Nostalgia, neurosis, animals and other lessons

Albert-camus

The French philosopher Albert Camus talked often of the contraction of living life well in a universe that has no meaning, and that only by recognising the absurd could an individual truly experience freedom.

He would have rejoiced at the average 2019 social newsfeed where the absurd and meaningless seem to have reached their apex. Sadly existentialist philosophy only goes so far for the hard working public sector comms professional, where the more practical and prosaic is probably more useful.

I’ve been to lots of social media conferences, seminars and workshops over recent months and seen some truly excellent examples of public sector teams making a huge difference to their organisation by using the space to communicate brilliantly.

I’ve picked seven key points from hours of presentations and case studies which I hope you find useful:

#1 storytelling

Developing great content and using storytelling to help build brands and engage with audiences is as powerful as ever. In fact, one session I attended claimed that information delivered as a story is up to 20% more memorable according to psychologists. In the white noise of busy social media timelines this is really important.

Cutting through the noise of social and attracting attention is really hard and is becoming even tougher. The challenge for comms professionals is to balance lots of variables like tone, message and timing but at the same time still trying to tell interesting stories that will connect with the target audience.

#2 Trust

The spectre of fake news, a lack of trust and a general weary cynicism is leaching into everything.

Understanding how to become a trusted voice and learning when to speak out, when to challenge or when to leave well alone is becoming a vital skill that all public bodies need.

“Open and honest” is a trite old phrase that is really over used but is becoming ever more important.

#3 crisis

Social media comes to into its own during emergencies and one lesson seems to be that if something else can go wrong during a crisis it will. From IT failure to spilling coffee all over yourself, it’s worth considering the things that aren’t covered by your plan. Looking after the resilience of your own staff is another thing the Police were keen to emphasize in several talks I heard recently.

At times of crisis speed and accuracy are key, so there’s no longer the luxury or time to go through endless chains of command. Communications teams need to be trusted and empowered to act on behalf of the organisation.

#4 nostalgia, neurosis and animals

The best social case studies highlight teams that are nimble and make use of things happening around them. Unplanned, spontaneous content is often the best.

In a completely unscientific analysis of content that seems to work there are three things I’ve noticed that tend to be popular on social:  nostalgia, neurosis and animals.

#5 Get me a video….

Video is fast becoming the new “I want a press release”. The last couple of years have seen a boom in video content, but it still has to be good content to be consumed. The algorithm may be delivering it but I’m not convinced that people are always watching.

It’s no good just punching out videos by number – they need to be interesting, relevant, human, funny (or whatever it is that your audience wants) to best deliver the message. Brevity also seems really important.

#6 Build it and they will come (again and again)

With shrinking teams and falling resources facing ever increasing demand one of the biggest challenges is managing and prioritising workload. When you ignite peoples interest in comms and PR they want more and more and they want YOU to do it all for them. Capacity vs demand often requires a reality check for the sake of your own sanity.

#7 The best presenters

One final thought on the many speakers I’ve seen over the past few months. Putting yourself up there is really difficult but one thing I’ve noticed is that presentations by natural, authentic speakers who don’t rely on loads of slides or videos are by far the most engaging

I’ve seen so many speakers recently who have a clear, simple story and can tell it in their own voice without any props. If there is a secret to conference speaking success then that’s it.

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