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Dealing with negative social media comments – dos and don’ts

The subject of dealing with negative social media comments crops up in almost every social media training course I run, so I thought I’d share my simple dos and don’ts to make things easier.

So, this is how to handle unfavourable posts people might tweet your organisation, leave on their Facebook page, or any social media.

It’s an extension of the flow chart I shared a few years ago, and I hope it serves as useful encouragement for comms teams fearful or reluctant to get involved with negative social media posts.

You can also read this good example of an organisation’s approach to dealing with negative posts.

1. Don’t stick your head in the sand

It’s surprising how many organisations might have corporate values like ‘respect’, ‘integrity’, ‘listening’, ‘learning’ and ‘innovation’, but don’t act these out on social media.

None of those positive values are displayed on a page that simply broadcasts positive information and metaphorically puts its fingers in its ears to comments it doesn’t like.

Don’t ignore people. In most circumstances, I advise at least one attempt to have a productive conversation.

2. Don’t talk like a corporate robot

Make sure you write your response how you’d say verbally it to someone face-to-face. The person you’re replying to will not be persuaded, impressed or charmed by a corporate press statement. If someone’s angry or upset, your tone will either calm or exacerbate the situation.

Sign off with your name.  Nobody wants to talk to a logo.  It makes you look more accountable and reminds the person you’re speaking to that you’re a human.

Have a look at my advice this short video for help thinking about your brand’s social media tone of voice.

3. Do empathise

You often don’t know any of the circumstances that led to the person posting their comment.

Perhaps the person is going through a rough time in their life.

They might have health issues to deal with.

Maybe they’ve tried to contact your organisation umpteen times and got brushed off.

Perhaps they had a bad experience with a similar organisation, or read something that made them skeptical about you.

Or, maybe they’re right and, this time, your organisation has messed up.

And don’t forget – everyone is entitled to their views!

When you consider this, it helps you find a tone that is more generous and useful to build trust.

4. Do prepare

Predict what negative comments you might get.

No brand can please everyone, and no organisation is perfect, so things will go wrong.

It seems obvious, but prepare some answers to common problems, so that dealing with negative comments will be much quicker and easier.

One thing you may need to get your head around, is that you can’t please everyone.

Perfectionists hate this, but it is a truth that most successful creative professionals accept without losing too much sleep.

5. Don’t be negative yourself

See it as an opportunity.  On social media, it’s not just the person who commented you’re communicating with – it’s everyone else who can see it.

Your brand will benefit from consistently answering people in a way that is friendly and helpful.

Caveats for dealing with negative social media comments

Yes, sometimes people want to just vent.

But make sure that is the case by responding, and giving the person the opportunity to tell you why or how you should fix it.

No, this doesn’t mean you should tolerate abuse.

If anyone in your organisation (or anywhere) is being insulted or threatened online, make a judgement about how serious it is, and always use sensible means to protect their dignity and safety.

Warn the people who have crossed a line and inform them when they have compromised your standards for engagement.

But don’t be heavy-handed, or you’ll have the Streisand Effect to deal with.

The main thing to remember is that you’re not alone in dealing with negative social media comments – take a deep breath, talk to your team if you need to, and deal with it.

Look after yourself

Just reading a lot of negative stuff can poo on your mood, and over time, this can build into a lot of stress if you don’t manage it.

Take breaks, try to find ways not to take it personally, and recognise the signs that it’s bugging you as early as possible.

If you found that useful, you can download the social media flowchart – or book one of our social media communications courses to build on your team’s skills and confidence.

 
 
 

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The comms manifesto

I have written The Comms Manifesto, partly because I want something I can show people when they have the wrong end of the stick about what I do.

Modern and professional communications has nothing to do with spin, lies and propaganda.

This is my idea of what we do.

comms manifesto

Occasionally, one of my scrawls seems to strike a chord, and I’ve had lots of nice feedback on this one. Quite a few people said they were printing and sharing it, so I thought I’d share a downloadable, good quality PDF here.

If you like it, you can download and print the comms manifesto here.

You can also buy a mug, a card or a poster with it on – it would make a nice gift for a pal who working in communications.

And you can see more of my doodles over on Twitter.

 

Full text of The Comms Manifesto

We send messages but we’re not a postbox.

We have power.

We help people take action.

We shape and direct our organisations.

We promote but we don’t just react to others.

We forecast.

We evaluate and prioritise.

We dig and decipher the data and the stories.

We protect but we don’t lie.

We’re the company conscience.

We help colleagues know their purpose and remind them of their duties and hearts.

We are experts but we are not dictators.

We stay humble.

We are on a quest to improve.

We’re always learning from science and from art.

We promote but we don’t just broadcast information.

We interpret. We build relationships.

We listen to and understand communities.

We deliver but we are not a postbox.

We have power.

We make things happen.

We use our powers for good.

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Is your fear stopping your social media comms from saying anything?

Communicators often confide in me that they don’t really like using Facebook (and other social media) for their organisations because people will probably post snarky things in the comments section of each post. Especially if they’re communicating potentially controversial work.

The general gist of what I hear is this:

‘If we talk about this, we’ll have to handle all the negative feedback and it might be easier if we just don’t start the conversation at all.’

So what they do is whisper what they’re doing.  They say the bare minimum, and avoid talking about the great stuff for fear of setting off a debate on the less popular.

Lots of my work in the last few years has been about encouraging organisations to own what they’re doing.

To be bold, to believe in it, and take criticism on the chin.

To not deny your organisation the community support and awareness it desires, for the sake of avoiding those who won’t like it.

Here’s the thing:

  • None of us work for perfect organisations, since they are pretty much always run by human beings and we all get things wrong
  • It is impossible to make a decision, service or product that will please everyone

So if you’re waiting to promote an entirely positive project, you’ll be waiting a long time.

A good example I wanted to share

I’ve been working with an organisation in Wales that raises awareness about autism, and I think how they are handling comments is brilliant.

They’ve launched a scheme that allows people with autism to help communities be more aware of autism and the difficulties individuals face.  Shops, banks, hairdressers, cinemas are given tips on how to interact with people who have autism, and people with autism can wear a wristband, show an app, or carry a card to indicate they’re autistic – if they want to.

A survey showed 11% of adults and 13% of parents and carers said they would not use the band. Totally valid and I think I’d feel the same if in similar circumstances. Everyone’s experience is different. But it’s only meant to help those who want to take part, and the team know not everyone will feel it’s for them.

So why be shy?  Of course some people will not like the idea at all.  But the team have done their research and their intentions are great – promoting understanding and acceptance and reducing the stigma that many individuals with autism and their parents and carers experience. And they’re willing to learn and adapt.

Their video explaining it has been widely shared and viewed on Facebook. Here are some examples of the great conversations they’re having – confidently explaining what they’re doing, and totally respectful and understanding of those who are not keen on the idea at all.

All the while, they are raising awareness, which is the objective.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We’re often we are told by our employers that we should be telling the good stories of the organisation. We should be promoting services, and getting good coverage.

But communicators are more than just in-house reporters. We listen, we inform or/and shape decision-making, we are community managers, and we take the rough with the smooth.

So let’s not be afraid

And let’s remember:

  • People who don’t agree with you about what you’re saying can still be productive and civil if you can show that you’re working for the same outcome.
  • We can predict why some people won’t like it, and acknowledge that we understand their point when they tell us so
  • We don’t always want to deny the chance to be involved to people who will love our posts, just because some people won’t like it

Leave a comment on this blog post if you like, I won’t mind if you disagree.

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Social media flow chart for comms pros

* 09/01/21 Social media flow chart – updated for 2021!

When I first posted this chart 7 years ago (and more than 52,000 downloads ago!), I had no idea how popular it would be.

People have sent me tweets showing photos of it pinned on office walls, and still people regularly tell me it’s be useful.

Cheers to everyone who has shared and used it. 

Read ‘Dealing with negative social media comments’ for more advice on answering your audience on social media, or just read the chart below!

Hel

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Social media flow chart for responding to your audience

When going on holiday and handing over a social media account or talking to a new member of staff, it can be handy to show a rough a ‘guide to responding to social media comments’.

Years of being a social media manager, and running social media training workshops, for comms pros helped me devise my own guide, which I share with you in this post.

Hopefully, you or someone in your team will find this social media flow chart handy.

If you think it’s useful, you can download a PDF.

social media response flowchart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this chart with your Twitter network: tweet about this chart.

I have split up the kinds of comment you’ll get into five categories – complaint, attack, query, compliment, and chat.

If someone has gone to the trouble of talking to your brand online, this helps you to consider what response you should reply with (it’s SOCIAL media after all).

03/06/14: Note – I forgot to say, this image is issued under a ‘steal, modify, or scribble on’ licence (that I just made up).  If you have a use for it, go ahead – it’s a present from me!

If you like this chart, maybe you might like one of these social media courses. Whether it’s how to increase engagement with your Facebook posts, writing a social media strategy or getting prepared for a crisis – these workshops and online courses will have you covered.

Social media strategy: a guide

We all know we need a social media strategy for our organisations.

 

But when you’re a busy communications professional juggling all the work, it’s hard to set aside time for strategising.

 

However, investing effort now to plan your brand’s social media will dramatically improve your results.

 

  • But where to start?
  • How will you know you’ve covered everything?
  • What is the best approach for your brand?

 

To celebrate the launch of our Social Media Strategist Course this October, we’re giving away our free Social Media Strategy guide that shows you everything you need to include in your social media strategy.

 

You also get to see how our unique TIGERS model works.

The Tigers social media strategyL Target - Investigate - Generate - Engage - Review - Summarise

Create a social media strategy that gets results.

 

We have released this guide to help public service professionals get better results from their social media.

 

You can also join the online course in October 2021 if you don’t want to go it alone.

 

You’ll get live coaching, inspiring lessons and support to write yours.

 

No fear.
No procrastination.
We’ll do it together.

Three Twitter tips for comms pros

These three Twitter tips for comms pros may seem simple, but they make a big difference.

We comms professionals are often bonkers busy, so we can be tempted to just share a link to a story with the headline as the text of the tweet.

But this isn’t the best way to get people to engage with your tweet, or click read more.

In our Social Media Comms Academy, we learn how to create content that gets LOADS more likes, productive comments, retweets and clicks — and ultimately more real-life outcomes that help you meet your goals.

(We’re open for new members of the Social Media Comms Academy from August 16th to October 1st 2021 by the way – we’d love you to join us!).

Anyway, here are just three tips pulled out from our training that help you get better Twitter results.

You can’t do all of them at once, but you can try them out with various things you’re working on — to make your tweets more captivating for your audience.

Tip 1: Don’t share the headline

If you’re sharing a link, the headline will show in the Twitter card that the link generates. 

So don’t bother repeating it: people can already see it.

Use the space in your tweet to draw people in, and write something else to accompany the link.

And if you or a colleague are responsible for publishing the story on the web, make sure the web page’s featured image is there, and that it’s one that will intrigue or attract whoever is looking.

Tip 2: Write words that increase the chance of your audience being interested in the story.

You need to build interest, by giving people a reason to know it’s something they’d like to read/watch/hear.

So do a content spotlight, or add some humanity.

A) The content spotlight

Look at the story you’re sharing, and find the most interesting sentence, or a quote, or a fact.

Make that the text to go with the hyperlink.

It will give people a reason to want to read/watch/listen to the rest.

B) Add some humanity

Talk about the story as you would to a friend.

Why do you recommend someone read/watches/listens to the content? Can you share something interesting about the making of the content?

This example has a typo, but you get the gist:

Tip 3: Save people a click

Most people won’t be bothered clicking on a link that brings them to your website, YouTube, Vimeo or anywhere else really.

A) Embed your video in the tweet. 

Twitter links to external video hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo don’t always display in a way that is optimum.

And for your audience seeing it, it can take around 3 to 4 seconds to open the video up in a new app.

Most won’t tap that link.

So when the video is embedded in your tweet, it’s quicker to view.

And Twitter will either autoplay it, or present it in a way that’s designed to make us want to click.

People are more likely to give it a second or two before they scroll past, especially if you have added captions.

This is your chance to pull people in.

Those few extra seconds, where people view to see if it interests them, is a bigger advantage that it sounds.

If the video you tweet is longer than the permitted 2 minutes 20 seconds, either edit it, or cut it it to the first few minutes.

Then, if your audience wants more after that, they can click the link you’ve added to the tweet.

 

B) Thread it out. 

If you have a written story, do it justice by tweaking it to be Twitter friendly.

Break the story down into bite-sized elements, and tweet it as a thread.

Then people don’t have to decide to leave Twitter to find out more, because there it is on their app, enticing them into your lovely world.

To be clear: clicks to your website are not the be all and end all.

Better some people find the story on Twitter, than no people find it on your website.

Bonus! Tip 4: Make your text look nice

A load of sentences squashed together does not attract the eye.

I’m not a stupid person, but a load of information in a big old chunk is harder for me to read and understand.

Make it easy to read for everyone.

Edit out anything you don’t need.

Break up the text.

Use return spaces between sentences.

The extra white space makes your text more enjoyable to read.

It’s social distancing for sentences: spread it out, and luxuriate in the room you can make in a tweet.

Which of these would you more readily notice in a busy feed of tweets?

Social media interview questions

16 Social media interview questions: prepare to land that dream job

Here are some social media interview questions – so you can prepare for before you go in and get that dream job.

I asked some of my wonderful network of comms and social media professionals questions they have been asked, and questions they asked candidates for social media jobs.

No matter what level you’re at, being ready with your answers to these social media interview questions will set you up for success.

Social media interview questions

  1. What experience do you have dealing with a social media crisis?

  2. How do you measure the success of your social media content? 

  3. What do you do if content isn’t working?

  4. Which brands’ social accounts do you like and why?

  5. What’s the most common mistake you see from other brands in social media – the one thing that you see time and again that you think is a waste of time and money?

  6. What’s your approach to having conversations with your audiences on social media? Can you give an example of a productive conversation you’ve had on social media?

  7. Tell us about a campaign you’ve worked on that you’re proud of.

  8. What are the differences in using a professional account compared to a personal one?

  9. Can you think of another social media account that does what we do well? And what can we do better?

  10. Can you tell us about a campaign that didn’t do well?

  11. How do you communicate and enable colleagues outside comms and marketing to use social media?

  12. How do you handle internal disagreements about the tone of voice used on our messaging?

  13. Would there be any instances were you might need to be careful in putting out posts?

  14. How would you go about communicating something controversial where there are conflicting views among your audience?

  15. Give us feedback on our current social media platforms: What are they like? What would you change? What platforms or content would you consider using that we’re not already taking advantage of?

  16. What aspect of the role might you struggle with?

Maybe you can use our blog, or online courses to help you answer to the best of your ability.

With huuuuge thanks to Courtney Hicks, Louise Gabriel, Joe Hoppard, Matthew Charles Davis, Kevin Campbell-Wright, Hannah Jowett, and especially Dr Danae Dodge, who shared lots of these excellent social media interview questions.

And of course, if you want to grow your social media skills, confidence and support network, we’ve got you covered!

Join our online academy for a whole year of social media magic.

Our students are producing creative, attention-grabbing content for social media that gets more likes, shares and comments than they ever dreamed of.

Take the online course that turns a talented comms professional into a confident social media expert.

The comms approval process

 

If you’ve been through the comms approval process a few times, you’ll know: the pain is real.

Getting through layers of people to edit and sign-off a piece of content – whether it’s a video, a design, a press release or other copy – it can be excruciating.

They’ll drain all the life out of the thing, and then tell you to make it go viral.

Stay strong.  You’re not alone.

Keep fighting for what you know will make the content engaging and useful to the audience.

It might take the diplomacy skills of a hostage negotiator, but it matters and will be appreciated by the people who have to read or look at your content.

You CAN beat the comms approval process!

Tweet this cartoon

Ironically, when I initially drew and shared this cartoon back in 2017, I misspelled the word ‘irrelevant’.  And of course, if I’d shown it to anybody before I tweeted it, they would have pointed it out and saved me my typo shame!comms approval process

 

If you would like to become a member of the most supportive, fun and useful social media training programme, join the Social Media Comms Academy.

 

Straight away you’ll be able to take the online course that turns a comms professional into a social media expert,  join our social media strategist course, or take any one of our short social media masterclasses.

The comms unicorn

the comms unicorn cartoon: Show unicorn in suglasses with the caption: flies over chaos, poos insights, sweats engaging contentThe comms unicorn exists!

This comms unicorn is often the cartoon people remember me for.

I drew it because I can’t count the number of times people have said to me ‘do your comms magic on this’, or ‘sprinkle some stardust on that’.

Maybe sometimes it can feel like it trivialises our work.

Because we know we’re serious professionals, working strategically, developing our skills, solving problems, testing things out and learning as we go.

We work in the real world.

But what the hell – we’re often a bit bloody magical in what we manage to achieve.

So I guess we may as well go with it, so say it loud with me:

‘We are splendid comms unicorns doing amazing things!’

📰 Sign up to the Creative Coffee Break Newsletter for more cartoons fresh off Hel’s notepad! 

If you’d like to access all the support, training and resources you need to be a digital comms unicorn, you can join our online academy for a whole year of magic.

Our students are producing creative, attention-grabbing content for social media that gets more likes, shares and comments than they ever dreamed of.

Take the online course that turns a talented comms professional into a confident social media expert

Funny tweets from nonprofit brands

People don’t expect funny tweets from nonprofit brands.

They think serious, solemn communications is all that’s appropriate when our mission is for social good.

But as I wrote a few weeks back, humour should be part of your social media strategy, no mater what you are promoting.

Bold, funny content is everywhere!

It seems like lots of comms pros are getting in touch with their witty side lately.

I keep seeing glorious examples of social media posts that make me smile.

Last Thursday we had our Comedy For Comms Masterclass, so it may be the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon going on – where once you’ve thought about or learned something new, you notice it all the time.

Here are my favourites.

National Trust

You may have been more interested this week in National Trust’s sarcastic response to tweets about claims made in Spectator magazine.

But I also want to highlight this tweet, that is just a classic and funny way to get people engaging with your brand.

National Trust Tweet: Today is #InternationalJokeDay, so let's hear your jokes about nature, beauty and history. Whether you’ve got a tree-mendous forest pun or summit funny about mountains, pop them below. Don’t worry, there’s plant-y of time.

 

Why this works

As we learned during the masterclass last week, a little humour can grab your audience’s attention and help them warm to your brand.

This tweet combines two of the funny formats we learned about:

  • Some good old puns
  • It lets our audience come up with a punchline too.

You don’t have to be a comedian to make people smile. Branch out, and don’t leave humour to the stand-up comics.

Oldham Council

It’s an easy win, this newsjack.

 

Some news I can finally share after giving it some thought for a while….I have decided that after 14 years on air it's time for me to leave Radio 1. It was my childhood dream to work here and I have truly had the time of my life. But now is time for a change Sparkles Oldham Council @OldhamCouncil Replying to @grimmers All the best from Nick Gritshaw Raising hands

A radio DJ made announcement, and got a message from the local council that names a gritter after him.

Why this works

Honestly, if your vehicles have fun names, you may as well milk the joke wherever possible.

It’s a nice reminder that the council has fun, real people working for them.

Local government brands can remind people of that enough.

The US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

CDC @CDCgov · Jul 1 Don’t swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea. One person with diarrhea can contaminate the entire pool. Learn more ways to keep you and those you care about healthy. #HealthySwimming GIF shows

There is a generous skid mark behind this child on the slide.

Why this works

It certainly gets the point across.

A lot of comedy is about the element of surprise. And none of us expect to see a runny poo on a government gif.

It got my attention, and I have halted all my pool related diarrhea plans.

Now that’s behaviour change.

Yorkshire Tea

OK, Yorkshire Tea aren’t a not-for-profit brand, but they do social good, am I right?!

I think tea and coffee should be at the bottom of the triangle in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

 Yorkshier Tea tweet: #ENGUKR. Image shows a mocked up screenshot of a whatsapp chat between 'work' and 'you'. Work: Can you stick a tweet out at half time reminding everyone to put the kettle on? You: Yeah , alright. Work: Ta

It’s a fun reminder to pop the kettle on for a cup of tea.

Yorkshire Tea show us that we can always find different and creative ways to say the same thing, over and over.

Why this works

As we saw in the comedy masterclass , it can be funny to communicate that the tweets are written by a real team, not keeping up the facade that the content appears by magic from your logo.

It’s weird how so much of what we do pretends that the brand has one mystery voice, like the voice of God or something, and we rarely show ourselves as real people behind the scenes.

A tweet like this lets the audience in, helping us all feel surprise then trust that they revealed who they really are.

Sophisticated. Fun. Now who’s making me that cuppa?

 

BOOK NOW

If you want to take our special comedy for comms masterclass, you’ll learn why and how to bring humour to your brand’s social media.

It’s just under two hours long, and you can watch it in your own time for £150 +VAT.

Social Media Comms Academy members get this, and all our social media courses for free.

Funny tweets from nonprofit brands

Building comms confidence

Building comms confidence cartoon: woman in coffin next to a caption:

Building comms confidence is as important as developing skills, if you really want to get maximum impact.

I can often be found researching and testing ways to build confidence in comms professionals, as part of my work delivering social media training.

At a CommsHero event a few years ago, I heard that the brand Innocent have a staff mantra that’s all about empowering staff to crack on and do interesting things.

It’s this:

“If you’re 70% sure, go ahead and do it.”

Because nobody can ever be 100% about anything.

And nothing is perfect.

Perfectionism is toxic

If I waited until everything was perfect, you’d never see a single cartoon! And I’d be afraid to show my face on the many webinars and lessons I run.

It’s not sloppy or wreckless to go with something you’re 70% sure of.  70% is usually as good as it gets!

Perfectionism will hold you back, because it will stop you from acting, and make you over critical of yourself.

Confidence does not equal arrogance

It doesn’t mean blundering into any old decision.

And confidence is not about thinking you need to know everything, or arrogantly presenting everything you do as ‘the right way’.

It’s about recognising that an idea, or some work you or your team have done, is pretty good – but knowing you can’t control how people will react to it out once it’s in the world.

But you do it anyway because you think it might be valuable, and it’s worth the risk.

You can’t know that something will work as you want it to.

You can’t expect to get it right every time.

You use your experience, learning and instinct then make your best judgement.

You know you will learn from, or make the most of what happens next, good or bad.

Building comms confidence is not about being 100% sure

It means going for that lovely job, even if you know you haven’t had experience in all the things required of you.

It means posting that bold social media content, even though you have butterflies of dread in your stomach.

Waiting to be 100% sure means nothing good will ever see the light of day, and you’ll never have the career you deserve.

So, when you’re lacking confidence – think about how sure you are.

70% means GO!

Take the online course that turns a comms professional into a confident social media expert

If you’d like to access all the training, resources and creative inspiration you need to be a digital comms unicorn, you can join our online academy for a whole year of magic.

Our students are producing creative, attention-grabbing content for social media that gets more likes, shares and comments than they ever dreamed of.

JOIN THE SOCIAL MEDIA COMMS ACADEMY

Going viral

Going Viral cartoon. Office scene: Man:

Going viral – it’s the dream of attention and love for our brand.

But we comms pros are not miracle workers.

If the content is important to your colleague/boss/client, but utterly irrelevant to the audience, it won’t fly.

You can help them solve problems, work on ideas and creative that WILL engage audiences, or even modify what we’re given to make it useful, interesting or amusing to a specific group of people.

And you’ll get very good results. Our social media training helps with that.

You can’t however, dump that boring report, non-newsworthy story, or dry-as a cracker project out on the internet and make people like it.

What they’re asking for here, is a fundamental misunderstanding of comms, and the world, because they’re wrapped up in the detail, and high hopes that their work will have any impact.

If you have ever been asked to make something dull go viral, don’t view it as you disappointing someone or not having the talent required.

Banish your inner critic.

You’ve been asked to do something that won’t work.

You are there do a great job, not perform magic.

Sign up to the Comms Creatives Creative Coffee Break Newsletter for more cartoons fresh off the notepad!

Take the online course that turns a comms professional into a social media expert

 

Why humour on social media should be part of your strategy

Office scene, man boss says to woman comms pro: Our work is too serious to amuse people, Sandra. Juts put out more dry info and news please.'People tell me that they can’t do humour on social media, or any fun content, because their comms is for an organisation that does important work.

“It’s very serious indeed, the tone would be way off if we were to get all jokey”

“We can’t be light-hearted when our work helps people going through dark times”

“Our bosses just want us to promote good work, not indulge in chit chat”

WRONG.

Well, maybe not wrong exactly. But definitely misguided.

I often share this quote from John Cleese:

 

"Too many people confuse being serious with being solemn"

 

Solemnity and seriousness are not the same thing.

Solemn people aren’t approachable, or particularly likeable.

Your audience isn’t spending all of their lives going around being straight-faced and emotionless.

So why should we?

How many of us would be happy with this as our brand tone of voice?

Screenshot from online dictionary (demonstrating why humour on social media is needed): "Solemn: Adjective, serious and without sny humour. a solemn face/voice, solemn music, everyine looked very solemnictionary defnition

As Cleese says in the two minute video below: “Solemnity serves pomposity and the self important“.

Screenshot of video where John Cleese is blowing a big raspberry, as he discusses the pointlessness of solemnity

 

We know that’s not what attracts people’s attention in a noisy and complex world.

The solemn comms our bosses often demand is the kind of thing we all scroll past on our phones.

Because each and every day, we rarely have a quick check of our favourite social media channel to be informed, or be preached at.

We go there for a few moments to be distracted or amused.

“The more serious our work is, the more crucial it is to be light-hearted, funny and creative.”

That’s a quote from me.

I’m not quite the comedy genius that Cleese is, but I have found myself saying it lots lately.

We have important, powerful, behaviour-changing messages to share. and conversations that need to be had.

We’re not going to get anyone’s attention being boring.

We’re not going to build trust and dialogue by being distant and worthy.

It’s why I drew this silly unicorn, for instance.

Cartoon, "The Comms Unicorn": flies over chaos, sweats engaging content, poos insights

 

Because I’m serious about reminding comms people how talented they are. It made some people smile, got shared, and it provoked conversation about the role and skills comms professionals have.

 

The business case for humour on social media

If you work for important and serious not-for-profit organisations like councils, charities, & housing associations, you can use humour online to get huge reputation wins, masses more engagement & positive media coverage.

According to Sprout Social research:

 

3 in 4 consumers appreciate humour from brands

 

You won’t please everybody, but a huge chuck of your audience WILL enjoy it.

Which is better than everybody ignoring it (which is what happens to most solemn comms).

• Humour helps you grow an audience (because people are happy to subscribe to things that make them smile)

• It gets your people feeling good about your brand (especially important if you do serious or controversial work)

• It shows you as being relevant and authentic (which doesn’t feature as part of the reputation of many big brands)

You can try being full-on funny – like cracking a joke or a filming a video comedy sketch, or it can just be something simple that makes people smile.

Doncaster Council often have a little fun.

 

Our training has taught East Midlands Ambulance Service the benefits of being lighthearted and invite a little silliness.

They know how to keep it fun and relevant, and you’ll see from the comments, how much people enjoyed joining in with this.

And load of brands joined in with some Weetabix/baked beans-related jokes recently.

You can do it too, with a few guidelines and some inspiration.

But what if I can’t change our change of voice where I work?

Our work cultures can feel a bit like school where messing about is frowned upon and having a laugh is perceived as slacking.

And trying new methods and approaches feels like you’re being naughty because that’s not how teacher says we should do things.

But your colleague, boss, or your chief exec isn’t a teacher trying to reign in misbehaving kids.

And you’re not a child in a classroom.

You’re an adult with a job to find the best ways to communicate.

It’s good to play and be creative, it’s actually what excellent expert communicators do.

And most of the content from brands that we personally engage with and enjoy, (as people, not comms pros) – is FUN and CREATIVE.

You don’t have to write a new and fancy tone of voice guide that gets signed off and sits on your intranet gathering digital dust.

If it’s difficult to do this where you work, you can gradually soften the tone, at your own pace:

• from always solemn

• to a little more light-hearted

• to enjoying creativity and humour once a week

to one day making your brand be like a pal who’s friendship you value most, who you can laugh and chat to and talk deep and meaningful stuff with too.

You can give it a tiny push in the right direction.

And we have a class on how you can inject some comedy into your comms coming up…

 

How To Use Humour On Social Media

WATCH NOW

Being funny on social media doesn’t have to be just for the big consumer brands.

You can do this in your work, and be the person who made your brand seem human and likeable.

Even dry or serious corporate brands can find ways to tap into their audience’s sense of humour.

We’re NOT talking controversial stuff. There are ways to be funny that don’t make your brand sound like Jim Davidson.

These comedy skills will be about giving you the skills to make warm, pleasant or quirky in-jokes for your audience.

I’ll show you how to use a comedic approach for your brand in this live video masterclass on June 30th.

We’ll look at:

🔶How be be a funny brand on social media (without messing it up)

🔶Creative communications lessons we can learn from comedians

🔶Easy wins to make your audience smile

Join us for £150 +VAT for non-members

Social Media Comms Academy members get to come to the comedy masterclass, and ALL our training for free 😊

Pets: the secret weapon of housing associations on Facebook

Housing associations on Facebook often have a tough time engaging residents.

Star Trek character says:

We work with comms pros who manage Facebook pages that are either:

• A negative space where people moan about the organisation’s shortcomings

• An absolute ghost town, where you struggle to get a single like or comment off anyone, not even a colleague

As we teach on the Social Media Expert Course: there are strategies you can use to get things rocking again.

Housing associations on Facebook need to cut down on the information sharing

You want people to know information that will help them.  Your colleagues think your job is to inform people or news, events and advice.

But nobody joins Facebook for that.

It’s social media. Not ‘information’ media, not ‘corporate news story’ media.

People go there to be distracted, amused, and connected with others.

It’s counterintuitive, but you need to reduce the amount of stories that your colleagues think people should know.

And then you increase the amount of Facebook posts on topics people want to talk about.

Stop behaving like a broadcaster, start behaving like a community builder

If you want to build relationships and have a thriving community of people who interact positively with your brand – please let your audience chat about ordinary things in our lives.

We don’t want to fill in surveys about your organisation. We don’t want to hear your news, or about whatever schemes you’ve got going on.

Not yet anyway.

Let us have a bit of small talk to loosen us up, get us comfortable chatting, to grow trust in each other.

Housing associations on Facebook need to embrace the ‘fluffy’ subjects

Far from being trivial, and not aligned with your organisation’s goals, small talk about the weather, local places and people is essential in your content planning.

Your social media strategy needs these lighter topics in the mix to grow your audience and increase engagement.

For an organisation that provides homes, the topic of pets is highly relevant.

Our friends at Housing Association, Clwyd Alyn, shared this post after their first masterclass with us in April – it’s such a lovely example of an engaging post that gets people talking to your organisation is a positive, friendly way.

Clwyd Alyn Housing associations on Facebook: Picture of a gorgeous dog with mouth open

This ‘fluffy’ subject is actually very serious when it comes to social media engagement.

For those of us with pets, these animals are big part of our lives. They prevent loneliness.

Reducing isolation and loneliness may well be part of your organisational aims.

Pets get us out and about walking, even if it’s just to go to the shops to but them food. They make us feel needed.
Physical and mental wellbeing is almost certainly on your agenda.

And we want to talk about our pets, and share pics of how cute they are.

Build trust with your audience by chatting about things they care about, not just telling them what to do and sharing information about how great your services are all the time.

Posting getting people talking about their pets is a great way to try this.

Learn more about how you can create incredible, sector-leading social media

Our Social Media Comms Academy is designed to give you all the strategy, tactics and advice to grow thriving communities on social media.

As a member, you get a hole year to access our vast library of video lessons and masterclasses to find how your organisation can nail it every time: on Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and TikTok.

And take our Social Media Expert Course, in your own time, to become the skilled and confident expert your colleagues turn to.

How brands can be more authentic on social media

Comms professionals often ask us how to be more authentic on social media.

This desire to be more human and less corporate is great, but people often don’t know where to start.

Specifically how can you be authentic on social media?

I’ll take you through three examples of social media authenticity in action.

See if they inspire you to be more authentic.

What is being ‘authentic’ on social media?

‘Authenticity’ for me is about not pretending to be something you’re not.

You know what I mean: when the tone sounds all pompous and formal, but it’s been written by an ordinary comms pro like you or me.

When we pretend like the brand is perfect, never cocks up and knows everything.

As communications professionals we can forget that as consumers, we don’t believe the the glossy, flawless exterior that most brands project.

Our audience will trust in us more if we show something believable, that doesn’t feel like a leaflet or a press announcement.

1. Make your tone of voice sound like a person

Tone advice we give communicators is to never hit ‘send’ on a social media post if it doesn’t sound like something you’d say verbally.

Put more succinctly, by the author Elmore Leonard:

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

An example of this comes from The Black Country Living Museum, on Instagram: “We ay half had a bostin’ day in the sunshine today”.

If you’re an organisation that operates in the Black Country, why wouldn’t you use local language like this?

It clearly hit the spot on Instagram.

This feels authentic because local phrases and slang terms are part of our identity. They’re a gift to the communicator who has an audience based in a specific area.

Those phrases we heard since we were kids, they comfort us with nostalgia, they connect us with others who know the phrase, they make us smile.

Back in the day when I worked for a council in South Wales, I’d describe things I liked as ‘lush’. Because I wanted people to know a real person was there, showing genuine enthusiasm for the place.

It sounds like a person said it, not a committee of officials.

If you don’t want your brand personality to be a dry as a cream cracker, local language can be an easy win.

2. Use empathy and see how more real you sound

Prove that there really is a human there by demonstrating some emotions, and relating to your audience’s emotions.

Surrey Heath did this beautifully recently.

Facebook post from Surrey Heath says: We get it. We know everyone is fed up at the moment. Fed up of being told to Stay Home when you're desperate to go out. Fed up of not seeing your family when you really want to give them a hug. Fed up of only being able to catch up with your friends on video calls. Fed up of juggling work, homeschooling and just general life at the moment. We get it. We're human too. But we know that Surrey has one of the highest Covid-19 rates in the country at the moment - and it's still going up. We can also see the huge pressure our local NHS are under, at Frimley Park Hospital and beyond, doing their best to cope with the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases being admitted every day. And we cannot ignore the reality of the temporary mortuary set up in Leatherhead to deal with the sharp increase in Covid-19 deaths, as local hospital capacity has been exceeded. These people are not just statistics - they are mothers, sons, grandparents, family members and friends, each one mourned for and missed by those who loved them. We also know that every person who doesn't follow the lockdown guidance risks spreading the virus - perhaps unknowingly - in turn adding to the pressure on the NHS.  And that anyone who catches Covid-19 could end up in hospital themselves - or, worst case scenario, in the mortuary. This is real. This is the reason we are asking everyone, however fed up you are with the lockdown, to please play your part to help #KeepSurreyHeathSafe.  For yourself, your loved ones, the vulnerable, and our community as a whole. Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives. Thank You. social-media-authenticity

 

3. Show up as a communicator, and owning the failures

In this article, Corporate Communications Manager, Alexander Mills from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, shares some of the comms flops, booboos and turds he’s worked on.

Screenshot of Aleander's Linkedin post linking to the article.  It has a picture of two sheep sticking their tougues out at each other, and I have no idea how that relates to the article! social-media-authenticity

You’d never think it, if you just relied on listening to conference talks and reading CVs – but ALL of us make mistakes, have campaigns that tank, and persist with ideas that don’t work.

There are some fab lessons in there.

And while we might think it’s brave to be open about these unsuccessful projects, it’s actually hugely beneficial to Alexander and the brand he represents.

It’s not brave – it’s confidence that you know your stuff enough to not hide the ‘downs’, and only ever mention the ‘ups’.

The truth is much more impressive than the pretend, perfect versions of ourselves.

In this article, I can see evidence of a highly strategic and creative mind, and an organisational culture that doesn’t squash innovation.

Those mishaps, false starts and lead balloons he mentions have taught his team what works for SYFR’s audience, and what doesn’t.

You don’t get that stuff in a textbook.

For each of the failures, there are probably 20 or more successes. Not trying anything new or creative will never get that kind of pay-off.

Why be embarrassed by sharing the harder parts of your story?

Ultimately, the brand and Alexander himself come off as way more competent and likeable – because it’s refreshingly truthful.

We feel better about our own struggles when we see role models face obstacles too. We trust that what is being said has value, because it’s not a glossy, aspirational misrepresentation of reality that we’re used to.

So maybe you yourself as a communications professional can try being more authentic yourself?

Social Media authenticity in a nutshell

It’s all about getting in touch with how you actually talk, how you see the world when you’re not in work mode and letting people join you for genuine conversations.

Workshop: Lunchtime Creativity Boost For Comms Pros

LIVE WORKSHOP FOR COMMS PROS: TUESDAY, 1ST JUNE AT 12.30PM

Live social media training with Hel and Lesley on screenBased on the science of creativity, we set you tasks to get you feeling happy, productive and inspired.

After the success of our #31DaysOfCreativity challenge, we thought it’s time we run another practical, enjoyable and, most importantly, creativity-boosting event for comms pros.

This one is only for 90 minutes, so make some time to shine!

Hel and Lesley will be talk about ways you can be more creative, even when you’re busy or working for a brand that is a bit formal or stuffy.

Then you’ll take part in some tasks, live along with other comms pros!

It’ll be easy, but useful and inspiring.

You’ll need:

⚬ A pen and paper

⚬ A nice cuppa to fuel your brain-power

⚬ A willingness to try new things and have a go

To take part, you just need to join The Comms Creatives Club on Facebook.

The workshop will be livestreamed into this group on June 1st at 12.30pm (UK time).

Join by May 31st to get your free place on this fun workshop: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CommsCreativesClub 

Comms is not common sense

I’ve heard a few people say that communications is common sense.

It’s not.

It could apply to lots of jobs I suppose, but it’s particularly an issue for us, because some of our colleagues think they could do it themselves (or their teenage nephew could).

Comms is not common sense.

Our audiences do not stop scrolling by to hear, see or read something they already know.

We don’t grab people’s attention with something ordinary and commonplace.

Our work is about touching emotions, changing behaviours, amusing and distracting the people we want to talk to.

Just because good things look simple, it doesn’t mean they don’t take a lot of skill to create.

And what we teach on our courses in UNcommon sense – cool concepts and techniques that not everybody knows, or everyone would be doing it!

Join the Social Media Comms Academy

Our training is designed for real people with emotions and lives, with advice and techniques that don’t just work in an ideal world.

Even when you’re busy, overwhelmed, or lacking confidence, we help you grow your social media following, make more creative content and get loads more likes, shares and positive comments.

All at a time that fits around work and home commitments.

It includes the Social Media Expert Course, which you take at your own pace with 18 short modules that cover:

• How to be strategic

• Being a super social media storyteller

• Powerful copywriting for social media posts

• Thumbstopping video

• Fun content tools and apps

…and loads more.

And you get to join the masterclasses live each month (or catch up any time on replay). Things like, Facebook GroupsLinkedin For Brands, and Instagram Strategy.

Plus the content calendar and templates.

Here’s the link to enrol so you can transform your social media into the most engaging and successful comms for your organisation.

Book your place now

Students leaving lovely feedback about how the course helped them.

How to deal with procrastination?

Ever wonder how to deal with procrastination? Me too.

Here’s how procrastinating shows up in my work:

Lots of people have told me they experience this too.

I’ve realised a few things that helped me as I’ve got older and wiser.

  • Procrastination links to motivation

I work well under pressure.

Or to put it more honestly, I only work under pressure.

I suspect it’s because I see the imminent reward of completing the task, and am excited by the prospect that the work will have a good outcome. Or I feel that urgency that I’ll miss out or let someone down if I don’t act right now.

Like I have in the past, you may berate yourself for procrastinating, when in fact you are fine as you are.

Perhaps you’re just more motivated by more short-term goals.

OK, you might leave each small thing right to the last minute, but that’s just how you roll.

  • The benefit of procrastination

By the time you’re starting, right on deadline, you’ve done some (often subconscious) work already, while you were putting it off.

Thoughts and ideas have been brewing in your mind.

I believe benefits come from a long period of thinking about the work (while you’re avoiding doing it), and then an intense period of concentration, turning those thoughts into something cool.

I actually think it helps you to be more creative.timeline leading to a deadline: Week 1:

  • Acceptance of your procrastinating

I mean if you get the job done, what does it matter?

For me, it’s not worth the immense energy I would spend on trying to improve myself by changing something quite ingrained in my behaviour.

I can change, and frequently do aim to develop myself, but it’s not a priority for me to try to be a person who always paces themselves and sticks to plans rigidly.

It’s OK. We don’t need fixing.

I think we should switch our attention from when we do things, to the fact that we do get things done and often make a fabulous job of it.

Procrastinators unite!

  • Join the Social Media Comms Academy

Our training is designed for real people with emotions and lives, with advice and techniques that don’t just work in an ideal world.

Even when you’re busy, overwhelmed, or lacking confidence, we help you grow your social media following, make more creative content and get loads more likes, shares and positive comments.

All at a time that fits around work and home commitments.

It includes the Social Media Expert Course, which you take at your own pace with 18 short modules that cover:

• How to be strategic

• Being a super social media storyteller

• Powerful copywriting for social media posts

• Thumbstopping video

• Fun content tools and apps

…and loads more.

And you get to join the masterclasses live each month (or catch up any time on replay). Things like, Facebook GroupsLinkedin For Brands, and Instagram Strategy.

Plus the content calendar and templates.

Here’s the link to enrol so you can transform your social media into the most engaging and successful comms for your organisation.

Book your place now

Students leaving lovely feedback about how the course helped them.

Superb storytelling on social media

Storytelling on social media, like the kind we teach on the Social Media Expert Course,is a special secret weapon for the comms pro.

Here’s a brilliant example of it in this fab Instagram post from Herts Police.Storytelling on social media: Herts Police example

Herts Police actually have amazing Instagram posts all the time.

They make use of their police dogs (who obviously get all the likes rolling in) and show the inspiring people who work for the force.

Whoever runs the account just gets Instagram, and they get a few mentions in our Instagram Masterclass coming up next month.

Why this works

I chose this post because it’s a great example of replacing a case study with a story.

It uses the building blocks of storytelling – a hero, a quest, an obstacle to overcome, a moral.

It’s fantastic.

Without sounding like an advert or a boring government institution, it helps the audience to:

  • Trust them as the real and relatable people who serve the community
  • Feel uplifted about good people doing nice things
  • Consider a career with them

It overcomes objections that people might have – feeling too old to join the police force, or not being able to meet people because of COVID.

I send admiring glances to the talented Instagrammers at Herts Police!

Joint winner of Content Of The Week goes to Leeds City Council

Film star, Kate Beckinsale, obviously has a quirky sense of humour, and in this Instagram post I don’t 100% get her joke initially.

But I can see she is cheering up a pal and having fun.

What’s great is the Leeds Council comms pros, who did not look a gift-horse in the mouth, and joined in.

Why this works

People get a thrill from government institutions acting like humans with a sense of humour.It’s novel (unfortunately!).

Many of us find we are intrigued by celebrities and what they say, and when a celebrity talks to a brand, we’re doubly interested.

For each person who says “CRINGE, I hate it when brands try to be cool” (AKA killjoys), there are people who will LOVE IT.

Look at the responses to this post, and let it sink in that people are gagging to like you, if you would just show a little personality.

Leeds City Council, you made the most of this opportunity – I salute you.

The moral of this story is – when life gives you lemonade, make Pimms!

Storytelling on social media: Kate Beckinsale example

 

Join the Social Media Comms Academy

Our training is designed to help you hone your storytelling on social media.

Even when you’re busy, overwhelmed, or lacking confidence, we help you grow your social media following, make more creative content and get loads more likes, shares and positive comments.

All at a time that fits around work and home commitments.

It includes the Social Media Expert Course, which you take at your own pace with 18 short modules that cover:

• How to be strategic

• Being a super social media storyteller

• Powerful copywriting for social media posts

• Thumbstopping video

• Fun content tools and apps

…and loads more.

And you get to join the masterclasses live each month (or catch up any time on replay). Things like, Facebook GroupsLinkedin For Brands, and Instagram Strategy.

Plus the content calendar and templates.

Here’s the link to enrol so you can transform your social media into the most engaging and successful comms for your organisation.

Book your place now

Students leaving lovely feedback about how the course helped them.

The best church social media content

You can learn a lots from the best church social media, no matter what kind of organisation you work for.

I’ve noticed a lot of church-type content in my homefeeds lately, like this sign in a cathedral that got shared all over social media.

Social Media Comms Academy member, Matt Batten, runs a vibrant Twitter feed for Llandaff Diocese that is full of support, and love, and vibrancy. It’s some of the best best church social media I’ve seen.

And really, we shouldn’t surprised religious organisations would be good at social media, as building communities is something they’ve been doing for centuries.

I’m not a believer myself, but I have fond memories of my Catholic upbringing, and I do love seeing more inclusive and welcoming comms from religious institutions.

So anyway: this week, we have a user generated content of the week – from the Church Of England.

Kaya Burgess @kayaburgess on Twitter · Feb 16 "The Church of England has launched an Instagram filter allowing people to superimpose a digital ash cross onto their foreheads in selfies while people can't mark Ash Wednesday in church"

Instagram is a place that can make people feel inadequate or unhappy comparing themselves to others, so it’s a great place to add a filter that brightens it up and help people feel better about themselves.

Like with a lot of good not-for-profit comms – not everyone is going to like this.

For everyone who thinks it devalues something holy, there are others who love a fresh way to express their faith.

The greatest comms pros know things are worth doing even if they don’t please everyone

By the way, if you’re interested in developing your organisation’s Instagram account, you should take our Instagram For Brands 90 Minute Masterclass.

Joint place for content of the week goes to Durham Cathedral

 Durham Cathedral @durhamcathedral tweets: "We're sacred and we know it [Church emoji] ( @JayHulmePoet , we couldn't resist)"

When your audience is chatting with you in a light-hearted way, it’s a 100% legit opportunity to respond playfully and have a bit of fun.

It makes you more approachable, which is a good thing in a time when many may be looking for spiritual guidance.

Thanks Rachael Stray for sharing this.

Oh, and special mention this week goes to the poor old Kit Kat Social Media Manager.

 KITKAT @KITKAT on Twitter: Feb 16 - "We couldn't keep it a secret any longer, so we're happy to say the rumours are true.. KITKAT Vegan is COMING SOON! EyesWho's excited?!* *Ps. A personal thanks to the person who leaked this product launch, our Social Media Manager hasn't been able to Have A Break since Friday [Winking face]"
When I started in comms, it was often said that we must stay behind the scenes at all times, and the brand should be up front.

But on social media, your audiences like knowing the human that is behind the account.

I think it was really relatable, and a clever thing to say to get the audience feeling like they’re on KitKat’s side.

I’m actually obsessed with their Twitter account, so I may blog in more detail about that in the next week or so.

If Kit Kat people are reading this and wish to thank me for the mention in the form of chocolate, I’m OK that.

The Weetabix and beans tweet marked an important moment in comms history

I expect you have seen the Weetabix and beans tweet this week, and all the brand reactions to it.

And maybe you’ve guessed it: content of the week goes to all the fabulous comms pros from all sorts of brands who got stuck in with a little bit of cheeky humour replying to the Weetabix tweet.

There are five reasons that this quirky campaign marked an important milestone in social media comms history.

Weetabix and beans tweet, plus reactions from other brands' comms pros

1. Weetabix and beans brought the whole country together (even if it was in shared disgust)

‘Why did this go viral?’, you may ask. We learn how to make this kind of content in the Social Media Comms Academy – it’s to do with psychology.

In a very complex and confusing world, being sure about something gives us a wonderful feeling of satisfaction.

And it’s easy be certain about your own opinion on if beans on ‘bix is something you’d like on your breakfast menu.

It is politically uncontroversial, but prompts a strong emotional response.

So people engaged, shared and chatted about it.

Added good feelings came from a sense of connection and agreement with the other people who also think it is a minging serving suggestion.

It brought us together.

For one day we were no longer divided.

It was a kind of anti-Brexit moment.

2. Comms pros were on it like Shakespeare on a sonnet

All sorts of brands, were quick to reply – some got thousands of likes and comments in response to their comments.

Comms pros spotted the opportunity, came up with a witty response and shared it pronto.

Back in the day, the approval process for sharing anything was a tortoise-paced living nightmare.

But the tone, sassiness and speed of comms responses showed us that the days of getting tweets signed-off are long behind us.

We know what we’re doing, and we don’t need to wait for permission.

3. We’re overcoming fear of party-poopers

Sometimes it’s our fear of bosses and colleagues. Sometimes it’s fear of our audiences. Often it’s the little voices in our heads:

“Is this professional?”

“Shouldn’t you be getting on with some real work?”

“Isn’t this tone a bit too silly for the brand?’

What most people who don’t do our job don’t understand is this.

It takes guts to do our job well.

Everyone has an opinion.

We often make decisions based on our best judgement knowing that it won’t please everyone.

It’s lots easier to not try anything fresh, than to put yourself in the firing line by doing something that might be cool (but might not work).

But lots of comms pros had a go this week. Bravo to them.

3. Responses were funny.

The most serious brands, like the NHS, GCHQ and West Yorkshire Police saw that it’s a good idea to get involved in more fun content.

A quote I like so much that I put it in our brochure, comes from John Cleese:

“Too many people confuse being serious with being solemn”
Being funny is ok. I’m so happy to see comms professionals switched onto this.

It’s not clowning around. Comedy is a clever tactic.

Not all the time, in any context, of course.

But it’s one of many ways to connect with people.

Humour can be used to make others feel good, to gain intimacy or to help buffer stress.

I’ve been studying this for a few years and have a masterclass coming up in March on how to be funny: The ‘Comms-edy’ Masterclass: How be be a funny brand on social media (without messing it up).

5. Understanding that attention, novelty, and relevance gets real results

It’s taken a while, but finally, we’re throwing away old-skool myths about return on investment.

Many people think the job of comms is 100% about sharing information, and promoting services, messages and products.

Nope.

Success is about the long game.

Chatting to your audiences, so they get to know the people behind the logo.

You’re investing in brand-building.

The more people like and engage with you about something that interests them, the more they are likely to take notice of you when you have something important to say.

Communities are built on trust.

Real relationships aren’t transactional.

And you’re never going to go viral by just telling everyone about your services.

That’s what all the brands who replied to the Weetabix tweet were doing.

Starting conversations their audiences actually want to join.

As for Weetabix: they know they are reaching new audiences (or reminding old audiences they’re there), and training the Twitter algorithm to understand that their brand is relevant and interests people.

Nobody was saying the product itself is disgusting, by the way.  It’s just the idea of  combining Weetabix and beans that caused people to retch.

If anything, it evoked memories for those of us who were brought up on Weetabix that it’s a nice breakfast option.

Yesterday I put some on my Sainsbury’s order for a bit of tasty childhood nostalgia.

It got everybody talking about Weetabix – and you cannot buy that kind of reaction.

The tweet even made it into a discussion in parliament*, where Weetabix endorsements were so enthusiastic that made me wonder if these MPs have shares in it.

*Trigger warning – this tweet contains Jacob Rees Mogg and may not be suitable for those with weak stomachs.

Weetabix and beans tweet - MPs respond

All in all, Weetabix created an iconic comms cultural landmark that showed, through something as silly as breakfast, that we, the comms community, have reached social media maturity.

It makes me think of all the times in my career when people told me that Twitter should be dismissed as people ‘just talking about their breakfast’.

It IS that, but so so much more.

Social Media Managers Comms Academy is open for enrolments

This is for you if you want to grow your social media following, make more creative content and get loads more likes, shares and positive comments.

All at a time that fits around work and home commitments.

It includes the Social Media Expert Course, which you take at your own pace with 18 short modules that cover:

• How to be strategic

• Being a super social media storyteller

• Powerful copywriting for social media posts

• Thumbstopping video

• Fun content tools and apps

…and loads more.

And you get to join the masterclasses live each month (or catch up any time on replay). Things like, Facebook GroupsLinkedin For Brands, and Instagram Strategy.

Plus the content calendar and templates.

Here’s the link to enrol so you can transform your social media into the most engaging and successful comms for your organisation.

Book your place now

 

Council fun and empathy is content of the week

We admire cool stuff from brands of all sorts. We’ve noticed: local government has been nailing it lately!

So content of the week goes to THREE different local authorities doing COVID comms.

But it’s not your ordinary safe stuff, this week, we can look at some fun and engaging social media – just because it’s a serious subject, doesn’t mean it has to be solemn.

Facebook post from Lincolnshire Resilience Forum on 13 January. Text reads: · Meet Tom, Dick and Harriet 👋 Tom and Harriet represent those people in Lincolnshire who care about protecting their family, friends, and others from #Covid. Photos shows three cartoon characters a Square shape, a covid shape and a triangle. The text on this image reads; We'd like to introduce you to Tom, Dick, and Harriet. Dick doesn't care and Ignores advice. Don't act like a Dick.

Nicely played, Lincolnshire Resilience Forum.

We are all bombarded with content, so we get good at filtering public health messages out.

Sometimes you have to cut through a sea of well-meant but straight forward messaging with something cheeky.

As someone who is particularly vulnerable to this stupid bloody disease, I am right behind this message .

Don’t be a dee eye see kay!

Like with the ‘don’t be a tosser‘ litter and fly tipping messages, the novelty of the cheekiness captures attention and gets noticed.

It’s also funny! If you want to use more humour in your communications, book on The ‘Comms-edy’ Masterclass: How be be a funny brand on social media.

Talking of being funny…

Comedy legend Boycie AKA John Challis, sends Cheltenham a ‘triffic’ Covid-19 reminder: ‘’As vaccines are rolled out, let’s continue to play our part – you know it makes sense.’’ Grinning face #Cheltenham #StaySafe #HandsFaceSpace #Wenotme #StayHomeSaveLives

Our lovely-jubbly friends and Comms Creatives students, Cheltenham Council, have done a cushdy job, as usual!

Boycie from Only Fools And Horses is such a beloved character that he has charmed the people of Cheltenham with his important message.

And finally…

Facebook post - text reads: Surrey Heath, 11 January · We get it. We know everyone is fed up at the moment. Fed up of being told to Stay Home when you're desperate to go out. Fed up of not seeing your family when you really want to give them a hug. Fed up of only being able to catch up with your friends on video calls. Fed up of juggling work, homeschooling and just general life at the moment. We get it. We're human too. But we know that Surrey has one of the highest Covid-19 rates in the country at the moment - and it's still going up. We can also see the huge pressure our local NHS are under, at Frimley Park Hospital and beyond, doing their best to cope with the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases being admitted every day. And we cannot ignore the reality of the temporary mortuary set up in Leatherhead to deal with the sharp increase in Covid-19 deaths, as local hospital capacity has been exceeded. These people are not just statistics - they are mothers, sons, grandparents, family members and friends, each one mourned for and missed by those who loved them. We also know that every person who doesn't follow the lockdown guidance risks spreading the virus - perhaps unknowingly - in turn adding to the pressure on the NHS. And that anyone who catches Covid-19 could end up in hospital themselves - or, worst case scenario, in the mortuary. This is real. This is the reason we are asking everyone, however fed up you are with the lockdown, to please play your part to help #KeepSurreyHeathSafe. For yourself, your loved ones, the vulnerable, and our community as a whole. Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives. Thank You. 💙

I’ve just blogged about this with the wonderful Joanne Atkinson, PR Officer at Surrey Heath Borough Council, who has shared the story behind the post.

This is all about empathy with an audience.

If you can show people you get what they like, and can think and understand their struggles, your social media will outperform everyone else’s.

If you want to become an effortlessly creative social media expert, we have social media training workshops, inspiration and cool tools… all inside our Social Media Academy for comms professionals.

Empathy – the secret ingredient in social media engagement

Empathy is one of the core elements to getting your social media content and tone of voice spot on.

First off, knowing who your audience is: (it’s not everyone!) – then getting their attention by demonstrating that you know just how they feel.

When you design your ideas, empathy is what separates the boring, corporate messages, from the top-notch engaging content.

Here’s a post that demonstrates this beautifully.

Facebook post - text reads: Surrey Heath, 11 January · We get it. We know everyone is fed up at the moment. Fed up of being told to Stay Home when you're desperate to go out. Fed up of not seeing your family when you really want to give them a hug. Fed up of only being able to catch up with your friends on video calls. Fed up of juggling work, homeschooling and just general life at the moment. We get it. We're human too. But we know that Surrey has one of the highest Covid-19 rates in the country at the moment - and it's still going up. We can also see the huge pressure our local NHS are under, at Frimley Park Hospital and beyond, doing their best to cope with the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases being admitted every day. And we cannot ignore the reality of the temporary mortuary set up in Leatherhead to deal with the sharp increase in Covid-19 deaths, as local hospital capacity has been exceeded. These people are not just statistics - they are mothers, sons, grandparents, family members and friends, each one mourned for and missed by those who loved them. We also know that every person who doesn't follow the lockdown guidance risks spreading the virus - perhaps unknowingly - in turn adding to the pressure on the NHS. And that anyone who catches Covid-19 could end up in hospital themselves - or, worst case scenario, in the mortuary. This is real. This is the reason we are asking everyone, however fed up you are with the lockdown, to please play your part to help #KeepSurreyHeathSafe. For yourself, your loved ones, the vulnerable, and our community as a whole. Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives. Thank You. 💙

Not-for-profits in particular have to do a lot of work to remind their audience that there are real people behind the logos.

Your audience’s opinion on your public service or charity brand’s reputation will improve if they think of the heroic individuals who work there, rather than news headlines or recalling that one time they has a bad experience with you or a brand like yours.

They need to know that real people care about what they think, not just what you have to do.

You need to be human, not corporate.

At Comms Creatives, we believe empathy is more than a ‘soft skill’  – it’s actually a technique that the best comms experts use.

We even have a module on empathy comms in our Social Media Expert course.

Photo of Joanne Atkinson in stripy jacket and shades on her head, smiling and looking utterly fabulousSo I’m delighted that the fabulous Joanne Atkinson, PR Officer at Surrey Heath Borough Council, has shared the thinking behind this awesome post.

Over to Joanne:

“Ten months on, in Lockdown 3 in England, like many we’d found that the engagement had dropped significantly on our social media posts asking people to #StayHome and follow the government guidance.

We felt we needed a different approach to cut through the Covid fatigue, and after a team chat decided to be honest and human about it.

Our comms team understood how our audience felt – almost a year on from the first lockdown, we were pretty fed up with it too.

But we also knew the vital importance of people continuing to follow the rules, because of the extremely high case numbers in our local area, the highly contagious new variants of the virus, and the resulting pressure on the NHS.

So we put together a post saying just that.

Basically: ‘We get it. We’re human too. We’re fed up too.

But we are asking you to keep following the lockdown rules because otherwise our local NHS will be overwhelmed, and more people will sadly lose their lives.’

We used a very simple graphic, deliberately different from the government issued Covid-related comms graphics, to distinguish this post from others people might have started to scroll past.

And we took the plunge and posted it on our social media channels.

We kept an eye on it for a few hours, in case we’d misjudged it! We also responded to comments where relevant as they came in, to emphasise the human message.

We were really chuffed with how well it was received.

Very soon on Facebook it had dozens of positive reactions, comments and shares, including in the local Facebook Groups we’re members of.

We’re a fairly small borough council, and within a few hours it had been shared more than 100 times which is a huge result for us.

A few days on, there’d been nearly 500 reactions on the original Facebook post (none negative, which is a miracle in local gov comms in our experience!), almost 200 shares, more than 60 comments (again the majority supportive), and a reach of almost 25k.

It’s been a really positive experience for us as a team too, feeling that we’ve managed to engage with our intended audience with a really important message, struck a chord which connected with them and hopefully encouraged them to keep following the rules, for the common good.

Following the positive reaction to our attempt at #HumanComms, we’ve since put out another post in a similar style (both in tone and visually) about the use of our parks and playgrounds in lockdown, which also received good engagement and responses, so maybe this will grow to become a whole campaign!

For anyone in a similar position, wondering whether to post something slightly different to the norm, we’d recommend being brave and going for it – it definitely paid off for us.”

Making a difference takes bravery and boldness.

A massive ‘hats-off’ to Joanne and the team at Surrey Heath Borough Council for excellent work, which ultimately keeps us safe and saves lives.

If you want to become an effortlessly creative social media expert, we have social media training workshops, inspiration and cool tools…all inside our Social Media Academy for comms professionals.

Powerful real-life storytelling on Facebook is content of the week

Storytelling on Facebook is one of the most effective skills you can have in your comms bag of talents.

And I’m getting my best Miley Cyrus singing ready to tell you that our content of the week came in like a Wrekin ball…..

Well a Telford and Wrekin Council ball, to be exact.

Storytelling on Facebook: shows the posts with text and photos of resident, Sharn, looking fab in her car, then ill in hospital. . Text reads: Telford & Wrekin Council is sharing a COVID-19 update. 4d · ‼️ THIS IS REAL ‼️ Below is a story from Sharn who is 34 years old, a fit and healthy mother of two children and lives in Telford. We asked if we could share her story to show everyone that Covid is real, it's here in Telford & Wrekin and could put any one of us in hospital. Cases are still rising rapidly locally and it is now so IMPORTANT we all follow guidelines to keep everyone safe. One mistake could cost someone else's life: 🏠 STAY AT HOME - only leave your house for essential items such as food or medication, work or to help someone vulnerable. ❌ DO NOT MIX HOUSEHOLDS (unless you are part of a support bubble) ❌ DO NOT TRAVEL FOR EXERCISE - You should exercise near to home. Read Sharn's story below 👇 So the first picture here was 26th Dec I felt perfectly well had a lovely day with my daughter. Woke up 27th took tree down then got a head ache that's all!! I went for a test and dropped kids to their dad for them to be safe. I haven't set eyes on my children since! I stayed home alone for 7 days trying to beat it but Covid had other ideas. I was admitted last Sunday and Tuesday I thought I was leaving in a box as I couldn't breathe unattended!! I have never been so scared and alone in my life thinking you are never going to see your children again is torture. Fortunately I'm getting stronger everyday so will be home soon. Sadly not everyone is as fortunate so many bodies leaving this hospital it's awful. The staff are worth their weight in gold true heroes I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them!! I owe them my life!! Things can change so quickly in life appreciate everything. TAKE THIS VIRUS SERIOUSLY GUYS ❤️ Get well soon Sharn ❤️

I could go into much more detail about why this is awesome, effective and reputation enhancing.

But in summary, here are five reasons why it got thousands of like shares and comments:

1. That tone of voice has so much good stuff going on.

It feels like something a real and thoughtful person would write on their own Facebook page (and not like a paternalistic, corporate, government public health message).

2. Emojis in this case aren’t overdone to make it too much of an accessibility nightmare.

The emojis are used a bit like bullet-points – they alert us to the important points being raised, and they break up the paragraphs so it’s easier to read.

3. They didn’t take us away from facebook to their website to read the story. Hallelujah!

As everyone in our Social Media Comms Academy knows, your audience (and those algorithms) want to see what you have to say in the place they’re in.

You’ll usually get way more engagement on your posts if save people a click and just tell the story in the place people have found your post.

4. This has the structure of a proper story – ‘This, but, then.'(And BTW, we teach how you can use this storytelling structure in the Social Media Expert Course, if you fancy it).

As I said, storytelling on Facebook is the comms skill you don’t want to live without.

5. It is not easy to find a good story, get permission to share it with great picture to illustrate.

This was SO worth the effort from the council comms team 👏👏👏

If you want to become an effortlessly creative social media expert, we have social media training workshops, inspiration and cool tools… …all inside our Social Media Academy for comms professionals.

Manchester Council’s touching Christmas message video

Winner of content of the week is a Christmas message video:

Shows Facebook post with animated video from Manchester council. Text reads: "Merry Christmas Manchester. Stay safe and look after each other. This festive season we reflect on 2020. The cancelled plans, the video calls, the community spirit. We may have been apart, but this year more than ever we've come together. We’ve got through it in true Mancunian style. Merry Christmas, Manchester."

 

Our Social Media Academy members, Manchester Council, have knocked this out of the park.

The Christmas message video is sweet and touching and beautifully animated.

What I love most is the text that goes with this.It feels like it’s written by someone (not a committee) who loves Manchester. Someone proud of the people they serve.

That moves me, and holds its own alongside some of the massive budget Christmas ads from huge retailers this year.

Special mentions go to Disney, Plaster Communications, and Hounslow Council.


What a fun and creative idea to turn the house from Christmas movie, Home Alone, into a fantastic gingerbread construction.

And spreading that joy with the Royal Marsden Hospital is just a stylish touch, reflecting our national mood of gratitude for the NHS.

Our friends as Plaster Communications, have worked with Bristol City Centre Business Improvement District on a cheery campaign around Bristol with festive song lyrics popping up all over the city.

Anything that gives me a Christmas earworm is alright by me.

Tweet from Hounslow Council: We hope you enjoyed your return to live football today. Keep safe and we'll be joining you again on Wednesday to cheer on @BrentfordFC as they face @dcfcofficial . Don’t pass on #COVID19 and remember #HandsFaceSpace. For latest info https://hounslow.gov.uk/coronavirus

Visually this is lovely, and I’m a huge fan of the nifty messaging that uses wordplay, a relevant pop culture reference and is perfectly concise.

If you want to become an effortlessly creative social media expert…

…we have social media training workshops, inspiration and cool tools, all inside our Social Media Academy for comms professionals.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue’s Burger King spoof is content of the week

This week we’re celebrating a cheeky and fun Facebook post from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR)!

If it seems familiar, but you can’t put your finger on it, it’s a parody of the Burger King tweet that went viral a few weeks ago.

The Burger King tweet caught people’s attention because it was encouraging their customers to eat in other fast food joints. That’s a surprise that their followers weren’t expecting.

So – if you’d seen the Burger King tweet, you’d react to the SYFR post with a knowing smile.

If you hadn’t, you would think ‘Why does this fire service message look like Burger King?’

Either way, SYFR stopped thumbs scrolling past and got their point across.

Great stuff.

And remember, readers – test your alarms!

How you might use this as creative inspiration for your social media one day?

Open your eyes to the zeitgeist!

If everyone is talking about an ad or social media post from a completely different brand one day, maybe you can jump on it, and create a witty spoof?

Special mention

Big shoutout to Natahsa Calder and team at Wigan Council who, inspired by a recent Creativity Coffee Break newsletter, created this neat little caligram 👏👏👏

 

 

Council’s social media illustration is content of the week

I want to talk about social media illustration and cartoons in your comms.

It seems relatively rare!

We see so many social media graphics that are kind of like mini-posters.

Designed in something like Canva, or as requested of your fab graphic design team if you’re lucky enough to have expert designers on your team.

But I think we overlook drawings and doodles, created by hand or using software for illustration.

Of course, I WOULD say that, as I am always posting my cartoons and scribbles – I call them  @CommsCartoons.

This tweet from Shropshire Council is our content of the week and a great example of use of illustration.

In a sea of similar public health messages, audiences are getting better at filtering out anything they feel they’ve heard before.

But this is a witty attention-grabber!

Shoutout to the Shropshire Council comms team behind this, especially Gareth Jones, who I have been a fan of for many years.

It’s reached and engaged a bigger audience than usual, and indicates to residents that their council has personality, and can reference popular culture in a relatable, relevant and fun way.

People will like and enjoy it.

How much council content can people say they actively, positively like and enjoy?

As we teach in the Social Media Managers Academy, getting your audience to like you helps enormously in building trust.

So it’s a top tweet.

Plus, the artist is local, so by working with this illustrator the council comms team is:

  • Championing and highlighting someone that local people will know or will be interested to know about
  • Supporting the role of the council in stimulating local enterprise
  • Commissioning someone who knows the area and its culture, and is more likely to create content that resonates with their audience

Can illustration inspire your creativity?

  • Maybe you can experiment with using  illustration to make a point in a slightly different way that the usual graphics or posters?With Christmas coming up, it could be a good time to draw or paint something that you can use as a social festive message.
  • Or maybe you can think about collaborating with or commissioning a creative person within your audience?Bringing in a different person to help with a small project often injects a new and interesting perspective or creative message.
This is a small sample of the kind of creative thinking we’re exploring in our Boost Your Creativity Masterclass.  Take the masterclass now!

The ‘commsplanation’: duff advice from the non comms colleague

I made up a word: “commsplanation’.

Have you ever been commsplained? It’s where someone who is less qualified than you, or less experienced, explains something to you.

Commsplanation: office scene shows man saying "we should use Snapchat and Yammer for this campaign' and the woman says 'thanks for the advice on my own area of expertise'.They get hold of the tiniest amount of knowledge, and suddenly they’re giving you opinions so misinformed, so utterly clueless that you want to boot them up the butt.

Take a deep breath my comms friends.

It’s called Dunning-Kruger effect, and unfortunately it’s human nature.

In a nutshell, this phenomenon describes how we are all inclined to think we know more than we actually do about topics we dabble in.

We humans often get hold of some information –  and we know so little that we don’t know what we don’t know.

So we think we have a better grasp of the subject than we actually do.

It’s kind of the opposite of imposter syndrome.

Hearing a commsplanation is exceptionally annoying

Knowing why your colleagues do it doesn’t make it less irritating when they come up with hare-brained suggestions about TikTok, or excellent advice about using social media to do more storytelling (duh, like I’d never thought of that!).

We bring SO much value and many people just don’t get it!

For instance, those of us who manage social media often do the work of ten people!

Anyway, try not to take a commsplanation personally.

I used to feel attacked by their comments, like they thought I was no good at my job.

Then I felt frustrated because it was clear they have no idea of the skill and complexity of my job.

Now I try to understand, and know that professional respect is hard to come by when people are busy doing their own work.

See it as a sign you’re a true expert!

I know I probably do it when I get excited about something I heard on a podcast, or when I spout my political opinions on policy areas I reckon I could handle better than our government does.

So let’s all try to be compassionate and let down these commsplaining clowns down, respectfully and kindly.

Then pat yourself on the back, because you’re skilled AND empathetic!

Last thing while you’re here- do you know about our Social Media Comms Academy?  It’s bloody brilliant, and here I am showing you around for 6 minutes.

Cameo celebrities: endorsement not-for-profit brands can afford

Getting a celebrity to promote your brand has long been a desirable but costly way to get your audience’s attention.

Some charities could rely on a patron who believed in their cause, but often celebrities have wanted tens of thousands of pounds for an endorsement.

But for most not-for-profit brands, it’s been not just out of their budget, but also not at all worth the investment.

However – lately it’s become easier to snag a ‘personality’ at no or low cost to help us amuse and reach new audiences.

I’m going to show you how some councils are bringing in famous faces on the cheap to help them get extra social media reach.

Don’t get hung up on status

When we’re looking for household names to help us promote messages for social good, we often think people will only be interested or impressed with an A-lister.

I mean, at Comms Creatives, we got the gorgeous Mr Boombastic himself,  Shaggy, to give a pep talk to our brilliant comms professional pals all over the world.

I never thought we’d be able to afford such a pop icon from our marketing budget!

We didn’t need to hire a superstar though.

But you don’t need someone everybody in the country knows.  You need someone who everyone in your audience knows.

Cheltenham Council and Tweedy

We all know, Facebook isn’t the easiest place to get reach and engagement from your audience.

As I write this, Cheltenham have had 14.3k views on this video from Tweedy the clown.

He’s a local legend.

I don’t know him, and clowns actually freak me out, but if you’re from Cheltenham, you probably know Tweedy.

Perhaps he evokes feelings of nostalgia from appearing in pantomimes local people went to as kids.

Collaborating with, or asking from help, from someone known, loved and familiar is a genius move.

Tweedy adds his own style to the message and communicates in a way a council comms professional wouldn’t.  (Unless the comms pro happens to be a clown, which I think will be a rare occurrence.)

As far as I’m aware, Tweedy did this out of a sense of community spirit and I take my hat off to him and the lovely comms team at Cheltenham Borough Council. I’ve heard they’ve got a few more tricks up their sleeve coming up soon too.

Councils using Cameo celebrities for public health messages

In 2020 during lockdown, celebrities like Steve Guttenberg and Lindsay Lohan found guest appearances, gigs and filming had dried up, these celebs saw video app Cameo as a way to keep working.

If you’ve not heard of it, on Cameo you can pay a relatively small fee to get a short video message from a well-known face.

It’s great fun and depending on who you book, pretty cheap.  Paul Chuckle from The Chuckle brothers is only £44.99.  Snoop Dogg is $999.99.

It might lose its novelty by next year, but for now, famous appearances on your social media channels is a good way to get attention.

Here, Essex Council get notorious Netflix star and possibly dodgy animal rights activist, Carole Baskin, to spread the word about staying safe from Covid 19.

Not something I’d ignore in my home feed.

Oldham Council paid £34 to get Jay from the Inbetweeners to talk about coronavirus guidance.

“Nearly 100,000 people watched the video through the council’s social media pages alone, and it was exposed to a potential audience of millions more as websites such as the Independent and LadBible reshared it.”

For less than the price of a packet of post-it-notes.

Bargain.

Cameras on smartphones have made celebrity content easier to get your hands on

High profile actors, comedians and musicians are an option now.

These talented people have access to a recording studio in their pockets and handbags, by just talking to their smartphone, they can add a little star appeal to your work.

Choose your celeb wisely.

They might even do it for free if you ask nicely and it’s something they support.

My Hoff story

I promised a few people I’d share a personal story of Cameo, here it is.

My first Cameo spend was when we launched the Social Media Managers Academy, which includes our flagship training programme, the Social Media Expert Course.

I commissioned a video from Knightrider legend, David Hasselhoff, as a gift to me and Lesley for working so hard on it, and to help us let people know about the course.

When we booked the Hoff, we experienced an unexpected turn of events…

Dave (I call him Dave now), sent me a message that asked me to get in touch with his agent.

WHAT?!

‘Does he want to work with us?’ I thought.  That would be amaaaazing!

I rang the number he gave me of his agent, Judy.

I heard her lovely New York accent say “Hello?”

I told her why I was calling.

She didn’t have the foggiest clue what I was on about.

“He said what? Run me through this again.”

I don’t think Judy liked me. I suspect I sounded bonkers, desperate, idiotic.  I’m a bit too awkward to be moving with the Hollywood movers and shakers.

Anyway, she was seeing his Hoffness the next day.

Lesley and I hastily put together a proposal. Great social media adheres to the same principles for superstars as it does for not-for-profit brands.  We know we could do a memorable and fun campaign for King Hoff.

Was this in our business plan? No. Of course not.

But anyway, it turns out a few days later, neither Judy nor David wanted to work with us, and I don’t blame them for that.

We don’t have a portfolio stuffed with icons and legends to prove our worth. We tend to work with charities, housing associations and councils.

Once again, David Hasselhoff had told us to ‘Hoff off’.

But it was a right laugh – I had got to the stage of excitement where I thought Lesley and I might spend Christmas with the Hoffs, and it gave me some light daydreaming relief from COVID worries.

And the Hoff, for at least a few minutes, was aware of my existence.

Creative thinking for comms pros: brand metaphors

Creative thinking is not just something we do at work when we’re designing campaigns.

We can apply creative thinking to all parts of life and work.

I encourage our students in comms teams to spend ten minutes every now and then practicing creative thinking, to make your day-to-day comms a little fresher and more interesting (for you AND your audience).

We can get inspired by the things around us, or give ourselves a little exercise to do during our coffee break – like the ones we try in the 31 Days Of Creativity.

Fancy five minutes trying out a creative exercise right now?

Come on then.

We’ll use the airline Delta’s tweet as a starting point.

This tweet caught my eye because it so beautifully summed up how much of us feel about this year.

It subtly says: ‘if only we could just get away from all the misery of 2020 and move on’.

It’s not just shouting ‘hey everyone, are you cheesed off with this year?’.  That’s very general and a question anyone could ask.

The creativity comes from how it’s relevant to the brand and their audience by using a a flying metaphor we are familiar with – ‘ let’s get a one-way ticket out of here!’

Bravo Delta!

They’ve indulged in an excellent bit of creative thinking.

How you might use this as creative inspiration for your social media one day?

Think about metaphors that relate to your brand. Maybe you might use it to come up with some cool comms one day?

I’ll use a council as an example.  One service everyone is aware of is waste and recycling collections.

Councils get rid of waste for us.

So maybe you you could have an image of a bin collector emptying the year 2020 into the bin lorry.

It’s just a silly idea I had while writing this, and I doodled it to show you what I mean.
You don’t have to act on every idea, but the more you have, the more creative you get – it’s like going to the gym and building muscle.
And the more ideas you have, the more likely it is you’ll have one idea that is utter genius. This is called divergent thinking.
Don’t be afraid of silly ideas, just have lots and get your brain in creative shape.

There’s inspiration everywhere.

Maybe when you’re in the shower, or having a coffee break, you can take five minutes to think of metaphors that relate to your organisation.  Write them down somewhere and maybe they’ll come in handy later.

This is a small sample of the kind of creative thinking we’re exploring in our Boost Your Creativity Masterclass coming up in December.

Maybe you’ll join us, I hope so.

Ten phrases social media managers hate

You might imagine that the phrases social media managers hate to hear would be “we’re out of coffee”, or “there’s nowhere to charge your phone”.

But there are phrases that strike even more fear into social media managers.
To celebrate National Social Media Managers Day, we’re chuffed to have a guest blog post from an extremely talented freelance social media manager and content creator, Alex Duffy.

Alex Duffy is a Social Media Manager based in Liverpool, England.

You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@alexlduffy) and visit his website (alexlduffy.com).

Over to Alex…

Alex Duffy headshot - 10 phrases social media managers hateWhat’s it like being a social media manager?

Well, it’s a job that allows you to be creative and interact with loads of people using interesting tools such as photos, videos and the occasional meme.

It’s also a job filled with bizarre requests and a lack of understanding from colleagues,who frequently refer to you as “the person that does the Twitter”.

No matter how often we hear them, there’s phrases that make us sigh and roll our eyes.

It’s often a request to do something impossible, or a comment about the work we do.

Grab a seat, read these ten phrases, and use #SocialMediaManagersDay to tell us how many of them you’ve heard.

“Make it go viral”

Picture this: you’re having a lovely day at your desk, sipping the perfect cup of tea. An email drops into your inbox. You open it cautiously. The email reads “Can you make this go viral for us?”

You open the attachment. It’s a Powerpoint presentation about an upcoming HR event on pensions.

You scream and throw your computer across the room. Grabbing your pitchfork and torch, you charge outside. Your uncontrollable rage has consumed you. You shove a small child out of the way.

You kick over a bin.

You glare menacingly at an old lady, who scurries away in fear. This world will feel the pain and suffering it has inflicted on you.

Perhaps that second paragraph was a little dramatic (but only slightly).

Perhaps the phrase “make it go viral” draws from naivete instead of malice. However, it’s a phrase that makes social media managers foam at the mouth.

Making something “go viral” isn’t a case of pushing a button; the majority of viral posts simply happen without a huge amount of foresight, and they’re typically on topics a wide range of people can enjoy.

The majority of us won’t ever create a post that’ll go truly viral, but we’ll promote your product or service in the best way we know how.

>

“Put it on all social media channels”

Let’s start by discussing the issue with putting something on every social media channel. If you received a 7-minute landscape video and you were told to “put it on all social media channels”, how would you do it?

Twitter and TikTok would clip your video to a shorter length, your engagement on TikTok wouldn’t be as high due to the aspect ratio, and while Facebook may serve it to more people, the chances of people watching until the end are low (unless it’s a really interesting video).
This idea isn’t limited to just videos; graphics may perform differently depending on the social media channel, and the quality of a photo/image may mean it’s better suited to Stories than the main feed.

Even the message itself may only be suited to certain channels due to its intended audience.

Sometimes you can tweak the content or message, but this only adds to your workload and may not be worth the return.

>The people telling you to “put it on all social media channels” likely don’t know how social media works, and don’t understand that not everyone will be interested in their message.

We hate to hear it, but usually explaining this to them helps colleagues understand.

If they ask again, scream and/or pound your head against the keyboard.

“The event’s tomorrow”

“So let me get this straight. This event is vital for the continued success of your team?”

“That’s right”

“How long have you been planning it for?”

“Around eight months”

“How many people are involved?”

“Around 100”

“So why did you only ask me to promote it the day before the event?”

People have a strange misconception about social media. They believe that because messages can be shared instantly (far quicker than other avenues such as print or TV), results will also be immediate. That’s simply not true. Nobody is looking at social media 24/7, and therefore your message will be lost if it’s not regularly communicated with plenty of notice.

If someone have an urgent message, for example a sudden closure, social media is a great way to share that.

If that message involves something that’s been in the works for months, there are very few excuses for not planning promotion earlier.

The more time someone gives their social media manager, the more time we have to develop cool ideas to advertise it and the more time we have to raise public interest.

“We want a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account”

Some people mistakenly believe that good advertising means being physically everywhere. In fact, good advertising is knowing where and how to communicate.

Imagine someone is hosting an event for staff members at your business. They want to target staff who hope to become managers at their specific company.

To do this, they create accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram purely to advertise this event. They also email staff internally, place posters around the building and tell people about it at other events.

When the event arrives, it gets a decent turnout. However, there’s two problems.

First, their social media posts only reached around 10 people, and they have more than that at the event.

Second, because the event has finished, the social media accounts are now pointless.

The event was likely successful because of the internal advertising. They used channels which all potential guests could access, placed visuals in areas staff would most likely see and encouraged others to tell their colleagues.

The social media accounts may have provided a minor impact, but was it as useful as targeted advertising?

Here’s the point I’m trying to make: specialised accounts aren’t always the best way to put your message across.

A lot of the time, it’s better to use the channels you already have.

“Can you put this flyer on Instagram?”

No.

“Can we get [CELEBRITY] to tweet about it?”

This is always a strange request to get because a) it makes the assumption that social media managers have a rolodex of celebrity contact details and b) it also assumes that audiences will only listen to messages if a celebrity speaks about it.

Influencer culture plays a big part in getting people invested in a product or service, but that depends entirely on who’s advertising and what’s being advertised.

Believe it or not, social media managers can’t get Beyoncé to advertise your bin collection service or get Taylor Swift to make an appearance at your networking event. If we could manage that, we’d be partying with celebrities and making guest appearances in DJ Khaled music videos instead of working in social media. That doesn’t mean getting a celebrity involved is a terrible idea; it works particularly well for strong causes such as charitable events.

Sometimes, a message is just a message. It doesn’t need bells and whistles to be communicated.

Sometimes, it just needs a straightforward social media post.

Which takes us to our next point…

“We need a video”

Video is the “big thing” on social media. It’s what platforms such as Facebook and Instagram want you to invest in, and what the likes of TikTok has seen massive success with.

A good video is an “event”, something which keeps your audience engaged and has a significant impact on them.

Does everything need a video though? Does the announcement of a new departmental strategy need a 3-minute video including interviews and cutaway shots? Do photos from a team away day need to be converted into a slideshow?

Long-form video content can be fantastic, but it’s also time-consuming, requires loads of planning and needs technical skill to be done well.

Ask yourself if a video would add anything to your message, or if it could still be easily (and more quickly) communicated through other methods.

Video isn’t bad, but it’s not always a necessity.

“We should be on TikTok”

Let’s get this out of the way first: TikTok is SO enjoyable.

It’s so easy to just sit there for ages scrolling through funny or relatable videos.

Gen Z are doing amazing and creative things with it, and they’re using their voice to support movements such as Black Lives Matter.

However, that doesn’t mean every company needs to be on it. Not all audiences use it enough to justify a presence, not all businesses have the right brand style to succeed on the platform, and not all social media teams have the time to add another channel to their arsenal.

Many of us have that colleague who thinks they’re the messiah when it comes to social media.

They can’t tell Twitter and Facebook apart, yet they’ll tell you on multiple occasions about this “exciting new social media platform” and ask why we’re not on it.

They most likely mean well, but they don’t quite get it. Just because a social media platform exists doesn’t mean we should be on it.

Also, TikTok is more than just “funny dances and filters”, believe it or not!

“We’re not dumbing it down”

If you work in a business which uses a lot of technical language or focuses on knowledge or education, you may relate to this one. Imagine you’ve received a news article written by a member of staff, who wants you to tweet about it.

The article is filled with technical jargon and complicated language, and you want to make it more accessible. You get in touch with the member of staff and ask for more information so you can write your social media posts. They respond with “Why are you dumbing it down? We’re not doing that”

In a way, they’re right; we’re not dumbing it down. What we’re doing is making the post more understandable for a wider audience. As social media managers, our job isn’t to simply copy and paste information.

We need to adapt content so that it suits our target audience. If our followers are primarily caregivers, we would use straightforward and empathetic language. If we’re sent content that’s technical and impersonal, we should adapt that for our audience.

Content with complicated language often only benefits those who wrote it and those in similar careers or circles. When you make your content easier to digest, you invite a new audience to consume it. Information like this should be spread freely, not created solely for the benefit of those who developed it.

“Anyone could do your job”

If none of these phrases have sent your blood boiling, this one might just do it.

In the grand scheme of things, social media is still a relatively new job. It doesn’t have the longevity of print or radio, and for many businesses it’s still an unknown concept.

It’s also seen as “something young people are obsessed with” instead of a legitimate communications function. Social media management is a job that’s simultaneously “something silly that doesn’t mean much” and a platform where, if you don’t post about this single thing, you’re ruining the company.

Social media managers do a lot of work. They create content (often including photos and videos), develop content calendars that could change in a moment, respond to angry people online, deal with crisis comms, support or train other staff members, working at events and more.

They’re often tasked with doing things not within their job description, usually with very little notice. They deal with abuse from people online and a lack of support within their organisation.

It’s a great job, but one which comes with wellbeing risks.

Please don’t say things like “anyone could do your job” and “your job isn’t important”. It’s a vital part of any organisation and needs to be respected.

Thanks so much to Alex for writing this. Funny AND cathartic! Don’t forget to take a look at Alex’s website and hunt him down on social media.

If you liked this post about phrases social media managers hate, you might also like Comms Facepalm Bingo.

👉Join the Social Media Managers Academy👈

Comms strategy: when dreams don’t match reality

I hope you know that you’re not alone if you find your comms strategy dream does not always match the reality.

I drew a doodle to illustrate this.

The comms dream vs the comms reality describes on one side how the you want it to go strategically, and on the other side it's chaos, with lots of coffee and compromises

 

If you’re a comms pro, social media manager, or marketing person, you might think, ‘How do other people do amazing work so effortlessly?’.

The thing is, you actually know how to be strategic, but you often seem to be in circumstances that don’t allow a strategic approach to happen.

And sometimes your comms strategy is a document that gets written, signed-off  – and never looked at again.

Don’t feel like a failure.

It’s easy to imagine that the successful comms and marketing pros are strategic all the time: they put their creative ideas into practice, they say no to anything that’s not in their plan, they get recognition from their bosses, and they get awards because they’re the most talented and worthy.

You wonder, ‘how can I be more like them’?

Here’s a secret: most of those successful people ARE like that – but only for a few days per month, or year.

All you know about is what they got right.

Your hero didn’t win awards by telling people all the times they were late to a meeting, with dry shampoo in the hair and cat hair all over their jacket.

The high achievers don’t do presentations about when they took on too much work and let someone down with a half-finished job.

They are human too, but they tell you what they did that was good, and sounded like it was part of the plan.

The truth is, most people at some point are swimming in chaos, flapping about, and hosing down fires. Because life, and work, isn’t straight-forward.

A comms strategy made for perfect world (that doesn’t exist!)

Many strategies are made with a stable environment in mind, and a rose-tinted view of how complex organisations behave.

However, even in the healthiest working cultures, you’re in an uncontrollable situation. Your colleagues and clients each have different personal and professionals ideas, goals, and ambitions. They have good days and bad days, which will affect how they work with you.

There are things they don’t know about our profession, that they don’t know they don’t know.

Leaders tell you they want one thing, but actually want something else.

Your market research may tell you that your audience likes something, but actually they don’t want it.

External factors – pandemics, news agendas, the economy, even the flipping weather – can throw us a curveball. No wonder our jobs are difficult!

Then there is us.

We can fix some things, but not everything

We see lots of ways we could improve our working practices, and we want to get rid of this blasted fire-fighting, reactive way of working.

But when someone you like asks you to do something last minute, and a chief exec is shouting at you about media coverage, your garage is on their phone saying your car is knackered, and YOU’RE knackered – you just go, “Ok, I’ll see what I can do”.

Then later, when you’re on your fifteenth coffee of the day it occurs to you “WHY didn’t I say NO?!!”

Here’s why.

There are times when life is going ok, and you’re in a good place, so you can be on a mission.

You take on those little battles and improve things. Say no. Speak truth to power. Mastermind the most genius strategic campaign of the century.

And then there are times when it’s not worth the hassle.

Sometimes we hold on to our energy to just get into work and do an ok job, so we have something left to give attention to what’s going on right now – our grief, kids, illness, heartbreak, or a new love affair. The life stuff that matters more than work.

You can’t give 100% of your effort to work 100% of the time (no matter what we say in interviews).

That’s just how it works.

You CAN improve things – but there will still always be dream days and reality days.

You’re not alone.

You’re doing great work – just not all the time, because that would be impossible.

I think the way to have more dream days, and better comms strategy, is to make time to learn cool techniques and get support from other talented people.

That’s why our Comms Creatives online courses all come with video lessons, live coaching, and lovely networking groups to discuss the realities and share the dreams of being in comms.

Yes we build your skills, but we also grow your confidence and unleash your creativity so you can do a fabulous job in an imperfect world.

If you work with social media, you’ll love our Social Media Comms Academy.

We’d love to have you in our gang.

Creative social media during the coronavirus crisis – 5 tips

This is a practical guide to maintaining creative social media during the coronavirus crisis. 

Actually, all of the advice here is relevant at any time, but it’s pretty vital now.

There’s loads more I want to tell you, but I’ve brutally edited it down to 5 areas that I think will be most useful for comms, PR and marketing pros right now.

  1. Focus on what’s important to your audience.

There are things you will want to tell people about your organisation, services, products.

But, especially in the early weeks of the crisis, it’s so important to put your own concerns second.  Think hard about what your audiences cares about right now.

Empathy is a superpower.

In their own way, your audience is likely to feel stressed, disorientated, worried, and frustrated. Acknowledge that.  Even if it’s just to say “It’s has been a very tough few weeks,” like Jet Blue’s CEO did.

I’m due to get married in November 2020 (fingers crossed), and I especially LOVE how wedding dress makers, Pronivias are handling things. 

Rather than saying some version of  ‘we’re still selling dresses’, they choose a measured, positive but sensitive way to handle it.

They focus on the audience, giving disappointed brides-to-be with the message ‘Don’t give up on your dream”.

 

coronavirus: Don't give up on your dream

Pronovias are also giving NHS workers free wedding dresses.  When I saw this, I was so touched, I had to suppress a big soppy tear.  This is how they talk about it.

“Donating our wedding dresses to wonderful women is the least we can do to bring happiness and joy to their wedding day, making them look and feel their best.” 

That is a creative and sophisticated way to communicate.  Lush.

This good feeling allows me to feel good about their brand, and shows that they are not just squeezing the situation for money.

Last week, when Lesley and I decided to give NHS communicators over £19,000 worth of free places on our online Social Media Expert Course, we did it to make ourselves feel good, so we didn’t feel quite as powerless to help.

Little gestures like that show our support and spread a little cheer, but we obviously continue to run our business in tough circumstances. We try to help, and also carry on as best we can.

On the other hand, a few days ago my bikini wax salon told me about their business concern and why they want to stay open. It felt like my safety – and public health – was the last thing they cared about.

I won’t be letting them remove hair from my nether regions once this is all done.

2. Bring good news stories where you can.

We all need these rays of hope.

If you can find a way to be uplifting, you’ll reach your audience in a meaningful way that builds love for your brand.

Plus you’ll get the benefit of the warm and fuzzy feeling of shining a little light into the darkness – which is good for your stress levels.

 

3. Be clear.

Here is a great list of terms you can use to be sure you’re free of jargon and can be understood by as many people as possible. Nice work from Lizzie Bruce.

And here’s a quick message about your messaging.

 

4. Be chatty.

You may be sick of me saying this, but tough:

It’s SOCIAL media, not corporate media.

People want to chat. Reply to people who talk to you like a you would to a neighbour.

You wouldn’t talk over the garden fence with a pre-approved statement, in formal language.

Not only will this make you seem like an approachable, human brand – it will educate you.

You can learn a lot from real conversations with people, about what they are worried about, amused by, hungry for more information about.

Knowing what people really feel, will help you to create better content that will help your wider audience.

Social media is not just a place for information sharing, it’s a place for conversation.

You can bring the ‘social’ to your social media during the coronavirus crisis. Just be understanding and kind, and your tone of voice will be perfect.

If you or a team member feel unsure about talking to people directly, refer back to our guide to responding to people on social media.

5. Respond to rumour. 

After people raised concerns online that Monzo might go bust, the bank responded by going back to number one on this list – focusing on what’s important to your audience.

Monzo know people are seriously worried about how the crisis will affect their money.

Rather than dwelling on if they will or won’t go bust, they showed they are in control, by offering their customers reassurance about their money, and positioned themselves as the people who can help (as opposed to being a company in need of help).

So, that’s some general advice on communicating on social media during the coronavirus crisis – I hope it helps.

If you’d like a little more personalised help or advice for your organisation – give me a shout.

For a few months, I’m offering private video advice calls, where you can get advice, reassurance or ideas for your communications and marketing.

I can help you with managing your brand’s social media during the coronavirus crisis, tricky messaging, social media strategy, and taking a creative approach to your communications.

And if you want to bust some stress and keep your creativity flowing, have a go  – for free – at our #31DaysOfCreativity challenge.

The future of PR & communications: 2020 & beyond

As a creative PR and comms trainer, I’m often asked, ‘What is the future of PR and communications?’

It’s a fun and daunting topic to explore.

  • Will tech advances change the industry completely?
  • Will robots steal our jobs?
  • How can we change to future-proof our careers and our companies?

The truth is: I haven’t got the foggiest.

Because I, and most probably you too, have the predictive skills of a clairvoyant who cancels a show due to unforseen circumstances.

Let’s not dwell on what will change. To prepare for the next era of comms and PR, we need to think about what will stay the same.

What won’t change

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and gazlillionaire, shared an incredibly important principle of innovation:

I almost never get the question, ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’

…You can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.

…When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.

So like Amazon, let’s focus on the parts of PR and comms that don’t change.

I believe there are three areas of practice PR professionals can develop into their strategy where the robots will never compete: caring, creativity and courage.

1. Caring: the need for human interaction 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. PR professionals will make the most of this with chatbots, and to make sense of data and to learn more about audience behaviour.  

But talking to a machine will NEVER satisfy our audiences in the way that talking to a human being will.

People have feelings and want to know that someone is genuinely listening and reacting emotionally to what we say.

It’s the reason sex dolls have always been a rather niche area of interest, and why people often swear at their telephone when asked by a recorded voice to ‘press 5 to listen to the options again’.

We need to feel like someone cares. The best brands will always have humans talking, responding and emoting.

2. Creativity: taking an unusual approach

There will be apps and technology that can autogenerate good video, copy and imagery.

Handy time-saving stuff, and that’s the beauty of technology – it create things quickly using pre-programmed commands.

But strategic thinking and creativity can’t be done by a robot.

Creativity is not about efficiency, it’s about the creation of amazing, memorable, clever concepts.

It’s solving a problem, thinking about something a little differently, or surpising your audience.

Some of the best ideas don’t make sense on paper, and could not have been the result of a formula.

When I teach people on my online creative courses, I watch people unleash some of their most unique, original and downright weird ideas.

They use experience, behavioural insights and creative techniques to create content and campaigns that are compelling, unexpected and genius.

All because they have the skills to approach problem-solving like a human, not an algorithm. That’s the future of PR and communications.

3. Courage: the bravest ones rise to the top

I’m always saying this: great comms, takes great courage. Those who make a real mark won’t be the ones who stick the safe methods, or take the easy options.

The best comms and PR is produced by people who put their neck on the line to push a concepts they believe in, who fight for the more unusual projects to be given a try, and work hard get leaders and decision makers to respect their judgement.

These people are celebrated and remembered for the bold moves that succeeded, and their failures get lost in history.

Courage won’t go out of fashion in a hurry.

So to conclude: the future of PR and communications looks pretty good for those of us who can do what technology can’t!

If you want to develop your creative skills, sign up to the Comms Creatives newsletter for inspiration and challenges, and have a look at our courses designed to make you more creative, fearless and proud of your work.

How to give your brand an engaging social media tone of voice

Screenshot 2020-03-11 at 20.28.14Developing an interesting and engaging social media tone of voice is a hot topic for lots of us who look after social media for brands.

It’s all very well saying we should be less corporate and more human – but what kind of human do we want to be?

Because some humans are awful!

Here’s a short video with some ideas to consider for your brand’s social media tone of voice.

And if you want to know how to create compelling social media content that gets lots of likes, shares and comments, have a look at the Social Media Content Programme.

 

The comms Christmas gift list

If you’re anything like me, you do your shopping at the very last minute.  And maybe you save time by wrapping your gifts in scrunched tinfoil… just me?!

Anyway, if you want to get a little something for your comms colleagues, here are are a few ideas.

Make creative comms person in your life smile!

Bought all your Christmas presents already? Just treat yourself. You deserve it.

I got many of the suggestions here from gorgeous people on Twitter, so thanks to them.

My top 10 comms Christmas presents


1. A lovely notebook, obviously

No comms person can have too many notebooks.

I’ve got more than I can ever possibly write in and I’m not even embarrassed.

There are very cool limited edition jotters from Moleskine (at time of writing there are some good David Bowie and Harry Potter ones).

I’m LUSTING after the leopardprint notebook from Papier, and all of their notebooks actually.

And I can very much relate to the ‘My brain has too many tabs open’ notebook from Paperchase.

Thanks @WillStone_UK, @SimonMonger and @LinzeeN for the suggestions.

2. Help a child learn and play

Without education and the chance to play, we wouldn’t be the creative communicators we are today.  It will make a very special gift to give a child in need a backpack, 10 exercise books, 10 pencils, a football, a skipping rope and a story book. Available from the Unicef website.

3. A nice mug

 

My Comms approval process mug is available to buy. They can sometimes take a few weeks to ship so make sure you order well in advance, so you have time to hand over the goodies.

Also, some of the Grammar Grumbles mugs from the Literary Gift Company will be a guaranteed winner.

These mugs are more desirable than a Huw Edwards and Idris Elba sandwich. I’m figuratively dying to own them!

An excellent suggestion from @mr_protozoa and @Word_Service.

4. Multi connect cables

No comms pro can be without charge, and this is the ultimate multi-purpose solution for all the devices.

Thanks to @stevierentplus1 @BethComms and @rhncafc for this suggestion.

@Mandypearse made the brilliant point that you should have an extra long charging cable so you can reach a socket in meeting rooms and cafés.

Buy one of those too, and you have the ultimate practical gift.

5. An amazing Comms Creatives online course 

If your boss wants to get you something that makes you feel confident, fearless and proud of your work, there is no better way.

Who wouldn’t want to become a member of the Social Media Managers Academy, for year-round training, inspiration and creative support? 

Join a masterclass perhaps.

Or there are practical online courses on social media content, strategy, internal comms, or any social media topic you want – an investment that will change your career.

6. A Rocketbook 

This is, as far as I can tell, an endlessly re-usable digital notebook, that I have heard nothing but good things about.

I want one and if Rocketbook are reading: yes please! Our address in on the website.

Cheers @CMCourard for this idea.

7. All Things IC Workbook journal

Tailored for internal communicators, this fantastic workbook encourages you to be a strategic and thoughtful communicator.

It’s an A5 decision making tool that is an essential bit of kit for the discerning IC pro.

8. ‘Didn’t lose my shit’ bravery sticker.

This one is will make a nice cheap gift for a colleague who needs some kind of recognition for keeping their head in chaotic, weird or bananas situations.

It was the fab @sophiebowyer5 who suggested the Emily McDowell collection, which has lots of fun stuff in it.

9. Janet Murray’s social media diary and planner

Map out your content for the year with this social media diary from business supremo Janet.

It comes with all sorts of advice and support that is aimed at small businesses and entrepreneurs but is also very handy for the corporate communicator or marketer too. 

10. Nice booze, coffee and chocolate

Needs no explanation, this is our staple diet.

Take the 31 Days of Creativity Challenge 

Take The 31 Days Of Creativity Challenge

Unleash your creative side in under 15 minutes a day

Our gift to you: an easy programme with 31 quick tasks that will boost your creativity.

Creativity comms

A lot of people think creativity is just for people like artists, graphic designers and authors.

But creativity is not just for ‘arty’ types.

It’s for engineers, PR pros, accountants, salespeople, CEOs – and everyone.

And this is your chance to get yourself feeling super creative.

Let’s create, draw, write, tinker & play our way to being an extraordinary creative thinker

Each day, you’ll complete a simple creative task, that will take you between 1 and 15 minutes.

You’ll do things like: taking a creative photo, writing a short poem on a particular topic, trying out a new app, taking a quiz about your own creativity, or scribbling a little diagram on paper.

What's the point of this then?

Your work will be better

Giving yourself a chance to unleash your creative side, and that will help you have better ideas at the office.

You’ll have fun

You can get lots of good ideas, and you may even find cool new people to chat to on social media.

And it makes you feel good

Getting in touch with your creative side can send all sorts of nice chemicals to your brain, apparently.

Start now!

Pledge to join this movement movement today, and we’ll remind you when it’s time to get that creative motor running.

It’s 100% free to join.

Each task is simple and easy, and will help you tap into your creative side.

You don’t need to be an artist or creative genius to take part.

Let’s go!

Who is it for?

This creative challenge was designed for people who work in communications, PR, marketing and social media.

However, it has a beneficial effect on everyone who takes it, so no matter what you do, you’re welcome to join us!

Do I have to do a challenge every single day?

Well, that would be good – you’ll get most benefit from it if you try to do everything.

But you do you. If you don’t have time to take part in all of the challenges, just do what you can.

Is there a hashtag?

Of course there is! Use the #31DaysOfCreativity hashtag on your social media posts.

We’d love it if you tag @CommsCreatives too.

Do I HAVE to post my work up for all to see on social media?

No.  But people are very supportive and it’s a lot of fun when you do.

Are you inbox zero or creative hero? My email rebellion

Lately I’m lucky enough to have got some help with responding to email enquiries and such like. What a luxury.

envelope card

When I was an in-house communications professional, I was awful, rubbish, utterly useless at:

  • Getting back to everyone who emailed me
  • Keeping my inbox tidy and filing things away
  • Doing everything that was asked of me

But I was bloody good at my job. Our social media audiences were loving our work, we were winning awards, and I was using my creative skills every single day.

This is BECAUSE I was rubbish at email, NOT despite it.

I addressed work that I felt was priority, and didn’t beat myself up at the few people who were properly cheesed off at my unresponsiveness. Even when these people were my bosses.

I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice the creative ideas I wanted to apply to my work, just to be banging out emails to needy colleagues every two minutes.

I have always believed that being perfect, and doing it all, isn’t an option.

I felt: “it’s emails, or me”.

And I chose me.

‘Inbox zero’ is not a priority.

Remember, you are in control of your inbox, it is not in control of you.

 

Do you get the comms butterflies of dread?

Being a creative comms person is not the easy option.

You create something a little different that you think is pretty good – but you don’t know how it will be received by your audiences, & colleagues

It’s emotional. Nerve-wracking.

Ever since I started out as a press officer (ages ago, ‘coz I’m old) & I sent that first press release, no matter how many times I put what I’ve made into the world, my body always tells me I’ve probably got it wrong and everyone will soon realise I’m an idiot.

A little lurch in the stomach goes ‘danger!’.

“What if I accidentally sent an embarrassing typo? What if this video gets misinterpreted? What if… argh!”

When we stick to the ways we always do things, or go with the most inoffensive option, it reduces our worries that our comms will be badly received.

But the outcome of being safe, predictable & boring?

Being ignored by our audiences. Because they get used to seeing the same old same old.

And people just scroll past.

We have to create thumb-stopping content that is unusual & makes people react emotionally.

Creativity is VITAL to our work if we want to capture people’s attention, & make a difference with our comms.

Creativity is brave.

But it’s also exciting!

But you know that, that’s why you you do what you do. Nice one.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

Kurt Vonnegut

Support and skills to get you making the best social media content of your career

If you want a hand feeling more creative and fearless, I’ve got just the course for you!

Each week you take about two hours to learn the skills it takes to make creative, engaging content.

But you also get the support of a lovely, helpful and talented community of communicators.


Discover more about this Social Media Content Course for comms and marketing pros

A PR and comms stress epidemic: survey results 2019

Screenshot 2020-03-11 at 20.33.10I am seriously concerned about the stress faced by the hundreds of comms and PR professionals took part in a survey, and the hundreds of people I train every year.

Results of a survey of 442 people working in the industry have revealed this:

We are suffering a PR and comms stress epidemic.

This Stress Awareness Day, I want us to talk about the problem, and how we’re not tackling it effectively.

I believe many of us don’t recognise that our working practices, habits and behaviour are NOT OK.

And how the organisations we work for won’t look after us.

Something has to be done about this, and I hope the first step in finding a solution is recognising that it is happening.

Let’s get down to the research.

Results of the survey

I decided to do this piece of research because I encounter so many PR and comms professionals who face stress that is constant and overwhelming.

I’ve long suspected that huge workloads and a desire do lots of meaningful work, combine to make a stressful situation.

My experience, training comms and PR teams across the UK, means people confide in me, but the results of the survey were worse than even I expected.

I summed up the full results of the survey in this PDF document, but let’s pull out some ‘highlights’ (or to be more accurate: some utterly awful experiences that too many of us are facing):

  • 61% often or always take on more work than they can handle
  • 63% are often or always given work last-minute, and with unrealistic deadlines
  • 52% often or always have insufficient time to complete their work
  • 50% often or always find they can’t ‘switch-off’ when they get home from work
  • 50% often or always find themselves ranting to loved ones about work

Just three of the hundreds of comments that describe anxiety, tiredness and overwhelm :

“The biggest stress for me is too much work, and it’s made worse by the fact that I myself accepted it. I want to do it, because I can do it and do it well. But then I get overwhelmed by how much I have to do.”

“I’m given no time to plan, and never feel like I can work strategically. I used to love working in PR and comms but I’m ready to give up on my comms career.”

“Perfectionism drives my work-related stress – and lack of confidence. I never feel that I am doing enough … and that others are better, and getting better results.”

Aren’t the companies we work for addressing this comms stress with mental health awareness schemes and policies?

Nope. Not effectively, or we wouldn’t see these shocking results.

My view is that organisations we work for are the cause, not the answer to this crisis.

Our employers have created a toxic culture where it’s normal to take on too much work: we’re expected to get on with the job with little time for training, and a big dose of imposter syndrome. 

That is what people said in the survey, that’s what I see every week.

And we actually can’t rely on our employers to fix this, because they only see stress in relation to the average of 29 working days lost in each work-related stress.

We’re told £37billion is lost to stress-related sick days every year in the UK.

Because that’s how businesses describe this problem: in economic terms. 

However, I suspect companies gain far more from overworked PR pros than they lose from stress-related time off.

By using similar calculations, if an employee works 30 minutes extra each working day than their standard hours, the financial gain for the employer is far higher than the cost of days lost to stress.

Our employers benefit from a culture of stress.

This is a human, not financial, problem.

Schemes to give us mindfulness classes, workplace massages, and stress-management toolkits: they don’t address the root causes of the problem.

If I am a boss who punches you in the face and then offers you an icepack for the bruise, does that make me a responsible employer?

The root of the problem is an always-on culture, and we need to address a lack of professional development, and an endlessly increasing workload with unrealistic deadlines.

How do we fix this?

I’m not sure.  

I fully escaped it by escaping corporate life and starting my own business. 

I freely and loudly share advice that helped me manage when I suffered from this problem.

And I aim to show some tiny form of leadership, by bragging about how un-busy I am. 

I tell people to how successful I feel measured by happiness, freedom and creativity I get from work, not about how much I am needed, paid, how many people I work for, or how hard I work.

I’m not sure how to help change something so widespread.

But if you’ve read this far, you may well have strong opinions about it.  

What do you think we should do?

Because I don’t think the levels of stress faced by respondents is sustainable. 

We deserve better than this.

We are more important than our jobs in comms and PR.

Comms and PR stress, and the workload dilemma

Stress is often seen as part of the job of being a communications, PR and marketing professional.

But I don’t think the pressure we face is healthy, or even necessary.

Sometimes, the people who love their jobs most, are the most stressed out.

My focus is on training people to be more creative, fearless and proud of our work – but how can we do that when under so much pressure?

In the lead-up to Stress Awareness Day in a few weeks, I wanted to share this drawing of a workload dilemma I keep coming across.

I will soon share the results of a survey of 443 PR and comms professionals on the topic of stress, so come back to this blog to discover more about that on Stress Awareness Day on November 6th. [Edit: you can read about this now.]

There I’m going to discuss the common problems we face, what causes it, and who’s to blame.

But for now, here are a few ideas on how we can tackle ‘the workload dilemma’ day-to-day. 

A reality check for PR and comms professionals 

If you love your work, and you want to make a real difference, there are so many opportunities to find, and be given, interesting and rewarding projects to work on.

But what about when this is combined with people giving you more and more tasks and activities, and when you don’t have any clear priorities  – it’s an impossible nightmare.

  • I have amazing new ideas!
  • They want it done today!
  • We could get people interested in this!

Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to take everything on.

If you make yourself ill, you won’t be able to do anything

  • Stress is bad for your body
  • Tiredness means you make more mistakes
  • Workload overload saps your enthusiasm for a job you love

Do overtime if you want, but if you do that too much, you’ll make those hours the new normal.

We all have busy spells, but if it lasts for more than a few weeks, it’s going to impact negatively on your health.

Like parents on a crashing plane, we have to put the oxygen mask on first before we help others.

You are good enough.  The work you do, in the time you’re paid to do it, is great. You CAN prove yourself in a way that doesn’t make you ill.

And you are more important than any job.

Try saying no more often

I hate saying no. If you do too, you can try what I say: ‘I can’t, unfortunately’. It is true, as mostly, we would love to help but don’t have capacity.

Make your own priorities

Even if you don’t say yes to everything, it can still feel overwhelming.

If you put equal energy into everything, you can end up ‘juggling’ – going into autopilot, and doing lots of OK work, but none of it makes you proud. And it makes you feel like you’re never performing at your best.

Brace yourself perfectionists, you’re going to hate this next bit.

To use our talents effectively, we can’t do it ALL to our best ability.

So decide to do just a few things brilliantly. Prioritise. Be known for something you did that was truly excellent.

Then put minimum effort in all of your work that is not high priority: 20% of your work you can put in high effort, and the remaining 80%, you do bare minimum.

Half-ass it.

Better that some of what you do is your absolute best, than all of your work is average, and you’re stressed out.

Try it for a month, see how it boosts your effectiveness, motivation and health.

Punctuation: five fun facts

Untitled design (3)It’s National Punctuation Day! So I thought I’d share five more-interesting-than-it-sounds trivia about punctuation.

Because I KNOW you comms creatives have a sneaky obsession with punctuation.

1. Do you correctly use hyphens and dashes?

I have discovered the difference between the three dashes: – – —

Did you know this?

  • Hyphens join words: eg. they’re word-joiners.
  • En dashes are a bit longer than hyphens. They’re the width of the letter ‘N’, and they show range: eg. 14–16 cm.
  • The em dash is the width of the letter M & used when emphasis is required — like when you’re trying to make a point.

2. May I have your @tention?

The @ symbol, which you may know as the ‘at’, has a different name in many countries:

‪🇳🇱 A monkey’s tail in the Netherlands🐒‬ ‪

🇮🇱 A strudel in Israel🥣‬ ‪

🇷🇺 A little dog in Russia🐕 ‬ ‪

🇮🇹 A small snail in Italy🐌 ‬ ‪

🇧🇦 A crazy A in Bosnia🤪‬

🇬🇷 A little duck in Greece🦆

🇩🇰 Elephant trunk in Denmark🐘

3. The hash is a re-hash

The # we know as ‘a hashtag’, was originally called an octothorpe.

The symbol was added to a button on telephone keypads to make them a neat square, and named by Bell Labs employees.

4. Got an exciting or amusing question?! You need an interrobang!

I want us to all admire and use the interrobang.

The interrobang, also known as the interabang, is a punctuation mark that combines the functions of the question mark and the exclamation mark.

Here it is: ‽‽‽‽‽

My boyfriend and I listened to this great podcast episode about the interrobang while we were on holiday. We know how to live, right‽

5. The comma could cost your brand millions of quid.

In 1999, a misplaced comma in a contract cost aerospace company Lockheed Martin $70 million. Oops.

Read more about this comms horror story.

Comms training with me.

If you need a masterclass in creative communications, I am your woman.

You can join one of my awesome interactive online courses, or book me to come to your offices to deliver training where you work.

You get top techniques, workbooks and most importantly, you’ll be bursting with skills, confidence and creativity.

Replace your inner critic with an inner fan club

Inner critic is leaving the room, the fan club is saying things like 'You belong here', 'People ae interested in what you say' and "how you behave inspires others'

How much do you let your inner critic hold you back?

Maybe it’s a comms and marketing thing, but we seem to be quite hard on ourselves.

  • We view our own work and ideas as harshly as would a sworn enemy.
  • We let the occasional mistake or sloppy piece of work linger in our memory, and forget the huge volume of excellent work we’ve done, often under huge pressure and meeting short deadlines.
  • We are experts, but assume that the leaders we work for won’t take us seriously if we talk to them.
  • We worry that because there are a few people at work who don’t seem to like us, that everybody hates us.
  • We think everyone else has got things sorted, and allow our imposter syndrome to whisper in our ears ‘It’s only you who’s winging it’

But we’re all winging it.

Give yourself a break!

Your inner critic is a moron, and gets things wrong most of the time.

Confidence is not the same as cockiness.

Saying nice things to yourself is good for you – and nobody will even know you’re doing it!

One thing I’ve noticed about the students I work with, is as their confidence grows, their work gets more creative and effective.

Great comms takes courage, and we need to build our strength.

So bring in your inner fan club and let them rave about you on a regular basis.

You’ll be a better professional for it.

Talking of confidence-building…

If you need a hand in building your confidence and skills, have a look at our courses – I’d love to help you unleash that side of you that is fearless, creative and proud.

Here’s a little sample of what people have said abut the online Social Media Expert programme:

I feel A LOT more confident to come up with my own ideas and also to share my knowledge with my team and to use this to encourage other members of staff to see the importance of social media.

I feel much more confident in creating different content for our social media and trying out new tactics that I wouldn’t have used before.

It helped me come up with creative posts to boost engagement on our page. We get lots of people complaining, so it’s is good to now put more creative posts on to get positive engagement

Could you work with your brother or sister? Introducing my new business manager, Lel

Hey!  I have taken on my first permanent member of staff, and guess what? 

She’s my big sister!

Introducing Lel Reynolds: bringing order, ideas and loveliness to The Comms Creative College!

I couldn’t think of anyone better to help me grow my business than Lesley (or Lel, as I’ve called her since I could speak).

Hel and Lel

She’s my Business Manager, and will be the organised yin to my slightly more chaotic yang!

We’re both creative and we get on like a house on fire, so you should find us fun to work with.

Lel has a background in education, so will help me lots with making the Comms Creative College learning experience effective and enjoyable.

I always enjoyed working independently, but the time has come where I need the help and ambition to grow my business so I can train more talented marketing and comms pros in creative social media.

The new role

Lel will:

  • Look after students on my online courses, making sure they get the best experience and all their questions answered throughout
  • Do all the organisation stuff like invoices, admin stuff and basically everything that I am rubbish at
  • Help me during training workshops and give me inspiration and ideas so we can grow the business together!
  • Help me design training and courses
  • And, of course social media, too

I’m lucky enough to have an adorable family (my brother and mum also couldn’t be more supportive), and so it feels like a pretty exciting and natural step to take.

Could you work with your brother or sister?

Great comms takes courage

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that great comms takes courage – but this is a really quick post to say well done to creative comms professionals out there.

Because, our job isn’t as easy as it looks to others.

No matter what we say in interviews, doing your best work is not actually easy, or even possible in challenging environments.

Reality check: crap content is the norm.

Sometimes, we kind of know that what we’re putting out is boring.

I mean, if it’s not something that we ourselves would share if we were the target audience – is it really that good?

But with a workload that’s permanently bananas, we have to just get stuff out sometimes

It can be just quicker and easier to wang out a story or tweet your service out with little thought.

So what about that stuff that we really want to do well? That stuff takes guts to do well.

Brilliant work and bravery go hand-in-hand.
Our lives aren’t in danger, but it can be a bit scary to do something new, creative, or because these thoughts sometimes go through our minds:

  • Being creative means putting your unique ideas out for the world to see and what if people think it’s crap?
  • If you get loads of feedback to a social media post, it’s going to take ages to respond to all the comments, and you just don’t have time.
  • Doing something that gets attention may well be seen by someone who hates your organisation and they might say something negative which will damage your brand’s reputation.
  • Colleagues don’t always ‘get’ comms. They may understand ‘the business as usual’ stuff you do, but when you do things differently, they might get on your case, or worse, slag you off behind your back. 

So creative, engaging social media doesn’t just take skills and creativity – it takes guts.

And I want to say: ‘NICELY DONE, BRAVE COMMS WARRIOR’!

Because you know that the benefits of creating well-designed and engaging content far outweigh the risks.

And if you want to learn more techniques for creating more engaging social media content, and ALSO have a coach and a group of other comms professionals holding your hand and helping you find the courage to do work you feel totally proud of …

Become a member of our pioneering social media training academy

We’ve created the Social Media Managers Academy to give y