PARAMEDIC HUMANS: How Ambulance crew are using social media and lessons you can learn


Be human. Always. There is something beautifully human about the ambulance service and their approach to social media.

The corporate account is fine. But increasingly ambulance services are also give access to staff with their own official accounts.

It’s surprising how rare this approach still is but there is something about it that just works.

What does the approach of staff accounts say? It says that they work for an organisation that employs real people and trusts them. It shows them what paramedics are doing day-to-day. It shows that they are forward looking organisation. There’s no need for obvious calls to action with this approach. Being human is quite enough. If there are occasions when a vital message needs to get out, do it. But don’t be driven by it.

West Midlands Ambulance Service are doing brilliantly at allowing staff to be human on their own corporate accounts. There is no sense of them rocking up at an incident and thinking smartphone first. Whatever is posted has a feel that it is done in downtime and with regard to personal data.

On Twitter

This is a great example. Lottie Stubbs is a paramedic in the West Midlands with more than 6,000 followers. She talks about what she does day to day but also posts advice.

Staff can also feature on video through the corporate account.

But rather than just think of the key message they also show a human side, too. That’s fine. In fact, that’s to be encouraged.

And in an emergency, the channel becomes a place where the right information can be published at the right time.


On Facebook

Pages are the place where ambulance services are on Facebook. But rather than a receptacle for the latest press release the better services use Facebook as its own thing. A quiz, for example, shows some of the work they are doing.

Or behind the scenes glimpses. Here, a training exercise that looks to replicate a bloody incident.

On Instagram

The approach is more corporate. The corporate account follows a handful of frontline ambulance crew with private accounts. But they do include real people, too, as here from Israel, through hashtags such as #paramediclife.

Working hard… Amazing week everyone:) Keep smiling.. Love my work live my job🇮🇱🇮🇱🚑

A post shared by shakedi27 (@shakedi27) on


But also the paramedics as human beings point of view, first.

Prac done! 🙌🚑 Even though i am currently ramped at QEII… . . . #placement #clinicalplacement #ems #medic #lastplacement #student #clinical #emergency #emergencyservices #paramedic #ambulance #yay #celebrate #paramedicstudent #happy #university

A post shared by maddy m. // m.j. (@emmmjayd) on


But there is still a place for the corporate account. This time from a submitted picture of staff in action.

‘🚁🚁🚁’It’s tricky enough to walk over that patch of land nevermind landing a helicopter there!’ We love this shot of our heli in action in Wigan a huge THANK YOU to Matt for sending it through!!!🚁🚁🚁 #charity #fundraising #helicopter #airambulance

A post shared by North West Air Ambulance (@nwairambulance) on

What’s not being done so far

So far so good, but it would be great to see frontline staff using Instagram stories and Snapchat. It’s hard to see how live broadcasts would work routinely at the frontline in a changing environment.

But as the popularity of 999-themed TV shows demonstrate, there is a huge interest in the sector. Video as a recruitment tool with a Q&A for potential paramedics is a shoo-in.

SHODDY NEWS: How to complain about bad journalism 2.0


Just lately, more than a few people have been complaining about journalists just recently.

It’s not critical stories that truly bother people, it’s not giving a fair crack of the whip.

As a former journalist, I get the Press needs to hold the organisation to account.

As a former press officer, I also get that that on occasion the journalist or news organisation needs to be held to account, too.

Taditional media. No longer the only show in town but as the Edelman Trust Barometer shows, in the UK 61 per cent trust traditional media.

Every generation blames declining editorial standards. But as news rooms have been hollowed out old heads have gone. There’s also less time to check copy and pressure to get the story online.

If the content is in accurate complain about it.

Here’s how.

Golde rule: get your facts straight first

One day when I worked in local government, the door flew open. An angry social worker demanded we I declare war on the local newspaper for the damning front page she was shaking at me.

“Calm down,” I said. “Let’s go through it line by line.”

Of the 14 paragraphs, all but one was accurate. It quoted her in a report she’d written. The sum of money was at issue. So, I picked-up the phone and spoke to the journalists about the inaccuracy.

Golden rule: Get your facts straight first. What’s the problem? If the piece is inaccurate, you’ve got a case. If you’ve not been given a fair say, too.

Do complain

Yes, you complained once and all you got was three lousy lines on page 17. What’s the point? You’re firing a shot across the bows. You don’t see is the pain stripping inquisition that may have led to those three lines. When I was a reporter, I made mistakes just like anyone else. I sure as hell I didn’t enjoy the process of explaining myself. At best, it’s time consuming. At worst, it can be pretty unpleasant.

Stage 1: the off-line conversation with the journalist direct

Sometimes, the offending headline isn’t the fault of the journalist themselves. It’s the sub-editor where they still exist. Talk to the journalist direct over the phone to air your grievance. Chances are most things can be sorted this way. But if the issue is particularly bad, just go straight to stage two.

Stage 2: the on-line conversation with the newspaper direct

You can talk to your residents directly to set the record straight. So, why wouldn’t you?

The BBC Press Office have got really good at this. Annoyed at reporting they want to challenge they’ve taken to Twitter. Be straight. Be factual.

Top tip: some in the organisation will fear this is just having a row and hey, we’re above that. So, do a bit of homework first. Have a word with the people who know policy backwards. In a council, this is usually constitutional services. Ask them for chapter and verse of policies on transparency and accuracy. Frame your conversations in the light of these policies. You are not having a row. You are making sure council policy is carried out by being transparent about the issue, is all.

Stage 3: the off-line complaint to the news organisation

Now, this is where your homework comes into play. Twenty minutes going through documents line-by-line could save you hours and days and weeks.

This is the important part. You are looking at what holds the journalist to account.

You don’t necessary have to complain to the regulator direct. But you can cite where the breaches of the regulator’s code are then complain editor or news editor above the reporter’s head.  This makes the difference between the unstructured shouting and the constructive argument.

There’s plenty to choose from.

The IPSO editor’s code of conduct

There is a big debate over press regulation. That’s for some other time. The majority of newspapers opt to be regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation or IPSO.  There are 14 areas of the Editor’s Code of Conduct that you can complain under with the first – accuracy – likely to feature prominently.

1. Accuracy

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

There was a handy webpage with a list of organisations governed by IPSO. That’s now got a 404 so you’ll have to make use of the old school contact page to check if the body is regulated.

The IMPRESS code of conduct

If the organisation you want to complain about are regulated by the official regulator IMPRESS the code can be found here. They’ve recently regulated their 1,000th organisation with a fair number of blogs and websites on the list.

The National Union of Journalists code of conduct

The NUJ – disclaimer, I’m a member – has 12 points in its code of conduct. If the journalist is breaching them, cite them. It doesn’t matter they are not members it is a nationally recognised code of behaviour for the journalist themselves.

The news organisation themselves’ own code

The news organisation themselves often pride themselves in upholding the highest standards. That’s great. Hold them to them. For example, Reach, the new name for Trinity Mirrior, has a complaints policy. The BBC has editorial guidelines. If you are complaining about a BBC reporter know what the guidelines so you can show whey they have been broken. Use them.

Stage 4: the formal complaint

If sticking locally doesn’t work, then do put the complaint in writing to the right regulator.

In a fast moving news cycle, you’ll need to act fast, accurately and fairly. If you don’t, who in your organisation will?

Picture credit: Ryan Adams /


FOG WARNING: Why looking at data – lots of it – gives you a clearer picture


27904183303_56b348c6bb_k (1).jpg

When I was a kid my Dad would take us walking in the Lake District. We would set off with a rucksack, wellies and a mac.

Every now and then we’d be caught up a fell by mist that would bring visibility to almost nothing. It was an odd feeling to know that off the path was a sheer drop hidden by the clouds.

One time we were were caught out and were about to scramble down a tiny path worn not by climbers but by sheep and rabbits. The cloud broke for 10 seconds and Dad spotted we were heading into the wrong valley. Of course, he only told us about this much later. Being Cumbrian he didn’t do drama.

Every 12-months the Ofcom communications market report acts as a break of sunlight in the mist. We are busy working not knowing the world has changed and then the clouds break and a pile of useful data emerges. I’ve blogged about it here.

One thing struck me listening to the debate and discussion of the Ofcom stats.

Firstly, that looking at the data always, always surprises and leads to a moment of revelation. That figure of 80 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds having Facebook? Surprising, isn’t it?

But that’s not the complete picture.

Almost every public sector Facebook page I’ve ever looked at has had less than 5 per cent of members as a teenager.

Don’t just rely on one set of big picture figures.

Look at your own local data, too.

Where can you get it from?

You’ll get a clearer picture if you do.

Pic credit: Alex Holyoake / Flickr 






30 days of human comms: #47 the Mayor of Sheffield turns a cinema into a party

You may have come across the Mayor of Sheffield. 

If you haven’t you can imagine a 75-year-old white bloke with a gammy leg and the knowledge of the council’s constitution and statins.

The current mayor of Sheffield, Cllr Majid Majid is none of those.

He came to Sheffield as a refugee at the age of five. He’s the first Mayor of Sheffield who belongs to the Green party and the first with a degree.

He wanted to go to see the new Abba musical. So he booked a ticket and posted the link to his Facebook page and encouraged others to come along for a sing song.



Be more like Magic Majid.

30 days of human comms: Day #46 Anti-littering posters in Bray, Ireland

Speaking human… you can recognise it when you see it. Step forward Bray in the Republic of Ireland.

Litter is a problem that costs millions of pounds a year to pick-up across the UK and Ireland.

So, the response from Bray Tourism and the Municipal District of Bray is really quite direct.

No nudge theory from them.

If you drop litter you’re a jerk, you think the council will pick it up and you don’t care about the place.

Good work, Bray.

Thanks Ross Wigham for spotting this.



VIRAL COMMUNITY: How the viral parking warden video started in a Facebook group… and what we can all learn


If you’re not thinking about Facebook groups you’re missing a huge chunk of how the population is consuming the media.

Your corporate page is fine. But the reality is that most people are in groups or following local pages.

Last year, I ran some research on what an average week looked like in a town of 150,000 people. The results blew me away. There were more than 570 groups and pages in the town of Braintree.

But that was a quiet week. How do things play out on Facebook groups and pages in a busy week?

Let’s take the example of the parking warden ticketing the ambulance.

You may have seen it.

A parking warden tickets an ambulance: how it plays out

A private parking warden is issuing a parking ticket parked on double yellow lines outside Tesco in Kingsmead Square, Northwich. The ticket is for a North West Ambulance Service ambulance and its crew remonstrate that they haven’t had a break since early morning and eight hours later they are buying water. Their vehicle is too big for a parking bay, they say.

Facebook escalates it

A passer-by sees the incident play out, films it and intervenes, calls the warden ‘an idiot’ and uploads the video to the Northwhich Life Facebook group which has 23,000 members. This video alone is shared 158,000 times with 995 comments and 26,000 reactions.

But that’s the start of it. It gets picked up from the group by other news outlets and Facebook groups and pages.

In 43 hours, the video is ripped and re-posted more than 30 times with those new videos being shared 5,359 times with 7,477 comments.

Who shares it? ITV, BBC and a whole lot of newspapers that don’t cover Northwhich. Step forward Banbury Guardian, Mansfield Chad and Northampton Chronicle. Yahoo News and others further afield share it, too.

BBC and ITV local news boost the figures to more than two million views. You can see the ITV clip here.


The media story plays out

On Google Trends, the search term ‘ambulance parking ticket’ goes from zero to 100,000 in a day.

google trends

As Google News shows, the story is picked up quickly by the wider news media and an appearance on ITV’s Good Morning from a representative of the parking industry didn’t play out well for the industry.

The parking company didn’t issue the ticket. But things escalate anyway. Things are out of control.

London Cambridge Properties, who own the site where the parking attendant was contracted to patrol, issued a statement on the web and more than 24-hours later on Twitter to their 1,300 followers attracting one retweet, two likes and no comments in the first three hours it was posted. The West Midlands-based company’s LinkedIn page was unchanged.


And then things get a bit weird

On Facebook, there’s abuse for the parking warden. Heaps of it and some of it is borderline racist. There are comments calling for the warden to be sacked and far worse. When a mob forms – online or offline – it’s never nice.

And council Facebook pages get people complaining.  Even though they’re in another part of the country.

And the memes start.

ambulance meme_LI

What we can learn from this

Anyone can shoot video with their smartphone and post it online.

It starts with one Facebook group and gets shared.

Things escalate out of control quickly.

When things escalate you can quickly lose any pretense of control of the issue.

Your response on Facebook needs to be on Facebook and in a shareable format.

You need to communicate swiftly.

There are many organisations in the frame here. Tesco. The landowners, the parking enforcement company and the ambulance trust.

If you have frontline public facing people they need to be well trained and have an expectation that they will be filmed in the despatch of their job. With that in mind, basic media training skills for public-facing staff are essential. Uppermost is how to respond if someone starts to film them.

When things escalate your staff can expect a duty of care from you as an employer.

EDIT: Cheshire police officer and Twitter vlogger @sgtTCS has gone through the incident from a police officer’s perspective here.

DODGING HIPPOS: How to say ‘no’ to the highest paid person in the room without actually saying ‘no’


Its been a busy few months. One of the good things about it is travelling to places and hearing new ideas. Often when I’m training I come back with a few pearls of wisdom.

I heard about HIPPOs when I was in Devon.

Not the large irratable African animals that can block and then flatten your car. Oh, no. The HIPPO is the Highest Pail Person’s Opinion. The HIPPO in the room can flatten your idea simply because they are the ones with the large salary and the job title.

There was a smile of recognition in the room at the description. I smiled too.

Problems HIPPOs pose

Bright leaders know they don’t have all the answers and surround themselves with people who are expert in their field. Bright leaders listen. Less bright – lets call them heroic leaders – think they have to have the answers and stand on top of the tank and point heroically.

It’s where the ‘the executive director would like a poster’ line comes from.

The problem with this is they are rarely right.

Convincing HIPPOs they are wrong

Of course, once the HIPPO has spoken you are in trouble.  It’s then you against the senior person and it can be very tricky for you to turn the column of tanks around. But you need to. If you don’t give your professional advice there is little between you and a shorthand typist.

But the problem can be is that it can appear as though it is you folding your arms and saying ‘no’ because you are just being difficult.

The way round it is by adopting a process to find the best idea.

Data driven communications

One slide I very often point to is from the Edelman Trust Barometer. This research was started the best part of 20 years ago after the Battle in Seattle when anti-globalisation protesters clashed with police. ‘Why do people hate us?,’ the cry went up and the research helped map trust.


The useful thing about this is that tells you that the person like your self with 53 per cent is more trusted than the director who has 38 per cent. So, if the issue is around children playing on railway lines,  then children and maybe parents are the best people to deliver that message.

Need another example? The acclaimed NHS #thisgirlcan campaign used the word ‘girl’ rather than woman or female because the data said that the word ‘girl’ would cut through to most people. So data won and helped the campaign fly.

Data driven communications is a really good idea.

It’s not you that’s saying ‘no’. It’s letting the data points to the right answer and that just takes the sting and the personality out of it.

And that can be brilliant for getting past HIPPOs.

Picture credit: Daniel Jureno / Flickr