30 days of human comms: day #36 A gang of geese in Sowerby Bridge wanted to cause some bother

There’s a benefit of equipping frontline people with the tech, the skills and the permission to use video.

They can come across all sorts of things in their line of work. Some of it serious. Some of it not.

What’s the benefit of this? It shows that police are human. It builds followers on a site. It allows you next week to talk to more people because you were human.

Good work.


VISUAL COMMS: Some bold and some worrying predictions for public sector comms in 2018

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For the past few years I’ve blogged at the end of the year some predictions. For 2018, here are some more.

The broad trend is one of rapid change and a broad shift to more visual ways to communicate with people… who are consuming more visually, on mobile and on-the-go.

Get Facebook right and you’ll be a long way to cracking your comms. It won’t be the answer to everything but it is so big and so all encompassing for people that it is comfortably the biggest platform, the largest way people get their news and understand what is happening in their friends’ lives.

The Facebook group admins who communicate with your audience have already become as important as journalists. Groups have grown in importance. Get to know them. Join them. Build bridges with the admin. See if you can work with them. As Facebook pages get more money driven their importance rises. They can challenge fake news about you because they are often where it starts.

Technology is outpacing the public sector massively. This worries me. In the mid-1990s mobile phones became a mainstream Christmas present. They became part of how people communicated to become the dominant platform it is today.  Today, the best organisations for years have been experimenting with voice recognition, artificial intelligence, machine learning and virtual reality.  Amazon Echo and Google Home have led the breakthrough shifting units for Christmas 2017. And where is the public sector with this trend? Nowhere. This very soon will be a comms issue.

Bad video is not good video.‘Can we have a video’ has replaced the request for a Twitter account as the request from those in service areas who think they can do your job. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. ‘What do you want to achieve?’ remains the response to the request for a video. Or a Twitter account.

Go beyond your Facebook page. Far, far, far beyond. If you think posting to a page and leaving it there is reaching your audience you are almost certainly wrong. Navigate across Facebook as your page to visit other pages. Cross post your page update to groups.

Re-balance from broadcasting by being human. After 12-months of social media reviews, the baked-in problem remains treating social media like a broadcast channel to make it work better. Calls to action should be 20 per cent of your content to be most effective.

Specialist generalists. In the NHS and other areas, the specialist or generalist debate continues as teams shrink. The answer is comms people should be specialist generalists. They should be really good at two or three niche things and have some core skills. But no-one should have the monopoly on anything.

Not keeping pace is dangerous for your organisation. The cost of falling behind with how people want to consume media is that your organisation will be at best irrelevant and at worst seen to be actively not caring.

GIFs and threads will become expected. THREAD. How Twitter threads changed. 1. First there was the tweet. 2. Then the tweet got longer. 3. But words are inherently a bit dull. 4. So the animated GIF started to be used more. 5. And the thread which links tweets together. Keep reading, okay? 6.  This is all part of a wider trend to move from text to images and video.

Twitter continues to wither. Twitter is a channel to reach PR people and journalists brilliantly. But increasingly not residents. Three years ago, it was the third largest channel in the UK, Ofcom says. In 2017, it has slipped to fifth. Against a background of hate and fake news, this trend with carry on. Good on Twitter? Fine. What else are you good at?

Social media is becoming less social. In part, fueled by the Trump effect but in part by sharing fatigue, social media will become less broadly social and more splintered into places where small groups of like-minded people will exist. No, I’m not sure that’s healthy. But that’s what will happen.

Becoming digital first. If you haven’t already work out how you’ll need to work out how to respond as an organisation to a mis-truth posted in a village Facebook group that is picked up by a newspaper Twitter account. You don’t have 24-hours to get back. You can’t leave that person in a meeting. They need to respond now. But they need to understand why they have to respond, first. That’s best done in peacetime.

Video continues to rise. It’s more than 80 per cent of the internet. This is an easy prediction to make.

Live video continues to rise. The public sector has been left behind by media companies in this field but will continue to catch-up.

360 images and virtual reality grow as part of the landscape. Where short video was once daring, the daring use of virtual reality content will continue to grow.

The need to demonstrate results grows ever more important. Again, an easy prediction to make.

There will be another terrorist outrage and comms teams need to be kind to themselves. London and Manchester suffered in 2017. They showed some of the best public sector communications I’ve ever seen. They also came with lessons from those involved. Yes, accept offers of help from day one. Yes, this will affect the mental health of you and your team.

Brexit will affect everyone. Teams in London are already feeling the effect of EU staff leaving. But the predicted economic effect will hit public sector organisations too. That means comms teams going through more austerity challenge. So, get good. Or get so small you can barely answer the phone.

Internal comms reaches crisis point. We’ve gone as far as we can with 2003-era intranets which have become a repository for pdfs. The public sector keeps its head above water through the good will of staff alone. The organisation that fails to take seriously how it talks to its staff will reap the results. The comms team that spells out the risks and leads a renewal of channels will reap the benefits.

The comms person who stands still won’t get a new job in two years. If you don’t learn you really will get left behind. Who needs a fax-operating press release writing envelope-stuffer in 2018?

Income targets will remain a minority burden on comms teams. But the trend will be slowly upwards bouyed by some success stories.

If you fail to change what you do, your life WILL get harder. This will mean changing how you do things, I know. As a team and as an individual. This will take time. But it is time you need to spend. Change the supertanker. Please. It’s more fun than hitting the rocks.

Predictions for 2017: How did I do last year?

Things I got right

Zombie comms teams did rise. The risk of being leant on by politicians did increase. Teams remain too old and there remains a recruitment gap. Educating the client remains the most important thing to do in a changing world. Post-truth remains an important problem. Facebook groups did become more important.

Things I got half right

Did the rise of dark social leave comms teams flat-footed? Dark social is things like whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. Platforms that link a few people together but can’t be searched. Thing is, I don’t think most teams even realise how large dark social has become to even become flat-footed. Twitter did wither but LinkedIn didn’t charge up the table. Press offices have transformed and changed title at a fast pace.

Things I didn’t get right

Merged comms teams that bring NHS, fire, council and police together haven’t happened. Yet. Although fire and police in some places have joined together.

Have a good 2018 and lets be careful out there.

 

 


VIDEO XMAS: Six Songs, Two Dramas and an Epic Fail

There is something about the festive season that gives comms people free licence to be more creative.

The season’s cheer means that people are a bit more relaxed about the content they put out. As a result there’s been a slew of engaging content.

Some of it has a call-to-action while other content is a more relaxed human approach. A timely reminder that the people who work there are human too.

So, in the style of the Radio Times Christmas edition, here’s a quick run-down of some of the may clips that caught my eye.

Sussex Police’s domestic violence drama

Police would steer clear of domestic violence a few years ago. That’s changed. This video focusses on a child getting ready for Christmas under the shadow of warring adults. A call to the police leads them to come around.

Staffordshire Police’s Carpool Karaoke

A few years ago, Dover Police captured a singing cop while on patrol. It showed a human side. This Staffordshire Police video updates that. There’s carols. There’s also a conversation about the dangers of cybercrime. Why does it work? Because it’s just people talking. It’s brilliant.

West Sussex Council’s 12 days of Christmas

Christmas comes but once a year but grittimng can be four times in a 24-hour window. This light hearted clip shows the 12 days of Christmas with recycling and other messages. Excellent.

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s recycling singing

Mountains of wrapping follows Christmas and it’s always as well to get the message in quickly.

Derbyshire Constabulary’s Road Safety message

The is unusually affecting. The transcript of a potential road traffic collision is played out by children’s voiceover and toys. ‘Stay with me, stay with me,’ one child shouts as the victim loses consciousness. Drive safer is the message.

New Forest District Council’s location lyrics

Everyone loves a Christmas carol. The singing plays as council staff point to different parts of their district to pick out the key words. Merry Christmas.

Dorset Police’s Christmas pop hit

Taking inspiration from Carpool Karaoke is Dorset Police’s singing staff who make the clips on their lunchbreaks. There’s even a dog joining in.

West Midlands Ambulance Service’s epic fail

In amongst the more light-hearted clip is this excellent short clip from an ambulance service that flags the perils of driving with snow and ice on the roof. A block of ice falls froim a car in front and spins crashing into the windscreen of the following car.

County Durham & Darlington Fire & Rescue Service

Proving that firefighters are not that great at singing but very good at joining in the seasonal cheer are is this example. Happy Christmas. And switch off your fairy lights.

This is good work. The trick now is to take this creativity into the New Year to shoot warm human footage that engages then too.

Full disclosure: I’ve helped train people in video skills from Durham and Darlington Fire & Rescue Service, New Forest District Council, Bath & North East Somserset Council and West Sussex Council.


CATALAN VIDEO: Who wins the PR battle when the police storm polling stations?

Scrolling through Twitter a question struck me. From a PR perspective who wins when the national government’s riot police storm the local government’s polling stations?

At the weekend, footage was posted from Catalonia of police looking to seize ballots from an independence referendum. You can see it here:

There was much more disturbing footage online. But it was the prosaic backdrop of an election centre that caught my eye.

Elsewhere, the internet was full of stories. Firefighters acted as human shields to protect voters. A girl getting her fingers broken by the police. All of these were told through video posted to the internet.

In law, the regional poll was declared illegal so the national government held the high ground.

But in PR terms, sending in the police to act aggressively feels like a monumental own goal. Why? Because it plugs into a narrative that even small children can grasp. In the story of the Big Man versus the Little Man, it is the instinct of the passer-by to side with the Little Man. It is the instinct of the tribe under attack to be politicized.

Any independence campaign would need the majority of the population from the area looking to break away in support. From the wider Spanish population it would need grudging acceptance.

As a student of history, this weekend may yet prove to be an even bigger own goal. I’m reminded of the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin. History shows that a population filled with revulsion at acts carried out by the country’s government moved to side with the revolutionaries.

At an event at Reuters earlier this year it was mentioned that people trust words only a little, pictures a little more and video most of all.

In Catalonia and Spain, history isn’t defined by video clips as the 19th century was by war and diplomacy. But the campaign for independence is being shaped by the 30-second clips on the internet.

 

 

 

 


LIVE TALES: Live streaming and Hurricane Irma

There’s always moments when a new digital platform comes into its own. 

In 2011, it was Twitter that really came into the mainstream during the London riots. It was where middle managers in the organisation and the public could find out what was happening.

Twitter and Hurricane Irma

In 2017, Twitter is the bread and butter of emergency communications. The US Government department FEMA have been using it and have been using this and the web to shoot down rumour.

In 2017, live video and Hurricane Irma seems to have made a similar transition.

Both platforms allow you to use your phone as an outside broadcast unit and stream to the internet.

Both platforms end up feeding in the media by providing eye-witness reporting from the scene. In an environment where fake news has undermined trust in text, video is hugely important for communications people.

Case study #1: Behind the scenes news room tour

A journalist takes a tour of the TV news room that is keeping people informed of what is taking place.

Case study #2: The calm before the storm

Residents took to walking around deserted streets to show what was happening.

Case study #3: The eye witness

Views from the balcony showing the hurricane as it is striking.

Case study #4: The professional storm chaser

In the US, storm season is met with enthusiasts chasing down tornados and extreme weather. People like Jeff Piotrowski have been using Periscope to connect with people and give a realtime sense of the storm.

 

 


VIDEO TIMES: Updated optimum video lengths for social media

 

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There is nothing that is quite as good as showing you the fractured landscape than video.

Time was when there was one home for video and that was on YouTube.

You filmed it, posted it to YouTube and then pasted the URL all over the web but no longer.

How different optimum video length was born

Social media companies twigged that they were sending away audience for YouTube to make money out. They also twigged that the longer they spent on their own websites the more they could charge advertisers. So, native uploads were born. If you post video to Facebook on Facebook itself then Facebook rewarded you by showing more people your content.

But then it was discovered that the optimum length of video was different depending on the platform.  Facebook? 21 seconds. YouTube? Three minutes.

LinkedIn and video

The most recent change is for LinkedIn. The Microsoft company have introduced native uploads. The company in their own guidance suggest from 30 seconds to five minutes as the best time. So, I suggest a middle-of-the-road three minutes. I’ve blogged some ideas on how to use LinkedIn and video here.

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More about the video skills workshops I co-deliver here.

 


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.