I have blogged recently about the fact that there are many, many free learning opportunities open to us in the era of small/no training and development budgets.

by Darren Caveney

The UnAwards Winners Masterclasses come top of the pops for me for the best free learning event.

The chance to listen – for free – to quality presenters sharing their winning work and lessons, and then ask them those killer questions, is powerful.

Demand for tickets to this year’s masterclasses was incredibly high again and not everyone could be there. So here’s 40 brilliant take-aways.

And soon I’ll be sharing all of the winning presentations on comms2point0.co.uk.

Email and customer magazines

1. Central Bedfordshire Council stopped their resident magazine. Stopped. And they didn’t recreate it as a digital version. What happened? They increased their levels of customer satisfaction from 67% to 73%

Digital engagement

2. Older people are not on digital channels? Not necessarily so…  Of the older people surveyed in Bedfordshire 94% of them used digital channels. 94%.

3. Early testing by Central Bedfordshire Council has shown that putting an emoji in the subject line of your customer emails *might* increase open rates (but be careful as emoji’s can appear differently across different platforms)

4. Email is digital. And extremely effective. Before launching @NHS, NHS England’s comms team emailed every director of comms in the NHS to ask for their support with the forthcoming new initiative. Just because it’s older tech doesn’t mean it isn’t still important and impactful.

5. Customer services enquiries on social media is a big management challenge. We learned from SocialSignIn that social media enquiries in to councils went up 78% in the past 12 months. Only 7% of councils have social media embedded in their CRM solutions.

6. Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association add a picture of their on duty customer services person each day to personalise and humanise their offer.

Social media strategy

7. Three-time UnAward-winning agency, One Black Bear, told us that the average UK adult now spends two hours per day on social media.

8. They also told us that organic reach continues to fall. But this shouldn’t mean that we give up on it. We just need to work harder and smarter.

9. London Ambulance Service use content grids to support their social media-first approach. They tell all of their stories on social media (and on average only publish one press release per month)

10. London Ambulance Service’s social-first strategy is working – they are gaining 1k extra followers a month.

11. Scheduling on social media is good. But being present and responding to engagements in real time is key, though.

12. Each week the @NHS account creates a summary Twitter ‘Moments’ especially useful content for sharing at weekends.

13. If you’re running a Twitter account ‘takeover’ don’t interfere, is the advice from @Ireland and @NHS

Invest in experts. They are experts for a reason

14. Having a go at creating our own content, designs, photography and video is a necessity for many – but don’t forget the experts. The winner of the best video in the UnAwards – Camden Council – invested in a professional film company and ended up with a brilliantproduct with a proven ROI. And the campaign wasn’t social and video only – it also included print, bus and local cinema ads using high quality stills from the video.

The face of a campaign

15. Don’t forget the basics. Choosing the right people to front a campaign can make or break its success. Westminster City Council worked with a young social influencer in their campaign targeting young people because the target audience would be more receptive to this rather than hearing the messages from a council employee. It worked.

16. Northamptonshire County Council’s fostering campaign didn’t just do a bit of research. They did a lot of research. The insight gained was vital in busting some internal myths around what would work and what wouldn’t And better still by talking to real foster families they were able to unearth some valuable vox pop opportunities – real people telling real stories about their fostering experiences.

Testing, testing, always be testing

17. Camden’s brilliant, hard-hitting, UnAward-winning video was tested numerous times and shaped by audience feedback. You can’t do proper research if you are hit with last minute requests for plans and campaigns. Say no to them.

18. Hertfordshire County Council multi-award winning ‘Love your bump’ campaign to target pregnant smokers had a creative option which the comms team preferred, But when tested in focus groups with the target audience they preferred an alternative creative option – so that’s what the campaign used. Say after me – you can’t do this kind of important and valuable testing with last minute requests. Say no to them.

Ask for help, learn lessons

19. Before launching their UnAward-winning @NHS Twitter account, NHS England spoke with organisations running similar accounts such as @Ireland. This kind of bespoke research minimises the chances of getting things wrong.

Internal comms

20. The masterclasses made me ponder on this – is internal comms still too stuffy? Does it sometimes lack the creativity of external-facing campaigns? It does sometimes feel that way, despite some brilliant exceptions.

21. Staff are overloaded with messages – change, restructures and ‘transformation programmes’. Honest, open and transparent comms is a must, and with an open door to being able to ask fair questions without fear of recriminations. And answer staff questions quickly and don’t ignore staff survey feedback.

22. Management cascades may still need to be a part of your internal comms strategy but it’s a ‘Russian Roulette comms wheel’ in terms of success.

23. Have an internal comms/staff engagement plan but KEEP IT SIMPLE. We’ve all seen plenty of change plans and comms plans in our time. Simple is almost always best.

24. Email your staff an important campaign message – and repeat it 58 TIMES in the same email. Annoying? Maybe, but it does get the message across in a memorable way. ‘Shining-style’, Brent Council tried it and it certainly looked anything but corporate.

25. Organise a staff quiz and get the senior leadership staff on the same team. And then allow the rest of your staff to boo them (which is fun and actually shows that leaders are human too)

Did you know?

26. There is such a thing as an eco-hearse. The brilliant Leeds Dying Matters Partnership used one in their campaign. Wow.

Being creative

27. When a utility company has a drone taking footage of a flood scene use it in your comms activity (Wyre Council did to great effect)

Managing comms

28. It’s official – demand coming into comms team is increasing (confirming my belief that this the biggest challenge facing comms teams in 2017)

29. During an emergency keep notes on everything. It will really help you when you write your next emergency plan.

30. Text messaging is still a useful tool in your armoury (it was on the wish list for emergency comms at Wyre Council)

Quotes of the day(s)

31. “We’ve all had ‘armpits’ in our faces”

32. “Campaign in peacetime, not during an emergency”

33. “Our framed UnAwards Winners certificate replaced the clock on our office wall – and caused staff turmoil”

34. Attendee: “How was staff morale before you began your internal comms campaign?”

Speaker: “Sh1t” (which made the whole room laugh. Maybe, just maybe, we need to have this kind of honesty in all internal comms work?)

Daft requests are alive and kicking

35. “Could you post this on Yammer for me?” (er, the idea is that you post it yourself… )

36. “Could you make this more ‘Gucci’?”

37. “Do you have a drone we could borrow?”

38. Media enquiry: “Do you answer the graffiti posted on your toilet walls?”

39. Media enquiries on “What is the £cost for repairs to ‘punched toilet walls’ in the borough?”

40. FOI enquiries on “Preparedness for alien invasions” Yes, really.

So what next?

The #UnAwards17 will be back in September – even better and bigger than before. So make sure you are working on things right now which you can enter later on in the year.

Don’t forget – the UnAwards are the most accessible communications industry awards around: Free to enter, cheap as chips to attend.

And SAVE THE DATE – The #UnAwards17 will take place on 1 December at the very cool Everyman Cinema, Birmingham. I’m a teeny bit biaised but I honestly think that it’s the best comms industry event of the year so get it in your diaries now.

Saying thanks

The chance to grab some precious free learning is a rare and beautiful thing. I was honoured to be able to organise and deliver three masterclasses and give almost 200 colleagues the chance to be involved.

This can only happen through the brilliant Masterclass partner we have – The Local Government Association, thank you to you all and especially Matt Nicholls.

And thanks to four brilliant sponsors – SocialSignIn, Granicus, Council Advertising Network and Alive with Ideas.

I love you all.

See you on 1 December

Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0, owner of creative communicators ltd and organiser of the UnAwards

image via @byebyebirdieuk

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

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