OLD CONTENT: How to stage a behind-the-scenes museum photo-meet to allow residents to communicate for you


It really was a very simple idea… let residents photograph items at their museum and everyone wins.

Six years ago I was involved in a project that did exactly that and its simplicity deserves a re-telling. Not just because it was a darn good idea. But also because the person who made it work died unexpectedly last week.

I’ve blogged my sadness about Steph Clarke’s death here. In looking back, a project I worked with her that saw residents and council work together stands out. So, I’m updating it and re-blogging the idea to see who else will take this up. Looking at what others have done Walsall Museum was leading the way ahead of the world-famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam who started a similar project a short while after. So did Brooklyn Museum in the American city of New York.

What was the idea?

Simple.  Let residents photograph items held by a museum in the area where they live. Like here, here or here. They can post them and if they are posted with a creative commons licence they can be re-used by the museum itself.

How could it work?

Easy. Work with a photography club or a more informal group who may meet via the social web. Six years ago when we ran the project the town had a thriving Flickr group. The group enjoyed taking pictures but often struggled with places to take pictures. In 2016, this may well be an instagram meet-up. Or even for a group or page that may not be primarily photographic.

Who has done this?

In 2010, we did this at Walsall Museum and by 2014, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam had rolled out a more comprehensive programme. Hi and low resolution images are made available for out-of-copyright work. A study found that the benefits included a bigger digital footprint ans extra interest. You can read more here.

What’s in it for the organisation?

Lots. The chance to create a buzz and online noise about the museum and tell the stories of items they hold. In Walsall, this was things like items from the Leather industry or a football from an FA Cup match. Most museums can only display 10 per cent at most of what they have. So, doesn’t it make sense?  And you are letting residents to help communicate for you.

With the permission to re-use images through a creative commons licence the museum has access to photography without spending money but also can ensure some audience for updated webpages or social channels.

What’s in it for residents?

People get special access to items they effectively have a stake in. They can test their creativity and maybe feel a bit more proud of the area they live in.

So, why don’t people do this more often?

Basically,  in the UK there is a very defensive attitude towards photography of items and images owned by an authority. In the US, all photography commissioned by the public purse is released without copyright. Anyone is free to use the images for whatever reason. Why not? It belongs to the people.

This idea is fine maybe if you own a particularly famous painting where you can generate income from the postcards, posters and t-shirts this can generate. But the 99.99 per cent of items wouldn’t command much of a market price.   The photo consent form that Steph drew-up is here. It’s a half way house to allowing full copyright. But it’s a pragmatic starting point.



RIP: Steph Clarke and a good lesson to pass on


All people called Steph are amazing. This is the law. But Steph Clarke was particularly amazing. 

Nobody I know quite had the same wit, charm, determination, digital skills, willingness to share and sheer JFDI. What is JFDI? Just flipping do it.

Normally, I will blog about comms, pr or digital things here but excuse me for this post if I take a moment.

Stunning news

Steph died unexpectedly this week. The news shared on Facebook by her husband James who had shared so much of her work. They worked on the wv11 blog in Wednesfield. But offline was where they thrived too. They volunteering and helped build the community hub in Wednesfield.

There must be hundreds of people who knew Steph better than me. My heart goes out to them and to her family, husband James, son Jordan and to Nick Booth who worked with her at Podnosh.

Always able to help 

In reflecting at the news and Steph’s life, I looked back at things I’ve done and I realised that Steph had played a small encouraging part in all of them. She was generous with her time and sharing her knowledge.

All this started six or seven years ago when I was at Walsall Council and trying to make sense of the social web. Steph who was @essitam on Twitter was one of the first hyperlocal bloggers I came across. She encouraged my hesitant steps to talk as @walsallcouncil to people in a human voice about council matters.

When the Black Country social media cafe started I went along and Steph was there.

When we started brewcamp Steph came along. She gave a great talk about how social media was a lifeline in Christchurch, New Zealand after the earthquake. She has relatives there.

When we ran the first hyperwm unconference she came. I’m smiling as I think of the Press officer v hyperlocal blogger punch-up session that did so much to map out our thinking. Steph contributed.

When we started building bridges with the online she came up with a work around that persuaded the museum to open up its stores and Leather Museum to a Flickr meet.

In the last year or so it was good to bump into her every week or so at Impact Hub Birmingham. She hadn’t changed.

Life lessons

What does Steph’s life teach? So many things. For me, who knew her a bit, it taught that the web is just a way of finding people to meet in real life. The picture for this blog has Steph pictured in the centre. By the looks of it she is training  the two other people in the shot. Chances are she may have never met them before that day but their smiles and her are real. That would be typical.

It is also showed that it’s not about the me. It’s about the we.

What can we do better?

Well, let’s just do it then.

This is a good lesson to pass on.

Picture credit: Nick Booth / Flickr

TRUE GRIT: Why Oldham Council are great… naming a gritter and Twitter

twitgritYou may have noticed a slightly sneering story in the Daily Mail about the naming of a gritter.

Oldham Council launched the competition for schoolchildren to come up with a name for the vehicle.

Like many other councils the authority treats roads to help ease conditions. As someone who operated @walsallcouncil for five years I’m no stranger to grit and the public.

Indeed, while I was, I’d whoop and cheer when temperatures fell as it led to a pile of new followers to our corporate Twitter.

People wanted real-time updates on how the roads are and if they are treated.

The Daily Mail coverage was unsurprising. You can see it here.


But the response online was heartening. Not just from the public but from fellow local government people.

The lesson here? People are not, one person once said, as bad as the Daily Mail would have you believe.

Shout if I can help. I’m dan@comms2point0.co.uk.

VR PR: What virtual reality can do… for children and old people[VIDEO]

18011630494_b2683a87d1_bFor the last 18-months or so I’ve been helping deliver video skills workshops with one of the brightest people I’ve come across in a long time.

Steven Davies is a freelance cameraman, University lecturer and throughly good chap. A while back I asked about how he saw the future of video.

Virtual reality, was part of the answer.

Virtual reality is footage shot that allows someone with a headset to be immersed in a different world. Google cardboard can be bought for a few quid and is a way to view the content.

For young people

I’ll paraphrase him, but the problem with talking about virtual reality is that it’s like dancing about architecture. It doesn’t really work. So seeing this Google clip at #firepro on what virtual reality – or VR – can do in classrooms is inspiring. If you are not sure what it is take a look at this for 90 seconds and see the reaction of schoolchildren. It’s amazing.

And it’s older people too

Don’t think it’s just for young people, too. There is this example where VR works with old people. It puts them in a safe recognised environment and works well with dementia sufferers. You can take a look here. The older person is immersed in an environment.

The opportunites for PR people are immense. It is entirely a new exciting blank piece of paper. The ability is to place the VR headset wearer in an environment. I’ve blogged about this before.

Shout if I can help dan@comms2point0.co.uk and @danslee.

Picture credit: Maurizio Pesce / Flickr

VISUAL POWER: Four graphics that show video is powerful

Browsing some web stats I came across this peach of a gem. It’s about the amount of time spent watching YouTube’s most watched video.

What could have been produced while watching Gangnam Style

This, of course, remains Gangnam Style, the Korean rap song from 2012 that has had 2,691,003,293 views since it was first uploaded.

The Economist looked at the amount of time spent watching the video and worked out hypothetically what that time could have been used for. It’s eyecatching. Many Empire State Buildings, for one.

You can see the link here and the graphic here:


Of course, that all pre-supposes that the time spent watching the clip could instead have been used on construction. But the reality is that probably people would have spent the time watching cat videos instead.

All it does is illustrate is the amount of time people spend watching video.

90 per cent of information absorbed by the brain

From a short YouTube clip on infographics and what they can do for people.


What Mark Zuckerburg says the future is for video

Previous generations of social media have evolved from text to pictures and then finally to video.


The secret of video’s influence

Elsie Kramer’s slideshare looks at why images are working so well. She points out the evolutionary benefiot of doing things people can see.


By the way, I help deliver video skills workshops. They’re really good and you can learn more about one near you here.

CRISIS TWEETS: It’s raining, it’s pouring and the Environment Agency is tweeting

29606844754_e9719138bb_bIt’s been raining solidly for the past 24-hours and the flood warnings have been pouring in.

Winter is well and truly here and the risk of flooding is rising.

Step forward people who are using the web, email and social media to communicate.

Local government and fire, police and ambulance services all play a role. But the organisation that is head and shoulders above others in an emergency is the Environment Agency. The organisation has a highly devolved and regionalised social media policy that sees scores of staff trained on scores of accounts. There are also more than 80 different Twitter accounts as well as a presence on Facebook, Flickr and a blog. A webpage is also updated with flood warnings. You can search with your postcode for updates.

Why a regional, devolved approach works

The thinking is simple. If you like in Herefordshire  you’d want the information in your area. So with regional accounts there is a stream of information for your area. You don’t have to wade through Cumbrian updates, for example. The large numbers of staff trained also helps resilience. This makes perfect sense.

Post-truth the human face is even greater

I’ve been banging on about having members of staff posting in a human voice as themselves for years. They are able to build trust in peacetime and can find themselves calling on that well on good feeling when the chips are down. In the context of post-truth where no-one can entirely trust what they are reading the value of having a trusted member of staff with a social presence rises.

Which is all why Dave Throup, Herefordshire’s area manager, is a major asset. When the water levels rise Dave shares warnings as well as sharing other content.



But aside from warnings, there is content taken and posted by mobile phone. This adds to credibility and acts as a line of content for news outlets struggling with smaller newsrooms.


I’m not convinced that Twitter is the answer for everything. But in this case there is an established network and the updates reach journalists and community opinion formers. It would be interesting to see the EA searching for Facebook groups and pages to engage with in an emergency, for example. There are more than 30 such groups in the Shropshire town of Bewdley, for example. Some can reach severakl thousand people.

But overall, I love ikt. This is the perfect approach to take. A mix of national, regional and personal.

Picture credit: USDA / Flickr

ASK CONTENT: Questions you need to ask during the social media review you’ve been putting off


Look after social media accounts? There are a series of questions you need to ask and depending on the answers you may need to delete the account.

Over the past few year we’ve run a series of comms reviews on organisations. Social media has formed part of that. We’ll look at how well they are performing and give advice. Often people know they need to but don’t always have the time or the expertise.

Just recently we ran a survey over on comms2point0 with Musterpoint about the number of accounts operated by different organisations. If you missed the study you can find it here.

What stuck out was the number of social media accounts operated by different sectors. You can see the findings here:


The optimum number of social media accounts for an organisation

It got me to thinking about what the optimum number of accounts for an organisation was. Really that depends on the organisation. It depends on its staff and it depends upon who is the audience.

In the comms2point0 survey, the stats for fire, police and ambulance really stuck out. On average each service has almost 50 social media accounts. Very often they are frontline staff, teams or stations. A local face for the service can work well.

That’s fine.

But once a year at least I think every organisation needs to take a long hard look at itself just to check if they are on the right path. If you are responsible for an organisation’s social media footprint that means asking some tough questions and yes, it’ll mean going through the accounts forensically.

Some questions to ask during a social media review

What are the channels? Make a list of all the accounts attributed to an organisation.

Who has access? It sounds straight forward but so many organisations don’t keep a list of those with access or their email address. Let alone store that in one place where it can be easily accessed.

When was the last time they were updated? Look to see how active they’ve been. An account gathering dust probably isn’t much use.

How many times did they post content in the last seven days? It’s a simpole metric but it gives a snapshot.

How many replies did they get? Again, a simple metric but the more activity there is shows how engaged poeople feel with it. Engagement is good.

How many replies did they respond with? But once people engage with it you need to take a look at how they are responding. An account that blanks all people’s questions isn’t a good one.

What’s the balance of content? I’ve argued for a long time that an 80 – 20 split is desirable. The 80 is the human content that’s the bright picture or the meme. The 20 is the call to action. Mess this up at your peril.

Are they embeded on the right webpage? It’s fine having an account that speaks on behalf of a team. Or even an individual from that team. But is that account embeded in the relevant page on the organisation’s website?

Do they help tackle the organisation’s aims? In other words, do they make a difference and help important people sleep at night? Can this be quantified?

When you carry out your social media review, you’ll find some surprises. Very often, you’ll find a third of the accounts in an organisation are prospering, a third need a helping hand and a third probably need closing down. Don’t shirk at closing down accounts if they need to be closed.

So, don’t go for big numbers. Go for the right numbers.

Shout if I can help. I’m dan@comms2point0.co.uk or @danslee.

Picture credit: Johnny Silvercloud / Flickr.