12 inspiring links from 2013

2013 has been an amazing year there has been some amazing writing powering it. Here are 12 inspiring links from one communications person.

by Dan Slee

For a good long while now I've strongly felt that if you stop learning you stop growing and with the pace of change learning has never been more important.

The ideas that fire me are not from one organisation or institution. They come like refreshing drinks from the firehose of the internet that shares and spreads ideas. 

Every working day myself, my colleague Darren Caveney or from time-to-time a guest editor will trawl the social networks looking for content that will help make sense of this fascinating landscape we find ourselves in.

Now the year is coming to an end I racked my brains for some links that really stopped me in my tracks. There was plenty and this is just a snapshot. 

Good? Jim Garrow isn’t good he’s brilliant. He's a blogger who works in public health and emergency planning in Philadelphia in the US. Nobody has written more challenging stuff than him in 2013. From a fistful of possible posts The Rise of the New Media on how journalists have lost their pre-eminent position is excellent at describing the landscape we live in.

And that’s the secret. I am the new media. You are the new media. They are the new media. Anyone can be. While the media laments their diminished (but absolutely not disappeared) role as, “breakers of news,” there are still other roles in the news-making world that they can fill.

Monmouthshire County Council's digital manager Helen Reynold’s post Your Organisation Doesn’t Need a Social Media Expert It Needs Its Experts on Social Media articulates perfectly why social media shouldn’t be the preserve of PR people.

I work in PR though, there’s a great need for PR. But it can’t be about polishing turds, smartening up text to make press releases and pushing out stories on Facebook and Twitter. That’s old news. PR should be helping our experts to communicate well.

US blogger James Altucher in 10 Reasons Why You Have To Quit Your Job This Year takes the last 10 years of your career levels them, scoops them up again and repeats it. Ten times. You should read it.

You’ve been replaced. Technology, outsourcing, a growing temp staffing industry, productivity efficiencies, have all replaced the middle class. The working class. Most jobs that existed 20 years ago aren’t needed now. Maybe they never were needed. The entire first decade of this century was spent with CEOs in their Park Avenue clubs crying through their cigars, “how are we going to fire all this dead weight?”. 2008 finally gave them the chance.

German art students shot a short film about getting closer to nature. It was a surprising internet sensation.

We miss you.

In 2013 I was involved in Best by West Midlands a white paper that celebrated social media use in local government across the region. Why? Because we’re quite good at it. And because there are more than 30 case studies worth celebrating.

Contained in this document are some case studies from the towns, cities, villages and – quite literally – farms across the West Midlands.

Many councils across the UK have one bright person who is shaping their digital presence. Often, they don’t look at the clock and care passionately about what they do. One such is Claire Bustin at Sandwell Council who deserves to be revered as someone who shaping the best Facebook page in local government. Her 11 Things You Should Do With Your Facebook Page should be read and re-read.

There’s nothing that will turn people off your page quicker than warning people about “inclement weather” when what you really mean is snow. And say “I” or “we” rather than “the council”. It reminds people there's a human being updating your Facebook page. Use smiley faces where appropriate.

The best social accounts come from unexpected quarters. To prove this, here’s a sheep farmer from Cumbria. The @herdyshepherd1 account gives insights from a thousand feet up and it is breathtakingly good. This a piece in The Independent.

I'm feeding a flock of our sheep surrounded by the fells of the Lake District. So a mass of grey fleeces and bright white heads… I see it every day, but I never get bored of it.

Eddie Coates-Madden’s post for comms2point0 on the world where we are is compulsory reading. PR is Dead and Just For Good Measure Newspapers are Dead Too tells the tale of a talk he gave.

And I ended with my prediction of the future for journalism; that it will be fast, fast, fast; that stories are everywhere, not on a Press Release; that everyone can be a journalist (not necessarily a good one, but everyone can break stories and has the tools to publish); that journalists have become a brand in themselves; that  broadcast without response is dead; that there will be ever more accountable journalism, more easy disgust, more easy offence and that accountability is every organisation’s to handle, and that there are more easily targeted campaigns and more moral tensions. activism is clicktivism and that might mean more and more difficult challenges, to freedom of expression, politically unpopular views, financial security, even – when wrongly done - to personal safety.

There’s much to admire in Service Before Self an anonymous post on the We Love Local Government blog. But most to admire is the sense of heart-on-the-sleeve honesty. This is what it feels like to be a senior officer trying to make cuts.

“My lifeline has gone; I am alone. No-one has explained why the cafe has shut. Doubtless some suit I will never meet will write a strategy to tell me what I need. I know the cafe isn’t coming back.” 

I am the person that writes strategies like that. I am the person who will have to decide where to find the savings from. I am The Suit. I constantly try and apply the so-what test to everything I do. I am my own greatest critic. 

When diplomats leave they leave a valedictory. It’s a note where they can be brutally honest as a kind of payback for years of diplomatic silence. Emer Coleman left a valedictory when leaving the government digital service. We have a choice, she wrote:

You will remember the scene when Morpheus offers Neo the red pill or the blue pill. If he takes the blue pill everything stays the same – if he takes the red pill (like Alice in Wonderland) he falls through the rabbit hole and sees things like they really are. We are at a juncture in society and technology where the system (and government) keep taking the blue pill struggling to deal with a new generation who swallowed the red one years ago. It’s a bit like the arrival of email - I still remember colleagues who used their PC monitors as a place to stick post-it-notes (this computer-email-thingy-will-never-catch-on).

Intranet Directions dropped into my Twitter stream the other day with a series of downloadable cards based loosely on the Oblique Strategies cards that Brian Eno drew-up in the 1970s. They were there to help musicians make decisions but these tweaked can make anyone make decisions. They look brilliant.

Use them at your desk, in a team meeting, in a workshop or pop them straight into the recycling bin, it’s completely up to you. We’ve got four suits of themes.

Matt Bowsher is assistant director for social care for Dudley Council and on leadership that can work elsewhere too.

One of my favourite maxims is “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You can design the best strategy in the world, if people don’t shape it, buy in to it and then have a clear role in delivering it, expect it to be confined to the dustbin of history.

 

Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.

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