If you don’t think that love is a little bit like gritting in icy weather then, boy, let me convince you.
There’s a short 48-hour window every year when Valentines cards are hugely important. Then for the other 363 days a year they’re not all that.
For a handful of days a year the state of the roads, grit levels and snow are really important. But unlike Valentines Day those days don’t come pre-printed in your WH Smith desk calendar. You don’t know when the cold blast will come.
My gritting obsession
For three years, I was a local government Twitter account. Every tweet in. Every tweet out. I put back Christmas dinner by 10 minutes to tell people that we were going out gritting. The reason for this? Those handful of days people wanted to know if it was safe to go out.
There’s a lot riding on getting it right. Reputational damage. A switchboard in meltdown. Serious injury. Loss of life. Get it right and your follower numbers increase and people see what you are doing.
Why video is important
I’ve been banging a drum for video as a comms channel for three years now. More than 70 per cent of the UK population have a smartphone and almost three quarters are happy to watch videos of less than five minutes, Ofcom say. That’s your audience right there.
In the latest cold snap,#BestFromTheEast – or #BeastFaeTheEast if your are in Scotland – has shown public sector communicators going into overdrive to communicate.
Here are SEVEN videos that communicate a cold weather message
Using humour and song a pre-prepared snow day announcement
Frimley Junior School in Surrey made this great video to announce a snow day. They’ve used a homage to an 1980s rapper to get their point across to parents. It shows humour and delivers the message.
— Frimley Junior School (@frimleyjunior) March 1, 2018
Using a Facebook Live on icy roads
The Facebook Live platform is currently being encouraged by Facebook. Shoot one and you’ll reach more people. So, hats off Oldham Council for shooting this on what looks to be an ipad. An officer introduces himself and introduces the vehicle driver who is responsible for the gritting operation. As they negotiate the streets they talk about the myths and what they are doing.
Importantly for a Facebook Live is that there is a reason to keep watching. In training myself and my colleague Steven often talk about this as the ‘sword of Damocles.’ You want to keep watching for a specific reason. Here there are two. Will the WiFi cut out? Will it cut out before the exposed heights? Spoiler: they make it to the closed hill and see a Spanish truck stuck.
Using an animation to tell a story
The Met Office need to get a series of messages out with weather warnings. They’ve done this through a variety of means bu the animations have proved eye-catching and effective ways to reach people.
Three separate Amber severe weather warnings for snow are in force for parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales.
— Met Office (@metoffice) March 1, 2018
Using a GIF to make the text more interesting
The GIF is the 1990s technology that’s at home on the web. They are short animations that allow you to repurpose some footage. You can make your own or you can use a GIF library. Both Facebook and Twitter have libraries you can delve into.
Here Transport Scotland lists the prevention advice and then adds a GIF of a sliding car.
Temperatures are scheduled to plummet over the coming days with snow forecast. 😱
Winter check list:
– clear your windscreen/windows of ice if driving
– drive to road/weather conditions
– allow for a greater stopping distance
– smooth with braking/steering
– build a snowman pic.twitter.com/71VdI7dksB
— RoadPolicingScot (@polscotrpu) February 26, 2018
Using pre-shot footage to explain how grit works
During the time I spent in local government comms I tweeted the fact that grit was not fairy dust dozens of times. Same too for how grit works. This Kirklees Council clip with the backdrop of a salt barn shows a man in hi-vis talk through how things work. Shoot them in the autumn and have them to hand. Good tip.
Just under an hour and a half til we send the gritters out again so seems like a good time to share this clip of our engineer Stuart explaining how snow can settle on a gritted road pic.twitter.com/mH7jnyA4fu
— Kirklees Winter (@KirkleesWinter) February 26, 2018
Using realtime footage of work in progress
Fake news! I never saw the gritter! Well, here is video footage of the gritters in action. It doesn’t have to have a narrative arc. Just point, shoot and publish. And combat thosze trolls who say that you weren’t out.
We’re doing everything we can to clear routes today – we’ve got 11 mini tractors, 22 gritters + 60 street cleansing staff on snow clearing duties. However, due to the amber snow warning, please be advised NOT to drive into the city where possible pic.twitter.com/bT3y48HRMe
— The City of Edinburgh Council (@Edinburgh_CC) March 1, 2018
Using hyperlapse video
North Yorkshire County Council had the bright idea of using footage from the cab of a gritter as it passed through the rural county. Shoot the footage on the hyperlapse app and you can look as though you are moving far faster.
Ever wondered what the view is like from the #gritter cab?
Our 86 gritters will be keeping main roads open, but remember gritting doesn’t guarantee an ice or snow-free surface, as snow can lay on top of a treated road. Drive safely. View gritting info at: https://t.co/y8xJZkI8Xf pic.twitter.com/0flQPaOa9B
— North Yorkshire CC (@northyorkscc) February 26, 2018