COMBAT ROCK: How to make a rebuttal: West Midlands Police v The Sun

Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest rebuttal to an inaccurate story by a public sector body.

This week there was an incident in a theatre in Birmingham city centre. Equipment malfunctioned during a performance and there was an explosion backstage. There were no injuries. As a precaution the theatre evacuated.

This translated to this on The Sun newspaper Twitter:

In the old way of doing things there would have been a phone call to the newsdesk. There would have been tooing and frowing and maybe the newspaper would have got round to correcting it.

But probably not.

Instead West Midlands Police took to Twitter with a direct rebuttal within EIGHT minutes:

This is brilliant.

The swift rebuttal was shared more than 400 times within eight hours and The Sun’s tweet just over 30.

The response from the public? Overwhelmingly positive.

If we no longer have to go through the Priesthood of journalists to talk to residents let’s do it and hold inaccurate damaging reporting accountable.

Thanks Emily Dunn for spotting this.


NEW FRIENDS: What big changes to Facebook mean for public sector communications

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As the late David Bowie once sang: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange.”

Almost five decade old lyrics that can help you navigate the ever changing ever evolving landscape of social media.

Facebook announced a change of direction a few days ago. It came in a blog post from Mark Zuckerburg and it has led to a fair degree of fear and uncertainty. It heralds a new direction for how people will consume content on the channel.

More than 50 per cent of the UK population have a Facebook account, Ofcom say, so an announcement on how your audience will use the channel is hugely important to everyone who wants to use the channel to reach them.

One thing is striking about this announcement. It is light on detail. It is vague in places. Frustratingly so. But after reading a stack of takes on the blog and giving this careful thought here’s a few things that public sector people need to know.

I’ll be talking about these points in more depth and coming up with solutions at SKILLS YOU WILL NEED FOR LIVE VIDEO in London on February 2 and at ESSENTIAL DIGITAL SKILLS FOR COMMS on January 26 in London, on February 15 in Leeds and Birmingham on February 27.

Facebook’s focus will be on friends and family not businesses, brands and organisations like the public sector. What your friends post is going to be dropped into your timeline more often. That’s at the expense of content from organisations. You can count the public sector in that.

Your Facebook page will reach fewer people unless your posts are genuinely engaging. As the squeeze on pages kicks in you’ll reach fewer people through organic posts. The broadcast content that ticks a box for someone? It’ll work even less. Reading what Zuckerburg it needs to be genuinely engaging. So, the Sandwell Council discussion on Snow Champions where people share pictures and discuss where salt can be got looks the best bet. This will need a re-think for many people. It’ll also mean you need to engage.   

The public sector person who shares work content to their network will cut through. If friends and family are important to Facebook, the shared message from an employee who lives in the patch will be more important. Of course, this is a fraught area and one where HR have had a field day in recent years. Your policy may not be for people to share work content. You may not even let them during work hours. But the email to the 100 librarians about that library content you’ve posted for them on a Facebook page feels like a sensible thing to do.

The internal comms of social media feels more important. If friends and family are more important, internal comms as a discipline overlaps further with social media. Tapping into staff’s networks of friends and family feels like an optional bonus nice to have. It may only reach small numbers per person. But in a 1,000-strong workforce even half bringing 10 each may represent an audience.     

Facebook Groups are more and more and more important. In 2018, your strategy for how you map, search and interact with groups will be mainstream if you want to use Facebook sensibly. This is something I’ve written on before and I’ve been carrying out some detailed research in the field. The Facebook group admin in your area are as important as journalists and other influencers. They have been for some time and the Facebook announcement is a klaxon wake-up to this. Make friends with them where you can. Think what content would work for them. Don’t spam them. The 500 members of the New Parents Facebook group are the right audience for new parent content. Join a group yourself and interact directly.  

The new approach can be summarised in this short video. Although it is longer than Facebook’s optimum 21 seconds. But that’s fine.   

Facebook Live video will be more important. Zuckerburg talks about the explosion of video as being significant and he’s especially keen on live video. Why? Simple. It carries more interactions. An encouraged route to your audience on pages is live video. This could be a Q&A, a behind the scenes tour. The body of experiment and case study is growing. Learn and add to it.

Facebook engagement rates will go down. That’s not just for the public sector, that’s right across Facebook. This is one of Zuckerburg’s clearest predictions. Lerss time but more valuably spent. So, as you see your stats dip remember that you are not alone, okay?

Facebook advertising feels more important. Advertising is not mentioned through the Zuckerburg post. As an organisation that is highly skilled at extracting cash from business, brands and organisation this is notable. The detail will follow, I’m sure, but I can’t imagine that Facebook won’t turn down the chance of allowing brands to beat the changes by advertising. As blogger Jon Loomer has speculated, this may lead to more competition to get into people’s timelines. This may lead to a spike in costs. Or it may not. 

Drive your traffic to email. Greenpeace Unearthed sponsored a Facebook post to encourage people to sign-up to their email list as a way of combating the change. That’s a natty approach. Credit to Jo Walters in spotting that.

That’s not the end for your Facebook page. This may be the start of using it more creatively and using it as one element of your overall Facebook strategy that inckudes groups, pages and internal comms and a higher barrier for posting better content.

You can find me @danslee on Twitter and by email dan@comms2point0.co.uk.

Picture credit: Trixi Skywalker / Flickr


BEING HUMAN: The first 30 days of human comms… and what I’ve learned

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When I started on a whim to blog #30daysofhumancomms it was to collect together some examples of human content that worked for me.

There were about half a dozen that had stuck in my memory and I’d hoped with a prevailing wind this could stretch to 30. Maybe.

But as I added more I spotted more and more people – thank you – came up with alternatives.

Over the course of the month a staggering 10,000 unique users came and read the content. Thank you for stopping by, for sharing and for coming up with suggestions.

I’ll continue the series

Not every day but because I keep finding things I’ll continue. Because they keep cropping up.

Why human comms?

The best content is the right thing in the right place at the right time. Yes, I get the need for evaluated calls to action. It’s not how many people see it. It’s what people did as a result of seeing it. So important. But if you don’t have an audience in the first place you’ve got nothing. If all your audience get are calls to actions you are not social. You are a pizza delivery company stuffing leaflets through the digital door. This is where the Paretto principle comms in in social media. If 80 per cent of your content is human and engaging this earns the right 20 per cent of the time to ask them to do something. It’s something I strongly believe in.

What have I learned blogging human comms for 30 days

Examples don’t take long to blog.

People respond to them.

They are the secret sauce that makes social media accounts work.

You know them when you see them.

They don’t just exist as a snappy tweet but can be a poster, a media comment, an interview or can be on Facebook too. Often they are not things thought up by comms at all.

What is striking seeing them together is seeing so many on Twitter and in the coming series I’ll look out for other channels, too.

31 days of human comms listed by subject area

Twitter update

  1. Hampshire Fire & Rescue’s rescued bench tweet. See here.
  2. Doncaster Council’s thread for their gritter World Cup. See here.
  3. London Fire Brigade remember the Kings Cross Fire. See here.
  4. Thames Valley Police’s drugs find. See here.
  5. Cardiff Council’s GIF traffic warning. See here.
  6. The Yorkshire motorway police officer and his wife. See here.
  7. The @farmersoftheuk Twitter account. See here.
  8. Lochaber & Skype Police talk to someone at risk of domestic abuse. See here.
  9. Kirklees Council’s GIF that reminds people that gritter drivers are human too. See here.
  10. London Midland sign-off. See here.
  11. The NHS Trust with a sense of humour. See here.

Video

  1. Doncaster Council and Jake the sweet sweeper driver. See here.
  2. The basketball playing Gainesville Police officer. See here.
  3. Sandwell Council as car share for #ourday. See here.
  4. Burger King tackles the bullies. See here.
  5. Sefton Council’s message on a national subject. See here.
  6. Bath & North East Somersets singing food hygiene certificates. See here.
  7. A Welsh hardware shop’s Christmas advert. See here.
  8. Dorset police’s Christmas somg. See here.

Facebook update

  1. Sydney Ferries name their new boat Ferry McFerry Face. See here.
  2. Queensland Ambulance Service takes a dying patient to the ocean a final time. See here.
  3. A missing dog pic from New Forest District Council. See here.

Customer service

  1. Edinburgh Council’s out-of-hours Twitter. See here.
  2. The human railway conductor’s announcements. See here.

Stopping your job to being human

  1. The busking police officer. See here.

Media interviews

  1. A newspaper interview with medics who treated Manchester bomb patients. See here.

Media comment

  1. North West Ambulance Service’s response to a man abusing a paramedic. See here.

Posters and signs

  1. Dudley Council’s spoiled tea sign. See here.
  2. Welcome to Helsinki place marketing. See here.
  3. Virgin Trains’ new trains poster. See here.

Rebuttal

  1. The BBC respond to The Sun newspaper. See here.

If you have a suggestion I’d love to hear from you. Drop a note in the comments or @danslee on Twitter.


PRO VIDEO : How to get the most out of LinkedIn video

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At last, LinkedIn has joined the race to encourage people to consume video on the channel.

The long-predicted move sees the platform for professionals allow you to upload directly to the site.

How you can upload video to LinkedIn

Easy. You can do this by adding a video when you are adding an update from your own profile from a PC. There is a video button as part of the range of options. You can also shoot video from your phone or add a video from your camera roll.

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At the moment, this is limited to updates in your own name. You can’t do this yet from the company page. For me, this isn’t a huge loss. People connect to people on LinkedIn and let’s face it, the company page is a pretty dull place.

So, cat memes on LinkedIn now is it?

What this does is add some extra dimension to the field. This is unlikely to see an explosion of cat memes on LinkedIn. This isn’t Facebook. But it does mean that when you are looking to communicate a new field has opened-up.

How you can use LinkedIn video

LinkedIn themselves have published a short guide to using video on their platform. This is going to be a bit trial and error, I suspect. You can read LinkedIn’s own advice here.

In short, LinkedIn think:

  • Something work related.
  • Less than five minutes in duration.
  • Tips, a talk or a how-to guide they are keen to share

Interestingly, they are after candid, not-overly produced and over-selling, too. This should pave the way for in-house video that doesn’t cost the earth.

At the moment, they don’t have a live broadcast functionality but I can see that changing.

Five ways to use LinkedIn video

Consultation. If the audience is more professional than other channels, that’s fine. This is where business people and others are. So if you need to get their feedback try here. A short video may work as part of the mix.

Recruitment. If your HR team are looking to recruit a short video may help.

How to guides. There are a range of things that professional people need. Advice on how to complete a planning application, take on an apprentice and many other things present themselves.

Professional opinion. Best practice guides or vlogging could lend itself well to the platform.

Experiment. The field is clear. Dip a toe in the water.

 

 

 


AUNTIE SOCIAL: Why the BBC should be your new favourite corporate account

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I’ve often said that the secret to decent digital communications in being human.

What is being human? You recognise it when you see it. It can be sharp and witty. It’s not corporate speak and its not jargon.

Often when I’m training I’ll see a look of anguish on people’s faces. They’d like to be human. But they’re worried about what people would think.

Step forward, the @bbcpress Twitter which has been on fire of late. But rather than be a branch of the entertainment industry the account skilfully switches between the humorous to the rebuttal to the more measured. But that’s fine. Choosing which is what makes the account special and why it should be your new favourite corporate account.

If the BBC can you can

Often, people will be reluctant to be human because they are risk averse. That’s fine. The BBC has been a political football for decades. If they can you can.

The Alan Partridge announcement teaser

There’s a great scene where Alan Partridge tries to attract someone he knows from a distance away. It’s painful. So, the teaser is marvellous.

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The Alan Partridge announcement with the Alan Partridge meme

There was a running gag in Alan Partidge’s first series about wanting a second series. Badly. Really badly. So desperately, you could smell it. So, of course an Alan Partridge meme to announce a new series is the way to go.

The online rebuttal

The BBC have become bold at shooting down misinformation online.

 The League of Gentleman announcement

A simple announcement wouldn’t have chimed quite so well as this that chimed with their dedicated fans.

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And the more formal announcement

The decision to expand World Service was treated to a more straight bat. But that’s fine.

The measured tribute But it is not all fun and games. When the mood is sombre @bbcpress find the right gear too.

All this is content that for local government digital media pioneer Alastair Smith and the rest of the BBC Press Office team can share pride in. Good work well delivered in sometimes difficult circumstances.

Picture credit: Elliot Brown / Flickr


THEIR DAY: 14 ideas to reboot your Twitter day

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In the near future planning for #ourday will swing into view… a day when local government posts what it does in realtime across 24-hours.

It’s an event that is close to my heart. It is modelled in part on #walsall24 a day which I was involved with six years ago.
As an experiment, at the council I was at we posted updates to Twitter from the mundane to the significant. The aim was to create a wall of noise and in doing so told the bigger picture of what local government does.
I still remember the feeling of unique stress and, frankly, loneliness when I opened the office and fired up the PC to send the first tweet. Would this work?
Bright sparks at the Local Government Association have since picked-up the ball and run with it since to turn it into a national initiative.
Six years is a long time. I got to thinking that it is maybe time it had a bit of a re-boot. This should be much more than Twitter. It should be more than council staff talking to each other although I do recognise a real benefit to this.

What should a day of online activity look like?

It needs to tell day-to-day stories… think of how best to do this.
It needs to focus on real people.
It needs real people telling their own stories.
It needs to have people who use the service and live, work and play in your area.
It needs some employees but only if they are named.
It doesn’t need offices. Go outside the ivory tower to see what people do.
It doesn’t need to Twitter, either. It is the fifth largest UK social media channel. Use other channels. Go off-line too.
But don’t just make noise set a few targets too. Sign-up for a library. Pledge to use a park. Pledge to exercise. Whatever.

Here are 14 ideas to make it more interesting

1. A Facebook Live Q&A on the local newspaper’s Facebook page with a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum stores. There is a trove of fascinating items. It would be great to hear someone talk about them. Give people a chance to see and put stories to their heritage.
2. Video clips of real people talking about the job they do for the organisation while out actually doing it.
3. Live tweeting shadowing the contact centre posting a snap shot of the calls they recieve.
4. Get people to sign-up to something. Join a library. Make the process easy to do online. Make a target. A hundred. Five hundred. Whatever.
5. Create a Facebook quiz to ask how much people know about what their council does. Do that here.
6. Use Twitter’s Periscope app to live broadcast a Q&A with the Leader of the Council on the budget. What should they do less of? And more of?
7. Plug into an existing campaign and create some content. You need more foster carers? Live tweet what a carer does for an hour or two.
8. Celebrate your area. Encourage people to post pictures on a hashtag that celebrates their area. Instagramers may warm to this. The best pic gets hosted on the homepage. Or as part of the website’s banner image.
9. Talk to people at a library event. What brings them to this book club? What book do they recommend?
10. Go behind the obvious and get others to join in. What goes on in school during an average day? There’s a breakfast club? No way? How does that work? Schools are getting better at posting their own content. Invite them to play.
11. You have a niche job? You look after the borough’s trees? Tell us about that. Give us a tour of what to look out for. Shadow the officer if needs be.
12. Adult social care is a growing issue? What do service users look like? Heck, he looks like my Dad. He even talks like him too. Can he talk about growing up in the area? And what help he gets from the council?
13. Aggregate your content in the one place. Pull a page together where people can follow all your stuff.
14. Make it live after the day. Two thirds of Facebook live views come after the event. Can you capture and share it in a storify? A pdf? An email?
Look for the real people and create some content there. Move #ourday on a notch. You work in an amazing sector so go and share some of the amazing stuff.
Picture credit: Marco Verch / Flickr

FIFTH LIST: 23 things and a safety net from commscamp

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A couple of days on from the 5th commscamp in Birmingham and the dust has settled a little. I’m on a train reflecting.

1. There is a need for this. The first batch of tickets went in two minutes. The second in four. That’s 70 tickets in six minutes. There isn’t a need for gimmicks. Just a room and good people.
2. This is our tribe. Someone used these words to describe the people in the room. I get that. They’re people impatient to do a better job.
3. Around three quarters of the live video session had tried live video. That’s a figure that surprised me. Last year it would have been a handful.
4. You can’t get to all the sessions you want to even when you organise the thing.
5. Cake is a force for good.
6. Kate Bentham is a force for good.
7. We are starting to be faced with the idea of talking to people in Facebook groups. But we are very nervous about using our own profiles to do this.
8. The trend in sessions seems to have evolved from tech to safety net. It is important that people have moral support. It is tough in the public sector at the moment.
9. After a major incident, you need to look after the comms team weeks and month after the event.
10. It is getting harder not easier.
11. There is still a place for print.
12. Commscamp has led to other ideas and events just like other events led to commscamp.
13. If you are not competent at video you need to be.
14. The real value of an unconference comes not on the day but in six months time.
15. The fax is more popular than the press release.
16. With live video the important thing is just to do it. You can refine and improve with experience.
17. Windows phones and blackberries don’t allow you to fully communicate.
18. Steph Gray is very quick at writing good content. An engaging post within a couple of hours.
19. Nigel Bishop takes good pictures.
20. Emma Rodgers is a good person to plan an event with.
21. Anyone can run an unconference.
22. When we started these, it felt like the war to convince people to use digital wasn’t won. Now it is. But the struggle continues against ignorance, box-ticking and bad digital just as it always has done. Are we winning? I think we are. We can look over our shoulders and see where we’ve come from. But there are battles ahead. Nirvana isn’t instant. It is hard-won.
23. The volunteers, sponsors and attendees who came and made this a success are brilliant.
24. I’m glad we tried Friday but it feels too close to the weekend and I’m not sure its the best day for the event.
The next commscamp will be in Birmingham on July 12 2018. There may be others before. You can sign-up for updates here.