Tag Archives: Communications

Could you go without internal email?

Is email bound up in the future of the way we work, or can new ways of working help us to share information more efficiently? Dyfrig Williams spoke to Lee Mallon of Rarely Impossible to find out.

LocalGovDigital's Unmentoring Logo

We all know the feeling of returning to work after a holiday to find a mountain of emails waiting for us. I always have a nagging feeling that I need to get to grips with my emails before I can start with the “real work” that I have in front of me.

My colleague Beth recently blogged about the recent review of our Randomised Coffee Trials, which pair people randomly to discuss the topic of their choice.

Alongside that, I’ve been taking part in LocalGovDigital’s Unmentoring, which is their version of Randomised Coffee Trials. In my latest discussion I had the chance to see if email really is a help or a hindrance by catching up with Lee Mallon of Rarely Impossible, who have ditched email for all internal correspondence.

Why chat about email?

Email has some issues, and a lot of that is down to behaviour. Whether it’s sending unsolicited emails or a dodgy use of the cc function to justify a sense of importance (check out Chris Bolton’s series of posts on bad email practice), a lot of the problems that come with email are down to us as users. The latest Natter On podcast gives a good account of both sides of the Email: good vs bad debate.

Another issue with email is that it tends to focus on work that specific individuals do rather than teams. That’s where tools like Slack can potentially help, as the format encourages people to work in teams. Tools like Trello can also help – why don’t we just log in and check the current state of play instead of sending a long series of email updates?

That’s not to say that changing the means of discussion is an answer in itself. Adopting a new tool comes with its own issues. People may not be particularly happy about having another source of communication to check, and an informal work tool like Slack (which comes with Emojis and GIFs) may be an anathema to some organisations’ working culture.

But if society is changing, and people’s expectations of public services are changing, do we as public service providers need to change too? A lot has already been written about how we can’t continue to communicate in the same way when using social media (including Helen Reynolds’ great post on psychopathy and social media). Can we really connect with communities when our day-to-day staff communications are inherently different? There are already signs that young people are choosing to communicate through apps instead of email.

What are Rarely Impossible doing?

I found my conversation with Lee really valuable. Not only was he happy to share his experiences over the phone, but he was also happy to share resources afterwards. It was fascinating to hear about the channels they were working through after 6 months, and their “1 year on post” is a fantastic “How to guide” for reducing your reliance on email.

And in case you think that it’s one thing for a private company to go email free and quite another for a public service, check out the work that’s taking place at Halton Housing.

Although email is our current default means of online office communication, we’re in a fascinating time where new tools are being developed all the time. If your organisation is thinking of ditching email, we’d love to hear from you so that we can share the learning from your experiences and whether it’s helping you to deliver better public services.

The Big Lottery Fund: Making a BIG Comms impact

The Big Lottery Fund is responsible for distributing 40% of money raised for good causes by the National Lottery. Communications Officer, Rosie Dent tells us how one communications campaign is having a meaningful, measurable impact.

A photo of Rosie Dent, which she used for her Lottery Selfie

Rosie Dent’s #LotterySelfie

In Wales, we award around £100,000 a day to projects that aim to improve the lives of people and communities most in need. Last year, we launched our strategic framework for 2015-21 which sets out what people can expect from us as a funder over the next six years. Our vision is that people should be in the lead in improving their lives and communities.

As a Communications Team, we feel that one of the best ways we can put people in the lead is by putting them in the spotlight and to give them the tools to promote the fantastic work they’re doing, no matter how big or small that may be. This thinking led to us launching our #LotterySelfie campaign.

The campaign has two strands, one is to encourage projects to share images with us using the #LotterySelfie hashtag. The aim is that by us sharing these images, projects can potentially reach new audiences. This strand of the campaign has been running since January 2016 and has up to 600,000 impressions each week on Twitter.

The second strand of the campaign is our ‘Surprise Lottery Letter’. Every year our staff assess thousands of applications and send out thousands of letters notifying applicant’s that their grant application has been successful. With such a huge volume, it can be easy to forget how truly life changing Lottery funding can be to communities in Wales. That’s what led to us thinking, why don’t we get more staff visiting projects and make the projects feel special by delivering some of the grant offer letters by hand?

The organisation we surprised for our first Surprise Lottery Letter was NuHi Ltd in Cardiff who provide substance misuse awareness, education and training for the wider community. They will use the £4,775 grant to create an IT room and website so people recovering from substance misuse can access information and support. The surprise was delivered to Holly, a volunteer who came out of rehab that very same day. We kept the surprise simple, all we took with us was a tablet, an offer letter and of course, a giant cheque (because who doesn’t dream of receiving a giant cheque?), making it an extremely low budget campaign, costing nothing except staff time.

 

What was the outcome for NuHi?

When asked how she felt about the surprise, Founder Yaina said: “The volunteers are still buzzing, they’re on yet another NuHi”. Yaina felt that staff morale has increased since the surprise.

Within two weeks of the surprise, social media exposure directly resulted in another organisations approaching them about to do some work in partnership and an invitation to guest speak at an entrepreneurial event.

The exposure also led to public donations being made, leading to NuHi setting up a pledge button on their website. We feel this is an extremely positive outcome for NuHi as donations could increase the organisations sustainability. It also led to three new enquiries being made for support from people recovering from substance misuse.

A photo of people involved with NuHi Ltd.

NuHi Ltd.

What there an impact on staff at the Big Lottery Fund?

Liz Hertogs who assessed the application and filmed the surprise told us, “It was my first ever project visit so it was great to meet one of our grant holders, and we were able to give them our offer pack and talk about what happens next at the same time. To be there when they found out they have been funded by us was truly special.”

Positive comments from staff and committee members about the video flooded in, we’ve never seen staff so excited about a communications product before! For days you could overhear staff talking about it around the office, it truly felt like it created a buzz around both of our offices, in Cardiff and Newtown. And that buzz was infectious, comments came in from Big Lottery Fund teams in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as Camelot and the National Lottery’s Good Causes team.

What coverage did the video receive?

Within days the video had been seen by over 8,800 people on Facebook, making it one of our best ever performing post on the platform. Social media content was shared by the National Assembly for Wales, Lottery Good Causes and We Are Cardiff, to name a few.

The video and story of volunteer Holly were featured on Wales Online, the article was shared on social media over 340 times.

Reflection

As other Communications teams likely find, it can often be difficult to evidence the outcomes of your work, especially hard outcomes. However the impact of this campaign has been incredible and exceeded our expectations. Many of the outcomes, such as public donations and enquiries for support from the project where unexpected and demonstrate how communications, especially digital media, can add value to have a meaningful impact on an organisation and communities.

If you would like to find out more about the Big Lottery Fund Wales, please visit our website, follow @BigLotteryWales on Twitter or like Big Lottery Fund Wales on Facebook.

Our Yammer journey – how we implemented an enterprise social network at the Wales Audit Office

In a few online and offline discussions recently, we’ve ended up discussing how the Wales Audit Office is using social networking to improve internal communication. Mark Stuart Hamilton has blogged about how we’re using it and the work involved.

The Wales Audit Office Intranet, with a Yammer feed on the right hand side / Intranet Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru, gyda ffrwd Yammer ar y dde

The Wales Audit Office Intranet, with a Yammer feed on the right hand side

We’ve recently introduced Yammer at the Wales Audit Office – for internal use. Like other social media, Yammer is a platform where people can post messages to each other, start conversations and improve knowledge sharing.

The difference between Yammer and many other social networks is that Yammer is designed specifically with business in mind.

We had been thinking about launching an internal social media platform for ages, but the time was never quite right. But after redesigning our intranet we revisited the idea.

Our old intranet had a system called post-its, which allowed people to post short messages to the front page. Original discussions focused on expanding that system (such as post-its being targeted to specific groups of people). But we soon realised that a different solution was needed.

Various options were explored and, after careful review, it was agreed that we would choose Yammer.

Yammer has a paid-for enterprise version and a free version. The enterprise version offers more administrative tools, although the free version was good enough for us for testing purposes. So, we set up the free version, along with a small pilot group.

At the start, this pilot consisted mainly of people who had asked for a system like Yammer since they would be more willing to start new discussions and breathe life into the system. We wanted as much content on Yammer as possible before the launch, so people would think of Yammer as something others use on a daily basis – not something to use a lot for the first day or so and then immediately forget about. In line with this philosophy, we expanded the pilot over time, so that more groups and content would be created.

That said, we still wanted to generate hype behind the main launch and get people excited – to encourage as many staff as possible to join in once it was officially launched. We have two television screens in the Cardiff office that display corporate news on a slideshow.  One of these slides was changed to read “Stop! Yammertime” and posters featuring MC Hammer were placed around the building carrying the same motto.

At the start, we provided no other information about Yammer. We wanted to generate discussion and a sense of mystery. Over time, we revealed more and more information, but the intent was always to instil Yammer into people’s minds rather than introduce it as a surprise.

We scheduled training sessions for people to attend about how to use and get the most from Yammer. Some staff were initially sceptical about Yammer and we have worked hard to show how Yammer can be beneficial for business, for networking and social interaction with colleagues. However, it is worth noting that marketing Yammer as “Facebook for business” is likely to generate a more hostile reaction from people who do not use or dislike Facebook (or other social media).

A few weeks after the Yammer ‘teaser’ advertising and the ‘taster sessions’, we officially launched the redesign of our intranet. We wanted to integrate Yammer into the homepage to further solidify the intranet’s role as the primary communications platform. The homepage now has an embedded Yammer feed in the sidebar.

The new intranet was originally planned to have a Yammer notifications icon that displayed the number of unread Yammer messages received, but this was cut from the release for technical reasons and will be re-added later*.

Our old news ‘comments’ system was also replaced with a ‘separate’ embedded Yammer feed. Yammer comments automatically provide a link to the article being read thanks to the Open Graph protocol.

Before we launched Yammer, our vision was that it would become a knowledge-sharing utopia. Almost everything would be sent to specific, targeted groups, and these groups would be made public so that people in different areas could provide insight into things that they otherwise would not know about.

In practice, it is hard to tell how much knowledge sharing has occurred, since people who learn something do not usually leave a comment to say that they have learned something. We also underestimated the importance of private groups. Some members of staff feel more comfortable if their messages are not sent to the whole organisation.

We will be doing a bit of work soon to evaluate how it’s being used by staff and analysing the take up, activity rates and value to the business.

Overall though, we consider Yammer to be a success – based on the amount of interaction taking place – and expect it to stay that way in future. Generally, it has been positively received and this is reflected in the kinds of discussions that are happening.

*For the curious, the unread messages icon is actually deceptively hard to create. The short version is that it requires creating a Yammer app, using the Yammer API to make the app impersonate a user by getting and storing their bearer token, and then getting their unread message count. The problems are performance-related and should be fixable by moving certain code client-side.