If you haven’t bought online advertising yet in your role it’s probably a matter of time before you do. There are things to take advantage of, and things to look out for. This new post should help you stay safe.

by John-Paul Danon

In my last blog post I promised to give some more detail on how to buy digital media in a way that is safe for your brand.

There are two key risks for the public sector when buying advertising through programmatic exchanges or on digital platforms – these are:

–          funding criminal sites

–          Placing ads in inappropriate contexts

The first risk is relatively simple to mitigate. Limit your buying to established and legitimate publishers only. Newspapers have been highlighting the risks of advertising on the Google platform in the hope that it stems the flow of advertising spend away from their platforms.

Newspapers, whilst not criminal organisations, cannot guarantee that your ad does not appear in an inappropriate context – see this example.

Whilst there is no such thing as zero risk, you can substantially mitigate the risk of your ad appearing in the wrong context by employing the following strategies:

–          Block lists – at CAN we have an extensive block list of words and phrases which, if they appear on the page, we will not bid to place a client’s ad.

–          White lists – select safe and inoffensive topics such as embroidery, gardening and only place advertising around these channels. This approach dramatically reduces reach so can be limiting if you need to get a message to many people in a short space of time.

Let us know how your online advertising is going – what’s working, what isn’t? Let’s discuss it on Twitter via @comms2point0 where I’ll be happy to help and share a little more.

John-Paul Danon is sales director with the Council Advertising Network

image via The Library of Virginia

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

…but are they worth the paper they are printed on?

“Find out more about the parties’ policies by reading their manifestos in full. Download the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos from the party websites.”

…says The Guardian helpfully in its comparison of the three manifestos in this article. We’re still waiting for The Green Party’s manifesto, though they launched their youth manifesto here with the eye-catching pledge to scrap university tuition fees and write off all student-era debt still outstanding. While my heart & wallet is like ***Oooh!*** my head simply cannot see it happening.

The figures are eye-watering. Opponents will inevitably accuse the Greens of promising the world knowing they won’t ever be put into a position of ever having to deliver on such a promise. Such promises were the ruin of Nick Clegg, and dare I say it, Cameron and Osborne with the EU Referendum that they never stood a chance of winning against 30 years of tabloid drip-drip-hate headlines.

Conservative manifesto – a power grab?

It’s easy enough to tear into a manifesto of any political party that has been in power for seven years – normally it’s around this time that the party concerned begins to run out of steam. It’s also a time when big name critics who were once big figures in past administrations regularly turn up to criticise ministers. In this case, the Conservatives have to deal with George Osborne at the Evening Standard. Just how destabilising he proves to be remains to be seen.

From a ‘looking through the Cambridge lens’ there are a number of alarming things:

  • Setting in stone the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayoralty for a semi-permanent Conservative county mayor covering a city- Cambridge – where they have zero councillors and haven’t had more than a couple of councillors this side of the Millennium. (Policies imposing first-past-the-post (FPTP) despite the second preference system being used in the elections this year, and then stating they will now no longer back mayoralties for rural counties – cashing in their winnings for Cambridge).
  • Proposing switching to FPTP for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections – both this and the above policies being slammed by the Electoral Reform Society (Which amongst other things calls for proportional representation as a voting system).
  • The Internet – unfortunately due to the decision on the EU Referendum and the subsequent vote, the institution that would have had a half-decent chance for regulating the internet (for want of another term) is one that the UK is leaving. Having been to OpenTech 2017 not so long ago, I remain of the view that most people in politics and public policy are not nearly as technologically literate to be making policy on all things digital, and that all institutions in/around politics need to train up existing staff and bring in tech-literate staff into policy-making roles. This includes editors and journalists too. My ‘go-to’ expert in the field is @CharlotteJee – editor of @TechWorldNews.
  • Leveson II – scrapped. The paragraph reads as if it was written by the tabloid proprietors and editors themselves. The Hacked Off campaign for a free & accountable press isn’t happy either.

There are more than a few other things I have issues with, but it’s not all bad.

  • Rights and protections in ‘the gig economy’ where big firms are replacing what were permanent jobs & regular hours with faux ‘self employment’ or zero hours contracts. The proof will be both in Matthew Taylor’s report (Head of the RSA) and on what recommendations the Conservatives would implement. Note more and more people are sceptical of manifesto commitments that say “we will look at X report carefully before coming to conclusions” – especially ones published just after general elections!
  • The enforcement by the law of promises made during corporate takeovers – a big issues with Cadbury’s. It was this that led to this clause.
  • Investment in transport schemes – in particular to ease over-crowding on railways. Today, the new Cambridge North railway station was opened – also reigniting the political row as to who should take what credit over it.
  • Strengthening laws to combat modern slavery
  • The review of the honours system

…but inevitably given my own political values, there are things in there that I cannot reconcile eg

“Yeah – but what about Labour? And the LibDems? The alternative is communism!”

The reason why I think Labour will struggle in this general election is because Corbyn’s top team under former Guardian columnist Seumas Milne has committed far too many unforced errors over the past few years. It has been woeful and excruciating at times. If Labour does better than expected, much of it will be down to the huge amount of work their frontline activists have been putting into the campaign.

A manifesto to motivate the core vote?

On a number of policies, Labour is using words that people under the age of 35 will not be familiar with – eg “nationalisation”. This has shifted the political Overton Window because it has forced the broadcast journalists to explain what nationalisation actually is and means in practice – something that has found a receptive ear to some people. The risk is that should Labour face a heavy defeat, they could learn the wrong lessons of the election and assume it was policies rather than comms and competencies that lost it for them.

Repealing university tuition fees, but not the student-era debt

An important signal from Mr Corbyn given that it was Labour that brought in tuition fees in 1997/98 and then raised them in a piece of legislation that enabled the Coalition to raise them far further through secondary legislation requiring only 2 debates in Parliament rather than going through the extended process of primary legislation.

Free lifelong education at further education colleges

Potentially a very important policy due to the changing nature of the economy and jobs market. At school in the mid-1990s we were told our generation would be the first that did not have a job for life, and would have to retrain and re-skill. The burden of that retraining all too often falls on the individuals rather than the firms or the state. Note how corporation taxes and other levies on big private businesses have been cut over the years while the costs of education and training have risen. There will always be a financial incentive for firms to poach trained staff from their competitors rather than train up their own staff. In the end it’s a race to the bottom. Something must be done to reverse this.

Private rented homes

I take with a pinch of salt political promises on house building. In the grand scheme of things, spats over numbers are meaningless. One thing that Labour has mentioned that’s of interest is requiring all homes out for rent to be fit for human habitation. What’s not clear is how such a policy will be enforced, how that enforcement will be funded, what happens to tenants forced to move out, and what happens to properties that landlords leave empty and refuse to do anything with. In some parts of the country, property price rises alone means that the value of such a property will continue to rise anyway.

National Care Service, National Education Service

What intrigues me about these two are how these services will interact with local government. One of the things Labour found out in the mid-2000s was the limitations of over-centralised delivery. You can’t micromanage from the centre. I found this out the hard way during my Whitehall days. Can they make public services such as these and the NHS work seamlessly with local councils?

Leveson II

Unlike the Conservatives above, Labour has stated it will commence with Leveson II. Furthermore, and perhaps as expected, they announced they will launch a review of local and national media ownership. Given the coverage of much of the print newspaper media, calls from within Labour can only grow stronger.

“And the Liberal Democrats? Their leader says they are aiming to be the lead opposition!”

Going from 9 MPs to over 200 is the swing that would be required for that, and for over 326 MPs to form a government. They are standing in pretty much every seat across Great Britain, but even their most devout supporter would concede that their chances of being elected outright into government are slim at best. Indeed, in big letters they state: “Change Britain’s future by changing the opposition”

Pitched to hard remainers?

The opening section is all about how different policy areas will be affected by Brexit and how they would respond to each one. In that sense they’ve accepted that the Conservatives have framed this General Election 2017 as one about Brexit. Labour on the other hand have not, and are campaigning on much wider issues. As things stand today, the commentariat is noting Labour’s rise (from very low) in the opinion polls with the Lib Dems failure to make much headway, and are criticising Tim Farron for pitching so hard for the remain vote.

Similar to Labour on health and education?

As far as high level policy goes, yes. To most people, Labour, Lib Dems and Greens all have a ‘stop the cuts’ theme in these areas – something that people are bringing up locally at the hustings.

As with Labour, the Lib Dems have also covered adult education with a similar sounding policy about ‘individual accounts for funding mature adult and part time learning’ but it doesn’t read nearly as clearly as Labour’s commitment (free adult education at FE colleges) does.

A Good employer kitemark

This reminds me of Richard Murphy’s Fair Tax Mark but expands that concept to cover things like a living wage – the real one, not the Government’s one that stole the branding. It also covers unpaid internships and commits to name-blind application processes.

Fiduciary duty of firms – a big culture change?

“Reform fiduciary duty and company purpose rules to ensure that other
considerations, such as employee welfare, environmental standards,
community benefit and ethical practice, can be fully included in decisions
made by directors and fund managers.”

During my time studying economics many moons ago, I always wondered why the only duty that was mentioned was the one executives had to maximise the profits of the shareholders. Hence the above will make for interesting policy work should it be considered – as academia is doing, for example here.

Devolving revenue-raising powers

For a city like Cambridge this is essential. In my opinion anyway. But this has been a long-standing principle of the Lib Dems and their predecessors. The problem they face is a Whitehall and Westminster culture that doesn’t like letting go of the reins when it comes to taxation. The argument against devolving such powers is the risk of having a chancellor of the exchequer in every town hall in the land imposing a local income tax – as Nigel Evans MP said in this Commons debate in 1996. That debate in 1996 was about funding of local government services and starts off here noting the context that the Conservatives were on a downward losing streak of local council election results, which meant by 1996 just before their landslide loss to Labour in 1997, they controlled relatively few councils.

Legalise cannabis of a limited potency

The headlines screamed about the Lib Dems legalising drugs, but it’s much more nuanced than that. Possession will result in a health-based approach rather than a criminal-based ones, taking small-time users out of the prison system.

“What hopes for a progressive alliance? Because there’s not that much difference between Labour, the Lib Dems and The Greens?”

Ditto UKIP and The Tories – some of the former are standing down to support Conservative candidates on a pro-Brexit ticket. This is being driven locally rather than nationally – mainly because it would be unconstitutional (especially for Labour) to back another party at an election. But it’s a note of caution: not all election alliances are progressive.

The above isn’t a comprehensive look at the manifestos. It’s a scan through, picking out some of the things that the mainstream media might have missed, and picking those that seem to stand out for me for one reason or another.

As some have commented, the closer the party is to winning an election, the more nuanced and caveated the manifesto seems to be. Hence the criticism that the Conservative manifesto is short on costings and specifics. Note also that the opponents of the Conservatives have complained that the broadcast media is not subjecting their manifesto to nearly the same sort of detailed scrutiny that opposition manifestos are getting. The sentiment of former Mayor of Cambridge, Barry Gardiner of Labour, echoed the sentiments of many Labour activists in particular.

 

 

 

 

 

Original source – A dragon’s best friend

Some organisation’s Facebook pages are at risk of being left high and dry by a fresh clamp-down on second accounts. 

by Dan Slee

It’s astounding the number of people playing fast and loose with their organisation’s Facebook pages.

How?

By allowing or even encouraging staff create second profiles to be admin.

That’s against Facebook terms and conditions and those profiles run an increased risk of being deleted. The Sprout Social blog has warned of a fresh clamp-down on this by the social media giant in the wake of post-Trump criticism. The Facebook account with few friends and only activity on the corporate page is being spotted and removed.

The process, let’s call it the John Smith Work profile approach, needs to end.

What does the t&c’s say?

Facebook terms and conditions are super clear on this.

Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way. Here are some commitments you make to us relating to registering and maintaining the security of your account:

 

  1. You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
  2. You will not create more than one personal account.

And for pages, there’s a warning too. Only real people can admin. So unless you’ve changed your name to John Smith Work you’re in trouble. In a world where Facebook needs to show people they clamp-down on fake news this approach will begin to pose questions of the validity of the page too. That’s not something you want to do.

Here’s what the page t&c’s say:

General

A.    A Page for a brand, entity (place or organisation), or public figure may be administered only by an authorised representative of that brand, entity (place or organisation) or public figure (an “official Page”).

So, an authorised representative only. In law is John Smith Work authorised? Is he even a real person?

Why second accounts exist

I’ve heard it said that people don’t want their own profile linked to a work Facebook page.  They’re maybe worried about somehow the work part of their life leaking into the family time. In the days before pages existed that was a legitimate concern.

But people from outside the page can’t spot who the admin is, so your holiday pics are safe.

I’ve also heard it said that people’s passwords may be weak so a collective fake name is better. That’s not a good idea. Bottom line. Don’t go against Facebook t&c’s.

Here’s what to do. Quick.

If people genuinely don’t want to link their genuine profile to the corporate page that’s fine at the end of the day.

But you really need to delete them as admin from your page.

Yes, may be a tough break for your rota and for their career progression. It’s not going to look great at an interview that you don’t know how to manage a page.

But worst of all is the single communal work Facebook account that everyone can log-in to. If that goes – and many will – you’ll be left high and dry without any access.

But pages take years to build and lots of TLC to grow. To risk losing that in an instant is indefensible folly.

Picture credit: Poster Boy / Flickr.

 

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

Podcasts, like chip shops and football teams, can have a devout following. Yet, they remain niche. An online discussion unearthed some useful ones for comms people.

By Dan Slee

Do you unwind at night with a glass of wine and a podcast in your ears? Maybe in the bath? Chances are you are not alone.

In the UK, research by audience researchers Rajar estimate than more than three million people a week listen to downloaded recorded bulletins. Evening is the most popular time to listen, apparently yet a third of those downloaded never get heard.

But what of podcasts for comms people? An engaging discussion on the Public Sector Headspace Facebook group showed there was an appetite. Here are nine that were shared.

Nine podcasts to try out 

The Productivity Show by Asian Efficiency talks about how to get more out of your time. You can catch them here.

Wired is a tech magazine and the UK magazine also run a podcast you can find here.

On creativity, The Accidental Creative got a vote. You can find them here.

FuturePRoof was an excellent publishing project that highlights creative thinking. It is also a podcast driven like the book by Sarah Hall. You can find it here.

On a hiatus, the Natteron podcast features Ben Proctor and Helen Reynolds and usually a guest. There’s a strong back catalogue. You can find them here.

Not a podcast as such but a BBC programme, The Naked Human looks at technology and the digital world. Alex Krotoski hosts. You can find the latest episodes here.

The CIPR promote the csuite podcast. This features often global topics. You can find them on soundcloud here.

The often topical PR Bants podcast aims to look at current affairs through a PR lense. You can listen to them here.

Not about comms, PR or digital, Radiolab got recommended for simply being an enjoyable listen. Brilliant at turning science into hugely engaging pieces of human story telling you can find them here.

Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.

Picture credit: Riksarkivet / Flickr.

 

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

Trinity Mirror title Birmingham Mail ran a Facebook Live from their newsroom as part of a national day to celebrate local newspapers. To one former hack it was both reassuringly the same but gloriously different.

by Dan Slee

"I love newspapers," veteran newspaper editor Harold Evans once said, "but I’m intoxicated on the possibility of the internet."

That’s a statement that I love.

For 12 years at the start of my career I was a journalist. Starting in hot metal in rural Staffordshire and ending as assistant chief reporter on a busy regional newspaper. I left that for a communications job in local government. 

On my last day I newspapers I went into the press hall where thirty foot print towers roared and a river of print ran above my head to produce that night’s paper. Even after a decade I was still just as impressed at this feat after more than a decade as I was when I first saw it. 

I’ve never lost my love of newspapers but I’ve despaired at them ever cracking the code that would see them harness the possibility of the internet. It’s hard to change the print-led formula that for centuries has been a licenc e to print money.

When we started to use Twitter at the council I was at a journalist from one of the local papers rang me up and asked us not to. Or if we did, would they ring us when we posted something?

I declined this offer.

There is now hope in newspapers

For years, I pointed to the declining print sales of newspapers as an argument for comms people to create more than just press releases. There are genuine warnings about how the industry is about to fall off a cliff from industry veterans like Roy Greenslade. Ofcom have also warned that newspapers are the least popular way of getting news. Many have closed in the past decade and those that remain have fewer staff.

But newspapers are now much more than places that produce print.

Take the Birmingham Mail, a Trinity Mirror title with 300k Facebook likes in a city of 1.2 million people and a declining print readership.

The title has gone through real pain in shedding staff and cutting its newsroom. Anecdotally, stories that would have made a prominent place in the paper have been overlooked for more web-friendly popular content. 

But looking at the title now, there’s some sign of optimism for the future. 

Marc Reeves, editor in chief for Trinity Mirror Midlands, spoke at a brewcamp a few months back. He said the Holy Grail of newspapers being self-sustaining through digital revenue was now being reached. The digital-first approach of getting the news online is starting to work.   

 What the Facebook Live told me

Marc took part in a Facebook Live from the Birmingham Mail newsroom. You can watch the full 40-minute broadcast here.

What was reassuring is that newsrooms are still populated by people who thrive on breaking news and story telling. During the broadcast Sunday Mercury’s Mike Lockley was mentioned. Mike, who gave me a week of work experience when I was still at college, is as old school as it is possible to get. If he can make the transition from print-led to digital there is still hope.

What was also encouraging was talk of new uses of technology. The Saturday night sports paper the Sports Argus folded 11-years ago. The pre-internet queues I recall in newsagents for their delivery are now a memory for people aged over 40. But as the broadcast pointed out, the last edition of the Argus couldn’t carry that night’s FA Cup Final score. So a podcast, video content and sports coverage that is more fan-centric is now the order.

Data is being used more and more to look at the stories that people like, the broadcast said.

A story that’s big on a Trinity Mirror title in Newcastle, for example, can be be a pointer for what could be big in Birmingham too.

And yet, older newspaper people will turn in their graves at complaints made in the broadcast about spelling mistakes slipping into content. They’ll be even more dismayed at the level of trolling that can sometimes pollute comment boxes and Facebook threads. This is a bigger issue than many people realise. This is an issue not just for newspapers but for civic life as well. 

Video is the driver for engaging newspaper content.

What did strike me was the use of video by newspapers.

Ben Hurst, Post & Mail news editor responsible for video content, in the Facebook Live broadcast said something telling:

About 12 months ago we were barely doing any video. The rise of the smartphone means that if someone is on the scene they won’t just take a still pic. They’ll take footage. It’s completely changed everything operates. 

But not just recorded video is playing a part. Live broadcasts on social channels are becoming increasingly part of the media company’s armoury. Reporters are rarely first on the scene with a smartphone to shoot footage but people are. Ben was open about the fact that they are open to use people’s content.

What does this means for comms people?

It means that newspapers are still in the game. Only they’re not newspapers anymore. They are media companies. They’re not the only game in town anymore either. But they are starting to re-invent themselves. 

What do you do if you are comms and PR?

It means taking a look at the content you generate. A press release with text is less effective in a landscape where newsrooms want footage and images. Text at news stands shaped by an editor’s news sense once sold newspapers. Today, content refined by data and often driven by video drives the money-creating job sustaining traffic for media companies.

As newspapers adapt so should comms people.

Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.

Picture credit: Michael Coghlan / Flickr.

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

Social media was once the playground of marketing and comms teams, where memes were shared, adverts were created and emojis were in abundance – but not anymore. Facebook, and particularly Twitter, have emerged to be important channels for delivering powerful customer experiences.

by Stuart Banbery

Latest research suggests that 77% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with a good service (Source: Forrester Research). So if you’re looking to build engagement, satisfaction and channel-shift – social media provides a real opportunity.

Now you may think that it’s only the infamous “Millennial” that takes to Twitter to ask a question or air a complaint. In fact customer service interactions on Twitter have increased by 250% in the last two years (Source: Twitter). The 15 million active daily Twitter users in the UK are now receiving excellent customer experiences on this channel from the private sector, so they expect the same level of seamless service elsewhere.

"Social customer care" is not a new idea, yet providing integrated, multi-channel customer service still presents real challenges for large sections of the public sector. But get it right, and there’s the opportunity to create meaningful engagement that encourages people to see your digital channels as the first place to ask a question. Having a social media account and just “broadcasting” at people is no longer enough, you now need to be “always on” and ready to respond.

But how, when culture and investment remain two significant barriers to digital transformation, do we meet and delight customers on these growing new channels (Source: comms2point0 and SocialSignIn)

One of the reasons I love my job is that I get to see how leading brands from every industry are embedding and harnessing social media to create exceptional customer service – driving operating costs down, and customer value up.

In this guide I’ll share some of the best practices and examples I’ve seen. Whether you’re just getting started or trying to take your social customer care to the next level, the same fundamental rules apply.

Be where your customers are

It’s better to do a fantastic job on one or two channels, than a poor job across many. So the first task is to find out which channels your customers are on and how they want to speak to you – this will tell you where to focus your resources. Boosted posts may drive traffic and followers to specific social channels, but where are your customers organically socialising and talking to you.

To understand where your customers are, search for mentions of your brand across the most popular social channels, refining your search by location or date – you can do this natively or using simple social listening tools. For most organisations, Facebook and Twitter will return most search results and should therefore be the primary focus for your social customer care, but it’s also worth checking Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram for niche segments of your audience.

Be Proactive

Your brand is no longer what you say it is, but what your customers tell each other it is. On social media, it’s now your online community that wields the most influence over the perception of your brand. So being oblivious, or neglecting conversations that happen online can be damaging to your reputation.

You will need some technology that allows you to monitor these conversations. Social listening and media monitoring functionality in the latest social media management platforms will alert you to any direct or indirect mentions of your organisation or an important issue closely related to it, across social media, web and print. It may be people discussing changes to frontline services, a recent customer service enquiry they never received a resolution to, or maybe singing your praises for a recent community event. The fact is, if they don’t @ mention you directly you may never be aware of it.

Now, the next step is key. Don’t just wait for your customers to ask you a question directly – of course you want to be responding to this too, but it’s equally as important to proactively engage in conversations and correct misinformation, provide advice or supply a web link to further information. One of our clients, Manchester City Council, does some great work in this area and is consistently near the top of the GovRank system. They spend a lot of time “talking” to their community on social media, using a warm, natural tone of voice. We are now seeing more local authorities using these kind of techniques, 53.4% of councils are now social listening or media monitoring – a great step towards harnessing the power of social data

Measure and Manage Volume

The number of social media enquiries you receive will be affected by the size of your constituency and how active you are on social media, 78% of councils reported an increase over the last twelve months – so demand is growing. The volume of enquiries you receive and the resources at your disposal will to a large extent dictate the best way for your organisation to manage these enquiries.

But regardless of the number of digital enquiries you’re receiving, it’s essential you take a baseline measurement now and start tracking. Currently 56% of local authorities don’t track email volumes and 49% don’t track social media volumes. Only by tracking trends can we accurately allocate resource and future proof an organisation against changing consumer behaviours. Once you’ve done this you can even get really smart and track peak times for each contact channel over the course of a week. If all of your agents are trained on telephone, email and social media etc, they can then be moved around to meet weekly fluctuations. This is where flexibility is so important to an organisation.

Formalise Social Media

One of the common themes I hear is that there’s a grey area between Comms teams and Customer Service teams regarding who is responsible for what around social media. This has the potential to undermine a project to successful embed social media. We need to start treating social media as we would any other contact channel if we want people to come back to us on there again and again, that means putting clear processes, KPI’s and SLA’s in place. 

Integrating your social media management platform with wider CRM systems is a huge opportunity for UK councils to deliver fast, personalised and effective customer service – but currently 93% of authorities do not follow this integrated approach (Source: comms2point0 and SocialSignIn). Having customer data from all touchpoints at your fingertips when responding to a social media message, will allow you to respond in a more informed way – easily triaging, assigning or escalating issues behind the scenes.

It’s really important that wherever possible you respond to customers on the channel where they’ve contacted you – pushing customers to another channel is a very jarring experience. You’ll probably find the enquiries you receive usually relate to the same few topics, so having templated answers ready will help provide the speedy service your customers are looking for and allow you to focus on the more niche enquiries.

Decentralise Social Media

Speed of response is crucial on social media. If someone in the Comms or Customer Service team receives a specialist enquiry and has to retrieve the answer from a department before replying, that will result in a slow response and poor experience for the customer.

One of the best, and most effective practices I’ve seen is to have a “Social Media Champion” in each department, each with the autonomy to respond directly to the customer regarding specialist questions. This will create internal efficiencies, remove bottlenecks in customer services and improve customer satisfaction.

Assigning specialist questions to your “Social Media Champion” in each department will help you identify enquiry trends – you can even use a rota system so that the responsibility isn’t falling to the same person each week. Marking the end of your tweets with a name or some initials will signify who has responded and help to humanise your digital contact, this is a technique used by one of our clients Virgin Trains, who do some great work in this area and are a useful brand to follow.

Social Customer Service… is just Customer Service

As with any contact channel, agents will need to use empathy to interpret a customer’s emotional state and decide what kind of response is suitable. Is it light-hearted and can an emoji or GIF be used? Is it more serious and formal, with the conversation needing to be taken into a private message environment where there is no limitation on character limits? Don’t forget other customers could be affected by the responses you give online.

But a few golden rules of good social customer service always apply:

  • Close the loop and always sign-off with a "thank you".
  • Be consistent across the organisation in regard to tone of voice and response time.
  • Share sensitive information via private message – this will avoid pushing them to email.
  • Don’t delete or hide negative comments – instead, take the conversation private.
  • Like or quote retweet positive comments to promote your great social customer service.
  • Hold your hands up when you’ve made a mistake (See United Airlines on how not to do this) and thank them for raising the issue.
  • Don’t engage with a customer who is just out to argue publicly.
  • In the event of a crisis, cease all outbound comms and issue posts that reach everyone.
  • And don’t forget to promote your social media channels across all touchpoints.

Consider holding a lunch and learn, where agents can share ideas and experiences on best practice. Maybe buddy-up those that are less confident on social media with a colleague that’s very competent, this will help them overcome their fear and achieve the right tone of voice. Secret shopping your own organisation will undoubtedly reveal some stark insights into what’s working really well, but also where improvements can be made.

Strong social customer service is now a key ingredient in a wider comms mix and reputation management strategy. Those investing time and thought into the role they want social media to play, both for the organisation and the customer, will be rewarded. One of the joys of working in the public sector is the opportunity to make a real difference to peoples’ life. Social media will help you reveal clear customer insights, resolving their important questions quickly, without taking up precious customer service bandwidth.

comms2point0 and SocialSignIn have recently published a new eBook which provides a snapshot of where UK local government is at with embedding social media into customer services. This free resource highlights, trends, challenges and solutions that will allow you to benchmark and accelerate your progress, download it now by clicking here.

Stuart Banbery is marketing manager at SocialSignIn

image via Wystan

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

If you had to choose just one channel to deliver your internal comms which one would you pick? Tough isn’t it? One leading internal comms expert chooses his favourite and tells us why. Read on…

by Chris Elias

I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point. You have the meeting which discusses an issue or situation that promptly ends in “We need some ‘comms’ – soon.” – with a pointed nod in your direction, just as everyone gets up to leave.

Easy as that. No?

We return to our desk with notes upon notes of scattered detail, in no real logical order from which we attempt to define objectives and work up a plan that meets the needs of our employees.

Sound familiar?

As a communicator working in Government, we follow something called the OASIS model;

  • Objectives
  • Audience Insight
  • Strategy
  • Implementation
  • Scoring

It’s a simple model. And one that has really helped me coach ‘non-comms’ folk into finding a comms approach that achieves actual outcomes.

In reality though, we often find ourselves in situations that leaves little time to consider each element in great enough detail before having to at least manage the silence in some way. Particularly in areas of organisational change or HR related issues where you’re constantly battling against the rumour mill and the grapevine (I’ve not yet worked out which one is worse!).

What usually perishes in the squashed timelines is the insight part. We start communicating without really having an understanding of the different sectors in your organisation and what the current perceptions are or what questions they have.

When @KimSkliner asked on the excellent comms2point0 ‘Comms Leads Group’ on Slack to highlight our most successful internal communications channel, my reaction was to say webchat (I used CoveritLive – Other tools are available).

And here is why…

In situations described above, where time (or lack of it) makes it’s difficult to anticipate questions or reactions about a topic, a webchat combined with a brief introductory email or intranet article works brilliantly.

With a panel of ‘experts’ and an hour of time you can cover in excess of 100 questions that absolutely quench the thirst of information and gives brilliant evaluation and future planning/insight prospects.

Whilst something like the OASIS plan is great, it’s meant to be used as a guide. I’d say, aside from the ‘O’ (Objectives) which should be agreed and solidified early on, each other part should remain flexible and open to iteration.

A webchat plays right into this by firstly developing the ‘Audience Insight’ part, giving first hand insight into what is on people’s minds (some of this will often curtail rumour mill content). If the timing isn’t right to answer that’s ok – just be honest.

But as a communicator you can’t then ‘unknow’ those unanswered questions, or ‘unsee’ the discussion that happens amongst the panel when faced with it – you can use these to feed in to the medium term strategy and implementation stages to help form a set of activities that will fill the gaps and establish priorities.

Where answers or assurances can be given, great. There is a spontaneous honesty, an informal and unrehearsed sincerity from hearing from a senior leader (or SME) in a chat style that is hard to replicate on other channels. In my experience, great for building trust and enhancing interactions and ‘visibility’ of senior leaders.

Essentially it’s short circuiting the planning stages, by issuing content, answers and working toward the objectives whilst really helping make sense of the perceived list of actions from the original discussions and comparing them with the actual needs of the audience and people around us.

I found that it was an incredibly valuable tool to use throughout several large internal campaigns to make sure you’re on track to achieving the outcomes demanded of you at THAT meeting.

Initially, it can be daunting to get the panel to be open but the within 20 minutes of quick fire engagement, confidence grows and the value is realised. There is usually a high level of adrenaline flowing within the session and you’re role as a communicator is to be the unbiased conscience between the panel and the audience – to give them confidence to answer and when to consider a holding response.

After the ‘adrenaline’ hour passes. And like most adrenaline fuelled things… they just want more and more. It plays right an organisations need to foster two-way conversations and often tips the balance toward 40%/60% speak/listen ratio advised for the modern workplace.

It may not always be the best comms channel, every time, in every circumstance, but if you’ve not tried it, it should definitely be something you consider having in your ‘channels toolbox’.

And if you have any examples of what other channels work well in other circumstances, I’m sure the guys at comms2point0 would love to hear from you (yes please, Darren)

Chris Elias is Head of Internal Communications at the Intellectual Property Office. You can follow him on Twitter here.

image via C Thomas Anderson

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

Public relations: Can you define exactly what it is and isn’t? One experienced PR practitioner lifts the lid and explains why it’s still important in the comms mix.

by Marcus Chrysostomou

One of the things I am often asked is: What is PR?

Another is: why do I need it?

When having this conversation, everyone seems to have their own answer and opinion. Sometimes to the detriment of PR. Often their opinion is that they do not need PR because they are already spending money on marketing, or it is not needed and a waste of money. This clearly can be a problem for those working in PR and it is often said the PR industry is not very good at its own PR.

Programmes like Ad Fab or BBCs Twenty Twelve, with the clueless Siobhan Sharpe, haven’t helped. Neither does the hangover from the days of spin which spawned In the Thick Of It. Having worked in the Downing Street Press Office, I have seen firsthand how difficult it is to get stories about policy out when, for example, the Downing Street cat has gone missing. However, there are times when spinning does take place – which the media will ironically lap up. Don’t get me wrong, I am not bashing the media here, I am just reflecting on firsthand experience.

In fact, I have also been accused of spinning, for example, when I did not allow a BBC journalist to film me setting a room up for the first recorded ‘on the record’ press briefing with Alistair Campbell. I was both amused and bemused by this as I was simply getting the room ready for the meeting. Anyway, so what is PR?

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations definition is: Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.

Quite often, many feel that PR is only needed when things go wrong and clearly it is about managing reputation. But it is more than that, and as the world is ever changing, especially with the advent of social media and other digital communication tools, it is also about storytelling.

It is also not just about sending a press release to the media. It is about public speaking, events, newsletters, awards, relationship building and much more. It is also about utilising influencers, writing blogs and content for social media and other online platforms.

From a business point of view – there is clearly fierce competition to win customers and retain currant ones. Businesses need to stand out from the crowd. To do this a public image needs to be built and maintained. And this is where a PR specialist helps. Their role is to help maintain and build the reputation of the business while presenting their products, services and the overall operation in the best light possible. A positive public image helps create a strong relationship with the customers, which in turn increases the sales.

Marketers are starting to realise the power of PR as reputation is more important than ever before. There is so much noise out there, that it is difficult to be seen over other businesses.

Companies like Apple, Google and Facebook really understand how to use PR to help them shoot down the competition. How many people wait in anticipation for the next Apple launch? If you look at their website, they send very few press releases out. They clearly have a sound communications strategy – which include well publicised launch events.

Of course, not everyone can be an Apple or Google, but you can be the best of your sector or industry at getting the message out using PR. I also though need to add one more thing to the mix – customer service.

As people now have ready access to businesses through social media, good customer service is good PR. Get it wrong and you can have a media crisis. Just look at what happened with the now famous United Airlines and American Airlines incidents where the videos went viral. Even taking 24 hours to respond to a tweet can also cause negative PR, as many in this world of fast moving media, expect a quick response.

So, in my opinion, you cannot ignore the power of PR. Investing in PR will bring you results and is an important part of the marketing mix. You have to be patient, as the results do not happen always over night.

But after working for over 20 years in the industry both in the public and private sector, including Downing Street, I have seen how effective PR can be if you invest and get it right.

Marcus Chrysostomou  is owner of Equilibrium PR

 

image via The National Archives UK

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

Social media. It’s the biggest time-suck there is. So it’s important to make sure that the time invested delivers benefits, outputs and outcomes. How do you know if your organisation is getting the most from it? Well you review your work. In detail.

by Darren Caveney

I’ve said many times that I’m a lucky old sausage.

My consultancy role gives me an amazing opportunity to look under the bonnet of what comms teams around the UK do and my job is to help them try to make simple but impactful improvements.

One of my favourite tasks these past 18 months has been undertaking social media reviews for organisations.

It’s a time-consuming but important activity which always reveals fascinating insights as well as highlighting areas for improvement.

I’m just about to undertake my sixteenth social media review and so it seemed a good time to reflect on the things I’ve learned and the 12 key lessons to emerge. And I thought I’d share them with you, my comms pals who visit comms2point0.co.uk

Here goes.

1. We’re still too BROADCAST

This is a trend which has jumped out from the 15 reviews I have undertaken so far – there is still too much one-way posting on the things which organisations and services want to share. This isn’t necessarily what followers want to read.

Of course organisations want to share their priority work and messages. That makes sense. But there has to be a balance and this balance is often out of kilter.

There is an important, deeper observation here though: Most of the broadcasting isn’t coming from the main corporate accounts, it’s coming largely from accounts which sit outside of the communications teams. Not always, but often.

I suspect that many busy and under pressure comms teams are struggling to dedicate enough time to addressing this issue on top of the other demands they’re juggling right now.

2. The holy grail. Generating greater engagement levels

I believe that engagement rates should be a measured and monitored – and a target set for organisational accounts.

What does a good engagement rate look like? From the benchmarking I’ve been able to generate I have seen ‘gold standard’ accounts where 30-40% of activity is genuine engagements with citizens and customers.

This chimes with Buffer’s ‘rule of thirds’ – which I love – as a way of setting achievable content targets.

If you’re not aware of it, Buffer’s rule of thirds suggests that an account should aim for:

– a third of its content should be your most important messages and priorities

– a third should be the sharing of other people’s content e.g. partners, customers, local groups, charities

– and the final third should be actual engagement – conversations, listening and responding, asking questions, surveys and polls

Really simple, really effective. Try it.

3. Poor performing accounts

In 2017, resource – which includes our time – is just too precious to spend on activities and channels which don’t provide a positive return.

Following an in-depth review it’s clear to spot a poor performing account. They generally fall into three broad categories:

Accounts which never had the legs or potential in the first place but were set up by a service area. Now there could have been a decent case for innovating with this account back in the day but if it’s not performing now it probably never will without something pretty major happening.

Accounts which were once great and managed by a skilled front line officer but there has since been a change in personnel and the new person in charge either doesn’t have the time or doesn’t have the inclination.

The questions here are simple? Does this account still have potential or not? If so, is there someone with the time and skills to run it? If the answer to both questions is no then close it.

Accounts which were opened because it was the trendy thing to do and a manager somewhere demanded it be opened. I call this ‘getting distracted by the shiny’. These accounts tend to post infrequently, engage very little and don’t add to the organisations digital offer. They’re vanity accounts which detract from the genuinely good accounts.

4. Stop flogging a dead horse – Close your poor performing accounts

My reviews have on average resulted in the closure of 10-15% of an organisation’s accounts.

There’s a kind of ‘accounts lifecycle curve’ I’ve witnessed in many organisations: Early adoption through to rapid growth up to saturation point and now a decline in numbers. It means that lots of organisations are now reducing their overall number of accounts.

If you’re going to close an account then obviously it’s best to tell the people involved face-to-face and explain why their account needs to be closed. But also tell them how they can get a better return by working with you on their potentially good content and how it could be shared through the main corporate accounts which has 40k followers or likes.

When an account needs to close it doesn’t necessarily mean the person involved has failed. It’s been good and important to experiment and innovate with accounts – but 10 years in with social media we largely know what works and what doesn’t now.

5. Your inbound social messages and questions – guess what…

On average from my reviews around 50% of the messages being received into organisational social media accounts are actually customer services enquiries.

Janelle Barlow once famously said that "a complaint’s a gift". And it kind of is.

But at the risk of stating the obvious, the best people to deal with a customer services enquiry is the customer services team. This has to be addressed – comms teams just don’t have the capacity to do another team’s wok too and it isn’t the best way to get accurate and speedy responses to customers. If this is you get a meeting in the diary with your customer services chums.

6. What makes the most engaging content? Don’t underestimate the mundane.

Now this is where some good old fashioned desktop research – sleeves rolled up, head down – pays dividends. It’s not enough to simply look at the big numbers where, for example, Facebook might point us towards a trillion video views. Let’s face it, they have told porkies before in this area and when just 3 seconds counts as a view on Facebook there is good reason to reach for the salt pot from time to time.

Unless you have access to some really fancy, ultra-expensive monitoring aid then a little number-crunching can come in handy here.

Is it worth it? Yep, for sure. It turns up surprising things.

For example, when I reviewed the multiple social media accounts of a large city council what do you think was the social post which generated the highest engagement rate across a month? Something sexy, something really fun and creative?

No. It was a tweet with a link to a webcam at the council tip on a bank holiday weekend. It generated seven times the average engagement rate for the account. Wow.

7. A social media account is for life, not just for Christmas

Don’t get me wrong, I have never been a fan of the ‘one account to rule them all’ approach for an organisation. Front line accounts are very often where the great stories lie. But too often the amount of time it takes to run these accounts well is underestimated. With plenty of content and enthusiasm it’s easy in the early days. But how will they fare 18 months down the track?

That’s when running the account can become harder and more time consuming. If you want to run an organisational account you have to be passionate, creative and committed to it. All of the time.

8. Five core characteristics of a great social account…

My reviews have convinced me that there are five main characteristics and requirements which need to be in place to deliver a great social media account:

– personal skills

– interesting content

– the opportunity for plentiful material

– adequate time given over to account management. Daily.

– sound objectives, regular reviews and meaningful evaluation (which all flow from a simple, effective plan)

9. Four barriers to effective social media – the four ‘T’s

When I survey teams about the biggest barriers to delivering great social media accounts and activity the ‘big four’ almost always rear their heads:

Time, training, trust and tech.

If any one of these four elements are missing from an account then it won’t achieve its true potential.

10. ‘New accounts’ versus ‘established accounts’

It’s essential to have a business case for your staff to complete when they approach you to open a new account (assuming they do ask you, of course)

We should always keep an open mind initially and take a look at the pros and cons of said new account.

It takes an age to build a big following and an engaged audience on social media so the chances that an all new account with zero followers is a better bet than using the corporate page with 50k likes will take some arguing. It should never be an instant no but equally it should never be an instant yes.

The final decision on whether a new account gets the go ahead or not should always, always sit with the head of comms. Write that in your social media guidelines – it could save you some valuable time in future discussions on the subject of new accounts.

11. Pssst.  Passwords.

This is really important. Do you in the central comms teams have all of the passwords for every organisational account?

Eek. Thought not, You’re not alone but get hold of them and quickly.

This isn’t about being all big brother, it’s simple good governance and sensible risk management in the event of something going wrong, a member of staff leaving or, worse still, going rogue.

12. Innovation – we’re not done with you yet

I believe that it’s in social media where we’ve seen most innovation and experimentation in communications over the past few years. But innovation isn’t just about trying to get down with the kids and opening a new Snapchat account.

Delving deeper into the analytics, using social media on a more strategic level, the smart and creative use of hashtags, and understanding what content gets most engagement from our followers – these are the areas where we communicators can innovate further.

 

Reviews are fascinating and illuminating. They give the opportunity to really map and understand the social media reach and scope across a city or region.

They highlight gaps for where new accounts, campaigns, plans and tactics could and should be trialled and created.

And they’re a valuable time-out to reflect on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your social media offer.

Right, I’m off to crack on with my next social media review.

Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd

 

image via Toronto History

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

One of the delights of an unconference is the shared learning. At #commscampnorth communicating elections emerged as a popular session.

by Kelly Quigley-Hicks

“Elections group hug” – the three words I used to sum up what I was looking for at CommsCamp North. I pitched it as a session, bringing together comms people from local and central government. The following key points came up, plus a few extra from my planning bag, which are worth considering.

Voter registration

The Electoral Commission’s Roll Call newsletter will keep you up to date with the latest country and UK-wide messaging and materials for voter registration. Sign up here.

The Commission also creates images, suggested posts for social media, template news releases, logos, leaflets and infographics. Some are more useful than others, but can be a handy starter for ten your own local messages and information.

The Commission’s www.yourvotematters.co.uk site for voters is also massively helpful, with FAQs and more. One key message they’re promoting after issues during the EU Referendum, is for overseas voters to apply for proxy rather than postal votes. Find General election resources here.

Trying to reach young voters? Bite the Ballot http://bitetheballot.co.uk/ is focussed on encouraging young people to register to vote and turn out to vote. Well worth a follow to see how they engage with their target audience. 

Where do I vote?

Being able to check where your polling station is online is handy for voters and helpful for council contact centre teams on polling day. My council’s trackable link on social media registered over 350 clicks for the 4 May local elections. It may not sound much, but that’s 350 fewer frustrated voters and a reduced need for people to phone us up.

Tweet to illustrate: https://twitter.com/SouthCambs/status/859996067789713408

If Democracy Club  have your Council’s polling station data they’ll turn it into an online postcode search, free of charge. You can then either point voters to www.wheredoIvote.co.uk and/or embed the finder into your own council website.

Some, if not all, of the election management software companies have added a report to run that creates the files that Democracy Club needs. ICT and GIS teams don’t need to be involved.

Yes, polling station information is printed on poll cards, but voters don’t always have them to hand. For 8 June, election teams have already had to send poll card data off to printers, so anyone who registers between now and 22 May will not get a poll card until much closer to the big day.

Add to the pot that a snap election means that some polling stations will be in different venues, and a polling station finder becomes even more handy.

Where are your previous results?

Let’s be honest, election results can often be buried deep down in the darkest recesses of a council’s website. Make it easy for voters to find them. Share them on your social media channels. However you do it, make them easily available.

Birmingham City Council do a beautiful job creating infographics like this for the Edgbaston constituency. In homage, our graphics team produced this in 2015 and we plan to update for 8 June:

Help voters with disabilities

Every registered voter has the same rights to access and take part in a democratic poll. Again, no need to reinvent the wheel. The following guides are useful for voters, carers and customer service teams and can be easily incorporated into your website and voting publicity.

Electoral Commission factsheet covering voting rights for people with disabilities here.

Mencap guides to registering to vote and voting here.

RNIB has pointers for people with sight loss about how to register to vote and how to vote.

 

Purdah, she wrote

It’s been a while since we’ve had a standalone General Election. For local government, this means that purdah may be approached differently to local election periods. Many councils are also just coming out of the 4 May purdah period, where clearer rules apply.

While the Local Government Association has updated its purdah advice, CommsCamp attendees felt that it could be clearer. Ultimately, each council must interpret the guidelines and apply consistent and well-communicated principles locally. And a key point, the comms team shouldn’t be the sole keepers of purdah, your monitoring officer and legal team are key players in helping to approve, promote and advise. See Dan Slee’s purdah golden rules here. 

Polling day images

Want to use photos of any unusual or new polling station, or get your #DogsAtPollingStations snaps in? Polling station inspectors are employed by election teams and visit each station across your patch, collecting postal votes and giving a helping hand to teams. I’ve found that they’re also usually happy to take a few pics and WhatsApp them over. They could also help you to unearth gems like this from New Forest District Council https://twitter.com/newforestdc/status/860072481020932097

Dead heat? What then?

What does your elections team have planned in case two candidates poll the same number of votes? It’s rare, but it does happen.

Cutting a deck of cards, flipping a coin or putting a ballot paper for each candidate in a ballot box and drawing one are three possibilities.

 

On 4 May 2017, the final result from Northumberland Council was decided on the drawing of straws. A Liberal Democrat candidate won, denying the Conservative Party an overall majority. Don’t be caught out, talk to your elections team.

For everything else you need to know about election counts, read Anna Caig’s brilliant post

Live video

At the last General Election, live video hadn’t really caught on. Periscope and Facebook Live are now very much centre stage. Have you had a chat yet with your elections team and returning officer about whether you’ll be broadcasting the result and speeches? One to think about early and bottom out exactly how, when and who. It’s an amazing opportunity for comms team to show the power and reach of live video – check out Dan Slee’s post for pointers.

And finally, a virtual pat on the shoulder for government comms colleagues

Along with the practical chat, there was sympathy in the room for central government communications teams. A snap general election means immediate disruption to projects and plans that have been in place for months or even years. Launches have been delayed, legislation abandoned and there is a limbo period until a new Parliament is elected and a Government formed. It’s a pressured time. Stay strong guys, and roll on 9 June.

Kelly Quigley is an elections obsessed communications officer at South Cambridgeshire District Council

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