30 days of human comms: day #43 a Down’s Syndrome campaign video

Often when I’m co-delivering video training I’ll tell a story about one of the first lessons I learned as a journalist.

“News is people,” I was told. “People connect to people.”

It was true today as it was then.

“Be human,” I tell people in organisations when I’m training them. “Humans connect to other humans.”

This crowdsourced video from Down’s Syndrome blogger Jamie McCallum could not be more human if it tried. It’s a lip synch car pool karaoke that cuts together footage of 50 mums and children with Down’s Syndrome singing to Christina Perri’s hit ‘A Thousand Years’.

The media law student in me assumes they got permission to use the track.

Take a look at the video:

It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

Looking on social media, the parents involved trailed the video and then shared it with their networks who then shared it on.

And that’s how a campaign is run in 2018. Involve people. Ask people to share.

My own family’s Down Syndrome story

My God daughter Darcey Slee was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome.

Darcey’s parents, my brother Paul and his wife Teresa, often say that Darcey is just like any other little girl. She doesn’t always do as she’s told. She can be exasperating, funny, tiring and charming just like any other girl.

See those Mums in the video? They’re just like any other Mum.

See those children? The ones clambering into the backseat when they should be signing to the song? They’re just like any other children.

And their mums think they’re great and so do their families.

And that’s the point of this video.

World Down’s Syndrome Day is March 21. Find out more here.

Thanks to Jude Habib for flagging this video up with me.

NEW TACK: We’re mad as hell and we’re just not going to take it any more, so we’ll be polite, human and factual… a new approach to online snark


There’s a change in the air with how the public sector is using social media. 

Back in 2008, a public body would get credit for even using the platform.

Over time, that changed. Train companies and others with spot-on online customer services raised the bar.

Trouble is, digital expectations grew just as public sector services were cut through waves of austerity. What the public sector used to do, they sometimes no longer do. That’s a tough message to explain. It’s led to a backlash of frustration, anger and abuse online and often the frontline is the comms officer updating social media. I’ve lost count of the number of people who just switch off in the evening where they used to try and help with customer service questions.

“I get told I’m an idiot 9 to 5 online,” one person who looks after social accounts for a council said. “Why do I want to switch on to get told that in my own time, too?”

My advice for dealing with snark online used to be to play the Uncle Keith card. In short, don’t argue with an idiot. To a passer-by its just two idiots arguing. Swearing? Have a zero tolerance.

But over time I’ve seen a new approach.

It’s a very human approach that draws a clear line in the sand. It calls people out when they are wrong and uses facts and humour.

Importantly, it’s an approach that very often goes down very well with people online. Using the crude measurement of likes and comments, public sympathy can be very often with the human and factual public sector response rather than the troll.

I’ve lost count of the number of times in training when I’ve showed people examples of this approach they’ve practically whooped with joy.

“That’s brilliant.” They say. “I wish we could do that.”

The reality is they can.

Of course, each response needs to be judged on its own merit. But if its factually accurate, polite, professional and maybe a touch witty too then, why not?

Some examples of the new polite, human and firm to snark

Example 1: Bournemouth Council

Take, Bournemouth Council. When they asked people to report potholes they were met with snark. Did they back down? Did they heck!


Example 2: South Somerset Council

South Somerset District Council were sent an FOI demanding to know how their council tax was spent. The response is factual but also calls upon Ancient Rome.


Example 3: Dorset Police

I’ve blogged this before, but it’s such a great example I’m blogging it again. They could have left this inaccurate piece of fake news but it was important to challenge it.


human 3

Thanks to Tina Stokes and Kristian Ward for this.

Picture caption: Flickr / Documerica.

30 days of human comms: day #42: Birmingham New Street station

Train stations are emotional places. You say goodbye. You say hello. You lose a shoe getting onboard and get stranded in the rain.

It was raining. How was the poasenger going to reach somewhere where she could get a replacement pair?

Through Twitter, London Euston’s account spotted the problem and offered a solution.

An assistance buggy would pick up the passenger at the carriage door on arrival before taking her to a shoe shop. Beautifully simple and entirely human.

A cherry on top of the cake was the human tweet from Birmingham New Street.

Thanks Madeleine Sugden for spotting this.

FREE SITES: How to find royalty free music for your next video


You’ve made a short video but you need some music to make it fly. Where do you go?

Firstly, don’t ever rip of a pop track from your itunes library. You don’t want copyright lawyers on your tail.

Do go and find some music and make sure you use it with the right permission. This can be through a site offering royalty-free or creative commons music.

Tips on searching

Most music libraries organise their content through mood and genre. So, if you are after upbeat and happy you can find what you are after quickly. Quite a few mix up their free content with paid for. So if you have no budget just stick to the free.

Tips on crediting

Many sites allow you to use the track with the artist’s blessing so long as you meet the terms of the licence. This could be credit including a web address in the content or just the name of the composer. But maybe not if you are a business. Always check the individual permission on the piece of music. Don’t cut corners and deliberately forget to credit. You’ll be in breach of copyright. At best, that’s bad form. At worst, your content will be pulled and you’ll be billed.

Tips on downloading

Most sites which have music will involve you downloading the track. Your mobile device may not have stacks of spare memory so I’d be tempted to download and save to something like Google Drive using a laptop first if you are android or icloud if you are Apple. This means the track is stored in the cloud for you to call on as and when. Make sure you keep a note of the licence you are using somewhere so you can be sure this random mp4 file is actually fine to use.

Here are a few places you can go to

Bensound.com This is a royalty free site with around 100 tracks ranging from cinematic to world, acoustic, folk and the interesting classification of corporate / pop. Lots of royalty free tracks and some you need to pay for. PRO: Free with a credit. CON: Not the largest selection.

YouTube Music Policies. This is where you can use some chart hits from recognised pop stars like Ed Shearan, Celine Dion and Psy. There are dozens there. PRO: You can use music people will have heard of. CON: You can only use on YouTube and you agree to ads being played during your video that will earn the artist – not you – money. You won’t have control over what ads.

YouTube audio library. This has more than 150 tracks with different layers of permissions. The site itself is well classified and easily searchable. PRO: The library is straightforward to use. CON: You can only use on YouTube and you’ll need to give a credit.

Audionautix. This has several hundred tracks which have been added with a creative commons licence. PRO: There is a wide range of genres to look for. CON: The website is a little clunky to navigate around.  

Kinemaster. This is editing software that also has some 30 tracks for you to download. If you take out a pro subscription you have an extra 50 to choose from. PRO: This works seamlessly with the editing software so you won’t have to navigate around the web saving to Google Drive. CON: A limited number of tracks for free and is also mobile or tablet-only.  

Purple Planet. This comes highly recommended from my colleague Steven. PRO: There is around 100 tracks that are available royalty free. CON: There are larger collections around.

freemusicarchive.org. This site is recommended by the Creative Commons organisation and has hundreds of tracks. PRO: There is a wide choice of genres. CON: The site is trickier than others to navigate around.

Facebook sound collection. This is Facebook’s library of music to use. You can search through tempo and genre. Great if you want a Mariachi band singing happy birthday on Facebook. Not so great if you want to post to Twitter. PRO: There’s a lot of decent tracks that’s fairly easy to search. CON: You can only use the music on Facebook and nowhere else.

ccmixter.  Another site recommenced by Creative Commons with a library of several thousand tracks. PRO: A lot of choice. CON: The tracks are filed by artist and song so you’ll need to do some digging to find the right mood or pace.


mobygratis. Music visionary Moby has 150 tracks he is prepared to release to non-profits and students. There is a process to go through but its well worth a look. PRO: It’s Moby. CON: Not everyone will get licensed and it will take time. Thanks Chris Davies for this tip.

If you want to learn more about creating video with your smartphone or tablet I’ll be co-delivering ESSENTIAL VIDEO SKILLS FOR COMMS in London on March 27London on May 21, Manchester on May 30, Birmingham on June 4, and Edinburgh on June 7. I’m also co-delivering SKILLS YOU WILL NEED FOR LIVE VIDEO in London on May 22.

Picture credit: US National Archives / Flickr

LONG READ: Why you should have corporate AND non-corporate accounts


I was reminded of low level civil war happening that pits people in the same organisation against each other.

It’s the comms team against the rest.

In the red corner, the comms people who don’t much like the idea of people outside the team having access to social media. In the blue corner, service areas who glower at comms teams who don’t let them do what they want to.

“The idea,” one senior comms person told me, “Of giving access to social media to anyone outside my team and having a free for all just fills me with horror.”

A free for all would fill me with horror too. But some basic training can reap some really positive results. Let me explain.

Where non-corporate accounts can work well

During training, I often quote the Edelman Trust Barometer. A fine piece of work that points out that people trust 52 per cent of people who are ‘someone like myself.’ That’s significantly higher than the chief executive or any of the suits.

It’s part of the science behind why things like Dave Throup’s Twitter account works so well for the Environment Agency.  You can see day-to-day content like this:

A web page presents tailored content on a topic. You want Baswich library in Stafford? It has its own webpage. You don’t have to sift through lots of irrelevant information. In the same way, a social media profile on a specific topic does the same job. I live in Brierley Hill in Dudley. So the Sergeant that polices the area is more relevant to me:


Sergeant Harrison has 1,617 followers and 13,935 people live in Brierley Hill. Even taking into account some of those followers will be fellow officers that’s potentially 11 per cent of the population. That’s compared to 8 per cent of the population – 447,000 – who follow the corporate West Midlands Police account.

Sergeant Harrison’s account works best when he talks about the bread and butter of what is happening in Brierley Hill. To a Brierley Hill audience that’s perfect. Would I sift through the noise of the corporate account looking for Brierley Hill? Probably not. But from the corporate account I want the big messages. And if it kicks off somewhere, I really want the corporate account most of all, please.

Earlier this month I was carrying out a comms review for a fire and rescue service. The community fire station’s page wasn’t engaging. It was rarely updated. But it did have 10 per cent of the population signed-up just waiting to be told things. The decision was taken to carry on but with extra training.

It’s not all plain sailing

Experience of looking after social media policy and delivery for a large council that grew from one to 60 accounts is that things don’t always go well. Over the last few years I’ve reviewed hundreds of social media accounts. Experience shows they fall into three categories. A third are useful and are prosper. A third need a hand and a third you should think about closing down unless they radically improve.

Not every devolved account will be great at sharing the corporate message and somtimes they will frustrate. But for me, it’s about accepting the balance. For me, the third that are doing really well outweigh the downside.

Research that paints a picture of the corporate v non-corporate

My eye was caught by a tweet from Police Oracle with ‘Officers better on Twitter than police PR teams report says: The study analysed almost 1.5 million tweets.’ You can see it here. The tweet prompted several devolved accounts to rail against their comms team. The only trouble was, the research doesn’t show that at all. To her credit one of the authors Miriam Fernandez pointed out in a tweet that it was wrong.

But what does the research say?

Funnily enough, it shows that there is a role for both the corporate and the non-corporate devolved account. They just do different things. If you want to read it you can download it here. Caution: there is a paywall. It is called ‘An Analysis of UK Policing Engagement via Social Media.’ It is by Mriam Fernandez, Tom Dickinson and Harith Alani.

The study looked at 1.5m posts 48 corporate 2,450 non-corporate UK police accounts on Twitter.

The researchers found that corporate accounts got higher engagement – measured as retweets – talking about roads, infrastructures, missing persons and mentioning locations. They got lower engagement on crime updates and advice to stay safe. They were found to broadcast more. The non-corporate accounts were less formal and were more likely to respond to questions.

A quick lesson for better engagement from the research?

  • Have a clear message with a concrete action
  • Know the message but also know the options to act.

What a good corporate account should look like

For me, there are two purposes for the corporate and the devolved non-corporate. The corporate can put out the central messages. It should be a Match of the Day highlights show sharing the best of the rest. It should be human. The comms team can set the direction. It can deliver the training. But the non-corporate team, service area or individual accounts are where the real gold will be found. So have both.

30 days of human: day #41 Lidl Ireland ask how your weekend was

So, spare a thought for Lidl Ireland.

They had a rough weekend.

The tail end of a snow storm closed a raft of stores and caused all sorts of supply and staffing issues.

Thieves used a JCB  to break into a Dublin store… which then set on fire and collapsed.

So Lidl Ireland’s Monday morning tweet was a masterpiece.

It’s exactly what someone who had had a high profile disaster of a weekend would have said to break the ice.

BETTER FACEBOOK: How to shape your 2018 Facebook strategy with seven key questions

facebook flowchart

It’s been a few weeks now since Mark Zuckerburg’s game-changing announcement on how Facebook will now work.

In short, his message was that people will see more from family and friends, more from groups and less from pages. Facebook Live will be rewarded. I’ve blogged on what that may mean for you as a communicator here.

It’s early days on how this is playing out. Some people have embraced the change. Others have sort of hoped they would go away. I’ve found people’s response perfectly mirrors how they are as a communicator. Some have rolled their sleeves up. Others, incredibly, don’t even know the change has taken place.

After delivering Essential Digital Skills for Comms workshops, for me, it boils down to five key questions you need to be asking yourself.

Q1 Have you got money?

If you’ve got money, the chances are you’ll be less affected by the changes. But you will have to spend more to get your content into people’s timelines. But make it good and engaging content to make it work.

If you’ve got a little money, think about tapping into Facebook’s immense hoard of data. So, if you are after brass band enthusiasts in their 20s in Stafford you can find the hard-to-reach easily. With some money. But this should be a small part of your strategy.

If you’ve got no money at all you

Q2 Have you conducted a review on your page?

Think about the area you serve. If it’s a community of 100,000 how many people like your page? From research I’ve done, the answer to that is a small minority. But how are your insights? Who likes your page? When are they most active? What content are they engaging well with? Make sure your content is engaging. Short, sharable, human and informative video. Information that people actually want rather than as a tick-box bucket to chuck stuff.

Q3 Are your pages fake profile secure?

Facebook’s terms and conditions are that each person can only have one profile. Not one for home and one for work. So the ‘Dan Slee Work’ or ‘John Smith’ profiles are against terms and conditions. Facebook calls them ‘fake’. They are at serious risk of being deleted by Facebook without warning. If access to your corporate page is only through fake profiles you at risk of losing access to your page.

Q4 Is your page connecting with an audience?

Just the one page? How is that working for you? How are the smaller pages faring? Are they doing a better job of reaching that sub-audience? If they are, that’s fine.

Q5 How are you with groups?

If you want to understand how groups work go and join a few. The place where you like will have one. The excellent Public Sector Comms Headspace is another. You need to join

Q6 Have you conducted a group review on your area?

Part of the fear of the unknown is not knowing what it looks like. The unopened box on the table is mysterious because we don’t know what is in it. Same with groups. Carry out a review of the groups in your area by town, village, estate, county and ward. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find. You can do this through using Facebook’s own search tool. Make a note of the numbers and the larger groups.  You’ll be surprised what you’ll find.

Q7 Have you decided what approach to take with groups?

There are three ways to approach them. The first is ignore them. But I really don’t think that is a strategy for the forward-thinking comms person.

Approach A: Use your own profile to contribute

The second is to use your own profile to join them and take part in the conversation yourself as a representative of the organisation. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The advantage is that you are a human face contributing to the discussion. The disadvantage is that people can see who you are. You may want to lock down your profile. You may want to turn off notifications from the group so you don’t see what is being said.

Approach B: Use your own profile to contact the group admin and ask them to post on your behalf

This is less risky. Being identifiable to one person may seem a less exposed path than being exposed to hundreds or even thousands.

Approach C: Start your own group.

You’ll need to do it with your own Facebook profile and people will be able to message you. I’ve not seen an engaging group set-u by the public sector but I’m happy to see one.

Either approach A or B are tricky and ask a lot of the comms officer. This isn’t for everyone and managers would be foolish to expect this to be mandatory. But those who are answering this question are making inroads.

Of course, let’s not forget that Facebook may not be the channel for all of your audiences. But with almost 40 million users in the UK this is not a channel to disregard.

I’ll be tackling the Facebook issue and running through research on groups and what people are using them for at the ESSENTIAL DIGITAL SKILLS FOR COMMS workshop in Manchester on March 23 and London on March 29.

Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.