Oh, the weather outside is frightful… and its the time to baton down the hatches.
If local government can get icy weather comms right they can keep people happy.
Here is a round-up of some content that worked well:
The myth-busting web page
There is a regular set of moans. You weren’t out. You didn’t grit. You didn’t grit enough. Having a web page like this is an excellent resource to have at your finger-tips. You can see it here.
The video from the cab of the gritter
It’s a video that is the perfect length to work on Twitter. Less than 20 seconds and shoots down the allegation that there were no gritters out. Great work.
— Wolves Council (@WolvesCouncil) December 10, 2017
The snowman post
This post from the Mayor of Walsall asks people to chip in with their snowmen pics. It prompted people to respond with images from across the borough.
The video of the gritters heading out
This is perfect. Gritters loaded up and heading for the exit at the gritting depot. Evidence that the work is taking place.
The shared hashtag and the conversational response
The #wmgrit hashtag works in the West Midlands as a 20 minute journey can cut through two or three council areas. So 10 councils have joined together to share the searchable hashtag.
A few people are asking if we can restock grit bins – we will get to these as soon as we can, but at the moment our priority is to treat main roads and keep these as clear as possible #wmgrit
— Telford Council (@TelfordWrekin) December 10, 2017
The news jacking of the big event
Ahead of the Merseyside derby Liverpool Council were telling people of the work that is going to take place to keep the game running smoothly. It fills a vacuum and was well shared.
With snow forecast ahead of the @LFC v @Everton derby, we’ll be treating pavements & roads around Anfield stadium and street scene staff will be out from early on Sunday clearing accumulations #DerbyDay #snow #grittertwitter pic.twitter.com/7Rhaxn6F5F
— Liverpool Council (@lpoolcouncil) December 9, 2017
Getting the message out early
With cold weather ahead this tweet to ask people to look after each other was well recieved.
— My Nottingham (@MyNottingham) December 9, 2017
Thanks to Viki Harris, Andrew Napier, Liz Grieve, Kelly Thompson, Paul Johnston and Dawn McGuigan.
So far in the round-up of human comms we’ve looked at digital content that the organisation has shaped itself. But it doesn’t have to be digital to be human.
More than 20 people were killed in the Manchester Arena bomb earlier this year.
Manchester as a city rallied and there was an outpouring of pride and determination.
Leading all that was the public sector across the city with police, paramedics, hospital staff, fire and the Mayor’s office.
In the very front line in all this were the paramedics and the hospital staff.
In the weeks after the bombing, the Press attention turned from the immediate impact to the stories of survival and recovery. Requests for interviews were made. But not all requests for granted.
Careful handling by Salford Royal hospital’s comms team led to a set of interviews and pictures with the local newspaper the Manchester Evening News. You can see the full story here.
Human comms is not just what you create but also what the Press can create with you.
Be more human. Like the A&S staff of Salford Royal.
There was a curry house when I worked as a reporter who used to ring up every week to try and get into the paper.
This ranged from the actually newsy, like fundraising for Children in Need, to the not quite so, like we have a food hygiene certificate. Back then everyone used to have them. But then came the one to five start ratings for hygiene. They became something to shout about.
One council in the South West has thought-up a new way to shout about these certificates. Send out the environmental health officer to sing a Christmas carol with them.
Our Public Protection Team has been out checking food hygiene standards on the first day of @BathXmasMarket.
Look who’s on song with a festive 5 out of 5, @AngelfishCafe.👍🎶@VisitBath pic.twitter.com/GYILQLeSBt
— B&NES Council (@bathnes) November 23, 2017
So, on the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me a certificate with five stars on it.
A daft but effective way of celebrating a top score on what can be an important yet routine piece of legislation. Good work Dan Cattanach.
For a while now, I’ve argued for the need to be more human in your comms.
In the public sector, this is especially important as more than 1,200 services are delivered to people.
What is human comms? You’ll recognise it if you see it. It’s engaging and it connects. Sometimes it delivers a message. Sometimes it just works to show that human beings also work in an organisation, too.
I’ve blogged before about the need to have a mix of content in your social media channels to make them work. If you are 80 per cent human and 20 per cent call to action, that’s fine.
So, an experiment, for 30 days I’ll find a thing a day that looks human.
#1 Dudley Council’s Spoiled tea road sign
This has long been a favourite of mine. More than a decade ago, Dudley Council built a new road around Castle Gate in the town. How could they get motorists to take a different route home? Easy. Talk to them in Black Country.
The sign read:
“If yowm saft enuff ter cum dahn ‘ere agooin wum, yowr tay ull be spile’t.”
After living in the Black Country for almost 20 years I know this translates as:
“If you are silly enough to come down this road you will take so long your tea will be spoiled.”
Class, be more like Dudley Council.
Can you remember a single lesson from when to at school? Not the dates and fact you learned but the actual lesson that delivered them?
For me, one stands out above all others. The day of the Unexpected Door Opening. It features a threat, a German teacher and a comms message I’ve never forgotten.
It was when I was aged 13 at Walton High School in Stafford. Picture the scene. A 60s teaching block.
Every German lesson would descend into chaos. The boys would fire paper missiles blown like darts through adapted biro blowpipes. The girls would talk to each other and at the front our teacher slowly having a nervous breakdown. Shouting was the only way she could make herself heard. She shouted a lot.
Until the week of the Unexpected Door Opening.
You see, our language classrooms had interconnecting doors. Right at the front of the classroom next to the blackboard. It led to a neighbouring clasroom.
It had never opened before but this week the door opened. Unexpectely. Into the din, noise and chaos walked Mr Sampson.
Mr Sampson was a grey haired teacher about 5’10” tall with blue eyes, glasses and a blue jumper. He’d been at the school for years and knew how children’s brains worked. He was dangerous. Why? Because you couldn’t con him. And his put downs could make the hardest kid look like an idiot and we all knew it.
I paused. We were for it now.
Gradually, the room fell silent. Like an orator waiting for a pin to drop the tension built and Mr Sampson waited to speak.
“Thank you, Mrs Kemp,” the newly arrived teacher said in a quiet voice. “I’ll take over from here.”
I felt the dread of the impending bollocking.
But it didn’t happen. Instead Mr Sampson for the final nine minutes of the lesson told us of the importance of making eye contact in an interview. Don’t look at the floor, he told us. Look them in the eye. But it’s hard to look people in the eye, he said. Because it can be off-putting and they can tell if you are not telling the truth. Some cultures think you can see into people’s soul. So look at the point between the eyes instead. He went into detail about interview posture and how to come over well. We all listened with complete attention. We were winning. He’d forgotten why he’d come in. Or so we thought.
The bell rang.
Thank God, we were off the hook. And we made to put our stuff away.
“Stop,” he said quietly.
He had us right where he wanted us.
“If I have to come through that door again, I will fucking kill each one of you,” and he looked each one of us in the eye. Right in the eye. Individually. One by one.
Next week we were good as gold. The week after that we were too. But on the third week, the noise levels rose. The interconnecting door handle started moving.
We were fucking dead. But the door handle stopped. We froze. Ten seconds passed. The tick of the clock. The beat of the heart. And slowly the door handle returned to its original position.
A long sigh of relief. Like a timebomb that had stopped ticking with three seconds on the clock.
It’s message? From Mr Sampson: “Don’t think I’ve forgotten.”
We were as good as gold from then on.
But what’s the comms message? Be clear on your promise and follow through.
And look people in the eye when you’re delivering the message. Individually. One by one. It’s more effective that way.
Picture credit: Davynin / Flickr
A few years ago I did the PR for the most famous man in Walsall you’ver never heard of.
Sure, the borough is not over-stocked with famous people. Three Men in a Boat author Jerome K. Jerome came from the place and so did Noddy Holder, swimmer Ellie Simmonds and drum and bass pioneer Goldie. All good within their own field, sure.
So, in that list most people wouldn’t add Steve Jenkins.
You will have bought, listen to or hummed any of the more than 150 top 40 hits he was connected with. Think Billy Ocean, Steps, The Stone Roses, Backstreet Boys, N*Sync, Steps, Kylie Minogue. They wouldn’t be where they are without Steve Jenkin’s role in the machinery behind them.
Steve started his career in the music industry in the 1970s with The Beatles’ management company before moving through the industry to become MD of Jive Records. He did the promo for Stock Aiken and Waterman. He was part of a team who signed an unknown Britney Spears. In the industry he was one of the most powerful men for a very long time.
How did I get to know him?
He’s proud of Walsall so we staged an exhibition of his gold discs, fan memorabelia and the social history of pop music. It was great. He brought Pete Waterman along and a load of others.
I was reminded of him by this YouTube interview he gave where he talked about the slightly dark art of targeting record shops that featured in the chart returns. His team would go from store-to-store, offer free records for display and then quietly move them to the front of the rack. So, people browsing through ‘K’ would be met with Kylie Minogue straight away, for example. As Steve says, this was all above board and would only have a marginal impact. But if persued energetically it maybe the difference between a new chart entry at 29 and 35.
Here he is talking about it:
So why is that on a comms blog?
Simple. During the months of working on the exhibition one thing above all struck me. He was a geek. In the best sense of the word. He was a geek about the pop charts in the 70s, 80s, and 90s especially. He knew everything about it. How it worked. How it didn’t work. Because he knew it backwards he knew where the difference could be made. So, he knew when to release a record and which Woolworth stores to promote it in. Him and Pete Waterman would plan the promo campaign for bands while on the way to Walsall games.
He was a joy to do press with. Five journalists would spend 20 minutes with him one after another and all leave with a brilliant different anecdote, He has an autobiography you may like.
If only the social web was around when we ran the exhibition. We could have by-passed everyone and gone straight to the fan sites.
Take this lesson from him… know your stuff backwards. Kick the tyres. Learn. See what others do. See where you can get better. Experiment. Be bold.
Above all, pick a subject. Love it. Be a geek on it. Know it backwards.
Picture credit: Marco Verch / Flickr