Commscamp 2015 round-up

A plate of cupcakes decorated with piped icing and fruit

Commscamp – the annual unconference for communications-types in and around the public sector. I went, I found it hard to choose between the sessions on offer, I listened to interesting people talk about a host of communications topics, I ate cake.

What did I learn?

  • the organising team make running an unconference look easy, which takes huge skill considering the amount of time and effort they must have put in to pull everything together – huge round of applause to them all, especially for the work that means tickets are free
  • the more you pitch sessions, the less nerve-wracking it gets – feel the fear and do it anyway
  • it is impossible to get to all of the sessions you’d like to at an unconference
  • I love that nobody is ‘just’ anything, you are you and know your stuff whatever your job title may be
  • there are plenty of people out there giving things a try and they’re happy to share their learning
  • you will never have time to speak to all of the people that you’d like to, and it’s hard to use real names if you know someone by their twitter handle
  • that I can’t condense what I heard in the sessions I attended into one post, so have captured bulletpoints from:
  • the unconference format is one I enjoy, and I’m going to find it increasingly difficult to go to traditional conferences and just sit and listen
  • I wish there was something similar in East Anglia, and I’m working up the courage to sound people out about viability – starting small 
  • Pimms cupcakes are pretty easy to make and very tasty indeed

Photo: Commscamp15-033 by W N Bishop via Flickr


CommsCamp15 – video beyond YouTube

Class of 2012

This session was led by Albert Freeman who you can find on Twitter @AlbFreeman

  • Albert has made slides available covering some of the following points
  • over past six months, Bradford Council have had good reach posting video directly on to Facebook
  • Facebook’s algorithm has opened wide to favour direct video posts, reach is reduced if you post a link to a video hosted on YouTube though
  • a video of Victorian tunnels underneath Bradford which was posted direct to Facebook garnered 1,000 likes, reached 53,000 people and had 20,000 views – helped by Facebook’s autoplay function
  • the same video posted to YouTube reached 9,000 Twitter accounts and had 1,500 views
  • captions on Facebook videos will display on the mobile app and help when people have the sound turned off when they are at work or in public
  • rough and ready good content will always work better than carefully crafted dullsville – there isn’t always a need to storyboard and spend hours sweating over the perfect edit. Public sector videos that are too glossy may attract negative feeling too, even if you’ve made it on a shoestring
  • don’t have great skills or video gear? You don’t need more than a smartphone these days, just make sure what you’re shooting is in focus and get recording – story is key, not Spielbergesque skills
  • short footage of an event in progress can be much more compelling than something staged – a Christmas market video for one council was hugely successful simply because it was timed well
  • how long should your videos be? The feeling in the room was that one minute or less was good, with three minutes the upper limit the average audience would watch for. Mixing up shots to include cutaways or stills with soundtrack overlaid for example helps to liven things up a bit and keep people’s attention – talking heads straight to camera could be offputting if they go on for too long
  • don’t just make and distribute a video for the sake of it, what are you trying to achieve – what do you want people to know, do, change? What’s your call to action? Have you made it clear or just got caught up in the video excitement, and anyway, is video really the best way to reach your target audience?
  • if you’re getting video from people on the ground WeTransfer, Dropbox and Google Drive were all mentioned as ways to transfer files, although all are only as quick as your internet connection will allow
  • Vine which produces six second looping videos was mentioned as a good way to get short messages across, trail longer videos, take a snapshot of an event or even take timelapse videos over time, there are some examples in Albert’s slides
  • if you’re taking photos of people in a public place they have no image rights, but ask for permission if you’re going to focus in specifically on them. If asking permission, a release form can be useful, and care must be taken for under 18s with parental/guardian permission secured. Makes sure your permission covers different uses such as print and social media
  • beware copyright infringement – photos, logos and music must not simply be lifted from the internet or ripped from your own collection. Creative commons open licensed photos and media are your friend as Andy Mabbet tweeted during CommsCamp
  • as well as being able to search for creative commons on Flickr other sites mentioned included FreeStockMusic and Pond5 plus YouTube has creative commons footage and music available when you create videos on the channel
  • need help with skills you don’t have like animation, graphics or voiceovers? Websites like Fiverr and People Per Hour can help you find experienced freelancers, the whiteboard animation app Videoscribe was mentioned and there are many others available for techniques like stop motion
  • consider making your video/s and image/s open licence, so that other people can use or adapt them too
  • remember that video can be a two-way communication tool – don’t just broadcast. Ask questions of your audience, what other videos they might like you to make and reply to comments. Making videos that no-one wants to see is a waste of time, energy and resources
  • don’t forget to evaluate whether your video has met its objectives
  • Steph Gray tweeted a link to a handy Department for International Development video guide
  • having problems with the first you hear of a video being made is when a 15 minute cut of talking heads emerges?
    • sell yourself and your knowledge, showing colleagues and decision-makers how you can make things better, working with people to do something great
    • create a best practice guide for use across your organisation, crowdsourcing good techniques and giving easy to follow dos and don’ts – this will also help with keeping tone and key branding similar
    • is there a place for digital ambassadors? Who in your organisation has skills and interests in this area – none of us is as smart as all of us
    • be helpful, not a blocker.

Cake, Glorious Cake


CommsCamp14 had the most fabulously-groaning cake-table I’ve seen outside of my local WI Christmas fete.

As a way to break the ice, bring people together to chat and to generally go “ooohhh” over baking brilliance, it was a triumph.

There are thought-provoking and useful blogs appearing from CommsCamp, but I reckon there’s also space to appreciate the cake again, so I’ve pulled Tweets and pics together in a new Storify timeline. All hail the cake table.

Photo: by Ann Kempster from her CommsCamp14 Flickr album

Learning by doing – Parklife 2014

Last weekend I helped out at my council’s biggest event of the year, a sports-based family fun day at our local country park. It was great, even though we had to close early due to a torrential thunderstorm. Lightning plus watersports and climbing walls aren’t a great mix.

Here’s a Storify of tweets and other links from the day. It was the perfect event to use social media to encourage people to attend, talk to people and organisations who were there on the day and showcase highlights. It was also a learning curve:

  • Vine is a brilliant app and dead easy to use – I made a few videos of set-up and activities during the day, Owned by Twitter, Vine takes six-second looped videos you can easily share. You can shoot continuously or film shorter chunks in a stop-motion fashion that run as one video. I was shown how to use Vine in less than ten minutes at LocalGovCamp by Albert Freeman (thank you again!). If I can use it, anyone can. Honest.

  • Hashtags help – our event hashtag of #Parklife was a great way to find other tweeters at the event, making it easier to chat with them and retweet their information and photos. So much more fun to have conversations than seemingly talking to yourself. Easy to speak in ‘human’ at this kind of event too.
  • Hashtags can be problematic – a drawback to our use of #Parklife was that a music festival was also using it – and it’s in general use as a pop culture reference – so the timeline needed a bit of sifting. A learning point for future events.
  • Photos, photos, photos – pictures and video really are worth a thousand words, especially when you’re limited to 140 characters. We tried to tweet photos where we could, and it was fantastic to see and share photos from other council staff, volunteers and activity organisers. Here are a few of my favourites.

  • Video and photos use up battery life super-fast – fantastic as video, photos and social media are, boy do they gobble up your battery. I got to the event at 9.30am with 84% battery life and my phone ran out of juice by 1.30pm. There was nowhere to easily recharge. This was an issue, especially when the decisions to postpone activities, and later call it a day, were taken. Luckily, a colleague generously handed over their smartphone and I was able to log on to Twitter and Facebook. I’ll be investing in a portable recharger for the future.
  • Storify is an easy way to collate and share content – as a way to capture online content from different sources,  I’m enjoying using Storify. It’s not flashy but is fairly straightforward to use and you can quickly create, share and update a timeline of an event. Handy as reference guide for repeat events too.

All in all it was a great event, which even the rain couldn’t take the edge off. I’m looking forward to next year when I think we’ll improve again on the social media side. After all, there’s always room for improvement.