COVID COMMS #15: What local local lockdown content looks like

There’s now a short window to get your act together if you’re a public sector communicator.

Week 10 of the lockdown and restrictions are being eased across the UK but at a different pace.

In England, there is the prospect of a local lockdown in areas where the infection rate spikes. That can be a school, a workplace or an estate or town.

So how to communicate it?

Why the need to create local lockdown messages?

It all points to the need to have a comms plan with full collateral ready and good to go within days.

Last week I blogged on why this was needed. In summary, data suggests the Cummings effect has had a measurable effect on trust and getting a message across. But communities are hugely trusted. It points to the tactical need to create your own stuff.

But from a practical need you’ll need to create your own stuff, too. Whereas previously people could troop to their national public health website and download the content that’s probably not going to be an effective option.

Government designers won’t be busting a gut to create content for any lockdown for say, on Walton High School in Stafford. Or Dorman Diesels in Stafford. Or the town of Stafford itself.

So, you need to crack on with your own content as part of a comms plan.

What does local look like?

Here’s a few examples of local messages that have caught my eye.

As with anything, don’t wait for best practice create your own.

#1: A SIMPLE LOCAL MESSAGE

Welsh Government have created something that could work as a broad approach for England. They’ve created a national message and content that can work on a very local level. Like here for Powys.

STRENGTH: It’s ready and good to go. It identifies with a local area.

DOWNSIDE: It serves Welsh needs but the approach would need to be more granular and re-designed for a more local lockdown. A template that comms people could adjust and deploy out-of-hours makes most sense.


#2 A SIMPLE BRANDED MESSAGE

Wigan have done great things over the past couple of years and I really like the way they’ve adapted national messages but made them their own.

STRENGTH: Adding the Wigan Council logo makes it clearly content endorsed by one authority and for one area.

WEAKNESS: While this is for the council, would council branding make it harder for other public sector organisations to share? No doubt they’ve tackled this in Wigan but a conversation with fellow ahead of a balloon going up may be helpful for you. Is there other branding that everyone can buy into without the need for logo soup?


#3 MAKE YOUR EXPERT A MEDIA STAR

Jason Leitch is National Clinical Director for Scottish Government. More than anyone I’ve seen he nails scientific rigour with clear explanation. Find your local version whether that’s NHS or Public Health and have them explain the thinking behind the local lockdown. Engage with the media as Jason does here. Answer questions. A Q&A in a Facebook group or on a newspaper’s page makes sense.

STRENGTH: The scientific advisor is more trusted right now than the politician so encourage them to deliver their advice.

WEAKNESS: There’s only so many hours in the day and some will be better at it than others.


#4: USE LOCAL IMAGES

I lived in the North East for three years as a student and so always missed the summer. The beaches in the region are fabulous and can attract thousands of visitors. This content takes local images with a local message.

STRENGTH: Local images with a slightly light hearted local message postcard-style. A lack of logo can be a strength.

WEAKNESS: While the approach hits the nail on the head for broad tourism messages it couldn’t be cut-and-pasted entirely into local lockdown warnings. But , I’m sure the originators of this know that. A lack of logo can be a weakness.


#5 USE LOCAL IMAGES AND A LOGO

Similar to North Tyneside, the postcard approach takes a gentle route to encourage people to keep away. But with added logo.

STRENGTH: As with the North Tyneside, a light hearted message delivers a balanced prod. I also like the fact they’ve re-purposed a creative commons image of Formby beach so they have a local view without cost.

WEAKNESS: Again, this can’t be cut and pasted onto a specific lockdown warning. But I’m sure they know that.


#6 USE LOCAL IMAGES AND MAKE IT FROM THE LRF

If council-branded comms may be a frustrating and needless obstacle to partners sharing then a joint approach can sidestep that. So, this example of Local Resilience Forum branding can avoid that.

STRENGTH: It has a Suffolk flavour from the text to the image which is a piece of public art in Ipswich. Using elements of the national message can be seen as positive. It comes from the LRF so NHS, council, police and others should buy into this.

WEAKNESS: The light-hearted approach won’t work for more serious matters but I’m sure they know this.


#7 LOCAL DOWNLOADABLE ASSETS

Of course, create a local message. But be mindful that you need to spread it locally, too. Luton Council have downloadable assets that is the starting point for sharing a message. Where communities have English as a second language this makes sense.

STRENGTH: Downloadable means that others can share the information for you. A poster can be a poster in the community without the need to print and deliver.

WEAKNESS: You still need to get the information in front of people so they can download it. There’s also a small risk of fake messages circulating.


#8 LOCAL VIDEO

Sharable content with recognisable local content and a local voiceover makes sense to get local information out. Rhondda Tynon Taf Council have made this strong video, for example. For a local lockdown, date stamping may be an idea.

STRENGTH: Sharable and local.

WEAKNESS: Can take hours to create something local and a lack of technical skills can be a barrier.


#9 POSTERS AND SIGNS

Sealing off a park as part of a local lockdown involves more than a chain and lock with a message online. There’s a need for posters and signs, too. Like this from Liverpool City Council.

STRENGTH: A local sign helps deliver a local message.

WEAKNESS: Can be torn down and vandalised easily.

Thanks to Adrian Osborne, Sally Clark, Carwyn Meredydd, James Moore, Rachael ill, Rachel Ridge, Elena Michelle Lloyd, Paula Elwood and Louise Powney.


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WINTER COMMS part 2: Using a Twitter thread to communicate a complex point

It’s the winter and of course the council never treated the roads. Ever.

Only thing is, yes, they do. But icy blasts can see things deteriorate quickly.

Perth & Kinros Council made that very point using a Twitter thread. This is the convention of linking a series of tweets. For me, this functionality is a gamechanger as it moves things from 140 characters to as many characters as you like.

They used two shots from a traffic camera. One to show you the road conditions shortly after the gritter passed and then a new shot 45-minutes later. They used GIFs in addition to sugar the pill and reinforce their points.

So far so good. Now the first image. The road that’s just been cleared.

Then a GIF that illustrates snow.

Now the second picture of the same scene less than hour later.

Now the two of them side by side.

And a round of applause for those doing the hard work.

A complex point simply executed. Bravo Perth & Kinross Council. Well done their comms officer Lisa Potter.

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

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

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

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

Being a real voice

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

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FNewcastleCityCouncil%2Fvideos%2F10155081344978790%2F&show_text=1&width=560

Being a 360-degree Red Arrows watcher

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

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fdenbighshirecountycouncil%2Fvideos%2F1592989687390081%2F&show_text=1&width=560

Being eye-catching with a dancing GIF

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

Being creative with Superheroes

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

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fkentfirerescue%2Fvideos%2F10154082530404520%2F&show_text=1&width=560

Being a teller of an emotional story

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

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fbedspolice%2Fvideos%2F10155283704926311%2F&show_text=1&width=560

Can I help?

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

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

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