HACK ATTACK: To work with journalists, first understand the two things that motivate them

Sometimes people ask me what makes journalists tick and I tell them this.

There are two things that make a journalist tick. 

Fear and ego make a reporter tick. 

I can say this cast-iron fact after 20 years as a reporter and answering media queries.  

Fear because they are under pressure. The pressure is to get the story, fill the paper, post to Facebook or fill the bulletin. Above the journalist is a news editor and above them is the editor. Editors often tend in my experience to be somewhat psychotic and as the saying goes ‘sh-t rolls down hill’.  

Fear because they don’t want to miss the next story. A relationship between reporter and comms person could be the length of a phonecall or it could be something more cultivated that stretches weeks and months.

One of the first lessons I learned as a reporter was that in a small town paths will cross. Be fair with people even in a critical knocking story and they’ll be fine.

If you’re the contact for a project that’s likely to be exciting, worthwhile and newsy then the fear is that they’ll miss out. The reporter won’t want to burn that relationship.

Ego because they want the front page bulletin leading story. They want the scoop that everyone else is chasing. It could be something that’s landed in their lap or it could be something that they’ve worked on for days, weeks, months or years. 

Fear and ego are so important.

I say all this with absolute love, affection and professional respect. It’s was what I thought when I was a reporter and what I still think now.

Very often people are dismissive of the role journalists play and that’s a big mistake. True circulation is down and there are other games in town. But Ofcom data during COVID showed how a crisis, people turned to content shaped by a journalist be that in print, online, on TV or radio. Even 75 per cent of under 24s were getting their COVID news from a trusted news source.

We overlook the reporter – comms relationship at our absolute peril. How we consume news has changed but what motives a reporter fundamentally hasn’t changed. Understanding what makesa reporter tick helps with this relationship.

A common mistake

I can understand why some comms teams insist the reporter email the query. But by doing this you are not doing as much as you can to build a relationship. Recently, I heard a Reach plc editor talk about how she would agree to give more time to a PR officer to get a response if the reporter had a good relationship with them. That doesn’t surprise me. Fear and ego? They don’t want to burn that relationship for fear they’d need it again in the future.  

Isn’t it all about changing the world for a reporter? No, I tell them. It isn’t. It may be at the start but once they’re working in a professional environment fear and ego are the day-to-day influences. You’re not going to save the world if you’ve got an angry news editor shouting at you. 

If you understand what makes a journalist tick you’ll know better how to approach the relationship.   

I run ESSENTIAL MEDIA RELATIONS workshops to help communications people work with journalists.

Picture credit: Wikimedia commons by Lee Bey. Chuck Neubauer in the old Chicago Sun-Times newsroom in 1998.

LONG READ: There is little now left of social media mark I 

In 2010, social media was so simple. Your video was YouTube, Instagram was your pictures, Facebook told you whose children were going to school and Twitter was about your breaking news. 

This version of social media – lets call it social media mark I – has changed without many of us realising it. 

Today, it is so much more complicated. All of them are about video. All of them penalise links. All of them are keen on creating safer spaces away from the notion of the big Town Square. 

Fast forward to today and what do we have? Video is everywhere. All of them have algorithms that select what we see rather than the order they were posted in. Increasingly, they are all selecting content from outside of our networks.

We are also less happy about having a public discussion on a public network. In social media mark 1, the Town Square was where all human life ideas and opinions are. But we are moving to safer spaces where like-minded people are.

Quietly, WhatsApp groups, Facebook groups and LinkedIn have emerged as places where people now are. Groups are self-selecting so if you want similar voices you can have them. Messenger is also very much a thing. 

There are two reasons for this. 

The first is online abuse and the second is TikTok. 

But first, the early optimistic days. 

The optimism of early social media 

Back in 1999, early web adopters got together to figure out how the social web may work. Their work is contained in the Cluetrain Manifesto. This far sighted document describes how they thought the social web would work. It is the founding document of social media mark I. 

In the manifesto, they described the human tone of voice that would work on the social web, that it would be a conversation and that online communities would be powerful. They wrote how hyperlinks would subvert hierarchy. That sharing links would be instant and powerful and we would no longer have to go through existing structures to reach people. 

In 2008, the public sector had started to switch on to social media with local government leading the charge. Back then only Derbyshire County Council, Newcastle City Council and Devon County Council were using Twitter. I was at Walsall Council and we were the 4th. Those that were were often taking risks to do things we today expect from our public services. When Derbyshire’s Sarah Lay put election results on the council Facebook page she did so at considerable personal risk.

The connections between these early risk takers and door pushers were all first made through Twitter. 

Then came Trump and Cambridge Analytica

Looking back, the inflection point was 2016.

Jon Ronson in his book ‘So You’ve Been Shamed Publicly’. Overnight, everything Lindsay Stone loved in life disappeared when the web lashed out at her for an ill-judged prank photograph in a cemetery. The human cost greatly outweighed the action. This was Town Square as mob.

But by the end of the book, Ronson discovered one shining truth. To be internet shamed you needed to feel shame. So, when Max Mosley was outed in a News of the World expose as taking part in a nazi-themed orgy with prostitutes he was indignant. It was an orgy with prostitutes, he confirmed. But it was not nazi-themed. Shamelessly, he took on the Murdoch title and won.

And Cambridge Analytica.

The company used personal data acquired through rule breaking to game Facebook and skew the 2016 Presidential campaign for Donald Trump. Allegations they also worked on the 2016 Brexit Leave campaign are unproven. 

The algorithm was rewarding argument, bitterness and abuse. So, with print declining some newspapers pushed the envelope and prioritised divisive content. Clicks meant eyeballs. Eveballs meant ad revenue. They still do. 

I remember thinking that the time that all this was not what the early promise of social media was for.

Online abuse 

In the early days of public sector social media abuse was rare. People were largely just pleased to see you engaging in a space where they were. But things change. 

Up to 40  per cent of the population experience online abuse, according to the Alan Turning Institute’s research into the problem in the UK back in 2019

If you work in public sector communications you are even likelier to see and be the subject of online abuse. 

During the pandemic at three month intervals I ran a tracker survey of how people were faring in public sector comms. Just over 50 per cent said that they were seeing verbal abuse aimed at then organisation at least weekly, 14 per cent were seeing abuse aimed at named individuals weekly and five per cent received threats of violence in the same period.

I’m tired of talking  to people who have been worn down by a drone that ranges from abuse to a background hum of microaggressions that chip away. 

So where has all this taken us? 

Anti social media 

It’s taken us away from the Town Square. 

There has been a race to create a Twitter competitor but I’ve a feeling they’re looking in the wrong place. We don’t want so much of that version of the social web, we want something far safer. 

What is safer? 

I’ve sometimes heard apps like WhatsApp, Messenger or Telegram as ‘anti-social media’. I see what they’re trying to say with that tag. I don’t agree with it. It is less about being anti-social in a trolling way and more about finding corners of the internet where people can more be themselves. It takes the danger laced serendipity of social media mark I and swaps it for something less unpredictable and more calmer. 

But we haven’t divorced ourselves from the more helpful elements of social media mark I. Breaking news can emerge first on the social web although for calm context a trip to a trusted news source online is what 75 per cent of us do for our news. 

Even TikTok

Even TikTok is part of this trend. Find 100 TikTok users and the videos they’ll see will be 100 different streams. 

The TikTok algorithm is framed around ‘interests’ not connections. So, if you like videos of dogs, mid-week recipes, places to go with children and cricket then the algorithm will find you out by what you swipe past and linger on. This is not the Town Square. It’s the cafe on the town square that serves exactly what you want. 

In the UK, TikTok is in the top three of most favourite channels from everyone from aged 18 to 52, Ofcom say.

TikTok has changed socials mark I because it has subverted it. By subverting it it has proved successful and those are numbers that all the others want.

New developments in messaging 

Scroll back through the announcements and developments and you’ll see so much activity around messaging.

So, the landscape changing WhatsApp Channel rollout which makes a potential mass audience tool available for the first time. That’s broadcast. 

Instagram Broadcast is a tool to allow what they’re calling a message to many functionality. That’s broadcast, too. Also on Instagram, the messaging functionality allows for group chats where group lists, 250 to a group  can be reached. That’s all broadcast.

None of these tools are yet in the API which can be used by third party tools. This means if you are a slave to Hootsuite then you’ll have to go off-piste in order to experiment with them.

Little remains of social media mark l but we’re still working out mark II 

Today, little remains of the early version of social media. What used to be sorted for you by the time it was posted is now a highly-curated feed. Not just a curated feed based on your connections but one based on what the algorithm thinks you’ll like. Where TikTok went first by prioritising interests others have followed. Facebook, forever the magpie of others’ ideas are doing the same. They call this the Discovery Engine to make it sound like they invented it. This explains why you are seeing things in your timeline that you aren’t following and aren’t ads.

What social media mark II looks like

In the early days of social media evangelists would consider the word ‘broadcast’ a dirty word. This was now, we were told, what the future looks like. In a recent workshop where WhatsApp Channels was discussed the broadcast nature of the platform was welcomed.

“You mean,” one said, “Each message won’t have a queue of people telling us we’re f–king idiots?

“Where can I buy one?” 

But this won’t be a move away from elements of what has come before. There is value in testing the temperature, breaking news, canvassing opinion going to where the eyeballs are. We just want space where people won’t shout all the time.

Conclusion: embrace change

What this means for public sector comms people is this. What felt like something set in stone is not. It has foundations of sand.

It will change.   

I run digital communications training and run social media reviews to help organisations improve how they communicate in a changing world. 

X CHANGES: You really REALLY need to rethink putting links into X, formerly Twitter

For social media, if a year is a long time then a decade is as far away as the  Precambrian era.

A decade ago, posting links to Twitter was a good idea. 

But things change and evolve. 

I was reminded again that links on the platform now known as X are not what they were.

What have they done now? 

In the most recent shift, Twitter have stopped including headlines from websites when the image is presented on the platform.  

This means that a tweet with a link now looks like this. 

In the general scheme of things, this is a fairly minor change in presentation. 

But it does mean having to take account of the loss of the headline when posting content.

Why are links penalised?

All platforms want to keep you on the platform for as long as possible. When you realise this you’ll realise why the reach for links is lower. 

To be fair links aren’t just penalised by Elon Musk they are pretty much penalised by all social sites. 

Various surveys show that links are penalised on the platform. They don’t perform as well. The platform is pretty unique in banning links to other social platforms

So what can you do? 

Firstly, there’s always building a thread to help you tell your story which tends to get rewarded. A thread in this context being a series of connected tweets rather than Threads the Meta-launched Twitter rival. 

Or post it long form.

The great man confirmed as much.

Mind, the ability to create Twitter notes is not available to everyone which is tricky

Yes, this does involve more work and no, not every social media management tool can allow you to post threads meaning that you may have to do so natively. 

Besides, the answer may be in telling the story on the platform itself rather than asking people to go somewhere else for it. The aim here isn’t to drive traffic to a particular website. You are not a web manager. The aim is to put the right information in front of the right people at the right time.  

The bottom line is if you want people to see your message then you’ll have to change and evolve. 

AI: Yes, you need to think about the big picture while mainstream tools are already here

When recording studios started to use filters and effects pedals musicians rose up in outrage.

This was not music, they said. People were being tricked, they warned withan air of indignation.

Right now, we’re at the stage of new tools being made available and needing to think about they’re used while they’re already being used by comms people. 

When I first sketched this blog post, I pulled together some big picture resources to get you started with AI. There’s some good strategic stuff from UK Government and the CIPR I’ve gone through.

But there’s also a slew of announcements by big tech companies that mean AI tools will be even further into the day-to-day.

So, this is less about needing sign-off to employ banks of boffins in labcoats to come up with great ideas. Although having the big picture covered is sensible you’ll be using AI even without thinking about it too much. 

AI tactical resources 

Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and AI

In the last few days Meta announced some tactical changes to creator tools in their leading platforms

What it also is looking at the announcements by Facebook and Google is that AI is being integrated right into the heart of their social channels.

The good news is that if you use AI this will be flagged up. So, adjust the background and people will be able to see which tool you’ve used. Less Government health warning and more helpful tip to try out the tool too. 

This is a good move. 

YouTube and AI

And Google are following suit with AI tools around their YouTube Shorts platform. Not everyone is using their TikTok rival right now but you can be sure if it works well in one area it’ll be pushed through into other areas.

TikTok and AI

AI created content can be marked as such on TikTok.

AI strategic resources 

A green light from Government comms 

Firstly, here’s a green light. Yes, you can. Simon Baugh, chief executive of the Government Communications Service, has given a speech that addresses using AI as a communicator.

He rightly points out that of course we should.

How should public sector communicators use AI? The first question might be: “should public sector communicators use AI at all?” The short answer is “yes”. In a few years, asking this question may seem as ridiculous as asking whether we should use the internet. 

I’m very much of the opinion that AI won’t replace the whole of comms. But comms people who can use AI will replace those who can’t. Fifteen years ago I was at an LGComms conference on a panel to discuss social media. We were introduced with the words ‘there’s only two things wrong with social media, it’s not social and it’s not media.’ This was at the time a ridiculous thing to say and that individual left the sector not long after.

AI, Simon says, was used in the Department of Health and Social Care Every Mind Matters campaign which led to 31,000 more people using a mental health plan. It is also getting used by the Royal Navy in their careers website to provide answers to questions in the chat function. This has reduced calls by 60 per cent. 

It’s interesting that GCS are looking to develop their own version of ChatGPT. In other words, a large language model that when asked for a comms plan will use GCS’s own version of a comms plan. 

Personally, I’ve found that GCS’s comms planning tool may work for Government but its too unwieldy for a lot of what local government, NHS, police, fire and rescue do. Government departments may think of a dozen campaigns a month. In local government, that can be a dozen issues a week easily. 

A guide to using AI in the public sector 

If more insight is needed to build a business case then UK Government’s Guide to using AI in the public sector is also a good starting point.  While this is aimed at big picture projects it does look into the issues that it’s wise to look at. So, the quality of the data is worth looking at, for example.

CIPR research 

The first time I came across AI in earnest was the CIPR’s hugely useful Humans Still Needed report for 2018. This mapped how the sector was going to be affected by AI. Five years on, there is a second CIPR report called ‘Humans Needed More Than Ever.

CHANNEL SHIFT: A complete guide to WhatsApp Channels for the public sector

WhatsApp Channels is poised to become a truly game changing tool.

For the first time organisations can use Channels to use WhatsApp at scale to reach an audience. 

This isn’t private messaging it’s provate broadcasting.

Given that more than 50 per cent of the UK population uses the messaging app this opens up a new vista of communication.

Yes, there’s an audience on WhatsApp

WhatsApp chugs on in the background being an entirely effective way of talking to a small group of people. It’s also widely used by everyone from families, work colleagues, professional networks and other communities.

It’s also not just young people or older people. It’s all demographics as Ofcom data shows.

Table 1. UK WhatsApp by demographic 2023 (source: Ofcom)

What WhatsApp Channels is

Basically, Channels is a new piece of functionality in a new area of WhatsApp. You’ll find it in updates.

WhatsApp describes it: 

“Channels are a one-way broadcast tool for admins to send text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls. Channels can be found in a new tab called Updates on WhatsApp – where you’ll find Status and channels you choose to follow – separate from your chats with family, friends, and communities.”

WhatsApp blog

It’s also one way and yes, its GDPR compliant

If you’re an admin fed-up of getting abused when you post something then this will be a pleasant change. It’s broadcast. It’s one way. So there’s no replies that others can see and nobody else can see the names and phone numbers like you can in a standard WhatsAp group chat. 

So, it’s not going to offend GDPR.


Updates can be forwarded on

One part of the WhatsApp Channels functionality that hasn’t been highlighted is the ability for people to forward on a message. For me, this misses much of the point of Channels. An update about recycling really should have a call to action to forward to people who live in that area. This can hugely amplify the reach of a message.

There’s a layer of privacy

Interestingly, Meta have made great play about the privacy element. Updates stay on servers for 30 days and then disappear. Admins can stop people from taking screenshots directly from users phones.

This absolutely follows the trend of walled gardens

At first, social media was all about the town square where different voices could be brought together. Then people started shouting and people got a bit fed up of that. The trend has been towards walled gardens where people are happier to be. So, messaging tools have been part of this trend. For Meta to now launch Channels really puts the accelerator down on the walled garden idea. If they could move Facebook pages into a private space maybe they would. This is the next best alternative. 

But how are brands using WhatsApp Channels?

Firstly, WhatsApp Channels is being limited to big brands right now so there’s no real public sector use.

The first few weeks has been a time of experimentation and I’ve taken a snapshot of football teams, news providers, arms of the UN and Meta themselves have been using the platform.

NamePostsFollowersTextMemePic VideoLinks
UNICEF Supply1231k0.1
UNICEF Parenting2723k0.19
Politics Joe23.5k0.19
Real Madrid1314.1 million0.37.03
Lad Bible1589k0.
BBC News6542k0.3
Manchester City87.7 million0.40.2
LBC Radio218.30.2
WhatsApp122.3 million0.001
Mark Zuckerburg48.8 million0.6

Take a bow Real Madrid who have been acing it so far.

What works for them are images with text. I’ve used this as a definition of a meme. It’s quite loose, I know. But images with a message on have been working really well for them with an engagement rate of more than seven per cent. That’s an astounding figure and one that I think we can all learn from.

The images have set out starting XIs, celebrated a moment from the game or an achievement.

What’s striking for me is that clearly, Real Madrid seethis as a global channel. So, there are kick off times posted on an image that go around the world.

I’ve never seen that before.

What’s not effective… links aren’t effective

Newsweek have absolutely gone link crazy. There’s 44 posts over a four day period and a breakneck 10 or more a day on average.

That feels way too much.

While links can be posted onto the platform which ia real shift in approach from WhatsApp it’s clear that this strategy of volume and links isn’t working at all. There’s an engagement rate of 0.02 per cent.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

It will be interesting to see how the platform evolves.

Using WhatsApp Channel as the public sector

As far as what type of channel tro create the jury is out.

The organisations currently using Channels are established and are using Channels in the same way they’d maybe use other channels.

I wonder if the public sector may fall into a bear trap if they use their corporate name. I live in Dudley. Do I want Dudley Council on my WhatsApp? Hmmmm. Local government with its 1,200 services struggles to get all residents in all what it does.

Besides, councils are pretty unpopular organisations.

So, to use the Dudley example, I’m not sure if I want all updates, thanks.

But Yorkshire Dales National Park, for example, I may sign-up for updates for visitors. Places to go, images, short video clips and events that’s maybe something I’d be interested in.

Do I want the date and time of the next national park meeting? Do I heck.

Give me video of waterfalls and landscapes.

Creating a WhatsApp channel

Not everyone has the functionality yet but when you do, this is what Mashable says:

Creating WhatsApp channels is as straightforward as forming WhatsApp groups. If you’ve received the update that introduces WhatsApp channels and you wish to create one yourself, follow these simple steps to establish WhatsApp channels.

Please note that not everyone may have the option to create channels at this time. Stay tuned for future updates, but if you have the channel creation option, here’s how to proceed:

  1. Navigate to the ‘Updates’ tab.
  2. In the Updates tab, tap the plus icon (+), then select the “New Channel” option.
  3. Tap on ‘Get started’ then add the channel’s profile picture and description.
  4. Once you’ve completed these details, select ‘Create channel,’ and your WhatsApp channel will be created.
  5. Share the invite link through messages, email, or the web to invite people to join the channel.

How to Adjust Channel Privacy Settings

While creating channels, you have the flexibility to choose whether your channel should be private or public. If you inadvertently select the wrong option during channel creation, here’s how to rectify it:

Tap on your channel’s name or profile picture at the top.

  1. Scroll down to access channel settings.
  2. Select ‘Privacy settings.’
  3. Adjust the privacy settings from private to public or vice versa as per your preference.


The dashboard of insights an admin can see looks pretty varied. However, I’ve not seen one in the wild yet but the first impressions is that this is pretty detailed.

It’ll be interesting to see how this evolves.

Getting followers

Right now, the direct route is for people to find your channel via their own WhatsApp with them navigating to updates and then searching.

That’s not the most obvious way for people to find you.

Interestingly, Real Madrid while they are kings of Channels don’t have a single link, follow button or reference to their Channel on their website.

The Daily Mail, who have a sport WhatsApp Channel, are promoting sign-ups via a link through a story which takes you through to the WhatsApp site.

Having a link feels like the way WhatsApp for Business generated followers with its link, QR code and the ability to synch a Facebook page to WhatsApp.

I deliver ESSENTIAL COMMS SKILLS BOOSTER workshops where I go into using channels like WhatsApp in more detail.

IT’S HERE: What you need to know about WhatsApp Channels

A quick update you’ll need on WhatsApp Channels. 

Earlier this year Meta announced plans for this tool and was launched as a trial in two countries in Asia.

They’ve now rolled this out to the UK.

What’s WhatsApp Channels? Basically, it will allow organisations to be able to use WhatsApp itself as a way to reach people on the platform.

This is huge, huge news given that around 80 per cent of 18 to 64-year-olds use the platform (source: Ofcom).

Previously, using WhatsApp was limited to WhatsApp for Business with a limit of 256 subscribers.


The sky is literally the limit. We talk about Threads as a competitor for X (formerly Twitter). I wonder if its WhatsApp Channels may fill part of this role in an emergency given the existing interconnectedness of existing WhatsApp.

The ability to use WhatsApp Channels and the ability to create is being rolled out as of September 2023.

The WhatsApp blog here sets out what they are looking at:

We’ve appreciated all the positive feedback from our initial start in ten countries. As we expand Channels globally, we’re introducing the following updates:

  • Enhanced Directory – you can now find channels to follow that are automatically filtered based on your country. You can also view channels that are new, most active, and popular based on number of followers.
  • Reactions – you can react using emojis to give feedback and see a count of total reactions. How you react will not be shown to followers.
  • Editing – soon, admins will be able to make changes to their Updates for up to 30 days, when we automatically delete them from our servers.
  • Forwarding – whenever you forward an Update to chats or groups it will include a link back to the channel so people can find out more.

A quick look at channels so far 

Taking a look at what’s available in the first days

BBC News 79,000 subscribers

Manchester City Football Club 3.7 million subscribers

Liverpool Football Club 3.3 million subscribers

LadBible 6,8k follow

Content so far 

I’ve taken a look at the limited pool that’s out there.

The big observation is that there are links in content. 

That in itself is huge as links were discouraged in version 1.0 of WhatsApp.

ADVICE LIST: How to use your LinkedIn corporate page effectively

For me, the LinkedIn corporate page is that unexplored bit of the internet is ripe for a fresh look.

Years ago the channel was lazily dismissed as ‘Facebook for Accountants’ but in recent years it’s really come to the fore. It’s a safer space compared to other platforms. It’s also where a lot of professional discussion now is. 

LinkedIn now has 10.9 million monthly users in the UK.

I’ve updated the training I run to take on more of LinkedIn and thought I’d share some things you may well be missing.

So what of it? 

Simple ways to improve your corporate LinkedIn page

Have a LinkedIn page in the first place

Pages on LinkedIn used to be pretty dull corners of the internet that HR took over back in the mists of time as a place to pimp jobs. Thankfully they’ve improved a heck of a lot. 

Have more than one admin

LinkedIn give a number of levels of admin to allow the smooth running of the page. The super admin is top of the tree with the content admin the next rung down having around 80 per cent of the permissions. Below that is the curator who can create and edit content. Below that in permissions is the analyst who can see the backend and that’s it. Use the admin levels rather than just have one person.

On your LinkedIn page know your audience

This feels absurdly obvious but I’ve come to realise that not everyone in your organisation will realise that LinkedIn is for professionals. Post content that is likely to land with your audience.

Push back on the request from the middle manager for the table top sale to be posted on LinkedIn as well as every other available channel. This blunderbuss approach to communication last worked in 1973. You are only going to irritate people if you use that approach.

Age demographics are remarkably consistent for LinkedIn. Around 20 per cent of all age groups to 65 use it but you’ll see your own audience in your page insights. If you are starting your career or maintaining it a LinkedIn profile is really important.

So have a LinkedIn page content strategy

You have a page and so you’ll get insights so you’ll see your audience. Experiment with content but do come at it from a professional perspective. If you’re a company in public transport you may want to talk about journey times, safety figures and big picture announcements. But you should also focus on staff. The long serving employee, the HR person who has done something really interesting in HR and wants to share it by writing a blog on his or her own profile that the page can share. 

It’s maybe about posting a pdf guide to how farmers can apply for a certain grant and what help is available if you’re a rural council. Or maybe there’s a meet the buyer day where a house builder wants to connect with electricians, plumbers or safety equipment suppliers. That’s the value.

For me, there’s a mix of staff to make people want to join that company and also some innovative work that can help so the other part of your audience can plug in. 

Experiment with LinkedIn page content

There’s a stack of things you can do. Words are fine but images and short form video are more engaging and can stop people scrolling. This behind the scenes video on the restoration of Marble Hill by English Heritage works.

Use the repost functionality as a page

This is a really usnderused tool. The retweet back in the day was a powerful resharing of content. The reshare button does the same on LinkedIn. Maybe its a post from an organisation you are sharing or maybe its from an individual.

Use LinkedIn groups and encourage your staff to too

LinkedIn groups are an underused tool and it maybe there is a group you can set-up for a specific reason. Have a look first to see if there’s a group that  you’d want to plug into as an organisation. But I’d recommend doing so via the people in your organisation who need to talk to professional people. 

But this is also where you want to encourage people to use their own LinkedIn profiles. 

When I worked in local government, the deputy leader who was cabinet member for regeneration used to go to the Chamber of Trade business breakfast to talk about town centre redevelopment. He’d go along with some senior officers. Of course they were the right people. Think of LinkedIn groups as the same. 

I was born in Staffordshire, and a quick search of LinkedIn shows more than 200 groups. So, if there’s things in the offing in Uttoxeter in Staffordshire, the 520 people of the Uttoxeter Business Network would be the space to go to.   

Happily, LinkedIn is a space that more people are happy to use in their own name. Yes, there is a problem with women being sent unsolicited messages but there are tools to clamp-down on that. 

Aside from campaigns, the HR person talking about HR to their network of HR people is good karma for a place where people would want to work.

Experiment with LinkedIn Newsletters

The platform has been pushing LinkedIn newsletters as a tool for LinkedIn. To work this would need to be tailored for a specific audience rather than be a receptacle for every piece of content. 

Experiment with LinkedIn Ads

Other organisations are using ads to reach an audience particularly around recruitment. However, English Heritage use ads to target film production for their portfolio of properties to be used as filming locations.

Experiment with documents

Pdfs can be uploaded to LinkedIn as a means of content. Uploaded documents to LinkedIn can’t be bigger than 100MB or 300 pages but this does open the door to extra content. The National Trust, for example, posted a short guide to summer gardening that worked well as a short pdf.  

Experioment with posting jobs

Your new chief executive is likely to be found via LinkedIn. So is that niche senior post. There’s really good functionality with LinkedIn for jobs. Other jobs where you’ll need fewer qualifications maybe more successful with a post to Facebook.

Experiment with LinkedIn live video 

You can find live video either on a page you are following or through the events page. Live video can create more comment and engagement than a standard video. Basically you creator an event and then you add a date and time for people to sign-up to. You can run it through a third party tool like Streamyard or your own URL which can point at something like Teams.  

As a summary

As with anything, this is about investing time and effort for the medium to long run. If you’re worried about being locked into a channel that you maybe don;’t want to be wedded to that’s fine. Call it a three month trial. At the end of the trial and it;s not worked just say thanks and dial back. If its worked then what do you know, you’re listening to the public and keeping on LinkedIn use.  

One of the thing. The arc of conversation on LinkedIn has always been longer than other channels. Post something to X (formerly Twitter) back in the day and within 20 minutes you’ll know if that content worked. For LinkedIn, its around a week for the discussion to take hold and for there to be a back and forth. 

LinkedIn pages to look at for inspiration

Manchester City Council A really good local government page that’s well maintained.

National Trust A well resourced membership organisation that uses a variety of content.

English Heritage The organisation that looks after historic buildings in England has a good range of content.

Counter Terrorism Policing is a niche area of policing with more than 80,000 followers on LinkedIn through their content mix.

Cheltenham Borough Council This council doesn’t have the resources of larger orgabnisations but is using its page and content wisely to reach an audience.

NHS Supply Chain has some good focusn on staff.

I deliver the updated ESSENTIAL COMMS SKILLS BOOSTER workshops which is now updated to include LinkedIn pages. 

REPORT: How did communicating Voter ID go? [LGiU report]

Out of sight out of mind, Voter ID sits on the list of things to do but is buried below a pile of other things for local government comms people, I know.

But rather like Christmas shopping, it’ll soon swing round and the trick is not to be in the 24-hour garage on Christmas Eve looking for the last box chocolates.

With that in mind, I commend local government think tank LGiU’s ‘The Impact of Voter ID’ which I suggest you read or at the very least favourite for later.

While the document is aimed at election office administrators there’s plenty for communications people, too.

I’ve blogged before on the issue of communicating Voter ID. Yes, there’s a political debate to be had by politicians. No, there’s nothing to add if you’re politically restricted and yes, it’s the law.

Whether we like it or not, its legislation that needs to be communicated because it’s about the absolute building block of democracy and that’s the ability to vote.

Bottom line: if you’re English, Welsh or Scottish local government you need to unederstand these lessons well ahead of the next general election which is only just over the horizon.

Yes, Voter ID comms is difficult

First, there’s no surprise in the feedback. Around 83 per cent of people said that communicating Voter ID was slightly or much harder than in previous years, the LGiU findings showed..

Key findings

Election administrators are split on what impact Voter IDS had on turnout. The body of evidence from one election doesn’t conclusively prove that it had any significant impact on sections of the population.

A strong local campaign is needed. A national message with a local accent is my take on this. Yes, there’s central resources but giving that a local flavour would be useful.

Innovative comms is needed. Do the usual but think of all the ways that you can additionally get the message out. Putting the message on paper bags in pharamacies was done along with on the side of bin lorries.

Don’t look to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for all the help. Less than 50 per cent of election administrators said the UK Government department were helpful while around three quarters pointed to the Electoral Commission and more than 90 per cent praised the Association of Electoral Administrators. Comms people should make friends with the elections team who are members of this group.

People were confusion on the what ID they needed. What’s also striking is that feedback from people at polling station was that often people knew they needed ID but were confused about what kind to have with them.

General Elections will be a flashpoint. There is an expectation that while local elections will be tricky the real problem will be when Westminster goes to the polls.

Now, make a note to talk in the New Year with your elections team about communicating Voter ID.

Good luck.

BROKEN NEWS: Facebook v X (Twitter) v Threads: Which one was the busiest social media channel in the school concrete crisis?

Ever since the riots of 2011, Twitter – now known as X – has been the place where news and hot topics have broken but 12 years on… is it still?

Since the Elon Musk takeover, the platform has renamed as X and placed a limit on the number of updates that can be seen. That’s blunted the key advantage of the platform in an unfolding drama.

But what now? Is it Threads? Or still X? Or Facebook? It’s a regular question I’m being asked and there’;s a sense of confusion.

The simple answer is that the dice are still up in the air and its only really when a major incident unfolds that we’ll see where they come down. 

In September 2023, days before the start of term more than 100 schools were told they had dangerous concrete on their premises at risk of collapse. Overnight, ‘RAAC’ or ‘Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete’ became a hot search term on Google.  

Google Trends: The search term RAAC over the last 30 days

But where did people go to debate and discuss?

To find out, I chose seven schools at random and ran searches on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and the new challenger Threads.

I measured posts and reshares giving them both equal weight. So, an update on Facebook shared 10 times has a score of 11.

Here’s what I found out. 

Overall, there were 505 countable updates.

Facebook saw 82.4 of the updates

X (formerly Twitter) saw 17.4 per cent of the updates

Threads saw 0.0 per cent of the updates 

Now, nobody should tear up their emergency plan based on just this.

But what we can draw from this is that for a slow burning running story, schools matter Facebook is where debate may well play out. 

X (formerly Twitter) has less than 20 per cent and there was not a single post on Threads.

It’s important to remember that this is a snapshot of one national news story in late 2023. But what this does indicate is that Facebook isn’t going away any time soon. If X (formerly Twitter) can take any comfort is that It also shows Threads has yet to take root.

We are in an environment of constant change and evolution. It pays to pay close attention when the next crisis takes shape where the activity will be. 

Raw data

Wood Green Academy, Wednesbury, Sandwell (all face to face teaching)

On X (formerly known as Twitter) 11 individual tweets with 32 retweets.

On Facebook, 9 public updates with 310 reshares.

No updates on Threads.

St Andrew’s Junior School, Hatfield Peverel, Essex (Start of term delayed) 

On X, two individual tweets with two retweets.  

On Facebook, no updates. 

No updates on Threads.

Abbey Lane School, Sheffield (all face to face teaching)  with a kitchen closed

On X, 13 tweets with 10 retweets including Hallam FM and Sheffield City Council.

On Facebook, 7 posts including the MP with 4 reshares.

No updates on Threads.

Myatt Garden Primary School, Lewisham (all face-to-face teaching) 

On X, 3 tweets with 1 RT

On Facebook, no updates. 

On Threads, no updates

Outwoods Primary School, Atherstone, Warwickshire (start of term delayed) 

On X, 6 tweets with 6 RTs

On Facebook, 1 post.

On Threads, no updates

St John Bosco Catholic Primary, Sunderland (mix of face-to-face and remote) 

On X, 7 tweets with no RTS.

On Facebook, 2 updates 27 shares

On Threads, no updates.

Donnington Wood Infant School and Nursery, Telford & Wrekin (all pupils in face-to-face education). 

On X, 4 tweets, 2 RTs

On Facebook, 3 updates, 75 shares. 

On Threads, no updates. 

I deliver the ESSENTIAL COMMS SKILLS BOOSTER workshop gives the basic skills a comms person needs in 2023.

SOCIAL RULES: 28 examples of social media policies and advice to beef yours up

A good social media policy like reinforced does the heavy lifting out of sight and can be juist as useful.

I’ve been involved with several and know they can be a bit of a devil to draw-up, agree, get signed off and then stick to.

So, I thought it useful to blog some examples which date from the last few years.

A good social media policy sets out how staff can use it and also how the organisation will use it.

You want iyt to be simple, clear and easy to follow. You also want it publsihed so people can see it. I’m puzzled at how so often people will bury theirs like an unwanted Christmas jumper.

Reading through the examples – and there are some fine examples for 2023 it struck me that there are a couple of things a robust policy needs to include.

Set out how the organisation will broadly use social media

You want this to be some clear basic principles.

So, we’ll use the best platform to reach the right audience is good.

We’ll use MySpace for the kids and Twitter for BeBo for customer services will really hem you in.

Set out how staff can use it and not use it

Again , broad principles are good. For the most part linking your code of conduct to also include social media does most of what’s needed.

The General Medical Council’s policy is aimed at how doctors can use it, for example, and they pull in existing good medical practice guidance before adding some other things around confidentiality and boundaries.

I also like University Hospitals Dorset’s policy as it covers how the organisation will use it but also staff out-of-hours too. They quote human rights legislation to defend their right to a voice but also spell out what will get them into trouble with codes of practice.

Beefing up the support

One thing I did see missing from some of the polocies was robust support for those using social media for the organisation.

It was good to see ‘trolling’ raised as an issue but I’d beef that up with reference to the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance on abuse in the workplace which covers abuse online, too.

Social media policy examples


Scottish Government.

Government Digital Service – UK Government

Student Loans Company (for staff)


Information Commissioners Office (for staff)

Local government

Bristol City Council

Middlesborough Council

Lincoln City Council [We transfer]

Fire and rescue

Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue [WeTransfer]


Merseyside Police

Association of Chief Police Officers

Metropolitan Police

Higher education 

University of Exeter

University of Belfast (for students)

University of Belfast (for staff) 

University of Keele

University of Reading


NHS Wales social media policy

NHS England

NHS Digital

NHS 24 (Scotland)

NHS University Hospitals Dorset

Professional bodies

Nursing and Midwifery Council.

General Medical Council (for doctors)

British Association of Social Workers (for social workers)

National Park

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority [WeTransfer]


Charity Commission

Charity Comms  

MacMillan Cancer (for staff)

Thanks to everuyone who flagged policies and sent through policies they didn’t mind sharing with a WeTransfer link.

Shout in the comments if you have any you’d like me to add.

%d bloggers like this: