DIGITAL DAY: 12 things to make your #ourday or #housingday go well

snippoSo, there we were 10 minutes before 6am at the start of #walsall24 and still not sure if it would work.

What was this? We were using Twitter to tell people a snapshot of all the things our council did in real-time over the course of 24-hours from a pothole on the A41 to a Zumba class. Nothing would be too small.

We’d got some content lined-up. Lists of scheduled work from road engineers, leisure centre programmes and had someone stationed in the social care contact centre in the small hours.

Would it work? We checked our first potential tweet and knew that it would… it was environmental health officers investigating a noisy cockerel in a built-up area. Wow. I didn’t know we did that.

From there, we took part in the first Local Government Association #ourday and hosted the first discussion of a #housingday for housing.

We’ve learned things since and from this experience here’s 12 things to help shape your day.

Routine is interesting. From the jet pilot to the parking officer, everyone thinks their job is boring and no interest to anyone else. It always fascinates other people. Find the routine and share that.

Realtime is interesting. One of the strengths of Twitter is the realtime aspect of things whether they be football results or road closures. Tell people as you do it.

Pictures work and video works better. Words of text don’t leap off the screen like an image or footage. You have a smartphone in your pocket. Use it.

Share the sweets. Let other people from across the organisation tell their stories in realtime.

Tell stories. The boiler being installed in Brown Street, Oxdown is great. The boiler being installed for Jessie Timmins who has two children aged five and nine is greater.

Get people to do something. Stories of what librarians are doing are fine. Asking people to sign-up to join the library or to take out a book is better.

Shout wider… the world is not on Twitter. So embed the content on your website, use something like storify to capture your tweets  and embed it on the relevant webpage.

Shout wider… and use other platforms. There’s this amazing website called Facebook that’s doing quite well. Whats App or Snapchat too. Experiment. Don’t stand still.

Shout wider… internally. By screenshot, email, poster or telephone call. The telling of the story shouldn’t be limited to just online. Take it offline too.

Best content comes from outside the office. Encourage those people who are out and about to use social media and in places where they don’t or wouldn’t shadow them for a while. If the street cleaner clears up rubbish in an empty street at 6.12am… does she?

Use the main account as Match of the Day highlights… and use others. This is where the wider network of linked social accounts works. Let the library talk on the library, the repairs team on theirs. Use the central one to collate and share.

Build a community from it. Update your A-Z list of council accounts.  Bring the people connected to them together. What worked well? What didn’t work well? Meet in a café at 4pm where they serve coffee and cake. Do it regularly.

We Need to Reboot Twitter Events

3887881562_265de98f19_zI’ve been thinking for a while that 24-hour Twitter events have driven up a bit of a cul-de-sac.

You know the sort of thing. An organisation tweets what it is doing for 24-hours and shines a light on unsung heroes. You learn things you didn’t know and then the timeline moves on.

Back in 2011, I was part of an award-winning team at Walsall Council that ran this first one in local government called #walsall24. We encouraged teams from across the council from 6am to join in. There was a countryside ranger talking about what she was doing, scheduled road repairs and events at libraries.

We created a wall of noise and we didn’t even bother to tell the local papers. We just did it. It was the first time it felt like we siezed the channels off production and just did ikt ourselves. I’m still hugely proud of that.

We wanted #walsall24 to be like an Atari ZX81 game. Amazing at the time but quickly outdated. A social Pong, in other words. Pong being the basic computer tennis game with two lines anfd a ball. I’d been thinking just lately that this model hadn’t moved on all that much.

Answering the ‘So what?’ question

The big question that any such event should face is ‘So what?’

In other words, you did all this, but what has changed?

Ideally, what did people do that made a difference? Maybe even how this saved money.

Two impressive grassroots campaigns

Two things just recently have impressed me. Firstly, the #Iminworkjeremy hashtag. Something which evolved ad hoc without organising. This was prompted by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s comments that consultants don’t work at weekends. So, working consultants tweeted pictures of themselves working. It was Twitter at its best.

The obvious ‘so what?’ of that is to challenge a statement and to reach out to others who are in the same boat.

The second thing that impressed was the Remember Srebrenica campaign in the UK which has strives to ask people to remember the genocide of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys murdered by Serbs in the bloody Balkans civil war. It was a simple ask. Pledge that you’ll remember them and an online and offline campaign co-incided beautifully.

NHS and commscamp

Several weeks back Amanda Nash pitched a great session at commscamp where she crowdsourced ideas for an NHS-wide event. She and others will make a success of it whatever they do. They’ll find solutions and make it fly.

The session spoke of the need to let people inside and outside the NHS join in. It also mentioned that sometimes they may need to shadow staff to give a flavour of what they are doing.

But I wonder, is there an NHS thing that can galvanise people, bring people together and make an appreciable difference?

Is there a pledge? A call to action? A promise? Something that answers the ‘so what?’ question?

But at the same time, keep it simple.

That’s for those doing it to work out and for the people behind houjsing day and any social event.

Answer the ‘so what’ question and you can move mountains.

CAMPAIGN JUSTICE: What Journalism 2.0 Looks Like and What You Can Learn

(5) Birmingham Mail - Google Chrome 21112014 110418It was around 2010 and as depressing conversations with a reporter go this one took quite some beating.

I was in local government communications and we had started to post gritting updates in real time on Twitter. We were talking with our residents directly without going through the Priesthood of journalists.

“The thing is,” the reporter said, “When you post your updates to Twitter, newsdesk want you to give us a call as well, so we know.”

I declined. I pointed out that they needed to be on Twitter themselves. I shook my head in despair.


I started in newspapers in the early 1990s and spent 12 years as a journalist. I still love them despite themselves and despite a further eight years in a local government communications team.

There was a time when I despaired of local newspapers utterly. Declining newsrooms, re-locating to ‘hubs’ far away and shedding staff still make me shake my head.

But just recently, I’ve had cause to think that maybe the penny is dropping and that newspapers really can use the social web and create journalism that will be relevant to the channels of the future.

Telling a story with the web

Making brilliant use of the web are the Evening Mail in Birmingham. They are telling the story of the Birmingham pub bombings which killed 21 people 40 years ago today. They are doing so with imagination and passion. The incident remains an unhealed wound in the city. Nobody has been brought to justice for it. Six people were imprisoned wrongly.

They are using thunderclap to gather support for the case to be re-opened. You sign-up using a social channel and agree to share a message.

For audio, they recreated the IRA telephone call to the Evening Mail offices which came minutes before the explosion.

Birmingham pub bombings We name the man who masterminded the atrocity - Birmingham Mail - Google Chrome 21112014 102057

For images, they created a gallery of news images from the time from their archive.

On Twitter, they used the hashtag #justiceforthe21 and #BirminghamPubBombings to promote the call to bring people to justice.

On the web, the posted the news story in which they name the man, now dead, they allege is responsible for the attack.

On Facebook, they shared content and drew scores of responses.

Also on the web, they hosted as as if real time recreation of the 24-hours leading up to the incident. Anecdotes and snaps of life from those who were living their last day. It is a docudrama told in realtime and you can see it here.   

Birmingham pub bombings Minute by minute - 24 hours that changed our city forever - Birmingham Mail - Google Chrome 21112014 103025

This is what future journalism looks like. Story telling on a range of platforms. It’s sharable and commentable and has a purpose. But above all it is human. I just can’t tell you how much I like this.

They still make me shake my head do newspapers. The public subsidy they get through the government insisting local government pay them for print small ads for public notices at a time of 85 per cent internet connectivity is plain wrong.

But the Evening Mail have shown peerlessly how to tell powerful stories on the web. This really does tower over anything else I’ve seen in the 21 years I’ve been involved with local journalism. Sincere congratulations to them. Buy shoe polish and make sure your suits are pressed. You’ll need them for the awards.

Brilliant work and the lessons to take

This is brilliant work. Genuinely brilliant. This is using the social web to tell a very human story. It’s powerful. It’s moving. But it has a sense of purpose. The purpose is to mobilise public support for a specific aim. It is is to press for justice.

Yet there are lessons here for the public sector where I now work. Just recently the #housingday initiative saw a 24-hour campaign which saw housing people talk about the jobs they do and the people they serve. Very soon #ourday will do a similar task for local government. I’m an advocate for them. They tell hundreds of stories that tell a bigger story. They empower people. They connect people too.

But wouldn’t it be something if that wall of noise was made easier to follow with a live blog? And wouldn’t it be something if there was one single call to action, whatever that was? What is the biggest issue facing housing? Or local government?

What would that campaign be?

Wouldn’t it be something if that energy was pointed at something?

SOCIAL CONTENT: Are You Getting the Balance Right?


Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for comms planning and having a purpose.

If the aim is to do something then it makes sense to have your comms pointing at that.

The only thing is that social media isn’t like that. It’s social. So, a stream of call-to-action updates just won’t work. It’s as social as a stream of flyers being pushed through your letterbox.

So, what’s the answer?

There needs to be a balance of the social and the stuff you want people to sign up for, buy or do.

Often in training I’ll refer to an 80-20 split. The 80 per cent is conversational and engaging content. The 20 per cent is the things you’d like people to do.

In a fascinating interview on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Bottom Line’ Asda’s social manager puts the balance at 10 to 1.

Dominic Birch, Asda senior director of marketing, innovation and new revenue, said that the social media team has now become part of the wider PR team.

“We didn’t have a budget. So it wasn’t the case of advertising that we were on Facebook. Each time we posted some content we had to rely on even a very small number of people at first liking it for that content to be seen my anyone else otherwise we would be speaking to ourselves.

“We averaged two or three posts a day, every day, so maybe 20 posts a week.

It started to get interesting when they started to get customers to chip in with decisions. Nothing big. Customers chose the design for Christmas tea towels.

“What was really interesting was that 4,500 people went to the bother of asking whether they liked design ‘a’, ‘b’ or ‘c’. Actually, it was that moment that with 18 million customers we understood that if you connect to the right ones they really do care about what you do, what they say and why wouldn’t they? Ultimately, they’re going to come into your shop and choose to buy it.”

Big numbers is not the answer as fewer people see the posts. If the people who like your page are true customers it’ll cost you less effectively to reach them through Facebook ads.

“There is a danger that social media becomes diarrhea. We had a rule of thumb that for every post we wanted to push or sell something to be very blunt about it we had to put 10 other posts in the bank. They are there solely to engage our customers. We have to have done hard work  talking about what the customers wanted to talk about before we have the right or licence to push something out.

“It’s a two-way dialogue social media. It just is. Our starting point is not to sell. It’s to listen. A few years ago we had a Christmas ad that was based on insight that it was Mum who does the heavy lifting, organises the present, gets the tree, cooks the meal and we depicted this advert and were met with a media backlash. Some people thought this was filmed in the 1950s and Fathers for Justice were going to do protests in the turkey aisle but we had three or four thousand comments saying things like ‘I nudged my husband awake when that came on the TV and said:L ‘that’s how it really feels.’ If you’d have gone back two or three years there would have been a high level meeting and the advert would have been pulled.”

That’s useful insight. Are you getting the balance right?


Creative commons credit



DIGITAL CLASH: Comms and Social: Have we won the War?

272900992_18af4400c3_oA few things have crossed my timeline of late that reminds me that comms and social for all their outward signs are struggling to fit.

Sure, there are still dinosaurs. But they’re dying out and have lost the battle so let’s not bother with them.

Ignorance is being replaced with the realisation that social media can’t be ignored by comms and PR people. Great.

But have we truly won the war? I’m not at all convinced we have.

There is a mindset that sees digital as a one way tick box exercise that exists only to generate likes or calls to action. In other words, it’s an extension of what traditional comms has always tried to be.

I absolutely get the need for comms teams to demonstrate worth. You sit down with the organisation, you listen to how you need to recruit 10 more carers to save £100k. Then you communicate to the right people at the right time in the right place. You record the new carers. Then you report back what you did.

I get that in spades.

I also get enthusiastically the idea that comms is not the size of the audience but what that audience has done as a result of what you’ve done.

I can also get the need to base comms on evidence and business cases to cut out the pointless vanity comms. You know the sort. The sort that needs this doing because we’ve always done it because the Director likes it.

I get that too.

I also get much of Rachel Moss’s post on not slavishly sticking to digital and doing traditional things too. If a poster works, use a poster. There is no earthly point, I’m guessing, for a LinkedIn group aimed at under fives.

I don’t think that comms people have fully realised what social is. It is not driven by likes, sign-ups and results. It is driven by conversation, sharing and stories. The return on investment comes as a spin-off and is all the more powerful for that.

Think of it in postal terms. It’s the difference between junk mail asking you to buy, buy, buy and the handwritten postcard addressed to you on your door mat.

I think of the police officer I spoke to early in my career who was one of the first to embrace Twitter. A senior officer he had a face that looked as though it had been in a few scraps in its time. I would not argue with that face if he asked me to move my car.

He used Twitter, the policeman told me, in exactly the same way as he would use conversation as if he walked down a parade of shops on his beat. He’d say good morning. He’d pass the time of day. He’d share a joke. He’d then ask someone once the ice was broken to remember to shut their windows when they went out in warm weather. Simple. And human.

The real return on investment for that officer comes in an emergency where there is a pre-built network of people willing to share their message.

Police officers get that you need to be human on the social web to be listened to. I’m not sure if comms people look at .

I think of the brands who tried to ‘leverage’ their audience with 9/11 tweets. I think of Pete Ashton one of the first people in Birmingham to use this thing called Twitter and work out what the social web was all about. I think of the chat I had with him on how he had consciously divorced himself from the growing social as numbers professionalisation of social media.

I think of the Best by WM survey that shows that digital comms in the West Midlands social has stalled at Twitter and Facebook and the new channels are not being explored.

It all points to this as a conclusion: social media and digital communications is one set of tools in the mix.

Use them if you think they’ll work but don’t be a channel fascist.

Share, inform, entertain and engage.

Be timely.

Measure if you like. But don’t let the tape measure drive you.

Explore with it. Experiment. Learn. There is so much wide open space to be experimented with.

Always, always, always be human with it.

If a police officer with a broken nose can get this, why can’t more comms people?

MEDIA DATA: 83 gems you’ll need on the UK media landscape from Ofcomm

3100034818_14fe8f64dd_oFour times a year UK media industry watchdog Ofcom publishes a report on the media landscape.

Packed full of insight it is that rare thing of a free report that will help you if you work even just a little bit in digital communications.

It’s also a document that we often keen going back to so this time around we thought we’d fillet it and, because we love you, we thought we’d publish it in bite-sized chunks so it can help you too.

Much attention has been focussed on the fact that adults spend more time engaged with the media – eight hours 41 minutes – than they sleep which accounts fr eight hours 21 minutes.

More hidden in the report is the conclusion that the differing types of communicatin is leading to a generation gap. Where once post and the telephone was universal now young people only send a letter when they absolutely have to while the habit remains with older people.

The figures cover the first quarter of 2014.

An average day for a UK adult aged 16+ (selected)

2’58” watching live TV

1’19” listening to the radio.

0’47” email

0’40” recorded TV

0’36” websites or apps

0’29” phone calls

0’25” social media

0’15” newspapers (print or news website)

0’04” online news but not a news site

0’03” magazines

0’02” photo or video messaging


Popular UK social media sites

40.0 million YouTube

35.1 million Facebook

11.9 million Twitter

11.3 million LinkedIn

8.8 million Google Plus

0.9 million MySpace

0.4 million Friends Reunited

eBay overtook Amazon as the most popular retail site with 27.3 million users


Social media use by adults

2009 – 30 per cent

2010 – 40 per cent

2011 – 46 per cent

2012 – 50 per cent

2013 – 53 per cent

2014 – 54 per cent


News consumption

Television 75 per cent

Internet 41 per cent

Newspapers 40 per cent

Radio 36 per cent


General stats

Adults spend more time – eight hours 41 minutes – engaged with the media than time spent sleeping (eight hours 21 minutes.)

We are getting used to following two things at once. We may watch television and use the internet at the same time as 11 hours seven minutes worth f media is consumed in that eight hours 41 minutes.

We watch two hours 58 minutes of TV a day.

There are 83.1 mobile phones in the UK.

8 hours a month is spent on Facebook

Mail has fallen 5 per cent in 12-months

20 per cent of adults didn’t get an item of post in the last week.

77 per cent of all UK households have broadband.

79 per cent of homes have a PC or a laptop.

61 per cent of all adults own a smartphone.

57 per cent of all adults use their mobile phone to access the internet.

44 per cent of all UK households have a tablet.

60 per cent of adults say that technology confuses them.

49 per cent say technology isn’t making a difference to their lives either way.

24 per cent say technology is harming their lives.

16 per cent live in a mobile phone-only home.

Radio remains popular but is falling from 24.3 to 21.5 hours a week.

71 per cent of audio activity is radio.

2 per cent have used 3D printers.

82 per cent of households have an internet connection.

66 per cent say that they rely on the post.



46 per cent say they email fr work purposes out-of-hours.

23 per cent say they email about work while they are on holiday.

80 per cent say flexible working makes it hard to switch off.

51 minutes a day is social media use.

37 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on watching TV.

2 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on print media.

16 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on text.

94 per cent watch live TV.

77 per cent use email.

71 per cent send SMS messages.

18 per cent of their time spent with the media is spent on social media.

41 per cent of adults use the internet to consume news.


Adults over 65

50 per cent overall have internet access at home.

66 per cent of adults 65 to 74 have internet access.

6 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on print media.

49 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on watching TV.

7 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on text.

19 per cent play games on social media – the highest of any age group.


Young people aged 16-24-years-old

74 per cent use a social network.

4 and a half hours is the time they spend on media activity every day

If they use it they’ll spend one-and-a-half hours using social media a day.

They are watching less TV a day than they did. This has fallen to 148 minutes a day from 154

60 per cent get their news online – three times the amount of other adults.

1 per cent of their time spent using media is spent on print media.

24 per cent of their time spent using media is spent watching TV or films.

23 per cent of time spent using media is spent using text.


Young people aged 12-15

30 per cent are likely to use print media – half the adult average.

36 per cent of their media time is spent on social media – double the rate of adults.


Young people aged 6-15-years-old

60 per cent use a tablet.

75 per cent say they wouldn’t know what to do without technology.

70 per cent say they tell friends and family about new technology.

18 per cent use Snapchat.


Young people aged six-11-years-old

26 per cent of their time using the media is spent using social media.


Television stats

Digital TV take-up has risen from 84 per cent in 2008 to 95 per cent.

Smart TVs – web enabled TVs – have risen by five per centage points to 12 per cent in 12-months.

Smart TVs account for 45 per cent of TVs sold in the UK.

Picture credit

TV set 


AUTHENTIC: How to do frontline social media: Morgan Bowers (a podcast, a video and a blog)

With social media dedicated frontline people can brilliantly provide a human face to champion the work an organisation is doing.

Morgan Bowers, Walsall Council’s senior countryside ranger, is a pioneer of this approach and has worked to innovate around how people outside the comms team in the public sector can do to really connect with people.

Seeing what she does blows away any institutional objections that comms people may have to opening up the gate to allow people outside comms to use social media. She connects using Twitter, Facebook, Scribd and a range of platforms not because they are there but because they serve a useful purpose.

Morgan is what happens when you open up social media use at an organisation to allow people to use social tools not as a one-off project but every day.

For my own part, I’m hugely proud of Morgan because I helped shape the open door access for frontline staff when I was at Walsall Council. In short, this was an appproach which saw people invited to come forward with ideas on how they could use social media. If their manager was fine and they were willing to have a chat we let people get going. One thing we did make sure of was that we got people to undergo some basic training for a couple of hours wiith a reminder that the code of conduct still applied online as it does offline. We also had six golden rules based around common sense that we asked people to abide by. Then we let them get on with it and were at the end of a phone if they needed help.

I’ve lost count of the number off times during training I’ve pointed to what Morgan is doing.

So, it was great to catch-up with her sat on a log in the middle of Merrion’s Wood surrounded with birdsong to chat to her to create a Soundcloud podcast you can hear here:


Morgan started the @walsallwildlife Twitter account in March 2011 which has grown to 1,700 followers. She looks to update every working day and finds that pictures work well. This may be a newt survey or volunteers repairing a fence. She’ll look to respond to people and will try and answer when people have a question. For events, the real time element of Twitter works really well as well as joining in wider discussions.


With more than 300-people added to her email list people who aren’t on social media can still keep in contact. If you come to a session you can get added to the mailing list to get updates on events being staged by the Walsall Council countryside services team.


For Morgan, the people liking  her page are more from Walsall than further afield. Why? Maybe this is because Walsall people sign-up for it and when they comment thekir friends comment when they see them commenting or sharing an image. It becomes self-fulfilling but people are less inclined to click on a link to navigate away on Facebook than they are with Twitter. But they are more likely to share an image and ask what that particular plant or animal is.


Pictures are taken by Morgan at events and while she is out and about and then posted to her own Flickr stream as a record of where and what things have been done.It builds up a useful image library not just of the places Morgan looks after but provides sharable content that can drive traffic.


In the old days there used to be a telephone number and an answering machine and an email address too. Now, the eventbrite platforms allows Morgan to issue tickets for events for free.


Being passionate about wildlife Morgan was keen to get information out about the bee populations in Walsall and how people could help. She created a download which was titled very ambitiously The Bees of Walsall: Volume One. It got 2,000 downloads in a short space of time. If a niche subject like bees and Walsall can achieve wuite a lot in a short space of time just imagine what will happen with a more mainstream subject that people are really, really keen to hear.


Morgan has recorded audio trails around places like Merrions Wood in Walsall where she can record short sound clips. She makes QR codes on laminated paper cheaply and then puts them up across the wood so people with smartphones can directly access the clip. The beauty is that it is cheap to do.

What’s the downside?

Is it all good? Are there times when there is a chalk mark in the downside column? Absolutely. ForMorgan, the grey area between work and life can be a problem. She has her own Twitter account where she can talk about other things on days off. But she does often respond when someone on Friday night asks what to do with a baby bird.

So, what’s Morgan‘s return on investment?

For Morgan, the drive for using social media is not to do it for the sake of it but to connect with people. Still do the traditional commss like the press release to reach some people but overwhelmingly the web of Twitter, Facebook and email can be the way that Morgan sells out her activities and sessions which is an important way that she can quantify how effective her and her department is.

The Meteorwatch events that draws people to Walsall venues to help observe meteor showers has gone from attracting just 20 people to brining along up to 3,000 people which is a staggering figure.

A short clip of Morgan talking about her work

Morgan Bowers talks about how she uses social media as a senior countryside ranger out and about. from comms2point0 on Vimeo.


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