Posted: April 5, 2016 Filed under: video | Tags: video, video content, video tips
Often, when I’m helping deliver video skills training I’ll show a video towards the start.
It’s a video that I’ve taken from Facebook that I’ve not gone looking for. It’s found me. Someone has shared it and after autoplaying I’ve got distracted looking at it.
So, here is one that stopped me in my tracks just this week. So, here is one that stopped me in my tracks just this week. .So, here is one that stopped me in my tracks just this week. You can watch it here:
It’s a video of a Chinese-looking baby laughing at a man counting notes. The man pretends to spit on his hand. The baby chuckles. It makes me beam. It’s not long. I could watch it over and over.
Why do I show it?
To show that this is what we are up against competing for our attention.
Statista calculates that 32 million people use Facebook in the UK in 2016. As they scroll through their timeline they are usually not looking for content. It finds us, shared by a friend or a page we follow. The most arresting content is cute, funny and short. It can be the puppies having a bath. It could be cats. It could be something comic.
Now look at your organisations YouTube channel to get a flavour of the type of video they post.
Chances are you’ll find a man in a suit stood against a wall in the classic frightened bunny firing squad pose. There’ll be a couple of dozen views. At most. As a video, it has failed.
Here is breaking news. The world has too many videos with important people in them sagainst walls.
Think of what people are watching. Put yourself in their shoes. If your next video is short, cute, witty or informative you stand a chance of getting people’s attention.
If it’s none of these nobody online cares.
A cute baby v a man against a wall? The cute baby wins hands down.
Isn’t it time you re-thought your next video?
Essential Video Skills for Comms workshops are staged across the UK. For more information click here.
Posted: April 3, 2016 Filed under: local government, Uncategorized | Tags: cipr, cllrs, elected members, guidance, local government, members, NUJ, officers
It can be truly great working with politicians. It can also be tricky. You can be pressured to help one side or the other. But if you do you’ll be in the cross-hairs of rival politicians. Here’s a simple guide to avoid pitfalls. Not just during Purdah but all year round.
Here’s a scenario for you. You pick up the phone to an important politician who is up for election.
They’re asking about that picture you took of them at the launch of the new play equipment.
Can you just send it across?
You’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the image will go into her campaign leaflet. So you ask what the picture will be used for.
Of course, if it is for a leaflet you don’t send it. It was taken using public resources so shouldn’t be used for political campaigning. But how do you say ‘no’ constructively?
Take it from me, unless you have chapter and verse in front of you that conversation is going to be a little bit tricky. At best, you are going to look a bit evasive and unhelpful. At worst, you are going to look uninformed and when the politician complains you may have more pressure put on you to do the wrong thing.
Of course, in an ideal world, every elected member knows what they can and can’t expect you do and wouldn’t dream of leaning on you to bend the rules. But, of course, we aren’t in an ideal world.
In my experience, every authority has at least one elected member who will try and push the rules. Especially with junior members of staff. And every authority has at least one elected member who will spot what you’ve done and attempt to nail you to the floor. Comms teams can often be accused of being ‘political mouthpieces.’ Mainly by people who don’t understand the role they do. My advice is don’t let them. But to do that successfully you’ll need to know very, very clearly what you can and can’t do.
It’s not just councils, either. This covers partners, police, national parks and very often fire services too.
Why three minutes and three hours?
It’ll take you three minutes to read this post. It’ll then take you three hours to do the groundwork you’ll need to do. Put it off until the merde hits the fan and it could be too late. Do you and your team a favour and put the work in ahead of time. It’ll be one of the best things you ever do.
What do you need to do? You need to read through several key documents. You need to cut and paste the passages that govern what you can and can’t do for elected members. Don’t paraphrase. It’s far more effective to read back the page, paragraph and chapter and verse. Make sure all your team know it, have a copy and have access to it.
Read your media protocols
Every communications unit needs a media and publicity protocols document. This sets out what you’ll do for elected members. It also sets out when and where the team get involved. Normally, this will be agreed between you, the chief executive and Leader. It can change and be updated two or three times a year. It’s an important document but not the best one in your armoury.
The Council DCLG Code
The Department for Communities and Local Government has issued eight pages of guidance on what councils should and shouldn’t do. In England, the guidance from 2011 can be found right here. You may want to cite one of the key principles of the guidance that it is even-handed, for example. For Scotland and Wales the guidance dates back amazingly to 1988. You can find it here.
If you work in a local government comms team you should know your guidance backwards. It’ll also give you some good ground rules on what you can and can’t do.
Your authority’s constitution
It’s a funny thing but your constitution has a power over politicians that is practically unmatched. Your protocols they can debate. The DCLG code they can decide to defy. The constitution? That’s a whole different thing. It’s the day-to-day rules they are governed by. You’ll find things in there about publicity, sure. You’ll also find things about the staff – elected member relationship and probably some safeguards against undue pressure too.
Professional codes of conduct
Back when I was looking through my council’s constitution there was explicit reference to professional codes. For comms people this can provide two helpful routes. Firstly, the National Union of Journalists. Their code applies to comms people just as much as reporters as they have comms members. The line: ‘Strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair,’ is a particular favourite.
Secondly, you can also draw on the Chartered Institute of Public Relations code of conduct too.
The LGA have written some excellent Purdah guidance for 2016 which you can see here. We’ve also blogged some guidance on Purdah and social media and you can read that here. If you are central government, look out for Cabinet Office guidance that will be published ahead of elections.
In short, there’s some legwork involved here. Yes, I know you are busy. But this could save your skin in the long run.
Once you’ve pulled things together, publish it on your web pages and make it public. Let the leaders of each group know the contents on the internal guidance too so they can’t pretend to be in the dark.
Picture credit: Clemens v Vogelsang / Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/iWUJBn
Posted: February 15, 2016 Filed under: communications, Uncategorized | Tags: communications, future, independent, newspaper, newspapers, PR, print, Public Relations, skills
You know the good old days of newspapers have gone, don’t you?
You know that the press release is at best dying too?
If you don’t, here are three more nails for the coffin.
Firstly, the digital first Manchester Evening News have been telling PR people, apparently, they won’t look at what you send unless there is an image or a video attached.
Secondly, when Birmingham New Street re-opened central government comms people by-passed the Birmingham Mail and the BBC and went straight to the Birmingham Updates hyperlocal site with a video for their 200,000 Facebook page.
Thirdly, the Independent newspaper is to scrap its print edition and concentrate on the web. ‘There are not enough people,’ Independent editor Amol Rajan wrote ‘who are prepared to pay for printed news, especially during the week.’
A downward spiral for print
But it’s not just one national title that’s fading from print. More than 300 have closed completely in the UK in the last 10 years.
Brian Cathcart, a journalist professor and Hacked Off co-founder on the day the Independent announcement was made wrote in The Guardian mapped the decline:
“Trace the downward curves of print sales over the past couple of decades and then extend those lines into the future: you will find they all hit zero at some point in the next 25 years or so – and of course they will have to cease publication long before that zero moment comes.
“Indeed for most people under about 25 it is already extinct – a couple of years ago I stopped talking to my students about newspapers because even budding journalists don’t see the point of buying a wad of newsprint every morning.
“The grand tradition of newspapers, sometimes noble sometimes shameful, is coming to an end. Connections that go all the way back to Gutenberg are fraying and we will soon be left with little more than old people’s memories.”
But let’s not be sad
I love newspapers. I worked on them for 12 years and started my career on a Staffordshire weekly carrying pages of type on a hot metal newspaper that used 1880s technology. I’ve had printers ink under my finger nails. It’s sad to see an industry in decline. But watching this trend for communications and PR people is a red herring.
People aren’t consuming the media through newspapers in print or web in the numbers they were.
The future of news debate, I once heard it said, is the most boring debate imaginable. The only people having it are hacks and ex-journalists. Everyone else was already hearing Osama bin Laden was dead on Facebook.
Stats confirm it. Ofcom say the average UK adult spends 15 minutes a day reading newspapers in their hand or online. That’s just over half the amount of time they spend scrolling through their Facebook streams and on their other social media sites. Newspapers are also the least popular way of getting news.
Yet there is an unhealthy fixation with the newspaper industry in some parts of public sector communications. The tyranny of the local newspaper frontpage is a thing.
Print may go but journalism evolves. This is the death of a redundant medium and not the message, Brian Cathcart in The Guardian says. He’s right.
The lesson remains the same
But communications people shouldn’t smugly ignore the lesson here. You may not have to live or die by newspaper sales. Your .gov website may be well placed for SEO. But nobody is queueing up outside their town hall, head office or headquarters for their press release. They’re too busy reading the BBC website, watching a 20-second Facebook video or finding out the football score on Twitter.
Newspapers have woken with a jolt to realise that shorter, sharable, engaging content is what people want. Communications people should pay heed.
The lesson remains the same. Change and get new skills or be irrelevant.
Credit to Albert Freeman for spotting the Independent editor’s comments.
Picture credit: Peter Burka / Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/uUcuRJ
Posted: February 12, 2016 Filed under: video | Tags: 2016, comms, communications, digital, Facebook, google cardboard, twitter, video
The title I was given for the session ‘video: it’s the future’ made me think. It’s actually already here.
It’s been clear for some time that video has been getting more important.
These aren’t bold predictions from industry analysts that may or may not come off. They’re the here and now.
The four reasons for video’s rise
What has convinced me is first anecdotal data of travelling on buses and trains watching people with their mobile phones. Where once they read newspapers now they are on their phones swiping through emails, websites and social media. People’s smartphones have got more powerful. They can watch and shoot their own video. Behemoths like Facebook and Twitter fall over themselves to make video more accessible in your timeline. Besides, we are inherently lazy. We are drawn to images.
The data makes the case
All that is true and where it is confirmed is the data. Ofcom say that 66 per cent of UK adults have a smartphone and almost half are happy to watch short form video. That’s footage less than five minutes. TV is still here. So is TV news. But in the battle for your attention it is getting out-gunned by the clip of a new-born panda. No wonder BBC journalists are being taught how to make more short-form content.
People want to learn
It’s been an amazing experience co-delivering video skills for comms workshops with Steven Davies. People do want to learn and with a few basics they are off making good use of video. The barrier? Often it is the tech and time. An android or an apple device will cut it. A blackberry won’t. As you practice more the quicker you get at thinking through, creating, editing and delivering video.
But where does video go?
Convention has it that YouTube is the only show in town. That’s not the case anymore. Facebook at the moment is rewarding you for uploading video to a page by showing it to more people. Twitter joined Facebook in autoplaying video as you scroll through your timeline. It’s made it easier to post video from your phone. But the idea of making one video and posting it everywhere is dangerous. The optimum time for a Facebook video is 22 seconds and on YouTube far longer. Vine is six seconds and Instagram not much more than 10 seconds. What counts as a view is opaque. On Facebook it is three seconds and YouTube 30 seconds.
The what is next?
We’re moving as fast as the tech is moving. A few years ago watching video on your phone would have been unimaginable. Today? It’s common. Two important steps are realtime and what can be grouped together as virtual reality.
Realtime is the posting video as live. Your smartphone becomes an outside broadcasting truck and as the super-portable clip onto yourself GoPro cameras are now integrated with livestreaming Twitter app Periscope the climber livestreaming his ascent up the north face of the Eiger is now possible. Even with a smartphone you can post within minutes an Environment Agency officer talking during the floods of how the Morpeth dam was working:
Virtual reality is something I’ve blogged about before. It’s watching footage that sees you standing in the scene and allows you to look down and around. New York Times are pioneering new ways of storytelling.
Facebook’s 360 video allows you to watch footage on your smartphone and move it around to see a different perspective. Footage of US fighter pilots taking off show this. YouTube has also allowed a 360 video and Flickr has done something similar.
But the tech
A few years ago virtual reality could be said to be a niche. Now a Google cardboard headset costs a tenner and allows a more immersive experience. But you can watch just with your tablet or smartphone. It’s not strictly the same experience but you get a flavour.
Two helpful things
We’ve created an ever-updated resource for video and comms. You can see it here.
We also co-deliver workshops for comms people with University lecturer Steven Davies who has worked as a cameraman with BBC and as a filmmaker across the public sector.
Posted: January 18, 2016 Filed under: Uncategorized
You. If you are willing to learn new things there’s a chance you’ll still have a job in 2020.
This is not a bold statement. It’s surprising how many people quietly have contacted me to say that line resonates.
A few weeks ago with the old year fading and the New Year upon us I wrote that. It means just as much now you are into the swing of things as it did on New Year’s Day.
Around 12-months ago I wrote about the 40 skills a comms team would need. There’s probably something like 42 or 43 now. Relax, I don’t think everyone can know them all. But I do think that you should be a specialist generalist able to do a range of things but be really good at a handful.
I was reminded of all of this need for learning twice in the last week. Firstly, gazing over London on top of the BT Tower for a Government Communications Service event to celebrate good communications in the past year. Secondly, watching the response to three free comms2point0 masterclasses to help share the learning from unawards.
The London event saw examples of world class communications in a range of fields by central government. The Britain is Great campaign, for example. And the Blood Donation Service.
The unawards masterclasses sees examples of world class communications from the public sector in events in Leeds, Birmingham and London. Props to the Local Government Association for getting behind them together with sponsors Alive With Ideas and Govdelivery. Shout too to Darren Caveney my comms2point0 oppo whose baby this is.
There are four ways you can learn things today to still be in a job in 2020.
By far the best. Just do it. Try things out. Experiment. Fail. I get the need for data-driven comms. But I also see the need to try things out to see if they work without those rockets being powered by data.
Hear what people have to say. It may be at an event or reading a blog post. But take time every day to read and reflect.
Try out new ideas with others. It’s more fun that way. If it succeeds there are more happy people. If it fails you can spread the learning. At its heart this is what still excites me about an unconference where the agenda is decided on the day.
Once you do something worth shouting about share it. Tell others. Write. Blog. Talk. Tell people. It’s the only way people will share the learning.
The unawards masterclass will take place:
24 February, Leeds – The Studio
9 March, Birmingham – The Studio
23 March, London – Mayor’s Rooms, Westminster City Hall, 64 Victoria Street, London
For more information about ticket releases click here.