CAFE SOCIETY: How the secret of coffee and cake can network your organisation’s comms

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For five years I worked in the public sector trying to embed digital communications across the organisation and in that time we found two secrets.

We won an award and we managed to get people on the frontline keen and engaged.

But what ingredients made this happen?

Two things. An open social media policy that allowed people from across the organisation to use it after some training. But a piece of paper only goes far. It opens the door but it won’t send everyone charging past and into the warm water. Here’s what really did. A regular meet-up where everyone who used social media was invited. We had three topics. No slides. We would try and meet off-site too to encourage creative thinking. A cafe was best.

The sessions were deliberately open and we encouraged people who were trying new things to talk about what they had learned.

Why involve people from across the organisation?

To share the sweets, of course. It’s something I’ve blogged about before. Social media shouldn’t be a communications thing. It should be an every service area thing. And sometimes we need our enthusiasm re-fired and a lesson shared to re-charge our batteries.

And one of the biggest challenges in all of this is for this not to be a comms’ own meeting. This shouldn’t be the head of comms lecturing everyone how it should be. It should be people from across the organisation working it out together. But more than that. Open it up to partners too. And anyone who is interested from the public. Widen the circle.

Here’s a secret. Two actually

Very often organisations can have more than 100 channels. Often they work seperately from each other and there can be painfully little collaboration.

That’s where the cake and coffee come in. Here’s the thing: if you talk to each other you’ll share ideas and very often work better. The customer services person, the librarian and the media officer. None of them have a monopoly on good ideas.

Try it. Let me know how it goes.

Shout if I can help. I’m dan@comms2point0.co.uk and @danslee.

Picture credit: Susanne Nilsson / Flickr 

 

 


COMMS CHANGE: You need to re-think what post-truth comms looks like too

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Reading through the post-Trump and post-Brexit assessment of where we are one passage stood out.

It’s from David Simas, Barack Obama’s political director, in a lengthy New Yorker piece you can read here.

It’s touches upon Facebook fake news and echo chambers:

“Until recently, religious institutions, academia, and media set out the parameters of acceptable discourse, and it ranged from the unthinkable to the radical to the acceptable to policy,” Simas said.

“The continuum has changed. Had Donald Trump said the things he said during the campaign eight years ago—about banning Muslims, about Mexicans, about the disabled, about women—his Republican opponents, faith leaders, academia would have denounced him and there would be no way around those voices. Now, through Facebook and Twitter, you can get around them. There is social permission for this kind of discourse. Plus, through the same social media, you can find people who agree with you, who validate these thoughts and opinions. This creates a whole new permission structure, a sense of social affirmation for what was once thought unthinkable. This is a foundational change.”

And I read this in former CIPR President Stephen Waddington’s Facebook timeline.

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It’s public so I’m not betraying confidences. You can see it here.

I don’t have immediate answers to what post-truth comms needs to look like. But it feels like UK diplomat Tom Fletcher’s words about communicating like an insurgent form part of it.  I’m heartened there are people looking for the answers. But I’d say that that’s not enough. You can’t outsource it. It cuts straight to trust, audience and effectiveness. If you are working in the field of communications in the public sector this is something you need to tackle too.

Picture credit: Duncan Parkes / Flickr


POP STAR: What I learned from one of the most powerful men in pop music: be a geek

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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.

Steve who?

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.

So what?

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


#FUTUREPROOFED: A book to bang a table with

fp2-cover-shotWhen I worked in the public sector there was a bunch of people a decade ago who would bang the table not being satisfied with business as usual.

They would experiment and try different things. If there was no rule book they would write their own with a spirit of JFDI – just flipping do it. Sometimes they’d put their career on the line just to try something out.

So, I’d learn more from bloggers, coders and engineers as to how to use the social web than I did from the PR establishment. Bold experiments of yesterday quickly became today’s routine.

It’s an approach that has shaped my approach and for many others in the public sector.

I’m happy to say, there is a movement centred on private sector PR just as happy to write new rule books where there are none. Through challenge, experiment and boldness there’s a feeling that there is a better way.

Stephen Waddington in his introduction to the first Future Proof: The Go To Guide For Managers of Agencies and Communications Teams talks of there never being a more exciting time to be in the industry. I’d agree with that. You can download that here for free.

Now, Future Proof: Edition Two has been published.  I’m hugely excited to have written a chapter on the role of video in communications in this book. But I’m far more excited to know that there are more than 30 chapters from fellow travellers who aren’t satisfied with business as usual too.

Hats off to those who wrote chapters and to Sarah Hall for pulling this together.

You can buy the book here in print and kindle here.

A chapter a day handily is set to be released here if you can’t afford the book.

Future Proof: Edition Two chapters

COMMANDING THE RESPECT OF THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY AND THE PITCH TO EMPLOYERS by Francis Ingham

STRONG TOGETHER: WORKING TOWARDS A COMMUNITY OF THEORY AND PRACTICE IN PUBLIC

RELATIONS by Stephen Waddington

WHAT BREXIT TAUGHT US ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITY FOR PR Rob Brown

ECONOMICS SOCIAL DIALOGUE AND PUBLIC RELATIONS Ezri Carlebach

SERVING THE MEMBERSHIP: IS IT TIME FOR THE CIPR AND PRCA TO MERGE? Richard Houghton

MAXIMISING THE TRUE VALUE OF MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS TO DRIVE IMPROVEMENT

Matthew Hopkins

FROM PURPOSE TO PERFORMANCE: A RADICAL APPROACH TO STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT

Sean Trainor

CHARTING THE COURSE OR JUST KEEPING YOU AFLOAT: IS HUMAN RESOURCES TAKING YOUR

BUSINESS WHERE IT NEEDS TO GO? Elizabeth Baines

SOCIAL MOBILITY IN PR: A CAREER OPEN TO ALL Sarah Stimson

STITCHING TOGETHER GOOD CORPORATE BEHAVIOUR Karan Chadd

STORIES VERSUS FACTS: DO COMMUNICATORS HAVE A PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE THE

PUBLIC ISN’T MISLED? Stuart Bruce

CONTINUOUS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT (CPD): CAN IT HELP YOU IN A CHANGING WORLD?

Sally Keith

THE JOURNEY OF THE ENGAGED EMPLOYEE Bea Aar

PREPARING FOR THE SKILLS GAP IN THE WORKPLACE OF THE FUTURE Tim Hudson

DELIVERING A 24/7 SERVICE; INTRODUCING AN AGILE MODEL IN PR Dualta Redmond

MANAGING THE INTEGRATION OF BUSINESSES: MERGING COMPANIES, DISCIPLINES, AND

CULTURES Ella Minty

EMBRACING AGILE STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT Betteke van Ruler and Frank Körver

HOW TO AVOID #SOCIALMEDIAMELTDOWN Nathaniel Cassidy

A LISTENING AND INSIGHTFUL FUTURE: CHANGING PR PRACTICE TO DELIVER AUDIENCE LED

COMMUNICATIONS Sarah Clark and Professor Jim Macnamara

SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE OF PROCUREMENT Tina Fegent

STRENGTHENING CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS AND MANAGING RISK Farzana Baduel

MANAGING CLIENT EXPECTATIONS Andrew Reeves

STAFF SALARIES: HANDLING WAGE INFLATION AND SALARY BANDINGS Steve Earl

GROWING PAINS: MOVING FROM AN ENTREPRENEURIAL TO A PROFESSIONAL STRUCTURE

Alicia Mellish

COMPANY CULTURE: MANAGING STRESS, PRESENTEEISM AND MENTAL HEALTH Paul Sutton

WHY GREAT LEADERS ARE GREAT COMMUNICATORS Lucia Dore

INTERNAL COMMS: LEARNING FROM THE PAST AND EMERGING TRENDS Rachel Miller

SEIZING INFLUENCER RELATIONS’ OPPORTUNITIES Scott Guthrie

HOW TO USE THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY TO ACHIEVE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT Ciara O’Keeffe

VIDEO AS A COMMUNICATIONS CHANNEL Dan Slee

LIVE STREAMING TOOLS: A BEST PRACTICE GUIDE Leonardo Stavale

OVERHAULING PUBLIC AFFAIRS: MUCH NEEDED MODERNISATION Iain Anderson

PUBLIC CONSULTATIONS: ENGAGING WITH YOUR AUDIENCE Emily Osborne

HOW THE #FUTUREPROOF PR CAN EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITIES OF SEO Darryl Sparey

CROWDFUNDING: UNDERSTANDING, INFLUENCING AND MANAGING GROUP BEHAVIOUR

Paul Cockerton

HORIZON SCANNING Stephen Davies

CREATIVITY IN PR – ARE PRACTITIONERS SUCCESSFULLY HARNESSING THE POWER OF

STORYTELLING AND NARRATION? Andy Green

#FUTUREPROOFING COMMUNICATIONS EVALUATION Richard Bagnall

THE IMPORTANCE AND ART OF ARTICULATING THANKS: LESSONS FROM NON-GOVERNMENTAL

ORGANISATIONS (NGOS) Dr Nicky Garsten, Dr Ed de Quincey and Professor Ian Bruce

 


SOMME ECHO: It’s simple… as #wearehere shows, just be human

I’m writing this on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

Just a week before the UK voted to leave the European Union. Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to stay. A majority in England and Wales wanted to go.

Division, spite and rancour is in the air.

Yet, for all sides, the First World casts a long across Britain. It helped make the country we live in. Never such innocence, as Siegfried Sassoon wrote, as when we marched to war in 1914. Never such shattered innocence as the first day of the Battle of the Somme. If there was a day when modern Britain was born it was this.

I’m writing this to capture the #wearehere project. At key railway stations across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland volunteers dressed in First World War battledress appeared. Talk to them and they quietly give you a card with the name of a soldier who was killed on this day a hundred years ago.

It’s a gentle reminder that those who were lost were people too. Just like you.  It’s beautiful. I’ve blogged about my own family’s First World War story and the pain it caused.

As a child, a teacher taught us how much the First World War had changed Britain not with numbers. He pulled three empty chairs to the front of the classroom.

“Those chairs,” he said, “are empty. But they would have had three children just like you sat on them. But they weren’t born because their grandfathers were killed in the First World War.”

I seem to spend a lot of time telling people in training that the key to good communication is to be human. It’s why #wearehere works. It’s a real thing with real people. And the real people who saw it and were moved shared images and thoughts online.

I don’t know who is behind the project, but thank you for a chance to say ‘thank you’ to the 704,803 who died like cattle to show us that modern war was something to avoid.

But thank you too for a reminder that we are all human.

 

 


10 places to distribute your video to make it a success

5236263550_12bf640a5b_oYou’ve made a cracking video but you’re really not sure what to do next.

So what do you do?

For the past 12-months I’ve looked, made, researched and co-delivered workshops on essential video skills for comms.

As a comms person I’m convinced that video has a powerful role in creating engaging content. As I’ve said before, a large chunk of the internet is now video and that’s just going to grow.

The two things you need for engaging video

Think of Pearl & Dean. Think of sound and vision. It’s two things that go together. There’s a balancing act for creating successful video as part of a comms campaign. On the one hand you need good content. But on the other hand, good content that’s sat on your mobile phone isn’t going to reach anyone. So think about when and where you can post what you’ve made.

Live streaming is a bit different

Live streaming using Periscope, Meercat or Facebook Live is video. But this is video of the moment which is disposable. If the advantage is to be five yards away from the firefighter explaining the incident is now under control then it makes sense to use that. Speed and realtime point you to these platforms.

Don’t be blinded by numbers

Have a think about your audience. If you are keen to reach 16-year-old students about to decide which college to go to then your idea of success is not to chase Taylor Swift numbers. But if you’ve only reached a dozen then you may need to have a think about your distribution. In other words where people have the chance to see the video.

10 places where people can see your video

YouTube direct. This is the grand daddy of internet video. It’s used by more than a billion people a month. In the UK, more than 40 million people use the platform every month. Post your video to YouTube but keep it at around three minutes. Add tags and a good description so people will find it. Metadata is your friend. Optimum time: around three minutes.

Facebook direct. A new kid on the block compared to YouTube. At the moment, Facebook is rewarding you for adding video content to a page. It likes video because video keeps people interested, engaged and sharing. A hundred million hours of video is watched on Facebook every day. There is a battle going on between YouTube and Facebook but it’s worth posting video here too. Facebook can soar in the short run and is outperformed by YouTube in the long run. So think about posting to both. Optimum time: 21 seconds.

Twitter direct. Like Facebook, Twitter is liking that you post video direct to itself from the Twitter mobile app. But annoyingly, it’ll only let you upload a video from elsewhere if you are using an iphone.Optimum time: less than 30 seconds.

Instagram direct. There is a tendency for organisations to sit back and think that YouTube, Facebook or Twitter means the internet is covered. What hogswallop. If you know your audience you’ll have an idea which platforms they’ll be using. If instagram or snapchat is on their wavelength then think about how you’ll be using those channels first. By doing that you’ll have an understanding of what video may work.Optimum time: Instagram was up to 15 seconds maximum but now can be 60 seconds. Doesn’t mean you should use 60 seconds, mind.

Snapchat direct. Younger people are opting for snapchat. Again, disposability rules in the content. The platform now has 10 billion views a day. Organisations who are using it well have got to know snapchat first and make specialised content. It’s not a place to throw your three minute YouTube video.Optimum time: less than 10 seconds.

Email the link internally. Once you’ve posted the video cut and paste the URL and send it to people. Embed it in the weekly email. Or send it to the 10 people in the team you’ve featured. Invite them to share it and you can start to tap into your staff as advocates. YouTube links are good for this.

Embed in a webpage. It never fails to surprise me that video carefully shot and posted onto social channels then never makes the webpage. If you look after a museum, embed the video onto the right webpage so when visitors come they’ll have more than just the opening times to look at.

A staff meeting or event. You have an audience of people corralled into a room. Of course you should show them the film you’ve made.

A link attached to a press release. If you’re sending out a press release it is becoming increasingly important to add a video or an image to it to register an interest with a reporter. Even if it’s a short video it’s worth doing.

Target influencers. If the blogger, the reporter or the big cheese are people you’d like to see the video don’t hope that somehow they’ll pick up on it. Email them direct. Tweet them direct. Tap them on the shoulder. “I’ve got this video that I think you’ll like.”

On a welcome screen on a loop. If you have a reception or a place where people gather show the video on a loop. You may want to screen it with the sound off if you’ve only got 30 seconds of good footage. Think about silent film techniques and sub-titles.

To learn more about planning, editing, shooting and posting video using a smartphone come to a comms2point0 essential video skills workshop.

Dan Slee is co-creator of comms2point0.


HOT DIGITAL: What lesson does the decline of print journalism have for comms and PR?

18968690604_ffda899120_bYou 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