FILM ALERT: Don’t be Groundhog Day

Yesterday was a good day. It was the unawards in a cinema that saw prizes given in 18 categories to an audience of 140.

We gave out the prizes and then mopped up the disappointment of those who missed out with a film. ‘Groundhog Day’ was the main feature. This is a story of a man in the media forced to live his life over and over until he changes his ways.

Chatting to people over lunch afterwards it seemed the choice of film echoed a strand in people’s professional lives.

Every day people fight to get good things done.

Which is why getting out of the office, learning and above all talking to people are so important. Be reminded it’s them. Not you.

And every day while you’re in the office do one small thing better or differently. It doesn’t even have to be big.

In six months time you’ll look back where you came from and be amazed at how far you’ve come.

I’m and @danslee. Shout if I can help.

ALARM BELL: The Unexpected Door Opening and a comms lesson


Can you remember a single lesson from when to at school? Not the dates and fact you learned but the actual lesson that delivered them?

For me, one stands out above all others. The day of the Unexpected Door Opening. It features a threat, a German teacher and a comms message I’ve never forgotten.

The background

It was when I was aged 13 at Walton High School in Stafford. Picture the scene. A 60s teaching block.

Every German lesson would descend into chaos. The boys would fire paper missiles blown like darts through adapted biro blowpipes. The girls would talk to each other and at the front our teacher slowly having a nervous breakdown. Shouting was the only way she could make herself heard. She shouted a lot.

Until the week of the Unexpected Door Opening.

You see, our language classrooms had interconnecting doors. Right at the front of the classroom next to the blackboard. It led to a neighbouring clasroom.

It had never opened before but this week the door opened. Unexpectely. Into the din, noise and chaos walked Mr Sampson.

The threat

Mr Sampson was a grey haired teacher about 5’10” tall with blue eyes, glasses and a blue jumper. He’d been at the school for years and knew how children’s brains worked. He was dangerous. Why? Because you couldn’t con him. And his put downs could make the hardest kid look like an idiot and we all knew it.

I paused. We were for it now.

Gradually, the room fell silent. Like an orator waiting for a pin to drop the tension built and Mr Sampson waited to speak.

“Thank you, Mrs Kemp,” the newly arrived teacher said in a quiet voice. “I’ll take over from here.”

I felt the dread of the impending bollocking.

But it didn’t happen. Instead Mr Sampson for the final nine minutes of the lesson told us of the importance of making eye contact in an interview. Don’t look at the floor, he told us. Look them in the eye. But it’s hard to look people in the eye, he said. Because it can be off-putting and they can tell if you are not telling the truth. Some cultures think you can see into people’s soul. So look at the point between the eyes instead. He went into detail about interview posture and how to come over well. We all listened with complete attention. We were winning. He’d forgotten why he’d come in. Or so we thought.

The bell rang.

Thank God, we were off the hook. And we made to put our stuff away.

“Stop,” he said quietly.

We froze.

He paused.

He had us right where he wanted us.

“If I have to come through that door again, I will fucking kill each one of you,” and he looked each one of us in the eye. Right in the eye. Individually. One by one.

Next week we were good as gold. The week after that we were too. But on the third week, the noise levels rose. The interconnecting door handle started moving.


We were fucking dead. But the door handle stopped. We froze. Ten seconds passed. The tick of the clock. The beat of the heart. And slowly the door handle returned to its original position.

A long sigh of relief. Like a timebomb that had stopped ticking with three seconds on the clock.

The lesson

It’s message? From Mr Sampson: “Don’t think I’ve forgotten.”

We were as good as gold from then on.

But what’s the comms message? Be clear on your promise and follow through.

And look people in the eye when you’re delivering the message. Individually. One by one. It’s more effective that way.

Picture credit: Davynin / Flickr







FILTERED AIR: The social media bubble and one step to begin to combat it


The issue of social media bubbles has become a bubble of its own just lately.

Post-Trump, post-Brexit and post-truth the issue is this. People build their own bubble from people of a smilar view.

Driving home today listening to Radio 4 I came upon a rather excellent programme Bursting the Social Media Bubble. The iplayer link is here. It’s worth a listen.

Euan Semple has in the past written about there being volume control on the mob. I get that. Nobody wants to see some of the vile abuse you don’t have to go far to see. But what about reasonable people who have a contrary view? They’re not the mob. So, what about them?

Just recently the excellent Alan Oram from Alive With Ideas spoke about the need to have some naysayers in the mix. Why? Because if everything is excellent and amazing you are not getting the bit of challenge you sometimes need.

Besides, without a contrary voice we’re not exercising critical thinking and testing out what we think.

As BBC presenter Bobby Friction says:

“Social media is no longer a simple medium where we just chat and wish each other a happy birthday. It IS now the media. We need to start looking at our own social media bubble because we do have some control.”

Looking at Facebook side-byside

The Wall Street Journal’s Blue Feed Red Feed tackles the issue of rival bubbles by displaying the same subjects side-by-side. It shows Facebook posts about limited key words. Although US, as an exercise it’s fascinating. But does it tackle the issue? Not really.


A danger to you as a comms person as a filter bubble

Across the UK, the population feels as though it has never been more fractured or diverse. My Dad has a Facebook account and never uses it. He’ll watch the Six O’Clock news religiously. My niece gets her news from Facebook. My daughter watches BBC Newsround at school. How we consume the media is diverse.

A risk of a filter bubble is that you think the UK is made-up of likeminded people who all check their smartphones within five minutes of waking up. Newsflash: it isn’t.

But I also think that the forward thinking comms person needs to think about how to enter social media bubbles too. The Facebook group that carps about the council. The community page that is suspicious of the police.  We need to be there too.


You can start with your Facebook algorithm

You can start with your own Facebook timeline.

You may have 300 friends. You are only seeing a skim of things from people you’ve regularly interacted with before. You don’t interact with those people? You won’t see them.

So, to widen out the views you are hearing from your friends there’s a tip.

Go to the Facebook home page.


Go to the News Feed in the top left hand corner and click. You’ll get a two-option text box.


Select: Most recent rather than top stories.

Give me a shout if I can help. I’m and @danslee.

Picture credit: Federico Feroldi / Flickr 

OLD CONTENT: How to stage a behind-the-scenes museum photo-meet to allow residents to communicate for you


It really was a very simple idea… let residents photograph items at their museum and everyone wins.

Six years ago I was involved in a project that did exactly that and its simplicity deserves a re-telling. Not just because it was a darn good idea. But also because the person who made it work died unexpectedly last week.

I’ve blogged my sadness about Steph Clarke’s death here. In looking back, a project I worked with her that saw residents and council work together stands out. So, I’m updating it and re-blogging the idea to see who else will take this up. Looking at what others have done Walsall Museum was leading the way ahead of the world-famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam who started a similar project a short while after. So did Brooklyn Museum in the American city of New York.

What was the idea?

Simple.  Let residents photograph items held by a museum in the area where they live. Like here, here or here. They can post them and if they are posted with a creative commons licence they can be re-used by the museum itself.

How could it work?

Easy. Work with a photography club or a more informal group who may meet via the social web. Six years ago when we ran the project the town had a thriving Flickr group. The group enjoyed taking pictures but often struggled with places to take pictures. In 2016, this may well be an instagram meet-up. Or even for a group or page that may not be primarily photographic.

Who has done this?

In 2010, we did this at Walsall Museum and by 2014, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam had rolled out a more comprehensive programme. Hi and low resolution images are made available for out-of-copyright work. A study found that the benefits included a bigger digital footprint ans extra interest. You can read more here.

What’s in it for the organisation?

Lots. The chance to create a buzz and online noise about the museum and tell the stories of items they hold. In Walsall, this was things like items from the Leather industry or a football from an FA Cup match. Most museums can only display 10 per cent at most of what they have. So, doesn’t it make sense?  And you are letting residents to help communicate for you.

With the permission to re-use images through a creative commons licence the museum has access to photography without spending money but also can ensure some audience for updated webpages or social channels.

What’s in it for residents?

People get special access to items they effectively have a stake in. They can test their creativity and maybe feel a bit more proud of the area they live in.

So, why don’t people do this more often?

Basically,  in the UK there is a very defensive attitude towards photography of items and images owned by an authority. In the US, all photography commissioned by the public purse is released without copyright. Anyone is free to use the images for whatever reason. Why not? It belongs to the people.

This idea is fine maybe if you own a particularly famous painting where you can generate income from the postcards, posters and t-shirts this can generate. But the 99.99 per cent of items wouldn’t command much of a market price.   The photo consent form that Steph drew-up is here. It’s a half way house to allowing full copyright. But it’s a pragmatic starting point.



RIP: Steph Clarke and a good lesson to pass on


All people called Steph are amazing. This is the law. But Steph Clarke was particularly amazing. 

Nobody I know quite had the same wit, charm, determination, digital skills, willingness to share and sheer JFDI. What is JFDI? Just flipping do it.

Normally, I will blog about comms, pr or digital things here but excuse me for this post if I take a moment.

Stunning news

Steph died unexpectedly this week. The news shared on Facebook by her husband James who had shared so much of her work. They worked on the wv11 blog in Wednesfield. But offline was where they thrived too. They volunteering and helped build the community hub in Wednesfield.

There must be hundreds of people who knew Steph better than me. My heart goes out to them and to her family, husband James, son Jordan and to Nick Booth who worked with her at Podnosh.

Always able to help 

In reflecting at the news and Steph’s life, I looked back at things I’ve done and I realised that Steph had played a small encouraging part in all of them. She was generous with her time and sharing her knowledge.

All this started six or seven years ago when I was at Walsall Council and trying to make sense of the social web. Steph who was @essitam on Twitter was one of the first hyperlocal bloggers I came across. She encouraged my hesitant steps to talk as @walsallcouncil to people in a human voice about council matters.

When the Black Country social media cafe started I went along and Steph was there.

When we started brewcamp Steph came along. She gave a great talk about how social media was a lifeline in Christchurch, New Zealand after the earthquake. She has relatives there.

When we ran the first hyperwm unconference she came. I’m smiling as I think of the Press officer v hyperlocal blogger punch-up session that did so much to map out our thinking. Steph contributed.

When we started building bridges with the online she came up with a work around that persuaded the museum to open up its stores and Leather Museum to a Flickr meet.

In the last year or so it was good to bump into her every week or so at Impact Hub Birmingham. She hadn’t changed.

Life lessons

What does Steph’s life teach? So many things. For me, who knew her a bit, it taught that the web is just a way of finding people to meet in real life. The picture for this blog has Steph pictured in the centre. By the looks of it she is training  the two other people in the shot. Chances are she may have never met them before that day but their smiles and her are real. That would be typical.

It is also showed that it’s not about the me. It’s about the we.

What can we do better?

Well, let’s just do it then.

This is a good lesson to pass on.

Picture credit: Nick Booth / Flickr

TRUE GRIT: Why Oldham Council are great… naming a gritter and Twitter

twitgritYou may have noticed a slightly sneering story in the Daily Mail about the naming of a gritter.

Oldham Council launched the competition for schoolchildren to come up with a name for the vehicle.

Like many other councils the authority treats roads to help ease conditions. As someone who operated @walsallcouncil for five years I’m no stranger to grit and the public.

Indeed, while I was, I’d whoop and cheer when temperatures fell as it led to a pile of new followers to our corporate Twitter.

People wanted real-time updates on how the roads are and if they are treated.

The Daily Mail coverage was unsurprising. You can see it here.


But the response online was heartening. Not just from the public but from fellow local government people.

The lesson here? People are not, one person once said, as bad as the Daily Mail would have you believe.

Shout if I can help. I’m

VR PR: What virtual reality can do… for children and old people[VIDEO]

18011630494_b2683a87d1_bFor the last 18-months or so I’ve been helping deliver video skills workshops with one of the brightest people I’ve come across in a long time.

Steven Davies is a freelance cameraman, University lecturer and throughly good chap. A while back I asked about how he saw the future of video.

Virtual reality, was part of the answer.

Virtual reality is footage shot that allows someone with a headset to be immersed in a different world. Google cardboard can be bought for a few quid and is a way to view the content.

For young people

I’ll paraphrase him, but the problem with talking about virtual reality is that it’s like dancing about architecture. It doesn’t really work. So seeing this Google clip at #firepro on what virtual reality – or VR – can do in classrooms is inspiring. If you are not sure what it is take a look at this for 90 seconds and see the reaction of schoolchildren. It’s amazing.

And it’s older people too

Don’t think it’s just for young people, too. There is this example where VR works with old people. It puts them in a safe recognised environment and works well with dementia sufferers. You can take a look here. The older person is immersed in an environment.

The opportunites for PR people are immense. It is entirely a new exciting blank piece of paper. The ability is to place the VR headset wearer in an environment. I’ve blogged about this before.

Shout if I can help and @danslee.

Picture credit: Maurizio Pesce / Flickr