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Thursday 4 September 2008

How not to do video about recycling

Two local councils, Wyre and Flynde, are in the Mail after producing a DVD guide to recycling. The negative story says that it cost just over £2k but I suspect that's less than the total cost. And for that they got 1000 DVDs.

Who uses DVDs as promotional tools these days? DVD content's best served up online in nearly all circumstances. The council didn't put the video on YouTube - humour website Anorak's done that, so it's been 'virally enhanced' I suppose. Though not for the reasons they'd like.

At the time of writing Wyre's homepage link about the DVD is crashing and Flyde's link is to PR that says 'the video is available to view on the website', then links straight back to the homepage ... there's no obvious link to the 'video on the website' and I also notice that the PR asks residents to 'call the council' - rather than or as well as email them.


A few points ...
  • Why is every council doing this separately? Good on the two councils for sharing the cost but what - really - is the difference between vast numbers of councils on what goes in what bin?
  • There's also extensive message duplication - and dilution - about this issue with countless other departments and agencies saying exactly the same stuff.
  • This means the resources and talent hire to really get strong messages out, do the research and target just aren't there.
I know how hard it is to track down UK digital resources for reuse on green issues like recycling. There are some but I should be fed up hearing from some central agency pushing a selection of useful and preferably tailorable resources at me - I'm not.

There are a few councils trying things out - applause - and a few doing stuff like YouTube channels. Allendale has one video which made me laugh and actually has viral potential I think:

It doesn't have the views though yet to make much of a case for bothering. Neither do any of the others who have YouTube channels [Aberdeenshire, Allerdale. Birmingham, Bolton, Bristol, Cambridge, Charnwood, Darlington, East Devon, Essex, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hillingdon, Newham, Norfolk, Ryedale, South Norfolk, Swansea] - Newham being a noticeable exception, with Bristol having a couple of hits.

So how do you increase those view numbers? The key requirement is 'seeding' (and having a plan at the get-go for how to get stuff seen). This mean:
  • tapping into social networks and local websites, forums and blogs - promote the thing in the place people already are, online
  • give the embed code to the local/regional paper(s) and other media
  • using email - internal and external
  • posting to other video free spaces than YouTube using cheap tools like TubeMogul or Vidmetrix or HeySpread
  • you need to make syndication easy - promote and encourage the embed code and encourage subscription to your channel
  • create a short, preferably memorable, description which can be passed around
  • tag the video correctly with good keywords
  • you can pay numerous agencies to do all this for you - and maybe pay them on results.
Of course it helps if the content's great but agencies know you need to learn and get better, plus you need 'product' out there and some of it will hit home and boost everything else. Amateurish also has a different meaning in this space. That Allendale video is delightfully amateurish - and that helps, it's received as authentic.

There's also a lot of other tricks which professionals use - like making sure the exact middle of your video is right as that's what produces the YouTube thumbnail, designing it so it can be 'remixed', beefing up the comments and ratings yourself and using shock headlines - but those are best left to said professionals.

The shortlist above might sound complicated, it might sound hard, it might sound time-consuming - but why are you producing this stuff in the first place? You want it seen by more than a few councilors - who are impressed until the local paper or, worse, the Daily Mail comes a-knocking and a-cursing about 'wasting tax payers money'.

Postscript: I asked Richard Steel of Newham if he knew why they'd had hit videos. In comments he's said he's going to ask around. I just dug a bit deeper and I think I can see how. Most of the videos actually have numbers similar to other councils, but several have large (for UK eGov) numbers - one is 26k. But these are from a local entertainment event run by the council and are linked from numerous other sites including Facebook and are of BBC Asian Network stars (I assume). One is on a site in Vietnam.

Bristol have one minor hit about Getting Caught - Graffiti and the Law but it appears this got to 18k not virally. No Facebook/Bebo I could find. Here's the PR. Something must have happened to push one of these vids numbers way above the others. The only thing I can spot is a technorati post and video response.

Both, I think, show how with the smallest ammount of even inadvertent seeding, video view numbers can be pushed above the very low levels most council's are currently getting.

Postscript: And another: Barnet.


  1. Hi, Paul. To be honest, don't know what the secret of our success has been. I'll do some gigging to find-out. The video was created by our Communications Team.


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