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.
Posted: December 27, 2015 Filed under: communications | Tags: 2015, 2016, comms, cuts, digital, email marketing, housing, linkedin, local government, PR, predictions, Public Relations, public sector, video, virtual reality, VR
The best political reporters don’t make predictions, Judi Kantor once said.
So, seeing as I’m not a political reporter for the last few years I’ve made predictions about what may happen in my corner of the internet.
Looking forward, 2016 will be my seventh year of blogging, my 23rd year in and around the media industry and fourth year in business. I’m struck by the pace of change getting faster not slower. It’s also getting harder.
Last year I made predictions for local government comms that both came true and failed. Ones I got right? Some councils no longer have a meaningful comms function. Evaluation become a case of do or die. People who bang the table and say ‘no’ to stupid requests will stand a chance. Those who don’t won’t. There are fewer press releases. Video did get more important. Customer services, social media and comms need to become best friends. Facebook pages did become less relevant unless supported by a budget for ads. Linked
I was wrong about some things. There was experimentation with social media and new platforms like Instagram, whatsapp and snapchat were experimented with. Not nearly as much as people need to.
The jury is out on content being more fractured. There are still too many central corporate accounts and not enough devolved. I’m still not sure that enough people are closing failing social media accounts.
Public sector comms in 2016…
For the last few years I’ve looked at social media in local government. But the barrier between digital and traditional has blurred and the barrier between sectors also blurs so I’ve widened it out.
The flat white economy will form part of the future. Economist Douglas McWilliams gave the tag to web-savvy freelancers and start-ups with laptops. To get things done in 2016, teams buying in time and skills for one-off projects will become more common.
There will be more freelancers. There’s not enough jobs to go around and more people will start to freelance project to project. Some will be good and some bad.
Video continues to grow massively. For a chunk of the year I talked about Cisco estimating that 70 per cent of the web would be video by 2017. By the end of the year some commentators said that figure had already been reached. People are consuming short-form video voraciously. But can you make something that can compete with cute puppies?
LinkedIn will be the single most useful channel for comms people. Twitter is great. But the convergence of job hunting, shop window and useful content will push LinkedIn ahead.
Successful teams will have broken down the digital – traditional divide. They’ll plan something that picks the best channels and not have a shiny social add-on right at the end.
Say hello to VR video. By the end of 2015, the New York Times VR – or virtual reality – videos broke new ground. These are immersive films viewed through a smartphone and Google cardboard sets. By the end of the year the public sector will start experimenting.
The most sensible phrase in 2016 will be: ‘if it’s not hitting a business objective we’re not doing it and the chief exec agrees with us.’ Teams of 20 have become teams of eight. You MUST have the conversation that says you can’t deliver what you did. It’s not weakness. It’s common sense. Make them listen. Or block off three months at a time TBC to have that stroke.
‘Nice to have’ becomes ‘used to have’ for more people. As cuts continue and widen more pain will be felt by more. Some people don’t know what’s coming down the track.
People will realise their internal comms are poor when it is too late. Usually at a time when their own jobs have been put at risk.
Email marketing rises. More people will realise the slightly unglamorous attraction of email marketing. Skills in this area will be valued.
As resources across some organisations become thinner the chances of a fowl-up that will cost people lives increase. It probably won’t be a one-off incident but a pattern of isolated incidents uncovered much later. The kick-back when this does emerge will be immense. For organisations who have cut, when this emerges the comms team will be swamped. At this point the lack of functioning comms team will become an issue and the pedulum may swing back towards having an effective team. For organisations who have retained a team, this will be a moment to prove their worth.
Comms and PR continue to become female. A trend in 2015 was the all-female team. This will eventually percolate upwards towards leadership.
Comms and PR will get younger. Newsrooms when they lost senior staff replaced them with younger people. This trend will continue to be replicated.
As the pace of change continues training and peer-to-peer training will never be more important. Teams that survive will be teams that invest in their staff. And encourage staff to share things they are good at.
Speclaist generalists will continue to be prized. That’s the person who can be really, really good at one thing and okay to good at lots of others.
And a prediction for 2020
Those people with a willingness to learn new skills and experiment will still have a job in 2020. Those that won’t probably will be doing something else. Don’t let that be you.
Creative commons credit: https://flic.kr/p/6Ha4tJ
Posted: December 17, 2015 Filed under: newspapers, Public Relations, Uncategorized | Tags: Facebook, newspapers, radio
This is significant: printed newspapers have become the least popular way that people use to keep up to date with what is going on in the world.
According to a report in the Guardian the annual Ofcom news consumption study will say that 31 per cent of the population read a printed newspaper to keep informed. This is a fall from 41 per cent the previous year.
On the other hand, TV news on 67 per cent, the internet with 41 per cent and radio 32 per cent are all comfortably ahead of breaking news on the news stand.
To anyone interested in the media landscape this feels like hugely landmark news in itself. To communications teams geared-up to service the needs of newspapers first and foremost this feels especially important.
It’s also further evidence that while newspapers used to be practically the only show in town they are not any longer.
The full report doesn’t appear to have been published on the Ofcom site. Their reports always bear reading and the Ofcom Communications Market 2015 report should be required reading for all comms and PR people. I’ve blogged the findings here.
To look at this from a newspaper perspective, they would argue their websites and social media are included in the internet column. So, ‘it’s complicated’ maybe one summary.
The Guardian report also had a few more significant bulletpoints:
- 25 per cent of people use their mobile phones to keep up to date – up four per cent.
- 14 per cent of people use word of mouth to get their news – up three per cent.
- Young people are more likely to go online (59 per cent) than watch the TV (‘around half.’)
- BBC1 was the top news source on 48 per cent, ITV second with 23 per cent, the BBC app or website 23 per cent, BBC News channel 14 per cent and Facebook 12 per cent along with Sky News.
Here’s a link to the full document Ofcom document News Consumption in the UK 2015.
Creative commons credit: Soon / Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/hHpXV
Posted: December 10, 2015 Filed under: Uncategorized, websites | Tags: we, writing for the web
Just because you used to be a journalist doesn’t mean you can write for the web.
There. I’ve said it.
Several times of late I’ve had the same conversation.
Firstly, a confession. I was a journalist for 12-years and a public sector comms person for eight. Much of my work was crafted to be cut and pasted into newspapers either through a news story or a press release.
But those skills that work to create a punchy frontpage lead or impress a news editor doesn’t always work on the web. They are two different things.
And by the way, writing for the web isn’t the same as writing for social media. Writing for the web is writing for a webpage. Social media very often should be informal and conversational. But that’s for another blog post.
What does transfer
Brevity. Getting to the point. Paper shortages during World War Two meant that British journalists had to be concise. Waffle was cut. ‘Keep it short and simple’ ruled. Handy. But…
But a lot doesn’t transfer
On the web, words no longer rule. They are one of many tools available. Your aim is not to scream from the news stand to persuade a passer-by to stop and buy one. It’s to flag down a passing search engine.
Google is the biggest search engine in the world. It has an algorithm that rates each page. The exact recipe is a closely guarded secret and changes often. But some things do work. There are more than three billion searches a day on Google alone, so it’s something to take account of as they have almost 75 per cent of the market globally.
Less than 30 per cent of the words you write will be read on average so you have to be canny.
Metadata is your friend
Metadata is the information that a webpage carries to flag-up to search engines what’s on the page. Tags do this job. They can be key words or the author of the page. For this post the tags will include ‘writing for the web’, ‘tips’, ‘metadata’ and ‘comms.’ Use them. They score you Brownie Points with search engines.
For a simple picture alone, there’s more than half a dozen places where metadata can crop up. From title to description what camera took it, when and where. It all counts. Use it.
Rich content; yes, please!
If words no longer have supremacy, what does? Simple. Pictures, slides and video work well with people so search engines like them. So, when you are creating something use a variety of content. This also works if you are sending something out to try and entice a journalist to carry your story. Send them words, sure. But send them rich content like a picture or video they can use on their site.
Text: Chunk, list, sub-headings and bulletpoint
People will glance at your webpage. There’s some really good tips on the US government website usability.gov for how to present the text you have.
- The eye scans to bullet-points easily.
- It likes sub-headings too.
- They break-up the page.
- White space is alright too.
Headlines: Straight to the point
On the web, the cunning headline to amuse and entice the reader in doesn’t work. Algorithms don’t really do irony or word play so be very literal. As the BBC Journalism website says, an ambiguous headline of ‘Queen sells pirate music to fans’ doesn’t work. What about clickbait? That’s all over the web, isn’t it? Yes. But that’s writing for social media and a very particular take on it.
And add links, for heaven’s sake
Back when I was a journalist I wrote thousands of news stories. I never added one link. Tom Foremski’s landmark ‘Die Press Release! Die! Die! Die’ from 2006 was written out of frustration. You should read it. It rails against the habit of text only communications. It begs for the kind of rich content this blog points to. Add links. They give the option of more. Like this econsultancy list of 23 tips for writing on the web.
Picture credit: Crysostom / Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/8eTSeX
Posted: December 10, 2015 Filed under: email, Uncategorized | Tags: email, marketing
So, you’ve set-up your email list and you’ve got some people to sign-up… so what now?
There’s a range of things that you can do to increase the chances of engaging with the most amount of people.
So, here’s a run through of things.
This list is for the helpful email newsletter or regular email that people have opted in for. It’s not for unhelpful spam, okay?
Consider your variables.
These are the things you can change around and adjust to see what works best. Adjusting one can have a big impact.
Subject line: That’s the line that accompanies your email. You’ll need to think of something interesting and eye catching that entices an open. Avoid ‘Weekly email vol 1.’ It has all the allure of a soggy novel. Vary it.
Timing: Think about what time you’ll send it. When would it get most attention? Would people be busy with their own jobs mid-morning and straight after lunch to spare time? Often, using an email provider you can pre-schedule a time to send your email out. Fridays and Monday are often bad days to send out an email. You get lots more out-of-offices on those days.
Pictures: Think about whether an image would work. But remember, that these can’t always be opened and big email lists rarely use them.
Merge tags: This is a way you can open up your email with a personal address to your audience. So, it’s ‘Dear Dan’ if it’s to Dan and ‘Dear Vera’ if it’s to Vera. You’ll need to have uploaded your list as a spreadsheet or similar format so the database knows to pull out the right first name.
Start the email: Tell them the reason you are emailing. They may have signed-up to the museum events list, for example, and you are letting them know of the summer events.
Links: Chances are you’ll want people to click through to a webpage. Pay close attention to the number of links you have and see how they perform. The first link tends to be the one with most click throughs. Don’t over stuff it. You can see what content works best by checking to see who opens what.
A call to action: Round-off with a call to action. This is the thing you’d like people to do. For instance, ‘click the link’, ‘donate’ or ‘buy one for your holidays’.
Sign off as a real person: People prefer talking to people. So sign off as one. When Barack Obama first won the election he didn’t sign all his campaign emails. Why? Because people cottoned onto the fact that he would be too busy. So, the regional organiser John Smith or someone else was fine.
Make sure you experiment endlessly. Your audience is pretty unique to you and the only way you’ll find out what works is by experimenting with your variables. You’ll see what works through studying your analytics.
Other top tips
Use a mobile-compatible template: Most email providers will shape your email and give you a template. There’s often a range. Try and start with the simplest one and one that will open on a mobile phone.
Add an address and an unsubscribe button: By law, you need to do this, so add one.
Sign-up: Follow political parties from the UK and the USA and online retailers. You’ll get a free education in how to write engaging emails. Pick the ideas that feel right from the look and feel.
Relevant content: It goes without saying that the content you provide will make or break your email list. Sending beef recipes to a vegetarian cookery list won’t work.
Style: Be light and engaging if you can. You’re asking people to sign-up and be signposted. Don’t make it a chore.
Test it: Before you send your email, test it. Most email providers allow you to send a test email first. This will allow you to check the links you’ve embedded as well as allow you to review your content. Don’t ever send it blind. Send it to a colleague to get their feedback. When you do send it, try and look at it on a mobile phone. Ofcom in 2015 says that 66 per cent of people have a smartphone and it’s where they check their emails.
Evaluate, evaluate and evaluate: When you’ve sent an email wait a few days and go back and see what worked and what didn’t. Don’t be afraid to send out test emails to small groups to see what the stats say works before you send the bulk list.
This post is part of the LGA’s email best practice guidance that you can read here.
Picture credit: Emilano / Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/T2d6r