WINTER COMMS part 1: Seven ways to communicate using video

If you don’t think that love is a little bit like gritting in icy weather then, boy, let me convince you.Β 

There’s a short 48-hour window every year when Valentines cards are hugely important. Then for the other 363 days a year they’re not all that.

For a handful of days a year the state of the roads, grit levels and snow are really important. But unlike Valentines Day those days don’t come pre-printed in your WH Smith desk calendar. You don’t know when the cold blast will come.

My gritting obsession

For three years, I was a local government Twitter account. Every tweet in. Every tweet out. I put back Christmas dinner by 10 minutes to tell people that we were going out gritting. The reason for this? Those handful of days people wanted to know if it was safe to go out.

There’s a lot riding on getting it right. Reputational damage. A switchboard in meltdown. Serious injury. Loss of life. Get it right and your follower numbers increase and people see what you are doing.

Why video is important

I’ve been banging a drum for video as a comms channel for three years now. More than 70 per cent of the UK population have a smartphone and almost three quarters are happy to watch videos of less than five minutes, Ofcom say. That’s your audience right there.

In the latest cold snap,#BestFromTheEast – or #BeastFaeTheEast if your are in Scotland – has shown public sector communicators going into overdrive to communicate.

Here are SEVEN videos that communicate a cold weather message

Using humour and song a pre-prepared snow day announcement

Frimley Junior School in Surrey made this great video to announce a snow day. They’ve used a homage to an 1980s rapper to get their point across to parents. It shows humour and delivers the message.

Using a Facebook Live on icy roads

The Facebook Live platform is currently being encouraged by Facebook. Shoot one and you’ll reach more people. So, hats off Oldham Council for shooting this on what looks to be an ipad. An officer introduces himself and introduces the vehicle driver who is responsible for the gritting operation. As they negotiate the streets they talk about the myths and what they are doing.

Importantly for a Facebook Live is that there is a reason to keep watching. In training myself and my colleague Steven often talk about this as the ‘sword of Damocles.’ You want to keep watching for a specific reason. Here there are two. Will the WiFi cut out? Will it cut out before the exposed heights? Spoiler: they make it to the closed hill and see a Spanish truck stuck.

Using an animation to tell a story

The Met Office need to get a series of messages out with weather warnings. They’ve done this through a variety of means bu the animations have proved eye-catching and effective ways to reach people.

Using a GIF to make the text more interesting

The GIF is the 1990s technology that’s at home on the web. They are short animations that allow you to repurpose some footage. You can make your own or you can use a GIF library. Both Facebook and Twitter have libraries you can delve into.

Here Transport Scotland lists the prevention advice and then adds a GIF of a sliding car.

Using pre-shot footage to explain how grit works

During the time I spent in local government comms I tweeted the fact that grit was not fairy dust dozens of times. Same too for how grit works. This Kirklees Council clip with the backdrop of a salt barn shows a man in hi-vis talk through how things work. Shoot them in the autumn and have them to hand. Good tip.

Using realtime footage of work in progress

Fake news! I never saw the gritter! Well, here is video footage of the gritters in action. It doesn’t have to have a narrative arc. Just point, shoot and publish. And combat thosze trolls who say that you weren’t out.

Using hyperlapse video

North Yorkshire County Council had the bright idea of using footage from the cab of a gritter as it passed through the rural county. Shoot the footage on the hyperlapse app and you can look as though you are moving far faster.


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.Β Β 

keeping your streets ice-free…. “Nick Grit-Shaw” I’ve made it πŸ˜‚πŸ‘‹πŸΌ

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.


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.