BOW SKILLS: 37 skills, abilities and platforms for today’s comms person

Before the internets were invented life must have been so dull. Y’know, really dull.

You wrote a press release, you organised a photocall and once in a while TV and radio would show an interest.

A few years back the yardstick of success where I work was getting the local TV news to come host the weather live from your patch.

There’s been a change. Like a glacier edging down the mountain valley blink and not much has happened. Come back a while later and things have unstoppably changed.

Truth is, it’s a fascinating time to be a comms person. We’re standing at the intersection between old and new.

Former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans once said that he loves newspapers but he’s intoxicated by the speed and possibility of the internet. That’s a quote I love.

Here’s another quote I love. Napoleon Dynamite once said that girls only like men with skills. Like nunchuck skills, bo staff skills or computer hacking skills. For a digital comms perspective Napoleon’s quote could be applied there too. What you need are social media skills, press release skills and interactive mapping skills. And a bit more.

Sitting down recently I calculated the many strings to the bow that are now needed. I counted 37 skills, abilities and platforms I’m either using on a regular basis or need to know. Some more than others. Or to use Napoleon’s parlance, bow skills.

Out of interest, and to save me time in googling their associated links, here they are:

TIMELESS SKILLS

The ability to understand the detail and write in plain English.

The ability to understand the political landscape.

The ability to communicate one-to-one and build relationships.

The ability to work to a deadline.

The ability to understand comms channels and what makes interesting content on each.

WRITTEN CONTENT

Write a press release. The ability to craft 300 words in journalese with a quote that’s likely to tickle the fancy of the journalist who you are sending it to.

Use Twitter. To shape content – – written, audio, images and video – in 140 characters that will be read and shared.

Use Facebook. To shape content – written, audio, images and video – that will be read and shared.

Use Wikipedia. To be aware of what content is being added knowing that this belongs to wikipedia.

Use LinkedIn. To shape content – written, audio, images and video – that will be read and shared.

IMAGES

Arrange a photocall. The ability to provide props and people to be photographed and to work with a photographer and those being photographed so everyone is happy.

Use Flickr. To source pics, to post pics to link to communities, to arrange Flickr meets.

Use Pinterest. To source pics and share your content. To build a board around an issue or a place.

Use Instagram. To share your pics.

AUDIO

Arrange a broadcast interview. The ability to provide an interviewee when required and give them an understanding of the questions and issues from a journalists’s perspective.

Record a sound clip to attach to a release, embed on a web page or share on social media. I like audioboo. I’m increasingly liking soundcloud too. It’s more flexible to use out and about.

VIDEO

Create and post a clip online and across social sites. Using a camera or a Flip camera. With YouTube or Vimeo.

WEB

Add content to a webpage. That’s the organisation’s website via its CMS.

Build a blog if needs be or add content to a blog. That’s a blog like this one or a microsite like this one.

To know and understand free blogging tools. Like wordpress or tumblr.

COMMUNITY BUILDING

To know when to respond to questions and criticism and how. The Citizenship Foundation’s Michael Grimes has done some good work in this field.

To know how to build an online community. Your own. And other communities.

HYPERLOCAL

To engage with bloggers. Like Wolverhampton Homes’ policy suggests.

To be search for blogs to work with. On sites like openly local.

LISTENING

To be aware of what’s being written about your organisation, issue, campaign or area. By tools like Google Alerts.

MAPPING

To build and edit a simple map. Like a Google map. And be aware of other platforms like Open Street Map.

ADVERTISING

To understand the landscape to know which audience reads which product. Like the local paper, Google Adwords and Facebook advertising.

MARKETING

To understand when print marketing may work. Like flyers or posters. Yes, even in 2012 the poster and the flyer are sometimes needed as part of the comms mix.

INFOGRAPHICS

To understand when information can be better presented visually. Through a simple piechart. Or more interestingly as a word cloud or via wordle. Or if its packets of data in spreadsheets or csv files through things like Google Fusion Tables or IBM’s exploratory Many Eyes.

OPEN DATA

To understand what it is and how it can help. It’s part of the landscape and needs to be understood. Internet founder Tim Berners-Lee’s TED talk is an essential six minutes viewing.

NEWSLETTERS

To understand what they are and how they can work. In print for a specific community like an estate or a town centre or via the free under 2,000 emails a month platform mailchimp to deliver tailored newsletters by email. There’s the paid for govdelivery that some authorities are using.

CURATION

To make sense of information overload and keep a things. With things like pinboard.in you can keep tabs on links you’ve noticed. Here’s mine you can browse through. For campaigns and useful interactions you can also use storify to curate and store a campaign or event. You can then embed the storify link onto a web page.

SOCIAL MEDIA

To know the right channels for the right comms. Social media shouldn’t just be a Twitter and Facebook tick box exercise. It should be knowing how and why each platforms works for each audience. Same goes for the smaller but important platforms like Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Flickr.

HORIZON SCANNING

To know what’s on the horizon and be prepared for it when it lands. Same for emerging fields like Augmented Reality. What is science fiction today will become commonplace in years to come. People like hyperlocal champions Talk About Local who are already working in this field.

ANALYTICS

To know how to measure and when to measure. The measurement for traditional comms have been around. Potential readership of newspapers. Opportunities to view. Opportunities to see. The new digital landscape doesn’t quite fit this and new ways are being worked out. There isn’t an industry standard means just yet. But the gap has been filled by those who claim to be. The very wise Dr Farida Vis, who took part in the Guardian’s acclaimed research into the English riots of 2011,  pointed out that sentiment analysis wasn’t more than 60 per cent accurate. There’s snake oil salesmen who will tell you otherwise but I’ve not come across anything that will be both shiny and also impress the chief executive. Tweetreach is a useful tool to measure how effective a hashtag or a tweet has been. Google Alerts we’ve mentioned. Hashsearch is another useful search tool from government digital wizards Dave Briggs and Steph Gray.

CONNECT

To connect with colleagues to learn, do and share. Twitter is an invaluable tool for sharing ideas and information. It’s bursting with the stuff. Follow like minded people in your field. But also those things you are interested in. Go to unconferences. Go to events. Blog about what you’ve learned and what you’ve done.

WEB GEEKNESS

To truly understand how the web works you need to use and be part of it. That way you’ll know how platforms work and you can horizon scan for new innovation and ideas. It won’t be waking up at 2am worrying about the unknown. You’ll be embracing it and getting excited about it’s possibilities.

Good comms has always been the art of good story telling using different platforms. No matter how it seems that’s not fundamentally changed. It’s just the means to tell those stories have. That’s hugely exciting.

This blog was also posted on comms2point0

Creative commons credits 

Who are you talking to most? http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/6810200488/sizes/l/

Reading a newspaper upside down http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/2542840362/sizes/l/in/set-72157623462791647/

Photographer http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/2744338675/sizes/l/in/set-72157605653216105/

Reading http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/2477046614/sizes/l/in/set-72157614042974707/

Eternally texting http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/4473276230/sizes/l/in/set-72157614042974707/

Toshiba http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/4711564626/sizes/l/in/set-72157614042974707/

Smile http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/5542156093/sizes/l/in/set-72157614042974707/


15 Comments on “BOW SKILLS: 37 skills, abilities and platforms for today’s comms person”

  1. A great list! But I was surprised not to see anything about the fundamental change that social media has brought – namely the empowering of what used to be ‘the audience.’ It’s no longer the passive receptor of ‘good story telling.’ So the ability to anticipate and react to your audience, bring them into a conversation, allow them to tell their own stories in ways that complement the official channels, is important, and goes beyond simply answering questions or criticisms. Similarly, I would argue that a basic understanding of network theory – how networks are organised, how they develop, and how (and why) content is shared, is necessary for all comms professionals.

    • Dan Slee says:

      Thanks, Robin. Good points. It is fascinating how networks develop and we’re only starting to get to grips with this as comms people. If you’re doing it yourself it takes time, effort and has long term returns. It’s often far simpler to plug into existing networks. Dan Carins, a colleague who I rate immensely, is doing this brilliantly with LinkedIn. Rather than build new groups he’ll post a question on an existing business forum as himself to spark a debate. That doesn’t fit into any formal comms approach I know of but its brilliant to see and works.

  2. Paul Taylor says:

    Great List Dan and really informative. What’s interesting to me though is how many of these apply even if you don’t work in comm’s. If your job involves engaging with the public , and more and more of those interactions are online , there’s a lot of crossover here.

    • Dan Slee says:

      Thanks, Paul. You are quite right. There’s lots of consultation in the there and customer service too. That’s just for starters.

  3. Dan,
    An excellent post. I really appreciate the way you bring together the whole package. I hope people realize that it is not a one person job. Instead, it is a changed way of working. The idea that there is a “back office” that does not need to know about these issues is disappearing rapidly. I say rapidly, because the mindset will take a longer time to disappear. In any case, it is an exhilarating time and one full of possibilities.

    • Dan Slee says:

      Thanks, Lawrence. It’s always really, really good to hear from you.

      A mate of mine emailed me who is a one person PR team and said: “How the hell am I supposed to learn all that??”

      That sort of made me feel guilty for posting it and I could sense her frustration and feeling of being lost in the face of a Himalayan range.

      I think all you can do is keep it as template for a team and try one new thing out at a time. One step at a time and all that…

  4. Ross Wigham says:

    Love this Dan. Great stuff as usual.

  5. […] BOW SKILLS: 37 skills, abilities and platforms for today’s comms person by Dan Slee. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestMoreEmailRedditPrintDiggStumbleUponTumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in blogging, communicating, public sector, social media, working practices and tagged comms, Facebook, Flickr, Linkedin, Pinterest, Twitter by weeklyblogclub. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  6. […] BOW SKILLS: 37 skills, abilities and platforms for today’s comms person by Dan Slee. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestMoreEmailRedditPrintDiggStumbleUponTumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in blogging, communicating, public sector, social media, working practices and tagged comms, Facebook, Flickr, Linkedin, Pinterest, Twitter by weeklyblogclub. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  7. Great stuff, as usual Mr Slee. I’m guessing you won’t mind me using this for the training materials for our media officers?

  8. […] uses technology to solve the problem. Map-reading is not one of the skills that Dan Slee listed in BOW SKILLS: 37 skills, abilities and platforms for today’s comms person, but technology (especially relating to social media) skills are. His post will be useful to those […]

  9. Anna Rydne says:

    The best list I’ve seen on this topic! Thank you very much for creating it. I will save it and use it as a list for my personal learning.

  10. […] summer I wrote a post that talks about the 37 skills we’ll need. I was a bit wrong. We won’t all need those. But you can bet your bottom […]


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