From the Comms Cupboard

Tools to help comms people in 2021

Tools to help comms people in 2021
Kick off the new year with a few tips about tools. John and Shaun come up with a couple of ideas, and about how comms can help spread the word.

Notion is suggested as a way to build a company wiki, as well as tools such as Google Docs, Microsoft Teams, Slack and the power of iPads. (You'll find links to all of the named software tools in the transcript below.)

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Episode transcript

John: There are hundreds and thousands of different tools you can use as a communicator. What do you like? What do you use?

Shaun: I like to use a good, strong blanket and a good fire for smoke signals 🔥

John: And hot chocolate.

Shaun: Ooh, hot chocolate. I didn’t think of accessorising smoke signals. I like it. I’ve used all sorts of tools. I think I am that person who is guilty of finding a great tool and then two weeks later moving on to something new.

John: You definitely are that person. You’re the sort of person who gets you to sign up for something because it’s the best damn thing you’ve ever used and a couple of days later it’s been replaced!

Shaun: And you know me well enough that if I’m still using something a few months on, it means it’s a really good one and you should stick with it. Notion is one of those for me at the moment. Notion is quite a youngish company.

John: For our listeners who don’t know, what is Notion?

Shaun: Notion is one of those all-in-one collaborative tools, but it works differently than a lot of the similar-sounding tools, because you’re in control of what you actually want to build. You build your own company wiki essentially. Then you can share pages, make pages private ...

John: And it has this nice, basic look to it, doesn’t it?

Shaun: Yes, minimalist.

John: It’s not super-glamorous. I think we see a lot of tools that are marketed to communicators that look beautiful and look great, and you go in and use them and find there's nothing behind it.

Shaun: Or it’s clunky and takes you five clicks to get to something.

John: Absolutely.

Shaun: Whereas Notion, you can favourite and click and there it is! I love it. There are also lots of established tools such as ... Well, you have a lot of experience with Microsoft, don’t you?

John: Yes, often when you work in corporate organisations, maybe some of that choice is taken away from you; choices are taken away where you have to use Microsoft or something like that. At the moment we're certainly using a lot more Teams – the de facto Microsoft product. It’s your collaborative space. It’s replaced Skype, and Yammer (to an extent). It’s a broader tool.

Shaun: I haven’t heard the word Yammer in ages.

John: It’s still there, and I believe there’s a lot of updates coming to it. And that’s mainly because people probably aren’t using it as much.

Shaun: Is Yammer still owned by Microsoft?

John: Yeah, it’s all the same thing – it’s all part of Office 365. We’re all becoming a little more savvy. We’re all online and using the online versions of Word and PowerPoint, even your nemesis Excel. They are all there, and then much better than they ever were. They are certainly learning from Google Docs and Apple. They’re getting better.

Shaun: Google has recently changed its name. It’s Google Workspace now, and it used to be G Suite. It’s a really clever and successful collaboration suite.

John: And it’s free.

Shaun: And it’s free! You do have to pay to a certain level: Enterprise. So if you’re running a company, you do have to pay for it then, but it’s so low-cost. Google doesn’t charge a lot for its services. They can be incredibly complicated from an admin point of view, but the idea is that you make it easy. But you’re right: they’ve got the word processor, they’ve got the spreadsheet, they’ve got working on a page together; and cloud computing is where everybody should be working.

John: If you’re not, it must be tough right now.

Shaun: Really tough! It’s got to be tough. I think people still keep things to themselves and keep them on their own hard drive, sometimes without knowing that’s what they’ve done. They think everyone can see [the file], but they can’t. And then you’ve got things like Slack, which I think is an excellent bit of software. Did you know that Microsoft tried to buy Slack a few years ago?

John: Oh really? And it got shut down?

Shaun: No, instead it created Teams, which is their version of Slack. And Slack can do all those things.

John: I feel like Teams was definitely put out there quickly, working around the clock to try to improve it. You still have these moments when you're on a call with lots of people and you’re presenting, and once you present you can’t then see any of the hands up, or questions being asked, which is so frustrating. You often hear: “I’m going to present now. Please tell me if there are any questions because I won’t be able to see them!” There are clunky things that haven’t been worked through that maybe work better on Slack.

Shaun: Slack has also just been bought by Salesforce, so it’s about to take on Microsoft properly.

John: That will be really interesting.

Shaun: Because a lot of companies use salesforce.

John: They do.

Shaun: If Slack is integrated, that's a proper competitor for Microsoft Teams.

John: What about other things then? What other tools are out there? What about for video editing?

Shaun: Video editing is a good one because you don’t have to be complicated. There is that thing where ... I’m going to give you an example that’s slightly different. A year ago, I knew of someone who said they were going to start a podcast. They went on social media and showed all the microphones they had bought, and their studio setup. And they bought sound boards, too. They lived in a lovely little apartment and they created their own home studio, and they spent a small fortune on it. Did you know they haven’t released a podcast yet! 😋 It’s a small anecdote to say that even companies do that. Companies throw thousands of pounds at ...

John: Great equipment.

Shaun: Great equipment, or the idea of something. Let’s pay a consultant to come in and tell us to use this hundred thousand pounds’ worth of software, when actually you can use iMovie.

John: Absolutely! We’ve got to get to a point where, certainly in internal comms, there’s this idea that these super-glossy corporate videos that were coming out ... to match how videos are shared externally. But people aren’t watching them or engaging with them. If something is over a few minutes long, you’re unlikely to get people to watch it.

Shaun: Because it’s not about the editing, it’s about the story.

John: It’s about the story – it’s about what people are saying. But with something like iMovie, which is a free piece of software on the Mac, you can still make something look really professional in minutes.

Shaun: I do think there needs to be more understanding from people in the business about what helps to make a video better looking. Basic sense of lighting, a good microphone ... 🎤

John: Yes, some simple guidance. If you can record your voice using a microphone like we’re using today, it’s going to be much better than picking it up on the phone. And think about the room that you film in: don’t film directly into the light, don’t film on a noisy street or next to an air conditioner – all those sorts of things. Good tips that perhaps communications teams can help with as well.

Shaun: “Here’s some guidelines if you’re on video this week; here are the top five things you need to do: turn off your phone, have a good light, have a small room ...

John: We are both Mac devotees and we both use iPads. What sort of tools are you using on there?

Shaun: I edit this podcast on an iPad. Many people use their main Mac computers and GarageBand and that sort of thing, which are great, but you can use your iPad to do it really quickly. You could make little jingles that you might have, or your podcast, or your video – you can do all that with an iPad. [Shaun uses Ferrite to edit this podcast.]

John: You introduced me to GoodNotes.

Shaun: GoodNotes is cracking, especially if you have an Apple Pencil. What’s that fancy brand of notepad?

John: Moleskine?

Shaun: Moleskine. How do you say it? Do you remember when we went to Copenhagen and we learned how to say it properly.

John: It has left my memory.

Shaun: Moolerskeen? It’s not that. I do apologise to any Scandinavians. And even though I am 42% Scandinavian, I still don’t know how to say it properly. But yes, GoodNotes is your version of that except you can move your handwriting around the page!

John: It’s like having your notepad back. You feel like the information is going into your head because you’re writing it down, and you can go back and cross it out or delete it, or remove that page from your pad. It’s absolutely fantastic!

Shaun: So to wrap this episode up then, and what we might say to people pre-Christmas is don’t forget the app in your Christmas gift ideas. You can gift an app to someone.

John: You absolutely can, and they’re obviously pretty cheap. And you can send them to anybody. If you haven’t seen somebody for a long time, it’s a nice little gift to help them be a little more productive in 2021.

Shaun: I might be sending you something.

John: I look forward to it.


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