How can charities use social media: an introduction – presentation to Community Action Southwark

Presentation on social media for academics from Paul Baker

Decent presentation from Paul Baker, University of Wisconsin-Madison, at the AERA 2012 communication workshop. Especially good to see the focus on the why rather than the method for setting up different social media feeds.
Also love the ‘weed out jargon’ example…
View more PowerPoint from paul baker

The future of Public Relations in Higher Education – chat on HigherEd Live

Andrew Careaga, from Missouri University of Science and Technology, is doing a live chat with Seth Odell later on today on Higher Ed Live about the future of PR in Higher Education and has asked for any thoughts, so thought I’d give my two cents and pose some questions.

Andrew asks what sort of direction we see it heading in.

  • In the UK, in the short-term we’ve seen much more scrutiny of the university sector following the rise in tuition fees up to £9k. I think increasingly you’ll see PR teams responding to stories about contact hours, student rights, degree quality – even if they’d prefer the focus was on research
  • A greater focus on promoting the digital presence of individual academics, i.e. their blogs, videos, tweets. Especially in large institutions, PR teams will become a focal point for distributing this content out to other audiences (not necessarily the MSM), rather than creating content via their own press releases
  • Specialist ‘press office/comms social media feeds (such as Imperial Spark) rather than the PR team having direct control of social media, due to student enquiries
  • Don’t think there will be a move away from press releases (or media relations) in the near future. For better or worse, they still appear to work for achieving local and national coverage in some cases.


At a time when more (especially younger) academics are blogging, tweeting and establishing a digital presence themselves, should PR departments be concerned about this, or simply accept that this is a trend they can’t stop?

How do you achieve buy-in from senior management for resources in PR departments (ideally not as the result of a massive crisis)?

When does PR teams engaging with audiences (via digital media) etc, especially when those audiences are prospective students, become marketing? Should we begin to abandon the distinctions between PR/marketing and alumni relations/internal comms?

Are there any particular lessons the UK could learn from the US in this area (or vice versa)?

Join in – it’s at (if I’ve got my time zones right), 9pm UK time.

A matter of time and resources: how can charities use social media?

There is increasingly a push for every organisations, including those in the voluntary sector, to ‘be on’ social media. But how charities update and engage on a Twitter feed or shoot and distribute a video with only limited resources: be that a lack of funds or staff time?

Knowing how to use social media properly is difficult enough for large organisations who can afford to hire specialist staff or bring in external agencies. I’ve jotted down some thoughts on what charities should bear in mind when they consider using these platform:

1. Don’t rush in – you might not need it

Despite the feeling that the world is running in one direction towards social media, that doesn’t mean you should just sign up to Twitter and Facebook. It might not be right for your organisation. Rather than sitting down and asking ‘how can we use social media’ – first ask why. Audiences for charities come in all shapes and sizes and social media – indeed, even a website – might not be the best way of reaching them. Maybe it’s printed newsletters or public meetings.

So see social media in the context of a whole communications strategy: they are essentially just extra tools for engaging a membership or target audiences.

2. Don’t pay for it

One of the most appealing elements of social media is the lack of costs. Of all the social networks I use, only one – Flickr – costs me anything and that’s a minimal annual subscription. Subsequently, charities should avoid paying for expensive consultancy services or social media monitoring services (unless they can actually afford it – I’m not dismissing these organisations by any means but they are a luxury rather than a necessity).  With a bit of knowledge it’s easy to do this in-house, with the added bonus of your staff knowing more about your stakeholders and culture.

3. Video and podcasts can be simple

When producing a podcast or a video, fancy equipment isn’t needed. A smartphone - admittedly, one probably owned by a staff member – is enough, alongside software download online for free, such as Audacity. Alternatively, just keep using the free trails of different, paid-for, software.

Podcasts and videos distributed online don’t need to look like a BBC broadcast or a Kony 2012 film. In fact a rough and ready, shaky film can work well with audiences. The right content is just, if not more, important than the quality of the digital media.

4. Use your members

Even if a charity has only a few members of staff it has another massive resource at it’s disposal: it’s members. It obviously depends on the precise area you are working in, but members could be blogging, taking photos, even making videos about your work or a relevant topic. Rather than being the author of content, charities can establish a system where they become the aggregator, editor and promoter of the work of others.

5. Use who you already have

I think one of the reasons behind successful social media feeds (I’ll explore this on a future post referring to HE) are down to a dedicated individual who runs Twitter, Facebook or a blog for their organisation. It might not even have been their intention or in a job description. If you have someone like this, use their skills and enthusiasm but don’t leave it all to them. They can train other staff.

This isn’t a comprehensive list which answers all the questions. But the resources available from the Media Trust offer much more detailed and innovative ideas than a brief blog post can.

Why cyclists should always stop at red lights

The week before last I attended the Living Streets London mayoral hustings (though with only Jenny Jones of the candidates actually attending). The focus was on transport issues with the safety of cyclists discussed at a fair length.

There is a swell of a activism and passion surrounding cycling in London at the moment, with the ‘Go Dutch!‘ campaign and a mass ride planned for 28 April, which I’d urge you to attend. It’s heartening to such a high level of attention paid to such an important issue.

But most Londoners don’t cycle. They might not do so even if the HGVs were banned from Zones 1 and 2, the Boris/Ken (depending on your partisan bent) bike scheme was cheaper and more widespread) or there was more division between cars and bikes. But in order to achieve safer streets, cyclists need to take as many members of the non-riding public with them.

Every time I bring up the issue of cycling provision and the dangers of riding around the capital with (non-cycling) friends, the consistent and immediate response I get is not about the behaviour of motorists but of cyclists. The two issues they bring up are not stopping at red lights and cycling on the pavement.

Whether my (non-cycling) friends are right or wrong, their points are valid and that needs to be acknowledged.

I’m not a saint on two wheels and I have been known to do both. When faced with a crazy one way system or a four lane roundabout, I think cyclists can be forgiven for riding on the pavement, providing it is done so slowly and with consideration.

What I can’t understand is riding out past stationary cars and other cyclists straight through red lights, especially when they then weave through the path of pedestrians crossing the road at the correct time and place.

I get incredibly frustrated with car drivers who edge forward when they think the light might be about to turn green, as if doing so will somehow make an automated system act faster. But they won’t jump the lights (in most cases) in a car. So why do so many cyclists I ride alongside feel they can?

The danger of doing so should be enough for cyclists to wait for the damn things to turn green. Just like the elbow barging on the tube and trains or the rush to the front of the bus queue, it’s not a matter of life or death if you get home five minutes faster. But there is another reason not to. This isn’t a ‘war’ between cyclists and motorists but it is a battle for public opinion and public sympathy.

The more cyclists bend the rules, especially when doing so involves nearly hitting pedestrians, the less likely other Londoners are to respond positively to suggestions for better cycling provision. We need to be seen as a polite bunch, not a menace.

Comments made by Richard Tracey (stand in for Boris at the event and London Assembly member) about the dangers and nuisance of cycling on the pavement may not have gone down well with an event full of dedicated cyclists but they would resonate with many others across the capital. If we want cycling to really resonate with the public then we need to watch our own behaviour.

Phoenix Garden Photos

After a visit to the British Museum yesterday, I went along to the Phoenix Gardens. Hidden away off Charing Cross Road, it’s a small community run garden managed by volunteers.

A couple of photos I took – love the stick man mural.

It being the warmest day of the year so far, I took the opportunity to use some new macro lenses I bought on ebay for some insanely low price. Rest of the day’s photos, mostly from Battersea Park in the smog, on Flickr

H/T to the Secret London App.

Amnesty International Human Rights demonstration – Audio slideshow

My first attempt at an audio slideshow – thought without the narration. Taking photos in various places recently, I’ve been very aware of the atmosphere around me. It’s hard to convey that with images alone so I’ve begun recording short pieces of audio on my phone at the same time.

Having said that, the credit for the audio in this case has to go to Charlotte Rose, MA Broadcast Journalism student at City University.

The photos and audio are from the Amnesty International demonstration for Human Rights last month. More images from the demo on Flickr.

The Blog

I'll be blogging here about the things which interest me: communications, public relations, social and digital media, politics, Higher Education and how academics engage with the public.

Flickr Photos

Don't eat the Moon

Lots Factory

The View from Richmond Hill

Green Park

Green Park

More Photos


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.