YULE 2.0: Christmas present ideas for comms and PR people

It’s Christmas time… and there’s no need to be afraid. Not now you’ve got this long list of presents for comms and PR people.

If you are after a secret Santa, a stocking filler or some ideas to buy a loved one this list is for you. Some are serious and some are not so serious.

A big thank you to the Public Sector Comms Headspace group who helped draw-up this shortlist.

bullBullshit button

Amaze your friends and impress your colleagues by hitting the bullshit button everytime you’re asked to reach out, sprinkle fairy dust and achieve a paradigm shift. Not available in stun. Sadly.

Buy it hereComms present rating: 10.


sweetsRetro sweets.

A box of E-numbers from the 1970s especially for you. Caution: don’t be tempted to chop out a line of sherbet dip and snort it. True story: a school friend did this in VI form for the LOLs and didn’t look at all healthy after doing it.

Buy it hereComms present rating: 7. 

instaExtrovert’s Instagram frame

Lively up that office party with snaps of yourselves posing for the LOLs. Also quite handy for events that need sharable content. Like an awards bash. Or a community event.

Buy it hereComms present rating: 7


ibeforeGrammar pedant’s mug

Tired of spotting the spelling mistakes in other people’s content. Why, with this mug you can celebrate your (correct) ability to tell people where they are going wrung.

Buy it hereComms present rating: 8



Magic wand for the impossible request

‘Hey! Comms person! You know I said can you weave your magic on this pdf I knocked up with clipart? And you rolled your eyes? Well, it’s okay! I gotcha back! Here’s a magic wand!’

For the comms person who pulls things out of the hat.

Buy it here. Comms present rating: 10.

Complaint sticky for the underappreciated

complaintFed-up of never getting credit? Speed up the complaints process by having a simple to complete set of stickies to help streamline the job for you.  The box marked ‘promotion’ as desired outcome is rather marvellous.

Buy it hereComms present rating: 9

One for local government communicators

scarScarfolk is a fictional council. However, I’m sure the place exists. A book of the Facebook page of the meme. It’s brilliant.  Worth it alone for the call-to-action: ‘For further information please re-read.’

Buy it hereComms present rating: 9


One to help you understand how to make content

nob‘Mobile First Journalism’ by Paul Bradshaw is a cracking read from someone I rate very highly. Full of advice and tips on how to create content on a budget. It shows there are lessons in 2018 comms people can take from journalism.

Buy it hereComms present rating: 8


One for someone aiming to expand their knowledge

anHow to look at things in a strategic way can be tricky. This book from the excellent Anne Gregory and Paul Willis is really useful. Clear.

Concise and on the money.

Buy it hereComms present rating: 8



gramOne for someone who is a bit of a grammar policeman

A deskplate for the grammar police officer in your life.

See? This makes it official. And you thought they were just being awkward.

Heck, no!

Buy it hereComms present rating: 8.

One for people who hate meetings and calendars

diaryThe Disappointment Diary was a star last Christmas and for 2018 it’s BACK! With added disappointment. Cut out the middleman and take this pre-booked calendar of disappointment.

Buy it here. Comms present rating: 7.



One for people who need a crystal ball

cryI see into the future! You will get a visit from someone who wants you to do something at the last minute! Or maybe even they haven’t even got round to telling you! A crystal ball set. Perfect. How did I know you needed one?

Buy it here. Comms present rating: 10.


One for someone who needs gin

ginA box of gin.

It can come in handy.

Caution: when the fun stops stop.

A career in communications should be considered responsibly.

Buy it here. Comms present rating: 8.

One for someone who uses stock photos

darkNeed a pic of a man with a beard licking a puppy? This book is for you! Explore the world of obscure stock pics and marvel at the photographer who has the perfect shot for the web search: ‘man on toilet + eating ice cream’.


Buy it here.Comms present rating: 8.

One for someone who likes liking

likeaA personalised stamp so you can like something IRL. Just like you do on the internet.

Only, don’t forget not to download a pile of personal data in return for completing a competition.


Buy it hereComms present rating: 7.

One for people fed-up of motivational pictures #1

demtDe-motivational pencils take the contrary view.

Reach for the sky?

Not with a pencil that reads: ‘Do your best or don’t. Whatever.’

Or maybe you will. Whatever.

Buy it here. Comms present rating 9.

One for people fed-up of motivational pictures #2

demIf pencils aren’t enough for you the comforting trudge of the monthly wall calendar with a glass half full approach may be for you.

Buy it hereComms present rating: 8.




One for people fed-up of motivational pictures #3

workIn fact, why have a lack of motivation on the wall when you can have a t-shirt to walk around in from Modern Toss?

Buy it here.

Comms present rating: 7.



tripodOne for people looking to expand their video skills

Mobile video is a thing. Have I mentioned that in passing?

So, here is a small tripod that fits into a bag and you can pull out and put on a desk when you are interviewing someone.


Buy it here. Comms present rating: 9

ctrlOne for someone who wants to know where we are now

Tom Dixon spent years as part of the Westminster bubble as a reporter. In this book he traces how comms has influenced elections. From more innocent days through to Trump, Brexit and fake news. It’s a cracking book and I suggest you read it.

Buy it hereComms present rating: 9.


A big thank you to members of the Public Sector Comms Headspace who chipped into this list including: Julie Hannan, Jane Jarvie, George Vekic, Lauren Kirk, Shayoni Sarker Lynn, Alex Duffy, Leanne Ehren, Naz Ayele, Kathryn Clarke Yglecias, David Bell, Mark Templeton, Paul Compton, Emma Wild, Kelly Quigley-Hicks, Rob Bruce, Jude Knight, Meriel Clunas, Sharon Dunbar, Jon Matthias, Josephine Graham, Kathryn Smith, Hayley Douglas, Kaylee Godfrey, Ann Bridges, Heather Turner, Alana Feasey, Susan Haig, Emma Bowman and Tom Gee.

VIDEO SKILLS: Nine key facts and training to help shape your 2019 video strategy


Video will play a huge part in the success of your communications strategy in 2019.

When to use video and when not to is just as important as knowing how to shoot video for any effective communicator.

Key video insight for 2019

Smartphone use in the UK will pass 92 per cent by 2025 – source: Deloitte, 2018.

Those aged 16 to 24 in the UK spend on average an hour a day watching YouTube – source: Google, 2018.

Video will account for 82 per cent of web traffic by 2020 – source: Google, 2018.

There are more than twice as many people watching video on YouTube in the third quarter of 2018 at 1.2 trillion than 510 million on Facebook – source: Tubular Labs.

A majority of UK over 55s own a smartphone – source: Ofcom, 2018.

58 per cent of UK people with a mobile phone watch video once a week, Deloite, 2017.

The optimum length of a YouTube clip is almost three minutes compared to 15 seconds on Facebook – source: Google / Facebook.  

Sport recieved 1.8 billion views in the UK in first six months of 2018 – source: Tubular Labs.  

There are 25 million unique viewers a month of the Daily Telegraph Snapchat channel – source: Daily Telegraph.


As video is what your audience is likely to be consuming your video strategy will help you deliver a successful communications strategy.

To help you achieve this, I’m running workshops in 2019. Delivered along with cameraman, filmmaker and academic Steven Davies the sessions will help you plan, shoot, edit and post engaging comms video. We’ll make sure you are safe and legal, GDPR, copyright law and PSBAR compliant.

We’ve had four years of experience and have delivered training for more than 2,000 people across more than 300 organisations.

6.2.19 Friends House, Euston Road, London. For more information and to book click here.

7.2.19 Bond Company, Fazeley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham. For more information and to book click here.

13.2.19 Leeds, Carriageworks, Millennium Square, Leeds. For more information and to book click here.

If those dates don’t work or you’d like in-house training drop me a line dan@comms2point0.co.uk or @danslee on Twitter.

HERO STORIES: The new FutureProof celebrates people not ideas   


The FutureProof publication has been a Blue Peter annual for the past three years. In other years, it has been a collection of essays. This year, it has focused on individuals who are steering a course. ‘Twenty one pioneers who are shaping our industry’ and told in a quirky classical story telling format.

Across the download there are 22 people in 21 entries, 20 are individuals and two are a double act. Kudos to Sarah Hall for piecing this together and credit to her for celebrating those she sees as playing a vital role in shaping the industry.  It’s a thankless task. Every list is subjective and every list is unique. Add one in you’ll leave more out.

Here’s what struck me.

Men dominate the list but I’ll bet women dominate the future. Thirteen of the list are men and nine are women. If this exercise is run again in a few years time I’d be highly surprised if that balance isn’t flipped with women in the ascendancy. A few years ago, I’d noticed that much more women are being appointed to junior roles. Those people are now working their way to senior posts. Quite right too.

Eighteen of the list are private sector.  No doubt they deserve it. Many names are new to me as I tend to work in the public sector.

Just one is from the public sector. I’d take nothing away from each person listed in the book. The Government Communications Service’s Alex Aiken is a good example of a pioneer shaping our industry. But there are so many others from the public sector too to admire. Long hours. Poor pay. Constant sniping. Why would anyone do it? Because they can genuinely make a difference. How many communicators would handle the Manchester Arena attack? Or the London terror incidents? Or Grenfell? Or a 60 per cent budget cut like local government. Yet, the public sector did.

Three are from Higher Education. One man and two women. All three deserve it.

None are from the Third Sector. Charity comms is an area that has its own unique challenges and some exceptional people working in it. I can name you some but it also makes me think about the need for people across sectors to learn from others. A good idea is a good idea.

Strategy rather than delivery is recognised. None of the 22 are operators in the trenches although all will no doubt argue they’ve had their time knee-deep in mud.

It got me thinking about who I’d list and then quickly binned the idea as career suicide. As someone who works with hundreds of people over the course of the year so many people impress. But trouble making Robert Phillips author of ‘Trust Me: PR is Dead’ would be one.

But that’s the delight of lists and stories.

They’re unique and they prompt debate.

You can find a copy here.

FIRE LESSON: 18 gems that fire and rescue comms can teach you


There are some fine communicators in the public sector but none are better than fire and rescue people.

They can switch from the day-to-day campaign to the drop-everything-now blaze.

Other blue light services can argue they face a similar challenge. They’d be right. But none are better than fire. Yet as a sector they are often overlooked. Ordered into a taxi by the Home Office and eyed-up by police and crime commissioners their skills are often unappreciated.

When Grenfell happened, many communicators would have frozen but fire and rescue people didn’t. I’ve worked with fire and rescue before and I’m always impressed. So, the two days of hosting the FirePRO conference in Birmingham was a real pleasure.

Here are things you can learn from fire and rescue comms:

  1. People have the same regard of firefighters as they do the NHS. They just don’t have the opportunity to show it.
  2. A drone brilliantly tells the story of a large unfolding incident.
  3. In a high-profile emergency you will be flooded with gifts of water, biscuits and other donations. Say ‘thank you’.
  4. Play the public messages of support back to the people in the frontline.
  5. Help the media tell your story by giving them good access.
  6. Don’t forget internal comms. Keep the rest of the organisation up to speed at least once a day in a rolling incident.
  7. A major incident doesn’t stop when the fire is out. The public enquiry can be demanding to your time.
  8. Good practice can work right across the public sector and beyond.
  9. Think on your feet.
  10. Back yourself.
  11. Heroes are great. But there are dangers posed by looking at volunteers and staff as almost untouchable.
  12. Don’t shelter from a negative social media storm. It may hoover-up your time, but go out and look to challenge each negative post. There are medium and long term benefits.
  13. As an organisation, look to do the right thing. Even when this causes a short-term headache.
  14. Listen to staff across your organisation.
  15. 89 per cent of men who die after a night out are found dead in water.
  16. Think of your audience and how to best reach them. Be bold if you have to.
  17. People respond well to bright yellow ducks in a campaign.
  18. Don’t do what you always do.

There are lessons to learn from across the field no matter what sector you work in.

Picture credit: Documerica / Flickr


NEWS CHANGE: How newspapers are re-inventing themselves for a chance of survival


As a keen junior newspaper reporter, I was once told the key to writing features was to put the best quote in the intro.

So, John Lennon’s ‘Beatles are bigger than Jesus’ should always shout from the first paragraph to reel the reader in.

I was reminded of this gem listening to Marc Reeves, editor-in-chief Reach Midlands, talk at the FirePro conference about what the present and future of newspapers looks like.

First, a disclosure. I’m from newspaper’s past. I started off on a hot metal newspaper, learned shorthand on an NCTJ Pre-Entry certificate and learned how to write a news story to deadline and quietly keep something back for the over-night schedule. I loved being a reporter. But all the newspaper offices I’ve ever worked in have closed and the industry as I knew it is dead. But a new one that can look the 21st century in the face has emerged.

Second, a disclosure. I’ve known of Marc Reeves for at least a decade. His ideas around Business Desk‘s online business news service helped shape in part shaped the partnership that became comms2point0. Six links in the morning? That was originally an idea that translated.

Here are NINE things that could be the first paragraph.

‘I can reach 40 times the audience online compared to print.’

When I had my interview for my NCTJ Pre-Entry certificate in 1994, I was asked what impact the internet would have on newspapers. “Until,” I replied “people can read the internet on the toilet, on the bus or while watching the telly it won’t totally overtake it. But there should be enough time to work out how to use it.”

Newspapers used to be licenses to print money. And then came the internet to take their lunch, dinner and breakfast. Small ads are now ebay and buy and sell groups on Facebook. Sports reporting is now Twitter and the podcast. Lucrative property ads have moved online.

What remains is a hollowed-out industry that has has cut jobs, cut corners and cuts and pastes your press release to get a page away. Print revenues have declined in line with the glimmer of hope in the eye of the freshly minted journalism recruit.

‘I can reach 40 times the audience online compared to print,’ says Marc.

‘The press release is almost obsolete’

What matters is a decent story well told. So, the days and weeks spent on signing off a press release is becoming increasingly fruitless.

‘We’re creating a digital lifeboat for when print sinks.’

Reach are rolling out new brands that build on what came before but are different in look and feel. For the Birmingham Mail this is now online BirminghamLive on Facebook and online.

The switch works fine in Birmingham. But county boundaries don’t slice so easily. So, news from the Staffordshire market town of Uttoxeter in DerbyshireLive jars for some people.

But 14k print sales of the Birmingham Mail and 450k daily uniques on BirminghamLive says in numbers where the future lies.

“We’re creating a digital lifeboat for when print sinks,” Marc says.

‘There will be fewer newspapers.’

Smaller titles will close, Marc warns. More will go.

Just days after he spoke, Johnstone Press was put up for sale and bought to shed more than £100m of debt.

‘Journalism used to be a one way process. We shouted and you listened. Not anymore.’

I remember the role of the central role of the newspaper as the absolute gatekeeper of what was news and what was important. What they’re becoming better at is looking at the stats to see what works and what doesn’t and seeing what is important to people.

Reporters get to know their patch by joining Facebook groups

Back in the day, on my first proper newspaper I had the patches of Cradley, Hayley Green and Hasbury. I got to know them by ringing around contacts and going out on them. I met the newsagent and the florist who became a vital source of stories.

For the Birmingham Mail / BirminghamLive the beat includes joining the Facebook group, too. But interestingly, Marc says the same rules apply. Their reporters need to build trust and be careful to nurture it.

Video remains key but standards have improved

Video as a driver of traffic is not new but the quality threshold if anything has risen. Not just any old video, please. Good video that tells a story on a subject readers want to know about, Marc says.

Big newspaper groups have a better chance

Big groups like Reach have a larger clout in the sector so have a greater chance of success. The group has more than 100 titles. The often quoted line about print dollars and digital dimes has a ring of truth.

The role of journalist has changed

Days after this session the Birmingham Mail – or BirminghamLive which ever way you want to look at it – appointed a replacement for local government editor. Jane Haynes is the new editor politics and people. I bumped into Jane about 12-months ago on a train. She’d left local government to go and complete a masters degree in mobile and multi-platform journalism at Birmingham City University. She wasn’t sure at that stage where that would take her. But I remember thinking that the doors it would unlock would be hugely interesting. Rather than file copy from Full Council she’ll be live blogging or using Facebook Live or whichever platform best works. That’s exactly what we all should be doing.

Almost a decade ago, then BBC journalist Robert Peston spoke to say the blog was at the heart of everything he does. I was reminded of this as I was following the latest twist with Brexit. It wasn’t the newspaper I was waiting for. I was using Twitter and Facebook to see Robert Peston’s take along with the BBC’s Laura Keunnsburg as well as @thesecretbarrister for the legal position.  Then it was the BBC Brexit podcast for a more considered take on the breaking news.

What does this tell you if you are a comms person?

It tells you that the world is changing, that the press release is not omnipotent. That newspapers are not omnipotent. That if they change they have a chance. That there’s a chance for you to be in newspaper-free desert. That the newspaper that hasn’t radically changed probably won’t be around for longer.

But beyond that, it confirms that newspapers are no longer the only show in town. But by putting a hand up to recognise that that’s no bad thing and by doing so newspapers can re-invent themselves.

Of course, the real proof of the pudding with newspapers will be if they survive financially. They can do this by providing a product that people want. For all the applause they get for the new approach if their site opens with three pop-ups, a quiz and a auto-playing video with sound that’s something they’ll struggle with.

There’s a confusion over the differing names of the website and the print edition. But as the print audience dies out you can see this being quietly dropped.

Finally, the one constant is people. They haven’t fundamentally changed. They still want to know what’s happening in their area. It’s just that the way they can find out has changed.

As a comms person, if you want to talk with people, it’s useful knowing the landscape.

Picture credit: Elvin / Flickr

RED LETTER: Why Poppy Day is a good day to learn how to bust a myth

There’s a great line about lies being half way round the world before the truth has got its pants on.

It’s actually something that cuts to the very heart of public sector communications.

We should be constantly challenging myths and half-truths when they happen before they take root as the Winterval myth has done.

A few things caught my eye this week on how to challenge effectively.

Royal British Legion’s myth busting

Every year the football Press runs the predictable click-bait of Derry-born James McLean refusing to wear a Poppy on his team’s shirt for Remembrance Day.

On the one hand, those who think he’s a disgrace and in the other those who understand his reasons.

I’ve found a piece of myth-busting from the Royal British Legion themselves really useful. Text that shoots down regular myths that surround the appeal. It’s not only useful because it’s accurate but because its also clear and shareable.

The 40,000 shares show that the message has got out.



What then makes this particularly impressive is that they don’t just leave it at that. They then go and talk with people who post on the Facebook post.

There’s the straight forward.


But also the quite challenging.


And yet

A challenging post by the excellent Stuart Bruce challenges some of the conventional rebuttal approach.

Ignore it and hope it’ll go away? Nope.

The things that Stuart suggests people do to rebut lies the Royal British Legion does.

They create shareable content.

They get in first.

They let others speak for them through the shareable content.

But what was most challenging was the idea that you really shouldn’t repeat the lie in the rebuttal. Stuart points to academic evidence that the point by point denial doesn’t cut through.

You can read the full piece here.

Playing whack-a-mole with rumour

That’s fine if you have time on your side but what to do once the lie has been cast?

Back in 2011, The Guardian ran an excellent piece of academic research Reading the Riots that traced how a handful of rumours played out on Twitter and how they dissipated.

They discovered that online, there was a need for the police to go back to rebut rumours in a four-hour cycle as people switched on their phones to discover the original unchallenged piece of fake news.

They also found the need for citizens with online reputations to be out challenging myth and rumour.

In Birmingham, one rumour centred on disorder which alleged the Birmingham Princess Diana Children’s Hospital was on fire. This was shot down by a prominent blogger Andy Mabbett pointing out that Steelhouse Lane police station was right opposite. So, that probably wasn’t true, right?

It’s that line about citizens sharing things that stays with me.

You can only really hope people will rally round and share your rebuttal if you are engaging online and are an organisation with a degree of trust in the bank already.

Being human online can help with that.

FRIENDS IMPACT: A tongue-in-cheek shoplifting appeal led to 50 per cent of Blackpool people thinking better of their police


You may have seen the Blackpool police appeal for a suspect who looked rather like Friends actor David Schwimmer.

You may have also seen the star’s tongue in cheek denial that he was involved.

Both updates were shared heavily online.

I’ve long argued that human comms should be part of the tool box online for comms people at the right time and in the right context.

It was people online who made the David Schwimmer connection rather than town police themselves.

The bright glare of publicity led to a suspect being arrested. So job done on the most important metric of all.

But aside from the arrest, what was the impact on Blackpool police of the tongue-in-cheek exchange? It’s a question that intrigued me. So, I ran a quick unscientific poll to try and capture some data.

The results were surprising.

60 per cent of people outside of Blackpool viewed the town police better

Of those surveyed, more than 60 per cent had a better perception of the Lancashire town’s police force.

Less than 1 per cent had a negative perception of the service and a third were unchanged in how they viewed the force.

IF YOU LIVE OUTSIDE OF BLACKPOOL: What is your perception of Blackpool police after reading the David Schwimmer Facebook update? 


Inside Blackpool, the stats were illuminating.

50 per cent of people in Blackpool itself viewed their police better

IF YOU LIVE IN BLACKPOOL: What is your perception of Blackpool police after reading the David Schwimmer Facebook update? 

The numbers were different but again, less than 1 per cent viewed the town force negatively.

More people were unchanged in their perception – 50 per cent – but this is to be expected if people in the town have a view on the force.

But what is striking is that 27 per cent felt much better towards officers and 23 per cent better. Or, in other words, 50 per cent felt better about their force.


More than 350 people took part in the online poll on Twitter and 27 were from Blackpool. Clearly, this is unscientific. But it does start to give some useful feedback on how people perceive a less formal tone online.

Clearly, UK police forces can’t rely on enlisting Hollywood actors to help with shoplifting appeals.

But as a broad yardstick this does show that the human approach has a positive impact with audiences.

This does have a bigger impact in those outside of the area.

But there’s a striking majority of people in the town itself who think more positively, too.

Of course, you do have to be human to carry off this approach.