Advice. It's maybe something we should all ask for more of. So asking the comms and digital community for their best piece of digital advice seemed a good place to begin.
by Dan Slee
The best advice about falling, Chevy Chase once said, is never to land.
Wise words from the star of ‘Spies Like Us’ but does it apply to the landscape of digital comms? Maybe. Maybe not. So, we decided to ask some people we rate for their best piece of advice.
As ever, it’s fascinating to see how people approach the question. Sometimes practical. Sometimes just general advice on the approach.
Take time out
“My piece of advice would simply be to take time out to think. We work at hyper speed, full of ideas and with massive ‘to-do’ lists – remember to step back and think about the bigger picture, it’s refreshing and will revitalise you ready to return to the fast pace of digital comms.” - Sian Fording, Communication, marketing and social media in public service at Academi Wales, Welsh Government.
“Asking the worthwhile questions, to the right people.
“Finding clarity to build the right solution with whichever mode it might require and being flexible and able to accept, sometimes you have to start again or roll back, quickly and efficiently as possible. Agile.
“Using code, design and understanding people. With analytics or just back to the questions.
“My best piece of advice is: learning how to ask questions and how to listen before action.” - Kate Norman, digital & design communications, Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
“Owning digital trust is at the top of my list of ‘To Do’s – So be less focussed on the quantity of output (no one wants to feel like they are being spammed). Broadcast less, and listen, and converse, and answer (no one likes to be just shouted at all the time – and they will just tune you out.) Prioritise providing value for your audience (your people want to feel that their time spent engaging with your content has a payoff.) And regardless of which digital platforms you use, work hard at becoming the trusted ‘go-to source’ on the topic/s and conversations that matter to you and your audience (no one wants to feel mugged off.)
“Digital trust brings with it digital authority, and gains you loyal advocates for your messages/brand/products/ideas.
“Win that on any digital platform, and you win at Digital Comms.” - Russ Gethings marketing and communications officer for Staffordshire County Council
“Know, and don’t lose sight of, your audience. Don’t get lost in the detail of digital without remembering who your content is aimed at, and its real purpose. Remember the maxim of “timely, relevant, interesting”, and how these words will be interpreted by your audience when creating your digital content.” - Ben Capper, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Trust.
“Its all about building beautiful relationships.
“Just like real life, a successful relationship is hard work that pays off dividends if you put in the effort. Gorgeous infographics, engaging visual content and the use of an ever growing range of new channels and platforms make for a wider array of interesting ways of getting messages across to a wider range of audiences. But how do you know any of them really work if you don't work on relationship basics?
“Take a real interest in people, show them you care. You need to be real and authentic in your communications. Listen to what your audiences are telling you and use that feedback to inform and improve your communication offering.
“Whatever your role in digital comms in 2015, the increasing role of personalisation and the diversification of channels and platforms make it harder to target the right people at the right time in the right way. The only way to get this right is to know your audiences inside out.
“Its just like those heady early days of dating someone you are crazy about.
“It all starts with building beautiful relationships.” - Pippa Alldritt, Head of Digital and Brand Strategy, Ministry of Defence, UK Government.
Experiment and be inspired
“Don't be afraid to try new things, it's an ever changing landscape, so you have to be adaptable, and not afraid to have fun.” - Andy Holmes Communications and Projects Officer Responsible for Video and Social Media Content, Buckinghamshire County Council
“Try stuff. If WhatsApp or Snapchat look interesting, there's nothing like a real-life project to test if they're the right platforms for your organisation and more importantly your audience. Nobody will die if your digital experiment fails, so take risks, try stuff and see what happens.” - Geoff Coleman, social media communications Birmingham City Council.
“Find the digital folk who share real ideas and help – not just the big names and their 100k followers with a ‘thought for today’, but people who can offer something that you can use or share directly that really makes a difference in what you do to others and their lives.” - David Grindlay, Team Leader - News and New Media, Falkirk Council.
“Cross-skilling is more important than ever. Digital ‘know-how’ is now integral to all communications roles, and so continue to develop your own expertise in other area. Being able to handle press enquiries or writing internal communication messages, for example, will set you apart as a digital specialist with a broad communications skill set.” - Paul Newton, digital communications manager, Keele University
Be single minded
“Take no crap. Easier said than done, but if you believe in what you’re doing, tune out people who criticise, especially if they don’t use social media themselves. Stick to your guns.
“Beware of dinosaurs. There are still people working in the business who will use the phrase ‘it’s just a few people on social media’ and mean it seriously. Be the meteorite.
“Novelty wears off really quickly. By all means keep your eyes peeled for new platforms that may be useful, but don’t invest time unless you can see a clear use and a distinct audience. Go where your audience is, they won’t follow you.” - Rob Simmonds, Well Chuffed Comms.
“Evaluate everything you do. Learn from what your analysis tells you. Refine and improve based on intelligence gathered so you don’t become a busy fool. Trying to manage multiple platforms by shoving up content for the sake of it is a total waste of time and money.” - Rachel Moss, head of communications, Wales Audit Office.
“Create your own, bespoke evaluation template. There are loads of companies out there offering to measure your social output and outcomes (for a large cost) but in reality much of the information you need can be gleaned using platforms’ own analytics. To create your KPIs start with your objectives and work backwards towards content and posting tactics. - Mark Binnersley, head of social media, Clarke Associates.
“When you are working in Digital, every project is a unique challenge needing a bespoke approach. So all what you need is getting your technical skills sorted. If you know how to implement the things that go into your digital communication, it’s easier to map them out properly. Learn how to find any new updates on DIgital tools, know how to install and navigate a CMS. It is an IT work but if you know how they do it then you will become better. Understand how to edit photos and videos. Don’t let your writing skills stopping you in anywhere you will come better and then the best. Anything in the world start from an idea then it's become a real.
“However, word of advice if you work in digital even if your knowledge is rudimentary in each of digital areas, it gives you the ability to converse with confidence. And don't miss to learn how to put across a convincing argument.” - Mohammed Othman, Middle East and North Africa regional digital communications officer, Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.
Image via Flickr