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virtual reality video: has a powerful film just pushed it to the mainstream?

For years virtual reality has been evolving with expensive headgear and clunky footage. But a powerful new New York Times film has signposted to a new era of story-telling that you can almost reach out and touch.

By Dan Slee

It’s difficult to talk about virtual reality without sounding like I did when I was a kid the first time I watched a colour telly during the Moscow Olympics in 1980.

It was round at a friend’s house during a birthday party and athletes from Europe and Africa in multi-coloured vests were sprinting around a burnt red track.

“It looked so colourful,” I remember telling my Mum later. “Can we have one?”

We had been without a telly for two years and the images soaked into my television-starved mind. It would be another two before we did.

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prints not dead: what launching a print magazine taught a digital native

Print is dead, right? Maybe not. On the day the NME became a free sheet available at train stations and TopMan, Louder Than War expanded from their success online and launched as a glossy magazine. Editor of Sarah Lay shares her experience of growing from digital to include print.

by Sarah Lay

The first issue of Louder Than War magazine featured the Stone Roses on the cover and was titled ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. In truth it could have carried another song title from the band, ‘I Am the Resurrection’, and been just as fitting for Louder Than War’s bold move into print.

That’s right, as the increasingly hysterical cry of ‘print is dead’ resounds and on the day that stalwart of the music press NME moved to become a free sheet given out in train stations, Louder Than War made the dauntless move to swim against the tide and launch as a glossy, paid-for, magazine. While that sinks in let me introduce you to Louder Than War properly.

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5 reasons why you should review your communications. And one reason why you won’t.

There’s nothing new in saying that we should review and evaluate work to see what works. It’s obvious and it’s important. The problem is that many of us don’t do it often enough.

By Darren Caveney

The chances of there being a comms person out there today who doesn’t think that reviewing and evaluating their work is important will be tiny.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – we know it’s important, but when there are 10 people asking for my help, three comms plans to write, the phone ringing off the hook and the impacts of a comms team which has been cut in half it’s a lot easier said than done.

Sound familiar? Yep, me too.

Amongst the many things I learned in 10 years of leading comms teams it’s that standing back and taking a good hard look at your work is 1. Absolutely vital, and 2. Something of a luxury to do often and well. Like wanting a brand new car but settling for paying the bare minimum to get the old car through another year’s MOT (and that sounds familiar too)

With the consultancy work I have been doing with comms2point0 I have had the incredible opportunity to review a dozen organisation’s communications activity in microscopic detail. This is fascinating work and I thoroughly engross myself in the detail of these reviews. They tell stories and give clear indicators to the ‘what should we do next?’ question.

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real time marketing: the trendy tightrope

Real time marketing couldn't exist without the internet. Its brands and organisations responding to events as they happen. But for the public sector? Actually, yes.

by Julie Waddicor

I was lucky enough to go to a PRCA conference recently, and was hugely inspired by Neil Kleiner of Golin who talked about real time marketing (RTM) and his company’s success in using it for a range of brands. He talked about the background processes that go on before they put something live on social media: the checking for brand fit, they way they ensure they aren’t bandwagon jumping, the basics of making sure that you actually know what is trending and why.

Right then, I thought, let’s see if we can do some of that. My very supportive, tolerant and brave boss has given it the go ahead. I’m talking to my team about it and starting to work out the background processes, templates and sign off processes that will make it a reality. At the same time, my hugely talented and switched-on colleague Russ Gethings has been picking up examples of RTM across platforms. He found the noble efforts of both the Department for Work and Pensions and Surrey Police on Back to the Future Day, and they are great examples of what works and what doesn’t. Russ has written a great blog about it on the Knowledge Hub, and I’ve summarised my thoughts and our discussions here.

Back to the Future day on the October 21 was huge on social, and brands across the world capitalised on it. At 8.31am the DWP’s Press Office account tweeted a picture of the delorean car with its doors open and the monster mascot sticking its head out. The tweet read ‘Pensions? Where we are going we don’t need pensions’ and the picture has the text ‘erm actually, you do’ and a web address. 67 people favourited it, and 163 retweeted. Many, many people were unimpressed. The negative comments fell in to two camps. The first was political, an example response being ‘I appreciate you’re just the marketing people, but maybe save stuff like this for when your dept. Isn’t letting people die?’. The second camp was the embarrassing dad dancing / please stop group: an example tweet being ‘Are you booked in to a school to do a rap about it too?’ Questions were asked about social media training, campaign costs and copyright infringement. It didn’t go well, and I suspect the DWP Comms team felt a bit burnt by it.

Contrast that with Surrey police, who at 7am tweeted a picture of an officer with a speed gun photographing two trails of fire going up a road. The text read ‘Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads’ But 88 in a 30 gets you points and a fine in all timelines’. 3,549 favourites and 5,081 retweets, and almost uniformly positive comments including ‘That’s a fair cop. And a great tweet’ and ‘Best tweet I’ve seen all morning. Well played boys’.

So why did one work and one didn’t? Social media is incredibly fickle, and it is easy to put a foot off the tightrope. It probably comes down to slightly poor judgement around brand fit and jumping on a bandwagon. Back to the Future day was cool and cult, and the DWP aren’t. The trend just doesn’t fit with their brand position. Also, one of the warnings from Golin was not to jump on bandwagons. If your product has no link with what is trending, don’t jump on it. The DWP jumped, and got burnt as a result. Surrey Police do fit: their tone was clearly that of authority, and they have a clear link to speeding enforcement.  Hence, theirs worked, and the DWPs didn’t.

It’s a judgement call, and a scary one at that. It’s certainly been a really useful lesson while we work out how to do RTM as a council. For me it’s about the background protocols, no bandwagons and brand fit. But my, it’s a tightrope to walk. We will get it wrong sometimes. Hopefully we’ll get it right sometimes too. It’ll be exciting to try.

Julie Waddicor is campaigns and internal communications manager at Staffordshire County Council.

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your website... who cares?

The Likeaword Consultancy report into council websites throws up some fascinating data. You can learn more in SOCITM's revamped Better Connected website which you can look at council websites authority-by-authority.

 by Vicky Sargent

According very recent data collected and published by the Likeaword consultancy, there were 658,544,076 visits to local government websites in Great Britain in the year to 31 July 2015.

That’s 10.5 visits for every woman, man and child in our population, and by any measure a lot of people ‘visiting the council’ and forming opinions about it, through the website.

Do those running local authorities care enough about the sort of experience these huge numbers of visitors are having? Do they appreciate the sheer numbers involved? Or the pressing need to getting even more people doing their council stuff online?

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failing to avoid the new John Lewis TV advert... and what it means for comms

It's hard to avoid the new John Lewis TV advert. In fact, you are far more likely to see it not by watching TV at all. Pick up a newspaper, magazine or go online and you'll come across it.

by Dan Slee

Well, I wasn't going to. And I didn't seek it out but the new John Lewis TV ad gives a perfect lesson for where comms is right now.

You may know it. It's a two minute film of a little girl spotting the man on the moon looking sad and sending him a present to cheer him up at Christmas time. An old Oasis b-side has been re-recorded for the music. 

Not watching much television I wasn't aware of it. But of course, I remember the penguin TV ad from last year. But I didn't have to watch TV to find out about the new TV ad. It was being discussed on BBC Radio 5 on the way home and all over Twitter.

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big numbers on council websites: a guide for comms folk

A major piece of insight on council websites has been published by Ben Proctor of the Likeaword Consultancy. The numbers are impressive... more than 10 visits for every man, woman and child in the UK. But what do they mean for local government comms people? Isn't that just the web teams job? Actually, no. We asked Ben to interpret.

by Ben Proctor 

The report in question which you can read here is an analysis of some key data points about visits to local authority websites in Great Britain. I asked every council for a small number of figures about visits to their websites and drawn some conclusions as a result.

It’s not all about the websites (except it is)

I am very aware that comms these days isn’t about getting hits on your website. It’s about digital engagement, community development, Instagram and SnapChat.

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#unawards15: a public vote, the shortlist and attending one cool event

The #UnAwards15. It's a chance to celebrate some fabulous work and people across our industry. There's lots to tell you so read on...

By Darren Caveney


We are just getting our breath back from working our way through the mountain of UnAwards entries we’ve received. And we thank each and every one of you for that.

The standard of your entries this year is very high and it has been fascinating looking through your work - the challenges you face and the creative solutions you have found to tackle them. We’re impressed.

We have entries from as far afield as Norway. And, interestingly, the top four most popular categories were ‘best creative comms’, ‘best internal comms’, ‘best use of video’ and ‘best low cost/free work’. The creativity and sheer breadth of your work has been a real treat to be able to delve into.


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how a charity challenge can help you get to grips with social media

Before social media, comms was traditionally done by a small team within an organisation. Could a charity challenge help to encourage your staff to use social media?

By GUEST EDITOR Dyfrig Williams

In September, the Staff Charity of the Wales Audit Office took on a mammoth task – to walk the entire coast of Wales in 24 hours. And we did it, all 870 miles of it. Whilst the undertaking of the task was an impressive feat in and of itself, I was also impressed by how our staff used social media to communicate their trials, tribulations and ultimately, their success.

Sign me up!

I may have been the other side of the country, but by following #audittrail15 I could see how staff were getting lessons on using Twitter. Encouraging people to use social media in a hectic work environment can be hard work, but the challenge provided a safe environment for people to try out new technology. The informal aspect also gave the opportunity to try out some different social media tools, like using Vine to share the sights of Ceredigion.

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#uknewscamp: an event for the news 

If you are half-way interested in news and how the internet is changing the way people are consuming it you'll like this free London unconference. 

by Lizzy Bell

Remember the first time you saw TV news that used pictures from people’s phones? Or when everyone decided that paywall would kill The Times in a year?

News has come a long way since the noughties. News organisations have completely transformed the way they work and the content they produce. Are we still playing catch-up in the public sector?

Come to #uknewscamp on 12 November at the National Audit Office in London, and talk about digital news, social, video, bloggers, campaigns…whatever you fancy.

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#councilmags - the twitter chat

Council magazines and newspapers - A great channel or produced out of habit? A lunchtime Twitter Chat on the subject, teed up by this original post, attracted 84 comms colleagues to chip in with over 400 tweets rich with thoughts, ideas and learning. 

By Kelly Quigley-Hicks

There were plenty of views expressed during the ‘Twitter Chat’ I co-hosted with comms2point0 on 14 October. Whichever side people came down on one thing was clear - they care about communicating effectively with residents.

Here’s what I took away:

If the majority of people are online, why are we still printing magazines?

Ninety per cent of adults have access to an email address and 60% own a smartphone. While I don’t 100% agree that council magazines “service three groups 1. comms staff who think it's still 1997 2. people who refuse to 'do the internet’, and 3. older councillors” I think there is a kernel of truth there. 

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communications academy 2015 - why you should be there

Next week hundreds of communicators from local and central government as well as other parts of the public service will gather over three days in Coventry for the second Public Service Communications Academy.  The event, which is being organised by LGcommunications and GCS, is the most significant local government communications event of the year. 

by Cormac Smith

The theme of this year’s Academy is set around the future of public service communications, the challenges we face and our response to those challenges.

The agenda this year includes some of the best practitioners from the public and private sector.  We will also be joined by a number of influential leaders from the public sector including Solace president, and Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, Mark Rogers and a one of Whitehall’s most outspoken civil servants, Louise Casey CB, will give a view from Whitehall talking about how effective comms needs to be at the heart of meeting the current challenges.

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is the future of comms unequal?

Look around at comms teams and there is an imbalance. The senior people are men. The team are overwhelmingly female. That surely means the people at the top will be female in future, surely?

by Julie Waddicor

As many of my colleagues have blogged and tweeted, the first session of the LGCommunications ‘Future Leaders’ programme took place a couple of weeks ago. It is a fantastic programme that I am hugely honoured to be a student of. It’s the kind of opportunity that money would struggle to buy: the bringing together of a group of peers (and the other people on the course are both hugely impressive and talented, so I better up my game), the allocation of a mentor and the opportunity to talk to people like Alex Aiken (Executive Director for Government Communications) and Christian Cubitt (Deputy Spokeperson to the Prime Minister), who frankly have other, fairly pressing calls upon their time.

If you ever have the chance to take part, I would urge you to do so wholeheartedly.

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lessons learned and future leaders

There's been a lively debate on the learnings that heads of comms can offer. Public sector communications teams are changing. They have to. Reduced budgets, devolution, more partnership working, these are just a few of the changes that are now facts of life. So what will it take to lead a communications team in the future, and how can previous learning help? One man looks back at his own experience and forward to what future leaders might need.

by Simon Hope

Working as a head/director of communications is a rewarding, interesting, frustrating, exciting, annoying, varied, and worthwhile experience. So what have I learned during my own career, and which elements will be most important in the future? Here are some of the important ones, with a few others thrown in.

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#adayincomms: survey & twitter chat: we're all busy... but what are we busy with?

Ideas rich and time poor. That can be the comms team in 2015. But how are things with you? We'd like to hear your story.

by Dan Slee

"I'm just so busy," one person told me. "What I'd really like is a day where no-one emails or talks to me and I can just catch-up."

Of course, we're all busy.... it's just what are we busy with?

It's becoming clearer that one of the skills of a comms person faced with a to do list the size of Everest is to work out how best to scale it.

With this in mind we're staging a Twitter chat on Thursday October 29 from 12.30pm for an hour on the hashtag #adayincomms.

We'd like to know what is keeping you busy, how much time you spend on print media versus social media, how much time you spend in meetings.

And we'd really like to see what best ideas there are to focus on the stuff that really matters. Drop by for the Twitter chat.

In addition, we're running a survey #adayincomms to get some data on what people are up to. You can click through to the surveymonkey link here or complete it on the embed below. 

We'll post the results on this site and we'll feature them at our Comms Academy digital session on Wednesday November 11.

Create your own user feedback survey

Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0. 

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