OH, NO: The votes are in and the top 5 most popular request of comms people are…

I’m always struck how every organisation is different yet is resolutely the same.

If only IT would give us the kit we need.

If only we were told about things earlier.

And especially if only people didn’t say: ‘We need an X.’

The ‘X’ is the thing the organisation demands of comms as the cure-all elixir.

It can be a press release, microsite, poster, flyer or maybe even a QR code.

What ‘X’ is in each organisation I find quietly fascinating.

So, after a discussion on the Public  Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group I decided to run some unscientific research into what the most popular. The purpose is partly to show folks they are not alone but also to see how much the organisation – however misguidedly – has become digital.

And the winner is…

6jNPtJUeAGKj4Moq

Of course, that was the top five.

A microsite, logo, put this on Twitter, piece on the intranet or website, an app was 4 per cent,

A request for a flyer was 2 per cent.

What’s striking is that press releases are still being asked for. But while it may be the number one ask it’s not in a position of dominance. Just 14 per cent.


30 days of human comms #54 the Hull roadworks sign that speaks Ull

hull

Something offline if it’s very good or very bad can go online.

In the case of a civil engineering company’s road sign it went viral online because it was very good.

Their road sign to flag up road works bears the words: “Err nerr Rerd Werks.”

I lived with two people from Hull when I was a student and so could translate it to “Oh, no. Road works.”

I know enough of Hull people to know that would have gone down a storm.

A tweet posted by the company which features the sign is here:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

It’s a sign that reminds me of the brilliant Dudley Council sign that was written in Black Country dialect.

What does the sign teach communicators?

Be human.

You can reach more people.


LONG READ: I’ve been on Twitter for 10 years and here’s what it made me think

20181214_0643425134056980893752385.jpg

As I sat on the train scrolling on my phone for Brexit news, a curious landmark update dropped into my timeline. It was 10 years, the tweet told me since I joined Twitter.

It made me think and reflect on the journey I’ve taken and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Many have been good and others not so good.

Ten years ago I went to Coventry as part of an audience of local government comms people to hear ex-BBC journalist Nick Booth talk about what the future would look like.

It was a future, he said, where allotment holders would blog, councillors would film themselves and reach 30,000 on YouTube and where Birmingham Post reporters like Joanna Gearey would check the news by asking her followers on Twitter. Joanna works for Twitter in New York now. Each of Nick’s points was backed-up with an example but the line that stopped me in my tracks was this…

‘We will no longer have to go through the Priesthood of journalists to talk to our residents.’

As a press officer, this spoke to me. There was a better way changed my life. But this is no happy ever after romance. There are jags in the story. But it made me think of the key lines and lessons I’ve learned.

The line became the first of several lines that became staging posts along my journey.

‘Facebook is where you meet people you went to school with. Twitter is where you meet people you wished you went to school with.’

In 2008, discovering you could connect with people you didn’t know through an app on your phone was genuinely life changing. For me, then discovering that you could meet them at the Birmingham Social Media Cafe that then thrived was even more amazing. For a few years it met downstairs at a cafe near New Street station. Once a month you could meet with people that you’d seen online.

Ten years ago there was something about the West Midlands that encouraged Twitter to take root. It was a place big enough to have a critical mass of people who gave a stuff about the place where they lived and who wanted to see where this new technology would take us all.

I watched it play out in my timeline.

The Brum Bloggers was the loose name for those early people who inspired me. Quick-witted, sharp and gifted they ran rings around Birmingham City Council. They worked not out of spite but because they wanted their city to be a better place. One of them had a website called ‘Birmingham its not shit.’ They made a website in plain English that translated what the city’s planners wanted to do and where you could comment was one idea. They decided to crowdsource a replacement council website in a day. Why? Because they thought the council one was crap and too expensive. And they started social media surgeries to help community groups share in this fun. Nick Booth was instrumental. They even ran a Twitter panto.

‘I trust my officers with a baton. Why wouldn’t I trust them with a Twitter account?’

Back then, it wasn’t comms people who inspired me. It was those who’ve never written a press release but knew what the internet was. Back then, non-comms people were the people who were doing the most challenging things because no-one had faxed them the rule book. The countryside ranger, the hyperlocal blogger, the coder and the resident.

Here’s an example. One day the Assistant Chief Constable of West Midlands Police turned up in full uniform at the Birmingham Social Media Cafe to ask what social media was and how it could be used.

That copper was Assistant Chief Constable Gordon Scobbie. A solid man with a strong jaw who you’d imagine would take a pace towards trouble rather than away. Like the Brum bloggers, he also gave a stuff. But his concern was the policing of the region not websites. Only a few years previous, West Midlands police officers were banned from using the internet to help with their work. Now things would change. He worked out how social media could be used and then in 2011 post-riots convinced the right senior people that the answer was not to ban it but embrace it. The man should be lionised.

Officers, are real people, Assistant Chief Constable Scobbie concluded.

‘Walsall Police Station at 19:11 today, not on fire. Look how not on fire it is. Very not on fire.’

When rioting broke out in the summer of 2011, rumours circulated across Walsall that the police station was on fire. Step forward PC Rich Stanley who shot the damaging rumour down in flames using his Twitter account and a pic taken on his smartphone.

Suddenly, the purpose for social media started to take shape. It was not the shortage of ideas. It was a shortage of time.

‘#jfdi just fucking do it’

And so started the glorious golden era of #jfdi in local government where it all seemed possible.

Austerity hadn’t quite bitten and there was the capacity to experiment.

Seeking forgiveness was easier than asking permission. Don’t wait for IT. Just do it. I started testing and experimenting myself and through Twitter I found my tribe. We all found each other. But the people who thought that social media was driving people apart couldn’t be more wrong. But what was really surprising was that the bright ideas in local government comms were coming from the provinces. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Derbyshire, Devon, Monmouth, Orkney and South Lanarkshire.

‘Organisations don’t tweet, people do.’

In my own corner of the world, we ran #walsall24, a 24-hour wall of noise on Twitter to paint a picture of the day-to-day.

‘I don’t go to conferences any more. They’re boring’

In London, there too was a recognition that the world had changed but that Government hadn’t. Inspired by some US ideas, 20 or 30 met in a pub one Saturday to stage an unconference. Seeing as no-one was running events that were tackling how things are changing, they’d run their own one. There was no agenda. The attendees decide what they’d talk about. Ideas emerged.

John Peel once said that punk was realising that if you sold your brother’s motorbike and knocked over a phone box you had the £100 you needed to record and release a 7″ single. Of course, the first localgovcamp in 2009 was going to take place in the West Midlands. Twitter was connecting people in local government who also gave a shit.

I’ve said before that going to my first unconference changed my life. Instead of waiting to hear what people with powerpoints have to tell you you can do it yourself. Ideas can bounce and be improved to fail or fly. On the way back from one UKGovCamp I had to sit by myself on the train home because the inspiration was too much.

Unconferences said that we could do it. So, why don’t we?

So we did. It’s where the commscamp event I’m involved with first started. And the brewcamp meet-ups.

‘The answer is quite simple. Eventually, all the old suits will die.’

In 2010, a very senior government comms person announced that the future of communications that year was going to be the printed A-Z of Services. I spent years banging the table that it wasn’t if but how local government should use social media.

It didn’t matter what they said. Those of us who knew what the future would look like just carried on without them. It was exciting times. There were ski tracks in the snow we followed and learned from. When one decided to use Facebook to tell people election results we gasped at her audacity. When I started to tweet that the gritters are out on a cold night I did so after a fight. Quickly, all this became the norm.

There was a group of people, too many to name here, who pioneered things not to advance their career but because they knew it was the right thing to do. For several their daring was frowned upon. I’m still proud to know them.

The partnership – and it was a partnership – that build comms2point0 played a part in changing things. But change would have happened anyway.

‘Die press release die! die! die!’

A blog post by Tom Foremski fired me. One of the first presentations I ever gave in front of an audience was on this topic. After a few years blogging my thoughts I was starting to get asked to speak to people. The essence of it was that sending words all the time was a bit pointless. Some people were keen on this. Others were not.

‘But the revolution never happened like we thought.’

Social media was going to shine a light through the crap and give citizens a voice. It was going to let us talk with residents directly without having to go through the priesthood of journalists.

Well, it both has and it hasn’t.

Where I live in Quarry Bank in Dudley there is a nature reserve. There has been a planning application to build houses on part of it. It was opposed with a 10,000 name Facebook group who mobilised 1,000 objections in an unprecedented display of people power.

In the old days, a protest outside the planning committee would have been it. And if the Express & Star photographer was called away to a fire instead the protester’s voices would only have carried a hundred yards into the cold night air.

The revolution is on Facebook. But councils themselves are still as immobile. And then there’s Donald Trump. Trump is everything I thought was impossible in 2008. Negativity. Hate. Abuse. Echo chambers.

Waking up to hear he had been elected was a dark day. My own innocent belief in the optimistic positive power of social media died that day. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Bad people can use it, too. And win.

‘The future is here, its just unevenly distributed.’

While one part of the population are digital natives at the bow wave others are not.

‘It’ll get interesting when it gets boring’

This was a throwaway comment I once heard a bloke called Dave Briggs say. Dave was a former local government person who in the early years of my journey became freelance to evangelise about how the web could be used by the public sector to make people’s lives better. He works in-house now rather than freelance making good the direction he spent years telling others about.

Dave’s line is something I’ve thought of often over the years. He was right. We now don’t have the excitement of the early years of the love affair but digital tools have become the norm. It’s not the shiny tool that’s exciting but the change we can make to people’s lives using it.

‘It’s the right thing in the right time in the right place.’

I check the news on Twitter. I download the meme and share it with my brothers on WhatsApp. I book workshop places on Eventbrite and what sparks me is the ideas that emerge on the Public Sector Headspace Facebook group. Thriving with almost 3,000 members and almost 11,000 comments, likes and reactions in 28 days.

I realise the other day that I try not to train people just about social media now. I just look at what works best. If that’s a bit digital, that’s fine. But the idea of running an event just about social media seems pointless.

‘I love newspapers but I’m still intoxicated by the power and possibility of the internet.’

In many ways, what I do now is just the same as I did 10 years ago before I joined Twitter. I tell stories and help people communicate. Just how I do it has changed.

I’m a director of two companies, comms2point0 and Dan Slee C2 Ltd and the work I do directly and indirectly comes from what I do on the internet. That’s a positive.

But the 10 years has cast the positive side of social media with the negative. It is no golden bullet, It has caused a revolution. Just not always the ones I thought. It can be good It can be bad. Twitter is no longer the place it was. The optimism has gone. But it has moved rather than dissipated and its got more realistic.

Not everyone I’ve met through social media has been a beautiful person. But that is life.

Over time, events like commscamp were around the day-to-day and how to make it better rather than the synapse blowing enthusiasm of the new shiny toy. And that’s fine.

Social media has become simply the way people talk to each other and communicate. The interesting stuff is how it can change people’s lives not the shiny of the channel itself.

But if anything, the gap between what people are doing and what large organisations are doing has got wider not smaller. It can be summed up by the council who posted a link to consultation on Facebook but then ignored the dozens of comments posted to the link.

Innovation is not running #ourday on Twitter once a year. Its doing things differently, learning from it and doing it better next time around.

Ten years has felt like a long time. It feels like a different world.

Thank you if you’ve connected with me online or in real life.

Let’s do better.

You can find me @danslee on Twitter or on LinkedIn or dan@comms2point0.co.uk by email.


FESTIVE SPARK: You’re creative at Christmas? Give yourself a present and stay this way the rest of the year

22113993549_d28fc90a37_o

It’s Christmas and you can almost taste the mince pies in the air.

But aside from that the air is filled with that glorious commodity…. creativity.

My timeline is filled with imagination and experimentation.

There are videos, advent calendars, tips, jokes and things that grab my attention. Content that tries harder and flies higher than at other times of year. It’s almost like the shoes have been kicked off and the blow football has been cracked out on a school night.

It’s great to see.

The thing is, where is this spirit of experimentation for the rest of the year?

Creativity is for life. Not for Christmas.

Make yourself a New Years resolution to stay creative.

Picture credit: Tyne and Wear Museums / Flickr.


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

 

wand

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.

Handy.

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

Landscape

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.

ESSENTIAL VIDEO SKILLS FOR COMMS workshops 2019

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   

sarah

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.