in defence of fun

By Gillian Hudson

Like me, you probably spend 99% of your job communicating about really serious issues. Thinking back over the last week or so, I’ve worked on a projects on dementia, fostering and youth unemployment. But sometimes, just sometimes, I work on projects that are a bit lighter. You might even call them ‘fun’.

A case in point is the first anniversary of our Downing Street cat, Larry, arriving here to catch mice. 

Now if I’ve learned anything during my communications career, it’s that celebs and pets go down well. You’ve only got to look at the popularity of Pop Bitch to know that. So I worked on a little digital communications plan for Larry’s first birthday here. There were pictures taken by a colleague, a couple of tweets and best of all, a Storify of his time with us so far.

A little biography if you will. 

It was fun to work on this for a few hours, but I didn’t do it for fun. I did it to drive traffic to our website (where you can take a virtual tour of the state rooms Larry wanders through) and to our Flickr galleries. I did it to put eyeballs on our new Storify pages. 

Here’s some stats about ‘the Larry effect’: 

- there were 433 retweets from two tweets – putting both tweets in top 10 most retweeted in Number 10’s Twitter history. 

- 1,000 mentions of “Larry the cat” on Twitter

- 19,000 views for the Larry set of pictures in 24 hours and 59,000 picture views overall, meaning that people who came to view Larry photos also looked at other photos.

- 1,500 page views of the Larry page on the Number 10 site  

- almost 4,000 views of our Storify page  

An added bonus was some coverage in the mainstream online media, by Sky, Huffington Post and others, generated solely by our digital communications. 

And here’s one of my favourite stats.

Battersea report that overall, communications around Larry being here has led to a 15% increase in the number of people adopting cats last year! 

We all instinctively know why people are interested in a cat that came to Downing Street – it reveals something of the very-real people, (pets), and goings-on behind the black door. There will always be criticism of fun, especially in our public sector context.

But I don’t mind, because I know that tomorrow, and the day after that and the day after that, I’ll be working on really serious issues. So here’s some advice.

Go and find a way of opening up the doors of your building, find the Larrys in your organisation, and have a bit of fun once in a while.

Gillian Hudson is a digital campaigns manager in the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office digital comms team. The team is responsible for No.10 site and associated digital presences.

photo credit