A while back someone asked what the point of having more than the corporate account was.
Sure, the corporate account can do much but sharing the sweets and giving the right tools to people on the frontline can be hugely effective. They can post updates on breaking incidents to help keep the traffic moving.
An example of this is the motorway police officer PC Martin Willis captured holding on Superman-style to a van that was about to topple over and roll down an embankment with the driver trapped inside.
It’s by having the tools for the officer to communicate that that the story could be told.
1st on the scene of this collision on the #A1M this morning and faced with a vehicle balancing over the edge of a bridge with the driver trapped! After holding on to the vehicle to stop it swaying in the wind I can’t begin to desribe my relief when @WYFRS arrived on scene! pic.twitter.com/E8ilktlOl7
— Motorway Martin (@WYP_PCWILLIS) December 1, 2017
A beautifully human tweet? The cherry was put on top of the cake by the officer’s wife who spoke of how proud she was.
Myself and all of our families just wish to say how incredibly proud we are of my husband @WYP_PCWILLIS. Every day Martin, his colleagues and emergency services up and down the country do amazing things and deserve every bit of recognition they get #herohusband #mrsmotorwaymartin https://t.co/ZT0uCA7Es3
— Helen Marie (@HelenHelen839) December 3, 2017
Often police officers can seem remote when they are human beings doing an often difficult job.
Be more human. Like the motorway police officer and his wife.
Thanks to Ben Proctor for spotting this.
I remember where I was when the old news media died for me. It happened in a phone call from a journalist.
“Look,” he started off. “When you write something on Twitter could you do me a favour and give me a call, please?”
I said I couldn’t. Not because I was being awkward but because it wouldn’t work. I suggested he join Twitter himself. This was when Twitter was in its infancy.
Time has passed and the news media is being re-born. Many of the old ways have gone. Digital first has come into play. In other words, not sitting on news until the next edition but publishing it as soon as it breaks and driving traffic to the website.
Time was when all the innovation was happening in local government. There are still bright people doing bright things but as the sector has suffered austerity many have moved on. Newspapers are now working out what the future looks like. They have swapped print dollars for digital dimes. It’s not always pretty to look at for time served journalists. But their need to find an audience to survive teaches lessons for communications people.
One of the best places to see where the cutting edge is is through the Reuters Institute of Journalism. Based at the University of Oxford the body brings academic rigour and research to the sector. There are lessons for communications people too in their Digital News Report 2017.
Resistance to change will be punished
Newspapers have had 20 years to make sense of the internet and have largely failed, the report says. Who creates the news is less important to people in 2017 than the places where they can get it. Audiences and advertisers have embraced new technology. The brighter news organisations have too. But whether the public sector has or not, I’m really not sure. If the expectation of the public sector is that people will come to them for information because they are the public sector history shows a shock is in store. The audience has moved away from newspapers who thought just that.
News in the UK is consumed mostly online
The art of writing a press release is still part of the mix. But as people move away from print media they are consuming news online. But the content of news online is often sharable content from video, images to infographics. Is your content mirroring this trend?
People consume the news online but can’t remember where they read it
‘I read that on Facebook,’ is the response. ‘But I don’t remember who told me.’ This is really significant. It means that people are consuming information without looking too closely at the masthead of what delivered it. Reuters Institute research showed that 47 per cent couldn’t remember the people that served the news they’d read. The important thing for me is to have content on Facebook. It is less important where that presence can be found. So, sure, a Facebook page. But it is most important just to get your content out and circulating.
Whats App as a channel for news is important
We can’t see it so we can’t measure it. But 40 per cent in the UK use Whats App for news and 36 per cent use Facebook messenger. The Guardian, for example, deliver a daily message through Facebook Messenger. If that can be done for news, why not for public sector news?
People prefer an algorithm to serve their news more than an editor
More than half prefer an algorithm setting their news agenda as opposed to 44 preferring an editor, the Digital News Report says. For under 35s the algorithm figure rises to 64 per cent.
So, if people are happy to have their news served to them doesn’t it make sense for your news and messages to be in the places that are going to be hoovered up? This points to Google News and Facebook. There is no direct footprint a public sector organisation can have in Google News but there is in Facebook.
If you work in communications and PR look outside the sector too for clues on how to communicate better. Newspapers, or rather media companies, are evolving as well as dying. Their business model is based around reaching an audience. There are things they are doing which can teach us all. Often I’ll talk about public sector communications. There can be an inherent laziness sometimes about reaching an audience because there is no bottom line or sales target. But that’s not good enough.
You need good boots and a wise head to walk the Appalachian Trail. It is 2,190 miles long and cuts through the lonely American wilderness.
Almost 3,000 people walk it’s daunting dark length from end-to-end every year and from time-to-time people go missing.
Risks faced by the traveller include the American black bear, mosquitos, yellowjackets, poison ivy, biting flies and dangerous streams.
The trail is linked by camping points a day’s walk apart. Sometimes they are just clearings but they are places walkers pitch a tent, meet and swap trail stories. Knowing there is a ford ahead can make the next day safer.
Five years ago we launched commscamp on a clear blue sky excited about the power and possibility of exploring the green empty space of the internet.
This year, there was the sense that things have evolved. There was a feeling more people used the event as safety trail camp. New things to learn? Yes. But most of all a sanity check.
The world has changed and we are trying to all change with it. Fractured channels. New audiences. New demands on time. Income targets. Bad intranets. Bad comms plans. Bad managers. Not enough time. Time taken over by an emergency. Not enough budget.
Not enough regard for what we do.
There are still people looking to innovate and get good at new things. But there are less people wide-eyed at the possibility. The militant optimists from the early years have moved on. I miss them. Those that remain on the trail are quieter somehow but more determined. They know that they are still travelling through uncharted forests. Through the trees they can sometimes hear the crunch of nearby footsteps of fellow travellers. We are alone together. We know this path will take years to complete.
It’s things like Commscamp, the Public Sector Headspace Facebook group and other places that are the safe camping points to rest.
Knowing you are not alone is just as important today as it was five years ago.
Picture credit: VinceTraveller / Flickr
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.
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