Channel You

"What's my motivation?"

“What’s my motivation?”

When I pitched for my present job, I majored on capturing the stories of positive people so as to inspire other people to act positively.

A lot of my work centres around Public Health messaging and I made the point that the public is bombarded by warnings and entreaties; to do something-or-other less or more…or not at all. Yet, withal, some people simply won’t act. Is it because they aren’t listening or do they think themselves immune?

I suspect it’s because they’ve convinced themselves that the message doesn’t apply to them. In which case, no amount of top-down hectoring is going to change their behaviour or their minds.

“What if” I asked “we were able to provide a first hand account of someone who did act?”

We would ask them a little about their circumstances, ask them what prompted them to act and, most significantly, ask them how they feel now. Could that prompt a positive response, in the vein of ‘well, if she can do it, so can I’

I had no experience of film making or editing but I made it my business to learn.

I’ve since made several videos and not all of them Public Health-related.

Too early to tell if they’ve prompted mass behavioural change but they’ve taken an average of 100 hits  per video on YouTube. Not telephone numbers level, I’ll grant you but my instinct tells me that we should push on and develop the approach across a range of services.

I submit by way of illustration two videos on varying topics. The first was intended to demonstrate that one small step can have a life-changing effect on your wellbeing:

The second is intended to demonstrate that the barriers to starting your own business via a market stall are a lot lower than you think:

If you’ve got any good examples of videos to prompt behavioural change, let’s start sharing them. Add yours below.

Also, check out @johnpopham on Twitter, he’s been an advocate of storytelling for yonks.



Evening All

Dixon of Dock Green

Dixon of Dock Green

Back in the sixties, the police were viewed very differently from the way we view them today.

There was something called ‘due deference’. It was a thing, you may need to look it up.

On our black & white TVs, Dixon of Dock Green epitomised the public perception of the police. Played by Jack Warner, Dixon was a mature, steady hand at the helm of public order. Each episode was prefaced by Sergeant Dixon addressing the camera, beginning with the immortal words “Evening all.” He would then set up the story for that week. And after the drama had played out, he would return to address the camera once again with words of reassurance to help us sleep easy in our beds.

In the intervening years, a number of real life episodes have dinted the reputation of the police for some. In the 1970’s, accusations of corruption and malpractice were met with closed ranks and secrecy which did little to restore public trust.

In the 21st century, it could be argued that the police are more accountable than they’ve ever been. Statutory bodies, PCC’s and formal public liaison aside, there’s been another development. For a number of years, the police have slowly but steadily been using social media to reach across the thin blue line and connect directly with the public.

I applaud the police for taking the risk because their lead has been followed by other public organisations…”if the police can do it”

So the news that, since 2009, a number of officers have contravened police social media guidelines is regrettable but hardly surprising given the scale of the operation. And if it serves to spark a conversation about the right way and the wrong way for public organisations to use social media, that’s fine. But, please let’s not start talking about restricting the deployment of social media by the police.

Bobbies on the beat, dog handlers and even helicopter crews are using social media. They’re sharing their day-to-day work and providing the reassurance that Sergeant Dixon did on a Saturday night. And that’s a good thing.

If Sergeant Dixon had been able to use twitter, I’m pretty sure he would have done #eveningall

Gone Fishing

gone fishing

The last time I went fishing, if you don’t count crabbing off Aberdovey jetty, was 1972 in Dartmouth Park Pool, West Bromwich. After at least ten minutes in a rowing boat, I became so frustrated at my lack of success that I ended up throwing my meat pie at the water. This tells you at least two things about me. One, I’m no angler and two, I demand instant gratification.

I mention this only as a precursor to an analogy that neatly encapsulates everything I learned at Commscamp14. As comms officers, we are essentially in the business of marketing. It could be encouraging people to recycle more or pay online instead of coming to the Town Hall but either way we want people to buy-in to something.

And whatever the proposition is, the principles remain the same, regardless of the channel; so. Let’s go fishing…..

1 The Stream

Choose your spot. Don’t market to everyone; it’s a waste of time and effort. Go where you have the best chance of success. It could be appealing to an interest group on social media using an existing chat room, community or hashtag. It could be editorial in an old school, printed community newsletter.

2 The Bait

This needs to be appealing to your target audience. Something glittering and attractive that looks very much like the kind of thing your target audience is regularly attracted to. For instance, people like sharing images of cute animals on social media. One council gets a huge response on Facebook when they post pictures of lost dogs – no accident. Plus they re-unite said pooch with owner on a regular basis. Result.

3 The Hook

The bait will be consumed greedily but on its own, it’s wasted effort. Tie it to something; a proposition, a call to action.

4 The Line

Tie the hook to a friendly URL that isn’t searchable. A tracking device is the term often used in the marketing world. In the case of Facebook, this moves your fish away from 3rd party metrics to stuff you can measure for yourself.

5 The Reel

So the fish is on the hook, time to reel them in. They’ve taken the bait and they’re on the line, the web content they’ve come to needs to be compelling or at least fit-for-purpose. Don’t generalise. The bait promised something, it’s time to deliver.

6 The Keep Net

Okay, I admit, the fishing analogy is wearing a bit thin at this stage but essentially, this is where you land your fish. If the proposition was to sign up to something or get into the habit of self-serving, this is where it happens; because, if you hadn’t already guessed, this whole exercise is about behavioural change.

Of course, our customers aren’t fish and, as you already know, I’m no angler but I hope you’ve found this useful. Tight lines

LINKS: Local Government social media marketing survey by Deeson Creative

Martin Belam, Editor New Formats, Trinity Mirror on creative content

D:Ream On

On the eve of CommsCamp13 I find myself reflecting on the roller-coaster ride of the last 18 months in local government communications. Back then, I may have hoped that services would be beating a path to my door and asking for social media accounts but it would have seemed a long shot. The notion that we could build a case for front line officers to be empowered to tell their own story and not be fed through the mill of traditional corporate comms would have seemed equally unlikely. But at Shropshire Council, 50+ Facebook pages, a couple of dozen Twitter accounts and a sprinkling of service blogs later, here we are. A perfect storm of cuts and dwindling resources are no small contributing factor to the wider adoption of innovative communication practices; it seems innovation loves a crisis. But disruptive innovators in a  number of councils have played their part too. Contrary to D:Ream’s hopeful anthem of the 90’s, we can’t assume that things will only get better. There are more challenges ahead for local government in the UK and that will require a new generation of disruptive innovators with even crazier notions. I’m hoping to meet some of them tomorrow at The Bond. Follow #commscamp13 and see the day unfold.

Digital Futures12

I’ve attended a few local government innovation events over the last year or so.  Enough to spot something of a trend. Where conversations were once dominated by discussions around technology, platforms and apps and the user stats to back them up, the conversation is now tempered with more talk about changing culture and attitudes.

The recent Digital Futures 12 conference in Shrewsbury was a prime example. The speakers made reference to social media and digital engagement but not to reel off stats on Facebook & Twitter usage. Time and again we heard about the positive fallout from adopting social tools.

Nick Jones @nickjonesCOI set the tone with the quote “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”- a timely reminder of digital exclusion that was echoed by Alison Smith @peskypeople and here’s a link to her slides. Alison also made a good point about accessibility. It’s not about supporting a disadvantaged minority. An accessible web site is good for everyone. Vicky Sargent @vickysargent made a compelling argument for channel shift with an estimated £134M potential savings to English councils. Vicky also highlighted the need to provide data as maps as well as lists.

The day was littered with great quotes. Louise Kidney @loulouk suggested that social media were “a trojan horse for cultural change”. And while we’re on the subject of quotes Carrie bishop @carriebish called called for “open by by design.”

Consultation is a thorny issue for some but if we are to be ‘open by default’, we’ve got to get it right. Engaging people in the democratic process is another tricky one but Catherine Howe @curiousc made the point that a citizen engaged in consultation is engaged in the democratic process. And when it comes to the impact of social tools, she also underlined the ability of online to change offline behaviour; a notion summed up with the call to “think in public..listen publicly”. In other words, don’t go to your customers with a fully formed idea and ask them what they think of it, because that ‘aint consultation.

Nick Booth @podnosh spoke of the success of social media surgeries but highlighted the need for many more if we are to narrow the digital divide. He referred to what he calls the stock pot of social capital. Don’t assume that a community is necessarily in deficit. Begin by assuming that there is social capital and work out how to find it.

Harking back to the benefits of social media, Alison Hook @allyhook highlighted the fact that the Coventry City Council Facebook page accounts for 45% of their web traffic.

There were may more calls to arms during the day by the likes of Justin Griggs @justingriggs from the National Association of Local Councils. And it’s worth noting that if some local authorities are slow at taking up social media, some parish and town councils are even further behind; and a two tier approach to social media won’t help co-creation one jot.

So, my abiding image is pockets of future in a sea of present. The challenge is to join up the dots.

Right, where do we start?

Be Prepared

I’m indebted to @johnpopham for finding an interesting blog by Eric Jackson on the Darwinian process behind the rise and fall of tech companies.  Will Facebook survive and should we care? When you consider the amount of time some of us have invested in creating Facebook pages for our services, should we be concerned? It’s a topic I touched on a while back on this very blog.

It took a while before we got the Internet but the journey from basic web to social to mobile has been a white-knuckle ride. Jackson makes the point that in the world of tech development, the now generation is only now for a moment. They’re already being nudged aside by the next generation and the now generation didn’t see it coming.

So where does that leave us? Second guessing the next evolutionary stage of social tech is a job best left to the experts (good luck with that). Organisations need to focus on first principles if they are to keep pace. These principles should be based on what’s best for the B2C experience. Go where the conversation is, be open to comments, complaints and suggestions, be engaged and stay focussed on the social business approach. That way, whatever comes out of Palo Alto next, we’ll be fit for purpose.



I recently attended what was billed as a Mini Cake Camp*. Essentially it was a chance to meet informally with local gov comms colleagues from the Midlands and eat cake. The plan was for each of us to take five minutes to describe something that’s worked well for us and five minutes to suggest an opportunity for collaboration in the spirit of last winter’s #wmgrit .

Not suprisingly, with such innovative comms chums in attendance, the topic soon moved to the deployment of social media. Early adopters have spent a great deal of time ‘selling’ the benefits of social media to sometimes sceptical colleagues. We’ve tried using stats and case studies and stretched the potential of PowerPoint to the max. But one idea emerged that afternoon that appealed to me; A Price List of Wasted Effort.

I recall being at a village hall somewhere in Shropshire with a dozen representatives from across the public sector each of us standing beside our table mounted display on the subject of something or other and waiting in anticipation for the doors to open and the grateful locals to rush in and engage in enthusiastic debate around the topic of something or other. It was two hours in, and with only three residents interested enough to step through the portal (Sound familiar?), that I began to imagine what the combined hourly rate of the attending officers would amount to. And whether, once that figure were divided by the number of residents that attended that day, it represented a respectable ROI.

I’m not knocking public meetings or open days per se but I am asking if there’s an argument for engaging in  advance of the event and gauging in some way the likelihood of anyone turning out.

And public meetings are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many traditional forms of communication that we slavishly follow with no means of measuring their success and all of these cost money. So as well as defending/promoting/advocating social media, maybe we could also spend a little time productively calculating that cost; A Price List of Wasted Effort. Just a thought.

* attending the Mini Cake Camp were the excellent @Paulcoxon81 @katebentham@danslee @meljpotter @darrencaveney