17 things I picked up at #commscamp16 – oh and one biggish thing

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Emma Rodgers and Dan from comms2point – with a huge amount of help from others   – always turn on a fab day for commscamp each year. Thank you.

I was there yesterday and here are somethings I picked up:

  1. Not everyone has been to an unconference!  Comms camp is an unconference for comms people.  A lot like govcamp and localgovcamp and bluelightcamp, hyperlocalgovcamp (I kid you not ) and..  well you get the gist. For about half the people there  it was their first unconference . And on the whole the newcomers loved it.
  2. There’s a VW campervan ice cream van called Polly that is fab – their newest competitor painted their van in the same colour and calls themselves dolly. (I’m not going to link to the competitor because I’ve already decided that polly is better than dolly )
  3. Twitter is commonly used as a way to create the appearance of doing something by comms teams.  “I’ll just bash out a few tweets” rather than winning the argument to say “we shouldn’t be communicating that in this way”.  So it can become a broadcast channel polluted with the passive aggressive product of internal disputes.
  4. Some people in public services have serious disdain for middle managers.      
  5. Us as citizens can get talked about as commodities.  In one session which covered laws around e-mail lists  the language was very much about e-mail addresses as a commodity.   Language like harvest gets used.  It made me think that someone’s email address is their attention – their personal world. Perhaps we should talk about a  “group of people”,  if we send this e-mail  we’re interfering in someone’s world.
  6. I can get a bit snarky about public sector comms (well I didn’t strictly pick that up yesterday).
  7. Trust is a thing
  8. 3 years is ok – ten years is excessive for keeping data.
  9. Don’t just have an unsubscribe link when you send bulk e-mails – add some information on where you got their e-mail address from to improve confidence in you.  
  10. Brexit will mean we lose a critical directive that protects you from all sorts of legals problems on comments sections of your Facebook page or blog.  At the moment the EU provides for protection is your comments are not pre-moderating, include a flag this button and your respond to someone’s objection in good time.  Without the EU lawyer David Banks thinks that protection will go. 
  11. David has also given some thought to why social media and politics is so toxic. He says there appears to be tacit permission that when it comes to political discourse people can be “absolutely vile to each other”. For him it’s a psychological phenomena – previously you’d say something a bit strong in the pub, and people would go quiet – showing they disapprove.  Social media exposes people to the likeminded – so reinforces  the excessive views. This normalises what could be called creeping malevolence – people start with something mildly abusive but because nothing happens to them, it creeps.
  12. All threats of physical violence on social media should always be sent to the police. Any message intended to cause “harassment alarm or distress” is a criminal offence.    Signing social media messages with a name (which we always suggest) stops this being a faceless organisation – reduces the amount of abuse.
  13. Language is a powerful thing  and discourse analysis is a way to recognise how that power is being used.
  14. It takes tenacity to change how people talk about places.  One person explained that their hospital was always referred to as a “basket case”.  Patience and persistence means the media now describe it as a “teaching hospital”. Small victories hard won
  15. The word remain was a problem in the referendum campaign because it is not not part of normal vocabulary for a lot of people.  (Update: thanks to Erica Dariks of Aston University for pointing to her source for this) That reminded me how sometimes appearing clever (there was a poor visual pun here – because the word IN appears in remain)  gets in the way of doing the best you can – like use the word stay.  
  16. The samaritans have some very good media reporting guidelines on suicide.
  17. Cake – I picked up several pieces of cake.

Oh and one biggish thing

If algorithms are encouraging the creation of bubbles then we should stop doing traditional comms.  This was a conversation I had just after the session on a fractured nation and post factual politics with a comms person who may not want to be named. We chewed around the problem that algorithms in both search and social media can tend to exacerbate self regarding bubbles.  They need to do that to create concise clear groups of people that advertisers can target.  If that’s what’s going on using them for more comms risk feeding this tendency to organise people in self serving bubbles. To break out of that we need to stop inflating the bubbles, get of our backsides and go and talk to people instead.  

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Francis Clarke.

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