https://beisdigital.blog.gov.uk/2014/02/21/engaging-with-the-queens-awards-office/

Engaging with the Queen's Awards Office

The Queen’s Awards Office is responsible for managing and delivering the prestigious Queen’s Awards for Enterprise which recognise and reward outstanding achievement by UK businesses and individuals.

Queen's Awards bowl. (credit: Geraint Lewis)

There are 3 business categories (Innovation, International Trade and Sustainable Development) and an award for individuals (The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion) which acknowledges those who have played an outstanding role in promoting enterprise.

The task

As a team we were keen to engage our audience on a digital level in order to raise awareness of the awards, build a community of winners, disseminate information quickly, de-mystify the application process and generate more, quality entries.

How we went about it

Our first step into social media was to establish a LinkedIn group which currently connects with 1,262 members.  It enables real-time communication with the business community and encourages regular interaction amongst members.  We initially pushed messages out ourselves but, more recently, the group is seeing genuine engagement from its members. In 2013 we wanted to target sectors under-represented in award entries and, by joining e.g. Creative Industry LinkedIn groups, we were able to post messages onto their sites to raise awareness of the awards.  We also post wider departmental information which we think will be of interest to our members e.g. Small Business Saturday, Export Week and the GREAT campaign.

We then worked with Digital Comms to set up a blog to enable communication and engagement with existing and potential award winners. We wanted to provide informative content that readers would find both useful and inspiring. The material we have produced aims to simplify the various processes involved and give insight into the benefits of winning, using guest blogs from award assessors, judges, Lord Lieutenants and previous winners.  Our blogs share practical help and guidance and cover a range of topics including FAQs on entering, a checklist and myth busters.  We have successfully delivered 2 blogs per week (61 in total) since its April 2013 launch and, even in ‘down time’, we have continued to post relevant content to maintain readership.

We also set up a Twitter feed (@TheQueensAwards) in April 2013 which currently stands at 419 followers and continues to grow daily.  This channel is used to generate interest in the awards, encourage information dissemination to networks, flag deadlines and direct followers to useful sources of information.  We also tweet and re-tweet wider government messaging e.g. from UKTI and BIS.  We have shared access to our account to ensure that the channel remains active during the team’s annual leave periods.

The latest addition to our social media package is our very own YouTube channel which was created at the beginning of August 2013. The channel hosts 18 videos which were filmed and edited in-house by our team. The videos feature award winners sharing their experiences of entering/winning and how the award has benefitted their business.  The videos have had a total of 805 unique views to date.

What works well

We ensure that all of our social media channels are joined up, flagging new blogs and YouTube videos to our LinkedIn group membership and Twitter followers.  We have also been able to bookmark these channels in all of our promotional material.  We do make use of additional sites like Yammer and Pinterest where we post on a less frequent basis.

We are lucky to have a skilled intern on the team who has been able to apply his wide range of social and visual media expertise to bring content to life.  We have been careful to ensure that we, as a team, learn from the various techniques and programs he has used so that we can continue to create/update content when his internship comes to an end.  We are also trying to ensure that the whole team is involved in our digital activity, commissioning input e.g. blogs from those not directly responsible for our social media content.

Requesting re-tweets has proved a very effective method of circulating material widely and quickly without the need for our followers to draft themselves.  We recently set up a survey and circulated on Twitter via re-tweets from our followers, including UKTI and BIS - within the hour we had generated a further 40 followers (every little helps…).

Producing our YouTube case studies has enabled us, not only to meet our winners and capture first hand experiences on film, but to (very quickly) make these videos available to inspire others.  It is the speed with which this and other social media channels operate that enables us to get our messages out efficiently and the feedback has been excellent.

Involving the whole team in producing engaging, interesting blog content has helped us to maintain our ‘blogging momentum’.  We also rotate responsibility for creating blogs (so that readers get a feel for the individual voices of the team) and we try to always use the typically informal tone of a blog.

What doesn’t work so well

We initially planned, and sourced, blog content several months in advance and produced a schedule.  In reality, given that we were producing 2 blogs per week and expecting content from external contributors, we found that the schedule needed regular revision to accommodate late content.  We accepted the need to be a little more flexible and abandoned the schedule in favour of weekly team brain-storming sessions to agree content and responsibility for each week’s blog.

While the entry period is open, we have a wealth of information to share in our blogs but, once the awards close, we have struggled to produce content of interest to our audience. We took the decision to reduce our output to 1 blog per week, agreeing that content was more important than regularity - we weren’t prepared to blog about topics of no relevance to the awards ‘just for the sake of it’.

We are, again, fortunate to have regular access to our intern’s Macbook and package of creative software. Although Digital Comms have been very accommodating when we have needed to use their Indesign software, we would really benefit from having more regular access to this program.  Now we have proven that we can be trusted with it, perhaps we could have a dedicated laptop for sole use by our team?

Learning

The team now constantly has social media on the brain and rarely puts forward an idea without having considered how we can have an impact digitally.  Social media channels are generally now our first consideration when we have material to share widely.

Just because it looks complicated doesn’t mean it is in practice.  None of our team (aside from our intern) had any interest in, or experience of, social media before the world turned digital.  With a little encouragement, a lot of experimentation and a wealth of subject matter for content, we have all become very keen contributors to our channels.

We can spread our messaging so much wider than by just sending an e-mail or a letter.  We believe that our digital activity over this last year has been a major factor in The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise 2014 exceeding its target number of entries by a considerable amount.

We should thank the Digital Comms team for all their efforts in physically setting up the blog and advising us throughout our social media journey.  They also re-tweet our messages regularly and we would like to see this replicated across ED and other directorates/departments.

Impact on the team

Having an enthusiastic team who are keen to explore and learn all things social media and beyond has really helped us to seek out the most effective ways of using the channels available to us.

We now have 4 confident ‘experts’ in our team who are not afraid to experiment with new media and who share a real understanding of what we are trying to achieve.  These skills they can, of course, take to future jobs.

We have been asked to showcase our social media work at BIS workshops and have been approached by directorate colleagues to share our experiences to help up-skill others.  Our intern was recently asked to edit an internal corporate video as a result of the digital work he has produced for the Awards.

So we believe that, when it comes to social media, it’s definitely a case of reaping what you sow...

Digital Team Takeaway

  • Given the experiences recounted in our previous case study, we were slightly concerned to hear that an intern would be responsible for some of the engagement. However, the team had a clear plan to make sure that they actively learned from that intern and took sensible steps to ensure all content was able to be reproduced, post-internship.  It’s great to see all involved in producing content and willing to share their experiences with others at corporate events (such as digital fortnight).
  • Kat, Linda and the rest of the team have put real identities out there in the blog and Linked In group: we wouldn’t normally recommend that the Twitter account be so corporate, but the package seems to work for the team

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