MEDIA TODAY: ‘We are not in a 24/7 news cycle. We are in a 360-degree, 3D news cycle.’

20564510232_d7215a736d_b“I love newspapers,” legendary Sunday Times editor Harold Evans once said, “But I’m intoxicated by the power and possibility of the internet.”

I get that.

It’s hard not to be a participant or a watcher in the media landscape in 2016 without being fascinated at how fast it evolves.

There was an excellent interview by Alex Spence on political website politico with the outgoing director of communications at the Prime Minister’s Office. Craig Oliver spent six years in the post. Leave politics aside, he has some really useful observations. You can read full post here. Here are a few highlights:

On the changing political media: “The reality is that we are not in a 24/7 news cycle. We are in a 360-degree, 3D news cycle, when news is coming at you all the time, constantly, and the next headline is not the top of the next hour on a 24-hour news station, but in the time it takes for somebody to type out a tweet.”

On which media — TV, radio, newspapers, digital, social — now has most influence on political news: “You’re saying, ‘Is the TV news the most important thing?’, and actually that feels slightly dated as a question. Yes it’s massively important but I still think, what are we saying to the newspapers, what are we saying to the broadcasters, what are we saying to social media, I treat each of those quite equally. They all bleed into each other. Increasingly you have news organisations that do websites, podcasts, vodcasts, you know, essentially mini-TV programs, little videos, little audio bites, it’s all merging together. It’s how are you impacting traditional newspapers, how are you impacting the traditional broadcasters, how are you having an effect on social media and that kind of digital world. It is starting to mesh and move but you still do have to think in each of those three ways about each story.”

On the enduring influence of the newspapers: “Anybody who did this job who didn’t think that newspapers had a very powerful influence on the political debate in this country would not be understanding the situation properly.”

These are points that any comms, PR or social media person needs to understand. It echoes something I’ve been saying for a while. Know your landscape. Know your stats. Don’t be a channel fascist and close things out entirely. Use the best channel. Not the sexiest.

Picture credit: Hakan Dahlstrom / Flickr


10 places to distribute your video to make it a success

5236263550_12bf640a5b_oYou’ve made a cracking video but you’re really not sure what to do next.

So what do you do?

For the past 12-months I’ve looked, made, researched and co-delivered workshops on essential video skills for comms.

As a comms person I’m convinced that video has a powerful role in creating engaging content. As I’ve said before, a large chunk of the internet is now video and that’s just going to grow.

The two things you need for engaging video

Think of Pearl & Dean. Think of sound and vision. It’s two things that go together. There’s a balancing act for creating successful video as part of a comms campaign. On the one hand you need good content. But on the other hand, good content that’s sat on your mobile phone isn’t going to reach anyone. So think about when and where you can post what you’ve made.

Live streaming is a bit different

Live streaming using Periscope, Meercat or Facebook Live is video. But this is video of the moment which is disposable. If the advantage is to be five yards away from the firefighter explaining the incident is now under control then it makes sense to use that. Speed and realtime point you to these platforms.

Don’t be blinded by numbers

Have a think about your audience. If you are keen to reach 16-year-old students about to decide which college to go to then your idea of success is not to chase Taylor Swift numbers. But if you’ve only reached a dozen then you may need to have a think about your distribution. In other words where people have the chance to see the video.

10 places where people can see your video

YouTube direct. This is the grand daddy of internet video. It’s used by more than a billion people a month. In the UK, more than 40 million people use the platform every month. Post your video to YouTube but keep it at around three minutes. Add tags and a good description so people will find it. Metadata is your friend. Optimum time: around three minutes.

Facebook direct. A new kid on the block compared to YouTube. At the moment, Facebook is rewarding you for adding video content to a page. It likes video because video keeps people interested, engaged and sharing. A hundred million hours of video is watched on Facebook every day. There is a battle going on between YouTube and Facebook but it’s worth posting video here too. Facebook can soar in the short run and is outperformed by YouTube in the long run. So think about posting to both. Optimum time: 21 seconds.

Twitter direct. Like Facebook, Twitter is liking that you post video direct to itself from the Twitter mobile app. But annoyingly, it’ll only let you upload a video from elsewhere if you are using an iphone.Optimum time: less than 30 seconds.

Instagram direct. There is a tendency for organisations to sit back and think that YouTube, Facebook or Twitter means the internet is covered. What hogswallop. If you know your audience you’ll have an idea which platforms they’ll be using. If instagram or snapchat is on their wavelength then think about how you’ll be using those channels first. By doing that you’ll have an understanding of what video may work.Optimum time: Instagram was up to 15 seconds maximum but now can be 60 seconds. Doesn’t mean you should use 60 seconds, mind.

Snapchat direct. Younger people are opting for snapchat. Again, disposability rules in the content. The platform now has 10 billion views a day. Organisations who are using it well have got to know snapchat first and make specialised content. It’s not a place to throw your three minute YouTube video.Optimum time: less than 10 seconds.

Email the link internally. Once you’ve posted the video cut and paste the URL and send it to people. Embed it in the weekly email. Or send it to the 10 people in the team you’ve featured. Invite them to share it and you can start to tap into your staff as advocates. YouTube links are good for this.

Embed in a webpage. It never fails to surprise me that video carefully shot and posted onto social channels then never makes the webpage. If you look after a museum, embed the video onto the right webpage so when visitors come they’ll have more than just the opening times to look at.

A staff meeting or event. You have an audience of people corralled into a room. Of course you should show them the film you’ve made.

A link attached to a press release. If you’re sending out a press release it is becoming increasingly important to add a video or an image to it to register an interest with a reporter. Even if it’s a short video it’s worth doing.

Target influencers. If the blogger, the reporter or the big cheese are people you’d like to see the video don’t hope that somehow they’ll pick up on it. Email them direct. Tweet them direct. Tap them on the shoulder. “I’ve got this video that I think you’ll like.”

On a welcome screen on a loop. If you have a reception or a place where people gather show the video on a loop. You may want to screen it with the sound off if you’ve only got 30 seconds of good footage. Think about silent film techniques and sub-titles.

To learn more about planning, editing, shooting and posting video using a smartphone come to a comms2point0 essential video skills workshop.

Dan Slee is co-creator of comms2point0.

OWN GOAL: What Aston Villa’s demise teaches comms and PR people

19753404670_9bf9cf0977_bSometimes it’s tempting to say that better PR can make up for anything… but that’s just a big fat lie.

Take Aston Villa Football Club. They’re a team that has just been relegated from the top flight of English football with four games of the season left.

This was the football equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade only with none of the honour, heroism and poetry. This was not a rush towards the Russian guns with lightly armed horses to maintain a reputation. This was a dash towards a brick wall in an ice cream van. Driven by a bloke in a circus clown’s outfit. Blunders to the left of them, fowl-ups to the right. Into the valley of PR nightmares they rode.

It’s tempting to feel truly sorry for the actual PR team at Aston Villa who have had to all too often pick-up the pieces. How much of a thankless task must that be?

However, in the interests in learning from failure, here are some lessons.

You cannot polish a turd

Yes, PR can do much. But if the product is broken all the PR and comms in the world can’t make up for it. If the owner isn’t interested and a string of bad appointments have been made there really is very little you can do.

I’m reminded of Robert Phillips’ ‘Trust Me PR is Dead.’ His advice to a burger chain facing flak for excrement traces in their burgers was not to talk about the community grants they gave and corporate social responsibility. It was to stop putting crap in the burgers.

Speak truth to power

Of course, what you say may not always be welcome. But honest, diplomatic feedback of what your customers are saying should be given house room. If the customers are angry about something it’s as well to know early. You won’t be welcomed in the short term, but speaking truth to power is a role of the comms person.

What happens on a night out…stays on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

Aston Villa players carved out a special place for themselves through the season by being spotted ‘tired and emotional’ in a range of places. Jack Grealish started the trend pre-season in Tenerife. He then added Manchester to the list after losing to Everton.

Know how to spell

Eyebrows were raised when Frenchman Remi Garde was plucked from the French league to become the man who was going to save Aston Villa from a spiral of despair. In fine tradition the club took to the internet to orchestrate a welcome campaign.#welcomeremy the image on the club website read. Perfect. But his name was spelt wrong. It was Remi.

Know when to be humble

Defender Joleon Lescott has got very rich playing football for a number of clubs including Manchester City. A player who has won a handful of caps for England he has cashed in on the Premier League era. But after losing and getting abuse on Twitter he responded by tweeting a picture of his new car.  Then he hurriedly deleted the car and blamed the fact that his pocket had accidentally tweeted the image.

Beware the corporate re-branding

Of course, a new look can breathe life into a new brand. But when the chips are down it can lead to criticism. You have taken your eye off the ball looking at fancy marketing stuff when you should be looking at the basics. Like winning games. Unfair? Perhaps. But perception is everything. So when Villa rebranded for £80,000 losing the traditional motto ‘Prepared’ from the badge they were open to criticism. Especially as they looked so unprepared losing every week.

Follow back… don’t unfollow

On social media, it costs nothing to follow someone back. On a basic level it says that you have been recognised even if your content isn’t slavishly being read. So as a time of the season when Villa needed all the friends they could mass unfollowing 47,000 fans on Twitter wasn’t the best thing to do. The reaction was not positive. Don’t do it.

There is no such thing as off-the-record

With Aston Villa relegated former player and radio phone-in host Stan Collymore laid into some of the more under-achieving players. Singling out Joleon Lescott the car tweeting defender responded by Twitter direct message privately offering to meet and sort things out as men. The screen grab was then tweeted by Collymore.

Say sorry… and mean it.

As the final whistle blew at Old Trafford and Villa were relegated the chief executive Steve Hollis posted an open letter to supporters. It expressed ‘regret’ for how the season panned out and was an exercise in acknowledging responsibility. As an attempt, it was good. No doubt he was hurting. But it would have been far more effective if the word ‘sorry’ had been used.

In the Middle Ages, stocks were used for public contrition. The miscreant was forced to sit there while rotten tomatoes and excrement was flung at them. There’s actually a social role for this. There’s also a place where this takes place today. It’s called the radio phone in. A grovelling apology by the owner on BBC Radio WM may go some way to healing the rift.

Creative commons credit: joshjdss / Flickr 

NEW STATS: Newspapers are now the least most popular way to get news

189144143_2c114eed34_oThis is significant: printed newspapers have become the least popular way that people use to keep up to date with what is going on in the world.

According to a report in the Guardian the annual Ofcom news consumption study will say that 31 per cent of the population read a printed newspaper to keep informed. This is a fall from 41 per cent the previous year.

On the other hand, TV news on 67 per cent, the internet with 41 per cent and radio 32 per cent are all comfortably ahead of breaking news on the news stand.

To anyone interested in the media landscape this feels like hugely landmark news in itself. To communications teams geared-up to service the needs of newspapers first and foremost this feels especially important.

It’s also further evidence that while newspapers used to be practically the only show in town they are not any longer.

The full report doesn’t appear to have been published on the Ofcom site. Their reports always bear reading and the Ofcom Communications Market 2015 report should be required reading for all comms and PR people. I’ve blogged the findings here.

To look at this from a newspaper perspective, they would argue their websites and social media are included in the internet column. So, ‘it’s complicated’ maybe one summary.

The Guardian report also had a few more significant bulletpoints:

  • 25 per cent of people use their mobile phones to keep up to date – up four per cent.
  • 14 per cent of people use word of mouth to get their news – up three per cent.
  • Young people are more likely to go online (59 per cent) than watch the TV (‘around half.’)
  • BBC1 was the top news source on 48 per cent, ITV second with 23 per cent, the BBC app or website 23 per cent, BBC News channel 14 per cent and Facebook 12 per cent along with Sky News.

Here’s a link to the full document Ofcom document News Consumption in the UK 2015.

Creative commons credit: Soon / Flickr /


FUTURE PROOF: 40 skills you’ll need in your 2020 comms team today

6916758251_2c7753d7fc_oSo what occupies the mind of the most successful Olympic coach Britain has ever had? You’ll find the answer surprising.

It’s not next week, the next Tour de France or who will be in the squad for Rio that occupies cycling’s Dave Brailsford. It’s what his best team will be in five years time.

“I find that once you’ve done that,” he told the BBC, “you can work backwards to work out a way to get to where you want to be.”

It chimed with something I’ve often reflected on for some time. Just what should a comms team look like? Not the press release counting machine of history. Not either a team of ninjas on hoverboards. Communications people if they want longevity should be moving. Unlike Dave Brailsford we don’t have until 2020. For some its too late.

Your job used to be create content in a place where people went to consume content passively.

Your job is now to create content in places where people want to consume content where they can share, comment, engage, praise and complain.

If that’s not for you, it’s maybe time to think about that alternative career.

The best day to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best day is today. It’s the same for you and your team.

But that’s enough of the clichés. Here’s some nitty gritty of what you need to know.

As a head of comms or as an individual start mapping where you want to be

Dave Brailsford is right. If you aren’t looking forward you will be made an irrelevance if you aren’t already. It isn’t for your line manager to map your positive future. It’s for you.

As a team, don’t call yourself press officers or even PR

No longer the only show in town the Press is changing. News rooms decimated, Photographers laid off. Anyone who says otherwise is a fool. What is left is a media – let’s call them that rather than newspapers, radio or TV – blinking at the harsh light of the web. Some are evolving. What will survive are those changing into organisations who tell stories with data, pictures or video and in realtime unfettered by print deadlines. Like here or here.

If public releations was to give PR advice to PR it would be to drop the line ‘PR.’ Too toxic. Too reminiscent of Max Clifford and spin.

As a team, don’t be channel fascists

So, be content creators. Not a press officer or a press office. Provide content in the right way at the right time to the right people. Do that free from always having to go through the Priesthood of journalists. The team that does everything as a press release or as a tweet is just as guilty of being a channel fascist. Understand the variety of channels there are and know how to create content for them. And by the way, cut and pasting the same content in six channels doesn’t work.

As a team, look for the influencers who can influence networks

Some may be in the media. Some may be bloggers. Some may be people with important jobs. Some may not have important jobs but have a huge following on Twitter or run a hyperlocal site. Some will be your staff.

As a team, outsource comms to plug into networks

There won’t be enough of you to do everything anymore. So when you set the strategy be gateopeners to other people across the organisation. The Environment Agency manager on Twitter reaches an audience the press office can’t reach. So does the museums assistant who uses Twitter. Or the countryside ranger.

As a team, know your media landscape and break the tyranny of the local newspaper frontpage

If the days when everyone read the local paper ever existed they are over now. Find out what media cover your organisation. Find out their circulation and reach. Find out how many people are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. And use email. Use the annual Ofcom stats as a starting point.

Run a survey of where your team are spending their time. Does it match up with what the landscape actually is? Produce an infographic of where the landscape is and circulate it to everyone. Hang it on your wall. In reports refer to it. Sit down with those in charge and explain it. Ask for permission to re-calibrate.

As a team, the look finance in the eye test

In the old days, comms and PR teams could get away with a vague brief of ‘making the people in charge look good.’ An office two doors from those in charge was their ether. They realised too late that where your office is is no guard against the pain of cuts. Scrapbooks of cuttings from the local paper of a person in a suit planting a tree is spent capital. What talks are business objectives expressed as pounds, shillings and pence. That drive to recruit more foster carers? Thanks to comms it saved £100k. That is what justifies what you do. If it’s not a business objective don’t waste your time.

As a team, generalise but specialise

Making video is tricky and if someone is good at it encourage it. Don’t hold them back. Encourage fresh thought. Embrace experiments. Some will work. Some won’t. But always be learning. But share the sweets across the team and wider.

As a team, get over yourself

You used to have it all. The control. The ear of the people in charge. The sole ability to communicate with the media. That’s gone. But don’t fight it. Sometimes it’ll be you. Other times you’ll get in the way. Sometimes your job will be advice. Sometimes it will be to stand back. Set the strategy. Share the sweets.

As a team, think beyond ‘traditional social media’

At some point the tipping point was reached and people started to ask not for press releases but for Twitter accounts or for stuff to be posted on Twitter. What lazy rubbish.

As an organisation, it’s okay to have social channels that are social

Let the guidemark of the 80-20 rule govern what you do. Share other people’s content. Be human. Tweet a picture of where you are and what you are doing. Asda observe this rule for their hard headed business focussed yet social channels. So do police officers. It works. It’s not messing about. It’s being an effective communicator.

As an individual, challenge, experiment and learn

Whether you are the head of comms or not you need to learn, experiment, challenge, kick tyres and do things in your own time. By all means clock off at 5 o’clock. But you won’t be around for much longer. A new job? Not in communications you won’t.

Three quotes you need to know and live by

‘Hyperlinks flatten hierarchies,’ – The Cluetrain Manifesto, 1999.

‘We need to communicate like insurgents,’ – Tom Fletcher, UK Ambassador to Lebanon, 2014.

“There remains a perverse determination within PR to defend top-down behaviour in a flatter world. PR currently speaks to hierarchies in a world of networks. It is therefore starting in the wrong place both for its own domain and the wider universe of citizens, companies and brands. PR can no longer dictate on its own terms.

“It is not about loudhailer broadcasting or ‘managing the message’ anymore. Shrill press releases are irrelevant in a world that sees through obfuscation and deceit. Building advocacy and activism within networks is the way forward. The voices of regular people need to be heard.” – Robert Phillips, 2015

 – Robert Phillips, 2015.

40 skills a comms team needs

Here comes the list. You know what the single most reassuring thing is? All this is achievable. Many of the skills we have can stay with us. Story telling. Relationshiips and the like. But the technical skills are evolving constantly. You stand still at your peril.

All will need

To build relationships

To educate the people you serve

To know the value of networks and to know yours

To accept change

To evaluate

To know when to say ‘no’

To be a diplomat

To challenge – ask why we are doing this?

To listen as an individual

To help people listen as an organisation

To write for the web

To tell stories

To create the right content for the right people in the right channel at the right time

To source photographs

To train others

To listen

To know the value of internal comms

To take risks

To learn

To be small ‘p’ politically aware

To know when to write a comms plan and when to say ‘no.’

To be self-aware

To be professional

To interpret data

To be broad shouldered

To capture and communicate emotion

To be tenacious

To present

To be visible

To be professional but not be constrained by one profession

To be creative

To manage time

To create and run a survey

To take photographs

To know how to handle crisis and emergency comms

Some will need

To write press releases

Technical: Content creating for the right channels

To know when and how to create content using data

To know when and how to create text, images or video content tailored for email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Audioboo or Soundcloud.

To experiment with new channels and to know who uses them.

To know when and how to create a press release

To know when some print is needed

Two sessions and a lot of thinking shaped this blog. One session at UK Govcamp two months ago and one at comms2point0’s campaigns masterclass last month. At both I just asked for ideas on individual skills to see what patterns emerged. Thank you if you contributed. Thank you to Emma Rodgers who co-led the masterclass session and annogtated the skills we listed. This post is the reading of those ink blots mixed with things I’ve written about before.

If you are slightly apprehensive and a little excited and good luck we’d love to talk to you.

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NOTE PASSION: What Makes My Heart Sing

065/365: Show us your smile!I’ve been thinking a bit about what makes my heart sing. Not what you are passionate about. Anyone can be ‘passionate’. It’s a word that is rapidly losing its meaning.

What I mean is what makes your heart truly sing.

What prompted this was reading ‘Talk Like TED’ by Carmine Gallo which looked at what makes the best TED talks work. TED, if you don’t know, stands for Technology, Education, Design and has snowballed from an exclusive conference for the super rich to a global franchise of affiliated events.

They are short talks. 18 minutes is the most you’ll get. They’ll have a bit of powerpoint. But the slides help the speaker tell a story rather than provide a script.

Last April I left local government to work on comms2point0 full-time. It’s taken me to meet some fascinating people doing great work across Britain.

A few weeks back myself and my comms2point0 colleague Darren Caveney travelled to Jordan at the invitation of the Foreign Office to facilitate a two-day comms event for Middle East and North Africa comms staff. We also staged a half day unconference. There was never any doubt in my mind that the unconference aspect would work. It did. The people in the room rose to the task.

I began at the start of the event by asking the question . There were some puzzled looks at first. Then some great answers.

But what makes my heart sing?

Over the years many things. It used to be watching Stoke City and when I was a journalist writing a frontpage story. My children do. But I’m their Dad, so I’m biased.

What makes my heart sing now is working out the best ways to tell a story and communicate with people. The web has taken everything and thrown it up into the air. Who wouldn’t want to try and explore how those pieces fit?

My heart sings when I see people understanding how to communicate in an area I don’t know about.

Even though I love Twitter, I don’t care for people who think Twitter is the answer to everything. It’s not. If some print works, then go for it. That’s fine. There’s no point being a channel fascist.

Here’s a comment made at the Middle East event by a locally engaged comms professional who does brilliant work for the FCO with the Arab regional media.

“In Libya, people have Kalashnikovs and want to kill each other. There are four tribes. Just because an infographic works in the USA it doesn’t mean it works in Libya.”

You need local knowledge. You need the passion to understand the media landscape wherever you are whether that’s Derbyshire or Dubai.

Hats off to Steven Hardy and Craig Morley from the FCO for staging the event and to the 70-odd attendees who made my heart sing.

Pic creative commons credit:

SOCIAL CONTENT: Are You Getting the Balance Right?


Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for comms planning and having a purpose.

If the aim is to do something then it makes sense to have your comms pointing at that.

The only thing is that social media isn’t like that. It’s social. So, a stream of call-to-action updates just won’t work. It’s as social as a stream of flyers being pushed through your letterbox.

So, what’s the answer?

There needs to be a balance of the social and the stuff you want people to sign up for, buy or do.

Often in training I’ll refer to an 80-20 split. The 80 per cent is conversational and engaging content. The 20 per cent is the things you’d like people to do.

In a fascinating interview on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Bottom Line’ Asda’s social manager puts the balance at 10 to 1.

Dominic Birch, Asda senior director of marketing, innovation and new revenue, said that the social media team has now become part of the wider PR team.

“We didn’t have a budget. So it wasn’t the case of advertising that we were on Facebook. Each time we posted some content we had to rely on even a very small number of people at first liking it for that content to be seen my anyone else otherwise we would be speaking to ourselves.

“We averaged two or three posts a day, every day, so maybe 20 posts a week.

It started to get interesting when they started to get customers to chip in with decisions. Nothing big. Customers chose the design for Christmas tea towels.

“What was really interesting was that 4,500 people went to the bother of asking whether they liked design ‘a’, ‘b’ or ‘c’. Actually, it was that moment that with 18 million customers we understood that if you connect to the right ones they really do care about what you do, what they say and why wouldn’t they? Ultimately, they’re going to come into your shop and choose to buy it.”

Big numbers is not the answer as fewer people see the posts. If the people who like your page are true customers it’ll cost you less effectively to reach them through Facebook ads.

“There is a danger that social media becomes diarrhea. We had a rule of thumb that for every post we wanted to push or sell something to be very blunt about it we had to put 10 other posts in the bank. They are there solely to engage our customers. We have to have done hard work  talking about what the customers wanted to talk about before we have the right or licence to push something out.

“It’s a two-way dialogue social media. It just is. Our starting point is not to sell. It’s to listen. A few years ago we had a Christmas ad that was based on insight that it was Mum who does the heavy lifting, organises the present, gets the tree, cooks the meal and we depicted this advert and were met with a media backlash. Some people thought this was filmed in the 1950s and Fathers for Justice were going to do protests in the turkey aisle but we had three or four thousand comments saying things like ‘I nudged my husband awake when that came on the TV and said:L ‘that’s how it really feels.’ If you’d have gone back two or three years there would have been a high level meeting and the advert would have been pulled.”

That’s useful insight. Are you getting the balance right?


Creative commons credit