30 days of human comms: day #16 Queensland Ambulance Service takes a dying patient to see the ocean a final time

This is beautiful. 

A dying patient asks to see the sea a final time and an ambulance driver takes a small detour.

Anyone who has lost a loved one can feel this.

Anyone who is human can see this as pure gold. Not as a piece of comms but as a gesture to make a dying wish complete.

What makes this that bit more special is that it moved from being an anecdote at the water cooler to a perfectly weighted piece of communications that works beautifully. It works because it is not contrived and not staged.

queensland

It reminds me, funnily enough, of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. They were determined to shed their post-Hillsborough disaster bunker mentality by a new approach. It was simply ‘do the right thing’.

As the post says, sometimes you don’t need drugs to do a good job just empathy.

Be more human.


6 pieces of content from #ourday I liked

A day a year local government shouts about what it does.

I raise my hat to everyone who took part in the day and created content.

Seven years ago, this was purely a Twitter thing when it started as #walsall24. Over the years the Local Government Association has got involved to support it.

But now that Twitter is the 4th most popular social platform should it just be Twitter? I’m not so sure. If it is true to its aim of reaching people to tell the story of what local government does it needs to find the best platform. Probably, this is an array of platforms.

An additional worry in a discussion on the Public Sector Facebook group is that people struggle to create the time to make #ourday really work. But anecdotally, this does work as internal comms. It also works to encourage service areas to share their stories.

Here are five pieces of content that caught my eye

Radio DJ Nick Grimshaw posting about council gritters on instagram

Nick Grimshaw has 1.3 million followers. He is from Oldham. The winner of their name-a-gritter competition was ‘Nick Grit-shaw’. So, as an Oldham boy made good he shared it with his followers attracting 30,000 likes.

Why is this good? This isn’t the council talking about what they do, it’s a Radio One DJ. That’s far cooler.  

keeping your streets ice-free…. “Nick Grit-Shaw” I’ve made it 😂👋🏼

A post shared by nicholasgrimshaw (@nicholasgrimshaw) on

An interactive be-a-council-officer game

There used to be a cartoon strip called You Are the Ref where you were given a scenario and had to choose the correct outcome. Doncaster Council used Twitter to create a similar scenario only being faced with the challenge a council officer would face. It gave a taste of the difficulty council staff face.

Why is this good? It’s not saying ‘here’s what we do.’ It asks: ‘what would you do?’

A poem set to video

There are 1,200 services that local government does. It’s hard to cover them all. But a video of just over a minute covers much of the ground. Well done Bath & North East Somerset Council.

Why is this good? It uses video so autoplays in your timeline. It covers a range of things in a short space of time.

Hello doggy

The most popular Facebook update wasn’t a council service as such but a lost dog. Of course it was. It was never going to be an engineer filling in a pothole, was it? You can see it here.

swale

Hello, regular people

One of the benefits of #ourday is putting faces to names and to be able to tell people what they do, as this Derbyshire Dales Council tweet shows.

Why is this good? Because it tells you who those familiar faces are and what they do.

A Periscope broadcast to explain a guided walk

South Cambridgeshire has many attractive places and guided walks encourage older people to step out. Here the council used Twitter’s live streaming app Periscope for a council worker to talk about what the scheme is.

A clip-on mic helps to improve the sound.

Why is this good? Because it is getting out of an office and experimenting with technology.


FAKE NEWS: It’s time to get serious with fake admins for your Facebook page

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It seems as though the noose is tightening around Facebook pages that are run by a overlooked-until-now dodgy practice.

I’ve blogged this before but let me explain. To run a Facebook page you need a profile and you can’t have more than one. Its against the platform’s terms and conditions.

Many people in the past created a separate work profile. They did this because they wanted to keep work and play separate. Often this second account just had the word ‘work’ added to it.

How this dodgy practice works

So John Smith had his ‘John Smith’ account. He also created ‘John Smith Work’ as a way of logging onto the corporate page. Cunning, yes?

Well, not that cunning at all. Not least because it is obvious even to Inspector Clouseau that this is a second account. And before you dash-off to create thinking a John Brown account is an even safer bet don’t. But Brown, you think. That’s not my name. They’ll never guess. Actually, Facebook are really good at spotting  through an algorithm accounts with few friends that just happen to be a page admin.

Why Facebook are doing this

You may have noticed but Facebook and others have been getting it in the neck for their role in ‘fake news’. Governments don’t like them. Nor do users. Accounts that are clearly fake are the first steps to tackle this. The platform have agreed to act. Fake users are first in the queue.

But you’re blue in the face

Of course, the wise people know that they need to change. They’ve even argued for the need to.  Many have persuaded people that this is the best course of action.

But even then some people don’t want to change.

The common arguments are:

I don’t want people from work being my friends.

I’d rather keep work and family seperate.

I won’t add my real Facebook profile.  

In the olden days, they may have had a point. But no-one can see who is the admin of a page. You don’t have to accept friend requests.

An approach: It’s time to get serious

I’ve noticed a very heated debate on the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group flagging up the issue.

Firstly, tell are admins you want your page not to break Facebook’s terms and conditions. Tell them their access may be removed without warning. This is an issue if you all have fake John Smith Work accounts. Tell people you are moving everyone to Facebook Business Manager. You’ll need a profile. It just makes the day-to-day tasks easier.

If people still say no, you may have to trim down the number of admins who are effectively posing a risk to your page. If some people don’t want to, they may just have to have ‘managing Facebook pages’ off their CV.

Go and tell the person in your organisation who is responsible for information governance of the broader issue. See what they think. They’ll agree with you.

Go and tell the emergency planning team what they think. They’ll agree with you, too.

Take these opinions, this blog and your opinion to your manager, manager’s manager and chief executive if you have to. Set out to them in writing the reasons why ‘fake’ profiles are a danger to your organisation. If you have to, list the people who have fake profiles in your organisation. List the people who don’t. Explain that you need everyone to either have a real profile or be taken off admin to the Facebook page.

You have flagged-up the risk.

You have shared the risk.

When Facebook catch you – note, not ‘if’ but ‘when’ – you have an audit trail without which you’ll be pretty exposed. Who knows. The process may even get some movement.

It sounds drastic, but it’s not as drastic as access to your corporate Facebook page being lost overnight.

Picture credit: Michael Coghlan / Flickr.


NEWS FLASH: Fake news at the Parish pump… and what comms and PR people need to do about it

 2325659252_2006a3cb31_oYou need to think about fake news.

Not the click-bait churned out by Moldovan teenagers in their bedrooms but the stuff on your neighbourhood Facebook group or page and newspaper comments page.

Around the village, estate, town or city where you live and work there are scores of groups and pages. On the internet, it’s often where people hang out. Hyperlocal blogs have been hailed as the new frontier. True, there are some cracking ones.  But it is to Facebook groups where a huge chunk of audience has gone. Almost unnoticed.

Look for stats on groups online and you are struggling. Why? Because Facebook would like to direct you to the highly monetised Facebook pages where there is an abundance of data. Look for data on groups?

So,you’ll have to go digging yourself.

Search your own groups

It’s simple. Go to Facebook. Search for a place. Search again in groups. Have a search ion pages too. A recent project at an urban borough found more than 3,000 pages and groups searching by town and community. Some had only one person. Others had 15,000.

Run your own search. You’ll be amazed. Seriously.

Facebook pages and newspaper comments

And let’s not forget that newspaper comment boxes are there and the public actions very often have thriving Facebook pages too. Let’s be honest, often there is a whiff of mob rule on them and caution is advised.

But you need to engage 

If newspaper comment boxes are a bridge to far I think we should be starting with Facebook groups. I’ve talked about the need to engage on them before. It’s a simple premise. Go to where the eyeballs are. If they are talking about you, go there.

Some of it is true. Some of it is false.

Time after time these past few months I’ve reached the same conclusion. The fact that the public sector is not by and large engaging in these places is deeply corrosive. The fact that some organisations are starting to is a useful step.

Fake news ‘be very, very, very worried.’

This isn’t a new thing. Rumour and misinformation have been going on since the days of cave drawings. Globally, the issue is massive. At News Rewired in London last week journalism academic Claire Wardle told us to be ‘very, very, very worried.’

The ability to fake a photograph is a given, she says. Making fake images go viral is easy. But faking video? Dear God. That’s now here.

Why is this particularly worrying? Because as Wardle says, we have learned to be sceptical about words. We are far less sceptical about images and are hugely trusting about video. She argues that we need to have the same scepticism about our emotional response as we do in other areas of our life.

As the Edelman Trust Barometer says, we are far more trusting of ‘people like us’ and will take on what they say or our Facebook friends say than a chief executive.

Types of Parish pump fake news

Here’s two types to look at.

Misinformation. It’s well intentioned but wrong. Back when I was in Walsall, a Muslim girl tweeted that she’d heard a Muslim boy had been stabbed by an EDL-sympathising Sikh gang. It was wrong. A West Midlands Police Deputy Chief Constable was quick to state there had been no reports.

Or it’s the rumour that polling stations were closed early in the Scottish Independence Referendum.

Or that you need to use a pen rather than a pencil to vote.

Disinformation. It’s wrong and it’s circulated knowing that it’s wrong. That’s the malicious council-bating. Like the humorous but entirely false story of the car park attendant at Bristol Zoo. Or the photoshopped shark in the floods.

There’s a whole sub-area of family court driven disinformation.  The false claim of a child abduction in Surrey that from time-to-time re-emerges. This isn’t unique.

So, is your Facebook group filled with ‘fake news’?

No. Damage isn’t the prime reason they are there. For the most part Facebook groups are community minded and more interested in people find a plumber or posting the picture of the lovely sunset. They are an excellent opportunity for you to engage with real people.

Can the Parish Facebook group be more dangerous than a national far right news site? Not on it’s own, no. But in that community? I’d argue a rogue post has huge potential to cause you damage in that community.

I’ve heard the argument, well made by Euan Semple, that there is a volume control on the mob and we should avoid it. I can sympathise with that. But I don’t think the public sector has that luxury anymore.

If conversations are taking place in dark corners on the web,

So how to engage?

Engaging on Facebook groups

  1. Join groups with your own profile as yourself.
  2. Approach admins from your own profile and ask politely if they can post your engaging sharable content things for you. Make the content you are asking relevant. A history event to entice a group interested in local history, for example.
  3. Build your relationships with the admin and the people on the group too.
  4. Remember you are representing your organisation.
  5. You don’t have to engage with every online conversation.

Engaging on Facebook pages

  1. You can comment on Facebook pages as your own Facebook page.

Engaging on online newspaper comment boxes

  1. Add comments as a named individual. Be human. Signpost. Add a link.

Look, none of this is easy. Some of it you may balk at. But it needs to be done.

Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.

Picture credit: Andrew Feinberg / Flickr


BLAZE MESSAGE: 14 lessons fire comms can teach everyone

sapA thousand flowers are blooming in this new era of digital communications.

Amazing things are happening, new rulebooks are being written and old ones tossed away.

But if you are too busy growing roses you won’t spot the great things happening.

Or in other words, look outside your own corner of the world and you’ll find great things.

And so it is with fire and rescue services not just across the UK but across the world. I’ve done some work in the sector and got to know some people and I’ve always left with knew ideas on how to do things.

Often, people in the sector don’t realise just how great their work is. Less in number than local and central government comms people from the sector communicate to save lives and to prevent them. I’d love them to be bolder. They don’t just get you to test your smoke alarm. They save lives.

One myth exploded, though. In the UK the comms is not geared up primarily for documenting heroic rescue. Prevention is better than cure. Statistics say there were 258 fatalities in the 12-months to March 2015 and 3,225 were taken to hospital. There were almost 155,000 fires. This is the second lowest in UK history.

Fire comms people need to move from the pedestrian pace of advice to business to communicating death and sometimes the death of their own colleagues. That takes guts. Not everyone can do this.

There is a community of fire communicators

The FirePRO organisation is the umbrella group for the sector and a bright bunch they are too. But Twitter also connects them not just across the UK but far further. The fact I asked a question about best practice on a Friday night and got a pile of responses is perfect evidence. Neil Spencer from West Midlands fire describes this as a ‘can do, will do, let’s give it a try attitude.’

Here are 14 things you can learn from fire comms

#1 Using planning to get your shizzle ready

Nobody wants an emergency. But they tend to happen and when they do public sector comms people have to react. I’ve lost count of the number of blank faces in local government when I ask what they’d do if a plane crashed, a bomb went off or a tower block started to fall down. Not so fire and rescue.

As award-winning Bridget Aherne wrote in a blog post for comms2point0:

“The way to sum this up quickly – and sorry to anyone who knows me because you’ll have heard me utter this phrase, annoyingly, hundreds of times before – you have to be proactive about your reactive communications.”

Lesson: Good comms planning always helps.

#2 Using Periscope for realtime situation reports

Lesson: If an incident is breaking live video from the scene to give situation reports has real value and can plug into online networks as well as media organisations.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last 18-months co-delivering workshops on making effective video for comms. It teaches people to plan, edit, shoot and post video. However, in an emergency the value is not the well-shot video. The value is have video footage from that particular spot at that particular time. Why? So you can communicate with people in realtime. In the UK, there is a duty on comms people in local government, fire, police and other agencies to warn and inform.
As this US example shows, a firefighter giving a commentary or even a brief situation report – has value. Don’t forget anyone with a smartphone and the Periscope app has the ability to fill that information vacuum. Questions can also be posed by people following the stream and answered by fire crew.

In an era where video is highly sought by media organisations online to be in the frontline is priceless.

#3 Using a hashtag

Lesson: A simple sharable hashtag can help spread a campaign.

One of the greatest uses of a hashtag by anyone in the public sector is the excellent #testittuesday tag. Started by Norfolk Fire and rescue it is that brilliant thing of basic advice shared as a hashtag. It encourages people every Tuesday to test their smoke alarm. As basic good advice it can be hard to measure the effectiveness or the fires that didn’t happen because of a test.

#4 Using Instagram as a channel

Lesson: Instagram can be used for soft power. Images of the work people to do interspersed with more serious messages.

Services across the world are starting to make headway with Instagram. Really, there’s no surprise. It’s not like there’s nothing to photograph. If there isn’t a fire there’s the equipment or the staff in the equipment. Kent Fire and Rescue Service excell in this area. A stream that is engaging, fun and personable people could do worse than looking at this.

Keep smiling after after a good night out. Being drunk and cooking don’t mix. #smilesafe #fire #firefighter

A photo posted by Fire and Rescue (@kentfirerescue) on Jul 12, 2016 at 5:41am PDT

 

#5 Using mapping

Lesson: Maps can communicate with the media and residents and reduce avoidable contact.

Back when I was a journalist we made a round of calls to fire stations on our patch at 7.30am, 1pm and 10pm. There were six in our patch and a further 14 in surrounding areas which we sort of covered. That’s 60 calls a call.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service have a mapping page embedded in their website which gives news of incidents with some basic details. They also post images and videos which can be used with a credit. This must cut the amount of time on routine calls. Hats off to Sarah Roberts for this.

mapping

#6 Using the social web as a firefighter and human being

Lesson: People respond to people so let your people.

One thing I’ve long argued for is for public sector people to use social media as themselves. There’s far greater cut-through. People connect better to real people than a logo. So, it’s always inspiring to see real people doing just that. Thanks to @rubonist on Twitter for flagging this.

#7 Using the social web as a senior officer

Lesson: Using the social web allows senior people to be visible and to listen better. It also allows partners and the organisation to better understand their thinking and priorities. 

There has been a trend in recent years of senior public sector people using Twitter to engage, listen, share ideas and give some visibility to yourself.

#8 Using embedded social media video

Lesson: Embedding video to drop into people’s timelines can be a good way to communicate.

Sometimes things don’t always go to plan as this incident which saw five people die in Nechells, Birmingham. Video content posted to Twitter shared the press conference to the community. This could have been uploaded to Facebook too.

#9 Using humour and newsjacking

Lesson: Being creative about your communications and the channels you use can pay off.

As London Fire Brigade showed in their epic news jacking of the racy film 50 Shades of Grey imagination on comms works. A campaign followed in the wake of the film to talk about the number of times people had called for help with locked handcuffs, penis rings and other rather embarrassment-creating problems. The #50shadesofred campaign is a benchmark in public sector comms. Data driven it used a range of channels.

#10 Using data to allow people to build their own picture

 

Lesson: Data can be turned into something searchable to give people street-level insight.

Everyone’s experience is different. This is why it is refreshing to see West Midlands Fire Service use their incident data to allow you to search by postcode to see what incidents happened in your neighbourhood.

merry

#11 Using Flickr as an image library

Lesson: A Flickr library can make thousands of images available for re-use.

Social photo storage site Flickr may not have the sexiness as Snapchat but as a place to be your public image library it remains peerless. There are several organisations in the UK using it well. However, the US use is the benchmark. Los Angeles Fire Department post images to the stream. They have almost 20,000 images. With an open licence anyone can use them. As the argument goes, public money paid for then so why shouldn’t with the permission of the photographer people and organisations re-use them?

LA fire

 

#12 Using Facebook for large communities

Lesson: Facebook pages are a start but not the last word on how people can be reached on the platform.

Pages can be a useful way to have some Facebook real estate although they deal with broadcasting to small corners of the web that can be shared on. Manchester Fire and Rescue and Scottish Fire and Rescue are examples.

But to really engage, you need to use Facebook as the page to comment and add content on other pages. Or join Facebook groups as an individual.

#13 Using Facebook for niche communities

Lesson: Facebook pages for smaller communities can be effective ways of reaching them. The Polish community, maybe. Or in Biker Down‘s case motorbike riders.

Facebook has the numbers so it is worth using. Seeing as it has the numbers yo can also carve out niches where people will congregate. There were more than 5,000 serious incidents with motorbikes in 2014. I’ve long believed that the single corporate page is almost always not the answer for large organisations. There are communities within them, so plug into them. If you are a biker the Biker Down page would work.

kent biker down

#14 Using Facebook quizzes

Lesson: Quizes reach people. Often people who are hard to engage with.

Facebook quizzes can engage with audiences that may well be resistant to leaflets and other comms. London Fire Brigade uses them well and creates them to accompany campaigns. They’ve done them to see if people fancy being firefighters, for example. With this one, they are celebrating their 150th anniversary with helmets.

london quiz 2

#15 Using Snapchat

nimesLesson: Yes, you can use Snapchat.

One of the good things about the web is coming across organisations doing good things in other countries. Take Sapeurs Pompiers Volontaires du Gard. They are a French fire brigade in Nimes in the south of the country who have an imaginative use of images on Twitter and Snapchat too.

 

Thanks for the input for this post from people across the Fire and Rescue comms community. In particular: Catherine Levin, Neil Spencer, Bridget Aherne, Sarah Roberts, Robert Coles, @Rubonist, Thanh Ngugen, Steven Morgan, Phillip Gillingham, Jim Williams, Pave Dhande, Leigh Holmes, Jack Grasby, Pete Richardson, Dave Walton and Dawn Whittaker.


HERE NOW: video is not the future, it’s the now

18446561558_269901d6cb_bThe title I was given for the session ‘video: it’s the future’ made me think. It’s actually already here.

It’s been clear for some time that video has been getting more important.

These aren’t bold predictions from industry analysts that may or may not come off. They’re the here and now.

The four reasons for video’s rise

What has convinced me is first anecdotal data of travelling on buses and trains watching people with their mobile phones. Where once they read newspapers now they are on their phones swiping through emails, websites and social media. People’s smartphones have got more powerful. They can watch and shoot their own video. Behemoths like Facebook and Twitter fall over themselves to make video more accessible in your timeline. Besides, we are inherently lazy. We are drawn to images.

The data makes the case

All that is true and where it is confirmed is the data. Ofcom say that 66 per cent of UK adults have a smartphone and almost half are happy to watch short form video. That’s footage less than five minutes.  TV is still here. So is TV news. But in the battle for your attention it is getting out-gunned by the clip of a new-born panda. No wonder BBC journalists are being taught how to make more short-form content.

People want to learn

It’s been an amazing experience co-delivering video skills for comms workshops with Steven Davies. People do want to learn and with a few basics they are off making good use of video. The barrier? Often it is the tech and time. An android or an apple device will cut it. A blackberry won’t. As you practice more the quicker you get at thinking through, creating, editing and delivering video.

But where does video go?

Convention has it that YouTube is the only show in town. That’s not the case anymore. Facebook at the moment is rewarding you for uploading video to a page by showing it to more people.  Twitter joined Facebook in autoplaying video as you scroll through your timeline. It’s made it easier to post video from your phone. But the idea of making one video and posting it everywhere is dangerous. The optimum time for a Facebook video is 22 seconds and on YouTube far longer. Vine is six seconds and Instagram not much more than 10 seconds. What counts as a view is opaque. On Facebook it is three seconds and YouTube 30 seconds.

The what is next?

We’re moving as fast as the tech is moving. A few years ago watching video on your phone would have been unimaginable. Today? It’s common. Two important steps are realtime and what can be grouped together as virtual reality.

Realtime is the posting video as live. Your smartphone becomes an outside broadcasting truck and as the super-portable clip onto yourself GoPro cameras are now integrated with livestreaming Twitter app Periscope the climber livestreaming his ascent up the north face of the Eiger is now possible. Even with a smartphone you can post within minutes an Environment Agency officer talking during the floods of how the Morpeth dam was working:

 

Virtual reality is something I’ve blogged about before. It’s watching footage that sees you standing in the scene and allows you to look down and around. New York Times are pioneering new ways of storytelling.

Facebook’s 360 video allows you to watch footage on your smartphone and move it around to see a different perspective. Footage of US fighter pilots taking off show this. YouTube has also allowed a 360 video and Flickr has done something similar.

But the tech

A few years ago virtual reality could be said to be a niche. Now a Google cardboard headset costs a tenner and allows a more immersive experience. But you can watch just with your tablet or smartphone. It’s not strictly the same experience but you get a flavour.

Two helpful things

We’ve created an ever-updated resource for video and comms. You can see it here.

We also co-deliver workshops for comms people with University lecturer Steven Davies who has worked as a cameraman with BBC and as a filmmaker across the public sector.


NEW STATS: Newspapers are now the least most popular way to get news

189144143_2c114eed34_oThis 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