A few weeks back I was asked for a list of decent apps that I’d recommend for comms people and that always gets me thinking.
Rather than a list of things that look great but never use here’s a list of apps that I do use on a regular basis and that I’d hate to delete from my phone.
Some I use to create content while others are for keeping tabs on things.
I’ve taken as a given the main social channels of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. I’ve also taken it as read that if you are an android user you’re using things like Google sheets, docs and forms.
As I’m an android user, these apps are android. You may well find equivalents in the app store.
Capturing and storing
Sometimes you find yourself scrolling through your timeline and see a tweet or a post that catches your eye.
If you do need and you need to capture it then this app is really handy.
Launch it and you’ll have a camera icon on the screen that you can use to take pictures that are saved to your gallery.
Seen something handy posted online that you’d like to save for later?
The Pocket app is a really useful way to save things. Rather like a pocket library Pocket acts to save your links.
Aside from saving your own links, you can also use key words to search for content on a particular content. So, need a look at everything on Facebook advertising that’s been saved by Pocket subscribers you can dive in.
This app captures records what is on your screen at a particular moment in time.
You launch the app and then you hit record.
The video is saved as an mp4 clip in your gallery that you can use as a separate video later. Useful for capturing a timeline or a Periscope live video.
Caution: it’s not great at recording sound and will record you coughing after you hit the red button.
GIF Maker Editor
The GIF is a firmly established way of looping a clip or a set of images.
GIF Maker Editor is a way to create your own GIFs that you take from someone else’s video or your own video.
This saves the GIF to your own device and allows you to repost.
So, that video of your brother or sister falling over a banana skin can have a life longer than just a quick guffaw.
Zombodroid Meme generator
When Sean Bean dies the obituary may well say that the One Simple Does Not man has died.
An image that communicates a point through some of the raw materials of pop culture.
You can add text to the image to make the point you want to make.
This app allows you to access established memes as well as upload your own images for the meme treatment.
Adding images to the internet?
The Phonto app allows you to upload images and layer text on them.
Handy for events, posters and a way to add text to brighten up an image you are about to post.
Once created, the image is saved to your device as a jpg.
The kinemaster app is the flagship of the forest of editing apps. For this I doff my cap to my workshop colleague Steven Davies.
It can edit in portrait, landscape or square as well as add cutaways, music, text and sub-titles.
This is perfect for topping and tailing your content.
Clouds scudding across the sky and workmen building a bridge.
There is a way to capture video as a framelapse which allows you to capture 24-hours of activity as a 60-second clip.
The advantage of this app is that you can tailor how long the clip will last against how long the activity will take place.
1 Second A Day
This app allows you to create a video diary capturing a second of every day.
Somewhere between a framelapse and a diary this app is a fun way to capture video content.
I love it. Credit to Sophie Ballinger for spotting this.
My children acting the goat? The view from the train? It’s in the movie.
Maybe, you want to make it look like a pencil drawing in the manner of an A-ha video. Or perhaps a piece of pop art. This app allows you to do that.
You can create a clip that stands out hugely.
There is something glorious about looking back at old video footage.
If you were posh enough to own a VHS camera, you’ll have footage which jumps slightly and has tracking lines through them.
Twitter Video downloader
It’s tricky as heck getting an app that will rip a YouTube video. I’ve not seen anything that can really work.
However, this app works well in ripping video from Twitter. You can change the resolution from 1280 to a space-saving 320.
Of course, the usual rules apply of not breaching other people’s copyright. Don’t. On your head be it.
Snapseed hands down is marvellous.
You can edit with a comprehensive range of tools that a few years ago you’d have to pay serious money for.
There are 11 set template styles and 28 tools contained here.
About 10 years ago, the free Google product was still behind the paid-for platforms. That’s understandable. But this free Google product is an excellent way to edit images on the go.
Instagram is a huge platform that focuses on images and video.
The Regrann app allows you in effect to retweet something that’s caught your eye which has been posted by someone else.
The app lets you to cut and paste while adding an acknowledgement to the author.
If you are running a corporate instagram account this is really handy as it allows you to share other people’s content.
White Noise – calm concentrate
I spent years working in offices and find that being around people meant I got more done. It also meant I got less done with daft interruptions.
So, the White Noise app is a happy medium between the idea of working in a work environment and not having to listen to people saying ‘if you’ve got a minute.’
Rain is the most productive part of this.
If only I could work in an open plan office on the top of Haystacks in the Lake District.
Slack has almost cultish devotees who use it to plan their lives and the lives of their team.
I’m not quite at that stage of a relationship with the product but it is useful in working with people.
It’s been 10 years almost since I started this blog and I’d be lost without it.
WordPress is the platform of choice. It’s hands-down the best platform for writing and chucking up content.
That’s my list. What’s yours?
I’ve never thought that human comms was a digital thing.
You know it when you see it and Transport for Greater Manchester have hit upon a rich seam with their road signs.
Rather than give bald travel advice they use wit and style to get their message across.
By doing this the signs evolve from an offline thing – IRL as my son would say – to something that gets posted and shared online.
Ahead of the crunch Manchester United v West Ham game that the home team needed to win…
United need three points but you don’t!!! slow down.
You can see it here.
Ahead of Manchester United v Barcelona…
Pique time will be Messi
Busy time in Manchester tomorrow with the Reds facing an unfancied side from Spain. The @MENnewsdesk tells us where the travel deadlocks will be, and posted a very creative info sign from Transport for Greater Manchester https://t.co/6WPZD6Kahs pic.twitter.com/kdDjlsUMZN
— Souter PR (@SouterPR) April 9, 2019
What happens when road signs speak human?
They get noticed and they get shared.
Bravo, road sign people of Manchester.
Thanks to Nick Hill for flagging this.
In my early days as a communicator, media relations was the stand-out skill I needed.
I worked for a newsy council that had not long come out of special measures and fell at the intersection between warring newspaper groups. Three daily papers and three weekly papers fought it out with two radio stations and two TV channels. It was a busy time.
Media relations is still important.
But as news has moved from print to digital the key to media coverage has evolved from the ability to create 300-words of press release with a photocall to what content you can supply for Facebook.
Facebook remains the behemoth as we head to towards the third decade of the 21st century.
As I’ve launched a new workshop Vital Facebook Skills with Sarah Lay here are some things for you to know.
10 reasons why every communicator needs to take Facebook seriously
It’s a platform that has the numbers
In the UK, there are 41.8 million people who have used Facebook in the past four weeks. If we take the current UK population as 64.1 million that means 65 per cent of the population is a regular Facebook user. (source: Ofcom)
It’s a platform that is growing
Facebook users are going up not down. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is something to be aware of and there has been a movement to quit Facebook. But this has had limited impact on the bigger numbers. In the UK, from 2017 to 2018 the number of UK Facebook users rose by 5.2 per cent from 39.7 million. (source: Ofcom here and here.)
It’s a place that’s local
Every man woman and child likes nine local groups and pages. That was the result on research I’d carried out. It has become the Parish pump. And the place new parents hang out for advice.
And the Polish community in your town. (source: original research here).
It’s the first port of call for community issues
A Facebook group mobilises support for an issue locally. In the old days it was a pen, paper and a clipboard to collect names. Now? It’s a Facebook group to turn clicktivism to rapid activism.
That’s something you need to be aware of and listening to.
It’s an effective place to target adverts
You can reach people you want to reach if you have budget. When you use Facebook you give it a pile of data. That means if you are after a married brass band enthusiast who lives within 20 km of your town hall you can target them and only them. Facebook accounts for 20 per cent of the global ad market, the FT says.
It’s a place where people don’t like to like public sector pages, TBQFH
In research I’ve carried out, just three per cent of the population like a public sector page. You can have good content. But you need other ways to go and reach people where they chose to hang out on Facebook.
That’s in local groups more often than not. (source: original research).
It’s a place that reaches older people
Ipsos research shows that Facebook reaches 7.8 million people in the UK aged over 55.
Often older people are on the platform to keep in touch with family. (source: Statista).
It’s a place where the traditional media now is
As newspapers sell less print papers their digital reach has grown. Reach plcs’ Marc Reeves points to the Birmingham Mail’s 20,000 print copies and its online audience being 40 times larger through Birmingham Live’s 350,000 subscribers and its other Facebook footprint.
It’s a place where video is watched without sound
Video is an important driver for traffic on your page or profile. But 85 per cebt of content is watched without sound. Why? Because people are out and about or at work or sharing a sofa with someone watching TV. (Source: digiday.)
It’s a channel that’s predicted to rise in the UK
Research suggests that Facebook is not going away any time soon. It predicts a rise in Facebook use in the UK to 42.27 million by 2022. (source: Statisa). That means its going to get more important and not less.
I’ve helped train more than 2,000 people from 300 organisations over the past four years. For more on VITAL FACEBOOK SKILLS workshops near you click here. Or give me a shout by email email@example.com.
Cars Documerica / Flickr Graph Marco Verch / Flickr licence Facebook magnifying glass Tim Reckman / Flickr. Map stevep2008 / Flickr Target Tony Webster / Flickr. Flowers and logo mkhmarketing / Flickr mkhmarketing. Old couple Stannah Stairlifts / Flickr. Logo Ryan Adams / homedust.com. Silent film Mia Kunro / Flickr
There’s a minority of people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
They’re the first to complain and often among the last to help.
They crop up in the comments section of the Daily Mail and you’ve seen them in the local paper and from time-to-time on your Facebook page, too.
Social media has given them a platform and their indignation helps keep media companies’ share price in the black.
Nobody minds challenge, but the self-righteous eye-rolled trolling isn’t that at all. It’s a drip-drip of corrosive bile that can sometimes inhibit some people from posting. It can only end in a world that is much poorer.
So, it was so refreshing to see a newspaper group shun the clickbait of faux outrage for something far better and by doing so ironically reach a wider audience.
The story is this. Police officers were photographed eating breakfast getting a briefing in a branch of McDonalds. A debate broke out on Facebook with some criticising the officers for their public break. So, credit EssexLive for shunning easy outrage with this headline:
We don’t care that Essex’s cops stopped for coffee and neither should you.
Their enlightened stance was welcomed by a senior officer responsible for them.
What builds on it is this piece of human comms for an Inspector who on his own Twitter gave public support and gave an explanation of what they were doing:
Really pleased for such a sensible response. Personally it was nice to see my incredibly hard working officers had a chance to get hot food (which is rare), and proud they chose to use their meal break to have a team meeting, remaining visible in the town. https://t.co/UxwfQbaPPa— Matt Cornish (@CIMattCornish) April 10, 2019
Not for the first time, sharing the sweets to give social media access to frontline people can bring dividends.
- An every day occurance.
- Which became a residents’ picture
- Which became a Facebook post
- Which became a news story on the web
- Which became a tweet from a police officer shows the complexity of the media landscape in 2019.
But through it all a human voice still cuts through.
Facebook has gone and done it again and shifted the algorithm.
For video, the optimum video has shifted from just 15-seconds to a bumper three minutes.
The new number is contained in advice to Facebook page admins spotted by eagle-eyed Bradford City Council digital comms whizz Albert Freeman.
Thinking behind three minutes
For a while it’s clear Facebook has had designs on being YouTube.
The optimum time for a YouTube clip has consistently been around the three minute mark for years. Of course, some will be longer and some shorter but around the three minute mark has been optimum.
The thing is, people head to YouTube in the same way people head to the library. They want information or to be entertained. So, to spend three on YouTube to learn how to change a tyre or watch a cartoon is fine.
But I’d bet the real driver for Facebook’s shift to three minutes is driven by money.
The longer you spend on Facebook the more attractive you are to advertisers. That includes ads cropping up part-way through videos that Facebook are keen on and with a short 15-second clip you can’t really do that.
An unscientific check of my own Facebook timeline shows these results:
56 per cent are over three minutes.
9 per cent are between two and three minutes.
22 per cent are between one and two minutes.
6 per cent are between 30 seconds and one minute.
3 per cent are 30 seconds or less.
But grabbing attention remains paramount
The temptation to use the three-minute mark as an excuse to park sloppily-edited content would be a mistake in my view.
Let the camera run for three minutes on a subject?
That would be a huge mistake.
The one thing that I think hasn’t changed is people’s attention span.
How are they consuming media? They’re scrolling through their timeline looking for something interesting.
So, the first three seconds are STILL paramount
A week or two back I met a journalist from a news site that is part of the new breed of journalism. Video, he said, is a key driver.
But for him the first THREE seconds were critical. If it didn’t have anything to grab attention in those seconds he tends to skip over your email.
If your content is interesting and tells a story then you’ve a chance. A film sent back from an embedded journalist on life as a medic in Afghanistan was re-edited to open with the burst of machine gun fire that came in towards the end.
To grab attention.
Length is one factor but quality is another
It’s tempting just to look at video length and keep the record button pressed for the required amount.
That would, of course, be really silly. The optimum lengths are useful to know what is being encouraged by big tech companies so you can plan your video accordingly.
But you also need interesting and engaging content.
You need an eye-catching start and story telling is a strong asset while you are planning your content or editing.
You also need to think titles and sub-titles as 80 per cent of video gets watched without sound.
Notes and queries on the research
YOUTUBE: The maximum length of 15 minutes can be increased to 12 hours through a straight forward verification step. Optimum length is much shorter
INSTAGRAM: Maximum length was increased from 15 seconds to 60 seconds with research via Newswhip suggesting a much shorter length.
PERISCOPE: A maximum length and the sky is the limit but there is no research on what the optimum length of a live broadcast is.
FACEBOOK LIVE: Can run for 240 minutes but 19 minutes is best say Buzzsumo.
I’ve helped train more than 2,000 people from 300 organisations over the past four years. For more on workshops near you click here. Or give me a shout by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Okay, so this isn’t PR and comms exactly…
But a special case for the BBC Brexitcast podcast needs to be made on the theme of looking to communicate with a human voice.
What is Brexitcast?
The idea is simple. BBC journalists put together an occasional – and more recently daily – podcast to summarise what is happening with Brexit and give intelligent informal analysis.
What you get are BBC journalists you may see for 45-seconds on the BBC News at Ten given space to breathe and to kick around ideas. Free from the shackles, they’re also allowed to behave like human beings. So, their frustrations, fatigue and nail colour also form part of it.
If I could break it down by numbers, it is 10 per cent Newsnight, 25 per cent humour, 10 per cent running-on-empty tiredness, 40 per cent insight and 5 per cent speculation about the significance of the colour of Laura Keunssberg’s coat (baseless as it turns out).
MPs talking like humans
Fascinatingly, the informal approach also rubs off on occasional guests such as this MP who talks about his Brexit coping strategy:
“How long do you spend in your hole?”
MP Andrew Percy tells us about his special hiding place in Parliament. 😂
— BBC Sounds (@BBCSounds) April 6, 2019
As this snippet posted to Twitter shows, you get a disarming insight into the life of two MPs. One a Remainer and one a Leaver. They’re both affected by the stress of Brexit.
So much so, that one MP finds a quiet spot in Parliament to escape the stress by pulling his jacket over his head and maybe flick ‘v’s at passers-by.
The podcast itself gets published late at night and is my way to get up to speed on shifting developments.
Journalists talking like humans
As a former journo, I get that the most interesting stuff often doesn’t make the news story and Brexitcast gives some degree of flavour.
It captures something of the excitement of breaking news in a newsroom and the down-time speculation around stories that made where I worked such an exciting place to be.
News has changed
This could not have been done the last time the UK was debating its membership of what was then the EEC.
Technology has changed and so has people’s habits of consuming the news.
Things like Brexitcast remind me how antiquated the idea of solely gathering around the telly at an appointed time for news now is.
But what’s also fascinating is that downloads of the podcast on the itunes chart may give future historians an insight into how bothered people were about Brexit itself:
Pic: itunes chart, April 2019
At a time when MPs are being threatened in the streets and dodgy money is funding Facebook attack ads this is a wonderful reminder that at heart we are still British.
If you look hard enough, we still have a sense of humour, still have intelligence and still have tolerance. And the BBC are still finding ways to be as relevant in the 21st century as Robin Day’s bow tie was when I was a kid.
Note. I’ve updated to reflect that the podcast has been daily of late.
I’ve said it before but UK police can be flipping brilliant at delivering wry asides through social media.
The Bulwell, Rise Park and Highbury Vale Facebook page posted this image of a phone as a kind of lost and stolen item.
But reading on, it also seems plain that the phone could be returned but only if there are responses to the £100 of steak its owner took and ran off with and the suggestion of drug dealing.
Wry and witty it paints a picture that the police are human, have a sense of human but also take shop lifting – and drug dealing – seriously.
Thanks to Maria Jones for spotting this update from one of Nottinghamshire Police’s pages.