FUTURE PROOF: 40 skills you’ll need in your 2020 comms team today

6916758251_2c7753d7fc_oSo what occupies the mind of the most successful Olympic coach Britain has ever had? You’ll find the answer surprising.

It’s not next week, the next Tour de France or who will be in the squad for Rio that occupies cycling’s Dave Brailsford. It’s what his best team will be in five years time.

“I find that once you’ve done that,” he told the BBC, “you can work backwards to work out a way to get to where you want to be.”

It chimed with something I’ve often reflected on for some time. Just what should a comms team look like? Not the press release counting machine of history. Not either a team of ninjas on hoverboards. Communications people if they want longevity should be moving. Unlike Dave Brailsford we don’t have until 2020. For some its too late.

Your job used to be create content in a place where people went to consume content passively.

Your job is now to create content in places where people want to consume content where they can share, comment, engage, praise and complain.

If that’s not for you, it’s maybe time to think about that alternative career.

The best day to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best day is today. It’s the same for you and your team.

But that’s enough of the clichés. Here’s some nitty gritty of what you need to know.

As a head of comms or as an individual start mapping where you want to be

Dave Brailsford is right. If you aren’t looking forward you will be made an irrelevance if you aren’t already. It isn’t for your line manager to map your positive future. It’s for you.

As a team, don’t call yourself press officers or even PR

No longer the only show in town the Press is changing. News rooms decimated, Photographers laid off. Anyone who says otherwise is a fool. What is left is a media – let’s call them that rather than newspapers, radio or TV – blinking at the harsh light of the web. Some are evolving. What will survive are those changing into organisations who tell stories with data, pictures or video and in realtime unfettered by print deadlines. Like here or here.

If public releations was to give PR advice to PR it would be to drop the line ‘PR.’ Too toxic. Too reminiscent of Max Clifford and spin.

As a team, don’t be channel fascists

So, be content creators. Not a press officer or a press office. Provide content in the right way at the right time to the right people. Do that free from always having to go through the Priesthood of journalists. The team that does everything as a press release or as a tweet is just as guilty of being a channel fascist. Understand the variety of channels there are and know how to create content for them. And by the way, cut and pasting the same content in six channels doesn’t work.

As a team, look for the influencers who can influence networks

Some may be in the media. Some may be bloggers. Some may be people with important jobs. Some may not have important jobs but have a huge following on Twitter or run a hyperlocal site. Some will be your staff.

As a team, outsource comms to plug into networks

There won’t be enough of you to do everything anymore. So when you set the strategy be gateopeners to other people across the organisation. The Environment Agency manager on Twitter reaches an audience the press office can’t reach. So does the museums assistant who uses Twitter. Or the countryside ranger.

As a team, know your media landscape and break the tyranny of the local newspaper frontpage

If the days when everyone read the local paper ever existed they are over now. Find out what media cover your organisation. Find out their circulation and reach. Find out how many people are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. And use email. Use the annual Ofcom stats as a starting point.

Run a survey of where your team are spending their time. Does it match up with what the landscape actually is? Produce an infographic of where the landscape is and circulate it to everyone. Hang it on your wall. In reports refer to it. Sit down with those in charge and explain it. Ask for permission to re-calibrate.

As a team, the look finance in the eye test

In the old days, comms and PR teams could get away with a vague brief of ‘making the people in charge look good.’ An office two doors from those in charge was their ether. They realised too late that where your office is is no guard against the pain of cuts. Scrapbooks of cuttings from the local paper of a person in a suit planting a tree is spent capital. What talks are business objectives expressed as pounds, shillings and pence. That drive to recruit more foster carers? Thanks to comms it saved £100k. That is what justifies what you do. If it’s not a business objective don’t waste your time.

As a team, generalise but specialise

Making video is tricky and if someone is good at it encourage it. Don’t hold them back. Encourage fresh thought. Embrace experiments. Some will work. Some won’t. But always be learning. But share the sweets across the team and wider.

As a team, get over yourself

You used to have it all. The control. The ear of the people in charge. The sole ability to communicate with the media. That’s gone. But don’t fight it. Sometimes it’ll be you. Other times you’ll get in the way. Sometimes your job will be advice. Sometimes it will be to stand back. Set the strategy. Share the sweets.

As a team, think beyond ‘traditional social media’

At some point the tipping point was reached and people started to ask not for press releases but for Twitter accounts or for stuff to be posted on Twitter. What lazy rubbish.

As an organisation, it’s okay to have social channels that are social

Let the guidemark of the 80-20 rule govern what you do. Share other people’s content. Be human. Tweet a picture of where you are and what you are doing. Asda observe this rule for their hard headed business focussed yet social channels. So do police officers. It works. It’s not messing about. It’s being an effective communicator.

As an individual, challenge, experiment and learn

Whether you are the head of comms or not you need to learn, experiment, challenge, kick tyres and do things in your own time. By all means clock off at 5 o’clock. But you won’t be around for much longer. A new job? Not in communications you won’t.

Three quotes you need to know and live by

‘Hyperlinks flatten hierarchies,’ – The Cluetrain Manifesto, 1999.

‘We need to communicate like insurgents,’ – Tom Fletcher, UK Ambassador to Lebanon, 2014.

“There remains a perverse determination within PR to defend top-down behaviour in a flatter world. PR currently speaks to hierarchies in a world of networks. It is therefore starting in the wrong place both for its own domain and the wider universe of citizens, companies and brands. PR can no longer dictate on its own terms.

“It is not about loudhailer broadcasting or ‘managing the message’ anymore. Shrill press releases are irrelevant in a world that sees through obfuscation and deceit. Building advocacy and activism within networks is the way forward. The voices of regular people need to be heard.” – Robert Phillips, 2015

 – Robert Phillips, 2015.

40 skills a comms team needs

Here comes the list. You know what the single most reassuring thing is? All this is achievable. Many of the skills we have can stay with us. Story telling. Relationshiips and the like. But the technical skills are evolving constantly. You stand still at your peril.

All will need

To build relationships

To educate the people you serve

To know the value of networks and to know yours

To accept change

To evaluate

To know when to say ‘no’

To be a diplomat

To challenge – ask why we are doing this?

To listen as an individual

To help people listen as an organisation

To write for the web

To tell stories

To create the right content for the right people in the right channel at the right time

To source photographs

To train others

To listen

To know the value of internal comms

To take risks

To learn

To be small ‘p’ politically aware

To know when to write a comms plan and when to say ‘no.’

To be self-aware

To be professional

To interpret data

To be broad shouldered

To capture and communicate emotion

To be tenacious

To present

To be visible

To be professional but not be constrained by one profession

To be creative

To manage time

To create and run a survey

To take photographs

To know how to handle crisis and emergency comms

Some will need

To write press releases

Technical: Content creating for the right channels

To know when and how to create content using data

To know when and how to create text, images or video content tailored for email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Audioboo or Soundcloud.

To experiment with new channels and to know who uses them.

To know when and how to create a press release

To know when some print is needed

Two sessions and a lot of thinking shaped this blog. One session at UK Govcamp two months ago and one at comms2point0’s campaigns masterclass last month. At both I just asked for ideas on individual skills to see what patterns emerged. Thank you if you contributed. Thank you to Emma Rodgers who co-led the masterclass session and annogtated the skills we listed. This post is the reading of those ink blots mixed with things I’ve written about before.

If you are slightly apprehensive and a little excited and good luck we’d love to talk to you.

Picture credit

Cycling https://www.flickr.com/photos/69770374@N04/6916758251/


OUR AWARDS: Celebrating the #comms20unawards

IMAG1205So, we’ve gone and hired a cinema for a bit of a celebration and it would be wonderful if you could join us.

More precisely, we’ve hired the Electric Cinema in Station Street, Birmingham which is the oldest working cinema in the UK. The date is Thursday December 11.

We’re doing three things. We’re having an awards ceremony, we’re watching a film and we’re showing that you don’t have to spend a fortune and go to London for an awards bash.

The event is the comms2point0 unawards and I’d like you very much to come along and to enter. It’s going to be great. December is a chance to celebrate and its a chance to think back to what you’ve done well.

If there’s one thing that irks me about comms teams it is their inability to celebrate their own work. Stop it. It’s not clever.
So pick a category, enter by November 12 by emailing dan@comms2point0.co.uk or darren@comms2point0.co.uk. More details are here.

If you don’t fancy picking a category come and watch the film. It’s Armandoi Iannucci satire ‘In the Loop.’

1. Best communications team chosen by the overall event sponsor

2. Best communications officer (this includes digital too) public vote sponsored by Alive – The Ideas Agency 3. Best small team (from one-man band up to three people max) public vote sponsored by David Banks Media Law 

4. Lifetime achievement to comms public vote sponsored by Touch Design 

5. Best post on comms2point0 in 2014 public vote sponsored by Alive – The Ideas Agency 6. Best internal communications campaign sponsored by All Things IC

7. Best communications for change activity sponsored by Public Sector Customer Services Forum

8. Best piece of creative comms sponsored by Capacity Grid

9. Best freebie or low cost communications campaign

10. Best email marketing sponsored by GovDeliveryUK

11. Best social media campaign sponsored by Digital Action Plan

12. Best private sector/agency comms campaign or initiative

13. Best ‘Worst comms’ (this can be anything from use of clip art, worst poster, silliest random request – feel free to be creative) sponsored by Alive – The Ideas Agency

14. Best collaboration sponsored by Knowledge Hub

Big thanks to Emma Rodgers who is helping stage the event and Andy Mabbett who will compere.


OUR MAN: ‘We Need to Communicate Like Insurgents.’

51470257_e1c8bb2ac8_o“What we need to do,” said the man in the blue jacket and the crisp white shirt, “is to communicate more like insurgents.”

An arresting comment to make, particularly  as the man in the jacket was HM Government’s Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher.

The comment was made – and a whole host of others – at the tail end of a fascinating two day event in Jordan hosted by the Foreign Office for their Middle East and North Africa comms staff.

A week later and it’s a comment that keeps rattling around.

We need to communicate more like insurgents. What does that mean?

It could mean a whole host of things. To nail the obvious, it’s not about communicating beheadings. To me, it’s more about having an overall framework to work in and allowing people on the ground to be flexible, creative and agile. What I took was that it was about being not hemmed in by procedure. It’s about creating sharable content that is going to be shared. It’s seeing what works in the field and replicating it.

Here’s a second arresting comment from the event that keeps re-occuring.

“Al-Qaida’s leaders view communications as 90 percent of the struggle.”

Think for a minute of that group and what do you see?

Ossama bin Laden in a fuzzy vhs video?

The Twin Towers?

Both are powerful images which frame the first 14 years of the 21st century.

They are communications.

They were framed by communications people.

The Ambassador is of course right. Sometimes we can be too hemmed in by process to think agile, creative, sharable and flexible.

To have such a green light from the top is a gift to cherish.

Sometimes the play book comes not from the institution or the old ways of doing things. It comes from unexpected quarters and what your enemy does.

It also poses the question that if communications is 90 per cent of the issue then are you doing enough? More importantly, have you got the support to do enough?

Spanish poet Baltasar Gracian said that a wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.

So, how can you learn from your enemies?

Picture credit

Magic bullet https://www.flickr.com/photos/45175402@N00/51470257/


MEDIA DATA: 83 gems you’ll need on the UK media landscape from Ofcomm

3100034818_14fe8f64dd_oFour times a year UK media industry watchdog Ofcom publishes a report on the media landscape.

Packed full of insight it is that rare thing of a free report that will help you if you work even just a little bit in digital communications.

It’s also a document that we often keen going back to so this time around we thought we’d fillet it and, because we love you, we thought we’d publish it in bite-sized chunks so it can help you too.

Much attention has been focussed on the fact that adults spend more time engaged with the media – eight hours 41 minutes – than they sleep which accounts fr eight hours 21 minutes.

More hidden in the report is the conclusion that the differing types of communicatin is leading to a generation gap. Where once post and the telephone was universal now young people only send a letter when they absolutely have to while the habit remains with older people.

The figures cover the first quarter of 2014.

An average day for a UK adult aged 16+ (selected)

2’58” watching live TV

1’19” listening to the radio.

0’47” email

0’40” recorded TV

0’36” websites or apps

0’29” phone calls

0’25” social media

0’15” newspapers (print or news website)

0’04” online news but not a news site

0’03” magazines

0’02” photo or video messaging

 

Popular UK social media sites

40.0 million YouTube

35.1 million Facebook

11.9 million Twitter

11.3 million LinkedIn

8.8 million Google Plus

0.9 million MySpace

0.4 million Friends Reunited

eBay overtook Amazon as the most popular retail site with 27.3 million users

 

Social media use by adults

2009 – 30 per cent

2010 – 40 per cent

2011 – 46 per cent

2012 – 50 per cent

2013 – 53 per cent

2014 – 54 per cent

 

News consumption

Television 75 per cent

Internet 41 per cent

Newspapers 40 per cent

Radio 36 per cent

 

General stats

Adults spend more time – eight hours 41 minutes – engaged with the media than time spent sleeping (eight hours 21 minutes.)

We are getting used to following two things at once. We may watch television and use the internet at the same time as 11 hours seven minutes worth f media is consumed in that eight hours 41 minutes.

We watch two hours 58 minutes of TV a day.

There are 83.1 mobile phones in the UK.

8 hours a month is spent on Facebook

Mail has fallen 5 per cent in 12-months

20 per cent of adults didn’t get an item of post in the last week.

77 per cent of all UK households have broadband.

79 per cent of homes have a PC or a laptop.

61 per cent of all adults own a smartphone.

57 per cent of all adults use their mobile phone to access the internet.

44 per cent of all UK households have a tablet.

60 per cent of adults say that technology confuses them.

49 per cent say technology isn’t making a difference to their lives either way.

24 per cent say technology is harming their lives.

16 per cent live in a mobile phone-only home.

Radio remains popular but is falling from 24.3 to 21.5 hours a week.

71 per cent of audio activity is radio.

2 per cent have used 3D printers.

82 per cent of households have an internet connection.

66 per cent say that they rely on the post.

 

Adults

46 per cent say they email fr work purposes out-of-hours.

23 per cent say they email about work while they are on holiday.

80 per cent say flexible working makes it hard to switch off.

51 minutes a day is social media use.

37 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on watching TV.

2 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on print media.

16 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on text.

94 per cent watch live TV.

77 per cent use email.

71 per cent send SMS messages.

18 per cent of their time spent with the media is spent on social media.

41 per cent of adults use the internet to consume news.

 

Adults over 65

50 per cent overall have internet access at home.

66 per cent of adults 65 to 74 have internet access.

6 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on print media.

49 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on watching TV.

7 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on text.

19 per cent play games on social media – the highest of any age group.

 

Young people aged 16-24-years-old

74 per cent use a social network.

4 and a half hours is the time they spend on media activity every day

If they use it they’ll spend one-and-a-half hours using social media a day.

They are watching less TV a day than they did. This has fallen to 148 minutes a day from 154

60 per cent get their news online – three times the amount of other adults.

1 per cent of their time spent using media is spent on print media.

24 per cent of their time spent using media is spent watching TV or films.

23 per cent of time spent using media is spent using text.

 

Young people aged 12-15

30 per cent are likely to use print media – half the adult average.

36 per cent of their media time is spent on social media – double the rate of adults.

 

Young people aged 6-15-years-old

60 per cent use a tablet.

75 per cent say they wouldn’t know what to do without technology.

70 per cent say they tell friends and family about new technology.

18 per cent use Snapchat.

 

Young people aged six-11-years-old

26 per cent of their time using the media is spent using social media.

 

Television stats

Digital TV take-up has risen from 84 per cent in 2008 to 95 per cent.

Smart TVs – web enabled TVs – have risen by five per centage points to 12 per cent in 12-months.

Smart TVs account for 45 per cent of TVs sold in the UK.

Picture credit

TV set 

 


EVENT BRIGHT: Why We’re Staging A Fab Event Called #commsforchange14

5537457305_8758d78ac0_oI’m pleased to say that comms2point0 is joining forces with Public Sector Customer Services Forum to stage an event which we think will deliver a stack of value.

We think this will work for comms and PR people but we think this will also be valuable for people who are working in your organisation on projects big and small that need communicating.

We could just give you a list of speakers but want to tell you about how this came about.

We had a conversation with someone a while back about big public sector projects and what separates the good ones from the bad.

As we talked we pictured a very real scenario and we came up with two options to choose from.

First, the scenario… part of your organisation has a great idea that could change how something is done, save money and lead to a better service.

What could go wrong?

 Well, here are the options…

Option one: Project team don’t really bother with the comms until the end because they’re too busy and anyway, they don’t see the point. The comms team get left in the dark by the project team until the end… and the idea fails. “Clearly, it was the comms team,” the project team mutter. “There was nothing wrong with our idea. That was brilliant.”

“If only they’de spoken to us earlier,” the comms team mutter back.

Result: failure, unhappy project team, unhappy comms team  and an angry chief executive.

Option two: Project team sit down with the comms team from the start. They shape a comms plan that they both know will work. There’s a project objective. There’s a comms objective that’s identical. There’s something to measure to know if the comms is working. The idea gets well communicated by the comms team. It’s a success.

“Hooray,” say the project team. “Our idea that we had in a room with six people in it has become a success amongst thousands,” say the project team.

5319988695_22db1bded5_o“Hooray,” say the comms team, “we took that bright idea and we worked with you to tell the right people outside the room about it at the right time and got them to do the right thing.”

Result: happy project team, happy comms team, success and a happy chief executive.

Of course, we’d all choose the second scenario, wouldn’t we?

The thing is, life is not like that, and we can all reel off a long list of times when it hasn’t and fewer times when it has.

What you’ll get out of #commsforchange14

So, at the end of our conversation we grew convinced of the need to put on an event that would set out the reasons for getting the project team and the comms team together early to make the thing a success.

We wanted comms people and project people speaking to share how they did it.

We wanted comms people to be fired up to go back and knock on  the doors of big project people so they could get involved to help make a difference.

3685880130_c6d9102cba_bWe wanted public sector people to be fired up to go back and make friends with their comms teams to see how they could make their project a success.

We wanted the event to be partly traditional, with speakers and slides so the success stories could be articulated and you’d know what you’d get.

But we wanted an unconference element in the afternoon because we’ve run them before at commscamp and for LGComms and with PSCSF and we know they will work. This sees that part of the agenda drawn-up based on what the people in the room wanted to talk about. Maybe there were lessons to be shared.

We wanted an event that showed why getting comms involved early and them being on the top table will help the organisation.

Of course, the great thing about doing comms2point0 is being able to turn a conversation and an idea into reality and with the excellent Nick Hill of Public Sector Customer Services Forum we’ve done just that andon Wednesday September 24 at the Bond Company, Fazeley Street, Birmingham #commsforchange will become a reality.

Who will be speaking?

There’s a range of hand picked people for you here:

  • John McPherson, Internal Communications Manager, Leeds City Council

  • 8630582806_1eb1fb0020_oVictoria Ford, Head of Communications, DVLA

  • Iain Patterson, Chief Technology Officer, DVLA

  • Adrian Capon, Senior Communications Manager, Yorkshire Housing (TBC)

  • Dan Slee, Co-founder, comms2point0

  • Darren Caveney, Co-founder, comms2point0

You can find more out about the event on Wednesday September 24 at the Bond Company, Fazeley Street, Birmingham by clicking the link here.

Picture credit

Change 

Make things better

Change machine

Better Future

 


COMMS TIP: Why You Need to Challenge Like a Three-Year-Old

P1030315I’ve blogged about the need to be the grit in the oyster in comms and PR and to the need challenge.

That scheme the chief executive has? It’s going to fail and you need to diplomatically warn them.

That elected member who demands a press release? It’s down to you to tell them that won’t work.

Unless you do you are nothing more than a glorified shorthand typist.

Here’s one way you can challenge… by be an annoying three-year-old.

Or rather, adopt the questioning strategy of a small child who is asking questions because they are just plain nosey.

If you are a parent you’ve been there. Picture the scene in a super market right now somewhere in the world.

‘What’s that?’

‘It’s a tin of beans, Jimmy.’

‘Why do we have tins of beans?’

‘So the food doesn’t go off.’

‘What’s ‘off’…?’

And there we have an explanation to Jimmy of food storage, freshness and the degrading process that makes food dangerous to eat.

Small children have got a brilliant quality of cutting through the crap.

A couple of times recently in a training session I’ve thought of the two-year-old interrogation strategy.

We’re doing a ‘thing’. It’s great.

Why?

Because it’s a good idea.

Why?

Because if we give people some basic information it reduces the chance of them coming back with an even worse problem.

Will that cost you money?

Yes, lots, about £10,000 a time.

How many could we stop coming back with a worse problem?

So, the ‘thing’ moves from being a good thing to a thing that is going to tangibly improve lives… and tangibly save money.

That’s win and win.

It’s also the beginnings of your evaluation because as we know, it’s not the column inches or the tweets but what people have done as a result.

‘Hey, chief executive, we’ve just communicated to a load of people and 100 have gone away with information that could stop them costing us £10,000 each.’

Does that sound better?

So, shouldn’t you be more of a three-year-old?

Picture credit

My daughter.


COMMS ADVICE: Be Bold, Be the bit of Grit in the Oyster

3875021320_445f89a757_b (1)If there is one piece of advice I came to late in my career that I value  it is this… the role of comms is sometimes to be the bit of grit in the oyster.

It was Paul Willis of Leeds Metropolitan University who I first hear use the phrase.

Really?

What the heck does this mean?

My take on it is that sometimes, the role of the comms person is to politely stand your ground and to challenge and to point out where things won’t work.

The chief exec of the water company blamed for water shortage taking questions with a clean bottle of water, British Gas staging a Twitter Q&A on the day of a price hike or senior officer hellbent on back of bus ads… because that’s the way they’ve always done it.

I was reminded of the need for this a short while back in a comms planning workshop where one attendee mentioned the pressure she was under to come up with evaluation weeks after the launch of a campaign to encourage people to sign-up to volunteer for a specific task.

“It’s really difficult,” she said. “I’m getting pressure to show if the campaign is a success but we know it takes six months for it to work.

“It’s been a month and the thing is, it’s really difficult, because it’s a senior person who is asking.”

Of course, in an ideal world that senior person would immediately see the folly of asking how many cars the Forth Bridge had carried after just a week into its construction.

But life is not like that.

So, if tact and diplomacy don’t work, sometimes your role as a comms person is to be the person to draw a line in the sand and point out where something, in your professional opinion, doesn’t work.

When I worked as part of a comms team I’d often find it useful instead of directly rubbishing an idea directly just spelling out the logical sequence of events that decision would bring.

“We can have a back of bus advert by all means,” it’s better to say, “but do we know if the Primary school children we’re trying to get through to drive? And how many signed up for that course last year as a result of it? Could we talk to some parents and teachers to see what the best route may be, too?”

Be professional, be polite but never be afraid be the grit in the oyster. It will almost always be the harder path but if you take it you will almost always win respect. Involve your boss if needs be. Or their boss.

If you don’t are you sure you aren’t just being a glorified shorthand typist?


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