OPEN UP: What steps to make Facebook public groups more open will mean for public sector comms

When Mark Zuckerburg stood up seven months ago and promised nice new shiny toys for Facebook groups people paid attention.

One of the biggest shiniest toys is about to drop and its worth being on your radar

You probably know you can have two basic types of Facebook groups. Closed and open.

You have to be a member of a closed groups to see what people are talking about and be able to post in them yourself. Eighty per cent of community groups are closed,

Then you’ve got open groups where anyone can see what’s being debated.

As part of the change, groups that are open will allow people aren’t members of the group to comment and take part. How will they find them? You’ll see in your own timeline content from groups you aren’t a member of.

How?

Because the algorithm will point things your way based on the things you talk about and like.

So, if you talk about the Boothen End at Stoke City there’s a chance you’ll see something from an open Stoke City Facebook group where people are talking about how great the Boothen End was.

This video explains it…

You may have heard me banging on about the importance of local community Facebook groups.

Giving open Facebook groups even more reach makes them even more influential in the community. It makes them even more attractive places to post content.

That’s important.

DIGITAL VIEW: No,TikTok ads aren’t a shortcut to reach young people and crack a new platform

“We’re trying to get our heads around TikTok,” someone asked the other day. “Wouldn’t it be far simpler to advertise to reach an audience?

On the face of its a really straight forward potentially bright idea.

TikTok is hot with more than 11 milliuon UK users and mainly from the hard-to-reach U24 demographic.

Can’t you just get your credit card out and magic yourself in front of an audience?

For the purposes of reaching a younger audience in a local lockdown it feels like a magic bullet.

But I wouldn’t for these reasons

Until you’ve got to know your platform you don’t really know what good content looks like. Like chucking cash at a badly designed pdf, anything you did put money behind you may well be wasting.

Not only that, in summer 2020 TikTok advertising is very high level. You can have the UK. You can even have Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland or England. But you can’t select your town, city or borough.

If you’re a national agency that becomes an option. If you’re Birmingham City Council it doesn’t.

For TikTok, get to know the platform

If you are sold on TikTok then spend time with the platform to see how it works so you can create something of value. Then create something of value.

Or you can advertise on YouTube

There is more than one route up the mountain. If you are trying to find a younger demographic you may want to advertise via YouTube instead.

You can select the geographic location.

And you can sort out the demographic.

Enjoy.

Picture credit: Flickr / Documerica.

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll continue the series

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

Why human comms?

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

What have I learned blogging human comms for 30 days

Examples don’t take long to blog.

People respond to them.

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

You know them when you see them.

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

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

31 days of human comms listed by subject area

Twitter update

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

Video

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

Facebook update

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

Customer service

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

Stopping your job to being human

  1. The busking police officer. See here.

Media interviews

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

Media comment

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

Posters and signs

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

Rebuttal

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

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

NICE, NICE BABY: Seven examples of good icy weather comms

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Oh, the weather outside is frightful… and its the time to baton down the hatches.

If local government can get icy weather comms right they can keep people happy.

Here is a round-up of some content that worked well:

The myth-busting web page

There is a regular set of moans. You weren’t out. You didn’t grit. You didn’t grit enough. Having a web page like this is an excellent resource to have at your finger-tips. You can see it here.

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The video from the cab of the gritter

It’s a video that is the perfect length to work on Twitter. Less than 20 seconds and shoots down the allegation that there were no gritters out. Great work.

The snowman post

This post from the Mayor of Walsall asks people to chip in with their snowmen pics. It prompted people to respond with images from across the borough.

The video of the gritters heading out

This is perfect. Gritters loaded up and heading for the exit at the gritting depot. Evidence that the work is taking place.

The shared hashtag and the conversational response

The #wmgrit hashtag works in the West Midlands as a 20 minute journey can cut through two or three council areas. So 10 councils have joined together to share the searchable hashtag.

The news jacking of the big event

Ahead of the Merseyside derby Liverpool Council were telling people of the work that is going to take place to keep the game running smoothly. It fills a vacuum and was well shared.

Getting the message out early

With cold weather ahead this tweet to ask people to look after each other was well recieved.

Thanks to Viki Harris, Andrew Napier, Liz Grieve, Kelly Thompson, Paul Johnston and Dawn McGuigan.

30 days of human comms: #28 A newspaper interview with medics who treated Manchester bomb patients

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So far in the round-up of human comms we’ve looked at digital content that the organisation has shaped itself. But it doesn’t have to be digital to be human.

More than 20 people were killed in the Manchester Arena bomb earlier this year.

Manchester as a city rallied and there was an outpouring of pride and determination.

Leading all that was the public sector across the city with police, paramedics, hospital staff, fire and the Mayor’s office.

In the very front line in all this were the paramedics and the hospital staff.

In the weeks after the bombing, the Press attention turned from the immediate impact to the stories of survival and recovery. Requests for interviews were made. But not all requests for granted.

Careful handling by Salford Royal hospital’s comms team led to a set of interviews and pictures with the local newspaper the Manchester Evening News. You can see the full story here.

Human comms is not just what you create but also what the Press can create with you.

Be more human. Like the A&S staff of Salford Royal.

30 days of human comms #19 Bath & North East Somerset’s singing food hygiene certificates

There was a curry house when I worked as a reporter who used to ring up every week to try and get into the paper.

This ranged from the actually newsy, like fundraising for Children in Need, to the not quite so, like we have a food hygiene certificate. Back then everyone used to have them. But then came the one to five start ratings for hygiene. They became something to shout about.

One council in the South West has thought-up a new way to shout about these certificates. Send out the environmental health officer to sing a Christmas carol with them.

So, on the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me a certificate with five stars on it.

A daft but effective way of celebrating a top score on what can be an important yet routine piece of legislation. Good work Dan Cattanach.

30 days of human comms: #4 Edinburgh City Council’s out-of-hours customer service

For a good three years 365-days-a-year I was a public sector account.

I realised I was taking things a bit too seriously when I insisted that Christmas Day dinner be put back five minutes so I could post a gritting alert in 140 characters.

To make the channel work, I had to become customer services, too. Why? Because I’d post a missive and be greeted with: ‘That’s great. Can you tell me why my bins weren’t emptied?’

So, for a good while I’ve admired Edinburgh City Council. They have staff who sign on as themselves and speak human.

In the evening, they also pass their account onto the out-of-hours team who sign on as themselves and monitor out-of-hours.

Be more human.

 

30 Days of Human Comms: #1 Dudley Council’s spoiled tea sign

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For a while now, I’ve argued for the need to be more human in your comms.

In the public sector, this is especially important as more than 1,200 services are delivered to people.

What is human comms? You’ll recognise it if you see it. It’s engaging and it connects. Sometimes it delivers a message. Sometimes it just works to show that human beings also work in an organisation, too.

I’ve blogged before about the need to have a mix of content in your social media channels to make them work. If you are 80 per cent human and 20 per cent call to action, that’s fine.

So, an experiment, for 30 days I’ll find a thing a day that looks human.

#1 Dudley Council’s Spoiled tea road sign

This has long been a favourite of mine. More than a decade ago, Dudley Council built a new road around Castle Gate in the town. How could they get motorists to take a different route home? Easy. Talk to them in Black Country.

The sign read:

“If yowm saft enuff ter cum dahn ‘ere agooin wum, yowr tay ull be spile’t.”

After living in the Black Country for almost 20 years I know this translates as:

“If you are silly enough to come down this road you will take so long your tea will be spoiled.”

Class, be more like Dudley Council.

 

 

ALARM BELL: The Unexpected Door Opening and a comms lesson

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Can you remember a single lesson from when to at school? Not the dates and fact you learned but the actual lesson that delivered them?

For me, one stands out above all others. The day of the Unexpected Door Opening. It features a threat, a German teacher and a comms message I’ve never forgotten.

The background

It was when I was aged 13 at Walton High School in Stafford. Picture the scene. A 60s teaching block.

Every German lesson would descend into chaos. The boys would fire paper missiles blown like darts through adapted biro blowpipes. The girls would talk to each other and at the front our teacher slowly having a nervous breakdown. Shouting was the only way she could make herself heard. She shouted a lot.

Until the week of the Unexpected Door Opening.

You see, our language classrooms had interconnecting doors. Right at the front of the classroom next to the blackboard. It led to a neighbouring clasroom.

It had never opened before but this week the door opened. Unexpectely. Into the din, noise and chaos walked Mr Sampson.

The threat

Mr Sampson was a grey haired teacher about 5’10” tall with blue eyes, glasses and a blue jumper. He’d been at the school for years and knew how children’s brains worked. He was dangerous. Why? Because you couldn’t con him. And his put downs could make the hardest kid look like an idiot and we all knew it.

I paused. We were for it now.

Gradually, the room fell silent. Like an orator waiting for a pin to drop the tension built and Mr Sampson waited to speak.

“Thank you, Mrs Kemp,” the newly arrived teacher said in a quiet voice. “I’ll take over from here.”

I felt the dread of the impending bollocking.

But it didn’t happen. Instead Mr Sampson for the final nine minutes of the lesson told us of the importance of making eye contact in an interview. Don’t look at the floor, he told us. Look them in the eye. But it’s hard to look people in the eye, he said. Because it can be off-putting and they can tell if you are not telling the truth. Some cultures think you can see into people’s soul. So look at the point between the eyes instead. He went into detail about interview posture and how to come over well. We all listened with complete attention. We were winning. He’d forgotten why he’d come in. Or so we thought.

The bell rang.

Thank God, we were off the hook. And we made to put our stuff away.

“Stop,” he said quietly.

We froze.

He paused.

He had us right where he wanted us.

“If I have to come through that door again, I will fucking kill each one of you,” and he looked each one of us in the eye. Right in the eye. Individually. One by one.

Next week we were good as gold. The week after that we were too. But on the third week, the noise levels rose. The interconnecting door handle started moving.

Shit.

We were fucking dead. But the door handle stopped. We froze. Ten seconds passed. The tick of the clock. The beat of the heart. And slowly the door handle returned to its original position.

A long sigh of relief. Like a timebomb that had stopped ticking with three seconds on the clock.

The lesson

It’s message? From Mr Sampson: “Don’t think I’ve forgotten.”

We were as good as gold from then on.

But what’s the comms message? Be clear on your promise and follow through.

And look people in the eye when you’re delivering the message. Individually. One by one. It’s more effective that way.

Picture credit: Davynin / Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

POP STAR: What I learned from one of the most powerful men in pop music: be a geek

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A few years ago I did the PR for the most famous man in Walsall you’ver never heard of.

Sure, the borough is not over-stocked with famous people. Three Men in a Boat author Jerome K. Jerome came from the place and so did Noddy Holder, swimmer Ellie Simmonds and drum and bass pioneer Goldie. All good within their own field, sure.

So, in that list most people wouldn’t add Steve Jenkins.

Steve who?

You will have bought, listen to or hummed any of the more than 150 top 40 hits he was connected with. Think Billy Ocean, Steps, The Stone Roses, Backstreet Boys, N*Sync, Steps, Kylie Minogue. They wouldn’t be where they are without Steve Jenkin’s role in the machinery behind them.

Steve started his career in the music industry in the 1970s with The Beatles’ management company before moving through the industry to become MD of Jive Records. He did the promo for Stock Aiken and Waterman. He was part of a team who signed an unknown Britney Spears. In the industry he was one of the most powerful men for a very long time.

How did I get to know him?

He’s proud of Walsall so we staged an exhibition of his gold discs, fan memorabelia and the social history of pop music. It was great. He brought Pete Waterman along and a load of others.

So what?

I was reminded of him by this YouTube interview he gave where he talked about the slightly dark art of targeting record shops that featured in the chart returns. His team would go from store-to-store, offer free records for display and then quietly move them to the front of the rack. So, people browsing through ‘K’ would be met with Kylie Minogue straight away, for example. As Steve says, this was all above board and would only have a marginal impact. But if persued energetically it maybe the difference between a new chart entry at 29 and 35.

Here he is talking about it:

So why is that on a comms blog?

Simple. During the months of working on the exhibition one thing above all struck me. He was a geek. In the best sense of the word. He was a geek about the pop charts in the 70s, 80s, and 90s especially. He knew everything about it. How it worked. How it didn’t work. Because he knew it backwards he knew where the difference could be made. So, he knew when to release a record and which Woolworth stores to promote it in. Him and Pete Waterman would plan the promo campaign for bands while on the way to Walsall games.

He was a joy to do press with. Five journalists would spend 20 minutes with him one after another and all leave with a brilliant different anecdote, He has an autobiography you may like.

If only the social web was around when we ran the exhibition. We could have by-passed everyone and gone straight to the fan sites.

Take this lesson from him… know your stuff backwards. Kick the tyres. Learn. See what others do. See where you can get better. Experiment. Be bold.

Above all, pick a subject. Love it. Be a geek on it.  Know it backwards.

Picture  credit: Marco Verch / Flickr

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