30 days of human comms: #56 New Zealand Police’s letter to ‘Officer Toss Pot’

What’s that cliche about a letter of complaint being great feedback? 

Well, a letter of praise can be, too.

One mother wrote to thank New Zealand Police for taking action against her new driver son who was driving too fast.

Spoiler: it has a twist.


The full post is here.

There’s probably a seam of customer service thanks and messages that could be used to improve the organisation and act as better comms.

VOX POP?: Should you always include politicians front and central in your content?

An interesting discussion broke out on Twitter about the elephant in the room.

I’d posted the Edelman Trust Barometer infographic about who trusts who.

In short, the person like yourself greatly outranks the chief executive.

It led to a discussion about the merits of having politicians fronting what you have to say. It’s a difficult situation and eight years in local government makes me appreciate the pressures that local government people are under.

But should we stop using politicians across the board?

No. Not at all. Each issue is different. But when real people are involved I’d say the data says the most effective way of getting things shared is when real people feature in it. Call it the Law of Newspapers Covering Festivals. A page of pics of real people enjoying themselves will reach a bigger audience than simply the a pic of the chairperson of the event. Why? Because people will often buy several copies of the paper if they are in it.

I’ve dug out this instagram clip from the Mayor of London’s office that feels like it straddles the gap well.

At City Hall we’re supporting youth projects which bring young people together, and give them fun and safe activities to do over the summer. If you work with a youth organisation, click the link in our bio to use our free toolkit to inspire young Londoners to fulfil their potential.

A post shared by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@mayorofldn) on


It’s the real people talking about their football club and how a grant will help. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is in the cutaways and has his logo.

How to choose the best spokesperson is one component of the Essential Skills for Effective Communicators in 2019. For upcoming dates in Manchester, Birmingham and London or to enquire about in-house training click here.

You can find out about the Essential Video Skills for Comms workshops I deliver. For upcoming dates in Aberdeen, Leeds, London and Manchester click here. Shout if I can help.

TRUST: You need to change who is speaking for you

There’s been some excellent analysis of the annual Edelman Trust barometer.

Published every year for the last 20 years the global survey looks at who trusts who.

There’s a big pile of data and there’s a seperate UK set of numbers that you can look through.

There’s some useful UK takes, not least that traditional media has become more trusted and is seen as far more reliable than social media.  If you’re public sector you need to know that there’s been a Brexit-prompted collapse in trust in government in all aspects.

For me, the day-to-day single most useful slide can be found here. It rates who rates each source as credible.

edelman 2019

Trust the regular employee and the person like yourself

In 2019, a regular employee on 57 per cent is substantially more trusted than the chief executive or the director.

A person like yourself is trusted by 58 per cent and who that is changes from topic to topic.

Use this slide. Use it every day. Have it on your wall. Use it as part of a process to help advise whop is best to feature in your content. It’ll make it easier.

If your an organisation that will talk to people through top down means then brother, you need to change.

It’s more helpful to have a real person talking about the issue than a politician or a chief executive.

How to choose the best spokesperson is one component of the Essential Skills for Effective Communicators in 2019. For upcoming dates in Manchester, Birmingham and London or to enquire about in-house training click here.

You can find out about the Essential Video Skills for Comms workshops I deliver. For upcoming dates in Aberdeen, Leeds, London and Manchester click here. Shout if I can help.

TOUGH NUMBERS: Yes, I know paid content is great but what if you’ve got no money?


There was an interesting discussion on paid advertising on Twitter this week. 

It centred around the importance of paid content on social media. In other words, the post you’ve backed with some money so it can reach pinpointed people.

I absolutely get the importance of paid. It can cut through the noise to get to the 25-year-old from Stafford who loves brass bands and who would love to go to your brass band convention up the road in Uttoxeter. Paid is an art. I’ve been experimenting with it for a while on a few things.

The discussion was prompted by Stephen Waddington. A former President of the CIPR Stephen is someone I’ve got a lot of time for.

He’s right. Knowing the when, where and how of paid is an important string to have to the bow.

But later in this thread…

Malpractice? Or not?

I simply don’t agree that you’re committing malpractice if you are a communicator not using paid.

I don’t know Marshall but I’ll dial back 50 per cent on the table banging just to be on the safe side. But it did make me stop and think.

My background is local government comms. This sector has taken a 40 per cent hit in budgets since the bankers burned down the economy. There is very often no money for paid.  That’s not because comms people are poor at demonstrating the value of their worth. It’s because there’s no money. Literally.

In my own head, this is where things get interesting. How do you reach people on social media when you’ve got no budget?

Sharing content in a time of no budget

Well, you can try and craft engaging content

You can do the tried and tested devolving access and accounts.

But if you don’t have people queueing up to like your page you’re in trouble.

For me, part of this is through knowing your way around Facebook groups.

A few weeks back I ran a workshop for NHS comms people to look closer at Facebook. Setting them the task to look for groups they found a patchwork of Mums and Babies groups. There was one with 300, one with 1,200, another with 2,300 and one with 100.

Those may not be big numbers compared to the wider population but they’re the right numbers if you’re after new Mums.

It’s also setting up access for Instagramers at picturesque locations you have can control access to.

In short, its being creative and working to connect with real people.


YOUNG PEOPLE: What you need to know about the channels they’re using in 2019


Grown-ups have never really known how to communicate with young people.

TV, cinema and the dangers posed by novels all link in this chain of moral panic to today’s fears about the internet.

But moral panic about children has been a constant through every generation.

Today, it is the internet and 30 years ago it was television.

Go back further and you’ll find the moral panic about the corrupting influence of novels on Victorian children and the generation of Englishmen who remember the Spanish Armada appalled at how weak children were now they no longer slept on logs.

The challenge to the communicator in 2019 is to understand how young people are consuming the media and know that the secret sauce will quickly evolve in to something different.

How do children use the media?

Danah Boyd in her book ‘It’s Complicated: the Lives of Networked Teens’ discovered that children were using instant messaging to friends in the same way that the older generation once took the landline into the hall to have a private chat.

“By and large the kids are alright, she wrote. “They just want to be understood.”

Secrecy and a separate universe explains precisely why Snapchat is successful with teenagers. Because if their parents knew how to use the app and be their friend, those children would die of embarrassment.

There is a gap in the knowledge of many comms people over under 16s.

This gap in the vocabulary means that Ofcom’s newly published ‘Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes’ report is a welcome addition.

Here are 10 points its worth knowing

Children prefer watching YouTube to watching television.

The report says that 49 per cent prefer the platform over TV. Almost half of three and four-year-olds have watched YouTube with 89 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds.


Vloggers are an important source of information

The vlogger who brought Birmingham city centre to a standstill through a personal appearance was a mystery to the Daily Mail. He isn’t to young people and nor is vlogging an unusual way to find out opinions.


We are raising a generation of filmmakers

The idea of making films in the 1970s would have been a pipe dream. There was no chance of my own parents buying a cine camera and a video camera was only bought long after I left home.

But to children in 2019, making a video is a popular online activity. Almost half of 12 to 15-year-olds go online to make a film and one in 10 three and four-year-olds do so.

The conclusion is clear. That video is a medium of choice for young people in how they share their views and for creativity.

of2Young people are spending half a day a week online gaming

Young people are online gaming with almost 14 hours a week spent in the activity online. That’s no surprise to a parent of a 14-year-old boy for who playing Fortnite with friends has been a key obsession. Children are also using the social chat features of playing online with 58 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds using the feature.

Social media is key to young people

For  young people, social media plays a key role in how they keep in touch with their friends.  A round 70 per cent of 12-to-15-year-olds and 20 per cent of eight to 11-year-olds have a social profile.

Popular channels for 12-to-15-year olds who use social media

Facebook 72 per cent 

Instagram 65 per cent 

WhatsApp 43 per cent 


Children have both a positive and negative experience of social media

The tabloid view that social media only brings a negative experience to young people is incorrect, based on the Ofcom research data.  There are pluses and minuses.

90 per cent of 12-to-15-year-olds say that people are ‘mean’on social media sometimes.

90 per cent of 12-to-15-year-olds say that social media makes them feel closer to friends.

of4Sixteen per cent of eight to 11-year-olds have experienced something unpleasant online while the figure rises for 31 per cent of 12-to-15-year-olds.

Media consumption by age group

Childhood is a very fractured thing. Roger Daltrey The Who lead singer wrote about how before the 1960s you were a child in shorts until you started work when you left school. The experience of being a child was uniform.

However, the experience of children in 2019 is different depending on how old you are.

This throws down serious challenges to a communicator whose own childhood memories give no help to the way that today’s children are communicating.



Using the data

Having national data at your finger tips is a useful way to start the ball rolling. But if you are serious about reaching young people in your area you need to carry out your own research.  Work with people who work with young people to understand what channels people are using in your area.

Research shows that Facebook is the most popular channel for young people. But time after time this isn’t reflected by 13-year-olds flocking to the corporate account.

You need to spend time working out which platform to use and also how to craft content.

How to use communicate with young people is one component of the Essential Skills for Effective Communicators in 2019. For upcoming dates in Manchester, Birmingham and London or to enquire about in-house training click here.

CCTV STARS: Seven examples of how CCTV video footage can be re-purposed for comms

There is a camera for every 14 people in the UK and comms teams are slowly waking up with the idea of re-purposing CCTV and body-worn footage into comms.

What does the footage show? Work at the sharp end, fundamentally. It can show what teams are up against.

Beyond that, it shows how the organisation responds and some positive results.

Issues to be aware of

Much as though Facebook Live streams of police chases would go down a bomb, there’s a range of issues to be aware of. If a crime is being committed in the footage you need to be careful you don’t jeopardise a potential prosecution.

You also need to be mindful of GDPR by anonymising people, locations and vehicles.

But used well in short clips shared across social media the footage taps into the trend for authenticity, fly-on-the-wall footage and user generated content.

It can also deliver comms messages powerfully in a sharable format.

  1. A video that uses CCTV to show a man convicted of flytipping

Fly-tipping costs the UK taxpayer £58 million a year and can blight communities. This video from Sandwell Council catches a flytipper in the act. By re-purposing court evidence after conviction it can show that warnings people will be caught have teeth.


2. A recruitment video that shows warts and all body worn video footage

‘Do you really want to be a cop?’ a voice asks as he runs through a series of unglamorous episodes from being attacked by the person you are trying to help to spending hours in the cold guarding a crime scene. This is aimed at weeding out those who really want to be a police officer.

3. A video that shows CCTV of an RNLI rescue

Not every organisation will have footage as dramatic as this but blue light services will have ready access to action footage. Used right the footage can tell the wider story of work in a community.


4. A live stream of a video to show traffic conditions

Traffic Scotland look after the key roads north of Hadrians Wall. In snow, ice or on busy days motorists can find value from checking what the road is doing.  In poor conditions having a look at the A9 south of Wick is useful. You can do that via a webpage here or select others across Scotland here. This reduces calls to the call centre.


5. A video that shows poor driving can endanger staff

Bins get people aggravated. Its important that bins are collected and sometimes motoroists need to have patience. This clip from East Northamptonshire Council shows a car mount the pavement and almost hit an operative. This shows the conditions that staff work under and re-inforces a plea for patience.


6. A body worn camera video that shows an incident

When police in County Durham were attacked body-worn camera footage helped show what officers faced and helped with the witness appeal.

7. As footage for a fly-on-the-wall documentary

Public sector organisations are often approached by documentary makers to take part in fly-on-the-wall programmes. There are a lot of questions to ask before letting the cameras in. The exercise is not without risk. But West Midlands Fire Service body worn camera footage proved to be the backbone to the ‘Into the Fire’ TV documentary. This can help deliver fire messages to a prime-time audience.

You can find out about the Essential Video Skills for Comms workshops I deliver right here. Shout if I can help.

GROUP SKILLS: How to build a business case and then search and connect with Facebook groups


It’s clear that comms people are waking up to the idea that Facebook groups have become increasingly important.

Research I’ve carried out for the past two years shows a strong trend that people in a geographic area have never warmed to public sector Facebook pages but have flocked instead to local groups and pages.

So, if that’s where people are, why not engage with them where people are?

Some debate recently focused on the trepidation on going out into the wilds of Facebook. I get that.  The way to connect isn’t straight forward if you haven’t got an advertising budget.

I’ve carried out research over two years and I’m a Facebook admin of the successful Public Sector Comms Headspace group.

Here is your business case for connecting with Facebook groups

Facebook is the second largest platform in the UK with 41.8 million users which makes for 62 per cent of the UK’s 66.5 million 2018 population users.

How’s the public sector bridging that gap? Poorly, in a word. There are some cracking pages and content out there but overall, people are not flocking to Facebook pages.

Research I’ve carried out showed just three per cent of people like a public sector page while people like on average of FIFTEEN local groups and pages. It’s a trend that has been rising.

As newspapers close and newsrooms contract Facebook groups are filling the Parish pump role that many thought hyperlocal bloggers would do and in some areas do. But while acting as a volunteer journalist and blogger is time-consuming Facebook’s groups functionality offers a quick way to connect.

It’ll take about a day to map all the Facebook groups in your area. No, there isn’t a shortcut. Yet. But the bare numbers you will connect will present a strong case for you to engage.

The conclusion is clear: Facebook is a vitally important platform for people but groups rather than public sector pages are dominant. So, the public sector needs to find a way to connect with groups.

Not all Facebook groups will be happy to connect

It’s true that communities are using Facebook groups extensively. But not every group admin will be happy that you came by. The campaign angry at the council, the admin whose extension was turned down or the campaigner who thinks that immunisation injections aren’t needed may not give you time of day.

Others will. And the number of groups that are more receptive may lead you to a hard-to-engage audience based around a community or community of interest.

You can connect with groups as a page

Changes in late 2018 have started to allow Facebook group admins to change settings and allow groups to apply to be members. This isn’t universal and even if every admin had the ability to let pages in not all would.

The moral dilemma of connecting this way isn’t that complicated. The official page talking to people in the area is just the same as a council representative going to a residents’ meeting at 7pm on a Tuesday. It’s their meeting. But if there were 3,000 residents all gathered together, wouldn’t you want to find a way to talk with them?


You can create a group as a page

A group can be made by a page, too. Yes, I know, its confusing. But the corporate page can create a group, too. Useful to speak to a sub-set of your followers on a specific topic of interest.

You can connect with groups as an individual

There’s two ways you can use your own profile to connect with a group. Firstly, by joining the group direct and responding as yourself. Secondly, by asking the Facebook group admin to share content. Either way, I’d always make yourself known to the admin. The response you get from them is a good bell-weather for how receptive the wider group is likely to be.

If you are using your own profile to talk directly with people you need to be clear who you are and where you are from.  A profile that talks about how amazing this council policy is but doesn’t say who you work for is disingenuous.

The Civil Service code talks about the need for ‘integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality.’ That feels like a good starting point although your own organisation’s constitution is likely to articulate something similar.


15 questions answered to help you connect with Facebook groups

Where do I start with Facebook groups? Map your landscape to articulate your business case for connecting with Facebook groups.

Why should you connect with Facebook groups? Know that the landscape of Facebook is ever changing and the research will become dated the moment it is finished.

How can I search for community Facebook groups in my area? Build in a process for searching Facebook for groups and pages that may be relevant for each campaign or issue. It’s quicker than being up to speed with1,200 Facebook groups. 

How should I tackle who I work for? Don’t conceal who you work for. Be open about it. 

What happens when I’ve identified a Facebook group I want to connect with? When you identify a group that you can only join using your a personal profile drop the admin a private message to introduce yourself. You’ll need to do this using your own profile.

How can I persuade a reluctant colleague? You shouldn’t have a three line whip to make people use their own Facebook profile to connect with groups. Make it optional. 

How can I use my Facebook profile and restrict what people can see if I’m joining or messaging admins? If you are using your own profile to contribute to Facebook groups check your privacy settings to make sure you are happy with what people see of you. 

How can I behave with a community group? Remember that you’ll get most out of connecting with groups by listening, talking and replying rather than broadcasting. Be human and be professional. 

In a community group, what happens if people shout? Some news items will be controversial. See what the advice is for public-facing customer services staff.  If you get abuse, ask the admin to step in. If they don’t step in its perfectly fine to leave the group or if it is really serious needs be for you to take it further. 

How can I stay FOI compliant? Remember that data gathered from Facebook groups and how you use it is FOI-able.

How can I stay GDPR-compliant? Remember that data gathered from Facebook groups is covered by GDPR. How you store the data needs to be searchable.  

How can I encourage Facebook members to engage? If you are looking to engage and connect for a consultation be clear on how people can make their voices heard. Include debate on Facebook itself as part of the consultation. 

What if I create a group and people shout? If you create a group yourself, create some group rules that set the standard you’d like people to behave at. The starting point for this should be the rules you have for members of the public when they email, ring or call-in in person to talk to staff.

When do I engage with Facebook groups? If you keep a weather eye on community groups you’re not obliged to comment on everything but ask yourself the simple question: ‘Can I add value by commenting or signposting?’ The reception you get from the group admin will tell you a lot as to whether or not you’ll be given a hearing. 

When should I have an argument in a group? Never argue with an idiot. To a passer-by its two idiots arguing. But if you need to draw a line in the sand by being human and factual.

How to use Facebook groups is one component of the Essential Skills for Effective Communicators in 2019. For upcoming dates in Manchester, Birmingham and London or to enquire about in-house training click here.