WRITE STUFF: 15 pieces of advice for journalists heading to a career in PR

23106362469_a553484d8b_bSo, what is the difference was between journalism and PR? I’ve stopped and asked myself the question this week. I’ve been thinking of how to explain the difference.

For 12-years I was a journalist and rose to become assistant chief reporter of a daily regional newspaper. Back then I would have told you that the difference was news was everything they don’t want you to know. The rest is PR, I’d have said.

Eight years on and director of my own company I know the difference is more to it than that just a lack of shouting news editors and no double murders.

The truth is that if there was a Venn diagram, there would be surprising little between the two. At best, it’s a common use of the English language and the knowledge that news is people. And people like to read about people.

Here are 15 differences

A yardstick of success. As a journalist, your measure is if you’ve got the front page. Failing that, it’s a healthy number of pageleads. As a comms person, it’s a number of things. Chiefly, being able to show the material difference your content has made. The number of foster carers recruited, for example.

Criticism. I say this with love, knowing journalists will take umbrage. There is nobody so thin skinned as a journalist. I knew this when I was one. I know it now too. As a comms person you are like a sniper in no man’s land. Under fire from all sides. Your organisation and those outside will throw things at you.

Professional regard. Journalists are special. Not trusted, especially. But special. They have a Press bench and a Press pass. Doors open. Comms people have a daily battle to have their opinion listened to. Solicitors? Planning inspectors? Doctors? Their word is law. But anyone with spell check and clipart thinks they are a comms person.

Audience. A journalist, in the words of a former colleague only half in jest ‘tries to make old people scared to leave their homes.’ They used to have one main channel. Like the printed newspaper or radio bulletin. Now they have to use more. A comms person needs to know as many of the 40 different skills as possible.

Skills. While the reporter needs more skills now than ever the PR or comms person needs to draw either individually or across a team up to 40 skills.

Diplomacy. A journalist can smile politely and ask why the chief executive has failed to build 100 homes on time. A comms person needs the tact to talk through the implications of how that failure will play out and suggest a course of action.

There are no jacks under it. As a journalist, I’d be encouraged to make a story a bit more exciting by ‘putting the jacks under it.’ Outrage, slam, row. As a comms person you play it straight. You stick to the facts which are always sacred.

Accuracy. Now, here’s a thing. I was more accurate as a PR person than a journalist. There. I’ve said it. The news desk request to write a story to fit a pre-determined idea is a thing. I’ve done it. In comms and PR you need to be certain of your ground or you become the story.

A difference. A journalist can try and make a difference by holding power to account. A comms person can make a difference by drawing up the right content in the right place at the right time.

Planning. Long term planning on newspapers was often tomorrow. The concept of a comms plan to work out the business priority, the audience and the channel is alien.

Obsolescence. The journalist suffers from being in an industry whose business model is being re-invented and as a result there are casualties. Comms as an area is developing.

Hours. Long hours to make sure the paper is filled are common on newspapers – who are often renamed media companies. Hours in comms and PR are long. But it’s rare to be stood outside a burning factory in Smethwick, I find.

Writing. Just because you can write for a newspaper doesn’t mean you can write for the web. Or Facebook or Snapchat.

Your employer and your ethics. You bat for your employer as  a PR person. But you bat for your ethics first. At times you have to know your ground and say a firm ‘no.’

Innovation. There can’t be a more exciting time to be a comms person than now. The internet has tipped up old certainties. The tools we can use are evolving and the guidebook on how to use them you can write yourself. How good is that?

Like many former journalists, I admire good journalism. But don’t anyone think that being a reporter and being a press officer or a PR person are remotely the same.

Picture credit: Mattiece David / Flickr


VIDEO LINK TOO: Incident video footage from firefighters’ body-worn cameras is as good as you think it’ll be

A few days ago I posted about how a straight forward car fire could play out as video.

You can read it here. It talks about the impact of some content shot on a smartphone and posted by a firefighter.

Following from that, a firefighter tweeted this YouTube footage that goes one better. It’s brilliant. It’s shot from a body camera worn by a watch commander. It shows them directing the response to the fire and the impact of the housefire.

It’s powerful as-live content. You can see it here:

As West Midlands Fire Service say, this pilot is becoming adopted service-wide in the New Year.

What’s the advantage? Brilliant content that captures an incident as it develops. As body camera footage this doesn’t get in the way. There is no issue of a firefighter breaking off from what they are doing just to film. There’s also the benefit of good quality footage that can be used for training and internally as well as shared online and on TV.

To a former journalist like myself, I’m fascinated at how the round of phone calls to fire stations is being replaced by a round of social media checks.

A downside? It’s possible that downloading the film, editing and uploading may prove fiddly. But do the benefits outweigh this? It would seem so.

Would this work elsewhere? It’s tricky to see how day-to-day police, NHS, housing or ambulance footage could be used if people were included on the content. Yet, this Oldham Council video with a Go-Pro does give a taste.

Class, be more like West Midlands Fire Service.

I can’t wait to see the content that emerges from it.


WRITE LINES: Of course poetry is good communications, it goes for the heart

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Poetry? In good communications?

There’s a few lines of verse I have to be careful with because when I read them my eyes always fill  with stinging tears. I can’t help myself.

You may know them. They are from AE Houseman’s ‘A Shropshire Lad’. He was inspired to write them after climbing the Clent Hills in North Worcestershire and looking towards Shropshire in the distance.

They are lines filled with a sense of loss. Soldiers in the First World War often took them with them into the trenches. Wilfred Owen carried a copy with him.

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

I was reminded by this by an unconference session at GCS North in Manchester earlier today. Poetry in communications was floated as a session idea almost as an afterthought. Feel a lump in the throat? I do.

Here are two surprising things. First, Houseman never knew Shropshire well. He was from Bromsgrove. He would see the hills in the far-off distance to him they were a place that were just out-of-reach. Second, Houseman for all the passion of those lines was outwardly a cold man. An academic of the Classics he was an unemotional fish. But he believed that poetry works best when it aimed at the heart and the emotions. I think he’s right.

All too often creativity is squeezed out of a comms job, one person remarked.

Yet, a piece of creative writing can – at times – connect better with people than the formal tone.

There is a tremendous video used to promote Dublin that marries spoken word poetry with images. It’s a powerful thing. You can see it here.

It goes back to the heart v head argument I’ve written about before.

But poetry can also serve to articulate something. One attendee at the session with a condition remarked that writing verse about his condition helped him articulate it in a way he couldn’t in conversation. Another said that a back-to-work colleague overcoming depression once communicated through a poem as she felt awkward talking about it.

If you are struggling to find the right words poetry to appeal to the heart could help you.

Picture credit: Mark Peate / Flickr


PAPER LOVE: Seven local newspaper stories… I cried at number two and you’ll never believe number six

 

chairLocal newspapers, like the mob, has a habit of pulling me back.

For 12-years I worked on local papers writing whole forest-pulping amounts of stories on everything from table-top sales to triple murders.

More than a decade since I sent my last nib the industry keeps tugging at my coat tails.

Today, I read an earnest defence of local newspapers blogged by Ian Carter. You can read it here. In it, he defends the industry against the accusation of clickbait, listicles and falling standards. In particular he siezes on a well-documented story of a frontpage story of an out-of-date pasty being sold. It’s five years ago. Or, rather as this is newspapers there are CAPITAL LETTERS to show OUTRAGE:

“As part of the case for the prosecution, he digs out a story published five years – FIVE YEARS! – ago by the Folkestone Herald.”

Hey, maybe Ian is right. So, I’d like to share some more contemporary work in the style of a listical featured in the excellent Angry People in Local Newspapers Facebook page you can see here.

Seven local newspaper stories… I cried at number two and you’ll never believe number six

  1. CHAIR DESTROYED – Westmorland Gazette. It’s all kicking off in Kendal. However, the anonymous spokesman would have offended my old news editor greatly.
  2. CARNFORTH CIVIC HALL GETS NEW VACUUM CLEANER – Westmorland Gazette. Yet again, the Gazette is on the money. But no picture of the new Henry? Shoddy work!
  3. POLICE NOTICEBOARD LOCKCHANGE ROW ERUPTS – Wigan Today. Can nobody stop 2016 from being such a year? Bonus point for glum man next to the noticeboard.
  4. RESIDENTS PLUNGED INTO DARKNESS AFTER STREETLIGHTS TURNED OFF AN HOUR EARLIER – Lincolnshire Live. Never turned off. Always plunged. Good work.
  5. AN UN-BEAR-LIEVABLE SNAPSHOT! – Cambrian News Can I see the teddy bear in the sky like this one lucky reader? No, I can’t actually.
  6. CREME BRULEE TERROR – North West Evening Mail The very WORST kind of terror.
  7. ANOTHER BROOM SNAPPED IN HALF IN DERBYSHIRE VILLAGE – Derbyshire Times. Even more WORST terror.

So, join me to jump for joy, raise a glass to fine quality local journalism and look sad next to a pothole. There is a post I’ll write on newspapers and where they feature in 2016. This isn’t it.

 

 


BLOGVEMBER: A blog a day experiment and a viral dog video

Seven years ago I started to blog and everything that I do now is influenced by that decision.

I’m changing the way I blog.  Just as an experiment for November first. Maybe for good. Maybe not.

After talking with Ben Proctor and being impressed by Amanda Coleman and @gwynnek I’m going to post something every day. Sometimes on comms2point0. Sometimes on LinkedIn. Always here.

What is blogging? It’s thinking something through publicly, then keeping a public record of it to share.

Why change? Because I want to see what impact it has on how I do things. And because I quite fancy a place to develop half-thought thoughts as short reads or possibly longer. For the past couple of years I’ve been writing about things that I’m running a workshop or a session on. That’s fine. But I’d like to expand beyond that too.

Why #blogvember? Because a month feels achievable. Some content every day.

Why a dog video? Becuase I really don’t like reading pronouncements from other people about how they use social media. Just do it, chap. Go on. But this public declaration just to myself is sugared with a viral dog video just for you.

There.

Just look at the little chap’s face.


PUBLIC PRAISE: ‘I can sleep easier at night thanks to a press officer.’

This is the greatest thing you’ll have seen about public sector communications in a long time.

A tweet from Unison featuring a poster celebrating the back-office staff who play and under recognised role in making the UK a better place.

It reminded me how long it’s been since I’ve seen something that publicly praised communications people. Or the public sector.

All too often run down by people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing they carry on.

Putting in the extra time, going the extra mile, thinking up new ways of communicating because they want to do their job better.

I spent eight years in the public sector and was always struck at the hard work and dedication I found. Often from people who were not recognised. I’m the third generation of my family who has worked in the public sector and you know what? I’m proud of that. In my heart I haven’t left.

So, if you are a press officer, communications officer, manager, head of comms, marketing assistant or digital specialist working anywhere in the public sector ‘thank you.’

Keep doing brilliant things.

And thank you Unison for shining a light on the work they do.

Can we have more of this, please?

Cheers to Antony Tiernan for spotting and sharing this image.

 


LOVE ACTUALLY: When you’re communicating head v heart, heart wins

24959597261_299c0c94d4_b“How?” said one person in the packed room. “How the hell did that happen?”

More than 20 people were crammed into a small room with a dozen chairs at commscamp in Birmingham for the topic on Brexit.

After 40-minutes of pulling apart the claim, counter-claim and post-fact democracy one moment of clarity emerged of how the campaign ended as it did.

Leave won because they appealed to the heart not the head.

Remain lost because they appealed to the head.

As a piece of clarity it’s drifted into my head several times since.

That big pile of numbers you’re trying to communicate? Can you find something that appeals to the heart?

Stop. Think of times when you’ve been moved by the heart. Me? More than 12-months ago the refugee found that when three-year-old Aylan Kurdi drowned and was fetched from the surf by a policeman.

In the US, the family of the dead war veteran Donald Trump picked on appealed to the heart too.

Look around you and you’ll find more.

The ability to understand with the head but tell a story to appeal to the heart is priceless for someone looking to communicate.

Do you?

Picture credit: Bex Walton / Flickr 


#FUTUREPROOFED: A book to bang a table with

fp2-cover-shotWhen I worked in the public sector there was a bunch of people a decade ago who would bang the table not being satisfied with business as usual.

They would experiment and try different things. If there was no rule book they would write their own with a spirit of JFDI – just flipping do it. Sometimes they’d put their career on the line just to try something out.

So, I’d learn more from bloggers, coders and engineers as to how to use the social web than I did from the PR establishment. Bold experiments of yesterday quickly became today’s routine.

It’s an approach that has shaped my approach and for many others in the public sector.

I’m happy to say, there is a movement centred on private sector PR just as happy to write new rule books where there are none. Through challenge, experiment and boldness there’s a feeling that there is a better way.

Stephen Waddington in his introduction to the first Future Proof: The Go To Guide For Managers of Agencies and Communications Teams talks of there never being a more exciting time to be in the industry. I’d agree with that. You can download that here for free.

Now, Future Proof: Edition Two has been published.  I’m hugely excited to have written a chapter on the role of video in communications in this book. But I’m far more excited to know that there are more than 30 chapters from fellow travellers who aren’t satisfied with business as usual too.

Hats off to those who wrote chapters and to Sarah Hall for pulling this together.

You can buy the book here in print and kindle here.

A chapter a day handily is set to be released here if you can’t afford the book.

Future Proof: Edition Two chapters

COMMANDING THE RESPECT OF THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY AND THE PITCH TO EMPLOYERS by Francis Ingham

STRONG TOGETHER: WORKING TOWARDS A COMMUNITY OF THEORY AND PRACTICE IN PUBLIC

RELATIONS by Stephen Waddington

WHAT BREXIT TAUGHT US ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITY FOR PR Rob Brown

ECONOMICS SOCIAL DIALOGUE AND PUBLIC RELATIONS Ezri Carlebach

SERVING THE MEMBERSHIP: IS IT TIME FOR THE CIPR AND PRCA TO MERGE? Richard Houghton

MAXIMISING THE TRUE VALUE OF MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS TO DRIVE IMPROVEMENT

Matthew Hopkins

FROM PURPOSE TO PERFORMANCE: A RADICAL APPROACH TO STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT

Sean Trainor

CHARTING THE COURSE OR JUST KEEPING YOU AFLOAT: IS HUMAN RESOURCES TAKING YOUR

BUSINESS WHERE IT NEEDS TO GO? Elizabeth Baines

SOCIAL MOBILITY IN PR: A CAREER OPEN TO ALL Sarah Stimson

STITCHING TOGETHER GOOD CORPORATE BEHAVIOUR Karan Chadd

STORIES VERSUS FACTS: DO COMMUNICATORS HAVE A PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE THE

PUBLIC ISN’T MISLED? Stuart Bruce

CONTINUOUS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT (CPD): CAN IT HELP YOU IN A CHANGING WORLD?

Sally Keith

THE JOURNEY OF THE ENGAGED EMPLOYEE Bea Aar

PREPARING FOR THE SKILLS GAP IN THE WORKPLACE OF THE FUTURE Tim Hudson

DELIVERING A 24/7 SERVICE; INTRODUCING AN AGILE MODEL IN PR Dualta Redmond

MANAGING THE INTEGRATION OF BUSINESSES: MERGING COMPANIES, DISCIPLINES, AND

CULTURES Ella Minty

EMBRACING AGILE STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT Betteke van Ruler and Frank Körver

HOW TO AVOID #SOCIALMEDIAMELTDOWN Nathaniel Cassidy

A LISTENING AND INSIGHTFUL FUTURE: CHANGING PR PRACTICE TO DELIVER AUDIENCE LED

COMMUNICATIONS Sarah Clark and Professor Jim Macnamara

SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE OF PROCUREMENT Tina Fegent

STRENGTHENING CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS AND MANAGING RISK Farzana Baduel

MANAGING CLIENT EXPECTATIONS Andrew Reeves

STAFF SALARIES: HANDLING WAGE INFLATION AND SALARY BANDINGS Steve Earl

GROWING PAINS: MOVING FROM AN ENTREPRENEURIAL TO A PROFESSIONAL STRUCTURE

Alicia Mellish

COMPANY CULTURE: MANAGING STRESS, PRESENTEEISM AND MENTAL HEALTH Paul Sutton

WHY GREAT LEADERS ARE GREAT COMMUNICATORS Lucia Dore

INTERNAL COMMS: LEARNING FROM THE PAST AND EMERGING TRENDS Rachel Miller

SEIZING INFLUENCER RELATIONS’ OPPORTUNITIES Scott Guthrie

HOW TO USE THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY TO ACHIEVE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT Ciara O’Keeffe

VIDEO AS A COMMUNICATIONS CHANNEL Dan Slee

LIVE STREAMING TOOLS: A BEST PRACTICE GUIDE Leonardo Stavale

OVERHAULING PUBLIC AFFAIRS: MUCH NEEDED MODERNISATION Iain Anderson

PUBLIC CONSULTATIONS: ENGAGING WITH YOUR AUDIENCE Emily Osborne

HOW THE #FUTUREPROOF PR CAN EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITIES OF SEO Darryl Sparey

CROWDFUNDING: UNDERSTANDING, INFLUENCING AND MANAGING GROUP BEHAVIOUR

Paul Cockerton

HORIZON SCANNING Stephen Davies

CREATIVITY IN PR – ARE PRACTITIONERS SUCCESSFULLY HARNESSING THE POWER OF

STORYTELLING AND NARRATION? Andy Green

#FUTUREPROOFING COMMUNICATIONS EVALUATION Richard Bagnall

THE IMPORTANCE AND ART OF ARTICULATING THANKS: LESSONS FROM NON-GOVERNMENTAL

ORGANISATIONS (NGOS) Dr Nicky Garsten, Dr Ed de Quincey and Professor Ian Bruce

 


HOUSE CALL: I’ll tell you what’s facing housing comms

There is something still glorious about asking Twitter a question and then watching like pigeons returning to the coop as answers return.

The question was the challenges that face housing communications.

And like a flock of pigeons they gathered and returned. Not three but 17 issues.

I list them here a) to provide a checklist for those inside the sector and b) for those dealing with the sector.

It’s an impressive list, but the speed of which the Twitter community returned them shows that there are still people out there bothered and keen to help.

issues that face housing communications

  1. Alack of money in the sector.
  2. A lack of houses in the sector.
  3. Welfare reform making it harder for social landlords to secure the rent due.
  4. Right-to-buy makes the pool of social housing smaller.
  5. A lack of grant to build new social houses.
  6. The attitude of public, press and politicians to tenants in shared accomodation.
  7. A lack of tenant voice in the national housing debate.
  8. Risk of poorer tenants to be sidelined in a race for higher paying tenants.
  9. A decline in affordable rents for tenants.
  10. No long term strategy.
  11. Less local government money for supported housing where vulnerable people can live and be independent.
  12. Complacent housing authorities.
  13. Distraction caused by mergers or the chance of rumours.
  14. The sector doesn’t tell it’s story well and gums things up with jargon.
  15. More homelessness is likely to read to a bigger bill for temporary housing.
  16. Reducing social rents paid to councils will hit local government in the pocket.
  17. The lack of land in rural areas to build new social houses.

So, how does that all sound for you?

Thanks to Manpreet Kaur, Faye Greaves, National Tenant Scrutiny Panel, Helen Gore, Richard Sage, Tom Murtha, Greg Burns, Kelly Quigley-Hicks.

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Internet connectivity

4G now reaches 97.8 per cent of the population.

86 per cent of homes have an internet connection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Smartphone Britain

71 per cent of adults have a smartphone.

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

59 per cent of households have a tablet.

 

Video

26 per cent use video on demand sites like Netflix.

91 per cent watch live TV.

25 per cent watch online video clips

 

Email

70 per cent use email.

 

Instant messaging is rising

43 per cent use instant messaging apps like WhatsApp

63 per cent send SMS texts.

21 per cent use photo messaging

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The Digital Day

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

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

SMS text messaging and email are dropping.

Instant messaging is increasing.

The Digital Day: Activity and time spent

Live TV 2 hours 55 minutes Live TV

Live Radio 1 hour 54 minutes

Recorded TV 1 hour 12 minutes

Video games 1 hour 9 minutes

Paid on demand video 1 hour 2 minutes

Email 1 hour

Other websites or applications 55 minutes

Instant messaging 48 minutes

Social networking 45 minutes

Streamed music 44 minutes

Books (print and digital ) 44 minutes

Personal digital audio 39 minutes

DVD and Bluray 37 minutes

Newspapers print and web 31 minutes

Short online video 29 minutes

Phone calls 27 minutes

CD and vinyl 26 minutes

Sports news and updates 25 minutes

On demand radio 24 minutes

Texting 21 minutes

Video calls 16 minutes

Other online news 14 minutes

Magazines print or digital 13 minutes

Online shopping 12 minutes

Photo or video messaging 9 minutes

Other activities 1 hour 16 minutes

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How much media we consume

 

People consume eight hours and 45 minutes media a day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

34 per cent say they had taken a digital detox.

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

 

Popular social media and instant messaging sites

 

In 2016 64 per cent of adults use social media

The popular sites by users

38.9 million Facebook

22.5 million Facebook Messenger

21. 8 million LinkedIn

20.9 million Twitter

16.7 million whatsapp

16.5 million Instagram

12.8 Google +

11.5 million Pinterest

7.1 million Snapchat

 

Teenagers

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

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

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

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

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

 

16 to 24 year-olds

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

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

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

Playing video games is as important as watching live TV.

The smartphone is used five hours a day.

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

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

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

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

60 per cent say they spend too much time online.

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

 

25 – 35-year-olds

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

Watching live TV has dropped by 37 minutes.

 

35 – 44-year-olds

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

 

45 – 54-year-olds

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

Watching live TV has dropped by 37 minutes

 

55 – 64-year-olds

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

65+

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

 

Picture credit: US National Archives / Flickr