I think we built our reputation as a digital team on the strength of our approach to digital engagement.
We posted lots of examples of our digital engagement efforts on this blog, from the work we did during the listening exercise back in 2011 (The mechanics of listening), to crowdsourcing ideas for health apps (Maps and apps for health and care). We’re blogged about our digital engagement work on dementia (Digital engagement on dementia) and compassionate care (Digital engagement to support compassion). We’ve shared our approaches (Being a real person on Twitter) and vowed to deploy our skills only on the stuff that really matters (The end of pat-on-the-head digital engagement).
We’ve told you how to take part in online conversations and why you don’t need a social media strategy. And we've shared how we used digital engagement as part of our work on Ebola, and the platforms we’re using to host conversations.
We’ve thought quite hard about how to make sense of internet culture, and how to apply it to the ways that a government department communicates and makes policy.
But we need to be better. Internet culture moves on. Some of the techniques we used back in 2011 when we were experimenting with listening seem almost quaint now. And digital engagement is no longer the preserve of a few enthusiasts with a licence to experiment with social media culture. Expectations are higher, and we need to deliver.
So our focus for this year will be to:
Build communities: We will develop new methods to extend the reach and value of our engagement work by building sustained, highly engaged digital communities amongst core audience groups
We’ve developed lots of ways to use digital engagement techniques to have conversations with people who care about our work.
But although plenty of the examples I mentioned above have been successful on their own terms, we haven’t often built relationships with our audiences in the way that the most successful campaigning organisations do.
As a result, we start from scratch too often, talking to people as if it’s the first time we’ve met them, rather than building on conversations we’ve had before.
A government department will never quite be able to operate like 38 degrees or change.org, but we do have a lot to learn from their methods.
So this year we’ll be putting effort into building more sustained engagement with our audiences, in particular by improving the ways we use email and digital outreach.
Insight at our fingertips: We will guide decisions about communications work every day based on metrics that matter, by implementing new ways for digital team members to have data, analytics and insight at our fingertips
We’ve long known that the insights we can derive from the ways people use the internet have the potential to revolutionise the ways we plan and deliver our work at DH.
And we’ve had a few goes at gathering and reporting on this data. (If I had a pound for every new monitoring/reporting dashboard I’ve been responsible for I’d probably have about £84.)
We’ve never quite nailed it, but we’re determined to make more decisions based on the metrics that matter. Our work this year will be as much about the capability of our team and the ways we influence others, as it will be about new software and reporting dashboards.
Tell stories: We will develop new methods for compelling digital content, to build support for sustained DH communications amongst core audience groups
We know that if we want to inspire people to take an action, behave in a different way, or join a conversation, then we need to give them a good reason to.
One of the ways we can do this is by creating compelling content. That shouldn’t be too hard - we’re responsible for issues that people really care about, like obesity, social care, and the future of the NHS.
We’ve had some successes creating moving, motivating content in the last year, on dementia and ebola in particular.
So this year, we’ll be putting effort into doing that more consistently across our priority work, and finding better ways to put our most compelling content to use.
Comment by Mike Clark posted on
Where can I find the DH 2015/2016 budget for digital engagement together with team/service structure and ROI information? - many thanks
Comment by Stephen Hale posted on
Mike - on structures, we'll keep the list of staff working in the digital team up to date on the About page of this blog, and we'll keep blogging about what we're doing and the results of our work here too, as per our answers to your recent questions about the the wider digital team (which includes digital engagement alongside our other digital work). The most recent accounts for the department are published and will be updated on GOV.UK (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/department-of-health-annual-report-and-accounts-2014-to-2015), although there isn't a dedicated budget for digital engagement because it tends to be integrated into broader policy making or communications work. Happy to provide more detail directly if useful.
Comment by Maryam posted on
Yes, It is about time you engage with people on a personal level. Too often the content though interesting, and relevant has a distance to it, a hazy government veneer which acts as a barrier to connection. Put people at the centre of your work and people will engage with you. Have named individuals publicly visible and give a face to your work. Have votes, online communities, quizzes, forums, guest writers, online projects, ok maybe not physical prizes but some sort of give back to motivate and inspire your community.
Comment by Tim Lloyd posted on
These sound like three great pillars for digital engagement. Hopefully you won't have to build too many communities: it seems to me there is a group of people talking online, around every topic there is within health and social care.
Perhaps that's where the data comes in, to help differentiate a passing conversation from sustained debate. I'd also suggest that as well as data, you and the team need to feel empowered to work off a few hunches about what's working online. My experience is that it can be almost impossible to put hard data against some communities (popular forum threads, for example), but there are several factors, such as tone, depth, and longevity, which make them a good bet, to begin with. Empowered teams also come in handy when it comes to building relationships with those who administrate these communities.