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Good Practice Team workshop – effective online communication

In March 2015 the Good Practice Team ran a short survey to find out more about user engagement activities across the GSS. This is the third in a series of blog posts looking in more detail at the survey and its results (earlier blog posts here and here). This third blog puts the spot light on a series of workshops we held in October / November looking at effective online communication…

The pace of technological change

When I stop long enough to think, one of the things that never fails to amaze me is the pace of technological change – particularly with respect to all things digital. When I compare my current iPhone to the mobile brick I had 15 years ago they seem simply light years apart. This view on the pace of technological change was cemented at the 2015 GSS conference when delegates were played the YouTube video ‘Shift Happens‘. If you’ve not seen it, it’s well worth 4 mins and 59 seconds of your time.

Our user engagement survey and the Shift Happens video got Emma Emery (Royal Statistical Society user engagement manager) and me thinking – is the Government Statistical Service doing enough to keep up with this pace of change? Our view was that as an organisation we could probably be doing more online to engage with our audience / users. Particularly as we’d both seem some excellent, but not widely publicised, examples of this already happening! So, we developed a series of workshops where we could get out and about to discuss this in the GSS. We hoped the workshops would be well received, based on the feedback we had from the user engagement survey…

Survey help people want

Good practice workshops

We ran workshops in Cardiff (28th Oct), London (30th Oct) and Newcastle (2nd Nov), inviting statisticians across all departments to get involved. The main things we wanted to do were:

  • Showcase good practice – highlighting where the GSS engages effectively and innovatively online.
  • Promote the existing GSS user engagement guidance material and the concept of user personas.
  • Talk about the importance of getting the tone for online engagement right. This isn’t easy. It takes practice and time to write in a style that engages and draws people in.
  • Bring people across departments together to discuss barriers. The survey results gave a good idea of the types of barriers people face to effective online engagement and we wanted to explore these further.

We were also lucky enough to secure Gavin Freeguard from the Institute of Government as a guest speaker at the London event. Gavin gave a fascinating insight into the work of the Institute of Government and some of the strategies they adopt for effective online comms. Copies of Gavin’s slides and the main slides we presented are available in the GSS working with users community group.

Online comms slides
These slides are available in the ‘Working with users’ community group.

These slides contain lots of good practice examples and where possible we’ve included these as hyperlinks as lots of the delegate feedback we got was around how unfamiliar these websites / resources were. People also fed back how useful it was to interact with people from other departments and of the attendees who completed a formal feedback form:

  • 100% of people said they found the workshop interesting and engaging.
  • 94% said the workshop provided them with new skills they will be able to use in their work.

We’ve also already had some excellent follow up conversation with GSS members wanting to put into practice some of the good practice highlighted in the workshops.

What’s next?

Firstly, we’ll be reporting back to the GSS Presentation and Dissemination Committee (PDC). PDC provides the strategic and operational direction on all presentation and dissemination activities in the GSS and they are interested in helping the GSS understand our users and plan our outputs accordingly. PDC are particularly interested in finding out about barriers to good practice and working with the GSS to help break these down.

We’re also monitoring demand for more workshops. Given the good feedback received, we’re keen to hear from any GSS members who would like to attend this session. So, please keep in touch and any other feedback / observations are very gratefully received. Please comment below…

Nick and Emma