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What a difference 3 months makes - time out with the BIS digital team

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Capability, Content, Engagement, Inspiration

For the past 3 months, I've taken time out from my role in Enterprise Directorate comms to do a keep digital dive of my skills with the BIS digital team.

And what a difference those 3 months have made! Twitter, LinkedIn, Storify, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Flickr... so many possibilities.

I’ve been using digital channels for some time in my work, but wanted to take time away from my usual desk to learn some new tricks. It also showed me how much work the team does for us all.

For those of you unfamiliar with the digital team, it has 2 arms - one is digital engagement and the other is publishing. Digital engagement looks after all the digital channels (ways to get your messages out) for the department and the second is the publishing arm that puts all BIS content on GOV.UK and manages the super successful GREAT campaign website.

Digital has revolutionised the way that we write. As an ex-journalist and speechwriter I know writing articles to 'length' is not always the best way to communicate. Writing has changed. As much now, as when Virginia Woolf wrote that in 1910 “something changed” talking about the move to modernist writing. Reading spans are shorter. Sentences are shorter. Punctuation is used more sparingly. Readers want to cut to the chase and get what they want immediately before moving on. In short, they want digital.

So what did I learn?

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are great channels for starting conversations and asking questions about policy - not just to put up the odd message. Tweets have an average shelf life of 2 and a half hours so you need to keep an eye on it and get back to people quickly. If you don’t there could be a storm building up before you know where you are.

You should also think creatively. Is there a way to use podcasts? Guest blog on non-government sites? Ask stakeholders to work with you to create material like case studies to give a human face to how government policy is making a difference to people’s lives?

And use digital to listen. Who are the best organisations to help get out messages out? Shared parental leave? – Mumsnet! Growth Vouchers? – restaurant and catering small business organisations! Messages don’t always have to come from government. In fact, it’s sometimes better they don’t.

Storify is a news service run by the digital team, which is distinct from newspaper cuts, and gives a daily update of what people are saying about BIS policies online. A great tool. It showcases what people are thinking about us in real time with the opportunity to join the conversation on line immediately if you need.

But the 2 main things I learnt are:

  • there is so much out there that can make a huge difference to how we work
  • it doesn’t bite - be brave – dive in – there’s so much to see

The digital team are also a great bunch of professionals and very keen to help spread these skills. So do get in touch with them by email, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram…

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