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8 important comms lessons from a day of digital in Bristol

Winner of the global smart city award, Bristol, was the perfect location to host the latest Granicus Digital Engagement Day. If you missed it, view the photos here, and have a read of this recap by MC Darren Caveney of comms2point0: 

I was very fortunate to be able to host a day of learning in Bristol’s M Shed and with the chance to listen to a whole host of new communications case studies packed with creativity and insight.

A day out of a busy office can be a rare treat for some people these days. And that’s a great pity because seeing and hearing how others are tackling the big comms challenges of our times is important if we are to develop and improve as a profession. Connecting with new people – swapping conversations, and having a head full of ideas to take back to work the next day – is worth its weight in comms gold too.

My highlights from Bristol…

Well there were many – including the cheesecake served up at lunch – but seriously here are my top 8 learning points.

  1. Don’t assume, do your research

Bristol City Council reminded us that we should never assume and follow stereotypes – in this case not assuming that young people are best connected with via social media, older people much less so. Because the council’s own research of their target audiences showed the opposite was true and this shaped their tactics on how best to engage on key council services.

  1. Torfaen strike gold again

Many of you will remember the classic Elvis in the Depot video which Torfaen Council produced back in 2013. It inspired a new kind of creative approach to previously often ‘safe’ corporate council communications. Interesting then that their new work, showcased by Gareth Phillips, used social media again but this time to encourage actual face-to-face meetings and engagements of citizens to deliver social good in their own communities. The case study featured local cleans ups instigated by the council but carried out by local residents. In fact 22 of the 25 clean-ups have actually been organised by the local community. Impressive.

“Tomorrow the people of Torfaen will deliver over 150 hours of volunteering.”

– Gareth Phillips, Communications Manager, Torfaen County Borough Council

  1. Uplifting narratives

Gareth from Torfaen also explained the subtle but important shift in how they are communicating council budgets with residents. Far better, and more positive, to say “we have £XX to spend on services, how should we best spend our budget?” rather than “We have lost £YY and can’t deliver the things we used to, sorry”.

  1. Generating income from email marketing

Glen Ocsko from Granicus shared the results of a pilot to establish the potential benefits of placing adverts in council emails sent to subscribed residents. The result? Income would be generated on a pay-per-click basis and yet the unsubscribe rate didn’t change. Easy to do and to test. Food for thought whether you have an income target or not. Phase 2 of the pilot is now live and generating revenue; you can get involved here.

  1. Don’t dismiss the mundane

It’s a line I use in my own social media training. And John Porter and Aaron Barnes from Gloucestershire City Council showed us a perfect example of this with their ‘Hamburger Roundabout’ – the county’s most famous new road development – and a beautifully pitched film explaining the new system to residents. Over 150k views already and counting. Bravo, team.

  1. We love GDPR

OK, that’s a stretch. But Victoria Ford from Perago-Wales reminded us of the common sense approach to take to the looming new data protection regulation. Her top tips?

– Think people, not processes

– Simplify the language used in explaining GDPR to your own staff

– Run staff awareness sessions

– Know and understand the new ‘rights’ central to the new regulation – there are eight of them (take a look here)

  1. Numbers down, numbers up…

Glen Ocsko emphasised the importance of cleansing our data as a part of our GDPR preparation. He recommended ‘re-engagement campaigns’ but to be creative with the execution of them. And to remember that the size of our subscriber lists will probably reduce as a result of this but actually our percentage engagement rates might well grow as a result. Help to get subscriber lists ready is available for Granicus customers.

  1. Having a big budget can generate a huge ROI

Sally Northeast from Dorset Healthcare lifted the lid on an impressive recruitment campaign she has delivered via a mix of online and offline activities. She had the rare benefit of a decent slab of budget. But that can bring its own pressures. Sally talked through the great strategy – based on data – and with a creative execution making the most of the county’s natural beauty, and the organisation’s staff assets. So far the campaign has contributed towards a whopping £900k saving on the agency workforce bill. Brilliant.

Thanks to Granicus for enabling over 100 comms pros to enjoy this important learning opportunity.

More Digital Engagement Days are being planned around the UK. And a key diary date for you – 20 September for the annual Public Sector Communications Conference in London. .

See you there.

Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd.