CATCH-UP: My five most clicked on posts and links of 2020 you may have missed

Here you go.

Here’s my five most clicked on posts and five most clicked links from my weekly email.

Clipped: I watched the 100 best TikTok videos to find the optimum length of a post

Here’s a weird one. I couldn’t find a clip talking about optimum video length for TikTok so I did the research myself in early 2020. It’s still generating traffic.

TikTok used to be a maximum of 15 seconds but has increased to 60 seconds.

The results?

The average length of the top 100 was just over 15.6 seconds – rounded up to 16 seconds.

While creators are able to make longer video the optimum length would appear to be shorter.

You can read the post here.

High numbers: The UK social media and messaging user data you need for 2021

Here’s a round-up of data for communicators in 2021 from the extensive and rather handy Ofcom data.

As a country, older people gravitate to Facebook and WhatsApp while younger people can be found on a wider array of platforms.

Messaging platforms like Messenger, WhatsApp and Skype collectively are more popular than social media accounts.

Every age demographic has its distinct preferences.

You can read the post here.

2021 numbers: Ofcom media & stats for the UK

Another round of data for communicators crunched.

Online Nation published in June 2021 gives a picture of how much has changed. Want a two word summary?

‘Changed lots.’

You can read the post here.

Like practice. How do I practice a Facebook Live without anyone seeing it?

Here’s another that was created several years ago but Google search has pushed it high up the rankings.

I get it. You like the idea of Facebook Live but you just don’t like the idea of looking stupid in front of your friends. Well relax. This is for you.

You can read the post here.

Guest post. Learning how to better communicate with diverse communities during COVID-19

Polly Czoik from Hackney Council’s astonishingly helpful post on reachuing diverse communities.

Each phase of the pandemic has unwrapped new challenges. Now we have a vaccine, why aren’t people coming forward to take it? Polly Cziok talks about the groundbreaking work the London Borough of Hackney have been involved with to map their diverse communities, listen to them, create bespoke content for them and then refine it. People want to be informed not manipulated. It’s an approach that is starting to work.

You can read the post here.

Popular links

Tweets as images of text

Madeline Sugden’s post chimed with people. It maps why social contact can often be inaccessible to a chunk of people.

Now a year on, the issue of inaccessible information in text graphics continues. Over the last few days, we’ve again seen organisations choosing to respond to issues with a statement in a graphic with no other way of reading it. 

We can’t let this be the norm and let it go unchallenged. Social media needs to be a place which is accessible to everyone. We all need to do our bit. Being busy or not thinking about it is not an excuse.

You can read it here.

Only Your Boss Can Cure Your Burnout

Here’s a sign of the times. The Atlantic’s post on overwork was one of the most popular links of the year.

There’s also been burnout creep recently—people might talk about “midlife-crisis burnout” or being “burned out on Pilates.” But at its core, burnout is a work problem. Though wellness influencers might suggest various life hacks to help push through pandemic torpor, actual burnout experts say that tips and tricks are not the best way to treat the condition.

You can read it here.

Facebook advertising in 2021: 6 most valuable tips for beginners

This practical guide proved to be useful.

It’s not 2016 anymore – the era of a relatively easy organic reach is long gone. There have been lots of updates on the Facebook algorithm during the last couple of years. Most important of them being the way posts appear in the feed.

You can read the post here.

How to tell stories with maps

The story of Dr John Snow plotting cholera deaths and working out it was coming from an infected pump is a thing of wonder.

The result was the famous Cholera Map, which proved that infections were concentrated around a specific water pump — which was itself connected to a local cholera-ridden cesspit.

John Snow’s findings transformed how public authorities responded to the disease. They also contributed to the revolution in sanitation infrastructure in London — and other cities around the world — in decades to come.

You can read more here.

Cumbria County Council’s home COOVID-19 test video

Abi, the daughter of a comms person, starred in this video which came at a time when we were trying to work out how testing worked.

Secondary pupils will do regular COVID-19 tests when they go back to school and many are anxious about it. To help, Abi offered to demonstrate what doing a test involves. She was pretty nervous herself but now she knows it’ll be OK. Please share with your children if they are worried and you think it will help.

You can watch it here.

WEB HISTORY: Celebrating England and a late 90s internet creation called Valiantitus

Someone asked why I greet England goals on Twitter in the same way.

Let me explain.

Caution: This is not one of my regular blog posts about communications. If football or the early internet is not your thing skip this. Normal service will be resumed.

Where I learned to spot internet rumours

Everything I learned about the internet came from late 90s internet messageboards.

These places were early social media. You signed up with a pseudonym and then you took part in earnest debates on niche subjects.

With me, it was Stoke City and the Oatcake Messageboard set-up by the editors of the well-established The Oatcake fanzine.

That was the place where I first fell for internet rumours when ‘Lee Trundle seen in Hanley estate agents’ threads circulated. And I realised that you had to take things with a pinch of salt.

It was a community and as such had friends and enemies. You can still find it online. It has 4.9 million posts and represents a tremendous piece of Stoke and internet history.

One related forum was for League One fans. One regular poster was someone called Valiantitus who may or may not be real. He used to give detailed accounts of Port Vale games where goals were always greeted with BOOM! BOOM! BROOKER AWAG! LIQUID FOOTBALL GOAL EXPLOSION!

As a comic creation, this was Alan Partridge meets Fantasy Football.

There is little of his writing left on the web.

This is the Valiantitus match report when England reached the 2002 World Cup.

It’s why in homage I greet goals the same way.

Valiantitus’s England match report England v Greece

it was BECKHAM pure magic dream free kick dipping goal explosion crowd explosion england pubs explosion birches head explosion all over the country AWAG EXPLOSION as England make the world cup somewhere next year

“it is was and a game of greatness of important happenings with so much to go from and places to go i it was england vs greece and it was but not as many people thought it would turn out it did the way that it went but Old trafford sixty thosand people together as one though some say it could of been more but it they came out always a strange tunnel in the corner but boom god save the queen faithful and triumfant victorious long and faithful god save the queen they sung even beckham and then it kicked off and once again we watched it in the living room no problems no touch of frost this time to hold things back but it was saturday not wednesday night like last time and a day time kick off as nothing is on tv saturday afternoons maybe war films with soldiers but it was england match of the day me carl and step dad all around the table and monopoly but all eyes on england and eyes on motson who could not be seen but focused and kick off and it was ready

it was england but it was like them but it was not right not like germany and carl said maybe it was a one off then but it was england struggling like at newcastle it was hard and greek were fast and strong and going totally awag with outfield football ability and made england look like chesterfield but it was they were on top which is never right and never good to watch england playing like chesterfield all over the place and greece throwing everything chance after chance england no answer and no attacks scholes and gerrard going awag in a bad way in the middle of the park which is never a good sign we started with the Monopoly again from last night but the game was still left to be played and i am the tophat carl is the car and my step dad the boat and i own the gas works but it was harry selars for greek bang boom cross shot well struck greece goal explosion go directly to jail land on park lane at the same time which carl then bought but it was england madness and the bull fighters had taken the lead and then nothing better from england it was half time not looking good as i went for a ghost poo not using any paper to wipe which was lucky

then the second half happened they came out attacking a goal surrounded by england fans but it was the same as before only a different direction but it was all england behind both goals the greeks i do not now maybe well hidden we had chicken and chips to eat in between but no gravey then both England and monopoly kicked off again move past go two hundred fake pounds please as barmby went off who was poor on the left wing first half but on came cole who is rubbish at times but good but can be poor but did well and got the defence of the greeks in a muddle and cole behind power shot well saved but still mixed from england and all playing badly but appart from beckham who is he was is everywhere doing everyones job but only him and martin in goals are doing us proud then it happened on comes sheringham on he comes as sub off goes someone maybe fowler i cant remeber as i was buying hotels on regent street at the time but then corner ball down the left beckham crosses sheringham power bounce header boom bang goal england score and it was is 1-1 sheringham only on the pitch 2 seconds maybe less but first touch england are level immense old trafford ground explosion and i buy a house on old kent road

it is it now england are back and are looking to destroy the bull fighters but then with the crowd building up in to an awag volume exposion it was greeks again the minute later keown or ferdanand falls over slip slide gentle placement goal in to the corner 1-2 and carl throws the momopoly comunity chest across the room in temper cards go everywhere so much is shattered what now england let slip no way back but just like vale always hope and germany still being held by finland at home stay like this and england do go out but it will not happen more subs made macamanaman on for ash cole going all attack now and a couple of good chances but now only 5 minutes left of normal ref time greek goalkeeping man having total blinder nothing goes in just like goodlad when on form but it keeps going and england need it bad injury time added four minutes as carl wins monopoly building hotels on the gas works does not count but it is england moving forward 2 minutes left attacks more foiled again last minute of injury time arrives sheringham wins free kick 30 yards out but who to take beckham or gerrard but it is beckham had so many free kicks that after noon all not good but this one he can do it needs something special like brammer or mills about him from a dead ball situation steps up englands last hope smack bang boom curl bending goal dipping power goal explosion top corner AWAG not BROOKER but BECKHAM 2-2 as Old Trafford rose as one last minute and it is ultimate awag at its best and it is germany draw held no goals at home to finland or poland can not remember all a blur but it was BECKHAM pure magic dream free kick dipping goal explosion crowd explosion england pubs explosion birches head explosion all over the country AWAG EXPLOSION as England make the world cup somewhere next year and we had some tea to celebrate and will play monopoly again later

England Player ratings
Player ratings

Nigel Martin 8 (Englands best player who played in goal today for
england and made some good saves to stop nasty bad things happening and becoming real)

Gary Neville 6 (it was neville he is not great but can be good in a
good way but today he did get forward but not at his best which is
rare anyway but he was there is no one better which is a shame at right back)

Ashley Cole 6 (not special but it he i mean is a good one for future
events is ok but could of done better but let people get in behind
which is never good)

Martin Keown 6 (old now but still has a brain in his head inside his
skull which is in his head but he is old now)

Rio Ferdanand 6 (lots of talent a bit like michael walsh at vale but ferdanad is to cocky)

Steven Gerrard 5 (poor and not good i said before alcohol plays havoc with my tail maybe it was him drinking in mid week that affected his preformance i just do not now but he was poor)

David BECKHAM 10 (all were poor today outfield but BECKHAM was there doing things like a combination of Bridge Wilkinson Brammer and Naylor everywhere doing so much made a goal scored a goal)

Paul Scholes 5 (not he was not good he was bad had a volley well saved in the box but not good a passanger and kept not finding players in england shirts with his short passes)

Robbie Fowler 5 (did not go and do what it was it what the people said and score goals does things but is a poacher not enough hard work and things but a bit of an anigmer if truth be told)

Emile Heskey 6 (does things and is strong can be good but is not good at other times needs to do better more often like germany)

Nick Barnby 5 (not good but he can be but yet another who did not do well and did not link up i do not now)

Teddy Sheringham 8 (sent the crowd in to pre awag moment of joy with a goal but was cut short but did well other wise)

Steve Macamanaman 6 (not much to make an impact but did not make as many mistake as in the last game for England at Newcastle)”

The end

LONG READ: Where TikTok sits in the media landscape and how the public sector can use it

I’ve lost count of the number of people asking about TikTok.

If middle managers are suggesting TikTok something is clearly happening.

First things first. Cards on the table. I’m slightly sceptical of emerging platforms.

Until they become used by a decent number of people I keep an eye on them. This way, I’ve avoided the hype around Google Buzz, Google Wave and Google Plus.

Just because people suggest it doesn’t always make it a good idea.

But several things make TikTok a real proposition in the public sector.

Here’s your break-down…

The numbers say take TikTok seriously

There are npw 12 million TikTok users in the UK.

Not only that, but they’ve surged to a particular demographic. Ofcom data says almost half UK 16 to 24s use the platform. So, if you need to reach this particular demographic then TikTok is a strong way to do it.

But it’s not just under 24s

While the platform is big with this group it would be wrong to dismiss it as a ghetto for Generation Z.

TikTok are trying really hard to make the platform reach older groups of people too. Watch a Euro 2020 game and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll see TikTok ads around the perimeter as one of the event sponsors.

They’ve also taken out shirt sponsorship of Wrexham FC who are owned by high profile Hollywood duo Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

Again, these football matches are places where older demographics see the brand name.

Take also the ease to download a TikTok video. If you’ve been scrolling through Facebook or Twitter over the last 12-months the cute dog video you may have seen may well have had the tell-tale TikTok branding.

While other platforms like YouTube guard their content and make it hard to rip them TikTok serves it up on a plate to make it sharable. They really want you to share it in WhatsApp or Facebook.

Me? In the 12-months I’ve been dabbling I’ve ended up following a number of people who don’t do your typical stuff aimed at younger people.

Get over yourself

Firstly, there’s things to be appalled about. There’s a lot of females dancing. Some of them I’m not entirely sure how old they are and I’m entirely sure their parents would have a view of their clothing choice.

I’ve also heard communicators in their 40s be appalled at the rapid edits and K-Pop backing music that can be found on the platform. Wise up, Grandma. Get over yourself. Those videos aren’t aimed at you. The fast edits work on the platform best.

I’ve also heard communicators be appalled at the site of dancing nurses at the start of the pandemic. They may have as point. But I’d argue that setting a tone and direction is important rather than refusing to work with it. There is much more to TikTok than dancing staff if you try.

Then there’s the Information Commissioner’s Office’s questions over the data privacy of children and impending legal action over the topic. Those are things to be aware of.

TikTok is bending over for advertisers

Another factor to take into account is TikTok are making a big push with advertising agencies and businesses. A string of companies are advertising with the platform in the UK and there’s resources to make the process easier.

The big flaw for the public sector however is that advertising can only be localised to the ‘UK’ rather than to say, Dudley in the West Midlands. Or more specifically brass band enthusiasts who are engaged support Stoke City and who live in Dudley. In that department, Facebook platforms still have the edge.

But in the US TikTok are trialling TikTok city-by-city ads.

Broadly, it shows a direction of travel.

The TikTok for Business platform is a good place to have a look at. You’ll find a lot of resources and some data to help you understand the platform.

How to create content?

And this is the $64,000 dollar question.

A load of people have looked at TikTok and scratched their heads. They see the argument and they struggle with exactly how to do it.

There are some filters to think of before going down this path.

More than 70 per cent of people come to TikTok for entertainment. So, if your content is not entertaining it won’t work. If that rules out swathes of what you do that’s fine. It’s worth knowing now.

How to videos work as do place marketing, tourist information, tips and tricks about a place and some good relevant knowledge.

I have to break it to you know that making dull content on a dull subject always fails.

The cunning line from TikTok is ‘Don’t make ads, make TikToks.’

It’s a clever one. They want you to create content that fits into the platform.

So, how can you use it practically?

The corporate channel idea

Places like Liverpool City Council and Lancashire Fire & Rescue have deployed a corporate channel. They’re worth looking at. In particular, Liverpool’s channel catches the eye.

As I understand it, they’re lucky to have a full-time videographer on the payroll with an eye for a shot and a willingness to experiment.

This video from Liverpool, for example, has had 25,000 views and records the progress the city has made from April 2020 to the first dance night test night 12-months later.

Now, if you watch that it doesn’t look like a council product, does it?

That said, I’m not convinced that corporate channels are always the way to go. Good luck to innovators like Liverpool but a one-person comms team will never come near to them.

The NHS has a channel to their credit but this feels like more of a repurposing of existing content than a warm embrace of it. There are others too.

The working with creators idea

TikTok have been pointing large brands down the route of working with established TikTok creators. In other words the people who craft effective video on the platform can make your TikTok with you. You can potentially find them on creator marketplace.

What they mean by this route is to create something that works on the platform and has the spirit of the platform rather than cutting and pasting existing content.

This approach led to this cracking video for M&S Food whereby a singleton creator celebrated the food by making a slightly pastiche video that saw her tucking in alone to a M&S meal deal.

It has all the breathy ‘This isn’t food, this is M&S food’ schtick but the twist is it’s for one.

Take a look:

It’s a cracking video.

It’s clearly on brand but playing with it.

Of course, these formal routes probably aren’t open to most parts of the public sector. But it does raise the really important concept of encouraging others to create content for you either by approaching them or by setting a challenge that people can pile in on.

The joining in with a challenge or creating one idea

Making a video with a hashtag is a good way of getting it in front of people who are scrolling through loads of content with the hashtag.

For example, there’s the #accentchallenge hashtag.

This video by user @ceeceejax is a video in response to one poster by someone from Northern Ireland to say a list of words on your local accent, like ‘baby’, ‘water’ and ‘film’.

The end result shows a celebration of local dialect.

If you were looking to reach a Black Country audience on TikTok, this is one way to start doing that with the right hashtags added.

‘Baby’ ‘water’ ‘film’ and ‘got yer jab, bab?’ would go down a storm in the Black Country.

The venue account idea

For this, the venue is the thing.

Full props to the Black County Living Museum on this who have set a high bar with their fun and educational videos that both embrace the sprit of TikTok but also their mission to educate.

Listening to the architect of their strategy, they make the videos in consultation between the costumed demonstrators and the marketing manager. They will look at TikTok see what trends are working and see if they can make something from that.

They also don’t shy a way from the fact this is work and takes time, planning, shooting and editing. But they get brilliant results with 1.2 million followers which they’ve seen translate into visits to the website.

Interestingly, their Facebook is different and more about celebrating nostalgia. Their TikTok isn’t because it’s a different audience. That’s such a big lesson.

The employee channel idea

The NHS is particularly good at this.

Here, Dr Karan Raj has an account where he gives basic medical tips that he think people will find useful. Why you should not take ibuprofen on an empty stomach, for example.

In this one, its what people need to know about the latest COVID-19 wave.

Other nurses, doctors and paramedics are also on TikTok making content.

That said, most of these NHS channels don’t feel as though they are official. Good, because that’s their strength.

But what makes TikTok different?

I’ve spoken at length about the numbers and the approaches. You may be wondering what that is.

TikTok is a portrait video platform that throws video at you. It starts on the For You screen where TikTok shows you things it thinks you’ll like based on previous viewing.

Click through to ‘Following’ and you’ll see people who you follow.

You can search with ‘discover’ and tap through on the hashtags added to videos you watch.

More than 90 per cent of TikTok users just watch rather than create but if you did want to make things there’s a stack of tools and functionality within the editing functionality.

You can learn more about TikTok and other emerging channels as part of the ESSENTIAL COMMS SKILLS BOOSTER workshops I run.

PRESENT TIP: The universal truth of Mums, Dads and Aunts and Uncles and good sharable content

Let me tell you a secret.

The single truth that works just as well today as it did on my first day in a newsroom is this…

‘News is people.’

Back then, I was told to put people in photographs that would appear in the paper so Mums, Dads and aunts and uncles would buy extra copies of the paper and maybe a photographic print.

Today, I want people in the social content because they’ll share it online and so will Mums, dads and aunts and uncles.

Put people in your content.

I train communications people to be better communicators. You can find out more here.

WATCH LEARN: A dozen TikToks that say Footballs Coming Home

If you are looking to make sense of TikTok then the European Championships of 2020 are a perfect time to do it.

Aside from being one of the event sponsors the platform is also a hub of creativity.

One of the ways you can be creative is to use a particular licensed track. Adding a hashtag to it means your video can be thrown into a huge pool of videos all with the same hashtag.

If you liked one then you can binge watch as many as you like.

Buoyed by England beating Germany the morning after I downloaded a dozen different videos with the same track and hashtag to show you.

There’s a TikTok from England player Jack Grealish using match action footage, a gardening project, family watching the game and celebrating, an old folk’s home, jubilant friends, a fan park, a female supporter, a baby and an American girlfriend recording her boyfriend as he watched the game.

Dig in.

A few words about the concept of singing ‘Football is Coming Home’.

When Stoke fans sing ‘We’re by far the greatest team the world has ever seen’ they’re dreaming.

When England fans sing the Baddiel & Skinner song they’re generally doing the same.

Yes, there are of course idiots.

Hope that clears that up.

LONG READ: What can the Commscamp unconference achieve in 2021?

The first two releases of tickets for the newest iteration of commscamp have seen 300 tickets snapped-up in seven minutes.

That’s an incredible set of figures that the attendees themselves can take pride in.

Commscamp Still At Home will be online across three days from September 21 with between 40 and 50 45-minute slots for sessions.

Eight years after the first event was staged in Birmingham it has both evolved and stayed the same.

It’s always the same

John Peel used to describe his favourite band The Fall as ‘always the same, always different,’ and that’s something I can recognise in Commscamp.

There is a core to the event that hasn’t changed.

It’s free for in-house public sector comms people.

It’s run by volunteers.

We book space, then tell people about it and ask them to come and they do.

The agenda is decided on the day by attendees with no slides and, lets not beat about the bush, no rooms of people being kept hostage with no opportunity to chip in.

On the day, the event is run on open space principles.

  • Whoever comes are the right people.
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
  • Whenever it starts is the right time.
  • Whenever it’s over, it’s over.
  • Wherever it happens is the right place.

There’s also one law, the law of two feet which means you can get up from a session at any time and find another one. Or just go and grab a cup of coffee.

As an organiser, once the sessions have been chosen at the start of the day our work is done. One year, I’m just to go home at this point because the day just looks after itself. Me being there is not essential.

Always different

Every yea each Commscamp event has had a different feeling and spirit.

The very first in Birmingjham in 2013 was about the excitement of new and emerging channels and how we could use them. In other years, there has been a feeling of group therapy and the need to come together to share experience.

In 2020, Commscamp Stays Home was our first foray online and there was a sense of shared experience five months into the pandemic.

This is fine.


I’ve promoted events that are both paid for and free. It’s liberating having an event that almost markets itself.

We don’t have to spend six months of the year pushing the dates and flogging tickets because the tickets go through reputation and word-of-mouth.

That said, good luck to paid for events which are hugely profitable for those that run them but I think there is something pure about a free event so people can share their knowledge.


For me, the difference between the actual unconference and one with a pre-approved agenda, speakers and slides is clear.

The real unconference gives space to tackle the issues facing everyone that day the traditional event tackles what faced one individual six months ago.

There is a place for the traditional, but I strongly think that the unconference route where you can tap into the hive mind makes for stronger solutions.

Coming together to solve a problem gives safety in numbers, reassurance, confidence and a network.

The traditional event has a handful of slots in a day which speak to the majority of the room. The unconference can give dozens of slots to tackle issues so its fine for people to find a sub-genre or niche that’s troubling them.

One of my favourite moments at a Commscamp was a time when someone pitched a session where only three people wanted to go.

Those three people were overjoyed to know that there were others also vexed by this pet niche. They had found their soulmates in the crowd. I remember speaking to one of them afterwards.

How did it go? I asked.

“Absolutely brilliant. There were two people who didn’t think I was weird and I think we’ve got something that can make it work and we’re going to stay in touch.”



It’s worth mentioning the sponsors because without sponsors the event wouldn’t happen.

Kirstie at Touch Design and John Paul at Council Advertising Network are examples of people I love to work with. They get the event and their session pitches add value. It’s no wonder why people want to work with them in the months to come.

We’re very lucky to have had some good sponsors who buy into the ethos of the day. It’s not about a 20-minute slide deck to the room or hard sell. It is hearing the hot topics, the kudos of chipping in with ideas and your research and development.

One year, a social media management platform came along to start to pitch their wares to the public sector. They were told their product was lovely but way overpriced. Oh dear, I thought. Far from it. The sponsors left happy. It would have taken them six months and tens of thousands of pounds to have reached this conclusion.

The unagenda

The reality is that I don’t know what the agenda is going to look like. We do always encourage discussion ahead of time but sometimes things which have flown on Facebook ahead of the event don’t get mentioned. That’s fine.

Here’s an example of last year…

The imperfect imperfections and the ones to leave

With any event there are things that work and things that don’t.

Some sessions work and some don’t.

You can’t be in two places at once for competing sessions you’d love to see.

Someone wise once said that if you have 100 people coming to an unconference then 10 won’t get it but 90 will.

Those 90 love it but just wonder if we could just tweak it slightly. Like, sort the agenda out in advance, maybe. The advice I’ve always followed is that keep it simple and trust the process.

Some things I do think we need to look at. How do you help new people settle in? How do you make it inclusive? How do you make it not feel like a place for in-jokes and an in-crowd?

This is always a danger for something long running.

How can a subsersive event stay cutting edge?

The unconference movement in the UK public sector started in 2007 when UK government people were fed-up at having to pay a supplier thousands of pounds to make a change to a government website.

Their ideas helped lead to revolutionary things like and the Cameron government’s embrace of open data. In local government, they helped speed-up the ideas around using social media.

The challenge to be radical and well-established is a difficult one.

How can we get the ideas we talk about into effect? is one that still needs working on.

I’d love it if the model for an unconference was used by others. There’s no copyright on them. Come and then run one yourself. It’s not hard.

What Commscamp can do in 2021

All this leads to what Commscamp Still At Home can do this year.

For me, it can be online and accessible, a safe space, about technology but the right technology, about human beings, about sharing ideas and knowing you are not alone.

It can be whatever attendees decide it to be.

The perfect mix

I’ve always thought that the mix for an event was the veteran who knows the ropes and the novice who is prepared to put their hand up and chip into a discussion.

The head of comms sat next to a marketing assistant with equal weight to both their ideas.

I was that novice in 2009 at localgovcamp and it utterly changed how I work, think and do things.

I’d love more than anything for there to be people who do the same.

The first two ticket releases have taken place for Commscamp Still At Home with 300 tickets distributed. There will be 444 tickets distributed overall across the two days. Add yourself to the waitlist for a chance of a ticket. You can do this by finding the eventbrite for each day here.

Commscamp Still At Home runs from September 21 to 23.

The organising group includes Bridget Aherne, Kate Bentham, Josephine Graham, David Grindlay, Leanne Hughes, Sweyn Hunter, Emma Rodgers and Lucy Salvage.

SURVEY: The looming iceburg that’s facing public sector comms

Last week I blogged the data from 12-months of the pandemic on how public sector comms people have faced the pandemic.

No question that they have saved lives and there have been many positives. Working as a team scored well, for example.

But once I’d finished blogging the numbers one underlying trend remained.

Alarming rates of stress, mental health and physical health remain as a hangover from those months of hard work when people pushed themselves to the limit.

Almost 60 per cent say their mental health is worse and 52 per cent say physical health has suffered. These figures aren’t bouncing back. Why should they? People are not made of elastic.

Yet, mostly this looming iceburg has not cropped up with many organisations.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard of a ‘three month push to get ourselves back on track.’ People want business as usual on top of pandemic comms.

I’m hearing we’re past the point where something has got to break. Something is breaking and for some something has already broken.

I’ve distrusted mental health week since I heard the truth about the story of the organisation’s glowing case study. The manager praised in the puff piece actually acted against advice when he helped his team member.

This is a time for heads of comms to act, managers to act, chief executives to act and the CIPR and NUJ to show leadership.

I don’t know what the answer is because I’m not an expert in the field but it feels like meaningful support and understanding would be nice.

It’s time to put high sounding words about mental health you signed off into action.

SURVEY: How public sector comms people have fared working through the pandemic part 1: the big picture

When the story of the first 12-months of the COVID-19 pandemic is written it will record more than 100,000 dead.

It will also record Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ‘Stay home, save lives, protect the NHS’ address to the nation.

Nothing will record profound sense of shock and alarm in those first few days in what was the beginning of a long trudge to try and find normality.

Without question the death rate would have been far higher but for public sector communicators who were enlisted into the biggest crisis since World War Two.

But what impact has it had on them?

The price paid

Stress, longer hours, a retreat to working from home and a loss of face-to-face office connections have been what fire, police, NHS, local and central government comms teams have faced.

In July 2020, I started a survey of fire, police, NHS, central and local government communicators which has turned into a rolling tracker that’s captured some of the ebb ands flow.

It reveals the secret price paid by those asked to support those on the frontline.

In many places there is no off switch and burn-out is present. In others, the changes have been welcomed.

Worryingly, it’s a price paid with a tsunami of mental health problems, deteriorating physical health, increased isolation and stress often in the face of a lack of leadership, information and resources.

In this blog post I run through 12-months of figures that are likely to throw a long shadow across the lives of those involved.


“Feel like I’m “Living at work” rather than “working from home” – no boundaries between working day and down time.”

 “I have gained a lot from the pandemic so this outweighs the hard times.”

Most say it’s getting easier

At last, in summer 2021 the indicators finally show that working in the pandemic is getting easier. More than 40 per cent gave this positive feedback in the survey. That’s a figure that’s double those who think it is getting harder.

Q: Is working in the pandemic getting easier or harder?

But health continues to suffer

Across the pandemic, mental health and physical health among public sector people has taken a battering.

Worryingly, this isn’t improving.

With physical health, 52 per cent say it has worsened in the most recent survey in April and May 2021. Mental health has also taken a beating with 58 per cent of public sector people reporting deteriorating mental health.

This is the canary in the coalmine for the sector.

Q: Is your mental health getting better or worse?


“Working from home gave me more time to exercise at the start and end of the working day.”

With a real national push to care for our wellbeing I have actually worked out more and more consistently since the start of the pandemic than before.

“Less time and motivation to exercise, higher stress.”

“I’ve had a couple of emergency hospital visits due to stress related symptoms. Found myself crying with anxiety and work overload and no real support.”

The positives still hold

Across the pandemic, a consistent three out of four have reported they have felt as though they are working for the common good.

Around half have felt through the last 12-months as though they are part of a team.

Feeling as though you are part of an organisation that has felt valued has been more problematic. In June 2020, 41 per cent reported this but it slipped to a quarter through the remainder of the year rallying again to 40 per cent in May and June 2021.


 “Had a couple of serious wobbles, but learnt better how to deal with them.”

The negatives remain

The darker side of the coin in working through the pandemic has been the impact on home.

A third have consistently experienced problems with home schooling and a tenth with looking after a loved one.

Stress as spring 2021 turned into summer remains an endemic issue with 74 per cent reporting it as an issue – a four per cent improvement on January 2021.

However, lack of direction has also been a problem.

In April and May 2020, 40 per cent reported this with UK Government and a third reporting the same issue with home governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A lack of leadership from the comms person’s own organisation has improved by five points to 25 per cent.


“Lack of support at work and unappreciated in my job, became more apparent during covid. Felt like comms was seen as disposable as we weren’t physically seen as often.”

A lack of resources is biting

Enough tools and staff to do the job has remained a consistent problem with 23 per cent reporting a lack of staff sliding to 36 per cent in the most recent study. This was mirrored by a lack of resources to do the job surging from 24 per cent in 2020 to 38 per cent in April and May 2021.


“Working in a comms team means you’re often on your own working with services, and not being in the office means you often feel very isolated from the rest of your team. My manager has been absent and I’m struggling to fight to get things taken seriously by upper management and having to stand up to lots of people within the service… and failing to win the arguments a lot of the time. This is one of the biggest impacts on my mental health – but there are so many others.”

Winter was the hardest period

Each period of the pandemic has had its own challenges and problems. The survey showed winter with lockdown 2.0 was the hardest for 45 per cent of public sector comms people. That beat lockdown 1.0 with 26 per cent. Regional lockdowns in the autumn (11 per cent) was third toughest with just four per cent saying the opening months of 2021 were hardest.


“It worsened during the winter 2020/21 but improved as restrictions lifted.”

Q: Which period of the pandemic was hardest?

The working from home dilemma

It’s clear that working from home has been Marmite. Some love some don’t. As we look at how we go back to the office heads of comms and managers need to know that they’ll have people keen on the idea and those who hate it.


“Working from home is less stressful and tiring than travelling to the office every day. Prefer the peace and quiet to think.”

“Home has merged into office and the boundaries of the working day have disappeared- I feel like the usual 9-5 mon to drive has been replaced with 24/7 and after a year, my mind, body and, dare I say it, passion has wilted away.”

Abuse is rampant

More than 12-months into the pandemic and abuse is worsening.

Those seeing abuse aimed at their fire, council, police, council or government department has risen from 27 per cent seen weekly to 31 per cent. Verbal abuse aimed at individuals has almost doubled from seven to 13 per cent as a weekly incident.

Racist abuse is seen daily by 16 per cent of respondents – that’s up from nine per cent last summer.

The back to business-as-usual mistake

The figures are alarming and they paint a picture which can often be toxic for those enduring it. There is a health penalty to be paid and how to respond to support staff is one of the challenges facing people.

There is anecdotal talk of a big push to normality when there’s nothing to give.


My mental health has taken an absolute battering, mainly down to the workload. Not we’re coming through the other side of the pandemic all I want to do is rest and reset, but business as usual has kicked back in and the chief is talking about three months of hard work to get the organisation back on track. We haven’t got any more to give.”

In part two, I’ll look at the data country-by-country and also sector by sector.

2021 NUMBERS: Ofcom media & stats for the UK


If you look at a glacier while drinking a cup of coffee you’ll think there’s no such thing as global warming.

Compare snapshots of the same ice over time and you’ll see how much has changed.

During the turbulence of 2020 we could all hear the cracks of ice moving below our feet. We knew something was happening but not what. In the media landscape Ofcom are the scientists analysing the data to see what the changes.

Online Nation published in June 2021 gives a picture of how much has changed. Want a two word summary?

‘Changed lots.’

But the real value is going to the report and spending time reading it yourself.

Why? Because you’ll find data more relevant to you.

Until you do, here’s bitesize summaries.

The headline figures for UK over 18s

94 per cent are online.

82 per cent use social media.

82 per cent was the increase in food and drink sales online in 2020.

91 per cent of over 65s online use Facebook.

62 per cent play games online.

On average they spend three hours thirty seven minutes online.

On average they spend one hour twenty one minutes watching video on demand sites like Netflix or BBC iplayer.

Zoom soared from 200,000 users peaking at 13.7 million users in March 2020 falling to 10.4 million at the start of 2021.

88 per cent receive or send email.

Age dictates how much time is spent online. For over 55s, this is two hours 46 minutes a day while for 18-to-24-year-olds it rises to four hours 31 minutes a day.

Headlines for children

Gaming and video dominate how under 18s use the internet.

Children spend three hours 48 minutes online a day.

More than 95 per cent of children use video sharing platforms.

55 per cent of under 18s have had a negative experience online.

Boys prefer YouTube for social video.

Girls prefer TikTok for social video.

40 per cent of 13 to 17-year-olds post video content.

Of five to seven-year-olds, 30 per cent use social media, 37 per cent use messaging and 95 per cent watch video

Of eight to 11-year-olds, 44 per cent use social media, 64 per cent messaging and 96 per cent watch video.

For 12 to 15-year-olds 87 per cent use social media, 91 per cent messaging apps and 99 per cent watch video.

Social video

We watch a lot of short videos of 10 minutes or less.

The most popular trends of what to watch in 2020 were music video followed by home exercise with campaigns on hot topics like black lives matter in third place.

31 per cent of over 18s post video.

Social media users

The age demographics show a different pattern of platform use.

Facebook is strong across older age groups while 16 to 24-year-olds like a range of apps from YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram.

News consumption

More than half of adults go online with news as a reason for switching on their web-enabled devices.

But trust is low for what people read and watch online with just 16 per cent trusting something from social media – almost a third of those who distrust it.

64 per cent look at online headlines weekly.

35 per cent get their news from social media.

News and information sites in the UK

There’s a useful breakdown of news and info sites.

Local news is important with Reach plc – formerly Trinity Mirror – topping the charts.

  1. Reach plc 41.4 million
  2. News UK 40.4 million
  3. Mail online / Daily Mail 37.4 million
  4. BBC 37.0 million
  5. 25.9 million
  6. Wikipedia 24.8 million
  7. Independent / London Evening Standard 24.6 million
  8. NHS 23.4 million
  9. USA Today 20.6 million
  10. Immediate Media 20.4 million

Access to online v print

Print remains strong amongst the older generation while it is a minority pursuit for those under 55. However, online news is strong.

Age / Print news consumption / Online news consumption

15 to 24-yers-old / 21 / 61

25 to 24-years-old / 19 / 57

35 to 44-years-old / 22 / 63

45 to 54-years-old / 44 / 56

55 to 64-years-old / 51 / 46

65-years-old / 76 / 26

The post popular UK sites by minutes-a-day

  1. Google 52 minutes
  2. Facebook 29 minutes
  3. TikTok 26 minutes
  4. Netflix 16 minutes
  5. Spotify 15 minutes
  6. Snapchat 8 minutes
  7. Twitter 5 minutes
  8. Roblox 5 minutes
  9. Verizon 5 minutes
  10. Microsoft 4 minutes

The most popular messaging apps by users

  1. WhatsApp 31.4 million
  2. Messenger 21.1 million

Nextdoor makes an appearance

The US-owned firm has started to have cut through in the UK with 3.9 million users declared.

The platform is overwhelmingly used by older users with 54 per cent of users over 54-years-old. Just two per cent are aged 18 to 24.

Audio is starting to make a mark

Clubhouse has pioneered audio chat on social media but has failed to make a lasting mark.

Just 130,000 people use the invite-only is app with Twitter launching ‘Spaces’ and Facebook experimenting with their equivalent ‘hotline.’

COVID COMMS #44: Up to date data on how UK people are consuming media


In this phase of the pandemic we are opening up restrictions but storm clouds gather posed by new COVID-19 variants.

A week or two back I mapped the disinterest people had in the pandemic in community Facebook groups.

This week, I’m reading the rolling Ofcom data that shows how people are getting pandemic information.

If you need to reach people to tell them about coronavirus its worth spending time on these numbers.

Here’s the main take outs from May 2021.

You need to know

We’re not consuming as much COVID-19 info

At the start of the pandemic, 99 per cent of people looked once a day for news on the pandemic. That’s fallen to 81 per cent 15-months in.

Online, 33 per cent of people haven’t shared anything about the virus in the past week – a figure creeping up.

We check daily

Long gone are the days of being glued to rolling news. We’ll dip in once a day. That goes for all age groups. Around 80 per cent of all age groups do this.

We still talk to friends and family

We share COVID-19 most to friends and family rather than online. Around a third do this.

We go to traditional media

Eight out 10 people take their COVID-19 updates from traditional media. That’s print, online, broadcast and through a news outlet’s social media channel.

We don’t go to official channels

If you’re updating public sector sites thank you but a minority will head to your sites.

UK Government sites attract between 15 and 20 per cent of the population with the figure falling to around 14 per cent for national NHS messages.

Local government sites are even lower with just six per cent of under 24s seeing content rising to 15 per cent for over 65s.

Local NHS sites are lower still with no more than eight per cent of people heading to them.

We listen to officials

Across all ranges, officials remain the unexpected stars of COVID-19. At least a third of all ages take information from the likes of the Chief Medical Officer or Director of Public Health.

That’s a figure than Facebook across the board.

We notice online ads on social media

Eighty per cent of social media users have seen online ads about the pandemic whether they be pop-ups, banner ads or boosted posts.

We can see misinformation

A fifth of people have seen misinformation in the past week which is down slightly with under 35s most likely to see false information.

Trends by age demographic

16-24s get their data from a wide spread of places

Despite using social media extensively, this age group look to traditional news sources for their COVID-19 information.

This age group are all across social media with 98 per cent using it daily and 57 per cent using it 10 times a day.

But they get COVID-19 news from traditional media (77 per cent) and broadcasters in particular (71 per cent).

BBC TV (47 per cent) BBC online (36 per cent) officials (32 per cent) Facebook (28 per cent) Instagram (27 per cent) more than friends and family (34 per cent), newspapers (23 per cent), YouTube (22 per cent) and Snapchat (12 per cent).

25 to 34

Like their younger peers, traditional media is where this group get their pandemic alerts.

Traditional media (75 per cent) leads the table with broadcasters (63 per cent) the largest sub-group BBC TV (37 per cent).

However, this age group is the biggest vaccine sceptics with 12 per cent not wanting the vaccine as well as the biggest user of Facebook for pandemic info (30 per cent).

35 to 44

Traditional media is used to get COVID-19 info by 84 per cent of this age group.

BBC TV (49 per cent) is the highest sub-group with 32 percent for BBC online with newspapers on 31 per cent.

45 to 54

Broadcasters (81 per cent) are the most popular route BBC TV (51 per cent) family and friends (29 per cent) newspapers (26 per cent).

55 to 64

Traditional media is consumed by 90 per cent with broadcasters on 84 per cent.

65 plus

This group are the happiest to be vaccinated – 63 per cent – and traditional media dominates.

%d bloggers like this: