Memes are firmly part of the armoury of a comms person. They don’t work in all circumstances. But that can convey information. Can they be used in the public sector? Of course.

by Dan Slee

The humble meme has been here since at least the phrase was coined back in 1976.

Wikipedia describes them as: "an activity, concept, catchphrase or piece of media which spreads, often as mimicry or for humorous purposes, from person to person via the Internet."

We’ve all seen them. 

They can be text, images or video.

But isn’t re-using images a breach of copyright?

Media law expert David Banks in the past has said that people are on safe ground. The image is such a small part of the overall piece of entertainment that the law is not bothered with trifles. So, you are on safe ground.

It’s also very easy to make memes. Applications such as meme generators can help you make them on your smartphone within seconds. Your memes then have a short shelflife, are shared and then fall away.

Are they effective? They are sharable content. They very often are unbranded and that’s fine. Anything that flies below the radar and lets people share your messages is fine.  

But can they work as part of public sector campaigns? I asked the Public Sector Comms Headspace group and the answer was a resounding ‘yes’ with some examples of where they had worked. 

Game of Thrones meme

Vanessa Andrews put this meme forward on behalf of North Somerset Council’s Katy Brown who used it as part of a campaign to get information across.


Dog poo meme

There is an ongoing battle between dog walkers and the rest of the population. Ask any elected member what the regular gripes are. Chances are dog poo will come in their top five list. So, what to do about it? Helen Reynolds when she was at Monmouthshire Council used this with her own image. 

James Bond meme

The image of Bond in crisp suit is a striking one. So, Kent Fire and Rescue used it to help put across a fire safety message. Mark Roberts did this. 

Sean Bean meme

Actor Sean Bean has resigned himself to being remembered for a meme rather the a large body of acting work. The Sheffield United fan is pictured here warning people in the Lord of the Rings that one does not simply walk into the fictional land of Mordor. Louise Gibson of Sheffield City Council for this one.

The Be Like Bill meme

Bill was a stick man who was sharper than the rest. For a while earlier this year you could not move without seeing him. Mark Roberts of Kent Fire and Rescue again.

Game of Thrones 

Or alternatively, here is a Game of Thrones one on food safety.

Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

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