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.

Getting ready for 7 May

 Infographic showing candidate  and constituency information for South Cambridgeshire , including the 2010 results Just one week to go until the General and Local elections, which in the district I work in means one Parliamentary*, 19 district and four parish polls.

Working with elections, graphics, web and mapping colleagues, we wanted to pull together some useful tools to help local voters. Looking at what other councils have done previously, we plumped for an online polling station finder and infographics showing Parliamentary and District Council candidates and previous results.

Find my polling station

As a rural district, my area is entirely made up of villages. We have 120 polling stations, but only one location per village as we tend to run double stations. Most stations are in the same place each year, so why the need for a map, especially when we send out polling cards which give all of the relevant information?

  • polling cards are often mislaid so it helps voters to easily find out where their polling station is
  • we want to help dispell the assumption that you need your polling card to be able to vote
  • there are always new people moving into villages who may not know where the station usually is
  • polling stations do sometimes move – three are in diferent locations this year
  • there are up to three polls to vote in depending on which village you live in – the map tells you which polls are being held in each village, which is especially useful as residents vote in two different parliamentary constituencies

    You can find the map here – covering the whole district. We’re looking forward to seeing how many people use it in the run up to, and on, polling day.


    Infographic showing candidates for the South Cambridgeshire Balsham ward on 7 ay 2015, plus previous 2011 election resultInformation about candidates for all polls is available on the council and other websites, as are details about previous poll results. It’s not all in one place though, so taking a leaf from the fantastic election work from Birmingham City Council’s newsroom over the last few years, we’ve designed infographics for the Parliamentary and District elections. 

    Each infographic is available on the Council website as PDFs, and via Flickr as image files with a creative commons licence. We’ve also provided them to election count and local media via Dropbox, and sent links to local political bloggers who have kindly shared them with their followers.

    Why no infographics for Parish Councils? Logistically, creating them for the four Parish Councils going to poll, and the 28 which have seen candidates elected unopposed, is more difficult:

    • candiates tend to stand in just their name without political affiliation
    • there are many candidates for many seats – often more than ten at a time
    • many are elected unopposed, so there is not always comparative voting data to display. 

    We have still made candidate information available, but via the standard electoral Statement of Persons Nominated and Declaration of Results. It may be that we’ll come up with a more user-friendly way to do this in the future.

    Images: infographics from South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Flickr stream

    *When I say one Parliamentary poll, constituency boundaries mean that we deal with one constituency, but only some of our residents vote in it – some vote in the neighbouring constituency which is dealt with by a neighbouring council. And we also take on a ward of yet another council into our constituency. 

    Keeping up with our customers

    Two telephone operators wearing headsets

    Changing to meet customer needs?

    Thanks to a great lunchtime seminar programme at my Council, I get the chance to listen to some fascinating speakers. This week may have been the most interesting yet.

    Dr Nicola Millard, Customer Experience Futurologist from BT isn’t someone you want to listen to you if you’re complacent about how you deal with your customers. These are my notes from her presentation “Clouds, Crowds and Autonomous Communities”:

    Changing customers

    – organisations are built to last rather than change – but our customers and employees are changing faster than those organisations.

    – what’s holding us back is culture rather than technology – we need to embrace new technology because an increasing number of our customers have and will.

    – customers are now using multiple channels to contact us – often at the same time. They are also talking to each other, not us. They don’t necessarily trust us

    Your website

    – we’ve reached a critical mass of internet users – they have access to more information than ever before but they have no more time or energy to process it

    – people don’t go direct to council websites to look for information, they go to search engines which can pull up a lot of content, much of which is useless to them

    – don’t direct customers to your website if the information they want isn’t on it – is your site truly built around your customers?

    – customers want organisations – private and public sector – to make it easier for them to do business with us

    – Councils are being compared with commercial businesses – not other councils. Our customers expect the same levels of service from us as they get from Amazon and John Lewis

    – webchat can be much cheaper, instant and better tailored than email

    phone shop advertising smartphonesThe impact of smartphones

    – according to OFCOM, 52% of UK have smartphone access

    – smartphones are turning the internet local – 52% of Google searches are now hyperlocal

    – customers with the internet in the palm of their hand will self-serve to a certain extent, but are actually more likely to call a contact centre, and will have more complex queries

    Looking wider than office-hours

    – employ flexible and home-working practices. Office-hours-only isn’t what customers expect or want anymore

    – workers in the cloud can help to address call spikes, cover antisocial hours and still get to work even when snow is drifting over their front door

    Multichannel contact

    – contact centre teams – and all council officers – have an increasingly complex job to do, with more channels to monitor and use than ever before. Customers have changed and the traditional contact model is no longer applicable

    – staff need to embrace the need for different ‘voices’ across  channels and should identify which staff are better deployed on which channels

    – need to have a networked team of experts across the organisation who can respond to queries – the ‘one council’ approach

    YouTube Logo on a computer screenSocial media

    – the majority of customers still use traditional methods to contact us, but social media is now a permanent part of the mix

    – young people don’t use email to communicate – they use email accounts to sign up for FaceBook and other social media, that’s where you’ll find them

    – you need to monitor online forums to hear what people are saying about you

    – you cannot control the SM dancefloor, but you can go and dance

    – who are your customers, where are they dancing and when is it appropriate to dance with them, rather than sway to the music on the sidelines?

    – Youtube – what are your most frequent requests for information? Make it into a movie and it will come up in search listings, also reaches younger customers

    – social media is very much a conversation, not a broadcast – forget this at your peril

    – people are entitled to an opinion, but if they have a problem that you can help with, make that offer

    – never forget that social media is totally transparent – never say anything that you wouldn’t be happy to see reproduced elsewhere

    – social media channels need to be part of Business As Usual – no need to panic!

    Dr Nicola J Millard blogs at and is on Twitter as @DocNicola

     Creative commons: Telephone exchange by Elgin County Archives; Android Smartphone Sale by ianfogg42 and YouTube logo by codenamecueball all on Flickr

    Learning as I go

    A teacher standing in front of a blackboard and students with their hands raisedThe last six weeks have been a steep social media learning curve for me.

    I’ve probably learnt more than I ever knew before, and much of it is due to the thriving and generous online local government community. I’ve been inspired to:

    – start blogging using WordPress. It’s surprisingly easy. If you’ve been thinking about doing it, dive in

    – help crowdsource a Twitter for local government guide via the Local Government Chronicle. You can help too (until 2 August). Take a look here

    – learn how to use Flickr to source pictures under creative commons licensing. Amazing images and photos that you can use for non-commercial purposes as long as you give acknowledgement – and why wouldn’t you. WARNING: Flickr has time-bending properties, minutes swiftly turn into hours

    – start tweeting regularly. I’ve been involved in conversations with people I would never otherwise have linked to. Sharing and learning opportunities abound on Twitter. Grab them

    – sign up to Google+. I need to set aside some time to have a proper look at this, good noises coming from some of the people I follow on Twitter though

    – reappraise how I use LinkedIn. I’ve been a bit half-hearted about it previously, but more people are using it now. Was definitely worth a second look

    – use Google Docs for the first time. It’s brilliant that you can have numerous and unconnected people collaborating on a document online, all at the same time

    – take part in a live web chat. A great way to chew the fat over a specific issue, learn and hear other people’s points of view

    – learn more about QR codes and their potential use in local government – great piece and comments on @DaveBriggs blog here. Who’d have thought those funny little boxes could have so many applications.

    To be honest, it’s made my head spin a bit, but I’m also really excited. Yes, it takes time and some effort to learn about social media, but that’s all it takes, your training budget need not be touched. And it’s so worth it.

    The phrase ‘tipping point’ is being bandied about with increasing regularity, could we really be there?

    Social media is about to expand in a big way within Local Government, through obvious applications plus ways that we probably can’t even foresee. There are exciting times ahead. Great.

    Creative commons: Learning Time by Temari 09 on Flickr

    Say cheese, Councillor

    Black and white portrait of Wilhelm SiemensIf a picture’s worth a thousand words, what does the average councillor photo gallery tell us? Mainly that many Councils haven’t put enough thought into them.

    Search some local council websites for councillor information and you come across a right rogues’ gallery. In the worst cases, photos show a range of different backgrounds, are taken from unflattering angles or haven’t been updated in years.

    If this is ringing a bell, you’re missing a trick. Yes, it’s a big job, but it’s all about presenting your Council and its Members in a professional and consistent way.

    How to go from ghastly to great:

    – use a professional photographer? Ask them to cut you a deal – you may need to hold a number of photo sessions. You won’t get all Councillors together at the same time

    – go in-house? Our excellent graphics team also acts as council photographers, using a digital SLR camera. They also take great photos for our website, residents’ magazine and other publications. If your council doesn’t do this, could it?

    – ditch the school photo background – use depth of field to keep your subject in focus but blur the background. Makes for a more interesting picture

    – choose one spot for photos to be taken – it needs to be uncluttered, clean, always available and preferably flooded with natural light. We take photos of our councillors in a common area of our offices. Once chosen, stick to it – consistency is key

    – work with democratic services to choose suitable dates for photo shoots – I’ve often held them before and after Council and other major committee meetings. Ask the Chair to give a reminder announcement at the meeting

    – make sure Councillors have fair warning when photos will be taken so that they can dress up, shave, have their hair cut etc. Don’t hold surprise shoots. They won’t thank you for it

    – include a photocall as part of new councillor inductions – again, making sure they know it’s going to happen

    – avoid up-against-the-wall syndrome by sitting subjects down. We sit our councillors side on to the photographer, turning their head to look into the camera. Once again, consistency is key

    – always be at each shoot to tweak things if necessary – my bugbear is taking off security passes

    – take some smiling and some serious shots. If you’re releasing shots to the press, and a serious story breaks, only having photos of your leader or portfolio holder beaming away is less than ideal

    – upload new photos to your website asap and make the whole gallery available to all services on your shared drive – saves you constantly emailing and means everyone has access to the most up to date shots

    – update regularly – councillors change over time and new councillors are elected. We update annually or as necessary if a by-election is held. This also means that councillors are used to photo shoots being part of Council routine

    – give local media access to the photos. In the past I’ve burned discs and sent them to news teams, but social media has opened up new opportunities. Many councils now have Flickr Pro accounts and The City of York has uploaded their Councillor photos as part of their photostream.

    If your Councillor gallery says a thousand words, make sure they’re saying what you want people to hear.

    Creative Commons: Portrait of Wilhelm Siemens by Smithsonian Institute on Flickr