LIVE COMMS: 35 things you can use live video for

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More than a fifth of Facebook users have used the new live feature and the numbers are growing.

Back in 1952, the BBC used every camera at their disposal to cover the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Today, it would take one person with a smartphone to start a basic coverage of the occasion.

For the last two years, I’ve helped deliver video skills for comms training. Just lately, we’ve also offered skills and advice on how to use live social media broadcasts. It’s been fascinating to think how this can be used.

1. For election results.

2. For a behind the scenes tour of the art gallery.

3. For an advance view of the new exhibition.

4. For a Q&A on why you should apply for a job here.

5. For a first hand realtime walk through a scenic beauty spot.

6. For a tour of potential redevelopment sites with planning and regeneration sites.

7. For a trip to the top of the bell tower with a local historian.

8. For a public open day where you are demonstrating what you do.

9. For a public meeting with an opportunity to ask a question.

10. For a workshop on how to complete an application for a school place.

11. For consultation with residents in a geographic area where something new may happen.

12. For an explanation of what things you can do as a carer of a loved one who is struggling to get about.

13. For an explanation about what keep fit moves you can do in the comfort of your own home.

14. For a press conference.

15. For a talent competition.

16. In an emergency to keep people updated.

17. For a behind-the-scenes tour of a fire station with some fire safety advice.

19. For the view from the top of a mountain or hill.

20. For an event in a park.

21. For an event in the street.

22. For a street party.

23. For a tour of the museum stores.

24. For a an author visit to a library.

25. For a tour of the farm or urban farm.

26. For a chance to hear what the budget may entail.

26. For a Q&A on what council services a new parent may need.

27. For tips on how to encourage wildlife in your garden

28. For a walk around the town centre with a history expert.

29. For musical performances as part of a talent show.

30. For an explanation about what bin to use for recycling.

31. For a civic celebration.

32. For a tour of the Mayor’s Parlour.

33. For an update on what work has been done to protect a community from flooding.

34. For a tour of a river that’s been improved for wildlife with a wildlife expert.

35. For a chance to meet and ask questions of a senior politician, official or police officer.

Workshops in Skills You Need for Live Video will be held in Leeds on June 20, Birmingham on July 18 and Edinburgh on October 19.


MY C90: Mixtapes are the original social media

Once upon a time there was something more powerful than Twitter, MySpace and Facebook combined.

It was a platform that brought people together and allowed a you a chance to paint on a blank canvas with music.

This, ladies and gentleman was the mixtape.

This was a cassette filled with tracks you’d selected. It wasn’t just art. It was an art.

For over 25s the mixtape was the status update of the day. They could be a love letter, a  sign of friendship or the grandstanding of musical knowledge. All recorded across two sides of a C90 cassette with 45 minutes on each side (or if you were a real oddball, a C60).

From the 1970s to the mid-1990s the cassette was a standard medium for music. With my bedroom too small for all but a ghetto blaster cassettes were the way I listened to music. I wasn’t alone. As a teenager, music was massively important. It help shape who I was. Through it all, mixtapes were how I circulated my thoughts.

Brian Eno used to make mixtapes for his mates. He’d record slow classical music movements back-to-back. They were a prototype to the ambient music he pioneered.

“Composers hadn’t caught up,” he recalled on BBC Radio Four’s Frontrow .

“People didn’t buy records and sit at home between two speakers listening to an LP.

“They bought music and they were cooking or washing up with music in the background.

“New technology means new music. Always.”

In 1990, more than 400 million cassettes were sold in the US. Many for home taping and unlike the slogan no, it didn’t kill music. But what did die was the cassette as a popular platform. By 2007 barely 200,000 cassettes were sold in the US. Those figures are likely to be reflected in the UK.

 

SO, WHAT ARE THE MIXTAPE RULES?

When making mixtapes I’d arrived at a series of golden rules. Always start with two fast paced corkers one after the other. Make the third slower. Surprise with a build between fast and slow. Be unexpected. And never, ever let the tape run out before the track finished. Ever.

In High Fidelity, Nick Hornby’s story of a music obsessive the mixtape is a way repressed men could communicate. He impressed his girlfriend with a mixtape.

In the late 1990s powered with red wine I  compiled a cassette for a girl.  With Stereolab, The Stone Roses, The La’s and The Beatles it was a combination of care and bravado. Just enough sensitivity with a layer of cool disregard just in case.

The girl who I made that tape for 12-years ago, dear reader, is now my wife. The tape? Somewhere in the loft.

MIXTAPE NIGHT SCHOOL? VIA TWITTER?

A rather marvellous conversation on Twitter sparked the idea of Mixtape night classes. Like woodwork or macrame these skills could be kept alive at Stafford College. What would those sessions look like? Check @janetedavis’ quite excellent Mixtape night school syllabus. There is input there from @sarahlay and @jvictor7 too.

Feel free to contribute your own…

Creative commons credits

Cassettes Erica Marshall

Mixtape links

Philip John’s excellent blog on how Spotify risks failure by not tapping into the social side of compiling play lists is here.

Jim Anning’s Twitpic of his mixtape. I could have had a borrow of that back in the day. The shot is here.

A mixtape USB stick. The dream present for geek music lovers over 25. Amazing. Thanks to @cahrlottetwitts it’s here. 

You can rely on Flickr for having a mixtape group. They’re here.

Steph has written a fantastic post about the mix CD that her chap James game to her in the mid-1990s. It shows brilliantly the stories behind the homemade selections. Read it here.

Epic visionary Sarah Lay has written a  great piece on what the mixtape means to her. It’s a great read and it’s here.

Jamie Summerfield blogged about how a mixtape helped provide the answer after his father died. You can read it here. 

This is genius. An idea by Andrew Dubber for a mixtape making service was picked up by a Canadian web developer who created this wonderful, amazing, brilliant thing here.


BE LEGAL: Six things a hyperlocal blogger really should know about the law

Pic credit:
The scales of justice
Originally uploaded by Soggy Semolina 

There is an amazing vibrancy, vibrancy and passion about hyperlocal blogs.

With the bottom falling out of newspapers self-motivated people are filling the news gap themselves.

No town, housing estate or tower block is too small or disconnected to support these grassroots newsgatherers.

But to a qualified journalist turned press officer like myself the potential for danger in the ice field of libel law is terrifying.

Chatting to the excellent Philip John of the Lichfield Blog at a recent Black Country Social Media Cafe it’s clear this hasn’t escaped attention.

The idea of registering a company for a blog is an excellent way of getting yourself some protection.

Why? Because British libel laws are amongst the most draconian in the world.

At some point I’m convinced someone will lose their house in the not too distant future over an internet blog post. It’s potentially that serious.

This isn’t a shot across the bows for local bloggers from an old hack who doesn’t ‘get’ social media. Far from it.

In the words of former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans “I love newspapers. But I’m intoxicated by the speed and possibility of the internet.”

This is more a call to action for the blogging community to be as legally aware as they are SEO-savvy.

Of course, not everyone should have to take a law exam before they are allowed onto WordPress. That defeats the object of Web 2.0.

What I am arguing for is as the blogging community slowly self-organises legal advice, or a place where a blogger could find it, is an overdue must.

It’s excellent that Talk About Local have further enhanced their reputation by spotting this need and they now have a place to go.

They have also drafted a nine point manifesto themselves to help. Maybe a tenth should be “Be legal.”?

This would be self-preservation. It could also help construct foundations for a bridge of trust between bloggers and local councils and other organisations.

With the advent of no win no fee legal firms sniffing around blog comments it’s also increasingly important.

SIX things every hyperlocal needs to know about media law:

1. Libel law covers the web – legal action is rare but you need to know what you blog about could become actionable in every jurisdiction on the planet. Technically.

2. It is big money – Living Marxism magazine folded in 2000 after two television reporters and ITN won £375,000 after being accused of sensationalising images of an emaciated Muslim in a Serb run detention camp in Bosnia.

3. It’s useful to know what libel is – there are defences against libel. Here is a link with British Libel laws explained 

4. Don’t touch court reports – The rules around court reporting in the UK are so strict, so complex and carry unlimited penalties that all but the foolish would look at it. Take freelance reporters’ copy direct if you like. Don’t lift it from newspapers. And don’t try it at home. Contempt of court is about as much fun as serious illness.

5. Have a copy of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists by your side. It’s the media industry standard. It can save lives. It could save yours.

6. Use the Talk About Local site designed as a signpost for finding legal advice.

LINKS

Philip John: Getting serious about #hyperlocal blogs. Great piece about media law http://bit.ly/VCf1D

Social By Social legal issues for hyperlocals debate http://bit.ly/2EnY9M

My earlier blog about what hyperlocals mean for Local Government http://bit.ly/nkPrD

Great presentation on media law for bloggers and journalists by Paul Bradshaw http://bit.ly/22NeNs


HERE COMES EVERYBODY: What hyperlocal blogs will mean to Local Government

Pic credit:
TAL 09 Hyperlocal Unconference
Originally uploaded by willperrin
  
 There’s a tremendous scene tucked away in the extras of Armando Iounnucci’s excellent verge-of-war satire ‘In The Loop’.

Senior press officer Jamie McDonald, the angriest man in Scotland, is discussing his choice of film.

“‘There Will Be Blood,” he says. “Great title for a film. But you know what? There wasnae any blood.”

The idea of bloodless confrontation is one I can’t get away from after the excellent Talk About Local Unconference in Stoke-on-Trent.

Organised by @talkaboutlocal the project saw the cream of hyperlocal bloggers from across the country gather to plot, scheme and bounce ideas of each other.

It was fascinating stuff with some amazing things being done.

CONFRONTATION

So where does the confrontation come in?

If old media and social media are colliding then it’s at local government press offices that the front lines can be being drawn.

As newspapers close or scale back there is an overpowering feeling amongst residents of being left without a voice.

BLOG CASE STUDIES

Take the The Lichfield Blog. Founder and ex-journalist Ross Hawkes set it up in January 2009 when a fire engine went past his house prickng the curiosity of his wife.

“My wife said to me ‘I wonder where that’s going?’,” he told me. “I realised that there was no way of finding out anymore because local papers just aren’t there.”

Nine months on and his site now has 16,000 users a month while the incumbent newspaper The Lichfield Mercury has a print run of 60,000.

Then there’s http://www.wv11.co.uk – a hyperlocal for Wednesfield in Wolverhampton.

It was set up by two residents who wanted to make a difference and get a voice heard. Six weeks from launch they had 600 friends on Facebook.

All of a sudden the figures are stacking up.

It could be a town, a borough, a housing estate or even a tower block or two streets. Hyperlocal blogs are beginning to fill a gap. Too small for newspapers to compete with they are their worst nightmares.

Armed with a wordpress site and enthusiasm people can now have their say.

FRICTION

So where’s the friction?

Experienced press officers are used to dealing with trained reporters who know where the law is drawn.

They are often staffed by ex-reporters who earned their spurs the hard way.

Who are these bloggers, they say? Where’ve they come from? Why give them oxygen of publicity by dealing with them in an already busy day?

In Stoke, the Pits n Pots blog say they are not allowed near the press bench despite strong council coverage. It is said that the authority’s communications unit won’t speak to bloggers. At Talk About Local there was at times searing resentment at some press offices’ disregard of bloggers. At best it’s seen as unhelpful. At worst it’s deliberate.

Like them or not, many local government press officers do care passionately about their job and get very irritated when mis-truths and opinion get promoted as hard fact.

On the other side are bloggers, many who don’t have journalistic experience whose ignorance of media law could cost them their house. They care passionately about the place they live or work. That’s why they blog.

Let’s be quite clear here.

Bloggers and press officers are here to stay.

Does it have to lead to friction? Not necessarily. But while each side views the other with suspicion and at times hostility it’s hard to see a way through.

SO WHY SHOULD COUNCILS DEAL WITH BLOGGERS?

If a council’s reputation is being debated in a newspaper a good press officer is there.

If its being done through the letters page the press officer can take issue there.

Go where the debate is.

If that’s Facebook, Twitter or the comment boxes of a newspaper website or yes, a blog, go there.

An organisation’s reputation is increasingly what is being said about it online. So it makes no sense to bury heads in sand and pretend blogs will go away. They won’t.

FIVE THINGS A PRESS OFFICE CAN DO:

1. Treat them as journalists. Give them access to the same information. Coca Cola launched energy drink Relentless in part by explaining the product to bloggers first.

2. Put them on press release mailing lists. It’s not the Crown jewels. Its public information. Who knows? You may even correct misinformation at source.

3. Use blog comment boxes as a press officer. Say who you are and where you are from. Put the council’s position politely and link to further info where you can.

4. Accept not everything bloggers write is going to be favourable. And complain politely – and constructively – if things are wrong.

5. Respect what they do. More often than not they are residents who are articulating issues. Years ago, this was through letters pages. Now its online.

But it’s not all one way traffic. Like the best local newspaper Diamond wedding caption reveals, any relationship is a question of give and take.

FIVE SUGGESTIONS FOR BLOGGERS:

1. Don’t be anonymous. If you have courage of your conviction put your name to what you do. You’ll find your voice getting heard far better.

2. Don’t be afraid to check stories. You’ve heard a new housing estate is being built on playing fields. Isn’t it better to confirm that first – if you can?

3. Respect press officers. They have a job to do too.

4. Be accurate. The same rules for newspapers apply to blogs.

5. Buy a copy of McNae’s Essential Law For Journalists. The best, most readable book on media law there is. If you are even halfway serious about blogging on issues that could be controversial buy it and put it next to your computer.  It tells you what’s legal and what is not.  It. Will. Save. Your. Life.

LINKS

The Lichfield Blog (lichfield, Staffordshire) http://thelichfieldblog.co.uk/

WV11 (Wednesfield, Wolverhampton)  http://www.wv11.co.uk/

Pits N Pots (Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire) http://pitsnpots.co.uk/

Talk About Local  http://talkaboutlocal.org/