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

Kim Jong Un Supreme Ruler 29122017234625

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.

 

 


30 days of human comms: day #35 Bournemouth police share a selfie at Christmas

While we enjoy Christmas there are those in the public sector who keep things ticking over.

Police, fire, ambulance, nurses and doctors and social care and others work around the clock to be there when we really need them.

This selfie of Bournemouth police officers is human. It shows human beings working their Christmas Day. It is perfect: 


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.


30 days of human comms #34 Visit Wakefield or your man will leave you

I like this. It made me laugh.

If you are worried that your man may leave you, can I suggest Buried Secrets at the museum?


30 days of human comms: #33 Dorset Police respond to snark on Facebook

Anyone who has ever run a social media account for the public sector knows that from time to time people will post comments.

This ranges from the the helpful and questioning to the hostile and abusive. Abusive content, for my money, should never be engaged with. Have a swear filter on your Facebook page. Have a statement setting out what you’ll stand for and what you won’t.

This post from Dorset Police is perfectly judged. Someone complains that speed camera fines at Christmas go into the police’s pockets to spend on their Christmas party. It’s fake news and it is good to challenge it.

dorset police fb

The point is made that the government get the fines money, the police enjoy letting their hair down. But most importantly, the fines may help reduce some of the 27 deaths on the road across Dorset.

The level of likes in support of the comment show this was a well-received approach.

Thanks to Kristian Ward for this.


30 days of human comms #32: Essex County Council respond to snark on Facebook

There is a very sound school of thought from my Uncle Keith that you should never argue with an idiot.

However, sometimes the well placed response can make a point to the wider world.

Here, Essex County Council after 48 hours of getting grief about snow, ice and grit responded. The

grit 1

And the well judged response through gritted teeth:

grit 2

The trick is knowing which to pick to respond to and which to ignore. Always count to 10 first and it always helps to get a second opinion, too.

Thanks to Ryan Davies for spotting this.


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

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

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

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

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

I’ll continue the series

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

Why human comms?

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

What have I learned blogging human comms for 30 days

Examples don’t take long to blog.

People respond to them.

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

You know them when you see them.

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

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

31 days of human comms listed by subject area

Twitter update

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

Video

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

Facebook update

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

Customer service

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

Stopping your job to being human

  1. The busking police officer. See here.

Media interviews

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

Media comment

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

Posters and signs

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

Rebuttal

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

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