VR PR: What virtual reality can do… for children and old people[VIDEO]

18011630494_b2683a87d1_bFor the last 18-months or so I’ve been helping deliver video skills workshops with one of the brightest people I’ve come across in a long time.

Steven Davies is a freelance cameraman, University lecturer and throughly good chap. A while back I asked about how he saw the future of video.

Virtual reality, was part of the answer.

Virtual reality is footage shot that allows someone with a headset to be immersed in a different world. Google cardboard can be bought for a few quid and is a way to view the content.

For young people

I’ll paraphrase him, but the problem with talking about virtual reality is that it’s like dancing about architecture. It doesn’t really work. So seeing this Google clip at #firepro on what virtual reality – or VR – can do in classrooms is inspiring. If you are not sure what it is take a look at this for 90 seconds and see the reaction of schoolchildren. It’s amazing.

And it’s older people too

Don’t think it’s just for young people, too. There is this example where VR works with old people. It puts them in a safe recognised environment and works well with dementia sufferers. You can take a look here. The older person is immersed in an environment.

The opportunites for PR people are immense. It is entirely a new exciting blank piece of paper. The ability is to place the VR headset wearer in an environment. I’ve blogged about this before.

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

Picture credit: Maurizio Pesce / Flickr


WRITE STUFF: 15 pieces of advice for journalists heading to a career in PR

23106362469_a553484d8b_bSo, what is the difference was between journalism and PR? I’ve stopped and asked myself the question this week. I’ve been thinking of how to explain the difference.

For 12-years I was a journalist and rose to become assistant chief reporter of a daily regional newspaper. Back then I would have told you that the difference was news was everything they don’t want you to know. The rest is PR, I’d have said.

Eight years on and director of my own company I know the difference is more to it than that just a lack of shouting news editors and no double murders.

The truth is that if there was a Venn diagram, there would be surprising little between the two. At best, it’s a common use of the English language and the knowledge that news is people. And people like to read about people.

Here are 15 differences

A yardstick of success. As a journalist, your measure is if you’ve got the front page. Failing that, it’s a healthy number of pageleads. As a comms person, it’s a number of things. Chiefly, being able to show the material difference your content has made. The number of foster carers recruited, for example.

Criticism. I say this with love, knowing journalists will take umbrage. There is nobody so thin skinned as a journalist. I knew this when I was one. I know it now too. As a comms person you are like a sniper in no man’s land. Under fire from all sides. Your organisation and those outside will throw things at you.

Professional regard. Journalists are special. Not trusted, especially. But special. They have a Press bench and a Press pass. Doors open. Comms people have a daily battle to have their opinion listened to. Solicitors? Planning inspectors? Doctors? Their word is law. But anyone with spell check and clipart thinks they are a comms person.

Audience. A journalist, in the words of a former colleague only half in jest ‘tries to make old people scared to leave their homes.’ They used to have one main channel. Like the printed newspaper or radio bulletin. Now they have to use more. A comms person needs to know as many of the 40 different skills as possible.

Skills. While the reporter needs more skills now than ever the PR or comms person needs to draw either individually or across a team up to 40 skills.

Diplomacy. A journalist can smile politely and ask why the chief executive has failed to build 100 homes on time. A comms person needs the tact to talk through the implications of how that failure will play out and suggest a course of action.

There are no jacks under it. As a journalist, I’d be encouraged to make a story a bit more exciting by ‘putting the jacks under it.’ Outrage, slam, row. As a comms person you play it straight. You stick to the facts which are always sacred.

Accuracy. Now, here’s a thing. I was more accurate as a PR person than a journalist. There. I’ve said it. The news desk request to write a story to fit a pre-determined idea is a thing. I’ve done it. In comms and PR you need to be certain of your ground or you become the story.

A difference. A journalist can try and make a difference by holding power to account. A comms person can make a difference by drawing up the right content in the right place at the right time.

Planning. Long term planning on newspapers was often tomorrow. The concept of a comms plan to work out the business priority, the audience and the channel is alien.

Obsolescence. The journalist suffers from being in an industry whose business model is being re-invented and as a result there are casualties. Comms as an area is developing.

Hours. Long hours to make sure the paper is filled are common on newspapers – who are often renamed media companies. Hours in comms and PR are long. But it’s rare to be stood outside a burning factory in Smethwick, I find.

Writing. Just because you can write for a newspaper doesn’t mean you can write for the web. Or Facebook or Snapchat.

Your employer and your ethics. You bat for your employer as  a PR person. But you bat for your ethics first. At times you have to know your ground and say a firm ‘no.’

Innovation. There can’t be a more exciting time to be a comms person than now. The internet has tipped up old certainties. The tools we can use are evolving and the guidebook on how to use them you can write yourself. How good is that?

Like many former journalists, I admire good journalism. But don’t anyone think that being a reporter and being a press officer or a PR person are remotely the same.

Picture credit: Mattiece David / Flickr


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.


OWN GOAL: What Aston Villa’s demise teaches comms and PR people

19753404670_9bf9cf0977_bSometimes it’s tempting to say that better PR can make up for anything… but that’s just a big fat lie.

Take Aston Villa Football Club. They’re a team that has just been relegated from the top flight of English football with four games of the season left.

This was the football equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade only with none of the honour, heroism and poetry. This was not a rush towards the Russian guns with lightly armed horses to maintain a reputation. This was a dash towards a brick wall in an ice cream van. Driven by a bloke in a circus clown’s outfit. Blunders to the left of them, fowl-ups to the right. Into the valley of PR nightmares they rode.

It’s tempting to feel truly sorry for the actual PR team at Aston Villa who have had to all too often pick-up the pieces. How much of a thankless task must that be?

However, in the interests in learning from failure, here are some lessons.

You cannot polish a turd

Yes, PR can do much. But if the product is broken all the PR and comms in the world can’t make up for it. If the owner isn’t interested and a string of bad appointments have been made there really is very little you can do.

I’m reminded of Robert Phillips’ ‘Trust Me PR is Dead.’ His advice to a burger chain facing flak for excrement traces in their burgers was not to talk about the community grants they gave and corporate social responsibility. It was to stop putting crap in the burgers.

Speak truth to power

Of course, what you say may not always be welcome. But honest, diplomatic feedback of what your customers are saying should be given house room. If the customers are angry about something it’s as well to know early. You won’t be welcomed in the short term, but speaking truth to power is a role of the comms person.

What happens on a night out…stays on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

Aston Villa players carved out a special place for themselves through the season by being spotted ‘tired and emotional’ in a range of places. Jack Grealish started the trend pre-season in Tenerife. He then added Manchester to the list after losing to Everton.

Know how to spell

Eyebrows were raised when Frenchman Remi Garde was plucked from the French league to become the man who was going to save Aston Villa from a spiral of despair. In fine tradition the club took to the internet to orchestrate a welcome campaign.#welcomeremy the image on the club website read. Perfect. But his name was spelt wrong. It was Remi.

Know when to be humble

Defender Joleon Lescott has got very rich playing football for a number of clubs including Manchester City. A player who has won a handful of caps for England he has cashed in on the Premier League era. But after losing and getting abuse on Twitter he responded by tweeting a picture of his new car.  Then he hurriedly deleted the car and blamed the fact that his pocket had accidentally tweeted the image.

Beware the corporate re-branding

Of course, a new look can breathe life into a new brand. But when the chips are down it can lead to criticism. You have taken your eye off the ball looking at fancy marketing stuff when you should be looking at the basics. Like winning games. Unfair? Perhaps. But perception is everything. So when Villa rebranded for £80,000 losing the traditional motto ‘Prepared’ from the badge they were open to criticism. Especially as they looked so unprepared losing every week.

Follow back… don’t unfollow

On social media, it costs nothing to follow someone back. On a basic level it says that you have been recognised even if your content isn’t slavishly being read. So as a time of the season when Villa needed all the friends they could mass unfollowing 47,000 fans on Twitter wasn’t the best thing to do. The reaction was not positive. Don’t do it.

There is no such thing as off-the-record

With Aston Villa relegated former player and radio phone-in host Stan Collymore laid into some of the more under-achieving players. Singling out Joleon Lescott the car tweeting defender responded by Twitter direct message privately offering to meet and sort things out as men. The screen grab was then tweeted by Collymore.

Say sorry… and mean it.

As the final whistle blew at Old Trafford and Villa were relegated the chief executive Steve Hollis posted an open letter to supporters. It expressed ‘regret’ for how the season panned out and was an exercise in acknowledging responsibility. As an attempt, it was good. No doubt he was hurting. But it would have been far more effective if the word ‘sorry’ had been used.

In the Middle Ages, stocks were used for public contrition. The miscreant was forced to sit there while rotten tomatoes and excrement was flung at them. There’s actually a social role for this. There’s also a place where this takes place today. It’s called the radio phone in. A grovelling apology by the owner on BBC Radio WM may go some way to healing the rift.

Creative commons credit: joshjdss / Flickr 


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


MINDFUL AWARE: And how to deal with negative or inappropriate comments… and keep sane

2474521727_6b00bc3b61_bJust this week I was reminded that those who run social media accounts for an organisation need extra sets of skills.

To make something work well you need to put body and soul into it. You expose yourself online much more than you do offline. It can be 10 o’clock at night and you are dipping in to respond to a query.

There’s an excellent post on comms2point0 by Emily Taylor on how to deal with criticism on behalf of an organisation. That’s when people get angry about a project that isn’t going down well or some other aspect of what your employer is doing. It’s a great post. You can read it here.

But in an off-line conversation, I was also reminded that a thick skin is also something you need. It’ssomething I’ve blogged about before.

There are anecdotes of unpleasant trolling of staff. Thankfully, that’s rare.

But I’m struck by a dedicated local government officer who looks after a corporate account who told me: “I don’t look at Twitter in the evening now. I have enough of people telling me I’m an idiot between 9 and 5.”

There’s some excellent advice on staying positive online if you are getting cheesed off with your friends’ perfect baby pictures when you are, say, a new parent. Use the off switch. Unfriend. But when you are running a corporate account it’s not so easy.

For five years I ran a corporate Twitter account and was responsible for the training of more than 60 others.

Advice for people who speak online for an organisation

What advice did I give above and beyond the points made in Lucy’s post?

Don’t take it personally.

Count to 10 before replying.

Never argue with an idiot. They bring you down to their level and to a passer-by it’s just two idiots arguing.

Talk to a colleague or a friend if you feel things are getting on top of you. Blow off steam.

Ask – or maybe even let – a colleague to step in and take over for a while.

If you feel it becoming an issue talk to someone and make your line manager aware. Stress is a workplace issue and your employer has a duty to you. Asking for help isn’t being weak it’s being strong.

Have set hours when you will deal with stuff and time when you won’t. You are not on 24/7.

You’re not alone.

Picture credit: Ben Tesch / Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/4LEz6H


15 predictions for public sector comms in 2016… and one for 2020

3747527884_81f7e9d19a_zThe best political reporters don’t make predictions, Judi Kantor once said.

So, seeing as I’m not a political reporter for the last few years I’ve made predictions about what may happen in my corner of the internet.

Looking forward, 2016 will be my seventh year of blogging, my 23rd year in and around the media industry and fourth year in business. I’m struck by the pace of change getting faster not slower. It’s also getting harder.

Last year I made predictions for local government comms that both came true and failed. Ones I got right? Some councils no longer have a meaningful comms function. Evaluation become a case of do or die. People who bang the table and say ‘no’ to stupid requests will stand a chance. Those who don’t won’t. There are fewer press releases. Video did get more important. Customer services, social media and comms need to become best friends. Facebook pages did become less relevant unless supported by a budget for ads. Linked

I was wrong about some things. There was experimentation with social media and new platforms like Instagram, whatsapp and snapchat were experimented with. Not nearly as much as people need to.

The jury is out on content being more fractured. There are still too many central corporate accounts and not enough devolved. I’m still not sure that enough people are closing failing social media accounts.

Public sector comms in 2016…

For the last few years I’ve looked at social media in local government. But the barrier between digital and traditional has blurred and the barrier between sectors also blurs so I’ve widened it out.

The flat white economy will form part of the future. Economist Douglas McWilliams gave the tag to web-savvy freelancers and start-ups with laptops. To get things done in 2016, teams buying in time and skills for one-off projects will become more common.

There will be more freelancers. There’s not enough jobs to go around and more people will start to freelance project to project. Some will be good and some bad.

Video continues to grow massively. For a chunk of the year I talked about Cisco estimating that 70 per cent of the web would be video by 2017. By the end of the year some commentators said that figure had already been reached. People are consuming short-form video voraciously. But can you make something that can compete with cute puppies?

LinkedIn will be the single most useful channel for comms people. Twitter is great. But the convergence of job hunting, shop window and useful content will push LinkedIn ahead.

Successful teams will have broken down the digital – traditional divide. They’ll plan something that picks the best channels and not have a shiny social add-on right at the end.

Say hello to VR video. By the end of 2015, the New York Times VR – or virtual reality – videos broke new ground. These are immersive films viewed through a smartphone and Google cardboard sets. By the end of the year the public sector will start experimenting.

The most sensible phrase in 2016 will be: ‘if it’s not hitting a business objective we’re not doing it and the chief exec agrees with us.’ Teams of 20 have become teams of eight. You MUST have the conversation that says you can’t deliver what you did. It’s not weakness. It’s common sense. Make them listen. Or block off three months at a time TBC to have that stroke.

‘Nice to have’ becomes ‘used to have’ for more people. As cuts continue and widen more pain will be felt by more. Some people don’t know what’s coming down the track.

People will realise their internal comms are poor when it is too late.  Usually at a time when their own jobs have been put at risk.

Email marketing rises. More people will realise the slightly unglamorous attraction of email marketing. Skills in this area will be valued.

As resources across some organisations become thinner the chances of a fowl-up that will cost people lives increase. It probably won’t be a one-off incident but a pattern of isolated incidents uncovered much later. The kick-back when this does emerge will be immense. For organisations who have cut, when this emerges the comms team will be swamped. At this point the lack of functioning comms team will become an issue and the pedulum may swing back towards having an effective team. For organisations who have retained a team, this will be a moment to prove their worth.

Comms and PR continue to become female. A trend in 2015 was the all-female team. This will eventually percolate upwards towards leadership.

Comms and PR will get younger. Newsrooms when they lost senior staff replaced them with younger people. This trend will continue to be replicated.

As the pace of change continues training and peer-to-peer training will never be more important. Teams that survive will be teams that invest in their staff. And encourage staff to share things they are good at.

Speclaist generalists will continue to be prized. That’s the person who can be really, really good at one thing and okay to good at lots of others.

And a prediction for 2020

Those people with a willingness to learn new skills and experiment will still have a job in 2020. Those that won’t probably will be doing something else. Don’t let that be you.

Creative commons credit: https://flic.kr/p/6Ha4tJ