Posted: July 20, 2017 Filed under: communications | Tags: #commscamp, communications
You need good boots and a wise head to walk the Appalachian Trail. It is 2,190 miles long and cuts through the lonely American wilderness.
Almost 3,000 walk it’s daunting dark length from end-to-end every year and from time to time people go missing.
Risks faced by the traveller include the American black bear, mosquitos, yellowjackets, poison ivy, biting flies and dangerous streams.
The trail is linked by camping points a day’s walk apart. Sometimes they are just clearings. but they are places walkers pitch a tent, meet and swap trail stories. Knowing there is a ford ahead can make the next day safer.
Five years ago we launched commscamp on a clear blue sky excited about the power and possibility of exploring the green empty space of the internet.
This year, there was the sense that things have evolved. There was a feeling more people used the event as safety trail camp. New things to learn? Yes. But most of all a sanity check.
The world has changed and we are trying to all change with it. Fractured channels. New audiences. New demands on time. Income targets. Bad intranets. Bad comms plans. Bad managers. Not enough time. Time taken over by an emergency. Not enough budget.
Not enough regard for what we do.
There are still people looking to innovate and get good at new things. But there are less people wide-eyed at the possibility. The militant optimists from the early years have moved on. I miss them. Those that remain on the trail journey are quieter somehow but more determined. They know that they are still travelling through uncharted forests. Through the trees they can sometimes hear the crunch of nearby footsteps. We are alone together. They know this path will take years to complete.
It’s things like Commscamp, the Public Sector Headspace Facebook group and other places that are the safe camping points to rest.
But knowing you are not alone is just as important today as it was five years ago.
Picture credit: VinceTraveller / Flickr
Posted: July 18, 2017 Filed under: Public Relations, communications | Tags: #commscamp, 2018, public sector
A couple of days on from the 5th commscamp in Birmingham and the dust has settled a little. I’m on a train reflecting.
1. There is a need for this. The first batch of tickets went in two minutes. The second in four. That’s 70 tickets in six minutes. There isn’t a need for gimmicks. Just a room and good people.
2. This is our tribe. Someone used these words to describe the people in the room. I get that. They’re people impatient to do a better job.
3. Around three quarters of the live video session had tried live video. That’s a figure that surprised me. Last year it would have been a handful.
4. You can’t get to all the sessions you want to even when you organise the thing.
5. Cake is a force for good.
6. Kate Bentham is a force for good.
7. We are starting to be faced with the idea of talking to people in Facebook groups. But we are very nervous about using our own profiles to do this.
8. The trend in sessions seems to have evolved from tech to safety net. It is important that people have moral support. It is tough in the public sector at the moment.
9. After a major incident, you need to look after the comms team weeks and month after the event.
10. It is getting harder not easier.
11. There is still a place for print.
12. Commscamp has led to other ideas and events just like other events led to commscamp.
13. If you are not competent at video you need to be.
14. The real value of an unconference comes not on the day but in six months time.
15. The fax is more popular than the press release.
16. With live video the important thing is just to do it. You can refine and improve with experience.
17. Windows phones and blackberries don’t allow you to fully communicate.
18. Steph Gray is very quick at writing good content. An engaging post within a couple of hours.
19. Nigel Bishop takes good pictures.
20. Emma Rodgers is a good person to plan an event with.
21. Anyone can run an unconference.
22. When we started these, it felt like the war to convince people to use digital wasn’t won. Now it is. But the struggle continues against ignorance, box-ticking and bad digital just as it always has done. Are we winning? I think we are. We can look over our shoulders and see where we’ve come from. But there are battles ahead. Nirvana isn’t instant. It is hard-won.
23. The volunteers, sponsors and attendees who came and made this a success are brilliant.
24. I’m glad we tried Friday but it feels too close to the weekend and I’m not sure its the best day for the event.
Posted: July 17, 2017 Filed under: communications
Almost a decade ago there was a drive to encourage people to have a say about the future of their city.
At first glance, it was bold, imaginative and ambitious with posters splashed across Birmingham. It had a catchy name. The Big City Plan.
It’s aim was to fire imaginations and to capture ideas. It had two flaws. It was written for planners and to have a say you had to send your views to one email address. All that buzz online? Ignored.
Please speak human
Eight years on from the lessons of Big City Plan, a Facebook ad dropped into my timeline one Sunday afternoon from my local council. A good piece of targeting, I thought.
It asked me to comment on the Black Country Core Strategy
. I don’t know what this means. Even after eight years in local government and being the son of a planner I don’t know what this means.
So, what would the man on the 404A guess it was? I’ve no idea.
On the site were pdfs. There is much written as to why pdfs are a bad idea
. There are email addresses and a list of events. Gamely, I found a survey to comment on. But that didn’t render all that well on a mobile phone.
Please listen to people
Back on the Facebook page there was a lively debate about building houses on the green belt and a host of other things. Debate there had come alive and people were – in council speak – engaging. Or in other words, talking.
But as a resident what really got my goat was the council pages’ disclaimer half way down the thread that comments on Facebook wouldn’t be accepted. It had to be the official consultation.
Or in other words, a Facebook campaign that wouldn’t allow people to have their say on Facebook.
(Disclaimer: I worked for eight years at Walsall Council which is one of four Black Country councils behind the campaign. I have a high regard for many people who work at all four of those councils.)
Local government does a brilliant job. My council does a good job. My children go to school there. There are good parks and the roads are gritted (thank you!).
So, when I blog this, I do it with love and because I want local government to communicate better with me as someone who lives here.
Please, please, please…
So, please, have a website that speaks human.
Please call the website something more interesting than ‘core strategy.’
But above all and I really do mean this, please listen to what people say on Facebook. Particularly when your campaign is on Facebook itself.
You may need to speak truth to power on this. But fail to do this really simple step and I don’t know what you can tell people when they next tell people their council is remote and don’t care what they think.
Posted: July 6, 2017 Filed under: communications
The BBC are known for quite a few things… Wimbledon coverage, Comic Relief, the Nine O’Clock News and now cutting rebuttals.
What is a rebuttal?
This is when a media organisation has written something which you disagree with.
Take the case of the Daily Mail. They hung a story on the back of digital figures which show the screening of Blue Peter had zero figures. Zip.
This, ladies and gents, is a national outrage.
Only thing was that it was being economical with the truth.
The episode had almost 300,000 viewers. The screening in question was a repeat at 2.30pm in the afternoon when kids were at school in sign-language.
Rather than sit and seethe the BBC Press Office did what every organisation should do now the internet is here. It used the web to challenge and rebut the piece.
So, what have we learned?
Don’t sit and seethe. Something shareable gets shared. And if you are a journalist? There’s every likelihood that the full picture will emerge.
This isn’t the first time these two have been at it…
Posted: June 28, 2017 Filed under: communications
There’s been a lot just lately about going through influencers to talk to your audiences.
That all sounds a bit abstract on the face of it.
What does that mean exactly?
It means Jeremy Corbyn being interviewed by grime star JME in the run-up to the General Election.
It also means a YouTuber being invited by NATO as part of a Press trip to sensitive exercises.
I stumbled across this when listening to Emily Unia reporting from the trip on ‘From Our Own Corespondent.’ I listen to iplayer a lot when I’m working.
Eastern European comedian and vlogger Mircea Bravo was asked along to shoot his take on the exercise.
What was his take?
It was camp airline steward safety run-throughs on the Army transport plane. It was joking about female soldiers wearing make-up on the battlefield. But as Emily says herself there was a logic to this.
Emily Unia “It turns out that Mircea Bravo is a well known Romanian prankster. He posts funny videos on YouTube and he has hundreds of thousands of fans. I watch the video he has made about NATO and the Romanian Army’s involvement.
“It’s subtle PR. There are soildiers wear yeti camoflage described as ‘professional players of hide and seek.’ The principle of collective defence is described as ‘All for one and one for all.’
But as the BBC reporter goes on, if the Romanian involvement in NATO needs to flourish in future generations it is by reaching those generations now wherever they are that will help deliver this.