Sweet Jehovah, a council in Scotland have done one of the most magnificent things I’ve seen in a long time.
If you missed it, Glasgow City Council announced that anti-vaxxers will be denied access to the council’s social media pages during the pandemic.
Why have they done this?
Because they see we’ve reached a critical point in the pandemic. An inoculation is near to deployment and we need people to be inoculated.
That quite simply is the path forward.
What’s standing in the way are people who believe a dangerous rainbow of falsehoods. That COVID-19 is a hoax, victims are acting, that it’s just flu, the figures are being gamed and it’s all a ruse by Big Pharma, Big Government and the Deep State to control what we are doing.
It is utter bollocks.
Not only is it utter bollocks but its utter bollocks that is killing people.
So, the minimum that the public sector can do is follow Glasgow City Council’s lead and be zero tolerance for misinformation that will harm people.
But as much as I love Glasgow’s stance, nine per cent of the city’s population like their city council’s page.
Sure, the UK Government as well as devolved Governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales can drive an information campaign to explain with crystal clarity the procedures taken to test the safety of the vaccine. It can even run something against aniti-vaxxers. It could even pressure social media channels to take down accounts which promote such misinformation.
But that doesn’t fill al l the holes in the bucket.
Here’s a hole that needs filling: news sites’ comments
On the first COVID-19 story on the Glasgow Herald’s Facebook page there is someone scoffing at the idea that the virus is a problem.
Elsewhere, newspapers are looking to the pandemic for clicks. Masks, inoculations, victims. They’re all up for grabs. Let’s say the newspaper’s intetntions are honorable.
The comments sections on Facebook are not.
Balanced debate is stiffed by rancid comments.
Victims are mocked. Sufferers are pilloried. Anyone who disagrees are ‘Sheeple’. It is a filth that does the name of journalism no good.
Worse than that, it will kill.
The biggest hole that needs filling is with newspapers and their failure to police their online comments.
I get why their reporters may be not be entering into their pages with enthusiasm. There’s fewer of them. Comments are 24/7. Reporters can have a hard time from trolls online. It’s a cess pit. But in this life and death struggle newspaper executives need to act.
I’ve been meaning to blog about the Black Country Living Museum’s breathtakingly good use of TikTok for a while but this video took the biscuit.
Reassuring, kind and warm the shot is of an older man in traditional costume warming his hand next to a roaring range.
He’s the kind of person you’ll see if you go to the living history museum in Dudley that’s a few miles from my house.
He greets you, tells you not to keep scrolling but wait a minute. It’s fine, he says, to feel sad ‘tek it one day at a time’.
He rounds off…
“Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’ll be okay in the end. And if it ay? It ay the end is it?”
Black Country Museum, TikTok
And it’s beautiful because its a warm piece of advice delivered by someone old enough to be most people’s grandpa.
I’ve banged on for years about how there’s a need to use the Paretto principle in social media content. It’s the 80 and the 20. It’s 80 per cent warm, human content and 20 per cent calls to action. We hate the idea we’re being sold to but we put up with being sold to every now and then if there’s something to entertain us. Like the best social content, this connects on an emotional level.
Historians will look back in years to come and wonder what the fuss was about, no doubt.
It’ll be hard for them to understand the attritional toll of living in the shadow of an invisible virus that has killed 50,000 people. Seven months in, people feel frayed.
What they absolutely need is someone in a Black Country accent who looks like someone’s grandpa take 56 seconds to tell them everything is going to be alright.
It’s beautiful because it’s in dialect but not too much so people can’t understand.
In numbers, the video has been seen 345,000 times and the 32 videos posted to TikTok have attracted 205,000 followers. At a time when museums need innovative ways to stay in the public eye TikTok is proving to be a hard-headed human strategy.
You can see the original here. You can see the Black Country Living Museum’s website here.
I’ve taken another look at how COVID-19 is playing out on Facebookthings have changed.
At the start of the pandemic, the emergency was wall-to-wall as people shared advice, clapped the NHS and volunteered to help.
Seven months on on Facebook we’ve become bored of the topic. It’s an infrequent subject in groups and even public sector pages have scaled back their content.
I’ve mapped the last 10 pieces of content from 22 Facebook groups in the Black Country as well as the last 10 posts from NHS and council in the four Black Country boroughs of Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Dudley and Walsall.
Here’s what I found.
Groups: COVID-19 content is the minority
It appears as though people have had enough of reading, watching or hearing about COVID-19. Facebook groups have tired of the subject after seven months.
That’s hardly a surprise.
This can only mean that communicators need to be more creative as they shape their response.
Groups: news content continues to outscore the public sector
What’s still striking is that COVID-19 links and images from traditional news websites continues to outrank public sector content.
This again chimes with national data which shows less trust on the broad description ‘social media’ but more trust around traditional news.
Here, Reach’s news brands Birmingham Live and Black Country Live outscored the competition with the BBC 3rd and Express & Star a distant fourth.
Again, media relations matters.
But media relations that has an eye on visual digital content.
Groups: No, your content doesn’t necessarily end-up in groups
I’ve heard it said that public sector content always ends up in the groups they serve. That’s inaccurate and lazy.
What the data does underline is the need to roll your sleeves up and place the relevant content you have in the relevant groups. If truly life saving advice isn’t making it into groups then your press release about a library initiative sure as heck isn’t going to feature without you helping it.
Local content works: share the local data
On a positive note, content which maps COVID-19 hotspots in an area is connecting with people. If it paints a picture of the community they live in people will connect.
Or in other words, local content for local people.
Groups: Conspiracy theories crop up in comments
What does shine through is that people in groups are not STARTING conversations directly with a conspiracy theory. However, they ARE questioning the content that is posted which is leading to heated conversations.
Groups: Discussion still starts with content
Just 1.8 per cent of COVID-19 discussions start with someone typing in a text comment. On this subject, people need content to start the discussion. The clear lesson remains for the public sector to be creating sharable informative content but with a local flavour.
Pages: COVID-19 is getting sparser
Of the eight public sector pages, almost half of all content was COVID-19 related. There’s a strong sense of business as usual returning.
Pages: People overall are more likely to share a COVID-19 update
In the study, pandemic content taken overall marginally outgunned non-pandemic posts in the Facebook metrics of reactions, comments and shares. This gives an insight that people are happy to engage with it.
However, the data was boosted by Dudley Council’s innovative firework display to celebrate the work of the NHS which prompted an overwhelmingly positive response from residents.
On average, pandemic posts got 61.1 reactions each compared to 57.6 for non-pandemic with 16.7 comments versus 12.5 and are shared 24.6 against 16.6 for a regular post.
Pages: People will still celebrate frontline workers
Rather than have one large borough bonfire to celebrate Bonfire Night on November 5, Dudley Council instead had six firework displays at secret locations where people could look out from their doorsteps across the borough safely to see the display.
Posts marking the firework celebration of paramedics, doctors and nurses on the Dudley NHS and council pages proved to be the most popular content.
The bonfire – Light Up Dudley – shows that people are still happy to celebrate the work of those working to keep people safe during the pandemic. More than 1,300 liked an NHS post celebrating their staff and the bonfire celebration.
Pages: UK Government content is now a welcome rarity
Just three of the 80 public sector posts logged were from a national campaign. This reflects the lack of cut through from their peak in March. We know hands, space, face. It’s no longer connecting on its own.
Local content for local groups works. It takes longer to do but it works. It’s better to have two well crafted local posts on COVID-19 a week than to repeat a UK Government message on the hour. Translate that national theme into a local voice and keep people updated.
I’ve long had the idea that elections are great learning places for communications people.
It’s where new channels can be experimented with as rival sides jockey for fractions of an inch advantage.
None more than the US elections.
In 2008, Obama’s blended use of on-the-ground activism and email was a compelling formula. In 2016, Trump’s use of Twitter as a hand grenade to blow-up the news agenda was just as compelling.
In 2020? It’s far more complicated.
It’s about conspiracy theories as reality, it’s TikTok’s micro-entertainment explosion and it’s about the push back of the gatekeepers of quality journalism and the push back of social media companies becoming gatekeepers to call out fake news.
As I’ve been researching this blogpost I’ve realised that so much is stuff about the 2020 US election comms is stuff we don’t see or are stopped from seeing.
Let me explain.
The return of journalists as fact checkers
On the day after the election count, Donald Trump took to the White House media briefing room to deliver his view that the election was being stolen by his opponent but gave no evidence. In 2016, this would have been reported as faithfully as a court stenographer verbatim and in full.
In 2020, the 24-hour rolling news ticker gave its own commentary and broadcasters cut away. The aim is not to give voice to lies but to be a gatekeeper to the audience.
While right minded people would no doubt breathe a sigh of relief there’s no question that people at the fringe would see this as stopping a democratic voice. For them, it stokes their radicalisation rather than defeats it.
This would have been unthinkable a few years ago. In 2020, at the top level bullshit is being called out. As someone who has worked in a newsroom and despairs at lies being normalised this can only be a good thing.
The tactic of planting a story in traditional media and letting right wing commentators ruin with it has been busted.
If we’re watching the news we can see this. If we’re not, we could see this as democracy stopped.
The start of social media platforms as fact-checkers
In 2016, the strategic tweet to shape the news agenda was a characteristic of the Trump campaign. In 2020, it was blunted by the social media companies themselves.
So when Trump tweeted an ellegation without evidence, there was disclaimer.
The echo chambers that gave those tweeted lies oxygen have also been diminished by tighter controls on hate speech. The more extreme right wing commentators who were such media voices in 2016, had been driven from the platform by 2020.
I don’t even know where to go with this piece of information.
Or rather, I don’t WANT to go where this piece of information takes me.
If we think that children should be brought up knowing the difference between right and wrong we have an inherent belief that right will prevail. It’s a view reinforced by theatre, drama and soap operas.
Don’t think that people are rational and will see through things.
We don’t always see conspiracy theories if they’re shared by friends or family.
The start of TikTok as a powerful channel
As a fringe TikTok user, I turned to the BBC’s excellent podcast ‘The TikTok Election‘ for the skinny on how this is being used as an election tool.
In the US, 100 million Americans use TikTok and content shapes by users taps into the the algorithm, the programme reports.
When Donald Trump chose to stage his first rally after recovering from COVID-19 in Tulsa a gran on TikTok suggested TikTok users reserve seats to leave him standing alone and a million did.
This was sabotage by ordinary people who had accidentally tapped into TikTok’s algorithm to upend the great and the powerful.
‘Hype houses’ are loose allegiances of fellow-travellers on TikTok who will support fellow travellers. Their aim is to get their content to drop into your newsfeed. Democrats have them and so have the Republicans but they’re shaped by people on the ground rather than the party themselves.
There was a hot take in the BBC TikTok podcast:
TikTok is the rise of micro-entertainment. The most dense content format known to man. It is where you can get the most ‘ooo’s’, ‘ahhs’ and ‘ha-ha’s per second and that makes it completely different than old school social media.
If you think of old social media like stories on Instagram as being biographical, spontaneous social media but TikTok is different. It’s not about you it’s about what you perform for the world. That makes it micro-entertainment which is story-boarded, pre-meditated and there’s a tonne of effort put into each video.
People have become addicted to this form of fast-paced content and other social networks are adapting. It’s also hugely powerful for advertising because with most social media you’re used to scrolling through so quickly and skipping whatever doesn’t seem relevant but with TikTok’s micro-entertainment it unfolds so quickly that you don’t even have a chance to skip them.
TikTok is home to countless niches of content. That means every type of sub-culture, every type of hobby or interest has a place on TikTok. Well, if you made that content for your friends it might only resonate with a few of them. When you put it out to the world, TikTok’s algorithm can find the right people to root it to. That includes political and justice focussed content. That means if you have a different political viewpoint or you don’t care about an issue someone can make you care about that issue with a high quality succinct TikTok.
Josh Constine, head of content at investment company SignalFire.
But you won’t see any of this if you are not on TikTok.
But the media landscape is so fractured, why is anyone surprised that this could be anything but?
Email as a fundraising machine
At the start of the campaign, I sign-up to the Trump and Biden campaigns as I have done for every election since 2008.
More than 90 per cent of emails had a single call to action to ask people for money. No surprise considering the amount of money being spent on campaigning.
Both reflect the tone and flavour of each campaign. So, the day after polling day Trump stokes the idea that the election is under attack.
Whereas, the Biden campaign re-focussed on fundraising with tight subject lines and a clear call to action.
But you won’t see this if you’re not signed-up.
Legal action as a communications tool
As the days drag on from election day conmunications rather than polling or law appear to being used as the weapon.
As this piece in Politico points out, law suits are being taken with little chance of success. Their role is not to triumph in law but to try and intimidate and encourage the repetition of the wards ‘illegal ballot’ in the popular consciousness.
We’re fractured and the answer lies in research and teams
The media landscape whether US or UK is fractured.
The idea of a single billboard turning an election like Saatchi & Saatchi did in 1979 is the stuff of history.
We are more polarised and more extreme and successful political content rides on the waves of the algorithm that rewards this.
People consume things in different ways and at different times. Increasingly, we’re doing this in a way that isn’t public and the US Presidential election shows this to be true.
The skill of a strategic communicator is to understand what the landscape looks like and know the people who will be able to create the engaging content. It’s unlikely that one person has mastery of all of these channels but a well-assembled team can.
As someone who has worked in and around public sector comms one thing is true. Many of the extreme tactics from the 2020 campaign are unethical and can’t be replicated directly by an NHS Facebook page or a council ad campaign. But we all absolutely need to know and understand it.
I see my Facebook timeline filled with comment and debate around the topic and with more than 40 million Facebook users it turns out I’m not alone.
I’ve written before about the importance of seeking out Facebook groups in your community to get your message in front of them. How to get your message into a patchwork of groups where people are is one of the topics I’ll be teaching in my new online learning programme.
But it’s the data, the data, that says this. Not me.
Elsewhere in the survey there is further supporting evidence.
86 per cent recieved emotional support through a Facebook group.
57 per cent gave emotional support.
77 per cent say the most important community group they belong to now operates online.
86 per cent say they plan to participate in groups at the same level or more.
98 per cent say they have a greater sense of belonging through groups.
Of course, its easy to dismiss the survey findings as they were commissioned by Facebook themselves. If they weren’t flattering we probably wouldn’t hear them. But they are and we have.
It’s also wrong to say that groups exist to spread cheer and goodwill. There are good ones and bad ones just as there are good reporters and bad ones. But they are absolutely part of the solution.
The power of the clip comes from the human response of Biden. It was tweeted by former White House photographer Arun Chaudhury in support of Biden but really comes alive online when it was shared by a member of the public.
In an era of cynicism and hate, Corey Hixon the young man in the video shines through with his human reaction to the loss of his Dad.
In the summer, three quarters of public sector comms people felt as though they were working for the common good with a third feeling as though they were a part of history.
Almost half felt as though they worked for an organisation that was valued with the figure rising to 52.7 per cent for NHS comms staff.
Stress and a lack of leadership
Two thirds of public sector comms people felt more stressed in the pandemic with police topping the chart on 71.9 percent and local government on 70.1 per cent.
But communicators also spoke of a lack of leadership from their home government with two fifths overall complaining of a lack of direction.
Breaking down into country, just over half of communicators in England complained of a lack of government leadership compared to just 5.5 per cent in Scotland.
In Northern Ireland, the figure was 18.5 per cent and just nine per cent in Wales.
A tenth said they had trouble working and caring for a loved one and more than a third said they struggled to home school their children.
The local government experience: at the brunt of the abuse
If you work in local government you’ve had a tough summer of pandemic.
General verbal abuse aimed at the council was experienced by 70 per cent of council PR and comms people with 17.4 per cent seeing it daily. More targeted abuse against individuals was seen weekly by 14.2 percent of communicators.
Anecdotally, respondents didn’t feel as though the pandemic had led to an increase in abuse. The pre-COVID-19 baseline just continued but staff were quicker to say ‘thank you’ when something had worked.
Alarmingly, threats of violence were seen by one in ten.
Racist abuse has been experienced by a quarter of local government comms staff.
To balance this, this sector reported the highest sense of working for the common good at 77.2 per cent and at working as part of a team at 54.5 per cent.
The central government experience: the most confidence in home government
Communicators in governments across the UK reported the second lowest stress levels with 54.7 per cent saying stress had increased since the pandemic.
They also reported the lowest rate of complaints on a lack of leadership in home government with 35.7 per cent but were the sector reporting the least resources to do the job at less than 30 per cent.
Verbal abuse was seen by only a third with just 1.1 per cent seeing it daily.
The NHS experience: valued but stressed
NHS communicators have felt the most stressed but have felt the most valued.
Eight out of 10 have felt they were working for the common good and more than half felt valued.
They’ve also seen lower than average abuse with two thirds not reporting any and just 3.3 per cent seeing it daily – a fifth of the public sector average.
NHS communicators have by far the lowest threats of violence against staff with 97.8 per cent not reporting seeing any. Racist abuse in the sector is less frequent compared to other sectors with 89 per cent not seeing any.
But they have the highest rate – 40.6 per cent – of isolation and complain of the worst leadership in their organisation at 19.8 per cent.
The police experience: strong team work in the face of stress and abuse
Police communicators reported the highest levels of stress with 71.2 per cent report feeling more stressed during the pandemic.
Team work in thin blue line comms has been strong with the highest rating – 62.5 per cent – of any of the public sector.
Abuse is rife with comments aimed at their force is seen daily by four fifths of comms staff. In addition, almost 10 per cent report being personally singled out for abuse and seeing threats of violence daily.
Racist abuse was highest with a third of communicators seeing it weekly – three times higher than any other sector.
The fire experience: less stress away from the COVID-19 sharp end
Fire comms people have felt the lowest rate of all sectors for feeling as though they were working for the common good.
Unsurprising as they are less in the public health or law and order front line.
They are the sector reporting the lowest increase in stress – 42.9 per cent – but complain they are the worst informed. Almost 60 per cent say there is a lack of information from central government
Generic abuse is lowest in fire and rescue with just 4.6 per cent encountering any.
The experience in England: poor leadership from home government
A lack of leadership in UK government which managed the pandemic in England was the stand-out issue.
The problem was flagged-up by 41 per cent of public sector comms people – eight times the rate of Scotland and twice the rate of Wales and Northern Ireland.
A lack of information from government was also highlighted with a third of people – twice the rate of other countries.
Communicators in England also found it more difficult than other UK countries but they reported the highest rates of feeling part of a team at 54 per cent. More than half witnessed abuse.
The experience in Scotland: strong leadership but difficult home schooling
In Scotland, there was the strongest sense of working for the common good (83 per cent) and the lowest complaint of a lack of information from home government at less than one in ten.
Home schooling was the biggest problem in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK with 41 per cent raising it as an issue.
The Northern Ireland experience: hard but no extremes
In Northern Ireland, public sector communicators avoided the more extreme fluctuations.
A majority said they found working in the pandemic harder than before and were more stressed but the country did not top any tables.
A total of 48 per cent said they saw abuse – the lowest in the UK – and 22 per cent complained of a lack of staff – the second lowest if the four countries.
The experience in Wales: for the common good
There was a strong feeling of working for the common good (75 per cent) with comms teams in Wales reporting the highest country for working as a team with 54 per cent.
One in five complained of a lack of information and a sense of leadership from Welsh Government – up to half the comparable rate in England.
Complaints about the difficulty of home schooling were broadly similar across the UK with Wales rate of 36 per cent marginally less than other countries.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest upheaval to the UK since World War Two ended 75 years ago. It has claimed more than 40,000 lives.
Communicators across the public sector have responded strongly.
But behind the headlines, there is a workforce of public sector communicators working at stress with abuse in local government and police endemic.
Working at pace and under stress is not sustainable and attention needs to be paid to the long term health of those being asked to respond. A reminder email asking staff to take breaks on top of
What’s been fascinating looking at the June figures is a feeling that the landscape has changed for the worse. They’ll be a useful benchmark against a new October survey.
Of course, this survey is unscientific. But it does carry representative samples across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in NHS, fire, central government and local government.
The survey included the views of 456 UK public sector communicators with 88.2 per cent classing themselves as White English, Welsh, Scottish or British, 4.1 per cent white Irish, 1.5 percent Asian or Asian British, 1.8 per cent multiple ethnikc groups and 3.5 per cent other.
Of those surveyed, 76.7 per cent were English compared to English making-up 84.1 per cent of the UK population. Scottish respondents were 7.8 per cent in the survey compared to being 8.1 per cent of the UK’s population. Wales represented 9.6 per cent of the survey and 4.6 per cent of the population with Northern Ireland 5.9 per cent of those who gave their views – twice the comparative size of their population.
How is your pandemic? I’m struck by the fact that there are many answers to this.
If you’re in-house the chances are you’ll be run ragged and struggling to keep up. I feel for you.
Me? I spent the first few weeks ill with low grade COVID-19 and it’s taken months to get back to being fighting fit again. I changed what I did from training to working on COVID-19-related special projects.
For a while I’ve been pondering online training but I’ve not wanted to rush it for the heck of it. I wanted it to be right.
After months of research, shaping, re-shaping and speaking to people I’ve launched a programme I’m calling ESSENTIAL COMMS SKILLS BOOSTER.
I want to tell you the thinking behind it.
I wanted it to be what you need to know right now to help you do important things.
But I wanted it to fit into a busy week.
It’ll be human. It won’t be watching something on a screen in an audience of hundreds. You’ll have questions. That’s fine. Ask them. I’ll use Zoom and each programme will be for a maximum of eight attendees. There’s a Facebook group for each programme where you can ask questions or share your work.
It’s five hour topic blocks manageably spread across several weeks. You are busy. I get that. You also need to refine your skills. So, hour-long blocks fit into the working day better. People have told me they can go off the grid for an hour but a half-day or a full day? No chance.
It’s okay if you can’t get to a topic block. COVID-19 and life gets in the way. So, there’ll be a recording available, notes and I’ll look to re-arrange at a time that works for you.
It’s online. Because we’re not in a place where booking a room and squeezing into it with a plateful of biscuits works. Obvs.
It’s a mix of digital comms and traditional comms. Because I’ve long thought that social media shouldn’t be this bolt-on. Use the right channel at the right time. It’s Essential Comms Skills. Of course its going to be both.
CONTENT #1: It’s got comms planning and evaluation in it. Because I’ve rarely met a comms team who have this nailed. So, it makes sense to start off with this alongside what the media landscape looks like and boy, lockdown has made it change.
CONTENT #2: It’s got the algorithm. What the algorithm says should shape what you are creating. I’ll go through pointers for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.
CONTENT #3: It’s got the new platforms. If you’re too busy to find out about NextDoor’s 4 million UK users, TikTok’s 12 million and WhatsApp’s more than 25 million then here’s the place. I’ll look to tell you how to practically deploy them.
CONTENT #4: It’s got Facebook groups. With Facebook pointing its future direction at friends, family and groups it makes sense to head this way. I’ll show you proven strategies.
CONTENT #5: It’s got dealing with online abuse. This maybe for the Facebook admin, the elected member or the officer. When to engage, when not to engage and the strategies and legal routes that are open to you if things escalate. It’s here.
Like Bletchley Park operation Ofcom are producing quality intercepts that can give you a headstart if you are communicating advice on the pandemic.
Because I love you very much I’ve read it and I’m blogging it here for you.
It’s fascinating reading.
The majority of all UK adults use social media everyday
Social media consumption in the UK is voracious across all age demographics.
Three times as many over 65s use social media every day compared to those who don’t use it at all.
Just look at the use once a day v don’t use at all data.
Aged 16-24: 96 per cent use social media daily versus one per cent don’t use
Aged 25-34: 93 per cent versus one per cent
Aged 35-44: 87 per cent versus two per cent
Aged 45-54: 76 per cent versus 11 per cent
Aged 55-64: 73 per cent versus two per cent
Aged 65+: 69 per cent versus 20 per cent
UK adults check COVID-19 information daily more the older they are
If you’re over 65 you are checking COVID-19 information more often than any other age group. That’s no surprise. The group most at risk also have the most spare time and watch the most TV. But across all age groups there is an interest whether that’s TV, radio, email, web or social media. Just three per cent of any age group say they’re not interested.
Daily COVID-19 information consumption by age group
Aged 16-24 – 77 per cent
Aged 25-34 – 81 per cent
Aged 35-44 – 85 per cent
Aged 45-54 – 81 per cent
Aged 55-64 – 84 per cent
Aged 65+ – 91 per cent
The near-universal popularity of BBC TV News
Perhaps surprisingly, the most popular channel for getting COVID-19 updates isn’t Facebook, TikTok or Twitter… it’s BBC TV News.
From youngest to oldest, across the UK, BBC News presenters Jane Hill, Fiona Bruce and Huw Edwards are the most influential suppliers of pandemic news.
Surprisingly, the youngest sector, 16 to 24-year-olds, cite BBC TV News as the most regular source of coronavirus updates. Forty per cent of this demographic pointed to this while 77 per cent of over 65s chose BBC TV News.
Only 25 to 34-year-olds ranked BBC TV news in second place with Facebook coming top for them.
Public sector sites are a minority information source
The number of people getting their data from UK Government rises from 11 per cent for the youngest to 15 per cent for over 65s. NHS websites, email and post fares little better with 14 per cent for 25-to-34s being the highest.
Community health services are seen by barely more than eight per cent of any age group.
Radio cuts through to a minority
Commercial radio peaks with 17 per cent of 55 to 64-year-olds with BBC local radio faring best with over 55s with more than a quarter listening.
Non-mainstream media isn’t cutting through
Sites like Breitbart, Russia Today or Skwarkbox with highly partisan slants on events aren’t reaching a wide audience. No more than three per cent of any age group see their content regularly.
Online news sites like Joe and Huffington Post are five times more popular with younger audiences but don’t attract older audiences.
The largest demographic getting pandemic info from email are over 65s with 13 per cent.
If you’re 16 to 24-year-old…
This demographic is more likely to get their COVID-19 information from BBC TV news more than any other channel. Forty per cent watch the Auntie’s broadcast news.
Friends and family (34 per cent) come second with Facebook third (26 per cent), BBC News online on 25 per cent with Twitter on 24 per cent.
The single lack of one dominant channel makes communicating with this age group more time consuming.
YouTube and news aggregators (both 20 per cent) and Instagram 21 per cent also make up the landscape.
Overall, 16 to 24s have seven ways to find out information which are used by a fifth or more of their number.
News sites like Huffington Post or LadBible reach a combined 17 per cent.
You’ll find this surprising, but this age group are twice as likely to get the low down from traditional media – 75 per cent – than friends and family.
They rank traditional media (45 per cent) and broadcasters (42 per cent) as the most important sources and they’re most likely to see public sector content on than any other pandemic source.
Influencers? Four per cent see COVID-19 content from them.
Snapchat? 12 per cent.
If you’re 25 to 34-year-old…
If you’re late twenties and early thirties, you’ll use social media every day and you’ll see, watch or hear pandemic info every day too.
For this group, Facebook is your channel of choice (39 per cent) outranking BBC TV News (33 per cent) and BBC Online is third on 27 per cent.
Like their younger relatives, traditional media and broadcasters are the most important sources with around 40 per cent rating this group.
If you’re 35 to 44-year-old…
Social media and COVID-19 updates are daily and BBC TV (45 per cent) is where you get most information.
Friends and family and Facebook which both are seen by a third.
Newspapers make an appearance with 25 per cent while traditional media overall is 72 per cent.
Broadcasters and traditional media are the most important sources.
If you’re 45 to 54…
Every day, three quarters use social media daily and four fifths consume pandemic information.
BBC TV News is top with 56 per cent with ITV News on 31 per cent beating Facebook into third place with BBC Online and Radio close behind.
Broadcasters are the most important source.
If you’re 55 to 64…
Almost three quarters use social daily with BBC News 66 per cent the largest source of information far ahead of ITV news on 38 per cent.
Friends and family are third with BBC Online and News close behind.
Yet again, broadcasters are the most important source.
If you’re over 65…
A total of 69 per cent use social media daily and 91 per cent are consuming COVID-19 info daily.
A bumper 77 per cent watch BBC TV. That’s almost double the nearest most popular channel – ITV News- which has 40 per cent.
In third place are newspapers (38 per cent) friends and family (28 per cent) with BBC Radio 4th a point behind.
Overall, there are 15 different ways 10 per cent or more over 65s get COVID-19 information.
Anti-vaxx tops the misinformation charts
More people have seen anti-vaccination content than any other and it is the content most likely to be challenged.
Overall, 46 per cent have seen content claiming anti-vaxx statements are true rather than 23 per cent debunking them. This must be a long-term challenge for public health. There’s no point scientists working on a jab if the info war has been lost.
Almost one in seven would have a jab declared safe by the NHS.
The one piece of misinformation likely to be attacked is the idea that mainstream media are exaggerating the pandemic. That’s outscored by 25 to 47 per cent.
Alun Ireland, Manchester City Council head of comms, in a Zoom chat on the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group ran through the early learning. In Manchester, the episode drew national attention.
Shots of angry students unable to leave their flats dominated coverage.
So what do you need to know?
As Alun is one of the good guys he’s keen to share what he learned.
Alun’s halls lockdown check list
Build relationships with partners in peacetime. If you’re local government this means building bridges with the University ahead of time. It helps makes things go more smoothly.
Expect little notice. The Manchester lockdown came in with only a few hours notice. There will be little time to act so prepare well ahead for the eventuality.
Expect enforcing the lockdown to be difficult. Much of this is appealing to people’s better nature. There’s every chance the police will be telling people they won’t enforce the restrictions as it puts them in a difficult position too – so try to agree your lines in advance.
Be clear on the decision making. Be clear whose decision the lockdown was and the reasons for it. You will get asked.
You will get targeted by no-win no-fee solicitors. Within 12-hours of the decision being made students were being targeted by solicitors eager to try and win compensation.
Support the students: with food. If there is a supermarket around the corner that students usually use, talk to their head office to arrange a block booking of delivery slots. If you’re offering to help with food deliveries you need to have this help ready immediately.
Support the students: financially. If there is a package to offer to students be clear on what it is immediately.
Support the students: testing. The lockdown hinges on the eventual testing numbers. You need to work with Public Health England to block book a batch of tests and prepare how to get the results back to people.
Students who have part-time jobs will worry about working. If they stack shelves during term-time they’ll be worried about their job. The good news is that providing a headed letter confirming their status will help protect their jobs and their pay.. They’ll need to know this and where they can get the letter from.
Students’ mental health will be a genuine concern. Many will be away from home for the first time worrying about University life, bills, making friends and their course. This adds a huge extra layer. Work out ahead how you will prepare for this. The support offer will be needed immediately, out of usual hours, and for the duration
Leaflet the neighbours and businesses. Explain that some students have been asked to take part in a local lockdown and explain why. Also explain that people will still see students on the streets and in the shops. They may not be affected.
Yes, there will be protest signs in the windows. No you won’t like them all. No, there’s not much you can do about them.
And then there are elite athletes. If you have an elite athlete they have a special arrangement that allows them to go about their business unhindered. Be aware of this.
Thanks to Alun Ireland for sparing the time to take part in the session.