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2018 Granicus Digital Engagement Summit recap resources

From data to dog poo, winning to wellbeing. Why the Granicus event had just about everything for the communicator.

Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd. He moderated the ninth annual Granicus Digital Engagement Summit which brought 300 people to the Royal Institute of British Architects in London on 20 September 2018, and a further 450 to the live stream. Here, Darren shares some of the key learning from the day:

Once upon a time when I left my private sector marketing career to join a local council, a senior manager there (I’ll call him Chris) questioned my decision.

“Why would you do that? It’s all pot holes and dog poo.”

I laughed and we went our separate ways.

Once in local government I got the chance to deliver some amazing work – from corporate identity relaunches to high profile campaigns.

But as time has passed I have realised that Chris was actually right.

As comms people we can sometimes be guilty of a bit of magpie-ism – attracted to the ‘shiny things’, like flashy videos, fun campaigns and quirky social media. There’s a place for everything, of course.

But the truth is that most of our customers, residents and patients are actually interested in the bread and butter of what we do. And some of that is pot holes and dog poo (as Neil and Gareth from the Torfaen Council comms team reminded us).

Which brings me to the annual Granicus Digital Engagement Summit.

There were many highlights and much valuable insight from the 20 speakers on show. Here are my thoughts…


Substance over style

Laura Hendry and Guy Evans (Birmingham City Council) apologised for their slides not being flashy. But their slides told a compelling story about the brilliant things they have done with their targeted use of email to deliver business outcomes and to help their residents.

No flashy pics – just a good old fashioned case study demonstrating success. Bravo Brum.

Guy and Laura


Use data to do less

I loved this phrase. Data is so important to our work of course. But it can also lead us down some comms cul-de-sacs at a time when many teams are struggling to manage the demand washing in to them.

Use the data to challenge daft requests (as well as to support only delivering priority work) and this can help with what I believe is the biggest challenge to communications teams in the public sector right now: Demand management.

UK summit scene


Being brave

I have waxed lyrical many times about the work of the NHS Blood and Transplant social media account with Melissa Thermidor at the helm. Standing up to vile racist comments online was brave and brilliant. We need more Melissa’s in our world.

Melissa Thermidor


Granicus Digital Strategy Awards

Well done to everyone shortlisted in the Granicus awards and congratulations to the winners. I am always struck by the joy on the faces of award winners. We must never get to a point where we do not enter and celebrate the great work for teams and individuals (so a cheeky plug for the free to enter 5th annual UnAwards which are open until 25 October – more here).

Award winner 2018


Dorset calling

The ever-excellent Sally Northeast (Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust) walked us through a brilliant recruitment case study which tempted potential candidates to move for the charms of Dorset. And move they did. Sally’s recruitment campaign turned in a seven-figure saving on agency costs. Now that’s a return on investment any organisation would want a slice of.

Sally Northeast


Remembering Manchester

And brilliant Brummie, Connie Osborne from Greater Manchester Police, shared the between-the-scenes story of dealing with the horrific events in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena attack. Let’s hope that no one ever has to put the comms insight shared to use in the future. Connie and her team have the respect of every comms team in the land.


Wellbeing – addressing a growing problem

I was so pleased to see this subject on the agenda. We know as an industry that stress and wellbeing is a growing issue. But at the same time we are not brilliant at tackling it.

Leanne Ehren gave a passionate, positive and perfectly pitched plea for us all to do more. And we will. Plans are afoot and so watch this space for more developments.

Thank you, Leanne.

Leanne Ehren

Finally, thanks to the Granicus team for organising the digital summit, for supporting our industry with learning opportunities, and for making it free to attend. I have attended six of them now over the years and I believe this was the best yet.

If you missed the event or would like to rewatch the sessions, check out the event page for all the resources.