DIGITAL NUMBERS: What public sector comms need to know about the 2020 Reuters Institute Digital News ReportPosted: June 26, 2020
There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight, Goethe once wrote.
A scientist and a poet the German would have been the ideal communicator mixing hard numbers with poetry that could make your heart sing.
Numbers and stories are what’s at the heart of the Reuters Institute for Journalism Digital News Report.
What does that matter to public sector communicators?
It matters for several reasons. Media relations remain an important plank of how any organisation communicates with its publics. But beyond that, there is such crossover between journalism and communications. Both sides are trying to make sense of the changing landscape.
The Reuters study gives a useful snapshot of how people are consuming news. While its a global study there is plenty of UK data.
What’s to learn from the Reuters study
Most people don’t care about local news. Less than a third of people in the UK rank themselves as interested in local news. Public sector takeout: Think of other ways to engage people.
In the UK, COVID-19 has affected news patterns. TV news is more popular, print has dropped even further. Public sector takeout: the old regime is changing even faster.
Five times as many people use WhatsApp than read a newspaper in print or online. This bit of detail is huge. So huge in fact that I’m going to post a link to my comms chums I’m in WhatsApp groups with. But I’ll need to read the WhatsApp’d link from my brother first. UK WhatsApp use is 56 per cent against a newspaper readership of nine per cent. Almost as many – seven per cent – deliberately use it for news. Public sector takeout: WhatsApp has really developed as a place where people consume. Organisations need to think of ways to use it effectively.
Closed groups are huge. In the UK during COVID-19, 51 per cent of people are using a closed Facebook group or a closed platform like Messenger or WhatsApp. Public sector takeout: How the public sector gets its messages into closed groups is a topic we’re only starting to wake-up to.
Facebook groups on their own are huge. Globally, almost a third – 31 per cent – use Facebook groups for local news and information. Public sector takeout: it’s not enough to ignore Facebook groups.
Overall, trust in news has fallen significantly. A drop of 12 per cent in 12 months is significant. Public sector takeout: Fewer people trust the news they consume.
The BBC remains the most trusted news brand in the UK. While its news rooms diminish its reputation still remains. A total of 64 per cent trusted the BBC just ahead of ITV news (60 per cent). The Sun is trusted by 16 per cent. Public sector takeout: time spent on TV or radio interviews is worthwhile.
Local news titles are strongly trusted. At 55 per cent the local newspaper sits just behind the BBC in terms of trust. That’s music to the ears of the remaining journalists. Public sector takeout: Those that consume it value it, the only problem is not enough are.
Local newspapers’ print edition reach nine per cent of the population. Less than a tenth of the population get news printed on newspaper. So, a borough of 100,000 will see less than 10,000 reading all about it. Public sector takeout: Print gets even less important.
Local newspapers’ website reaches nine per cent of the population. Just as many people go online for their local news than buy the edition at the news stand. Public sector takeout: Local news on the web is important.
Most people get their news online and social media and over a smartphone. Over the past seven years, the web has overtaken the once all-powerful TV and print as the place where people source their news. A total of 77 per cent get their headlines online. Public sector takeout: News needs to work online above all. Content that works on the web should trump everything. So, skills to create online content should trump press release writing ability.
Facebook dominates online news. A total of 24 per cent of the UK population get news from Mark Zuckerburg’s platform. Second largest is Twitter on 14 per cent and then in third place YouTube with seven per cent. Public sector takeout: Facebook is your news priority.
People don’t start with the news website. Battling over whether or not to put news on your homepage? Meh. Only 28 per cent head to an app or website. Public sector takeout: Stop stressing about news on the homepage. That’s not where people start their journey.
They trust the doctor not the politician. Doctors are trusted by 83 per cent, health organisations by 76 per cent, national government by 59 per cent and politicians by 35 per cent. Public sector takeout: The human being talking is a lot more effective than the cabinet member. This reinforces and updates what we already know.
Everyone is worried about misinformation but it’s whether you are left or right depends on who you blame. The left in the UK at 61 per cent blames politicians. That’s six times as many who blame journalists. On the right, the gap is closer with a 27 to 11 per cent lead for blaming politicians. Public sector takeout: It doesn’t matter if we are left or right, politicians are blamed most for misinformation.
Smart speakers are used for news by in the UK one in five. More use this than in other countries. Public sector take-out: Can your news reach people on a smart speaker?
News emails are used by 38 per cent in the UK. The average is three subscriptions. Public sector take-out: Hows your email content?
Young people aged 18 to 24 use Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok as a source of news during the pandemic. In the UK, 24 per cent went to Instagram pipping Snapchat on 19 per cent and TikTok on six per cent. Public sector takeout: if you want to talk to this demographic these three are important.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful… and its the time to baton down the hatches.
If local government can get icy weather comms right they can keep people happy.
Here is a round-up of some content that worked well:
The myth-busting web page
There is a regular set of moans. You weren’t out. You didn’t grit. You didn’t grit enough. Having a web page like this is an excellent resource to have at your finger-tips. You can see it here.
The video from the cab of the gritter
It’s a video that is the perfect length to work on Twitter. Less than 20 seconds and shoots down the allegation that there were no gritters out. Great work.
— Wolves Council (@WolvesCouncil) December 10, 2017
The snowman post
This post from the Mayor of Walsall asks people to chip in with their snowmen pics. It prompted people to respond with images from across the borough.
The video of the gritters heading out
This is perfect. Gritters loaded up and heading for the exit at the gritting depot. Evidence that the work is taking place.
The shared hashtag and the conversational response
The #wmgrit hashtag works in the West Midlands as a 20 minute journey can cut through two or three council areas. So 10 councils have joined together to share the searchable hashtag.
A few people are asking if we can restock grit bins – we will get to these as soon as we can, but at the moment our priority is to treat main roads and keep these as clear as possible #wmgrit
— Telford Council (@TelfordWrekin) December 10, 2017
The news jacking of the big event
Ahead of the Merseyside derby Liverpool Council were telling people of the work that is going to take place to keep the game running smoothly. It fills a vacuum and was well shared.
With snow forecast ahead of the @LFC v @Everton derby, we’ll be treating pavements & roads around Anfield stadium and street scene staff will be out from early on Sunday clearing accumulations #DerbyDay #snow #grittertwitter pic.twitter.com/7Rhaxn6F5F
— Liverpool Council (@lpoolcouncil) December 9, 2017
Getting the message out early
With cold weather ahead this tweet to ask people to look after each other was well recieved.
— My Nottingham (@MyNottingham) December 9, 2017
Thanks to Viki Harris, Andrew Napier, Liz Grieve, Kelly Thompson, Paul Johnston and Dawn McGuigan.
30 days of human comms #29 Kirklees Council’s GIF to remind people that gritter drivers are human tooPosted: December 10, 2017
There’s an easy target when the snow falls. It’s the council’s fault that the roads were not gritted fast enough, thickly enough or enough times.
On the very pointy part of the sharp end are the gritter drivers who have to be up and out.
This tweet and GIF from Kirklees Council is a reminder that those at the wheel are human too:
Please spare a thought for our gritter drivers, 4am alarm call, sneaking out the house without waking the family, driving to the depot to get the gritters, filling them with grit and driving a laden HGV in bad weather on the 5am run – while most people are tucked up warm in bed. pic.twitter.com/RXe9dleRDq
— Kirklees Winter (@KirkleesWinter) December 9, 2017
So far in the round-up of human comms we’ve looked at digital content that the organisation has shaped itself. But it doesn’t have to be digital to be human.
More than 20 people were killed in the Manchester Arena bomb earlier this year.
Manchester as a city rallied and there was an outpouring of pride and determination.
Leading all that was the public sector across the city with police, paramedics, hospital staff, fire and the Mayor’s office.
In the very front line in all this were the paramedics and the hospital staff.
In the weeks after the bombing, the Press attention turned from the immediate impact to the stories of survival and recovery. Requests for interviews were made. But not all requests for granted.
Careful handling by Salford Royal hospital’s comms team led to a set of interviews and pictures with the local newspaper the Manchester Evening News. You can see the full story here.
Human comms is not just what you create but also what the Press can create with you.
Be more human. Like the A&S staff of Salford Royal.
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.
There was a curry house when I worked as a reporter who used to ring up every week to try and get into the paper.
This ranged from the actually newsy, like fundraising for Children in Need, to the not quite so, like we have a food hygiene certificate. Back then everyone used to have them. But then came the one to five start ratings for hygiene. They became something to shout about.
One council in the South West has thought-up a new way to shout about these certificates. Send out the environmental health officer to sing a Christmas carol with them.
Our Public Protection Team has been out checking food hygiene standards on the first day of @BathXmasMarket.
Look who’s on song with a festive 5 out of 5, @AngelfishCafe.👍🎶@VisitBath pic.twitter.com/GYILQLeSBt
— B&NES Council (@bathnes) November 23, 2017
So, on the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me a certificate with five stars on it.
A daft but effective way of celebrating a top score on what can be an important yet routine piece of legislation. Good work Dan Cattanach.
We’ve all been there… what do you by the PR and comms person for Christmas? Or birthday? Or as a leaving present?
Here are a few ideas that could help solve your present buying dilemma. Secret Santa? Something substantial? There are a pile of ideas that could help you. A big shout to the members of the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group for their input. Full credits at the bottom of the post.
Less than £5
STATIONERY: This meeting should have been an email pen. Buy it here.
BOOK: Tubesperation. Using the London Underground to come up with creative idea.
TECH GEAR: A handy tool to help you film or take pictures with your smartphone.
SOFT FURNISHINGS: Typewriter cushion. For helping you bang your head against in safety.
BOOK: Fucking Apostrophes book. For the grammar geek in your life.
HEALTH: Stress Paul. Your handy person to squash if you need to vent spleen.
BOOK: Anarchists in the Boadroom by Liam Barrington-Bush. For when you want to think creatively on how to connect and how to understand networks.
STATIONERY: Moleskine ruled notebook. For those creative ideas.
BOOK: Potty, Fartwell & Knob. True names that will take your mind off that comms plan or logo competition for children request.
STATIONERY: Creative post-it notes.
MUG: Grammar grumbles mugs. For the grammar nazi in your life. Buy it here.
CREATIVE: Artefact cards. Cards to help you comms plan and think creatively. Buy them here.
BOOK: Inside the Nudge Unit. An account of life in the unit that has changed how organisations look to engage with people.
TEA: Calm the fukc down tea. Herbal tea. Buy them here.
MUG: : First I drink the coffee then I do things. Buy it here.
BOOK: Think Small. A book to help you achieve goals.
OFFICE: Icon cable ties. Tidy up all those leads and cables.
More than £20
CALENDAR: Comms cartoon calendar by Helen Reynolds. Buy it here.
T-SHIRT: Being a Communications Manager is Easy. It’s like riding a bike. Only the bike is on fire and you’re in hell. Buy it here.
TECH GADGET: A smartphone projector. For when you want to watch the youtube clip with a bigger audience.
DRINK: Bombay Saphire Gin gift pack. Because people from the South Coast seem to quite like gin.
CAFFEINE: Stove-top espresso maker. Start your day with a jolt.
Big shout for ideas and inspiration to Eddie Coates-Madden, Sally Northeast, Vanessa Andrews, Penny Allison, Phil Hodgson, Hayley Douglas, Paul Compton, Jane Slavin, Sara Hamilton, Rachel King, Lisa Potter, Shevaughan Tolbutt, James Allen, Clare Parker, Nicole Crosby-McKenna, Louise Powney, Sian Williams, Emma Wild, Ruth Fry, Paul Coxon, Heather Heaton-Gallagher, Georgia Turner, Ian Mountford, David Bell, Vanessa Andrews, Jude Tidder and members of the Public Sector Headspace Facebook group.
Picture credit: David Mulder / Flickr