The day I met George Martin

I had the honour of meeting the late George Martin about 20 years ago, and I’ll never forget it. He was the patron of the popular music degree that I studied at the University of Salford.

One day he came in to speak to us students in the lecture theatre. After talking for a while, he turned to the students, looked at me and asked what I wanted to do when I had graduated. Quickly catching breath after an initial feeling of “oh my God, George Martin just asked me a question!” I replied that I wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star.

I never fulfilled that ambition, but I’m content with life, and the fact that I made George Martin smile is good enough for me.

 

Future Leaders at Bradford Council – reflections on my first week

Throughout this year, myself and 39 other staff at Bradford Council are undertaking the council’s Future Leaders Programme. We are the chosen ones from a pool of over 100 applicants, and I’m delighted to have a place. A schedule of learning has been set out to help us become, as the title suggests, leaders of the future. We are now one week into the programme, and here are my reflections of these early days.

Things were kicked off a week ago with a morning of talks to set the context and give us an idea of what we will be doing and what will be expected of us. I was impressed with the way Kersten England (our chief executive) spoke, incorporating our New Deal objectives into all that she said without over-emphasising the four specific New Deal work streams. Those work streams underpin the fabric of all that we do, and that came across in the way Kersten spoke.

Two things in particular from Kersten’s talk really struck me:

  • A quote from an economist who believes we are closer to the next recession then we are to the last recession.
  • Due to the unprecedented nature of the shift in funding for local government, there is no guarantee that by 2020 the Council will still directly provide any services.

When taken together, those two things highlight how important strong leadership will be over the coming years. What form that leadership will take, and where it will come from – well, that is to be seen, and is partly why we’re on this programme.

Things I learnt during that opening event include:

  • I’m capable of succeeding
  • we have a large degree of autonomy about how we progress
  • there are big inequalities both in the Council and in the district
  • I need commercial and strategic awareness
  • we need to look to tomorrow. Today has already gone. (and I don’t mean we should procrastinate!)
  • the Future Leaders Programme is not simply a receipt of information
  • I need to pay more attention to what those around me think and feel
  • I’m going to be busy!

Continue reading Future Leaders at Bradford Council – reflections on my first week

Breaking down silos

A recent episode of the Natteron podcast included a discussion about how people who work in different services, or different departments, within large public sector organisations can communicate and collaborate better and more openly. Or in other words, how to break down silos.

Team-messaging app Slack was mentioned, and Ben Proctor made a bold assertion:

“By the end of this year you’ll be able to classify local authorities as good or bad according to whether they use Slack or not.”

I followed this up on Twitter, which led to further insights from both Ben and Esko Reinikainen. I was still thinking about this when the 2016 UKGovcamp came along, so I pitched a session on breaking down those silos.

It turned out to be my favourite session at UKGovcamp. And I don’t say that because it was ‘my’ session. I didn’t have to do much other than light the fuse and make sure everyone who wanted to had the chance to contribute to the discussion. In fact, that’s what made it such a good session. That so many people had something to say, and it was such a varied debate.

Most of the excellent discussion is summarised in the live Google doc from the session and in the tweets in this Storify story.

These are a few of my take aways from the session: Continue reading Breaking down silos

My shortlisted video in the Comms2point0 #UnAwards15

I nearly changed my mind and didn’t enter the 2015 UnAwards. More on why later. I did enter in the end, and I’m glad I did so. I submitted my after-school cooking club video, which got shortlisted in the ‘best use of video’ category.

The video took just 24 hours to make. I shot it on my iPhone (using a RØDE SmartLav+ microphone for the interviews) and edited it the next day using iMovie on an iPad. While I have included the YouTube version in this blog, I made the video primarily for Bradford Council’s Facebook audience, which includes a lot of parents of school age children. The success of the video on Facebook was the main reason I chose to submit it for the UnAwards.

I have written before on this blog about video and how important it has become as a communications channel. I have also written for comms2point0 about how there is far more to video now then simply YouTube. If you want to make better videos, I can highly recommend the comms2point0 video skills workshops. My after-school cooking club video wouldn’t have been as good had I not attended one of the sessions.

Being shortlisted in the UnAwards was a nice pat on the back, and I’m glad it gave me the opportunity to look back at my work. There were some terrific videos shortlisted, and it’s good to see such creative work happening in the public sector.

The reason I had a swerve and nearly didn’t enter the UnAwards was evaluation. I need to be better at it. I produce a lot of content I am proud of, and frequently succeed in engaging residents. But I need to get better at measuring the value of my work and illustrating how my work helps Bradford Council achieve outcomes. Continue reading My shortlisted video in the Comms2point0 #UnAwards15

Video subtitles are essential, not just an optional extra

We all know how video is taking over the Internet, and this is opening up lots of exciting possibilities. But sadly, closed captions (or subtitles) are often thought of as an optional extra, if they are thought of at all. The truth is very different.  Unless your video makes perfect sense without sound, you really must add captions.

Think of a deaf person, or someone without a working soundcard, or someone looking at their phone on a noisy bus. Adding captions instantly makes your videos more accessible to more people. And those people will thank you for it. In fact, if you work in the public sector, it is illegal to make services online inaccessible to disabled users..

How to add subtitles on YouTube and Facebook

There are several ways to add subtitles to a YouTube video. The most fiddly, but the way I recommend, is to create and upload an SRT file.  I say “fiddly”, but it is not difficult, and is worth the effort. You can make an SRT file using a text editor like Notepad.

If you have the patience to do it this way you will actually be saving time, because you can then reuse the same subtitles file elsewhere, such as for Facebook video captions. By the way, you are publishing your videos directly to Facebook as well as YouTube, aren’t you?

If you don’t add your own captions to YouTube, they have software that “listens” to the audio and this makes a pretty good attempt at adding captions to your videos.  But these automatic captions are nearly always littered with errors. Not only is this a problem for people who rely on captions, but inaccurate subtitles will also make you look unprofessional, or even a little foolish. For example, count the errors on this by Nestlé:

Going back to our friend sat on a noisy bus, Facebook has clearly given this person some thought too.  If you are using Facebook’s mobile app and a native video crops up in your newsfeed, subtitles will automatically be shown. That’s a simple, yet very smart move by Facebook.

Continue reading Video subtitles are essential, not just an optional extra

What pleased me most about #LocalGovCamp 2015

The thing about the 2015 LocalGovCamp that most pleased me is not something I did, or learnt, while I was there. What I’m most pleased about is who else I got to go along from Bradford.

I was enthused after the 2014 LocalGovCamp in Birmingham. Yet I also knew that as far as Bradford Council was concerned, there were services other than my own that would benefit from being involved with the excellent LocalGov Digital network. There were so many useful conversations to have at LocalGovCamp, and I couldn’t take part in them all alone.

So, when I learnt that this year’s LocalGovCamp would be held in Yorkshire, I was doubly chuffed. Not only would it mean less travelling for me, but I also felt confident I would be able to persuade more people from Bradford to go too.

And they did go. There were seven or eight of us from Bradford Council over the two days, including the fringe event and the main unconference. As well as myself from communications and marketing, staff from electronic services, customer services and revenues and benefits also went.

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Once back at work the following week, I sent an email round the others who had gone from Bradford Council, saying I was planning to blog about it, and asking if they would like to contribute.  This is what three of my colleagues had to say after attending LocalGovCamp: Continue reading What pleased me most about #LocalGovCamp 2015

Harkive: the 6 ways I heard music today

For the past couple of years I have contributed to the annual Harkive research day, sharing my listening habits during the course of one day. Last year I was even lucky enough to win a delightful bundle of music on Static Caravan Records for my efforts.

There are a number of different ways that I listen to music at the moment. I didn’t employ them all today, but I did use almost as many ways of documenting my listening as I did actually doing the listening itself.

I now realise I was a little too objective in describing my listening habits today. So I will add a bit of context now.

I’m not sure if the first one really counts. I do often wake with a song in my head, and today’s was one of my favourite songs from the new Wilful Missing album.

Listening on my way to work helps me get an early fix of music and I also find it helps to focus my mind.

I use SoundCloud like a musical Twitter at the moment. I follow various record labels and artists to find out what new music is on the horizon. That’s how I come across gems like this one:

Continue reading Harkive: the 6 ways I heard music today