LONG READ: Why you should have corporate AND non-corporate accounts

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I was reminded of low level civil war happening that pits people in the same organisation against each other.

It’s the comms team against the rest.

In the red corner, the comms people who don’t much like the idea of people outside the team having access to social media. In the blue corner, service areas who glower at comms teams who don’t let them do what they want to.

“The idea,” one senior comms person told me, “Of giving access to social media to anyone outside my team and having a free for all just fills me with horror.”

A free for all would fill me with horror too. But some basic training can reap some really positive results. Let me explain.

Where non-corporate accounts can work well

During training, I often quote the Edelman Trust Barometer. A fine piece of work that points out that people trust 52 per cent of people who are ‘someone like myself.’ That’s significantly higher than the chief executive or any of the suits.

It’s part of the science behind why things like Dave Throup’s Twitter account works so well for the Environment Agency.  You can see day-to-day content like this:

A web page presents tailored content on a topic. You want Baswich library in Stafford? It has its own webpage. You don’t have to sift through lots of irrelevant information. In the same way, a social media profile on a specific topic does the same job. I live in Brierley Hill in Dudley. So the Sergeant that polices the area is more relevant to me:

 

Sergeant Harrison has 1,617 followers and 13,935 people live in Brierley Hill. Even taking into account some of those followers will be fellow officers that’s potentially 11 per cent of the population. That’s compared to 8 per cent of the population – 447,000 – who follow the corporate West Midlands Police account.

Sergeant Harrison’s account works best when he talks about the bread and butter of what is happening in Brierley Hill. To a Brierley Hill audience that’s perfect. Would I sift through the noise of the corporate account looking for Brierley Hill? Probably not. But from the corporate account I want the big messages. And if it kicks off somewhere, I really want the corporate account most of all, please.

Earlier this month I was carrying out a comms review for a fire and rescue service. The community fire station’s page wasn’t engaging. It was rarely updated. But it did have 10 per cent of the population signed-up just waiting to be told things. The decision was taken to carry on but with extra training.

It’s not all plain sailing

Experience of looking after social media policy and delivery for a large council that grew from one to 60 accounts is that things don’t always go well. Over the last few years I’ve reviewed hundreds of social media accounts. Experience shows they fall into three categories. A third are useful and are prosper. A third need a hand and a third you should think about closing down unless they radically improve.

Not every devolved account will be great at sharing the corporate message and somtimes they will frustrate. But for me, it’s about accepting the balance. For me, the third that are doing really well outweigh the downside.

Research that paints a picture of the corporate v non-corporate

My eye was caught by a tweet from Police Oracle with ‘Officers better on Twitter than police PR teams report says: The study analysed almost 1.5 million tweets.’ You can see it here. The tweet prompted several devolved accounts to rail against their comms team. The only trouble was, the research doesn’t show that at all. To her credit one of the authors Miriam Fernandez pointed out in a tweet that it was wrong.

But what does the research say?

Funnily enough, it shows that there is a role for both the corporate and the non-corporate devolved account. They just do different things. If you want to read it you can download it here. Caution: there is a paywall. It is called ‘An Analysis of UK Policing Engagement via Social Media.’ It is by Mriam Fernandez, Tom Dickinson and Harith Alani.

The study looked at 1.5m posts 48 corporate 2,450 non-corporate UK police accounts on Twitter.

The researchers found that corporate accounts got higher engagement – measured as retweets – talking about roads, infrastructures, missing persons and mentioning locations. They got lower engagement on crime updates and advice to stay safe. They were found to broadcast more. The non-corporate accounts were less formal and were more likely to respond to questions.

A quick lesson for better engagement from the research?

  • Have a clear message with a concrete action
  • Know the message but also know the options to act.

What a good corporate account should look like

For me, there are two purposes for the corporate and the devolved non-corporate. The corporate can put out the central messages. It should be a Match of the Day highlights show sharing the best of the rest. It should be human. The comms team can set the direction. It can deliver the training. But the non-corporate team, service area or individual accounts are where the real gold will be found. So have both.


30 days of human: day #41 Lidl Ireland ask how your weekend was

So, spare a thought for Lidl Ireland.

They had a rough weekend.

The tail end of a snow storm closed a raft of stores and caused all sorts of supply and staffing issues.

Thieves used a JCB  to break into a Dublin store… which then set on fire and collapsed.

So Lidl Ireland’s Monday morning tweet was a masterpiece.

It’s exactly what someone who had had a high profile disaster of a weekend would have said to break the ice.


BETTER FACEBOOK: How to shape your 2018 Facebook strategy with seven key questions

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It’s been a few weeks now since Mark Zuckerburg’s game-changing announcement on how Facebook will now work.

In short, his message was that people will see more from family and friends, more from groups and less from pages. Facebook Live will be rewarded. I’ve blogged on what that may mean for you as a communicator here.

It’s early days on how this is playing out. Some people have embraced the change. Others have sort of hoped they would go away. I’ve found people’s response perfectly mirrors how they are as a communicator. Some have rolled their sleeves up. Others, incredibly, don’t even know the change has taken place.

After delivering Essential Digital Skills for Comms workshops, for me, it boils down to five key questions you need to be asking yourself.

Q1 Have you got money?

If you’ve got money, the chances are you’ll be less affected by the changes. But you will have to spend more to get your content into people’s timelines. But make it good and engaging content to make it work.

If you’ve got a little money, think about tapping into Facebook’s immense hoard of data. So, if you are after brass band enthusiasts in their 20s in Stafford you can find the hard-to-reach easily. With some money. But this should be a small part of your strategy.

If you’ve got no money at all you

Q2 Have you conducted a review on your page?

Think about the area you serve. If it’s a community of 100,000 how many people like your page? From research I’ve done, the answer to that is a small minority. But how are your insights? Who likes your page? When are they most active? What content are they engaging well with? Make sure your content is engaging. Short, sharable, human and informative video. Information that people actually want rather than as a tick-box bucket to chuck stuff.

Q3 Are your pages fake profile secure?

Facebook’s terms and conditions are that each person can only have one profile. Not one for home and one for work. So the ‘Dan Slee Work’ or ‘John Smith’ profiles are against terms and conditions. Facebook calls them ‘fake’. They are at serious risk of being deleted by Facebook without warning. If access to your corporate page is only through fake profiles you at risk of losing access to your page.

Q4 Is your page connecting with an audience?

Just the one page? How is that working for you? How are the smaller pages faring? Are they doing a better job of reaching that sub-audience? If they are, that’s fine.

Q5 How are you with groups?

If you want to understand how groups work go and join a few. The place where you like will have one. The excellent Public Sector Comms Headspace is another. You need to join

Q6 Have you conducted a group review on your area?

Part of the fear of the unknown is not knowing what it looks like. The unopened box on the table is mysterious because we don’t know what is in it. Same with groups. Carry out a review of the groups in your area by town, village, estate, county and ward. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find. You can do this through using Facebook’s own search tool. Make a note of the numbers and the larger groups.  You’ll be surprised what you’ll find.

Q7 Have you decided what approach to take with groups?

There are three ways to approach them. The first is ignore them. But I really don’t think that is a strategy for the forward-thinking comms person.

Approach A: Use your own profile to contribute

The second is to use your own profile to join them and take part in the conversation yourself as a representative of the organisation. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The advantage is that you are a human face contributing to the discussion. The disadvantage is that people can see who you are. You may want to lock down your profile. You may want to turn off notifications from the group so you don’t see what is being said.

Approach B: Use your own profile to contact the group admin and ask them to post on your behalf

This is less risky. Being identifiable to one person may seem a less exposed path than being exposed to hundreds or even thousands.

Approach C: Start your own group.

You’ll need to do it with your own Facebook profile and people will be able to message you. I’ve not seen an engaging group set-u by the public sector but I’m happy to see one.

Either approach A or B are tricky and ask a lot of the comms officer. This isn’t for everyone and managers would be foolish to expect this to be mandatory. But those who are answering this question are making inroads.

Of course, let’s not forget that Facebook may not be the channel for all of your audiences. But with almost 40 million users in the UK this is not a channel to disregard.

I’ll be tackling the Facebook issue and running through research on groups and what people are using them for at the ESSENTIAL DIGITAL SKILLS FOR COMMS workshop in Manchester on March 23 and London on March 29.

Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.


WINTER COMMS part 3: Eight ways to communicate with images in the snow and ice

Hey, remember when listening to the local radio station at 7.40am was how you found out about school closures? Good times. 

Today, things are much more complex. The public sector has the tools to talk to people directly. Information and also counter-argument. It is not enough to tell people with words. In the days of fake news you have to use video or images. I’ve blogged examples of video here.

But how about images?

Well, if a picture can paint a thousand words then use more of them.

An image from the frontline of a rescue

Macclesfield Police were involved in a rescue of a couple who took their baby for a ride and then got stuck in sub-zero temperature. The shot taken on a smartphone shows just what they are up against.

An image from the frontline of road conditions and a closure

A shot posted quickly by a frontline officer to the web can be shared swiftly.

 An image of stills from the traffic cameras

While the best content is outside the office there is a way to stay in the office and get something usable. Images of road conditions taken from traffic cameras acts as a warning. And you get to stay in the warm.

An image of text

For all engaging image can attract attention 80 per cent of people in an emergency just want text. This screenshot does just that and drives traffic.

 An image of conditions to drive traffic to the link

Snow and ice on the ground show the conditions people are up against.

An image of conditions as a warning not to travel

This shot of the North Yorkshire moors to anyone with common sense shows a picture of an impassable road. It works well on Facebook.

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A collection of images for reassurance

Shots of ambulance crews facing the odds reminds people that the service is still there and working hard.

 A sharable infographic

The irony of this NHS image is that it is shared on a council website. Which is the intention of making something sharable.

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WINTER COMMS part 2: Using a Twitter thread to communicate a complex point

It’s the winter and of course the council never treated the roads. Ever.

Only thing is, yes, they do. But icy blasts can see things deteriorate quickly.

Perth & Kinros Council made that very point using a Twitter thread. This is the convention of linking a series of tweets. For me, this functionality is a gamechanger as it moves things from 140 characters to as many characters as you like.

They used two shots from a traffic camera. One to show you the road conditions shortly after the gritter passed and then a new shot 45-minutes later. They used GIFs in addition to sugar the pill and reinforce their points.

So far so good. Now the first image. The road that’s just been cleared.

Then a GIF that illustrates snow.

Now the second picture of the same scene less than hour later.

Now the two of them side by side.

And a round of applause for those doing the hard work.

A complex point simply executed. Bravo Perth & Kinross Council. Well done their comms officer Lisa Potter.


WINTER COMMS part 1: Seven ways to communicate using video

If you don’t think that love is a little bit like gritting in icy weather then, boy, let me convince you. 

There’s a short 48-hour window every year when Valentines cards are hugely important. Then for the other 363 days a year they’re not all that.

For a handful of days a year the state of the roads, grit levels and snow are really important. But unlike Valentines Day those days don’t come pre-printed in your WH Smith desk calendar. You don’t know when the cold blast will come.

My gritting obsession

For three years, I was a local government Twitter account. Every tweet in. Every tweet out. I put back Christmas dinner by 10 minutes to tell people that we were going out gritting. The reason for this? Those handful of days people wanted to know if it was safe to go out.

There’s a lot riding on getting it right. Reputational damage. A switchboard in meltdown. Serious injury. Loss of life. Get it right and your follower numbers increase and people see what you are doing.

Why video is important

I’ve been banging a drum for video as a comms channel for three years now. More than 70 per cent of the UK population have a smartphone and almost three quarters are happy to watch videos of less than five minutes, Ofcom say. That’s your audience right there.

In the latest cold snap,#BestFromTheEast – or #BeastFaeTheEast if your are in Scotland – has shown public sector communicators going into overdrive to communicate.

Here are SEVEN videos that communicate a cold weather message

Using humour and song a pre-prepared snow day announcement

Frimley Junior School in Surrey made this great video to announce a snow day. They’ve used a homage to an 1980s rapper to get their point across to parents. It shows humour and delivers the message.

Using a Facebook Live on icy roads

The Facebook Live platform is currently being encouraged by Facebook. Shoot one and you’ll reach more people. So, hats off Oldham Council for shooting this on what looks to be an ipad. An officer introduces himself and introduces the vehicle driver who is responsible for the gritting operation. As they negotiate the streets they talk about the myths and what they are doing.

Importantly for a Facebook Live is that there is a reason to keep watching. In training myself and my colleague Steven often talk about this as the ‘sword of Damocles.’ You want to keep watching for a specific reason. Here there are two. Will the WiFi cut out? Will it cut out before the exposed heights? Spoiler: they make it to the closed hill and see a Spanish truck stuck.

Using an animation to tell a story

The Met Office need to get a series of messages out with weather warnings. They’ve done this through a variety of means bu the animations have proved eye-catching and effective ways to reach people.

Using a GIF to make the text more interesting

The GIF is the 1990s technology that’s at home on the web. They are short animations that allow you to repurpose some footage. You can make your own or you can use a GIF library. Both Facebook and Twitter have libraries you can delve into.

Here Transport Scotland lists the prevention advice and then adds a GIF of a sliding car.

Using pre-shot footage to explain how grit works

During the time I spent in local government comms I tweeted the fact that grit was not fairy dust dozens of times. Same too for how grit works. This Kirklees Council clip with the backdrop of a salt barn shows a man in hi-vis talk through how things work. Shoot them in the autumn and have them to hand. Good tip.

Using realtime footage of work in progress

Fake news! I never saw the gritter! Well, here is video footage of the gritters in action. It doesn’t have to have a narrative arc. Just point, shoot and publish. And combat thosze trolls who say that you weren’t out.

Using hyperlapse video

North Yorkshire County Council had the bright idea of using footage from the cab of a gritter as it passed through the rural county. Shoot the footage on the hyperlapse app and you can look as though you are moving far faster.

 


COMBAT ROCK: How to make a rebuttal: West Midlands Police v The Sun

Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest rebuttal to an inaccurate story by a public sector body.

This week there was an incident in a theatre in Birmingham city centre. Equipment malfunctioned during a performance and there was an explosion backstage. There were no injuries. As a precaution the theatre evacuated.

This translated to this on The Sun newspaper Twitter:

In the old way of doing things there would have been a phone call to the newsdesk. There would have been tooing and frowing and maybe the newspaper would have got round to correcting it.

But probably not.

Instead West Midlands Police took to Twitter with a direct rebuttal within EIGHT minutes:

This is brilliant.

The swift rebuttal was shared more than 400 times within eight hours and The Sun’s tweet just over 30.

The response from the public? Overwhelmingly positive.

If we no longer have to go through the Priesthood of journalists to talk to residents let’s do it and hold inaccurate damaging reporting accountable.

Thanks Emily Dunn for spotting this.