GO LIVE: Tips on shooting live video on election night

33119281300_6808a2594b_bYes, you will have to think about live video on election night

Yet again, the most important night of the year for local government comms is almost upon us… election night.

Get it wrong and the whole world sees.

Get it right you can breathe a deep sigh of relief and the politicians will be impressed.

It’s also a night where you can push the boat out a little and try new things. Facebook made its debut in 2009 as an upstart. Now results on social media is expected. Lately, there’s been experiments with whatsapp and other channels.

If you want to experiment with a channel this is the night to do it.

What you need to know about live video

Live streaming has taken a massive leap forward in recent months. A fifth of Facebook users have used Facebook Live. An audience of 102,000 watched the  multi-faith vigil in Manchester in the wake of the city’s bomb attack. More than 200,000 watched while bomb disposal experts worked to explode a 500 lb Second World War bomb. Another 9,000 watched the Birmingham City Council Leader talk about budget proposals. All of those are local government issues.

Anyone can broadcast live. All you need is the Periscope app for Twitter or a Facebook account, a smartphone or a PC with a webcam. This could be a journalist, a political campaigner or a council media officer.

If you’re NOT thinking of live video… others are

One time, a broadcast journalist turned up at the count I was working at as a comms officer. He demanded to take pictures for his website too. Blindsided, the Returning Officer refused and a heated row took place. The journalist was within their rights to ask. The Returning Officer was entitled to point the individual to the spot where he could take the pictures.

The incident taught me that forward planning on election night can be invaluable.

You may not be planning on using a live video. Bet your bottom dollar a journalist will be. Only they’ll turn up on the night and want to start filming.

Here’s what they’ll want to know:

  • Where will they be allowed to film?
  • Is there a WiFi signal?
  • What are the acoustics like?

So, forward plan. Do this ahead of time not on the night. You’ll talking to journalists for accreditation. Talk to the elections team. Check out the venue. Have the answers to the questions. Invite journalists to arrange a test broadcast ahead of time to check a few things out.

If you are thinking of live video…. Plan ahead

We’ve started to offer Live Video skills training with Steven Davies and Sophie Edwards and its got me thinking about how local government can use it.

Don’t make election night the first time you use a live broadcast. Try it out at something vanilla. A library author visit. A guided walk around a beauty spot.

Pick which channel you’ll use. Where are your audience? If you have a massive Twitter following and only a handful on Facebook think about the channel. How can you best reach people?

Get the tech right. You’ll need at least one fully charged smartphone that’s logged into your channel of choice. You’ll need to rely on robust WiFi and I’d be tempted to take your own. A phone hotspot or a MiFi can do the job. Don’t trust the venue WiFi. The world and their dog will be trying to get on it. Take a power bank too just to be on the safe side.

Talk to elections. Where can you physically stand to broadcast yourself? At the back of an echoey hall? Or at the front next to people shouting? Negotiate a place where the sound quality works.

Test it out. Take your phone and your WiFi hotspot and try it out a few days beforehand. Does it work? Is there a data blackspot which kills phone signals? You can broadcast live to yourself. Set the audience you want to reach before you go live.

Sound will make or break it. Poor sound and people will be confused and irritated. Sound is even more important than pictures. See if there’s a place you can sand that can be the best it can be. Next to a speaker? Can you use an audio jack from the venue sound system?

Have someone covering your back. As this politician found out to their cost, an organised group of trolls who each complained there was no sound scuppered a Periscope broadcast. Have someone trusted watching to give you the thumbs up. Or let you know if your thumb is over the lense.

Be clear on what you’ll do and won’t do. If you go for it, brilliant. But set out ahead of time what you’ll do and won’t do. Yes, you’ll live broadcast the result and acceptance speeches. No, you won’t be doing one-to-one interviews with candidates who can use the platform to take down / praise the Government. Set this out ahead of time. In writing. Plan for this.

One long broadcast or individual ones? At a General Election its straight forward. There’s often just the one result. But local elections are more complicated.  Me? I’d be interested in the ward where I live. Other wards? Less so. Multiple clips would work for me. What do your residents think?

Tell people you are going live. One tip from Facebook and Twitter is to tell people and big-up the broadcast. Tricky in an election when there’s a third recount. But see if you can give a broad estimated window. Check our Facebook from 2am onwards is fine.

Think safety and security. The BBC have guidelines for live broadcasts which takes account the safety of its staff and security. Here, may you face the risk of an uninvited person going on an unscheduled tirade at your camera? It’s possible. Would having a colleague with you as you film help? Be prepared to stop the broadcast if you are cornered.

Live lives after you’ve been live. Once you’ve finished, promote the heck out of it in the morning to catch those people not awake. The audience after the event is often bigger than watching it live.

Live is going to be an important part of how election results are communicated. The technology is there. The audience too. It’s worth learning the lessons early.

LONG READ: 14 comms lessons from the Manchester bomb attack

There’s a school of thought that public sector comms people are a bunch of non-jobs who are a waste of money.
Their budget would be better spent on replacing windows or filling potholes, the argument goes.

Those who make that argument? They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Empty tins sound the loudest. Where were they when a terror attack struck Manchester? They were nowhere. Wheras the Public Sector in Manchester just as the people did responded.

As Google Trends shows, the spike of searches for Manchester and Ariana Grande whose concert was attacked is marked.

google trends

Where were the Public Sector communications people?

Late at night and for days after they were communicating with the stunned Greater Manchester public of 2.8 million, 65 million UK citizens and billions around the globe.
Thoughts should absolutely be with those who were killed and affected by the explosion. Thoughts too with the police, ambulance, fire and local government people who responded first.
But as a communicator who has worked eight years in local government I’m absolutely sparing a thought to the comms people too. There are some people in the industry who would have folded faced with this challenge. That’s understandable. A terror attack is a massive event. The response from Greater Manchester Police, Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue, Transport for Manchester, the Combined Authority, both Mayor’s teams, all parts of the NHS, Manchester City Council and others was sterling. No channel seemed to go AWOL. No-one seemed to have left a scheduled tweet in place.
Professional. Informative and well judged. Not just in the aftermath but in the coming together and moments of reflection.

This is what gold standard communications looks like.

Clear, timely precise information under intense pressure for a sustained period.

Class, be like them.

When people talk about ‘non-jobs’ ask them how they’d communicate a terror attack and its aftermath. You’ll get a non-answer.

Mental resilience

However, I was reminded by Stephen Waddington’s post about mental resilience in communications. It’s a timely post that asks people to look after their mental health. In the aftermath of huge stress, I’d hope that the organisations and individuals involved bear this in mind. They’re bright people. I’m sure they will.

Here are some standout lessons


The Public Sector is not a single thing but a number of organisations that serve a community. In the aftermath of the attack, organisations shared vital updates. Fire shared police updates, for example. The Mayor’s office shared a newspaper’s frontpage, for example. The strength of the Public Sector is the long reach and broad digital footprint. In an emergency share it.
There’s no question that the public far wider than Manchester identified with the content and amplified it.

Communications to say ‘you can get updates over here.’

One lessons of communicating in an emergency is for the Public Sector to signpost people to where the up-to-date information is. This happened effectively in the Westminster attack and did so again in Manchester. Here, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue acknowledged the incident and pointed people to Greater Manchester Police.

Communications to say ‘we’re on it’ part I

The Ambulance Trust dealing with the attack communicated via Twitter to say they were aware and ask people not to call on other matters unless it was an emergency.

Communications to say ‘we’re on it’ part II

Police acknowledged the incident as it was breaking. This is text book stuff. By doing this they flag-up they are aware and where to follow for updates. The days of waiting to sign-off a press release at a time of emergency is long over.

Communication as a sharable image with need-to-know information

There’s every chance this image wasn’t made by the Public Sector itself. But the lesson this does show is that the key public information in the hours after the event WILL be shared as an image.

Communications as part of the investigation

Content taken at the time and in the aftermath helps police piece together what happened. This tweet encourages people to send their footage in.

A video response and information update

As the aftermath became recovery, the issue turned to transport and what would be running. Video was used here.

Communications as mental health support for an entire city

If more than 20,000 people were at the Manchester Arena many more would have faced an anxious wait to see if their children, family or friends were okay. Updates to say ‘it’s not okay’ were widely shared.

Communications to say ‘we’re bouncing back.’

A week after the attack, sporting events took place across the city. As this video from Mayor Andy Burnham shot and posted within minutes shows, it’s a city refusing to give in.

Communication as poetry

Tony Walsh was invited to read one his poems not just in the event after the attack but at the Great Manchester Run.

Communication as an image to convey breaking news

Greater Manchester Police staged a series of raids and arrests across Manchester in the days after the event. A simple update and sharable image kept people informed.

Communications as infographic

Greater Manchester used an infographic to explain the scope and depth of the investigation.

Communication to say ‘we’re human too.’

If it’s okay to be not okay, it’s also okay to show your staff as being human. A Facebook timeline image shows the Greater Manchester Chief Constable embracing a member of the public. It’s genuine, warm and isn’t staged.


Communications as a captured Instagram street picture

An image on the street spotted and photographed by Greater Manchester Police and shared to their Instagram feed.

Street art seen in Manchester. The bee – symbol of the city – is depicted in a heart made of hands ❤️🐝 #Manchester #streetart #ManchesterBee #Bee #McrBee #Mcr #WeStandTogether

A post shared by Greater Manchester Police (@gtrmanchesterpolice) on May 28, 2017 at 1:01pm PDT

Sharing other people’s content

Manchester City Council shared this fund raising link. It doesn’t have to be your own content. It doesn’t even have to be Public Sector.


Making a city proud

NUMBERS: Survey: Press Releases are Sunday Best

A few weeks ago I blogged about press releases and asked people to educate themselves as to how effective they now are.

In a digital landscape, the 300-word missive in crisp journalese is now one arrow in a stuffed quiver, was the thrust of the piece. Often, it is demanded. But I’m convinced that your job as a comms person is to see how effective they are.

The response? Marked. Indignant people spoke in its defence. It remains the cornerstone, they said. Others, saw that other tools were often more effective and it was no longer the ‘go to.’ The Model T Ford of the comms armoury.

But in 2017, how are people using it? A quick un-scientific surveymonkey showed that people were keen to have a say… almost 250 took part.

Press releases remain… for the significant things

It’s clear that for the big set-piece announcements a press release is still part of the furniture. The survey said that 97 per cent issued such a text for something significant. In itself, that’s significant.


But press releases are phasing out for the less significant

Asked whether they are being used more, less or the same, the answers showed a clear path.

Half – 52 per cent – are using press releases in the same number but 44 per cent are using them less and a trend-bucking four per cent are using more of them.


They remain part of the comms mix

Almost averyone thinks that they should remain as one the parts of the comms mix with 95 per cent agreeing and three per cent disagreeing.

I don’t disagree with that. It is no longer the only show in town. As ever, the right channel in the right place for the right audience.

That’s where we are, how are people consuming the media?

Of course, a snapshot of where PR people are is only part of the picture. Where are people? Research from Ofcom shows that people spend around eight hours a day consuming the media. How much time is spent consuming newspapers print and web? Fifteen minutes. I’ve blogged that newspapers – or should I say media organisations – have a future. But the 15 minutes figure is striking.


FAKE NAME: Your Facebook work profile work-around needs to ended… urgently

6912948733_128c5ac69c_b (1)It’s astounding the number of people playing fast and loose with their organisation’s Facebook pages.

By allowing or even encouraging staff create second profiles to be admin.
That’s against Facebook terms and conditions and those profiles run an increased risk of being deleted. The Sprout Social blog has warned of a fresh clamp-down on this by the social media giant in the wake of post-Trump criticism. The Facebook account with few friends and only activity on the corporate page is being spotted and removed.
The process, let’s call it the John Smith Work profile approach, needs to end.

What does the t&c’s say?

Facebook terms and conditions are super clear on this.
Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way. Here are some commitments you make to us relating to registering and maintaining the security of your account:

  1. You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
  2. You will not create more than one personal account.
And for pages, there’s a warning too. Only real people can admin. So unless you’ve changed your name to John Smith Work you’re in trouble. In a world where Facebook needs to show people they clamp-down on fake news this approach will begin to pose questions of the validity of the page too. That’s not something you want to do.
Here’s what the page t&c’s say:


A.    A Page for a brand, entity (place or organisation), or public figure may be administered only by an authorised representative of that brand, entity (place or organisation) or public figure (an “official Page”).

So, an authorised representative only. In law is John Smith Work authorised? Is he even a real person?

Why second accounts exist

I’ve heard it said that people don’t want their own profile linked to a work Facebook page.  They’re maybe worried about somehow the work part of their life leaking into the family time. In the days before pages existed that was a legitimate concern.
But people from outside the page can’t spot who the admin is, so your holiday pics are safe.
I’ve also heard it said that people’s passwords may be weak so a collective fake name is better. That’s not a good idea. Bottom line. Don’t go against Facebook t&c’s.

Here’s what to do. Quick.

If people genuinely don’t want to link their genuine profile to the corporate page that’s fine at the end of the day.
But you really need to delete them as admin from your page.
Yes, may be a tough break for your rota and for their career progression. It’s not going to look great at an interview that you don’t know how to manage a page.
But worst of all is the single communal work Facebook account that everyone can log-in to. If that goes – and many will – you’ll be left high and dry without any access.
But pages take years to build and lots of TLC to grow. To risk losing that in an instant is indefensible folly.
Picture credit: Poster Boy / Flickr.

NEW STAND: What a Facebook live broadcast from a newsroom tells us about journalism today

What was also encouraging was talk of new uses of technology. The Saturday night sports paper the Sports Argus folded 11-years ago. The pre-internet queues I recall in newsagents for their delivery are now a memory for people aged over 40. But as the broadcast pointed out, the last edition of the Argus couldn’t carry that night’s FA Cup Final score. So a podcast, video content and sports coverage that is more fan-centric is now the order.

Data is being used more and more to look at the stories that people like, the broadcast said.

A story that’s big on a Trinity Mirror title in Newcastle, for example, can be be a pointer for what could be big in Birmingham too.

And yet, older newspaper people will turn in their graves at complaints made in the broadcast about spelling mistakes slipping into content. They’ll be even more dismayed at the level of trolling that can sometimes pollute comment boxes and Facebook threads. This is a bigger issue than many people realise. This is an issue not just for newspapers but for civic life as well.

Video is the driver for engaging newspaper content.

What did strike me was the use of video by newspapers.

Ben Hurst, Post & Mail news editor responsible for video content, in the Facebook Live broadcast said something telling:

About 12 months ago we were barely doing any video. The rise of the smartphone means that if someone is on the scene they won’t just take a still pic. They’ll take footage. It’s completely changed everything operates.

But not just recorded video is playing a part. Live broadcasts on social channels are becoming increasingly part of the media company’s armoury. Reporters are rarely first on the scene with a smartphone to shoot footage but people are. Ben was open about the fact that they are open to use people’s content.

What does this means for comms people?

It means that newspapers are still in the game. Only they’re not newspapers anymore. They are media companies. They’re not the only game in town anymore either. But they are starting to re-invent themselves.

What do you do if you are comms and PR?

It means taking a look at the content you generate. A press release with text is less effective in a landscape where newsrooms want footage and images. Text at news stands shaped by an editor’s news sense once sold newspapers. Today, content refined by data and often driven by video drives the money-creating job sustaining traffic for media companies.

As newspapers adapt so should comms people.

Picture credit: Michael Coghlan / Flickr.

PRESS MARK: Educate your client on how alive their press release really is

5701313473_71e59ddf6d_bA simple question dropped into my Facebook timeline this week: ‘Press releases. Defunct or not?’ 

Not again, I thought.

But hang on.

Eleven years ago tech journalist Tom Foremski demolished them in his post Die, Press Release Die! Die! Die!. The bottle of wine and frustration-fuelled rant the post was a napalm strike on the pointlessness of sending out press releases in a web-enabled world.

Don’t send words, he shouted.

Send words, images, video, audio and contribute to the debate, instead.

As a compass to steer through changing waters this is a supreme piece of piloting.

Yet, I was struck by the number of people in the Public Sector Headspace Facebook group discussion still using press releases as a primary comms channel.

It’s what senior people expect, was the general gist.

Educate the client

A while back I write a post on the Apple designer Johnny Ives. I was struck by a poster on his wall that was just as much as a piece of table banging as Smith’s press release takedown. In a long list of reminders the poster argued:
“Believe in your f*cking self. Stay up all f*cking night. Work outside of your f*cking habits. Know when to f*cking speak up. F*cking collaborate. Don’t f*cking procrastinate. Get over your f*cking self. Keep f*cking learning. Form follows f*cking function.
And most importantly of all:
Educate the f*cking client.

Newspapers are not newspapers anymore… and we’re not in Kansas

Five years ago Stijn Debrouwere in his post ‘Fungible’ pointed out that journalism has changed.
News will be news. But the ecosystem will explode, and traditional media companies will only be a tiny part of it. If you think about it, that’s already sort of true right now.

Take Debrouwere’s thinking and look around you. Small ads have moved to Buy and Sell Facebook groups. Property ads have moved to Zoopla. News has moved to council websites and neighbourhood Facebook groups. Display ads are on Facebook. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we’re in a different place.

There’s still a place for newspapers. They’ve just changed and the content they need has changed.

But how about the free sheet, I hear you say, that fills it’s pages with council press releases? How long, I reply, do you think that will go on for?

Here’s what I think you should educate the client on press releases.

If you send a press release to many newspapers they go into the bin.

Newspapers don’t see themselves as newspapers they see themselves as media companies who may just happen to print something. Send them images and video that work on the web.

A press release is written in journalese. This is not English. Or the language of the web.

In an emergency, the last thing you want to do is construct a press release. Post to Twitter. It’s where the journalists are.

Yet, if you want to reach a constituency of over 50s who are most at home with printed newspapers then a press release is fine.

You’ll miss other demographics with a press release.

As a primary go-to one channel to rule them all effective channel, press releases are dead.

As one of many tools, they live on.

Use the right channel at the right time.

Educate your client.


Picture credit: Clint McMahon / Flickr.

FUTURE PLAN: How to Write a Comms Plan: 10 steps and a download

32354342833_afd876d927_bA good comms plan helps you to get to where you want to go… without one you are almost certainly going to fail.

You can fire a rocket into the sky and you might successfully hit the moon but the chances are you won’t.

Back in 1969 when NASA put a man on the moon they did so with research, resources, planning, science, evaluation and creativity. Without those elements they would have failed.

I’m going to tell you why I realised comms planning was a good thing.

There are many comms plans. This one is mine. You are free to use it. I’ve uploaded it to Google docs here.

Don’t do fig-leaf comms planning

Here’s a thing. I came to realise that comms planning was the most useful tool very slowly.

For 12-years I was a reporter. Forward planning was literally tomorrow lunchtime. It was the here and now of frontpage leads and by-lines.

Moving to communications, I wan’t sure about comms planning. Some people would demand a comms plan when all they actually wanted was eight pages of text to add to a submission.

“See?” They would say. “We’ve got comms covered.”

This fig-leaf comms planning drove me up the wall. Your work as an attachment that’s never looked at again will never work. There was a better way.

Why you should write a good comms plan

A good comms plan makes a difference.

It asks where you are now, where you want to go, who you want to talk to, where they’ll be, what’s the one thing you want them to do, how much worktime and money you have, how long you’ve got, how you’re going to evaluate to see if it has worked. It then looks at the tactics. In other words, the things you’ll do. The content you’ll write.

Comms planning is a tried and trusted process that leads you to the right answers. It may not be the poster that your client first demanded. But that’s okay. You’ll have something better than a poster.

It stops the ridiculous waste of ‘I want back of bus ads’ without the research into whether or not bus ads will work.

But before you sit down with the comms plan

This is the hard part. It can save a lot of time and spare blushes. The purpose of the comms plan is to help someone move from A to B. For example:

–         Move from we need 20 new nurses to having 20 new nurses.

–         Move from we need 100 sign-ups to we have 100 sign-ups.

–         Move from we need 10 per cent fewer calls to the switchboard to have 10 per cent fewer calls to the switchboard.

But here is the tricky part. You need to put a number on the A and the B. Without that you won’t really know where you are and where you are going to. Like a driver with a map, you’ll be going round in circles.

You need – gently – to ask and challenge whoever is asking you for some PR and comms to go away and define where they are and where they want to go to. You need this to be done ahead of the comms planning session.

UK Government executive director of comms Alex Aiken is a big advocate for not doing comms without a business plan. I get that. It’s a handy rule of thumb.

You can’t write a comms plan if they don’t know where they are or where you are going.

And when you sit down with the comms plan

Here’s a simple rule. Have the people in the room who will make the key decisions and those who will carry them out. Four or five people? That’s fine. Just you and one other person? I wouldn’t bother. You want people to feel as though this is their comms plan.

As the comms person, you are facilitating. Time is of the essence. Spend no more than 15 minutes on each of the first nine elements. Set out the timings at the start. This way you won’t be distracted or go up a blind alley.

Find a place where you won’t be disturbed for a couple of hours. Put your phones away. A cup of tea or a drink. Some biscuits, maybe.

Oh, and two things are banned. The word ‘aewareness’. It means nothing. It is nebulous. Why do you want them to be aware? To volunteer? To sign-up? Ask. Challenge politely.


I’ve added timings to this. You can change them for something you are looking to do. It can be maybe 10 minutes far shorter for a small plan, for example. But having timings set out from the off can help keep you focussed.

Where are you now? (5 minutes)

You’ve done this before the meeting, so there’s no need to spend too long on this. This points out on the map where you are.

Where do you want to go and why? (5 minutes)

You’ve done this before the meeting too. This works out where you want to go. Why do it? Because a campaign to recruit 100 new nurses is different to one to recruit 10.

Who do you want to talk to and why? (10 minutes)

This is the part where you work out who you really want to talk to. So, for a campaign to recruit nurses it is members of the nursing profession. You want to talk to them so you can recruit them.

What’s the one thing you want them to do and why? (5 minutes)

Make this a call to action. You want the nurses to go to the recruitment website and apply.

Where do they hang out? (15 minutes)

This is the part where you work out how to reach them. Are there nursing forums or publications? Can you find them on Facebook with ‘nurse’ as a tag?

How much work time and money do you have to help you reach them? (15 minutes)

This is the part where you look at your resources. You may have a day a week of capacity, for example, and a budget of £500. If the budget is zero, this is the point where you establish this and frame if more is needed. If none is forthcoming, this is the point where you manage expectations.

How long have you got? (5 minutes)

How long do you have to recruit people? A month? Six months? 12-months? This sets the timeframe and gives a sense of panic and urgency if that’s needed.

When and how are you going to evaluate? (10 minutes)

This is critical. Be clear at the start so you can see if the campaign has been a success. If you are recruiting nurses, count the number of recruits. But if you just leave it at that you aren’t seeing the full picture. Why do you need to recruit nurses? Because you have to pay agency staff? And how much extra do they cost? £5,000 a year? And how many agency staff are you paying for now? So each one you recruit saves £5,000? So if you recruit 10 you are saving £50,000? This is the point where you may be able to loosen the purse strings if this is needed. In addition, ask what the difference to the organisation will be if the campaign is a success. Will more nurses bring more capacity? How many hours a week? Ask questions. Suggest the research is done. Everyone is busy. But without this data you are flying blind.

Once you’ve got a handle on what metrics you’ll count, look to keep tabs on it. A year-long campaign to cut recruit nurses should be checked at regular stages to see what tweaks are needed.

Who are you going to tell that you are doing this so you can tell them how it has gone? (5 minutes)

This is a simple one. When you run a Marathon you make a public declaration so you need to follow through. Is it your boss? The client’s boss? Work out who that person is.

Whats the timeline of tactics for it all? (15 minutes)

This is something you can start in the session but you may need to work up away from the planning session. Tactics are all the things you’ll look to do. The posters, the Facebook ads, the LinkedIn discussion.

That’s a quick run through. I’m happy to help you. You can find me dan@comms2point0.co.uk or @danslee on Twitter.

Picture credit: informedmag / Flickr https://informedmag.com/

%d bloggers like this: