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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BIG DIGITAL: Digital comms is much, much bigger than comms

25085582765_e91823be8c_bI heard something this week… then read something that chimed with it.

At the Association of Police Communicators event in Grantham I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for a while After exchanging pleasantries, I asked what was keeping them busy.

A conversation that challenged

“Actually, I’m wondering about taking digital out of communications altogether. Because it should really be in other parts of the business too.”

They then spoke about the £70,000 they’d saved someone else through a digital process.

There’s a good point there. But take digital comms out of comms? It’s good to be challenged.

There’s certainly no point in having a lovely piece of digital communications on a wider process that’s a bit rubbish. Or for comms people to sit in a room and never talk to anyone or be involved with anything.

A paragraph that chimes

Then I read this from the digitally talented Sarah Lay who left her local government job recently.

For you see all communications and communicators should now be digital – they should be equipped with the skills and knowledge to work to the demands of digital, often as the primary channel. But digital is not purely communications – it is also customer service, it is IT and technology, it is behaviour and analytics, it is marketing and product / service development.

It’s that thing again.

Don’t just communicate for the sake of it. Work out why you are communicating then measure it. That way you can look finance in the eye.

Definitely developing new skills.


STATS 2016: A pile of things every comms person needs to know from the Ofcom communications market report

Here’s a thing. Everybody apart from maybe your Gran should know what’s in the Ofcom Communications Market Report.

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Everybody who is interested in communicating as part of their jobs should know it.

Press officers, comms people, social media mavens, marketing people and internal comms too. You all should know it.

Why? Because quite simply, this is a report filled with data that you can hang your hat on and use as a reference point for what you do. Cricket has Wisden. Comms people have the Communications Market Report. It’s that good.

If you are a communicator in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland there’s also a national breakdown of your nation’s media use too. How useful is that?

So, here is a quick summary so you all go off and read all of its 266 glorious pages.

Internet connectivity

4G now reaches 97.8 per cent of the population.

86 per cent of homes have an internet connection.

66 per cent of people use their mobile phone to access the internet.

41 per cent think they spend too much time on the internet.

11 per cent check the internet 50 times a day or more.

15 per cent say they are ‘hooked’ on theiir favouriote device.

34 per cent say they have difficulty disconnecting from the internet.

51 per cent go to bed with their mobile phone within reach.

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Smartphone Britain

71 per cent of adults have a smartphone.

Over two hours a day on average is spent using smartphones.

59 per cent of households have a tablet.

 

Video

26 per cent use video on demand sites like Netflix.

91 per cent watch live TV.

25 per cent watch online video clips

 

Email

70 per cent use email.

 

Instant messaging is rising

43 per cent use instant messaging apps like WhatsApp

63 per cent send SMS texts.

21 per cent use photo messaging

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The Digital Day

An adult will consume the media for eight hours 45 minutes a day – 27 minutes more than sleeping.

An adult will be second screening for two hours and seven minutes a day to consume extra media.

SMS text messaging and email are dropping.

Instant messaging is increasing.

The Digital Day: Activity and time spent

Live TV 2 hours 55 minutes Live TV

Live Radio 1 hour 54 minutes

Recorded TV 1 hour 12 minutes

Video games 1 hour 9 minutes

Paid on demand video 1 hour 2 minutes

Email 1 hour

Other websites or applications 55 minutes

Instant messaging 48 minutes

Social networking 45 minutes

Streamed music 44 minutes

Books (print and digital ) 44 minutes

Personal digital audio 39 minutes

DVD and Bluray 37 minutes

Newspapers print and web 31 minutes

Short online video 29 minutes

Phone calls 27 minutes

CD and vinyl 26 minutes

Sports news and updates 25 minutes

On demand radio 24 minutes

Texting 21 minutes

Video calls 16 minutes

Other online news 14 minutes

Magazines print or digital 13 minutes

Online shopping 12 minutes

Photo or video messaging 9 minutes

Other activities 1 hour 16 minutes

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How much media we consume

 

People consume eight hours and 45 minutes media a day.

The majority of those under 65 use social media at least weekly.

50 per cent of time on social media is spent on a phone.

Those aged four and above watch three hours and 36 minutes watching TV.

Those who listen to the radio listen to three hours and three minutes a day.

19 per cent of media is consumed while multi-tasking.

40 per cent fceel ignored at least once a week by someone engrossed in a smartphone.

34 per cent say they had taken a digital detox.

16 per cent choose a holiday dfestination that  has no internet.

 

Popular social media and instant messaging sites

 

In 2016 64 per cent of adults use social media

The popular sites by users

38.9 million Facebook

22.5 million Facebook Messenger

21. 8 million LinkedIn

20.9 million Twitter

16.7 million whatsapp

16.5 million Instagram

12.8 Google +

11.5 million Pinterest

7.1 million Snapchat

 

Teenagers

15 per cent said that they were most likely to keep in touch with friends through social media.

69 per cent said that if they could not access the internet their life would be boring.

49 per cent said that they have communicated with someone who was in the same room by using the internet.

60 per cent think its unacceptable to communicate using the internet with someone who is in the same lesson.

61 per cent have had a device taken off them as a punishment.

 

16 to 24 year-olds

99 per cent use social media weekly spending 2 hours 26 minutes.

They spend more of their time communicating (32 per cent) than watching 29 petr cent.

Instant messaging is more important than any other means of communication.

Playing video games is as important as watching live TV.

The smartphone is used five hours a day.

87 per cent said they kept up to date with current affairs or social issues

Watch 55 minutes less TV a week than they did since 2014.

Watch 43 minutes more on demand TV than they did in 2014.

25 per cent say they feel nervous or anxious without the internet.

60 per cent say they spend too much time online.

72 per cent say that they missed out on sleep to use the internet.

 

25 – 35-year-olds

84 per cent use social media spen ding 1 hour 1 minute

Watching live TV has dropped by 37 minutes.

 

35 – 44-year-olds

77 per cent use social media spending 1 hour a day.

 

45 – 54-year-olds

64 per cent use social media spending 1 hour a day..

Watching live TV has dropped by 37 minutes

 

55 – 64-year-olds

Listening to the radio has increased by 23 minutes spending on average 58 minutes.

65+

24 per cent use social media spending 35 minutes on average.

 

Picture credit: US National Archives / Flickr