stop pages.

It means that the landscape of groups could change markedly as marketers and comms people explore them.

It doesn’t mean that you can charge in and nakedly flog stuff.

Being a human matters online.

It means that the digital footprint that you need to be aware of and can engage with has just ballooned.

But it does remove a big barrier that has stopped a few organisations properly connecting.

It means that pages that have no budget can still connect with people on Facebook if they go out and explore.

Some top tips

I’d still start off looking to connect with a group by private messaging the admin.  You’ll get a good sense of how welcome you’ll be.

And I’d speak human.

And I’d identify yourself with your name.

People are more reluctant to shout at a human being compared to a logo.

How use Facebook groups more effectively will feature in Essential Skills for Effective Communicators in 2019. For upcoming dates in Manchester, Birmingham and London or to enquire about in-house training click here.







30 days of human comms: #56 New Zealand Police’s letter to ‘Officer Toss Pot’

What’s that cliche about a letter of complaint being great feedback? 

Well, a letter of praise can be, too.

One mother wrote to thank New Zealand Police for taking action against her new driver son who was driving too fast.

Spoiler: it has a twist.


The full post is here.

There’s probably a seam of customer service thanks and messages that could be used to improve the organisation and act as better comms.

VOX POP?: Should you always include politicians front and central in your content?

An interesting discussion broke out on Twitter about the elephant in the room.

I’d posted the Edelman Trust Barometer infographic about who trusts who.

In short, the person like yourself greatly outranks the chief executive.

It led to a discussion about the merits of having politicians fronting what you have to say. It’s a difficult situation and eight years in local government makes me appreciate the pressures that local government people are under.

But should we stop using politicians across the board?

No. Not at all. Each issue is different. But when real people are involved I’d say the data says the most effective way of getting things shared is when real people feature in it. Call it the Law of Newspapers Covering Festivals. A page of pics of real people enjoying themselves will reach a bigger audience than simply the a pic of the chairperson of the event. Why? Because people will often buy several copies of the paper if they are in it.

I’ve dug out this instagram clip from the Mayor of London’s office that feels like it straddles the gap well.

At City Hall we’re supporting youth projects which bring young people together, and give them fun and safe activities to do over the summer. If you work with a youth organisation, click the link in our bio to use our free toolkit to inspire young Londoners to fulfil their potential.

A post shared by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@mayorofldn) on


It’s the real people talking about their football club and how a grant will help. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is in the cutaways and has his logo.

How to choose the best spokesperson is one component of the Essential Skills for Effective Communicators in 2019. For upcoming dates in Manchester, Birmingham and London or to enquire about in-house training click here.

You can find out about the Essential Video Skills for Comms workshops I deliver. For upcoming dates in Aberdeen, Leeds, London and Manchester click here. Shout if I can help.

TRUST: You need to change who is speaking for you

There’s been some excellent analysis of the annual Edelman Trust barometer.

Published every year for the last 20 years the global survey looks at who trusts who.

There’s a big pile of data and there’s a seperate UK set of numbers that you can look through.

There’s some useful UK takes, not least that traditional media has become more trusted and is seen as far more reliable than social media.  If you’re public sector you need to know that there’s been a Brexit-prompted collapse in trust in government in all aspects.

For me, the day-to-day single most useful slide can be found here. It rates who rates each source as credible.

edelman 2019

Trust the regular employee and the person like yourself

In 2019, a regular employee on 57 per cent is substantially more trusted than the chief executive or the director.

A person like yourself is trusted by 58 per cent and who that is changes from topic to topic.

Use this slide. Use it every day. Have it on your wall. Use it as part of a process to help advise whop is best to feature in your content. It’ll make it easier.

If your an organisation that will talk to people through top down means then brother, you need to change.

It’s more helpful to have a real person talking about the issue than a politician or a chief executive.

How to choose the best spokesperson is one component of the Essential Skills for Effective Communicators in 2019. For upcoming dates in Manchester, Birmingham and London or to enquire about in-house training click here.

You can find out about the Essential Video Skills for Comms workshops I deliver. For upcoming dates in Aberdeen, Leeds, London and Manchester click here. Shout if I can help.