COMMS CHALLENGE: How could public sector organisations challenge post-truth?

‘It wasn’t supposed to be like this,’ is the first line of a blog post about post-truth and the internet I never got around to finishing.

Why didn’t I finish it? Maybe because the very tools that I had such faith in when I first came across the social web are the tools that have helped make facts redundant.

If you work in PR or communications you need to know that there is much thinking, reflecting and most importantly doing that you need to do about post-truth.

Stephen Waddington has written a tremendous contribution to this debate as a manifesto for public relations in a post truth world. I suggest you read it and let it soak in. This doesn’t have all the answers but the questions it asks are the right ones.

So what?

Steven is dead right to identify that Trump and Brexit had the stronger message and appealed to the heart not the head.

He’s right to identify that news cycles are gone and will go. The Trump cycle of bombarding the internet and then moving on has proved effective.

Stephen also makes a valuable point:

If you’re working on a campaign for 2017 use tools to establish a hypothesis and then put them down and go into the real world to talk, and more importantly listen to your publics.

He’s also right to say that social capital will play a part in whatever comes next. What’s social capital? It’s the undefinable credit you get for doing something good, kind or useful. You can find it everywhere. In the classroom when you were a kid when you lent someone a pencil. In the office when you pick-up someone’s slack. But here’s a confession. I’ve always struggled with the term. It works for academics. It doesn’t work outside the boardroom or the classroom.

I prefer thinking of it as people who give a stuff.

So, how does a public sector organisation challenge post-truth? Why, on Facebook, stupid

Let’s take the myth that the council’s Deputy Leader gets paid £100,000 for doing his council job. It’s a disgrace. It’s almost more than the Prime Minister. Only, it’s not true.

Where can you find that myth? You don’t have to go far on a community Facebook group or page to find something like it. There are hundreds in every town and city. Even the smallest village usually has one.

So, how do we challenge that?

Shouldn’t council comms people be going to Facebook groups and pages as individuals to engage – factually not personally – with people?

If you think you are too busy, how is it working out for you not engaging?

This is a difficult question to answer. But I’m convinced it needs to be worked out. I did a small part of this myself for five years while looking after the corporate Twitter and Facebook. I added my name because I wanted people to know I was a real person. Was it tiring? Actually it was. Not physically, but mentally if you are doing it round the clock.

What do you think?


SOCIAL PROBLEM: The trouble with communicating social care


Social care is in crisis and there are warnings it is about to pull local government and the NHS into the abyss.

The loud crack that we first heard in 2008 coming from the foundations is about to turn into something else.

This is one view. The other is that there’s enough money in the system. If only councils would cut councillor’s expenses and non-jobs we’d all be fine. Or something.

Social care is the safety net that catches your Mum, Dad, Gran, Grandpa, son, daughter, brother, sister or you when you need it.

The trouble is, however, that social care has got a communications problem.

Everyone loves the NHS because at some point they know their family will need it.

And the NHS is personified by the doctor and the nurse in that big building called a hospital which is there to care for you.

But what about social care?

There are no hospitals, nurses or doctors.

No-one plans to get dementia. Or live alone.

There’s just people like you or me helping other people in the community. Like my Aunt Jean. They’re invisible.

And because they’re invisible not enough people care.

Head v heart

If a trend in 2016 has been for communicating to the heart over the head what does that look like?

It’s not words like ‘re-enablement’.

It’s not spreadsheets or financial projections.

It’s communicating the 75-year-old man called Alan who only speaks to someone once a week for five minutes.

Or the 88-year-old called Maude who looks like your Mum who needs help every day getting out of bed.

Painful, human stories of people whose names you know who are looking straight at you. Straight at you.  And one day soon you could be one of them.

Picture credit: Brian Tomlinson / Flickr

EMOTION CONNECTS: The Polish Christmas TV ad… not a dry eye

Look, I’m slow to this, alright? But remember that stuff we were talking about on head v heart?

All that gubbins about head v heart and the Christmas TV ads use emotion to connect with people?

Have you seen the Polish Christmas TV ad? It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a long while:

I don’t want to get all click bait but I had your actual tears in my eye.

WIDE VIDEO: A powerful mannequin challenges gives a reminder in how to hold your phone

Always shoot video in landscape, always…  apart from when it’s better not to.

This mantra used to be law when we first delivered essential video skills workshops.

However, I was reminded that my colleague Steve’s law has softened over the past 18-months.

If you are shooting content for Snapchat or Instagram Live then it is fine to be upright. It’s how the platform works.

Here’s an example of a really good video shot using a mobile phone upright that’s been re-purposed.

This Oxfordshire fire station at Eynsham shot a mannequin challenge of the consequences of using a phone while driving. It’s arresting content. The fire crew scrambling to assist. The victim on the floor.

It was posted upright to the Facebook page. It’s a great video and perfectly shows that with a smartphone you can shoot good content that will engage people.

Others ripped the video and re-presented it adding captions and making it look horizontal.

While the original had a perfectly respectable 135,000 views it’s the millions that others have got from it that make it stand out.  The Standard video has been shared more than 150 times, for example. The Oxford Mail and others have used it. What is striking about several of the others is that they present it in a wide format.


Shouldn’t people just come to the fire station Facebook page? No. It’s perfectly fine that others re-post it. Getting the message out is the most important thing.

But to help you create content for others shoot it wide. And above all don’t be tempted to hold your phone while driving.

LIKE: Five types of social media policy… and a sixth

I like this lots.


I’d also add ‘Be human,’ and you’d be surprised how far you’ll take your organisation.

Thanks for @jeremywaite for sharing the original image.

SOCIAL CUP: How to do social customer services… a lesson from Yorkshire

Look, this is lovely. This is exactly what good social customer services is supposed to look like. Warm, engaging. And two way. 

What would have happened in the olden days? A formal letter? A puzzled look?


Bravo, Yorkshire Tea, bravo.


CAFE SOCIETY: How the secret of coffee and cake can network your organisation’s comms


For five years I worked in the public sector trying to embed digital communications across the organisation and in that time we found two secrets.

We won an award and we managed to get people on the frontline keen and engaged.

But what ingredients made this happen?

Two things. An open social media policy that allowed people from across the organisation to use it after some training. But a piece of paper only goes far. It opens the door but it won’t send everyone charging past and into the warm water. Here’s what really did. A regular meet-up where everyone who used social media was invited. We had three topics. No slides. We would try and meet off-site too to encourage creative thinking. A cafe was best.

The sessions were deliberately open and we encouraged people who were trying new things to talk about what they had learned.

Why involve people from across the organisation?

To share the sweets, of course. It’s something I’ve blogged about before. Social media shouldn’t be a communications thing. It should be an every service area thing. And sometimes we need our enthusiasm re-fired and a lesson shared to re-charge our batteries.

And one of the biggest challenges in all of this is for this not to be a comms’ own meeting. This shouldn’t be the head of comms lecturing everyone how it should be. It should be people from across the organisation working it out together. But more than that. Open it up to partners too. And anyone who is interested from the public. Widen the circle.

Here’s a secret. Two actually

Very often organisations can have more than 100 channels. Often they work seperately from each other and there can be painfully little collaboration.

That’s where the cake and coffee come in. Here’s the thing: if you talk to each other you’ll share ideas and very often work better. The customer services person, the librarian and the media officer. None of them have a monopoly on good ideas.

Try it. Let me know how it goes.

Shout if I can help. I’m and @danslee.

Picture credit: Susanne Nilsson / Flickr