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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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:
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.
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 email@example.com 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
“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
Worried 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:
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 reportPosted: August 5, 2016
Here’s a thing. Everybody apart from maybe your Gran should know what’s in the Ofcom Communications Market Report.
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.
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.
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.
26 per cent use video on demand sites like Netflix.
91 per cent watch live TV.
25 per cent watch online video clips
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
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
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
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.
24 per cent use social media spending 35 minutes on average.
Picture credit: US National Archives / Flickr
Back in 1979, the amazing invention called the mobile phone was road tested. We would, they said, no longer have to have to rely on landlines. In 1969, they called school computers and in 1994 it was the internet.
The mood music of it all was that one day, things would be so much different. It would be better but we were in control. For a while now there’s been a few emerging trends that I’ve been trying to make sense of. They’re now just starting to drift into view and they’ll change things for everyone. Not just comms people.
Bear with me. It’ll get weird, but let’s walk through it together.
A man in glasses has told me my fridge will talk to my scales
A couple of years ago a futurologist in sharp glasses told me that the internet of things was coming. This would be objects connected-up to the internet to allow them to talk to each other. Your scales would work out your ideal weight and, if you wanted, tell your fridge when milk stocks were running low to re-order semi-skimmed milk rather than full fat. And not chocolate. Or your smart whiskey bottle will let you know if someone is nipping at your Johnie Walker Blue Label.
Of course, the possibilities of all this are endless. Predictions of the scale of the internet of things – or IOT – range from the seriously mindblowing to the you’ll need to sit down because you’ll be rocking back and forth unable to comprehend. Deloitte says that a billion devices will be shipped in 2015. By 2020, Gartner says this will reach 25 billion devices or the equivalent of six devices for every person on the planet. Cisco says it’s 50 billion. Intel have it at 200 billion. Either way, it’s going to be a lot and my new printer that I can email and has its own URL blinks back at me as proof.
There’s always a trade-off with tech and one that equates to the Native Americans getting a handful of shiny jewels in return for the island of Manhattan. They dangle something cool in front of us and we handover loads of stuff they want. In this case its stacks and stacks of personal data. Think of Facebook. They give us a place to post baby pics and view cat videos. We give them our date of birth, school, University, where we live, where we work, spending habits, political beliefs and who we want to win Strictly. It’s a marketer’s dream. But the University library of information you’ll give to the internet of things will make Facebook look like a Janet and John easy read book.
Your communications will be automated
So, as the internet of things grows the more devices will communicate to each other. We just won’t see it. But what we will maybe see is sharp tailored personalised communication based on our sleeping, spending and drinking habits. It’s happening already to some extent. I think of the Troop canvas shoulder bag that keeps cropping up in my Facebook timeline after I google searched it last week. However, with lots more data the possibilities open up.
“More of our communication will be artificial and less of it will be human,” says Tracey Follows in The Guardian. “It is now common to say that the world is uncertain and therefore can’t be planned for. One thing is certain though. We are entering into a world that’s post human.”
The link did the rounds on Twitter. The tag ‘post human’ certainly jarred with some people in my timeline but it’s an eye-catching line. To some extent it is factually accurate. All that data. All those fridges. All those supermarkets. But to some extent it’s also wrong. The communications that will really stand out will be that which makes best use of the data to personalise it. As a married father of two children who likes cricket, technology and doing things with my family at the weekend anything that takes that data and helps me spend my time and money better is welcome.
Your crisis comms needs to be really, really good
We have the expansion of tech through the internet of thing and others the surrender of all that data. Here’s a really bright and cheery prediction. There’s going to be a massive cyber attack along the lines of a web 3.0 9/11. Not if. When.
Thomas Lee upon sees an internet of things showroom in San Franscisco by US firm Target where a car alarm wakes a baby whose cries are spotted by sensors which play soothing music. It dawns on him:
“We are so screwed… it was all very impressive, but I couldn’t help notice an irony: the retailer that ion 2013 was subject to a hack that compromised the credit card data of 100 million consumers now wanted people to entrust their entire homes to the internet.”
So, I’d maybe look at how you respond when there’s a data breach and things fall over.
Your internet is being automated
Data, data everywhere. That’s for the geeks, right? Actually, no. Not really. In a really challenging piece in Vox Todd Van Der Werff wrote a piece under the headline ‘2015 is the year the old internet finally died.’
He drew a simple conclusions from a number of recent stories which he maps out in the piece here before concluding:
“The internet as we know it, the internet of five, 10 or 20 years ago is going away as surely as print media replaced by the new internet that reimagines personal identity as something easily commodified that plays less on the desire for information or thoughtfulness than it does the desire for a quick jolt of emotion.
“It’s an internet driven not by human beings but by content, at all costs, And none of us – neither media professionals, nor readers can stop it. Every single one of us is building it every single day.”
People prefer the snackable and the fun, he argues. And it’s true. Yet most comms people haven’t got that. They – we’re – born in a world of newspapers and press releases. They – we’re – institutionalised to think that the organisation we work for is the centre of everyone’s waking moment and if it isn’t that’s their fault not ours.
At this point I think back, not for the first time, to the former Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher who said that we need to communicate like insurgents. In other words, fast, agile, snackable, fleet-of-foot content that thought more about the person than the organisation.
Getting good at data… and saying ‘no’
Of course, we’ve said it for years that data will be important to communications. We’ve said it but I’m not sure we really acted upon it. I’ve got a bit testy with the open data community in the past for not being very good at talking to people. But I wouldn’t deny the potential that data has to make the world a better place and to help you communicate better. I think of open data helping to expose massive fraud in Canada. I think on a very micro level the Coast Guard comms person who when I showed her followerwonk realised there was a spike in how active her Twitter followers were at 6am and then decided to schedule some content every day at that time.
The reality is that communications and PR people are very, very bad at using and interpreting data and need to be better. We also need to be much, much better at kicking back and asking for the data to be produced by the people who are asking us to write the press release, set-up the Twitter account or plan the campaign.
There is an art to saying ‘no’ and I don’t think comms people say it often enough. Sometimes, this can be done politely. Sometimes, this needs to be done by banging the table. Or in other words, to be able to command the skills of ‘Yes Minister’ alongside almost but not quite ‘The Thick of It.’ But maybe just be really careful who you are Malcolm Tucker direct with, okay?
So what does all this mean?
It means more things changing faster. It means the Robert Phillips phrase of ’embrace chaos’ being ever more relevant. Why? Because that’s all we can do. There’s a long tail with all of this. This will take shape in some sectors way before they reach others. But this is the direction we’re headed.