NATURAL COMMS: Being human is an outside-of-London thing and what I’ve learned after 51 days blogging human comms


Back in 1999, when a mere 200 million people were using the internet some big thinkers gathered on a web forum.

They debated about what the internet would look like and came up with a list of 99-points they called the Cluetrain Manifesto. It’s an amazing document. It predicts the future of the social web.

The third of the manifesto’s 99 points is that the social web will work best through conversation. And those conversations will sound human.

Why your organisation needs to have a human voice

So often, when I’m helping organisations use the web better to communicate I hear frustration that their social channels aren’t working. Almost always, the fault lies in a lack of human voice in what they post.

A good social channel should look, feel and be human.

If you do this 80 per cent of the time it earns you the right 20 per cent of the time to make a call to action.

Break this balance on the web and you come across like a pizza delivery company stuffing pizza menus through people’s front doors.

Why I’ve gathered a list of human comms

Gradually, its something that bright people in organisations have woken up to but as I’m training I’m struck by the struggle some people have. So, I decided to gather together examples of organisations sounding human.

What I learned

Starting a while back I thought I’d find a handful of examples and leave it there. Instead, I found a trend for people in organisations to want to sound more human. When I stopped and thought about it, the answer is obvious. Why would they not?

Being human isn’t a London thing

One thing that struck me in the examples that bubbled to the surface was the wide variety of places  that were experimenting with an approachable tone. But one thing shone through. Very few were in London or were large corporate accounts.

It is the police officer on the frontline, the Mayor or the member of the public who loves something that the organisation does. In the argument for devolved accounts, the ability to be human and connect is important.

Being human needs common sense

The farewell tweet from the railway company or the Mayor who books a cinema seat and asks others to join in with an Abba sing-a-long has something in common. Being human is good. But knowing when to be that informal is just as important. Announcing the death of the Mayor needs to be done with common sense not a row of sad faced GIFs.

Being human leads to rewards

I get absolutely that comms people need to evaluate what they do and make an appreciable change to the organisations. The blood donations, the foster parents, the library users need to increase. It’s what finance listen to. So they should. But the 80 per cent human content earns you the right to do all that.

It’s not messing about on the internet. It’s a hard-headed data-driven approach to using the web in 2018.

Day 1: Dudley Council’s spoiled tea sign.

Day 2: Jake the 5-year-old sweeper driver.

Day 3: Place marketing Finnish style.

Day 4: Edinburgh City Council’s out-of-hours Twitter.

Day 5: Virgin Trains new poster.

Day 6: Sydney Ferries name their new boat Boaty McBoatface.

Day 7: The basketball playing officver from Gainsville, USA.

Day 8: Hampshire fire crew rescue a bench in a church fire.

Day 9: The BBC respond to The Sun.

Day 10: Doncaster Council’s gritter World Cup.

Day 11: Remembering the Kings Cross Fire by London Fire Brigade.

Day 12: North West Ambulance Service’s response to a man abusing a paramedic.

Day 13: Sandwell Council as car share for #ourday.

Day 14: Burger King tackle the bullies.

Day 15: Sefton Council’s message about women.

Day 16: Queensland Ambulance Service take a dying patient to see the ocean one last time.

Day 17: Thames Valley Police’s drugs find.

Day 18: The busking West Midlands Police officer.

Day 19: Bath and North East Somerset Council’s singing food hygiene certificates.

Day 20: A Welsh hardware shop’s Christmas advert.

Day 21: A missing dog pic from the New Forest.

Day 22: Cardiff City Council’s GIF traffic warning.

Day 23: The human railway manager on the tannoy.

Day 24: Dorset Police’s Christmas song.

Day 25: The Yorkshire Motorway Police officer and his wife.

Day 26 The @FarmersoftheUK Twitter account.

Day 27 Lochaber and Skye Police talk to someone who may be a victim of domestic violence.

Day 28 A newspaper interview with medics who treated Manchester Arena bomb victims.

Day 29 Kirklees Council use a GIF to remind people their drivers are human, too.

Day 30 London Midland Railways signs off.

Day 31 Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust respond tp an earnest research about Peppa Pig.

Day 32 Essex County Council respond to snark on Facebook.

Day 33 Dorset Police respond to snark on Facebook.

Day 35 Visit Wakefield or your man will leave you.

Day 36 A gang of geese in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire and the police who tackled them.

Day 37 KFC parodies Donald Trump

Day 38 Hampshire Police tweet a video to encourage girls to be cadets.

Day 39 The stylish Merseyside police dog’s hair and his proud owner.

Day 40 The Mansfield Police officer playing the piano in the home of the victim of crime.

Day 41 Lidl Ireland ask how your weekend was after they had a weekend from hell

Day 42 Customer service at New Street station in Birmingham

Day 43 A Down’s Syndrome video that uses a chart hit to tell a story

Day 44 Gateshead Council shoots down an urban myth about street lamps.

Day 45 The University of Reading call out racism against immigrants.

Day 46 Anti-littering posters in Bray in the Republic of Ireland.

Day 47 The Mayor of Sheffield turns a cinema into a party

Day 48 Hertfordshire County Council’s tweet acknowledging the horror of rush hour.

Day 49 Barnsley Football Club write a letter to a fan who they saw on social media was having a hard time of it.

Day 50 Newcastle City Council celebrate ‘A’ level results with students on Facebook Live.

Day 51 Devon and Cornwall Police use a picture from the film Hot Fuzz




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