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


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

CommsCamp14 – views on video

Class of 2012

Yesterday’s CommsCamp14 was all about things beginning with C: communications, cake, channels, collaboration, content, communities and chests (getting stuff off them). The C this post is about is (video) cameras.

When people were asked ahead of time to bat some session ideas around, I suggested a video topic as a way to share and learn from others. Thankfully, digital storyteller John Popham was on hand to guide it – he also filmed this session and others. This was particularly handy as I missed the start, so have been able to catch up on what I missed. Here are the  key points I took away:

  • content is more important than quality
  • don’t forget that not everyone can, or wants to, access video. You need to consider if you want/need to reach these people in another way through another channel/s
  • hearing people’s stories in their own words is powerful
  • be brave and cover the ‘we could do better’ as well as ‘we’re great at this’. Ask stakeholders for their honest opinions to share with colleagues at all levels
  • colleagues outside of comms teams have video skills, use them to tell their customers’ and services’ stories
  • if you have a smartphone you can shoot video. iPhones and iMovie are easy to use and you can cut out background noise to a certain extent, try to shoot in as quiet a place as possible if you can in the first place though
  • John cited a BBC person saying that they can’t tell the difference between footage taken on a high-end smartphone and that from a BBC camera. You don’t need expensive or separate equipment. Adding a microphone can make a difference though, and a tripod can be handy too
  • video and streaming Council meetings – fewer members of the public attending. First attempt by one council had 450 viewers. Pop a microphone by one of the speakers for the audio system and stream live if possible. Ask the Chairman to announce that filming will be taking place to remind people. Worried about bad behaviour? Anecdotally, video has improved it at some meetings
  • consider making videos available on a creative commons open licence so they can be used by other people, bloggers, groups and websites like Wikipedia. If your footage is used out of context, you still have the full version that can be used to give the correct position
  • local bloggers are already videoing and tweeting live from some Council meetings. If they can do it, why can’t you?
  • try not to just have talking heads, get a bit more creative and think about what you want to show
  • enthusiasm for video shouldn’t mean it becomes a default medium, challenge why people want to use it, be clear about what it’s for and if it fits the needs of the target audience and objectives. Ask what you want people watching to think, feel and do
  • how will it be promoted and shown? If you directing people to further information like a webpage or form, is it fit for purpose or does it need any work done on it? A rousing call to action that leads people to awful information is an own goal
  • using video for internal comms? Check that people will be able to watch or hear it on their desk PCs, and put something in place for colleagues who don’t have one – shared tablets for bin crews were mentioned
  • Videoscribe from Sparkol was mentioned as a good tool to create animated videos and bring information presentation to life
  • if you shoot a video and it doesn’t look great, or people don’t want to appear on camera, try putting the audiotrack to pictures, sketches or animation that illustrates what’s being spoken about
  • consider using screen shots of online content/forms to walk people through where to find or fill in information
  • subtitles for videos can be useful if people are deaf or can’t watch with sound. If you can’t subtitle or caption, consider adding a trackable link alongside the video that provides the same information in written format
  • link to what other people have done, it may even be possible that you could use the bulk of another organisation’s video for council services like elections, food safety or similar. Why reinvent the wheel when you could top and tail content that is already available? Residents tend to only look for/see information from their own council anyway
  • tailor the length of your video to the channel you’re posting on – shorter often better on social media as people more likely to be watching on mobile device in shorter chunks. Thirty seconds to a minute was suggested as a good length. Vine videos are only six seconds long, so ideal for bite-sized info. Here’s one I shot on my iPhone and uploaded via 3G at a recent event:

and another from the CommsCamp14 lunch session:

  • how are you going to measure and evaluate the impact of your video? Are you looking for people to sign-up to a service, click through to information or come to an event for example? Trackable links are useful as are follow-up surveys or building in ‘how did you hear about this’ into sign-up information
  • short and sharp often feels more authentic than scripted, glossily produced video. Asking people quickfire questions for short replies in their own words can be much more engaging than a scripted, pre-approved line. Authenticity rules
  • C is for content. It’s more important than quality.

Photo used under creative commons licence: Class of 2012 by Dave Lawler on Flickr

Got, got need in a 2.0 world

2014 Panini World Cup sticker book showing the cover and a  half-filled page

Sticker albums, the currency of the playground and the reason why I know the Sheffield Wednesday Football Club badge has an owl in it.

With the World Cup looming, stickers are once again in circulation. My preschool daughter has her first album (which she’s being helped with so that the stickers are put in nice and straight!) We’ve been building up doubles, and I was thinking that a swap session at LocalGovCamp or CommsCamp could be fun. But swapsies have, of course, gone digital.

In the 2.0 world stickers have their own hashtag, the classic #gotgotneed, as well as virtual swaps sites – the online equivalent of the playground swapsies market. Has the digital revolution taken away some of the magic though?

Sticker swapping has always been a financially-savvy as well as social pastime. At my school shiny stickers were worth at least two normal ones, with entrepreneurial bidding wars erupting for the elusive sticker that everyone needed. Si Whitehouse wrote a great 2010 post about the cost of World Cup stickers which calculated that if you didn’t swap, you’d need to buy 4120 stickers, at a total cost of £412, to fill your sticker album. 

I only ever completed one album – a Care Bear one with soft-touch, rather than shiny, special stickers. The feeling of achievement on finishing the album was huge and I still have it tucked away in the attic – alongside a second album which held spare stickers I couldn’t swap. But would this happen now?

Nowadays, you don’t need to take your pile of doubles into school or an unconference, you can swap online. Sites like Last Sticker allow you to make a personal profile that details all of the stickers or trading cards you have got, got or need. It matches you up with people who have what you need, and need what you’ve got. and you then negotiate your swapsies. My husband registered on the site last night and was negotiating swaps left, right and centre-back within the hour.

Picture of Panini World Cup sticker album app in the iPhone app storeThe tech has even moved to apps, including an official Panini World Cup sticker book app where you can set up collecting leagues with friends as well as set up swaps.

Online swap sites are the logical development of the playground swap. While as a parent I appreciate this limit on monetary outlay, it feels like it’s taken some of the romance out of sticker collecting. You’re pretty much guaranteed to be able to finish your album now, and you won’t need that half-full second album.

However, where web 2.0 takes away it also gives. To really complete your album, you can now have your own sticker printed and that’s one you really #need.