There were 8,000 police officers at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in 2013. The world's leaders gathered and key items were discussed. But what was the role of the 10 Downing Street digital team?
I was in a meeting the other week when it occurred to me that the beautiful round table we were gathered at was used by leaders at this year’s G8 summit at Lough Erne, Northern Ireland.
In addition to adding a slightly absurd twist to my otherwise fairly run-of-the-mill meeting, it quickly took me back to the fantastic time I had as part of the G8 digital team.
We had a seat at that table. From the off, digital was factored in – we'd need five people on site covering the G8 pages of gov.uk, helping design and populate a website for journalists for media assets such as raw footage, photography, video and managing a raft of social channels.
One of the key pillars of G8 2013 was improving the transparency of governments and institutions around the world. As a digital team working on the summit we therefore knew that it was important to use our online channels to open up the summit to people around the world. In practice this meant a rich Twitter feed, a stream of official photos on Flickr, and a live stream of events provided to gov.uk via Youtube, aswell as some in-depth work to identify G8 influencers internationally and monitor their sentiment to our output. It was also our objective to make G8 2013 the most tweeted about G8 summit ever.
The summit digital team was gathered from across Whitehall – from Foreign Office, Department for International Development, Cabinet Office and Number 10. This of course was a great opportunity to share skills and approaches, but it did mean embracing the unknown.
We had a quick meeting in London to allocate roles and run through the broad shape of how things would run over the course of the two-day summit, but we knew that we’d need to be quick to adapt to changing events, that long hours would be required and that it was important that we could demonstrate speed and creativity at a moment’s notice.
Publishing from unlikely locations was a theme of our trip to Northern Ireland - a live YouTube stream made available via gov.uk from minibus hurtling through the lakes using an iPad and a shaky 3g signal, a news story composed and published from a car park as we perched on suitcases, and, most memorably, a late night in our accommodation in deepest beautiful Ireland, editing pictures and transcripts fuelled by Pringles and the brilliant humour of four gals happy to play a small part in the summit.
I think the best indication that our work made an impact is the sheer number of times our content surfaces as I sit here googling G8-related terms. Our pictures, web pages and videos are very much part of the picture. And our work probably did contribute to G8 2013 being the most tweeted about G8 summit ever.
But most importantly, we were given a seat at the table and I hope digital is as much part of next year’s G8 summit. We’ll give them our @G8 Twitter account for a start.
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.