HERE NOW: video is not the future, it’s the now

18446561558_269901d6cb_bThe title I was given for the session ‘video: it’s the future’ made me think. It’s actually already here.

It’s been clear for some time that video has been getting more important.

These aren’t bold predictions from industry analysts that may or may not come off. They’re the here and now.

The four reasons for video’s rise

What has convinced me is first anecdotal data of travelling on buses and trains watching people with their mobile phones. Where once they read newspapers now they are on their phones swiping through emails, websites and social media. People’s smartphones have got more powerful. They can watch and shoot their own video. Behemoths like Facebook and Twitter fall over themselves to make video more accessible in your timeline. Besides, we are inherently lazy. We are drawn to images.

The data makes the case

All that is true and where it is confirmed is the data. Ofcom say that 66 per cent of UK adults have a smartphone and almost half are happy to watch short form video. That’s footage less than five minutes.  TV is still here. So is TV news. But in the battle for your attention it is getting out-gunned by the clip of a new-born panda. No wonder BBC journalists are being taught how to make more short-form content.

People want to learn

It’s been an amazing experience co-delivering video skills for comms workshops with Steven Davies. People do want to learn and with a few basics they are off making good use of video. The barrier? Often it is the tech and time. An android or an apple device will cut it. A blackberry won’t. As you practice more the quicker you get at thinking through, creating, editing and delivering video.

But where does video go?

Convention has it that YouTube is the only show in town. That’s not the case anymore. Facebook at the moment is rewarding you for uploading video to a page by showing it to more people.  Twitter joined Facebook in autoplaying video as you scroll through your timeline. It’s made it easier to post video from your phone. But the idea of making one video and posting it everywhere is dangerous. The optimum time for a Facebook video is 22 seconds and on YouTube far longer. Vine is six seconds and Instagram not much more than 10 seconds. What counts as a view is opaque. On Facebook it is three seconds and YouTube 30 seconds.

The what is next?

We’re moving as fast as the tech is moving. A few years ago watching video on your phone would have been unimaginable. Today? It’s common. Two important steps are realtime and what can be grouped together as virtual reality.

Realtime is the posting video as live. Your smartphone becomes an outside broadcasting truck and as the super-portable clip onto yourself GoPro cameras are now integrated with livestreaming Twitter app Periscope the climber livestreaming his ascent up the north face of the Eiger is now possible. Even with a smartphone you can post within minutes an Environment Agency officer talking during the floods of how the Morpeth dam was working:

 

Virtual reality is something I’ve blogged about before. It’s watching footage that sees you standing in the scene and allows you to look down and around. New York Times are pioneering new ways of storytelling.

Facebook’s 360 video allows you to watch footage on your smartphone and move it around to see a different perspective. Footage of US fighter pilots taking off show this. YouTube has also allowed a 360 video and Flickr has done something similar.

But the tech

A few years ago virtual reality could be said to be a niche. Now a Google cardboard headset costs a tenner and allows a more immersive experience. But you can watch just with your tablet or smartphone. It’s not strictly the same experience but you get a flavour.

Two helpful things

We’ve created an ever-updated resource for video and comms. You can see it here.

We also co-deliver workshops for comms people with University lecturer Steven Davies who has worked as a cameraman with BBC and as a filmmaker across the public sector.


140 CHANGE: Twitter may change but who cares? you still need to embrace chaos

22435524039_7431c7fa21_bTwitter is not the last word in digital communications and maybe it’s about time you remembered that.

There’s been a lot written just lately about how Twitter is changing.

If you’ve missed it, the way you are presented with tweets is going to change. Gone will go the timeline of most recent first. In comes a Facebook-style algorithm of things they think you’ll like first. It may be optional when first introduced. The unique 140-character limit may also go too.

Of course, being Twitter, there was a meltdown on Twitter and a hashtag #TwitterRIP.

It may be the end of Twitter. It may just evolve as Facebook has done.

But all this talk of change poses you three questions.

  • Where else can I now get what I get from Twitter?
  • As the ground shifts beneath our feet should we really be surprised?
  • Do I even care?

Do you care? Many people do. If you have been using the platform you will. If you won’t it won’t trouble you. But if you aren’t a bit interested in how all this will affect how you do your job, that troubles me.

Once-great platforms like Friends Reunited, AOL or MySpace have withered. Why should Twitter be any different?  Besides, as broadcaster and historian Dan Snow wrote in The Guardian, if Twitter didn’t exist someone would have to invent it.

What makes this an important question to think on for UK public sector comms people is that Twitter has become hugely important. It’s precisely that the most recent tweet gets shown first that makes it useful to it. Realtime matters. What was first truly shown during the riots of 2011 was confirmed yet again this year by flooding.

But hold on. Maybe we got lazy. Maybe we just thought that Twitter was everything. So, maybe it’s actually quite healthy to rethink that.

What can do what Twitter does?

Thinking about LinkedIn. Sharing a useful link to help you with your work was one thing Twitter was brilliant at. But more and more when gathering links for comms2point0 it’s been to LinkedIn that I’ve been turning. What was once an ecosystem for grey people is now a thriving network.

Thinking about blogging. Again, LinkedIn scores well. Blogging functionality was introduced in early 2014 and engagement rates are good. Anecdotally, people are far more likely to comment and share on a post on LinkedIn than in on a blogging platform.

Thinking about email. With a decent list and decent content your organisation can duck below shifts in platform changes. Almost everyone has an email address. A cinderella platform it is quietly being effective for many places. Ask Amazon.

Thinking about other platforms. As social media grows and evolves an ecosystem of channels for sub-groups has developed. WhatsApp. Instagram. Snapchat. It means your job has got harder to understand how each works. Know enough to know when it is relevant for what you are trying to do.

Thinking about Facebook. If you want Facebook you can have Facebook. Why would you want Twitter? For organisations without a budget to advertise and reach key demographics will continue to struggle.

Thinking about serendipity. Of course, one of the great things about Twitter was the stumbling across something a friend had just shared that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It’s hard to see how this won’t be affected. Email bulletins like Nieman Lab, Feverbee or econsultancy do that for me. You’ve probably got some good ones too.

Thinking about how Twitter used to be. Back in 2008 it was an amazing place where many people were connecting for the first time. Events were organised through it and friendships grew. Much of my Facebook timeline is now those original Twitter people I’m connected to.

It’s foolish to think that disruption and change won’t stop. It will. Maybe these Twitter chances will be seismic. Maybe they won’t. But as Robert Phillips writes in ‘Trust Me: PR is Dead’ to embrace chaos is one of the most important things a 21st century comms person needs to do. So, who cares? Embrace it.

Picture credit: Sebastian teer Burg / Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/AbxVDZ

MINDFUL AWARE: And how to deal with negative or inappropriate comments… and keep sane

2474521727_6b00bc3b61_bJust this week I was reminded that those who run social media accounts for an organisation need extra sets of skills.

To make something work well you need to put body and soul into it. You expose yourself online much more than you do offline. It can be 10 o’clock at night and you are dipping in to respond to a query.

There’s an excellent post on comms2point0 by Emily Taylor on how to deal with criticism on behalf of an organisation. That’s when people get angry about a project that isn’t going down well or some other aspect of what your employer is doing. It’s a great post. You can read it here.

But in an off-line conversation, I was also reminded that a thick skin is also something you need. It’ssomething I’ve blogged about before.

There are anecdotes of unpleasant trolling of staff. Thankfully, that’s rare.

But I’m struck by a dedicated local government officer who looks after a corporate account who told me: “I don’t look at Twitter in the evening now. I have enough of people telling me I’m an idiot between 9 and 5.”

There’s some excellent advice on staying positive online if you are getting cheesed off with your friends’ perfect baby pictures when you are, say, a new parent. Use the off switch. Unfriend. But when you are running a corporate account it’s not so easy.

For five years I ran a corporate Twitter account and was responsible for the training of more than 60 others.

Advice for people who speak online for an organisation

What advice did I give above and beyond the points made in Lucy’s post?

Don’t take it personally.

Count to 10 before replying.

Never argue with an idiot. They bring you down to their level and to a passer-by it’s just two idiots arguing.

Talk to a colleague or a friend if you feel things are getting on top of you. Blow off steam.

Ask – or maybe even let – a colleague to step in and take over for a while.

If you feel it becoming an issue talk to someone and make your line manager aware. Stress is a workplace issue and your employer has a duty to you. Asking for help isn’t being weak it’s being strong.

Have set hours when you will deal with stuff and time when you won’t. You are not on 24/7.

You’re not alone.

Picture credit: Ben Tesch / Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/4LEz6H


TO LEARN: How Do You Still Have A Job In 2020…? Do, Listen, Collaborate and Share

5820586095_fed3d0f267_oYou. If you are willing to learn new things there’s a chance you’ll still have a job in 2020.

This is not a bold statement. It’s surprising how many people quietly have contacted me to say that line resonates.

A few weeks ago with the old year fading and the New Year upon us I wrote that. It means just as much now you are into the swing of things as it did on New Year’s Day.

Around 12-months ago I wrote about the 40 skills a comms team would need. There’s probably something like 42 or 43 now. Relax, I don’t think everyone can know them all. But I do think that you should be a specialist generalist able to do a range of things but be really good at a handful.

I was reminded of all of this need for learning twice in the last week. Firstly, gazing over London on top of the BT Tower for a Government Communications Service event to celebrate good communications in the past year. Secondly, watching the response to three free comms2point0 masterclasses to help share the learning from unawards.

The London event saw examples of world class communications in a range of fields by central government. The Britain is Great campaign, for example. And the Blood Donation Service.

The unawards masterclasses sees examples of world class communications from the public sector in events in Leeds, Birmingham and London. Props to the Local Government Association for getting behind them together with sponsors Alive With Ideas and Govdelivery. Shout too to Darren Caveney my comms2point0 oppo whose baby this is.

There are four ways you can learn things today to still be in a job in 2020.

Do

By far the best. Just do it. Try things out. Experiment. Fail. I get the need for data-driven comms. But I also see the need to try things out to see if they work without those rockets being powered by data.

Listen

Hear what people have to say. It may be at an event or reading a blog post. But take time every day to read and reflect.

Collaborate

Try out new ideas with others. It’s more fun that way. If it succeeds there are more happy people. If it fails you can spread the learning. At its heart this is what still excites me about an unconference where the agenda is decided on the day.

Share

Once you do something worth shouting about share it. Tell others. Write. Blog. Talk. Tell people. It’s the only way people will share the learning.

The unawards masterclass will take place:

24 February, Leeds – The Studio

9 March, Birmingham – The Studio

23 March, London – Mayor’s Rooms, Westminster City Hall, 64 Victoria Street, London

For more information about ticket releases click here.

 

 


15 predictions for public sector comms in 2016… and one for 2020

3747527884_81f7e9d19a_zThe best political reporters don’t make predictions, Judi Kantor once said.

So, seeing as I’m not a political reporter for the last few years I’ve made predictions about what may happen in my corner of the internet.

Looking forward, 2016 will be my seventh year of blogging, my 23rd year in and around the media industry and fourth year in business. I’m struck by the pace of change getting faster not slower. It’s also getting harder.

Last year I made predictions for local government comms that both came true and failed. Ones I got right? Some councils no longer have a meaningful comms function. Evaluation become a case of do or die. People who bang the table and say ‘no’ to stupid requests will stand a chance. Those who don’t won’t. There are fewer press releases. Video did get more important. Customer services, social media and comms need to become best friends. Facebook pages did become less relevant unless supported by a budget for ads. Linked

I was wrong about some things. There was experimentation with social media and new platforms like Instagram, whatsapp and snapchat were experimented with. Not nearly as much as people need to.

The jury is out on content being more fractured. There are still too many central corporate accounts and not enough devolved. I’m still not sure that enough people are closing failing social media accounts.

Public sector comms in 2016…

For the last few years I’ve looked at social media in local government. But the barrier between digital and traditional has blurred and the barrier between sectors also blurs so I’ve widened it out.

The flat white economy will form part of the future. Economist Douglas McWilliams gave the tag to web-savvy freelancers and start-ups with laptops. To get things done in 2016, teams buying in time and skills for one-off projects will become more common.

There will be more freelancers. There’s not enough jobs to go around and more people will start to freelance project to project. Some will be good and some bad.

Video continues to grow massively. For a chunk of the year I talked about Cisco estimating that 70 per cent of the web would be video by 2017. By the end of the year some commentators said that figure had already been reached. People are consuming short-form video voraciously. But can you make something that can compete with cute puppies?

LinkedIn will be the single most useful channel for comms people. Twitter is great. But the convergence of job hunting, shop window and useful content will push LinkedIn ahead.

Successful teams will have broken down the digital – traditional divide. They’ll plan something that picks the best channels and not have a shiny social add-on right at the end.

Say hello to VR video. By the end of 2015, the New York Times VR – or virtual reality – videos broke new ground. These are immersive films viewed through a smartphone and Google cardboard sets. By the end of the year the public sector will start experimenting.

The most sensible phrase in 2016 will be: ‘if it’s not hitting a business objective we’re not doing it and the chief exec agrees with us.’ Teams of 20 have become teams of eight. You MUST have the conversation that says you can’t deliver what you did. It’s not weakness. It’s common sense. Make them listen. Or block off three months at a time TBC to have that stroke.

‘Nice to have’ becomes ‘used to have’ for more people. As cuts continue and widen more pain will be felt by more. Some people don’t know what’s coming down the track.

People will realise their internal comms are poor when it is too late.  Usually at a time when their own jobs have been put at risk.

Email marketing rises. More people will realise the slightly unglamorous attraction of email marketing. Skills in this area will be valued.

As resources across some organisations become thinner the chances of a fowl-up that will cost people lives increase. It probably won’t be a one-off incident but a pattern of isolated incidents uncovered much later. The kick-back when this does emerge will be immense. For organisations who have cut, when this emerges the comms team will be swamped. At this point the lack of functioning comms team will become an issue and the pedulum may swing back towards having an effective team. For organisations who have retained a team, this will be a moment to prove their worth.

Comms and PR continue to become female. A trend in 2015 was the all-female team. This will eventually percolate upwards towards leadership.

Comms and PR will get younger. Newsrooms when they lost senior staff replaced them with younger people. This trend will continue to be replicated.

As the pace of change continues training and peer-to-peer training will never be more important. Teams that survive will be teams that invest in their staff. And encourage staff to share things they are good at.

Speclaist generalists will continue to be prized. That’s the person who can be really, really good at one thing and okay to good at lots of others.

And a prediction for 2020

Those people with a willingness to learn new skills and experiment will still have a job in 2020. Those that won’t probably will be doing something else. Don’t let that be you.

Creative commons credit: https://flic.kr/p/6Ha4tJ


ANTI-SOCIAL: What are you going to do about love and hate in 2016?

4053398162_31444711b1_bBack when I was a journalist I used to cover Magistrates’ court a couple of times a week.

It was a mundane list of people charged with minor driving offences with the odd murder thrown in.

There were two characters to look out for. One was ‘Tipton.’ Most of the time he wore a woolly hat because he’d got drunk once and self-tattooed his forehead. Only he used the mirror so the word was written backwards.

Another character was ‘Love and Hat.’ He’d had ‘Love and Hate’ tattoed on his knuckles but an industrial accident robbed him of a vowel from ‘Hate.’

“Don’t laugh when you see him,” I was told. “He hates it when people spot it and laugh.”

In 2016, there is a question to be answered by everyone who uses social media around love and hate I’m not sure what the answer is. And no, not laughing, either.

Undercurrent of hate

There feels like an undercurrent of hate on the social web. You’ll have spotted it in 2015 Asylum seekers, Paris attacks, Charlie Hebdo. Labour leadership election, votes for bombing Syria, Britain First, Katie Hopkins and Donald Trump.

Hate rises to the surface in sometimes unexpected ways. Maybe it’s a colleague or a shared tweet.

In 2016, there’ll be more. Trump (again), the EU referendum. More terror attacks. You know it.

A tipping point

For me, a tipping point came in a former colleague’s Facebook post. Anti-Muslim sentiment reached fever pitch. It was the call to machine gun refugees that did it. This bothered me. A day later as no-one else was I chipped in to counter. No, it’s not alright to randomly shoot people. Not everyone agreed. But I felt better for drawing a line in the sand.

And what to do..?

Of course, one of the good things of holding a politically restricted job was a bar on making political comments. It makes life easy. Broadly, I follow that now even though I’m no longer politically restricted. It’s just easier. I get the advice of not feeding the troll. I also get what Euan Semple was getting at when he said that there is a volume control on the mob. But I’m, not sure that’s enough when it is so close to home. I also get the meme of folk singer Pete Seeger and the words: ‘It’s very important you learn to talk to people you don’t agree with.’

The mass unfollow-a-tron

There’s an application you can use to auto unfollow everyone who likes the Donald Trump Facebook page. Ha! Great stuff, right? Thing is, I’m not so sure. I’ve signed-up for his campaign emails just as I have Hilary Clinton to see what they are saying and how they are saying it.

It’s made me think about what I do. As a conscious attempt, I follow people from all the mainstream political parties. I want to find out what they are saying. I rarely engage on controversial stuff. If you come out with stuff my Grandpa spent four years in a tank fighting you are gone. But I’m wondering if that’s the right path. Or if that’s enough.

So, what are you going to do about hate in 2016?

Creative commons credit: https://flic.kr/p/7bbJ4d

 


NEW STATS: Newspapers are now the least most popular way to get news

189144143_2c114eed34_oThis is significant: printed newspapers have become the least popular way that people use to keep up to date with what is going on in the world.

According to a report in the Guardian the annual Ofcom news consumption study will say that 31 per cent of the population read a printed newspaper to keep informed. This is a fall from 41 per cent the previous year.

On the other hand, TV news on 67 per cent, the internet with 41 per cent and radio 32 per cent are all comfortably ahead of breaking news on the news stand.

To anyone interested in the media landscape this feels like hugely landmark news in itself. To communications teams geared-up to service the needs of newspapers first and foremost this feels especially important.

It’s also further evidence that while newspapers used to be practically the only show in town they are not any longer.

The full report doesn’t appear to have been published on the Ofcom site. Their reports always bear reading and the Ofcom Communications Market 2015 report should be required reading for all comms and PR people. I’ve blogged the findings here.

To look at this from a newspaper perspective, they would argue their websites and social media are included in the internet column. So, ‘it’s complicated’ maybe one summary.

The Guardian report also had a few more significant bulletpoints:

  • 25 per cent of people use their mobile phones to keep up to date – up four per cent.
  • 14 per cent of people use word of mouth to get their news – up three per cent.
  • Young people are more likely to go online (59 per cent) than watch the TV (‘around half.’)
  • BBC1 was the top news source on 48 per cent, ITV second with 23 per cent, the BBC app or website 23 per cent, BBC News channel 14 per cent and Facebook 12 per cent along with Sky News.

Here’s a link to the full document Ofcom document News Consumption in the UK 2015.

Creative commons credit: Soon / Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/hHpXV

 


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