PUNK ATTITUDE: Today’s comms person needs to learn three chords and form a band over and over to still have a job in 20 years time

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It’s funny how two things collide and you start thinking about things in new ways.

Take today. I’m reading Jon Savage’s history of punk  ‘England’s Dreaming.’ It talks of Sniffing Glue fanzine’s revolutionary advice on forming a band. Learn two chords. Then a third. Now form a band.

Why? Because punk was simple. Anyone could do it. You needed a lot of attitude and some talent.

Later today, I’m reading Paul Sutton talking about the music industry and how society will change in 20 years time when there are those who’ve only ever known social media.

It got me thinking.

Never mind society. Will there even be a place for today’s comms people in a world in 20 years time when there are people around who’ve always known social media?

Your music collection is shaped by someone you’ve never met

Here’s a story. Bear with me. Once, when I worked in local government comms I worked with the museums service on an exhibition to celebrate the life and career of a bloke called Steve Jenkins.

Steve who?

Steve Jenkins.

The exhibition ‘Kylie, Britney, Justin and Me’ was about Steve’s behind-the-scenes role in the music industry across 25 years. He was a hugely powerful figure who had a role in more than 140 top 40 UK hits. He was part of the talent-spotting team that signed Britney Spears as part of a two year project to find the new Madonna. He was MD of Jive Records and the marketing brains behind Stock, Aiken and Waterman. He is a fascinating bloke.

He was also a press officer’s dream. Pete Waterman? They both used to plan campaigns in the back of a car going to Walsall games. Or the time they HAD to get Kylie’s album in the Top 40 or Pete faced ruin. They did. Just. And a pop star was born. Boom.

I met Steve back in 2009 and we’d only just started to use social media. He was intrigued by it. I’d love to go back and use what I’ve learned to promote it.

Save yourself by being a geek

Steve Jenkins got good because he was a geek about music and how the charts worked. As a record industry marketeer, he discovered that by promoting your record in Woolworths on a certain day with certain strategies would be the difference between a new entry at 38 – and the boost of a mention on Top of the Pops – and one that would stall at 42 and sink without trace. So, he signed an exclusive deal with Woolworths that saw only him place promotional content in their chain of stores. If you were a record exec who wanted to break top 40 you’d have to deal with him and his marketing company.

I often think of Steve when today I hear comms geeks speak about a way they’ve maybe got the algorithm to work for them. You’ve got to know the topic, love it, be able to take it apart and put it back together again and think about nothing but it when you’re walking down the street.

And once you’ve cracked it you need to do it all over again.

Why is this relevant?

To understand ANY landscape you need to be a geek and that won’t change. How people use social media shifts rapidly. For people who’ve only known social media understanding it in 2038 would be no trouble. They’d be fascinated by it but would they be a geek about it? Some will. Some won’t.

What the landscape will look like in 20 years

Today, it’s fine to have a range of traditional and digital skills. But the dial is turning slowly towards digital and it’s not turning back. Two things not to be fooled by? That the future will be 100 per cent digital. Or that your ability to write a press release will save you. It won’t. There was a pitch at commscamp last week about Analogue Comms and what role it still plays. If I’d have gone to that session I’d have said that what we’ll need are not skills but an attitude.

Your challenge? You’ll have to float and adapt

But the big challenge for those of us around today and who want to be in 20 years is in attitude. You’ll need to be able to float and adapt. Lessons learned in the early days of the internet are already as out-of-date as 1976’s payola tricks for today’s music pluggers. Those who have made their name in working out what the social web is for need to know this.

The gap between head frying innovation and mundane expectation has never been shorter. Once, telling people election results on Facebook in real time was ground-breaking. Today? That’s bread and butter.

When Punk came, new lessons had to be learned.

History tells us that not everyone will adapt.

To survive, you may have to ditch every single thing you know.

You’ll need to learn three new chords and form a new band.

Over and over.

That’s going to be your challenge.

Excited by that yet?

Picture credit: Eddy Van 3000 / Flickr 


LIVE ALIVE: Four ways how to use Facebook Live to reach your audience

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It’s a fascinating time to be a comms person… new tactics emerge and old ones fall away.

But like anything, your decisions should be driven less by the shiny and what will get you results.

So, Facebook Live. It’s something I’ve been fascinating by for some time.

The idea is quite simple. You post to Facebook and you have the option to create a live broadcast from your device’s camera as simply as posting some words.

But where does it fit into the landscape?

It’ll help you beat the Facebook algorithm

Being admin of a page used to be such fun. You posted something and your audience saw it, liked it, commented on it and shared it. You sat back and took the applause. But since Facebook Zero and Mark Zuckerburg’s announcement earlier this year that you’ll see less from pages and more from friends and family that’s long gone.

Right now though, use a Facebook Live broadcast and you’ll be reaching more people.

Cool.

But what do we do?

Here’s where it gets interesting because you are really not hemmed in right now by convention. We’re all learning but please, for heaven’s sake, look outside your sector to see how others are doing it.

Sure, think calls to action. But also see your broadcast as educational, fun and interesting that will build your audience for a time when you really want them to do something. A social channel that’s just one long call to action isn’t fun.

Broadcast because the value is to be in the right place at the right time

English Heritage look after Stonehenge. This collection of Neolithic stone tablets has fascinated people for thousands of years. At the moment of winter and also summer solstice the sun shines perfectly at an angle. It is a special place to be. So a live broadcast of the moment and the build up to it makes sense.

Broadcast because you’ve got something visually interesting

National Rail celebrated the longest day of the year with a live broadcast from a GoPro in the train driver’s cab of the Aberdeen to Plymouth service. This is the longest in Britain and runs through some stunning scenery.

It says that the country is amazing, that as a feat of engineering its incredible and also that National Rail understand how the internet works.

Some kickbacks emerged when it was admitted that the video was not as live but the playing of a video recording. But I get that. But then again, what would a livestreamed suicide do for anyone? Or for the organisation’s reputation if the train broke down?

Broadcast because you are commenting on breaking news

Look at what newspapers are doing. They don’t call themselves newspapers anymore. They’re media companies that happen to produce some print.

When the football fixtures were published my team Stoke City’s local media company ran a Facebook Live to run through them.  Leeds away is first up. They incorporated comments from readers – or should I see viewers – too.

The camera work wasn’t amazing. It doesn’t have to be.

Broadcast for a Q&A

Over in the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group I’m admin of, we ran a Q&A ahead of GDPR on how they may affect websites.

From the more than 2,000 members of the group we had more than 900 views and more than 50 questions and comments which was fine with us. We’re a niche but highly active forum.

If you’re a member you can see the broadcast here.  But as the stream went into a closed group we can’t embed it elsewhere on the internet.

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The topics you can live broadcast are pretty wide and vast. I’ve blogged more than 30 of them here.

So, if that’s the topic, how do I do it?

I co-deliver workshops on live video skills that goes into the planning and the delivery using some handy BBC principles.

Before you go live, run a test broadcast where you broadcast only to yourself. You can select ‘only you’ from the settings before you hit post. This allows you to see if your device can be help landscape or has to be held in upright portrait mode. At a big set-piece event like an election count you’ll need to be aware that media companies will more than likely be broadcasting.

But what if my audience isn’t on Facebook?

Then don’t use Facebook, you big silly. With Twitter, Periscope is the live app of choice and instagram and YouTube have their own functionality. But the numbers behind Facebook make it important.

I’ve heard it said that people are leaving Facebook. The stats don’t support that globally although I’ve heard of people leaving the platform in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica saga. That’s fine. I get it. But until there is a better way of sharing cat videos the mass audience isn’t leaving Facebook anytime soon.

I’m @danslee on Twitter and dan@comms2point0. If you hate missing out on the good stuff subscribe to my weekly email here.


VISUAL COMMS: Some bold and some worrying predictions for public sector comms in 2018

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For the past few years I’ve blogged at the end of the year some predictions. For 2018, here are some more.

The broad trend is one of rapid change and a broad shift to more visual ways to communicate with people… who are consuming more visually, on mobile and on-the-go.

Get Facebook right and you’ll be a long way to cracking your comms. It won’t be the answer to everything but it is so big and so all encompassing for people that it is comfortably the biggest platform, the largest way people get their news and understand what is happening in their friends’ lives.

The Facebook group admins who communicate with your audience have already become as important as journalists. Groups have grown in importance. Get to know them. Join them. Build bridges with the admin. See if you can work with them. As Facebook pages get more money driven their importance rises. They can challenge fake news about you because they are often where it starts.

Technology is outpacing the public sector massively. This worries me. In the mid-1990s mobile phones became a mainstream Christmas present. They became part of how people communicated to become the dominant platform it is today.  Today, the best organisations for years have been experimenting with voice recognition, artificial intelligence, machine learning and virtual reality.  Amazon Echo and Google Home have led the breakthrough shifting units for Christmas 2017. And where is the public sector with this trend? Nowhere. This very soon will be a comms issue.

Bad video is not good video.‘Can we have a video’ has replaced the request for a Twitter account as the request from those in service areas who think they can do your job. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. ‘What do you want to achieve?’ remains the response to the request for a video. Or a Twitter account.

Go beyond your Facebook page. Far, far, far beyond. If you think posting to a page and leaving it there is reaching your audience you are almost certainly wrong. Navigate across Facebook as your page to visit other pages. Cross post your page update to groups.

Re-balance from broadcasting by being human. After 12-months of social media reviews, the baked-in problem remains treating social media like a broadcast channel to make it work better. Calls to action should be 20 per cent of your content to be most effective.

Specialist generalists. In the NHS and other areas, the specialist or generalist debate continues as teams shrink. The answer is comms people should be specialist generalists. They should be really good at two or three niche things and have some core skills. But no-one should have the monopoly on anything.

Not keeping pace is dangerous for your organisation. The cost of falling behind with how people want to consume media is that your organisation will be at best irrelevant and at worst seen to be actively not caring.

GIFs and threads will become expected. THREAD. How Twitter threads changed. 1. First there was the tweet. 2. Then the tweet got longer. 3. But words are inherently a bit dull. 4. So the animated GIF started to be used more. 5. And the thread which links tweets together. Keep reading, okay? 6.  This is all part of a wider trend to move from text to images and video.

Twitter continues to wither. Twitter is a channel to reach PR people and journalists brilliantly. But increasingly not residents. Three years ago, it was the third largest channel in the UK, Ofcom says. In 2017, it has slipped to fifth. Against a background of hate and fake news, this trend with carry on. Good on Twitter? Fine. What else are you good at?

Social media is becoming less social. In part, fueled by the Trump effect but in part by sharing fatigue, social media will become less broadly social and more splintered into places where small groups of like-minded people will exist. No, I’m not sure that’s healthy. But that’s what will happen.

Becoming digital first. If you haven’t already work out how you’ll need to work out how to respond as an organisation to a mis-truth posted in a village Facebook group that is picked up by a newspaper Twitter account. You don’t have 24-hours to get back. You can’t leave that person in a meeting. They need to respond now. But they need to understand why they have to respond, first. That’s best done in peacetime.

Video continues to rise. It’s more than 80 per cent of the internet. This is an easy prediction to make.

Live video continues to rise. The public sector has been left behind by media companies in this field but will continue to catch-up.

360 images and virtual reality grow as part of the landscape. Where short video was once daring, the daring use of virtual reality content will continue to grow.

The need to demonstrate results grows ever more important. Again, an easy prediction to make.

There will be another terrorist outrage and comms teams need to be kind to themselves. London and Manchester suffered in 2017. They showed some of the best public sector communications I’ve ever seen. They also came with lessons from those involved. Yes, accept offers of help from day one. Yes, this will affect the mental health of you and your team.

Brexit will affect everyone. Teams in London are already feeling the effect of EU staff leaving. But the predicted economic effect will hit public sector organisations too. That means comms teams going through more austerity challenge. So, get good. Or get so small you can barely answer the phone.

Internal comms reaches crisis point. We’ve gone as far as we can with 2003-era intranets which have become a repository for pdfs. The public sector keeps its head above water through the good will of staff alone. The organisation that fails to take seriously how it talks to its staff will reap the results. The comms team that spells out the risks and leads a renewal of channels will reap the benefits.

The comms person who stands still won’t get a new job in two years. If you don’t learn you really will get left behind. Who needs a fax-operating press release writing envelope-stuffer in 2018?

Income targets will remain a minority burden on comms teams. But the trend will be slowly upwards bouyed by some success stories.

If you fail to change what you do, your life WILL get harder. This will mean changing how you do things, I know. As a team and as an individual. This will take time. But it is time you need to spend. Change the supertanker. Please. It’s more fun than hitting the rocks.

Predictions for 2017: How did I do last year?

Things I got right

Zombie comms teams did rise. The risk of being leant on by politicians did increase. Teams remain too old and there remains a recruitment gap. Educating the client remains the most important thing to do in a changing world. Post-truth remains an important problem. Facebook groups did become more important.

Things I got half right

Did the rise of dark social leave comms teams flat-footed? Dark social is things like whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. Platforms that link a few people together but can’t be searched. Thing is, I don’t think most teams even realise how large dark social has become to even become flat-footed. Twitter did wither but LinkedIn didn’t charge up the table. Press offices have transformed and changed title at a fast pace.

Things I didn’t get right

Merged comms teams that bring NHS, fire, council and police together haven’t happened. Yet. Although fire and police in some places have joined together.

Have a good 2018 and lets be careful out there.

 

 


Five things I can tell you after helping train 1,000 comms people to shoot video

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Three years ago I was sitting at my desk working through a social media review of an organisation.

The Facebook and the Twitter were okay. Good in places and poor in others.

But the wheels came off when I reached the YouTube channel. A dozen videos. None less than a month old. Two good clips that looked as though money had been spent with a few thousand views. The rest? Dreadful with a few dozen views at best.

Yet, research was showing that people were consuming video at a striking rate.

So, it got me thinking that there was a need to teach the skills to comms, PR, digital and marketing people to get them to start shooting their own content. I sat down with Steven Davies and we drew-up a day of training that would give comms people the skills to plan, shoot, edit and post effective video. Steven has been a joy to work with and his colleague Sophie Edwards has played her part too. It’s been a source of continuing pride and satisfaction that we’ve given people new skills that will help them communicate.

What started as a trial has flourished, grown and improved and I’m so proud of that. I know Steven is too. We’re past the 50 workshop mark. That’s 1,000 people. So, to celebrate here are six things I know.

Videos of real people work best

Your Chief Executive may be a great performer in front of the camera. But people connect best to what you can call ‘real people’. The service users. The seven-year-old kid who is raving about the bouncy castle on the park fun day. The parents of someone whose child spent his last days in the hospice.

You can still include the VIP without driving people away

I get it. You need to get the Councillor in. Or the chief executive. Put them on at the end. Tell them you are giving them the last word. You salute the flag without driving your audience away.

You need to cut your video depending on the platform

On Facebook, 21 seconds is the optimum length of a video. On YouTube it is three minutes. So, edit accordingly for the channel you are on.

You won’t scare people as much filming with a smartphone as you will with a big video camera

Smartphones are great. They fit in your pocket. You have them with you all the time. People are used to have them being pointed at them. So, if you see something that needs filming you can reach into your pocket and with permission film. You can get it there and then.

You are using a channel that people are happy to consume media on

Two thirds of the UK population have a smartphone and two thirds of them are happy to watch video that is less than five minutes. They are already on it.

Here are our next workshops. Or shout me dan@comms2point0.co.uk if you want to explore an in-house workshop.

ESSENTIAL VIDEO SKILLS FOR COMMS workshop

Leeds 26.9.17 More here.

Birmingham 5.10.17 More here.

London 17.10.17 More here.

Edinburgh 19.10.17 More here.

Cardiff 24.10.17 More here.

Manchester 31.10.17 More here.

SKILLS YOU’LL NEED FOR LIVE VIDEO workshop

Manchester 27.9.17 More here.


TRUSTING ME: A quick guide to who, what and how to deliver a better message

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When you’ve got a difficult message to deliver don’t just send out the next cab on the rank. Instead, use a bit of research to send out the best one.

Who is delivering the message is just as important as what they are actually saying.

But when time and effort gets spent on the the words very little gets spent on thinking through who will say them.

Who will say it? And what will they say? Here is a couple of pieces of research that should help guide who will say what for you.

A case study with trees and angry people

Back when I was in the public sector, an issue blew up with trees being cut down on common land. The simple equation was this:

Trees are good, so cutting them down is bad.

That’s a perfectly understandable response. The thing was, it was more complicated than that. IKt boiled down to:

Trees are good but they’re damaging rare heathland.

The offending trees themselves were self-set. In other words, birds had eaten berries and the seeds had ended up germinating where they fell. Trouble is the heath land they had germinated on needs protecting as there isn’t much of it. Sounds technical? It was. Luckily, we had a named countryside ranger who was using social media for the organisation.  So, she was better able to communicate what was happening.

Why? Because she was a trusted individual and an expert in her field. She had also built a relationship with people. What was the alternative? A politician who wouldn’t have had the same clout.

Who will say it? Trust and shooting the messenger

Our reaction depends a great deal on who is sent out of the door to deliver the message.  If we don’t really believe whoever has been sent out we won’t believe what they say. The 2016 Edelman Trust barometer sets out through extensive polling what people think of people with different job titles. See the board of directors on the right? They’re least trusted. Your employee? Markedly more trusted and the person like yourself even more so.

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Who will say it? Trust in politicians is low

Data from Ipsos Mori was posted on Twitter earlier today by Ben Page. If you don’t already do follow him. He’s often insightful. The research shows that politicians are trusted by 15 per cent of the population and nurses and doctors at more than 90 per cent are the most trusted. The research is here:

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The data is useful if you are in the public sector. While many of us would like politicians to be more trusted the hard reality is that they are not. Seeing as that’s the landscape we’re faced with, I’d argue that we need to be more thoughful in the way we deliver messages. The trusted member of staff is likely to be more effective. This also has the spin-off of making the approval process that bit quicker.

Of course, black is not white and there are occasions when a politician fronting up a message is the best route. This is where the small ‘p’ nouse of a comms officer is important.

Who will say it? Content is king

Of course, there’s a chance the message may be better delivered not by an individual but by a piece of content.  The sharable infographic, the video or the image may be the best way to deliver the message. Especially if it is financial data that frankly, is a bit dull. Make the telephone directory come alive in other ways.

What will you say?: Honest communications, please

One last set of data to check before you respond also comes from the UK edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer. It’s about honesty. The research breaks down the population into the informed public and mass. In other words, college educated and high media cosumers and the rest. The stats here are so striking they can’t be avoided. We all want honest communications. My own take on this is that this is messages that are straight and don’t try and pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.

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So, if that message is honest, straight and comes from people who are likely to be trusted, you’ve got a chance.

If you call cuts cuts and not efficiencies you are more likely to cut through. Especially if they are delivered from someone people can trust.

I’m dan@comms2point0.co.uk and @danslee. Shout if I can help. I’ll be co-delivering a workshop on How to Communicate in a Digital World in Edinburgh on December 9, Birmingham on January 24 and Manchester on February 16. More info here.  

Picture credit: Exile on Ontario Street / Flickr 

 

 

 


CHANGE DILEMMA: ‘Why are firefighters who run into burning buildings afraid of change?’

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“Why is it,” a Canadian fire and rescue officer said, “Why is it that firefighters who run into burning buildings afraid of change?”

A friend had asked him this and he admitted he was unsure what to reply.

The comment was made at Fire Editor’s #reimagine event in Birmingham where senior officers were debating big change that is coming down the path. Mergers with police forces are on the cards. So is closer collaboration. My role was to talk about the importance of communications in all this but the line about fearing change struck a chord. Not because I think firefighters are inherently resistent to change. Or because they don’t have concerns. Far from it.

It struck a chord because of my own regular soapbox about IT people and what I often say about comms people – myself included:

“Why is it that so many IT people think the everything that happened after the Commodore 64 is dangerous and should be resisted?”

Or what I often say about comms people:

“Why is it that people whose job it is to communicate are so poor at communicating?”

Why do we often fear change when other parts of almost our job would terrify another person?

How can we change that?

Picture credit: Adam Levine / Flickr


BBC EXPERT: Fear change in tech? You’ve seen nothing…

burkeWorried the world is changing too fast? Here’s a thought. You’ve seen nothing.

In 1973, former BBC tech writer James Burke had imagined what 1993 would look like. He came up with what looked like wildly futuristic. Databanks, personal data storage and computers in schools. Older people would be confused, he said.

In 2013, he spoke on BBC Radio 4’s PM. It’s an interview that fried my brain at the time and it’s rattled around in my head off and on for a while.

Fear change? Brother, sister you’ve seen nothing, as Burke says:

“Something is going to happen in 40 years time, if my guess is right that will change things more than since we left the caves. The next 20 years are going to move so fast and in so many directions at once that we’re going to have a job just keeping up.

“The problem is, as we try and solve problems like privacy, feedimng the poor ovf the world and solving the ozone layer we spend months and years of committee time trying to solve these short term problems while in the background in 14,000 laboratories around the world nanotechnology is creeping along very quietly.

“A nano metre is about 1/70,000th of a human hair so one nano metre is the size of about three atoms. There are systems that allow you to manipulate atoms to use them to build molecules to build stuff.

“In about 40 years, and this is not me speaking this is a Nobel prize winner called Richard Feynman who said this all 50 years ago who said there are no physical laws that mean we can’t produce a physical nano-factory.”

Your personal nano-factory, Burke explained, could work as a desktop 3D printer using air, water and dirt and ascetelene gas and you can make anything you like. Anything.

“We will in about 40-years time become entirely autonomous. In other words, be able to produce everything they need for virtually nothing. That will destroy the present social economic and political system because they will come pointless.

There will be no need for nations or governments, he argues. They are there to regulate shortage, protect you and re-distribute wealth and if there is no shortage there is no need for them.

“We have spent the last 150,000 talkative years dealing with the problem of scarcity. Every institution, every value system everfy aspevct of our life has been determined by the need to share out. After the nano factory does its thing we will then be faced with the problem of abundance and in a society where there is no need what’s the point of government.”

There will be no need for social institutions or even cities, Burke says.

So, really, dear reader, you not getting Snapchat may be looked at, if it is looked at all, with mirth far greater than the Smash TV ad robots.  Of course, this is all prediction.

You can listen to the audio clip here:

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