LONG READ: What we can all learn from the #GrabBag hashtag blow back

In late 2019, we live in interesting times.

So far this year we’ve had flooding, extreme heat and dams that almost collapse.

In the rest of the year we have the prospect of snow, ice and the impact of a possible ‘no deal’ Brexit with government modelling of food shortages, medicine shortage

Trust is low with around a third of us trusting government officials and journalists with politicians generally trusted by a fifth of the population.

So, how do you get across the need to prepare for possible future emergency?

With great difficulty it seems.

A tweet from Police Scotland appeared to set off a mix of alarm and mirth with the  #GrabBag hashtag trending and BBC News picking up the baton online and in broadcast.

A number of police and councils have also used the hashtag along with #30days30ways to ask people to get ready in peacetime ahead of any emergencies ahead.

The aim is positive but in an atmosphere of mistrust, it can very easily go off target.

With some possible alarming days ahead its worth taking a pause to reflect on how we can pull this stuff off. It’s long been a frustration of mine that emergency planning is always 9th on the ‘to do’ list, never rises above that and gets ignored until its too late.

The #GrabBag content

Here’s a quick look at the content in and around the #GrabBag hashtag.

And also…


But any good analysis should look at the data, too.


The #Grabbag numbers

Using Ritetag analysis, the hashtag had reached large numbers with almost 4,000 tweets.


The hashtag had also spiked impressively in the analysis.


However, the big problem with hashtag analysis is drilling down into sentiment. The US-based algorithm is incapable as yet of spotting sarcasm leading to a manual analysis of what people were really saying.

It’s safe to say the hashtag didn’t really perform as intended.

Sarcasm, worry and brand jacking emerged, the analysis suggests, and the original purpose of the hashtag was obscured.

The #Grabbag key words

The most frequently used positive terms were fine…


The most frequently used negative ones less so…


But what were the trends to a UK audience? I went through and counted a cross-section of around 150 to give a snapshot of the underlying sentiment.

The #Grabbag sentiment

Counting through the content, the sentiment was overwhelmingly parody with supportive tweets being outscored four to one.

The original tweets with the original purpose had been swamped by people who were either pouring scorn or were entertained by the idea of a #grabbag full of gin. Hey! Big LOLs! There’s an argument that any publicity is good publicity. I’m not convinced by that argument.

But there was also a more worrying undertow, too. Did the Police know something they didn’t? Shouldn’t people be more responsible? Who was responsible for all this? This is 2019, we’re talking about. There was even a flavour of newsjacking with big brands trying to cash-in.



So, armed with all this, what does it tell you?

Well, first up, I’m not going to suggest anything stupid like stopping tweeting. Police and local government people who tweet have my undying admiration. I used to be one. Whoever launched the hashtag should be applauded for trying to tackle a serious issue. But the episode does provide some teachable moments that we can learn from.

The public sector should still tackle the big issues

The temptation after adverse publicity is to go into a bunker and maybe delete your account. ‘No,’ and ‘no’ to that. There is a need to communicate in the places where people are. Besides, its a legal obligation for the public sector to warn and inform.

When things go awry I think Cadbury’s and Easter

Every year the meme re-surfaces that Cadbury’s have banned the word ‘Easter’ from their Easter eggs. It spreads across the internet like wildfire. It’s political correctness gone mad. Angry people bombard Cadbury’s with messages to say how outraged they are.

The only thing is that Cadbury’s haven’t banned Easter at all.

The chocolate manufacturer when this first happened where faced with a choice. Either ignore it or talk back. They chose talk back. Like a giant version of whack-a-mole their team mans the ramparts to try and tweet back to people who complain online.

Active rebuttal in the manner of Cadbury’s when things have gone a bit awry is something to deploy. If the message out there is that the police want you to pack your bags because… something BAD is about to happen that feels like something to address.

Equally, it wouldn’t go amiss to respond to some of the parody tweets with a degree of wit and humour.

Yes, this means more resources.

Yes, it helps to direct people towards your message.

Get by with a little help from your friends

The public sector is great but often vital campaigns are launched in a corner of the internet. With #GrabBag, I didn’t see the combined might of the public sector combining. It would have been good to see partners, friends and the rest of the organisation come to the fore to amplify any explainer tweets.

Tapping into your internal comms and companies

If we don’t trust government officials, who do we trust?

Well, it turns out we trust our employers far more. Perhaps surprisingly, even those who think the system is failing them put their trust in their employers. The Edelman Trust Barometer puts 69 per cent of those with a cynical outlook as still trusting their employer.

That’s a massively powerful figure and one that invites a real re-calibration your message. Have a loudhailer. But add companies’ internal comms channels to your loudhailer. It’s also enlisting your own internal comms too for public sector organisations are not just big employers but they’re big local employers.

Thanks for reading. You can find me @danslee on Twitter and dan@danslee.co.uk by email.

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GETTING READY: TWELVE things public sector comms teams need to do to get Brexit-ready


Looking at what’s coming down the track in 2019 for public sector comms people Brexit came shining through.

But what’s to do?

Wait for the worst?

Cover your ears and say ‘la, la, la, la?’

Actually, if you’re in public sector comms there’s stacks you need to do.

While I blogged it briefly in my predictions for 2019 here are some detailed things you can do if you are local or central government, blue light or NHS.

Brexit risks for comms people

Government, frontline police and others have warned consistently of the risk of civil disorder, shortages of medicine, through to nursing shortages. In areas such as Kent emergency planning to keep Dover as to close to moving as possible have been set out.

You may get opposition from politicians in your organisation who think this is scaremongering. But it is far wiser plan for the eventuality.

I do think that the biggest headaches of 2019 for the UK public sector will be directly or indirectly Brexit related. From the the hard and direct impact of traffic problems and food shortages all the way through to soft impact recruitment drives as some posts are harder to fill.

As a comms person, you are not there to debate the rights or wrongs of Brexit but to look dispassionately at how it can impact on your organisation.

Much of this is emergency comms but a fair chunk isn’t. It’s day-to-day. As sure as rain, the impact of Brexit will find a way you reach you and shape your workload. So here’s a few things to get in place.

  1. Get the right kit

I’m astounded 15 years on from the launch of Facebook that people don’t have the right equipment. I’ve met central government comms people with iphones that bar apps and Police who can’t use social media on their tablets in an emergency.

It’s crazy.

Brexit is a critical opportunity to upgrade your kit so you can actually do your job.

The simple question you must answer is this: ‘Can I communicate in realtime away from the office?’

For this your need android or ios devices that can handle your email, create content and post it to social media on the move.

You absolutely categorically don’t need Windows devices or blackberries that can’t help you do all that.

But the business case. If you need to, get your emergency planners to sign-off against the need for kit in black and white. If and when the balloon goes up you don’t want the finger pointed at you.

Have a look in the constitution to see if there are supporting lines about using the right equipment. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. Trust me.

Have a look at your policies. Cut and paste the policy that says you’re a digital organisation that makes data-led decisions. You know the kind of thing.

You can build a business case by playing back to the organisation what the organisation has previously said.

Then have a look at some of the government warnings.

2. Get the right content creation skills

Know how to shoot video and post it in real-time.

Disclaimer: I’ve been helping to deliver training for the last four years, so I would say this wouldn’t I? But, the thing is video is more trusted than pictures and much, more trusted than text. If you need to get something out, get it out.

Video is more engaging than words by at least a third.

Here’s an example of Periscope from West Midlands Fire Service:

What does it do? It spells out that there is a fire, that the fire crew are on it and what they are doing. It warns and informs in realtime.

Failing this, an image can help you communicate in realtime.

3. Post to Twitter and Facebook groups

Posting to Twitter has been default since the 2011 riots. You reach people quickly and you reach the journalists and opinion formers.

But my strong advice for 2018 is to look for the relevant Facebook group too. This is from an open Guildford Facebook group hours after the murder of a man in front of his son on a train.

People are where they are on the web not where you want them to be.


4. Build relationships with the right people

Each area has a Local Resilience Forums that helps codify the response on who does what. You can find a list here. The stabbing at Manchester Victoria railway station showed this. In a police-led incident they led the online communications.

Get to know people in peacetime so you are able to act when the cars are on fire.

5. Refresh your emergency planning comms plan

All public sector organisations need a document that says how they’ll communicate in an emergency.

Go and re-write yours to make it 2019-proof.

If there’s a major incident there may be a public enquiry and you may well be on the stand being asked to go through your emergency comms plan and explain how you did – or didn’t – deliver it.

6. Test it

It’s been an occasional joy to train local government teams in public workshops and then test them.

It doesn’t have to be me. But you need to stress test. You’ll learn a lot. Believe me.

7. Have a rota

Funny how things rarely kick off between 9am and 5pm. Have cover around the clock. If it can’t be paid set out the risks of failing to have this in black and white for the future.

8. Be strategic

As a comms team you shouldn’t be working in isolation. You should be plugged into the wider organisation to raise the issues early and understand the areas where there’s risks and dangers.

9. Place marketing

If the future is uncertain, being able to sell where you are to a national and international audience will have a role strategically post-Brexit. For local government, being able to tell people good place to live and work will be an asset more than ever. The foundations are good emergency comms. You probably don’t want Google searches being all about riots.

But if Brexit does come to pass there needs to be a narrative about why companies would want to be in your community.

10. Staff shortages

This will depend on where you are in the country. Your team may be fortunate to employ some EU citizens and if you do you’ll be aware of the uncertainty that surrounds. There’s a management issue here about reassuring those in post and recruiting able people in future.

Aside from that, a regular demand on your time in 2019 and beyond may be to retain and recruit the right staff in the right places. Nursing is already right across this.

11. It’s going to get harsher so look after staff and politicians

If you are looking after a Facebook page or a Twitter account don a tin hat. It’s going to get fiesty. If things go wrong, the quality of debate will get nasty. Make sure your staff are rotated and given screen breaks. Don’t have one person checking everything 24/7. That’;s duty of care time.

Remind them when to engage and not engage. Look to mute on Twitter rather than block wuld be my advice.

You need to be aware that officers may be getting it in the neck online as well as politicians as well as people who don’t fit the world view of Tommy Robinson.

12. Be aware of misinformation

Well meaning or malevolent the spread of information will impact on what you are doing. This post from political journalist Robert Peston shows the issue. A warning that gathers Brexit commentary and warns people to act.

A senior politician distances themselves but is the information accurate? Or deliberately stirring? The lack of branding makes it look like it isn’t official. But the blue and white gives an echo of NHS communications.


It doesn’t matter what your own beliefs on Brexit are. There is a chance you will be asked or ordered to play things up or down around Brexit.

It’s important for you to have ethics as well as a moral compass.

Tell the truth. Don’t lie. Be responsible.

Do the right thing.

Picture credit: Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916 / Flickr

Feel free to get in touch. I’m dan@danslee.co.uk and @danslee on Twitter. I write a weekly email you can sign-up to here.

A STORMY 2019: Some predictions for public sector comms and PR in the year ahead


I’m reading a memoir of a trawlerman at the moment and it’s making me think about public sector comms in 2019.

The skipper remembered how he looked at the boats moored in Peterhead harbour and he felt nagging disquiet that all this was going to change.

So, after carefully thinking through his next steps he moved from targeting cod with heavy quotas to the greener niche catch of langoustines to send to Spain and France. A few years later he looked at the same view and it was different. Those cod trawlers had largely gone and those that were left were struggling.

In 2019, storms are coming.

‘Predictions are very difficult, especially if they are about the future’ – Niels Bohr.

Every year for the past eight I blog some predictions. Last year, I made a series of predictions.

In 2018, here’s what I got right:

  • Facebook group admins did grow in importance.
  • Technology continued to outpace the public sector.
  • There was a need to improve the quality of video.
  • The need to use all Facebook has to offer rather than the corporate page grew
  • The need for human comms grew as did the need for specialist generalists,
  • GIFS and threads became expected.
  • Twitter continued to struggle and social media became less social.
  • The need for digital first grew.
  • Video grew in importance along with the need to demonstrate evaluation.
  • Income targets remain a minority pursuit.

In 2019, here’s what I got wrong

  • Live video hasn’t caught on in the public sector although it thrives in the metric conscious field of local journalism.
  • 360 images and VR haven’t moved into the mainstream yet.
  • Internal comms didn’t reach a crisis point.

So, what will happen in 2019? 

As each year passes, the gap between the cutting edge of technology and the public sector grows wider.

As the public embrace new technology such as voice to use the internet, the public sector lags behind. Weighed down by legacy systems and legacy attitudes many of those in the ship’s wheelhouse are poorly equipped to meet the dark clouds of 2019. But as much as they may wish the clock was stuck in 2005, the dial moves and the boat chugs forward. This year the sea gets faster.

In 2019, the single greatest gift a comms person can have will be strategic vision. To know what is coming down the track is one thing. Having the time and space to manoeuvre will be a luxury.

One take is that social media has gone from the positive sunny uplands into something darker and negative. Another view is that it has matured and the positive as well as negative sides are in view.

Social media will continue to get more closed. The public comment is being replaced with the walled garden where people feel freer to speak. This explains the rise of Facebook groups, Messenger and WhatsApp and the decline on Twitter. This will continue.

Get ready for strategic Brexit chaos. If you are in the public sector, the impact of Brexit will be profound. The worst case scenario of ‘no deal’ is food shortages, medicine running out and a whole lot else. The best case is short term deep uncertainty.  So, expect strategically, get your troops in the right place and expect smaller budgets as the public sector will inevitably take the financial hit.

Get ready for tactical Brexit chaos. The UK public sector is well placed to deal with emergencies as terror attacks have proven. Local Resilience Forums provide the platform for councils, central government, police, fire and NHS organisations to handle emergencies. I’d be recommending polishing up these links as there is a fair chance they’ll be used. Digital comms needs to be at the forefront of any breaking scenario. Good luck, Kent County Council. With Dover on your patch how well you do with this has national significance. This is local government, NHS, fire and police. Not just the Whitehall Department for Leaving the EU.

Get ready to support elected members. As the waters ahead get choppy there is a need to give extra help to elected members and those in comms who deal with day-to-day social media channels. Some of this may be perceived. Some of what will come won’t be.

Spotting and rebutting fake news. As things get thrown up in the air there’ll be plenty of misinformation. Some deliberate from Russian trolls and some accidental by your mate Dave who heard something in the pub. The ability to screen, spot and rebut swiftly is needed in the public sector in 2019. A process that allows swift rebuttal in minutes not days is needed.

Prepare for bankruptcy. Northamptonshire County Council’s financial problems showed that there are problems stacking up in the public sector. Some organisations will fall over in 2019. Re-building will be a specific skills set.

As trust in institutions is hammered, the need to give social media to the frontline grows. I’m returning to the theme of ‘sharing the sweets’ and letting others have access to social media. The need to train and devolve in this most crossroads of years has never been greater. Your librarian can handle telling people about their table top sale. You’ll have other things in your inbox. Trust me.

Hello 5G. The 5G mobile network will start to roll out in 2019.  As this explainer shows, this means that people could be able to use a mobile phone out and about to download a film in 10 seconds rather than 10 minutes. This will start in 2019 but will take time to roll out. This will mean a greater use of mobile devices to access websites and video.

Voice. The market for voice to search an activate the internet is growing beyond the tech bubble. What was niche 12-months ago is getting mainstream and will get more so in 2019. Yet, public sector websites risk falling behind this trend. How can people search your website using voice? Can they? Or will they fail?

Subtitle, baby. As video continues to rise, the need to subtitle gets larger. Why? Aside from regulations coming down the track for public sector people most video is watched without sound. So, be creative.

Same as it ever was. Yes, you’ll need to demonstrate your evaluation and as the landscape continues to make tectonic shifts the role of the communicator as educator to the organisation rises. Please fulfill that role. Please.

Facebook won’t go away. The debate about the ethics of Facebook will continue but as a platform there’s no prizes for saying that it will remain the largest single platform consumed by UK people.

Facebook groups will get even more important. For public sector people, the lack of budget means a creative use of the Facebook platform with the ability to search out relevant Facebook groups will become an increasingly key skill.

AI continues to rise. There will be useful tools offered by vendors that use Artificial Intelligence that help make public sector comms people’s lives easier.

Local Democracy Reporters prove their worth. The BBC-funded journalists have fanned out across the country and are intended to fill the gap in local government coverage left by hollowed-out newsrooms. Some bright public sector people have spotted that good relations with them can lead to positive coverage across eight local news titles simultaneously instead of one.

Gig economy comms teams. Bringing people in with specialist skills for one-off projects will be default.

The best ideas will come from journalism. For the last 10 years journalism has been on the ropes. Like the boxer who has taken too many blows the betting was how quick it would fall. While there will be fewer titles in 2019, the best ideas of how to use digital channels will come from journalism and not the public sector. They have the resource – just – but they also have the existential business case.

Do we talk to young people or don’t we? The public sector needs to ask itself if actually wants to talk with young people in the places where it hangs out. As the media landscape continues to fracture, this will involve experimenting in new places. The alternative is to be honest and tell people that you’re not interested in talking to them.

So, that’s it. There’s storm clouds ahead. But there have been storms before. Prepare. Look ahead. You’ll get there.

Shout if you need a hand. I’m dan@comms2point0.co.uk and @danslee on Twitter.

Pic credit: Darren Flinders / Flickr

VIDEO SKILLS: Nine key facts and training to help shape your 2019 video strategy


Video will play a huge part in the success of your communications strategy in 2019.

When to use video and when not to is just as important as knowing how to shoot video for any effective communicator.

Key video insight for 2019

Smartphone use in the UK will pass 92 per cent by 2025 – source: Deloitte, 2018.

Those aged 16 to 24 in the UK spend on average an hour a day watching YouTube – source: Google, 2018.

Video will account for 82 per cent of web traffic by 2020 – source: Google, 2018.

There are more than twice as many people watching video on YouTube in the third quarter of 2018 at 1.2 trillion than 510 million on Facebook – source: Tubular Labs.

A majority of UK over 55s own a smartphone – source: Ofcom, 2018.

58 per cent of UK people with a mobile phone watch video once a week, Deloite, 2017.

The optimum length of a YouTube clip is almost three minutes compared to 15 seconds on Facebook – source: Google / Facebook.  

Sport recieved 1.8 billion views in the UK in first six months of 2018 – source: Tubular Labs.  

There are 25 million unique viewers a month of the Daily Telegraph Snapchat channel – source: Daily Telegraph.


As video is what your audience is likely to be consuming your video strategy will help you deliver a successful communications strategy.

To help you achieve this, I’m running workshops in 2019. Delivered along with cameraman, filmmaker and academic Steven Davies the sessions will help you plan, shoot, edit and post engaging comms video. We’ll make sure you are safe and legal, GDPR, copyright law and PSBAR compliant.

We’ve had four years of experience and have delivered training for more than 2,000 people across more than 300 organisations.

6.2.19 Friends House, Euston Road, London. For more information and to book click here.

7.2.19 Bond Company, Fazeley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham. For more information and to book click here.

13.2.19 Leeds, Carriageworks, Millennium Square, Leeds. For more information and to book click here.

If those dates don’t work or you’d like in-house training drop me a line dan@comms2point0.co.uk or @danslee on Twitter.

30 days of human comms #45 University of Reading

I’ve written before about the trend for drawing a line in the sand on social media.

It’s something I’m in favour at he right time and right place.

Normally, I’ve featured things that are pretty defensible. The police Facebook comment pointing out that the reason we have speed cameras is death on the road, for example.

This tweet from the University of Reading either is just the right side of things or oversteps the mark.

Personally, I get it.

On the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group, there was dissenting voices between those who liked and those who think this is helping to coarsen debate.

There is no one size fits all with content. This may work in some organisations but not in others.

Using an unscientific yardstick, there are more than 5,000 likes and of the replies there was mix of comments.

I’m @danslee on Twitter and dan@comms2point0.co.uk. If you hate missing out on the good stuff subscribe to my weekly email here.

LIVE ALIVE: Four ways how to use Facebook Live to reach your audience


It’s a fascinating time to be a comms person… new tactics emerge and old ones fall away.

But like anything, your decisions should be driven less by the shiny and what will get you results.

So, Facebook Live. It’s something I’ve been fascinating by for some time.

The idea is quite simple. You post to Facebook and you have the option to create a live broadcast from your device’s camera as simply as posting some words.

But where does it fit into the landscape?

It’ll help you beat the Facebook algorithm

Being admin of a page used to be such fun. You posted something and your audience saw it, liked it, commented on it and shared it. You sat back and took the applause. But since Facebook Zero and Mark Zuckerburg’s announcement earlier this year that you’ll see less from pages and more from friends and family that’s long gone.

Right now though, use a Facebook Live broadcast and you’ll be reaching more people.


But what do we do?

Here’s where it gets interesting because you are really not hemmed in right now by convention. We’re all learning but please, for heaven’s sake, look outside your sector to see how others are doing it.

Sure, think calls to action. But also see your broadcast as educational, fun and interesting that will build your audience for a time when you really want them to do something. A social channel that’s just one long call to action isn’t fun.

Broadcast because the value is to be in the right place at the right time

English Heritage look after Stonehenge. This collection of Neolithic stone tablets has fascinated people for thousands of years. At the moment of winter and also summer solstice the sun shines perfectly at an angle. It is a special place to be. So a live broadcast of the moment and the build up to it makes sense.

Broadcast because you’ve got something visually interesting

National Rail celebrated the longest day of the year with a live broadcast from a GoPro in the train driver’s cab of the Aberdeen to Plymouth service. This is the longest in Britain and runs through some stunning scenery.

It says that the country is amazing, that as a feat of engineering its incredible and also that National Rail understand how the internet works.

Some kickbacks emerged when it was admitted that the video was not as live but the playing of a video recording. But I get that. But then again, what would a livestreamed suicide do for anyone? Or for the organisation’s reputation if the train broke down?

Broadcast because you are commenting on breaking news

Look at what newspapers are doing. They don’t call themselves newspapers anymore. They’re media companies that happen to produce some print.

When the football fixtures were published my team Stoke City’s local media company ran a Facebook Live to run through them.  Leeds away is first up. They incorporated comments from readers – or should I see viewers – too.

The camera work wasn’t amazing. It doesn’t have to be.

Broadcast for a Q&A

Over in the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group I’m admin of, we ran a Q&A ahead of GDPR on how they may affect websites.

From the more than 2,000 members of the group we had more than 900 views and more than 50 questions and comments which was fine with us. We’re a niche but highly active forum.

If you’re a member you can see the broadcast here.  But as the stream went into a closed group we can’t embed it elsewhere on the internet.


The topics you can live broadcast are pretty wide and vast. I’ve blogged more than 30 of them here.

So, if that’s the topic, how do I do it?

I co-deliver workshops on live video skills that goes into the planning and the delivery using some handy BBC principles.

Before you go live, run a test broadcast where you broadcast only to yourself. You can select ‘only you’ from the settings before you hit post. This allows you to see if your device can be help landscape or has to be held in upright portrait mode. At a big set-piece event like an election count you’ll need to be aware that media companies will more than likely be broadcasting.

But what if my audience isn’t on Facebook?

Then don’t use Facebook, you big silly. With Twitter, Periscope is the live app of choice and instagram and YouTube have their own functionality. But the numbers behind Facebook make it important.

I’ve heard it said that people are leaving Facebook. The stats don’t support that globally although I’ve heard of people leaving the platform in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica saga. That’s fine. I get it. But until there is a better way of sharing cat videos the mass audience isn’t leaving Facebook anytime soon.

I’m @danslee on Twitter and dan@comms2point0. If you hate missing out on the good stuff subscribe to my weekly email here.

NEW FRIENDS: What big changes to Facebook mean for public sector communications


As the late David Bowie once sang: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange.”

Almost five decade old lyrics that can help you navigate the ever changing ever evolving landscape of social media.

Facebook announced a change of direction a few days ago. It came in a blog post from Mark Zuckerburg and it has led to a fair degree of fear and uncertainty. It heralds a new direction for how people will consume content on the channel.

More than 50 per cent of the UK population have a Facebook account, Ofcom say, so an announcement on how your audience will use the channel is hugely important to everyone who wants to use the channel to reach them.

One thing is striking about this announcement. It is light on detail. It is vague in places. Frustratingly so. But after reading a stack of takes on the blog and giving this careful thought here’s a few things that public sector people need to know.

I’ll be talking about these points in more depth and coming up with solutions at SKILLS YOU WILL NEED FOR LIVE VIDEO in London on February 2 and at ESSENTIAL DIGITAL SKILLS FOR COMMS on January 26 in London, on February 15 in Leeds and Birmingham on February 27.

Facebook’s focus will be on friends and family not businesses, brands and organisations like the public sector. What your friends post is going to be dropped into your timeline more often. That’s at the expense of content from organisations. You can count the public sector in that.

Your Facebook page will reach fewer people unless your posts are genuinely engaging. As the squeeze on pages kicks in you’ll reach fewer people through organic posts. The broadcast content that ticks a box for someone? It’ll work even less. Reading what Zuckerburg it needs to be genuinely engaging. So, the Sandwell Council discussion on Snow Champions where people share pictures and discuss where salt can be got looks the best bet. This will need a re-think for many people. It’ll also mean you need to engage.   

The public sector person who shares work content to their network will cut through. If friends and family are important to Facebook, the shared message from an employee who lives in the patch will be more important. Of course, this is a fraught area and one where HR have had a field day in recent years. Your policy may not be for people to share work content. You may not even let them during work hours. But the email to the 100 librarians about that library content you’ve posted for them on a Facebook page feels like a sensible thing to do.

The internal comms of social media feels more important. If friends and family are more important, internal comms as a discipline overlaps further with social media. Tapping into staff’s networks of friends and family feels like an optional bonus nice to have. It may only reach small numbers per person. But in a 1,000-strong workforce even half bringing 10 each may represent an audience.     

Facebook Groups are more and more and more important. In 2018, your strategy for how you map, search and interact with groups will be mainstream if you want to use Facebook sensibly. This is something I’ve written on before and I’ve been carrying out some detailed research in the field. The Facebook group admin in your area are as important as journalists and other influencers. They have been for some time and the Facebook announcement is a klaxon wake-up to this. Make friends with them where you can. Think what content would work for them. Don’t spam them. The 500 members of the New Parents Facebook group are the right audience for new parent content. Join a group yourself and interact directly.  

The new approach can be summarised in this short video. Although it is longer than Facebook’s optimum 21 seconds. But that’s fine.   

Facebook Live video will be more important. Zuckerburg talks about the explosion of video as being significant and he’s especially keen on live video. Why? Simple. It carries more interactions. An encouraged route to your audience on pages is live video. This could be a Q&A, a behind the scenes tour. The body of experiment and case study is growing. Learn and add to it.

Facebook engagement rates will go down. That’s not just for the public sector, that’s right across Facebook. This is one of Zuckerburg’s clearest predictions. Lerss time but more valuably spent. So, as you see your stats dip remember that you are not alone, okay?

Facebook advertising feels more important. Advertising is not mentioned through the Zuckerburg post. As an organisation that is highly skilled at extracting cash from business, brands and organisation this is notable. The detail will follow, I’m sure, but I can’t imagine that Facebook won’t turn down the chance of allowing brands to beat the changes by advertising. As blogger Jon Loomer has speculated, this may lead to more competition to get into people’s timelines. This may lead to a spike in costs. Or it may not. 

Drive your traffic to email. Greenpeace Unearthed sponsored a Facebook post to encourage people to sign-up to their email list as a way of combating the change. That’s a natty approach. Credit to Jo Walters in spotting that.

That’s not the end for your Facebook page. This may be the start of using it more creatively and using it as one element of your overall Facebook strategy that inckudes groups, pages and internal comms and a higher barrier for posting better content.

You can find me @danslee on Twitter and by email dan@comms2point0.co.uk.

Picture credit: Trixi Skywalker / Flickr

BEING HUMAN: The first 30 days of human comms… and what I’ve learned


When I started on a whim to blog #30daysofhumancomms it was to collect together some examples of human content that worked for me.

There were about half a dozen that had stuck in my memory and I’d hoped with a prevailing wind this could stretch to 30. Maybe.

But as I added more I spotted more and more people – thank you – came up with alternatives.

Over the course of the month a staggering 10,000 unique users came and read the content. Thank you for stopping by, for sharing and for coming up with suggestions.

I’ll continue the series

Not every day but because I keep finding things I’ll continue. Because they keep cropping up.

Why human comms?

The best content is the right thing in the right place at the right time. Yes, I get the need for evaluated calls to action. It’s not how many people see it. It’s what people did as a result of seeing it. So important. But if you don’t have an audience in the first place you’ve got nothing. If all your audience get are calls to actions you are not social. You are a pizza delivery company stuffing leaflets through the digital door. This is where the Paretto principle comms in in social media. If 80 per cent of your content is human and engaging this earns the right 20 per cent of the time to ask them to do something. It’s something I strongly believe in.

What have I learned blogging human comms for 30 days

Examples don’t take long to blog.

People respond to them.

They are the secret sauce that makes social media accounts work.

You know them when you see them.

They don’t just exist as a snappy tweet but can be a poster, a media comment, an interview or can be on Facebook too. Often they are not things thought up by comms at all.

What is striking seeing them together is seeing so many on Twitter and in the coming series I’ll look out for other channels, too.

31 days of human comms listed by subject area

Twitter update

  1. Hampshire Fire & Rescue’s rescued bench tweet. See here.
  2. Doncaster Council’s thread for their gritter World Cup. See here.
  3. London Fire Brigade remember the Kings Cross Fire. See here.
  4. Thames Valley Police’s drugs find. See here.
  5. Cardiff Council’s GIF traffic warning. See here.
  6. The Yorkshire motorway police officer and his wife. See here.
  7. The @farmersoftheuk Twitter account. See here.
  8. Lochaber & Skype Police talk to someone at risk of domestic abuse. See here.
  9. Kirklees Council’s GIF that reminds people that gritter drivers are human too. See here.
  10. London Midland sign-off. See here.
  11. The NHS Trust with a sense of humour. See here.


  1. Doncaster Council and Jake the sweet sweeper driver. See here.
  2. The basketball playing Gainesville Police officer. See here.
  3. Sandwell Council as car share for #ourday. See here.
  4. Burger King tackles the bullies. See here.
  5. Sefton Council’s message on a national subject. See here.
  6. Bath & North East Somersets singing food hygiene certificates. See here.
  7. A Welsh hardware shop’s Christmas advert. See here.
  8. Dorset police’s Christmas somg. See here.

Facebook update

  1. Sydney Ferries name their new boat Ferry McFerry Face. See here.
  2. Queensland Ambulance Service takes a dying patient to the ocean a final time. See here.
  3. A missing dog pic from New Forest District Council. See here.

Customer service

  1. Edinburgh Council’s out-of-hours Twitter. See here.
  2. The human railway conductor’s announcements. See here.

Stopping your job to being human

  1. The busking police officer. See here.

Media interviews

  1. A newspaper interview with medics who treated Manchester bomb patients. See here.

Media comment

  1. North West Ambulance Service’s response to a man abusing a paramedic. See here.

Posters and signs

  1. Dudley Council’s spoiled tea sign. See here.
  2. Welcome to Helsinki place marketing. See here.
  3. Virgin Trains’ new trains poster. See here.


  1. The BBC respond to The Sun newspaper. See here.

If you have a suggestion I’d love to hear from you. Drop a note in the comments or @danslee on Twitter.

VIDEO KIT: Your essential kit-out-your-team-for-video-for-around-sixty-quid guide


Cost has always been a factor in helping to train comms people into how best to use video.

Gone are the days when a video production company could come and shoot a five grand video for a conference of fifty people.

Sure, there’s still a place for an externally-made video. But when you have the technology on your smartphone that’s in your pocket the smart thing to do is to look at ways to use that.

Over the past three years, myself and my colleague Steven Davies have trained more than 1,000 people. It has been a delight. Often people think the kit will be expensive. Not true. You can just use your phone or tablet if you like. But for a small investment you can improve what you do.

The sixty quid kit

If you have a device and you want the basics, a Rode clip-on microphone and a mobile phone tripod will cost you around £60. That’s roughly an Americano a day for a month. But if you want some extras, you can pay your money and take your choice.

A tablet or mobile

You can get a video camera if you must. But then you have the faff of keeping it charged, keeping it in a place where people can find it and hope that people will remember how to use it. Or you could use a smartphone or tablet. You are more likely to have that with you, have it charged and know what the buttons do.

Use your own phone if you can or your office device. But don’t use Windows or Blackberry. There isn’t the editing or social media software for them.

If money is no object, I’d reckon my colleague Steven suggest a Google Pixel 2 phone. Cost: Around £700.
Pixel 2 Phone (2017) by Google, G011A 64GB, 5″ inch SIM-free Factory Unlocked Android 4G/LTE Smartphone (Just Black)

I’d recommend a Samsung Galaxy S7. Cost: Around £400.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 32 GB SIM-Free Smartphone – Black

Or if you are after a tablet, the ipad will suffice. Cost: Around £300.

Apple iPad 9.7″ 2017 32GB Wi-Fi – Space Grey

Sound and shooting extras

A tripod is a good idea. A pocket one will work just fine. Cost: around £10.

Rhodesy Octopus Style Tripod Stand Holder for Camera, Any Smartphone with Clip

A Rode Smartlav clip-on microphone is handy to improve noise and has been roadtested by Steven. Cost: Around £50.

Rode Smartlav+ Lavalier Microphone for Smartphone

As an optional extra, a cable extension for the Rode Smartlav clip-on mic is an idea. Cost around £18.

Rode SC1 Cable

Shooting video can be a drain on your phone battery. So, a powerbank you can plug in to top-up your charge is always a good idea.

Anker PowerCore 10000, One of the Smallest and Lightest 10000mAh External Batteries, Ultra-Compact, High-speed Charging Technology Power Bank for iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and More


You’ve a choice of editing software. For ios, you can use imovie which is free. Or you can go for kinemaster which is ios or android. There is a free version. That’ll do great things and if you can live with the kinemaster logo in the top right corner even better. But the Pro version gives you extra resources to draw from and is worth it, frankly. You can get it for £23.25 a year if you pay upfront or about £3 a month pay-as-you-go. Cost: From free to up to £23.25 a year.


There are sound libraries available that charge a subscription. But there are also creative commons options which allow you to use for free so long as you fulfil some simple criteria. Crediting at the end, for example, is common. I’ve blogged about this here. Cost: free.


Our workshops help you to plan, shoot, edit, add music and text and post at the right length and in the right place. Give me a shout for more @danslee on Twitter or dan@comms2point0.co.uk.


Birmingham on January 22. More here.
Manchester on January 24. More here.
London on February 1. More here.


London on February 2. More here.

Pic credit: Kurt Clark / Flickr

SURE SHOT: 5 videos that show that video is thriving as a comms channel


Three years ago when we started to train people on how and when to use video for comms it felt like the early days.

The business case was there and the stats pointed clearly why it was a massively important comms channel. But examples were still thin on the ground. That’s all changed. There are more and more effective videos to be found.

Here are five that caught my eye over the last few months. Shot in-house. Engaging. Funny at times. Sad at others. This isn’t hard.

Being a real voice

Newcastle City Council are the Martin Scorcese of public sector video. They are sketching a new language on how to use the medium. They are letting real people speak. Sometimes those real people work for the council. Sometimes it has rough edges. But the rough edges make the content work.


Being a 360-degree Red Arrows watcher

I’ve long argued that content on social media shouldn’t always be call-to-action. It should be mixed. So, when the RAF’s Red Arrows came to town the day was a celebration. This 360 video catches the jets but so much more. It captures the crowd, the enthusiasm and the comms officer filming. But that’s fine. Good work Denbighshire Council.


Being eye-catching with a dancing GIF

Bath and North East Somerset Council have been good at video for a while. When they delivered a wheelie bin they were surprised to see a mobile resident. Marvellously, they also turned it into a GIF.

Being creative with Superheroes

Video isn’t just point and film a vox pop. You can be creative too. Here Kent Fire and Rescue have a more polished video that tells a story. Firefighters are secret super heroes. But you can be too if you test your smoke alarm.


Being a teller of an emotional story

The daughter of a police officer killed while on duty came to Bedfordshire Police to be the Chief Constable for the day. It was about the force saying ‘thank you’ and showing what being a police officer involved. It is a mix of video, stills, text, music and it works beautifully.


Can I help?

Over the past two-and-a-half years I’ve helped train more than 1,000 comms, PR, marketing and frontline people in when and how to use video. This has been delivered together with Steven Davies. It’s something I’m massively proud of. Full disclaimer: we’ve trained people from Newcastle City Council, Bath and North East Somerset and Kent Fire and Rescue. 

You can find out more about our Essential Video Skills for Comms workshops here or shout me on Twitter @danslee and by email dan@comms2point0.co.uk. 

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