SURE SHOT: 5 videos that show that video is thriving as a comms channel


Three years ago when we started to train people on how and when to use video for comms it felt like the early days.

The business case was there and the stats pointed clearly why it was a massively important comms channel. But examples were still thin on the ground. That’s all changed. There are more and more effective videos to be found.

Here are five that caught my eye over the last few months. Shot in-house. Engaging. Funny at times. Sad at others. This isn’t hard.

Being a real voice

Newcastle City Council are the Martin Scorcese of public sector video. They are sketching a new language on how to use the medium. They are letting real people speak. Sometimes those real people work for the council. Sometimes it has rough edges. But the rough edges make the content work.

Being a 360-degree Red Arrows watcher

I’ve long argued that content on social media shouldn’t always be call-to-action. It should be mixed. So, when the RAF’s Red Arrows came to town the day was a celebration. This 360 video catches the jets but so much more. It captures the crowd, the enthusiasm and the comms officer filming. But that’s fine. Good work Denbighshire Council.

Being eye-catching with a dancing GIF

Bath and North East Somerset Council have been good at video for a while. When they delivered a wheelie bin they were surprised to see a mobile resident. Marvellously, they also turned it into a GIF.

Being creative with Superheroes

Video isn’t just point and film a vox pop. You can be creative too. Here Kent Fire and Rescue have a more polished video that tells a story. Firefighters are secret super heroes. But you can be too if you test your smoke alarm.

Being a teller of an emotional story

The daughter of a police officer killed while on duty came to Bedfordshire Police to be the Chief Constable for the day. It was about the force saying ‘thank you’ and showing what being a police officer involved. It is a mix of video, stills, text, music and it works beautifully.

Can I help?

Over the past two-and-a-half years I’ve helped train more than 1,000 comms, PR, marketing and frontline people in when and how to use video. This has been delivered together with Steven Davies. It’s something I’m massively proud of. Full disclaimer: we’ve trained people from Newcastle City Council, Bath and North East Somerset and Kent Fire and Rescue. 

You can find out more about our Essential Video Skills for Comms workshops here or shout me on Twitter @danslee and by email 

DEAD SIMPLE: Windows phone is dead and what that means for comms people


For the past three years I’ve been running training for comms people on how, why and when to use video.

Delivered with Steven Davies the sessions are a genuine delight.

One regular issue crops up and that’s the quality of tech that comms teams are served with. In a word it is ‘patchy.’

What comms people need to communicate is a phone that will help them communicate.

That’s a simple concept, isn’t it? But in practice this simple request can go through the prism of IT.

This is what you need:

  • An android or an Apple phone or tablet.

This is often what people get:

  • A Windows phone or blackberry that has no applications to edit video and post through social media to the internet.

The whole debate got a whole lot simpler this week when it emerged that Windows were no longer developing for the phone. In effect, as a product it is dead. Don’t buy it. But more importantly, don’t be railroaded by your IT team to buy them particularly at a time when the market will be flooded by cheap product.

I’m not suggesting the work-arounds to make email safe. I’m suggesting that with Windows or blackberry you aren’t able to communicate. Which for a comms person is fundamental.


THESE WORDS: If you are looking for a blog post for something you are thinking of doing…


If you are looking for a blog post for something you are thinking of doing…

If you find one, great. Learn. Do it better.
If you don’t find one. Great. Do it then write one and share it.
There really is no law that says you can’t do something unless there already is a blog post, case study or template.
Invent your own.
Good Luck.

CATALAN VIDEO: Who wins the PR battle when the police storm polling stations?

Scrolling through Twitter a question struck me. From a PR perspective who wins when the national government’s riot police storm the local government’s polling stations?

At the weekend, footage was posted from Catalonia of police looking to seize ballots from an independence referendum. You can see it here:

There was much more disturbing footage online. But it was the prosaic backdrop of an election centre that caught my eye.

Elsewhere, the internet was full of stories. Firefighters acted as human shields to protect voters. A girl getting her fingers broken by the police. All of these were told through video posted to the internet.

In law, the regional poll was declared illegal so the national government held the high ground.

But in PR terms, sending in the police to act aggressively feels like a monumental own goal. Why? Because it plugs into a narrative that even small children can grasp. In the story of the Big Man versus the Little Man, it is the instinct of the passer-by to side with the Little Man. It is the instinct of the tribe under attack to be politicized.

Any independence campaign would need the majority of the population from the area looking to break away in support. From the wider Spanish population it would need grudging acceptance.

As a student of history, this weekend may yet prove to be an even bigger own goal. I’m reminded of the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin. History shows that a population filled with revulsion at acts carried out by the country’s government moved to side with the revolutionaries.

At an event at Reuters earlier this year it was mentioned that people trust words only a little, pictures a little more and video most of all.

In Catalonia and Spain, history isn’t defined by video clips as the 19th century was by war and diplomacy. But the campaign for independence is being shaped by the 30-second clips on the internet.





SPOT ON: Why GDS’s Social Media House Rules rule


For three years I was the sole voice of the council’s Twitter and for five years drew-up its social media strategy and tactics.

We started with one account and when I left there were more than 70 many of which I was really proud of.

There were many things I learned along the way. One that stands out is setting out how you’ll use social media and how you expect others to use it. In other words, ‘Play nice. We’ll talk to you so long as you don’t swear, okay?’ This is only what front counter staff have pinned up and most of the time we never needed it.

I noticed these social media house rules from GDS. They’ve been around for a while but I’ve not seen them before. You can see the original here.

Why they are great

They set out what’s covered, what they’ll do, when they’ll do it, what they can’t do, what they won’t tolerate and what they expect of you. So, if someone shouts and swears they can point at these and show them the red card. Or a user can tweet them and know roughly what to expect.

I’m sure GDS won’t mind if you cut and paste but you’ll need to tweak them a little for your organisation.

The social media team at GDS are responsible for several different social media accounts on a variety of platforms.

We’re happy to help you in any way that we can and look forward to seeing your views and feedback. We do however expect our users to offer us the same level of courtesy that we offer them, so we have a short set of house rules:

  1. All users must comply with the social media platform’s Terms of Use as well as these Terms of Use.
  2. We will remove, in whole or in part, posts that we feel are inappropriate.
  3. We will report and remove any social media profiles that are set up using GOV.UK imagery, including fonts, without permission.
  4. We will block and/or report users on Twitter who direct tweets at us which we believe are:
    1. Abusive or obscene
    2. Deceptive or misleading
    3. In violation of any intellectual property rights
    4. In violation of any law or regulation
    5. Spam (persistent negative and/or abusive tweeting in which the aim is to provoke a response)
  5. You are wholly responsible for any content you post including content that you choose to share.

Anyone repeatedly engaging with us using content or language which falls into the above categories will be blocked and/or reported to the associated social media platform.

Responding to users:

  1. We’ll do our best to respond to your enquiries within four working hours.
  2. We’ll try to help you, or direct you to people and/or departments who can, wherever possible.
  3. Our working hours are 9.00 – 17.00 Monday to Friday. We’ll deal with enquiries sent outside of this time as soon as possible when working hours resume.
  4. The @GOVUK twitter account is here to provide information and support for users of the GOV.UK website.
  5. The @GOVUK Twitter account is not a political account and cannot respond to political tweets.

We do not respond to tweets of a commercial nature

Whilst we are happy to receive such material, we will not respond as we are governed by strict procurement rules. You can keep up to date on our procurement platform, Digital Marketplace by visiting or by contacting

We reserve the right to modify or change these conditions at any time.

We look forward to hearing from you!

CAKE STOP: My most depressing moment in local government involved chocolate cake


“The thing is, Dan,” someone very senior once told me, “if we asked people what they want, they’d just say chocolate cake.”

So, the senior person described what he thought they’d like instead rather than asking people.

In many ups and downs it was the most depressing moment I had in eight years of local government.

I’ve always felt uneasy with this ‘we know best’ concept of public service for people.

Earlier this month I saw something different that has hardwired putting people at the heart of things.

I was in London and could make a meet-up – or teacamp – for local government people. The meet-up was tremendous. A room in a pub. Some tea and coffee and some shared learning. It reminded me of brewcamp meet-ups in the West Midlands. Hats off to the excellent Natalie Taylor of the GLA for organising.

What was hugely good was a quick exercise that spelt out what ‘agile’ looked like. It’s a process I’ve leard lots about but never really come into close contact with. In short, this is looking at a service you want to change in the organisation and going through step-by-step.

But at each step, looking at what will benefit the service user… the real person public sector people are trying to help.

It was hugely refreshing to focus on the user not the organisation. Not to say a little difficult.

There is nothing new about this process. It has been used for years and has been a mantra for places like GDS. But seeing it at close hand it’s clear there is a lesson there for communications people.

The question for communicators is not about chocolate cake…. it’s ‘does what you are communicating help real people?’

SHOW, TELL: Great ideas are likely to die if they’re not well communicated


The earlier you involve your comms team in a new project the more chance it has of being a success.

There’s some stats behind this, too.

If comms are involved in the early planning stage its an 82 per cent chance of success.

If they are involved after the scheme has been approved its 68 per cent.

If comms are called in just before launch its 40 per cent.

If its after launch its 26 per cent.

If its not at all its 15 per cent.

These statistics emerged from a survey from the #commsforchange event I was involved with a while back in the early days of comms2point0. It’s a figure In keep referring back to.

It was a figure that came into my head when I saw the stream from localgovcamp in Bristol last weekend. Loads of great ideas were being kicked around by bright people in local government. Yet, there was very little talk of who to communicate with. That’s not a criticism of the event or the ideas. Far from it. It’s an event that’s very dear to my heart and has shaped what I do today.

But something nagged at me. The landscape is littered with great ideas badly communicated.

And if you want the idea to succeed you need to tell the right people at the right time in the right way.