NUMBERS: I’ve read the global web index social media report 2021 so you don’t have to

Data is always good to take a look at as it shows an ever changing landscape.

Here, the Global Web Index report gives some useful social media data that’s relevant for 2021. You can download your own copy of the report here.

The impact of the pandemic

When the pandemic started, social media bucked a trend and became more social. People turned from passive consumers back to creating content and talking to each other.

Keeping in touch with loved ones has become the most important reason for using social media.

In the UK, we spend one hour 46 minutes a day on social media.

We don’t always trust them but we rely on them

Social media, the report says, doesn’t have large amounts of trust but we have come to rely on it for news. connecting and entertainment.

But social media causes anxiety

In the UK

Facebook remains the UK’s favourite with 22 per cent naming it as their most favoured platform.

Globally, Instagram is tops with under 24s, Messenger with Millennials (24 to 37-year-olds), WhatsApp with 38 to 56-year-olds who are also known as Generation X with those older favouring Facebook.

Augmented Reality in social media has become a trend

No doubt becaise of the pandemic, but Augmented Reality – AR – has emerged as a comnsistent trend. AR gives people the flavouir of beinbg somewhere else. With people confined to the house for long stretches in 2020 no wonder this has emergeed.

Public sector chums may be looking enviously at Pepsi’s AR marketing where QR codes on bottles unlocked video. But as with all trends they will become affordable and achievable.

Livestreaming has come of age

Interestingly, live feeds have become increasingly important globally with more than 90 per cent of TikTok users live streaming and almost 50 per cent of Facebook users watching a live feed.

Each platform has a purpose

One thing I really liked about the GWI report was the classification of each platform into its purpose. It’s rue. They do different things.

Facebook / Messenger

  1. Messeage friends and family.
  2. Post and share photos and videos.
  3. Keep up to date with news and the world.

Instagram

  1. Post and share photos and video.
  2. Find funny or emntertaining content.
  3. Follow or find infio on brands.

LinkedIn

  1. Keep up to date with news and the world.
  2. Find funny or entertaining content.
  3. Post and share photos or video.

Twitter

  1. Keep up to date with news and the world.
  2. Find funny entertaining content.
  3. Follow or find info about products or brands.

Snapchat

  1. Post or share photos or video.
  2. Find funny or entertaining content.
  3. Message friends and family.

TikTok

  1. Find funny entertaining content.
  2. Post and share photos or video.
  3. Keep up to date with news and the world.

Stories are sticking

Many people I’ve spoken to have scratched their heads with stories. They are the shortlived upright streams tacked onto the main social channels. But the GWI report does show people are engaging with them.

On Snapchat more than 90 per cent use them while on Instagram the figure is above 70 per cent which is marginally ahead of Facebook.

If brands want their audience to know something, they should wrap exciting, memorable content around that something and repeat, repeat, repeat.

GWI Social Media report, 2021

Conclusions

As with all global studies that have a UK element, the data is there to be used not for sharp corrections of direction but like a fishing boat captain an eye on the horizon for sunshine and black clouds.

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.

NO COMMENT: Facebook may allow you to ban comments on posts… but is this a good idea?

Can it be true…? Facebook look as though they are bringing in the ability to ban comments on updates to pages.

The widely reported move looks as though it is being introduced after a court ruling in Australia which found that page admins were legally responsible for comments.

Understandably, some admins will be responding with glee at this news.

It must be tough to switch on the laptop at 8am and we faced with a wall of crap from anti-vaxxers. people complaining about potholes, too many bins, not enough bins and a load of other things beside.

So, switch off comments as default?

Some will undoubtedbly say ‘yes please!’ to this news.

But it got me thinking to how this may impact on the delivery of your message.

Blocking comments will undoubtedly see less interactions with a post. There’ll be no too-ing and frow-ing of conversation and debate either in support or against.

So what?

Well, trouble is, comments and discussion scores really well with the Facebook algorithm that enables your post to float higher organically into more people’s timelines. No comments? No algorythmic brownie points.

There’s the argument, and I’ve some time for that, that says that organic reach is so blunted these days anyway it probably won’t make loads of difference.

You’ve also got the additional issue is the accusation that your organisation are acting against he spirit of democracy. Look, everyone! It’s cancel culture! You bunch of snowflakes! There may be something in this but this kind of shouting sort of underlines the need to remove comments in the first place.

Besides, Twitter did something like this recently when they gave the ability to limit who replies to posts and the sky didn’t fall in.

Besu

Besides from organic reach you do have two other ways to boost your reach. You have boosted posts that involve you spending money and you also have the steps you take to drop the post into a Facebook group, too.

The bottom, line in all of this is that blocking comments isn’t without impact on your communications.

You’ll need to balance that on a case-by-case basis before you post.

TALES OF COVID: Public sector communication: How was your COVID-19? Tell us, so we can record the stories, content and recollections.

We are launching an independent project for public sector communicators to record their stories and experiences of working to communicate COVID-19. The independent ‘Tales of Covid’ project is being launched to record memories, highs, lows and content during a tough chapter of all our lives. You can contribute.  Kerry Sheehan, UK Government Communication Service, CIPR Board Director and Public Services Group Chair and Dan Slee, digital communications consultant explain how.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is the biggest global story in generations.

A year ago, as UK national lockdown restrictions were being put on us all, public sector communicators did not know how it would unfold.

12-months later, the public sector communication profession in the UK has been a key component, continually showing its value to the ongoing national, local and regional response day, in, day out.

Communicators undertook the most important and biggest reaching work of their professional lives. The profession further elevated its value and status with decision makers.

To mark the enormous contribution public sector communicators have made to the UK’s national response, nationally, regionally, locally, across government, local government, health, emergency services and agencies – supporting to fight the pandemic on the ground – we would like to put together a collection of anecdotes and stories from UK public service communicators.

The collection, Tales of COVID, will form a commemorative book to mark the year of those first national lockdown restrictions, which would catapult our profession into the front line like never before. A time when there wasn’t a playbook and a time when our profession came together as collaborative partners like never before.

Tales of COVID will also serve as an historic record on the vital part public sector communicators have all played in the UK’s national response.

We truly believe it is important to document our experiences as communicators, those who threw all their mite behind fighting the virus whilst the world was brought to a standstill.

Furthermore, it is also important for the PR profession to have an historical record of one of the biggest crisis communication undertakings we have seen.

The book will also enable the profession to reflect on the momentous, tough, turbulent year it has been for our own, truly a year like no other.

The collection will be shaped by the contributions we receive, so it is by the public sector communication profession for the profession.

If you would like to feature, please send us your 250-word summaries of anything you would like us to consider for inclusion. Items can include your reflections, memories, something you had to overcome at pace, new ways of working, any tough situations, and how you felt as the enormity of the pandemic took over our work and our lives.

You can contribute to Tales of Covid through this Google Form here.

We would like this to be an account of how it actually was for our public sector communicators rather than glossing over the not so good and really tough parts.

It is your lived history, it is what you did, how you felt, how you coped – or didn’t – what you were proud of or what your lowest point was. It is part content guide, part social history and part honest reflection while the campaign is still ongoing.

Please do not contribute anything deemed officially sensitive. We would like this collection to be a raw account about how you, as public sector communicators, have got through working on the pandemic at continued pace for the past 12 months with many twists and turns along the way.

You may also have some funny anecdotes you’d like to submit or some nice stories of how you pulled together as a team, citing ‘you’re on mute’ and waving at colleagues through the screen. We’d like to tell COVID as it has been for our profession.

Once we have a good selection of summaries, from all four UK nations, we’ll put in place a Tales of Covid Editorial Group. We will put out a call for this at a later date and members will support going through submissions. We may then come back to you for a longer piece.

We would also like to include a roll call of all UK public sector communicators who have worked on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, no matter how big or small to recognise your amazing contribution.

At a later date, we plan to hold a series of Tales of COVID launch events – either virtually or who knows one day in person – across the UK where we hope public sector communicators will drop in to so we can say ‘thank you’ and reflect together on an historic time for our profession and how we all became the best collaborative partners we’ve ever been.

If you would like to be included in Tales of COVID, please submit a 250-word summary account with your name, job title and organisation by Friday April 30.

Alternatively, you can just submit your name, job title and organisation to be included in the roll call of UK public sector communicators who supported to fight COVID-19.

Kerry Sheehan, UK Government Communication Service, CIPR Board Director and Public Services Group Chair and Dan Slee is a digital communications consultant. The project is independent of any communications group or body.

FINAL EDITION: War stories on the demise of the newsroom

So, farewell the newsroom, that place of blood, sweat, tears, joy, despair and stories.

Reach plc has announced it wants to keep reporters working from home retaining a few sites where people can catch-up with people.

What may seem a routine accommodation matter for a national newspaper chain also strikes at something fundamental that public sector comms teams also must grapple.

How can you learn when you’ve no-one to watch and learn?

But that’s for another day.

I wanted to just celebrate the best office I ever worked in, the Sandwell Express & Star district office in Black Lake.

It was built on a West Bromwich rubbish tip underneath towering overhead power cables downwind from the Robinson Brothers’ chemical works that put the identifying smell into the odourless North Sea gas.

Window screen tint was put onto the newsroom windows to reduce the glare on our screens so everyday was mid-February.

Everything about the bricks and mortar was ordinary but it was the people in it and the stories they made that made it special.

Through the reception on the ground floor was sales and production and a corridor led to the aircraft hanger at the back where two newspaper production towers loomed. From them, newspapers were produced in a river of drying ink and warm newsprint that would be sent down to be bundled ready for the waiting dispatching fleet of red Express & Star vans.

Sometimes, I used to go down to the press hall to catch an early copy if there was a particular story I’d been working on and wanted to see how it was used. When the towers were running the building would hum and shake and you could only talk by shouting. Journalists can be as cynical as chip paper but let me tell you I was as deeply impressed by that towering newspaper production line on my last day just as much as I was on my first.

The newsroom

But it was the newsroom that really mattered.

Walking through the door, on the right were a large bank of tables with chunky apple terminals, chairs and on each desk the detritus of Firkin sandwich bags, old newspapers, committee papers and letters.

To the left was the darkroom, a table for photographers and over in the far corner by the fire exit a desk for the Birmingham edition reporters. That was the fire exit Dave dragged Paul the chief photographer mid-row.

“That’s enough,” Dave said. “I’ve had enough. I’m going to throw you off the top of the fire escape.”

And he meant it.

“Don’t throw me off,” Paul begged. “Anyway, you’ll get the sack.”

“Yes,” Dave fired back, “but I’ll get the biggest leaving present in history.”

When I started on the Express & Star in the late 90s the internet was still finding its feet. The print edition was what counted. There were 14 reporters and three photographers in the office. First edition had a deadline of around 9.30am and our edition – the Sandwell edition – was the last of 10 editions at around 2pm.

The whole reason the print works was built in West Bromwich was so that we could be as late as possible producing the evening paper so there was a golden couple of hours when news breaking could be ours alone. In that way the competitive advantage was retained.

But it was the people in the newsroom that made the newsroom.

I became a better reporter because I watched and learned and when I was stuck would ask. We were led by Ken, a sage bearded man in his 50s who had been there since 1968. There was no crisis that Ken could not think through a solution for.

Each strategic crisis was measured in what Ken was eating. A minor crisis was met with Ken going to the canteen where he would plot his way through company politics.

But a trip to McDonald’s signified a much deeper crisis to plot through that only a Big Mac meal could provide the answers to.

His deputy was Dave who had joined in 1976. Dave hated gardening while Ken was gardening correspondent. Dave knew the borough backwards but was all at sea four miles down the road in Dudley.

Dave cracked the same repertoire of jokes that had long since stopped being original. The laughter came from eye-rolling disbelief that Dave was still cracking them.

These jokes were for an occasion.

A fire engine with lights and sirens?

“They’ll never sell any ice creams going at that speed.”

A murder?

“Smaller turkey in their house this Christmas.”

The mention of Dudley?

“I had a very sheltered life. I though the third commandment was ‘Thou Shalt Not Commute to Dudley.'”

Dave’s age was a constant source of mystery only solved when he died years later.

Not always good

When things were good on the Express & Star they were the best and when they were bad they were indescribably bad. A Victorian family-owned company they had retained working practices back then that should have stayed Victorian. The photographers who walked off the job because they had had enough, for example. The lack of brown faces in the print edition was another. This was no Garden of Eden but in Sandwell we worked hard to make it so.

When the internal phone rang it was the news desk and your heart skipped a beat in case you fucked up or they demanded more. It was your job to make more happen. Sometimes in 10 minutes.

Once, we’d printed the wrong picture of the road traffic accident victim so we had two lots of family on the war path.

There are so many stories I could tell you, but to really get them you’d have to know the office. That’s how good offices work.

I left Sandwell office, the Express & Star and journalism in 2005 to go to Walsall Council’s press office. After 12-years as a journalist I didn’t want to go to London or go to the Express & Star head office. There was a baby in the house and I needed regular hours and more money.

A few months back in lockdown, we had a leaving do on Zoom for a Sandwell colleague who had retired through ill health. Getting the band back together would be strange, I thought.

Black Lake was long closed and the printing was moved to Shropshire. The internet had done for it.

On the Zoom re-union, we laughed, remembered Dave’s jokes, the time Ken was stalked by a gent with a stained duvet, when Marion went out for the Evening Mail and was so shocked to see a story she’d missed she left her battered Datson with the engine running outside the paper shop. She returned hours later the car unstolen. Not even the criminals of the Black Country were tempted by it.

We remembered the annual bun fight over who was arranging the Christmas party, how Anne never went to the canteen, Ken would cover-up for people with white lies and how we’d repay his loyalty in spades.

I’m raising a cup of tea to the newsroom. That place of joy, laughter, graft, panic, ego, fun, terror and swearing where people learned how to do their jobs by seeing how the best did it sat next to them.

That’s a problem for comms teams, too.

Looking back, I was lucky.

Thank you Ken, Dave, Marion, Jo, Nina, Anne, James, Joe, Anuji, Wynn, Kath, Louise, Paul F, Paul P, Tony, Sunny, Chris, Marie, Phil, Tim, Viv, Katie, Irena, Eileen, Bob and others I’ve missed out.

To quote Paul the miserable photographer: “Things is mate, I made the mistake of joining this place when it was a proper newspaper.”

A YEAR? How public sector comms people look back at 12-months of COVID-19

‘This is my truth,’ NHS founder Aneurin Bevan’s widow recalled him saying to people, ‘tell me yours.

Truth is, there is no universal truth of the first 12-months of the pandemic. Our experience differs. For some, a welcome break working from home. For others, grief or a fight for health.

It got me thinking. How have public sector comms people fared? I asked members of the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group for their thoughts.

On March 23 2020, the UK Prime Minister announced the widest set of restrictions on personal freedom in living memory. It’s hard to recreate the shock of it and since then things changed.

Can you sum-up the last 12-months in four words?

“You are on mute.” – Mark Chapman.

“Relentless change and challenges.” – Suzie Evans

“What a fucking rollercoaster,” – Sarah Tidy.

“I am not thriving,” – Kelly Harrison.

“Hardest of my life.” – Lucy Salvage.

“Frustration, exhaustion, revelation, gratitude.” Lucy Hartley

“Legacy hand?” – Jon Phillips

“Emotional, frustrating, proud, enlightening.” – Laura Broster

“Bleak, tiring, uphill, love.” – Angela Maher.

“I’m ok with change.” – Joy Hale.

“Keep swimming through currents.” – Kirstin Catriona Thomson

“Relentless. Exhausting. Camaraderie and Gratitude (and quizzes!)” – Emma Russell.

What was a personal positive moment of the last 12-months?

“Having a warm, loving household.” – Suzie Evans

“No commute, absolutely brilliant.” – Stephen Wilkinson.

“I absolutely love homeworking.” – Clare Parker.

“Incredible commitment, resilience and talent of countywide partners working together to do great things in comms and elsewhere.” – Thom Burn.

“Volunteering at the Vacc Centre seeing happy, dancing Octogenarians.” – Marie Lewis.

“Learning to sew and play piano.” – Carolyne Mitchell

“Getting much closer with my partner, being home together more could have been rocky, and I know others haven’t been so lucky, but I’m so thankful we had each other through the highs and lows.” – Jennifer Ann Bracegirdle.

“Getting to spend time at home with my teenage daughter and the birth of my niece.” – Ghazala Begum.

“Seeing my dad get a vaccine.” – David Grindlay.

“Joining my family for the first time in months for a BBQ on the beach. Feeling the warmth on our faces and remembering what it felt like to be in their company and how much we had missed. And now I remember that, and that it will happen again.” – Emma Russell.

“Getting a promotion and having that first hug off my niece when we were allowed.” – Ceri Doyle.

“How much I’ve valued and love my partner and my two girls.” – Nicola Fulton.

“Hugging my Dad for the first time when we were finally allowed to form bubbles. And getting our puppy.” – Jennifer Kightley

What was a personal bleak moment of the last 12-months?

“Grandmother’s funeral.” – Andrew Clayton.

“Not seeing my dad for a year and him missing kids birthdays and Xmas.” – Leanne Hughes.

“My grandad passing away at what felt like the most stressful point in my memory, end of March 2020, however it did make me stop for a weekend and step back to process everything around me.” – Jennifer Ann Bracegirdle.

“Watching my child break down because everything is ‘weird and feels bad,'” – Kelly Harrison

“Not seeing a single person I knew face to face for 6 weeks something others won’t even be able to imagine but reality for those of us wfh who live alone.” – Ceri Doyle

“Losing one of this group to COVID. It really affected my patience – for a few days there I lost any ability to tolerate deniers/rule breakers and the ‘but they were old/already sick’ brigade, grrrrr…..” – Beck McAuliffe

“Worry about the long term impact on my daughters mental health, wellbeing and education.” – Ghazala Begum.

“My cousin hung himself in April 2020.” – Anonymous.

“Missing the birth of my second son when there was a flight ban at the start of the pandemic and not seeing my mum for a year now.” – Mark Templeton.

“Losing my voice through stress for four months.” – Joanne Cooke.

“Personal tragedy aside, having to concede defeat and take time off from work for my mental health.” – Lucy Salvage

“Realising that although day-by-day, hour-by-hour I feel absolutely fine, just below the surface the isolation, the pressure, the long hours, the dark nights, the missing family and friends, the worry, the constant covid- anxiety, the funerals we couldn’t attend, the weddings cancelled, the hospital appointments done alone, the elderly relatives giving up because their life has stopped… well it really does take its toll, that and the daily annoyance that still my job is referred to as ‘making pretty things and jazzing stuff up’.” – Emma Russell.

“My husband’s friend died of Covid leaving a widow and young child.” – Angela Maher.

“My Mum’s tears at not seeing her grandchildren for months.” – Marie Lewis.

Homeworking? Back to the office? Or a mix?

“Discovered working from home suits me, but I need to go to the office too ~ 70:30?” – Lucy Hartley.

“Both – and the trust to be able to chose which works best for me, my job and my team at that given time. But I really do miss seeing my wonderful colleagues.” – Emma Russell.

“Homeworking, with some friends house working and the odd office touch-down.” – Carolyne Mitchell.

“Keep me home working. Love it.” – Clare Parker.

“Definitely a mix, I miss homeworking days when I needed time out from meets to focus and I miss office times with colleagues to be creative and group think through the troublesome, sticky issues properly.” – Laura Broster.

“Mix but more at home to hang out with bandit-dawg.” – Leanne Hughes.

“Working from a very quiet office is better for me than being at home.” Nicola Fulton

“Homeworking is finally acceptable.” – Brioney Hirst.

Thank you to contributors Andrew Clayton, Mark Chapman, Suzie Evans, Thom Burn, Sarah Tidy, Kelly Harrison, Ghazala Begum, Lucy Salvage, Jon Phillips, Stephen Wilkinson, Emma Russell, Marie Lewis, Carolyne Mitchell, David Grindlay, Laura Broster, Angela Maher, Leanne Hughes, Jennifer Ann Bracegirdle, Beck McAuliffe, Clare Parker, Joanne Cooke, Ceri Doyle, Nicola Fulton, Brioney Hirst, Jenny Kightley, Kirstin Catriona Thomson, Amanda Rose, Charlotte Parker, Mark Templeton and Joy Hale.

This is their truth, tell me yours.

30 days of human comms #75: The human Facebook page that tells the NHS story

You may have seen the excellent Humans of New York Facebook page and its mix of story telling and pictures.

The man behind it takes pictures of people with their permission but he then sits with them and asks a series of questions.

All of the captions are in the words of the subject. There is no journalese. It’s just you and the subject.

It’s a technique I’ve seen used in a few places but nothing so effective as in the Humans of COVID-19 Facebook page which uses the technique to allow NHS staff to tell their story.

Here are three examples.

Pick one in one sitting then maybe comeback to the others. When you read them you’ll see why.

I’ll give you a trigger warning, too. It’s a tough read.

Here Leigh talks about sitting with a patient in an ambulance as she dies so she is not alone.

In this post Alfred talks about the stress of being an ICU nurse who has been forced to take time off for his mental health.

Stephen talks about being a physiotherapist redeployed to end of life care.

I don’t know what to say about the content other than it’s important we read it.

The page is run by unnamed people in the NHS in London. The subjects only have a first name. Their stories, I suspect, are universal but their relative anonymity gives a licence they may not otherwise have.

There is no personal data given and there’s no clue as to where these stories happened.

This may be too strong for a corporate Facebook page, I don’t know. But there is something disarming and powerful in reading something in someone’s voice and seeing their picture.

There may be other stories that you can tell.

If you allow people to tell them in their own voice and their own picture you will cut through to people in a way that you may struggle to through a poster or a tweet.

COVID COMMS #36: How people in the UK are getting their COVID-19 info in 2021

Tucked away on the Ofcom website is a frequently updated data set which is solid gold for communicators.

Across 8,400 lines of data a picture is built on how people are finding out about the pandemic, what channels they trust and what they think.

Reader, I’ve read it so you don’t have to.

This will help focus what you do.

Read on.

People are still heeding the advice

You may not believe it if you scroll through your timeline, but people say they are still observing the rules.

Ofcom’s survey shows 97 per cent saying they were staying at home as much as possible and are social distancing and mask wearing.

People trust the public sector

Good news, local government people.

Your content is the most trusted across the UK with 82 per cent putting their faith in it.

Perhaps surprisingly, NHS comes second with 81 per cent with UK Government in third.

Devolved nations fare well. In Scotland, there is 97 per cent trust of Scottish Government, 91 per cent of Wales Government and 72 per cent in Northern Ireland.

But before Champagne is cracked open, the survey also shows that most people don’t go to public sector channels. Three per cent use local government channels and seven per cent their local NHS. One in five uses national government or NHS sites.

So, how to reach people?

We’ve all seen the rants about the ‘lame-stream media’ online but the survey shows they remain a widely trusted channel for COVID-19 information with 58 per cent trusting news brands. These brands also do consistently well as being the place where people get their pandemic data.

People are trusting the jabs

In the summer, 50 per cent said they’d get inoculated. In January 2021, that’s risen to 74 per cent.

Good work.

Dis and misinformation

Don’t give up just yet.

A third of people saw ‘true’ claims that 5G was behind the pandemic and a third didn’t know if they were true or not. Other debunked claims get seen by one in ten people, the Ofcom data says.

Make sure your content works on a smartphone

If you’re creating content, the smartphone is where it’ll be most often seen with 80 per cent of people viewing.

Laptops are next with 66 per cent.

Public sector pages won’t reach most people

Slaving away on your NHS, council or government channel? You won’t reach most people that way.

Less than 10 per cent will get their news from local NHS or council channel and that’s half who go to UK and home nation Government and national NHS sites.

But don’t worry, your media relations people can reach people by creating content for journalists.

Traditional media is winning the infowar

If you want to reach people with pandemic news it’s the traditional media you really want to concentrate on.

That’s where 86 per cent get their news and that’s the case across all ranges, too. It’s also trusted by 42 per cent – three times as many as may see things on Facebook.

It’s a daily hit

Despite 24-hour news and social media, the majority of people will make a daily trip for news on COVID-19.

Nine out of 10 make that single news gathering exercise and that figure is consistent throughout all age demographics

Overall, two per cent of the population never ever check.

Age groups are not an amorphous blob… sometimes

One of the really interesting challenges for 2021 is the fact that different age ranges consume media in different ways. But sometimes they do.

As we shall see.

A breakdown of COVID-19 news sources by age

16-24 year-olds: always on social media consumers with a taste for traditional news, friends and family

If you want to reach this age range, know first that they are big daily consumers of social media.

They’re most likely to find COVID-19 updates from BBC TV (47 per cent), BBC online (29 per cent) and Twitter (32 per cent).

They’re the most likeliest to check their news from official scientists (25 per cent) and they’re the most likely to get news from friends and family (30 per cent).

Try and reach them through a public sector channel direct and you’ll fail. Less than one in ten will see it.

Spread your information around traditional media and 78 per cent will see some as they watch, read and scroll.

Influenxcers? Six per cent of this group trust them on the pandemic.

Too young for this? Don’t believe it. This age group has the lowest number of people (4 per cent) who never check for rona lowdown.

25 to 34 year-olds favour traditional news

This demographic were no more than 11 when Oasis released ‘Whats the Story Morning Glory?’ but they grew-up with the internet.

They’re not far behind teenagers with social media consumption with 92 per cent checking social media once a day and one in ten checking more than 20 times a day.

Half will find their pandemic news this way.

They’re the most likely of everyone to go to Facebook for the latest (35 per cent) with Instagram on 25 per cent and WhatsApp on 12 per cent.

But they’re favourite individual channel for coronavirus info is the BBC (58 per cent) with eight out of 10 citing traditional media as the broad route for the skinny.

35 to 44-year-olds love the BBC but have the highest number of news avoiders

This age range who grew up in the 1980s will get their virus updates from traditional media (77 per cent) with BBC TV their favourite source (43 per cent).

Facebook for them comes second (31 per cent) and then BBC online (28 per cent), Sky and then ITV (24 per cent).

They’re the NHS website’s biggest demographic but still only two in ten will see things posted there.

This age range has the biggest number of COVID-19 avoiders. Just over one in ten never check.

45 to 54-year-olds watch the TV

It’s all about the BBC with this group, too.

Overall, 55 per cent will get their pandemic latest from Auntie Beeb.

ITV comes next on 30 per cent with family and friends dropping to less than a quarter.

BBC Online has a solid chunk of audience here with 26 per cent while Facebook drops sharply to a fifth of this demographic.

Channel 4 is biggest with this group with 14 per cent.

55 to 64-year-olds go to traditional channels

They may be thinking about retiring but their daily trip for the big picture is to one of the BBC telly bulletins. George Alagiah and Huw Edwards have their ear.

Don’t rule social media out as a past time with 68 per cent checking their profiles once a day but only a quarter say they see COVID-19 headlines compared to traditional media’s 95 per cent.

Over 65-year-olds watch the TV

If 60-year-olds were all about the TV news then this sector take that to another level.

This sector is the most at-risk from death and are most likely to check the news with 94 per cent checking in daily.

BBC News (77 per cent) is their favourite destination and the single biggest place where people get info of any age group or any channel.

Newspapers do well with over 65s with 42 per cent getting updates.

ITV is next with 42 per cent, BBC Radio third with 30 per cent, family and friends 25 per cent with BBC online on 20 per cent and NHS websites 17 per cent.

This age group is lowest for using social media for news with one in five using this route.

Eighty three per cent watch news bulletins from the BBC with newspapers (42 per cent) making an impact on this group. Overall, 95 per cent say they get their ourbreak info from traditional media.

SURVEY NUMBERS: As the pandemic drags on public sector comms mental health is suffering

If you’re working in public sector communications seven months into the COVID-19 outbreak your mental health is suffering, a survey shows.

Almost seven in ten of government, fire, police, NHS and local government communicators say their mental health is worse now than before the pandemic struck.

The data from a survey of almost 300 communicators carried out in October and November 2020 show the long term effects of working under pressure is starting to tell.

However, almost eight out of 10 reported that they still feel as though they are working for the common good – an increase of three per cent compared to June 2020.

In truth, the results are alarming.

But the hidden downsides to the work are increasing. Feeling isolated are 47 per cent of respondants – up from 34 per cent in June.

In addition, 53 per cent said their physical health was worse compared to before the pandemic.

Feedback given anonymously in the survey is also disturbing.

“I do find that I feel anxious about work. I feel stressed constantly looking at everything as a task and feeling failure if not done quickly.”

“My line manager hardly checks in to see if I am ok, the workload has increased and I can’t see an end to it currently.”

“COVID has been my introduction to anxiety. And its getting worse as the months go on, and the professional pressure keeps rising.”

fig 1. How is your mental health compared to working before the pandemic?

Positives remain

However, data collected in October and November do point to a communicators believing in what they were doing. There has been a three per cent increase to 77 per cent of people who feel they are working for the common good.

In addition, 45 per cent of communicators felt as though they were working as part of a team.

So, what does this mean?

When I first surveyed public sector communicators in June it was as a one-off but this has now developed into a tracker survey to plot the progress as the panedmic goes on.

In truth, the results are alarming.

On the surface, people often get through their day and their tasks but this is coming at a price.

I’m no expert, but if you are feeling stressed then ask for help.

If you are a manager, a head of communications or a director of communications this needs to be something you look at. Your staff believe in what they are doing but they are suffering.

If you’re public sector do me a favour. The NHS has a good web page with resources here. Take a look and do something. You are not alone. The survey shows this and the chances are there are people in your team feeling the same.

You could also contact Samaritanscall: 116 123 or email: jo@samaritans.org if you need someone to talk to.

If you are public sector and want to take part in the January iteration of the survey click here.

GUEST POST: How and why the ‘Don’t be a Dick’ public health campaign was created

It’s always good to hear the story behind amazing campaigns. As public health fight tooth and nail to get their message across the more direct route was adopted by Lincolnshire Resilience Forum. SHAUN GIBBONS communications manager of South Holland District Council explains how it emerged.

Hello, how are you?
Let’s be honest: framing a public health messaging campaign around calling someone out for acting a dick comes with a fair amount of risk. Calculated risk… but risk, nevertheless.

In these heightened, sensitive ‘age of panic’ times the ability for people to find offence in anything that they’ve seen or read online is a headache for anyone working in communications.

This becomes even more relevant when communicators are searching for new ways to say the same thing. Just how many ways are there to say, “Stay at home”, “Wash your hands”? (It must be noted here that UK Government really need to develop the “how” and “when” messaging and consider employing more of the “why” …something they’ve been criticised for in the past).

It’s aimed at those younger, thumb-activated and more risk-relaxed individuals

who have turned away from the stayed messaging that often gets little online traction.


So why the dick?

Cutting through the social media noise and the ‘vanilla’ messaging (a colleague’s phrase, not mine) was Dick’s primary objective. And with nearly half a million views in the first few days of the campaign, this spiky little individual did just that.

Remember the why? Well, we wanted to root this campaign in a particular (give it some bollocks, you might say). Dick represents, according to a UK Government’s Behavioural Insights Team survey, 8 per cent of people who are thought to be responsible for 60 per cent of the total transmission risk.

Put bluntly, Dick is a dick and his actions – and the inherent risks to everyone associated with him – need to be called out. And I believe that was done with a fair dose of humour which seemed to be appreciated by the vast majority who’ve shared and commenting on the campaign’s first
introductory post. Some are suggesting Channel 4’s The Last Leg parodied the campaign on its show last night.


Will this campaign change Dick’s behaviours?

Maybe, maybe not. Is Dick aware that his actions have consequences? Almost certainly. But does Dick know to what extent? I don’t think so, no. And if this campaign does nothing else it highlights the butterfly effect that even the smallest of behaviours can have a large affect.
But that’s enough about Dick.

What about Tom and Harriet?

These two heart-warming individuals represent those who continue to play their part in keeping the virus under control. These two need a voice and need to be championed for the sacrifices they’ve made. These are the majority who quietly go about their lives making a positive contribution to their communities. We need to hear more about the Tom and Harriet’s of this world. (Again, it’s worth noting that behavioural messaging lands much better when they are framed in a more positive sense rather than negative. Again, something the UK Government has been criticised for).

How did you manage to get this signed off?

Working in a multi-agency organisation with a number of instinctively command and control structures is often difficult and demanding, I won’t lie. As is the political dimension. But there’s three reasons why this campaign got off the ground.


Number 1: having a flexible communications strategy that said to partners: “Hey, if you don’t want to share our content, then that’s cool. We’re down with that. We understand you have your parameters and own audiences to consider. It’s all gravy.” All good content will stand on its own two feet.

Number 2: Gaining the trust of your team and those around you and being able to influence those you need to quickly, quietly and efficiently was key. I work with a fantastic group of individuals who know I’ve got their back and I know they’ve got mine. So, if you’re going to tiptoe around a minefield be sure-footed and know where the bombs are buried.

Number 3: Trust your own instincts and hold the line. As I said earlier, it was a calculated risk. But my instincts told me there was a very good chance this would land well with the audience it was intended for. Yes, of course there was pressure for me to take it down and stop the campaign – and I respect those individuals and the organisations they represent who asked for that to happen. But I kept telling colleagues hold the line and it worked out.

So what’s next?

Let’s face it: this campaign won’t appeal to every Tom, Dick and Harry…the curtain twitchers from number 7 down the road probably WILL find it either offensive or downmarket. But this campaign isn’t aimed at those. It’s aimed at those younger, thumb-activated and more risk-relaxed individuals
who have turned away from the stayed messaging that often gets little online traction.


Stay safe and thanks for reading.

Shaun Gibbons is communications manager at South Holland District Council.

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