Blog posts by and mentions of the Helpful team across the internet, on our own blogs and elsewhere.
There’s a good bit in this summary of how to develop a strategy by Anna Shipman quoting Russell Davies (actually, the whole thing is great): “Russell never goes into a quiet room and works out a strategy on his own. When working on strategy, he talks to people and they create it together.” In many […]
From 23rd September 2019 public sector websites will be required to meet new accessibility guidelines. Here is what that actually means. What is accessibility? Accessibility (or ‘a11y’) doesn’t just refer to people with disabilities but is about ensuring everyone is able to use every site on the web. Accessibility can affect anyone; users could be […]
IndieWebCamp was back in Berlin again this month for a weekend of talks, discussion and making, along with a meeting for IndieWeb organisers the day before.
Independent news and information has always been important to me. In 1991 my cousin was serving among the first regiments sent to liberate Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion. Behind all the excitement and pride at home, reading newspapers at the time gave me a sense of the scale of what was happening. Reading the facts […]
Recently we went through the process of hiring new staff and excitingly, we’re due to do some more soon. I did not want to have to fork out huge amounts of money to a recruitment agency, which we have used in the past, so after lots of research on the best (and most cost effective) […]
Digital tools help to make us all more productive and empower us to work from anywhere. Well, mostly, but not always. Digital tools also enable us to show our appreciation for each other – the people we manage, the people we work for or with – in lots of different ways. Not everyone is motivated […]
We’ve been working with organisations such as the Royal Air Force to help them introduce storytelling, using the very best storytellers they have: their own people. The best storytelling in communications becomes, in our opinion, quickly diluted if the telling isn’t done by real people, in a style that suits them. If people really want […]
We’ve been really pleased to see the huge reaction on Twitter to #SaferInternetDay 2019. In its 16th year, it’s all about working together for a better internet with advice and tools for keeping us safe online. Here we’ve rounded up some of the best advice and tools from the day in to a handy list. […]
Accessibility is becoming hugely important on the internet (as it should be!) and attention spans are shrinking so being able to write easy to read content is essential. This post isn’t about what you should write but instead has easy to follow tips on publishing a blog that everyone can read. 1. Use headings Readers […]
There are so many no or low-cost tools available to monitor, assess and create winning content online. Costly subscriptions for digital monitoring and marketing software aren’t in the league of many of the organisations we work with – but that doesn’t mean they need to go without. We’ve done the hard yards for them by […]
Data. Protection. Privacy. Regulation. Serious-sounding words, but not ones that necessarily inspire staff to hop, skip and jump into work every day. So how can you engage large teams with their responsibilities around data privacy? After all, almost everyone engaged in work, voluntary or paid-for, is responsible for handling personal information. The London Borough of […]
You’re a digital communications manager returning to your desk after the festive break. You open your inbox to a stream of apparently ‘urgent’ emails, you can’t remember the Twitter password and your monitoring software provider calls to say they’ve increased your annual subscription fees. It might not feel like it at the time but this […]
We’ve been taking stock of a big year for the Helpful team, in our 2018 Story. We’ve grown in numbers and scale (not least with the new team in the US!) but also in ambition and sophistication. It’s encouraging to see some pretty honest reflections from the team about the things we’ve been sorting out […]
Administrators of Facebook groups now have an option to allow pages – not just people – to join their group. This is important. Engaging with communities on Facebook has always been a challenge for companies, because one or more members of staff would have to join a group using their personal profile. That’s tricky because […]
Accessibility (or ‘a11y’) doesn’t just refer to people with disabilities but is about ensuring everyone is able to use every site on the web. We work to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 in all our sites as standard, however we recently had the pleasure of working with one of our clients who is willing to […]
We believe it letting the build team work in the environment that works best for them – but a local dev environment should also be painless and quick to setup. So recently we’ve rolled out an optional setup using Laravel Valet+ to keep simple tasks simple. TL;DR; As simple as Homebrew, Composer, and Valet+ are, using […]
The number of podcast listeners has increased significantly over the past four years, reaching over 68 million in America in 2017. 44 percent of these listeners are millennials and 57 percent of those listeners hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. What used to be considered an outdated and “nerdy” platform has revolutionised media, news, […]
During June 2018, we had our first Gov.uk inspired ‘firebreak’, where we paused non-essential project work for 2-3 weeks so the build team could focus on their own individual projects; including researching new ideas & technologies, organising neglected repositories, remodelling dated templates and writing helpful guides and documentation. Urgent requests from clients were prioritised over […]
We like Commscamp. A couple of hundred interesting public sector comms people in a lovely rambling building by the Birmingham & Fazeley canal, run on traditional unconference principles: no fixed agenda before the day, anyone can pitch a 50 min session, and the “law of two feet” applies (i.e. if a session is boring you, […]
As a team here at Helpful, we've got our share of personal connections to the NHS at painful and joyful moments in own lives. So as the NHS turns 70 this week, we've been looking back at some of the NHS projects we've done in our eight years working with NHS and related organisations.
On Tuesday I joined 4000 others at the Women Of Silicon Roundabout conference in London, celebrating gender diversity in tech and the day as a whole was extremely interesting and inspiring. The best bits The standout for me was Sarah Raymond, product lead at Spotify. Spotify has 170m listeners across 65 countries so pinning down and understanding […]
You don’t have to search far to find online guides offering advice for creating the perfect Twitter profile. Many of the guides I’ve found online are focused on gaining more followers, but really that should come organically if you’ve mastered the basics of your profile. The ‘popping’ part of your profile should be personality. Here’s […]
Steph writes about what we learned by “prudently overreacting” to an incident which helped us put some of our own crisis templates and information security measures into practice Using “prudent overreaction” to manage an incident of our own
We’ve been doing business in the USA for several years, helping clients in sectors from pharmaceuticals to financial services, energy to agritech to stress-test their crisis and emergency preparedness through crisis drills incorporating a realistic and dynamic social media element. This month we enter an incredibly exciting new phase, as we’ve opened our first North […]
Steph writes about how we test leaders’ ability to avoid simply being glued to the soap opera of a crisis on social media, which saps their time and focus and prevents them stepping back to consider the bigger picture.
We’re focussed on finding things that incident management teams did well, and where they need to improve.
My Grandparents were very proud of Dad’s travels with the Merchant Navy. On the wall of their home was a world map, with pins to show all the different places he’d visited. I used to spend hours looking at those pins and wondering. Since 2010 I’ve been using Foursquare and its later stablemate, Swarm. These two apps allow you to […]
Open government is a driver for the way we deliver a lot of our work at Helpful. The challenge with open government is that it’s often difficult to see the impact of changes to laws and processes, on the citizen. Prison reform is a case in point, which is why we chose to work with […]
Digital skills building doesn’t always lend itself to books. If you want to learn something you’ll Google it, speak to colleagues, or seek out training if you want more depth and support. Books have their place, but often for inspiration rather than practical learning. Sometimes I’m proved wrong and this is one of those occasions. […]
If you’re anything like me, I get used to doing things in a routine and often become blissfully unaware that there is an easier way. So when I discovered a few nifty things about one of my favourite apps, Instagram, I thought I should share it with you all to hopefully make your image sharing lives […]
Blogging, or its video equivalent, vlogging, have an important role to play in sharing ideas, encouraging feedback and explaining work that might be too detailed for 140 characters. Blogging tends to be overlooked, because it doesn’t offer the immediate gratification and ease of a social network. On something like Twitter you can publish within seconds and see responses […]
Tim explores how ‘advanced’ is a relative term in digital skills
The UK faces another vote this Summer. Whatever the impact on how the country is governed, we can be certain that the election process will generate a fresh round of speculation about how social media, and principally Facebook, is influencing political views/wrecking lives/creepy/sinister (delete as appropriate). It won’t surprise you to read that we have a […]
Stories today are shapeless, slippery fellows who slip through the fingers of all those who try to grasp them. To demonstrate this let’s look at the made-up story of the Apple and the Worm. 1986 Charles bought an apple from the Acme Fruit & Veg stall. When he got it home he took a bite […]
One of the topics we discuss during crisis training is the way journalists use social media to find context for stories, including photos and videos they can use in their reports. We show participants examples of how, before journalists even arrive on the scene, rolling news reports on their websites feature updates from eyewitnesses and […]
In a world of perfectly curated Instagram profiles and success-filled Facebook profiles, it’s good to have a messy space online. Somewhere you can experiment, explore and not worry too much about what others might see. You’ve probably read about fake news, the filter bubble and good or bad campaigns. It’s understandable that you may not want […]
Bias effects everything. From what we wear to how we design websites. And I am as guilty as everyone else. I think I know what an audience will react to. I think I know what will look good. I think I know what channels certain audiences will use. But I don’t. I found this out the […]
Hyperlocal channels including blogs, twitter accounts, Facebook pages and groups, vary in size, scale and value. Finding the right ones to engage with could make a real difference to the success of your organisation’s communications strategy. For press teams used to dealing with more traditional media, the usefulness of hyperlocals can sometimes be overlooked. We’ve […]
With all that’s going on in the world, reading websites, blogs and social media can be a little disheartening or overwhelming right now. A lot of high profile comments, views and headlines are seen by millions of people, just because of the person behind them, or the issues they’re discussing. It’s easy to feel like […]
Tim blogs about what former ministers’ reflections tell us about crisis
It’s that time of the year when everyone seems to be writing blog posts to reflect on the year that’s about to end. All very well if you have some time on your hands or lots to say. But what if you’re busy on New Years Eve or need to remind yourself what’s happened for […]
Good social media is engaging, timely, and visually appealing. The pace of change and expectations for good quality content are ever increasing. For example more and more channels offer live video streaming. However, scheduling still has its place and done well can make your life a lot easier. Do try different tools There are a wide […]
➀➅🌅😀 I’m calling it. 2016 is the year of emojis. The past year has been famous (or infamous) for many things, but those little faces and pictures that we use in our digital messaging have really etched their way into our lives in 2016. Love them or hate them, emojis have now emerged as a […]
Essex County Council have been early adopters of social media channels for sharing important messages and promoting their services. In Summer 2016, the Council began to respond to individual comments and questions directed at their two main social media channels on Twitter and Facebook. Taking this step is no mean feat: Essex is one of […]
Claire shares a neat digital public safety campaign
Kate writes about sustaining your crisis comms response over time
A good example here from the States about the power of video. Here are two pieces of content that are part of campaign to encourage people to cook their turkey responsibly (without setting fire to the house!) at Thanksgiving. We don’t all have access to content quite as dramatic as this. But compare this tweet (image, […]
Like many people, I was amazed to wake up to the news that Donald Trump was close to winning the US Presidential election. As the day has gone on the final result is gradually sinking in. I’m a big fan of Hillary Clinton and wrote my dissertation on her transformation of the role of First Lady, […]
Anthony shares a trick for adding a document icon to links automatically
A thorough social simulation should be demanding, but not impossible. And while we don’t say a lot about all the interesting projects we get involved with, that doesn’t mean we’re not having a lot of fun in the process.
Understanding how the web impacts your work isn’t always easy, particularly if most of your work happens offline. Working with people who are sat at desks, with computers and internet connections to hand, all day every day, is one thing. But helping those who are out doors, moving around and operating machinery is quite different. […]
Online customer service is surrounded by common sense advice. Don’t feed the trolls, keep customers informed even if you can’t help them straight away. That sort of thing. Happily, most teams we meet are increasingly well versed in this advice. However, there’s one area we don’t hear people mention very often, and it really should […]
I see myself as someone who has grown with social media. The other day I was discussing with a close friend about how our presence on social media has adapted to suit our current lives. When you look back over the past ten years and think about your social media footprint, isn’t it amazing how […]
Corporate blogs are a strange place. Often a neat aggregation of the different things an organisation does, rarely personal and hard work to maintain and promote. Generally, these days, I encourage organisations to avoid launching corporate blogs. Far more interesting and credible are proper blogs, written first-hand, by staff on their own channels. Staff who […]
How can you determine the value of your social media campaign? Number of people reached, retweets and shares, likes and comments, website hits? All useful and easy to measure but how about ‘identifying a new gene associated with a disease’? I was really excited to read the news from ALS that the money raised from […]
Steph’s worried that celebrating digital ‘experts’ puts up an unhelpful barrier
We’re often asked: how do you evaluate the Digital Action Plan? Quite rightly, clients want to know their learning budget is being put to good use. We don’t (yet) have a fancy evaluation framework, or a standard way of scoring people. This is because: this programme is about confidence as much as skills. Confidence is very […]
Our new colleague Kate get shot at in her first week
Whether you’re a fan or just bewildered there’s no ignoring the Pokemon Go phenomenon. It’s not without controversy, but done well, Pokemon is an opportunity to engage with a new audience and share key messages about your organisation’s services and priorities. Here are just a couple of examples I’ve seen of public sector teams linking up their […]
Tim wonders if Theresa May should be the first modern leader to leave Twitter and look elsewhere online for engagement
Anthony’s rebuilding one of our products, and shares a simple accordion pattern he’s been working on
There’s always a new online tool to try, so it’s easy to forget about our favourites. Those are tools that make digital easier. I shared these with Action Plan participants last week, so thought I would post them here too, for easy reference. Write more clearly: Hemingway A second pair of eyes on your words, in seconds. […]
Friends and family nod approvingly when I explain our training work. This is a first for me, as a former civil servant and journalist – until now the looks have been blank, or furrowed. What’s less easy to explain are the types of organisation we help. Large Government departments and financial services companies are recognised. […]
Luke blogs about supporting a new, more efficient and flexible intranet for the Government of the Cayman Islands
Steph blogs on the Social Simulator site about how to handle unwanted celebrity endorsements
Phil’s been making his own site faster: here’s what he’s been tuning
I was in Leeds this week, meeting NHS staff who want to find out more about how to start, or develop, their use of social media. You can read about all the different talks and learning sessions on the hashtag: #nhsgetsocial The stand-out theme for me was about the importance of empowering staff to use […]
On the Digital Action Plan we like to challenge participants who are already confident producing content across a wide range of channels. One of the ways we do this is by asking them to test and improve their content. Here are a selection of examples which demonstrate the value of regular testing and improvement. Netflix: emotional […]
I was pleased to discover The Democratic Society is holding DemFest 2016, a new democracy festival this weekend, although sadly I won’t be able to make it to North Wales where the event is being held this year. Digital democracy: beyond Boaty McBoatface One of the parts of the festival I’m most interested in the session […]
A couple of weeks ago, the Free Code Camp project made headlines by announcing they had decided to abandon their independent blog in favour of posting content directly to Medium, the popular online publishing platform. Go where your audience is On the Digital Action Plan, we advise participants to engage with their audiences in the places […]
When we’re helping people think about their online communications, to sell products, services or spread information, one of the most common mistakes we see is a failure to include a call to action. On the web, everyone spends a lot of time worrying about what happens if something goes wrong. If your post upsets some people, […]
Tim writes for CIPR on how those in leadership roles can be helped to communicate naturally online
I stumbled across my first ever Little Free Library on Sunday afternoon whilst out in my local neighbourhood in Stirchley, Birmingham. My encounter got me thinking about what the digital equivalent of the Little Free Library would look like and how we can build it. What is a Little Free Library? The Little Free Library is […]
One of our aims for participants on the Digital Action Plan is to help form digital habits and some ongoing curiosity. People often ask: ‘how can I stay on top of all this stuff?’ The short answer is: you can’t, really. But there are other people who are great at identifying trends, inspiring ideas and case studies. […]
One of the key aims of the Digital Action Plan is to broaden participants experience of digital tools, and the many ways they can be used. Social media is so much more than just broadcasting messages. As the name implies social media should be social and involve engaging, debating, and listening. You can learn a […]
Luke shares a great tip from a client – build up an intranet stock photo library with a walk around the office
The Digital Action Plan learning programme gives participants the skills and confidence to listen, explain and talk with their audiences online. But how can we be sure we’re communicating in ways that are accessible to all? Here are some some tips for making your communications more accessible and engaging. 1. Sharpen your writing Attention spans are short […]
I’ve just finished delivering two weeks of digital workshops on behalf of different organisations. Mostly, I really enjoy planning and delivering workshops. There’s a nervous rush in anticipation of the characters you might meet, and an opportunity to be creative in how you set up the session. Workshops are an integral part of our Digital […]
I’m sure you will have seen something about the Hackney Rat this weekend, it has been a popular news story on Twitter, Facebook and national news. The story, and how Hackney Council chose to respond to it, can teach us a lot about effective online engagement. The story really took off on Friday lunchtime when the […]
On Tuesday afternoon, Tim (@timolloyd on Twitter) and I delivered some social media training for staff at the Office of Rail and Road (@railandroad on Twitter) in London. The training was made of up two parts: a lunchtime presentation by Tim on the characteristics of effective digital engagement followed by an informal ‘social media surgery’, which I […]
With the Digital Action Plan, we encourage participants to take the time to understand their audiences and to develop a well thought-through approach to online engagement that reflects the particular needs and expectations of different audiences. Recently, I’ve seen some good examples of Digital Action Plan participants successfully adapting their style of online engagement to […]
Francis blogs about how digital can support local democracy
On Saturday, I was lucky enough to get along to Huddersfield for #notwestminster, the second annual get together for everyone with an interest in improving local democracy. Through a combination of lightning talks and structured workshop sessions, we explored solutions to a wide range of problems facing local democracy – everything from how we provide […]
My role as product lead for the Digital Action Plan often involves working closely with senior civil servants to help them become more confident around digital engagement. I’d like to share with you what I have observed to be the main barriers to civil servants becoming authentic digital communicators and how we can overcome them.
Steph shares a nasty trick we pull on participants in some of our crisis simulation exercises
Tim’s surprised how many many internal comms folk he meets who say they ‘don’t do digital’
If 2014 was about first steps for the Digital Action Plan program, then 2015 has been a hop, skip and a jump. I think we have learned a lot, and still have a long way to go, to understand what exactly motivates and helps people to develop their digital skills. 204 people have taken on a personalised […]
Luke’s working on incorporating machine learning and personalisation to make our client intranets more effective
Steph highlights a great summary by the team at Department of Health of what they’ve learned about effective digital consultation
Luke shares the highlights of a breakfast session we held recently with our intranet clients to compare notes
Luke rounds up some neat examples of how our clients are using their WordPress intranets
We’ve spent a number of weeks coaching senior leadership teams who want to do more online. Tim explores the things that often get in the way of great leadership using digital more effectively
Steph shares a template for a website development brief, based on what kind of elements help us as a supplier to write a useful proposal
Steph shares what he picked up at CommsCamp, an event we sponsored
Operation Strong Tower: Heavily armed SAS troops and police stage mock terror attack on the streets of London This kept several of us rather busy this week…
Sad to say this is getting an outing this afternoon as we say goodbye to Al and Mark…
Tim writes about the Head of Digital Capability role we’re hiring for at Helpful HQ
Steph explores how real-time video is posing new challenges to corporate communications in a crisis
Tim’s changed his mind about the role of Communications teams when it comes to digital skills
Setting up WordPress and a database from the command line Phil from the team has a handy bash script which takes the hassle out of a laborious job.
Steph reflects on five years since Helpful Technology started
Tim takes a look at the latest ministerial appointments to see where the latest opportunities might be for more digital engagement between government and citizens
Steph and Luke talked at the WordPress VIP Big Media and Enterprise Meetup in London about the cultural change behind WordPress-based intranets in government
Tim is interviewed on the Culturevist blog about technology, organisational culture and what he’d rather be doing
Finding colleagues can be tricky. Luke blogs about how to make the process easier and richer.
Steph writes about the issues for charities and other organisations trying to justify the counter-intuitive in social media
If Government communications leaders really want to embed digital in their teams, they need to challenge themselves. Tim poses ten questions to get leaders thinking about their role in digital.
Steph writes about the tricky question of when organisations should pay to promote their crisis messages in social media
Steph and Tim are quoted in this ComputerWorld piece looking back at the legacy of Francis Maude at the Cabinet Office
Steph tells the story of a change in ministers, and the jump-starting of digital engagement which it can prompt
Luke publishes an update on developments on our WordPress-based intranet platform, GovIntranet
Tim thinks that, as a consumer, it’s time for him to take a stand. In 2015 he’ll only be buying from companies whose staff are allowed to engage online. His blog post explains why.
Steph writes about fairness as a test for digital government services, in response to the Digital Government Review which we helped to put online
We’re helping teams to use digital tools and techniques by learning and making, with personalised plans. Tim explains why.
Some people will swear they don’t have any skills or experience to bring to digital communications. Tim reckons otherwise.
Steph and Chris are presenting at J. Boye’s Aarhus 2014 conference next week. The team at J. Boye caught up with Steph to share a few thoughts on what good and bad performance look like in terms of handling social media in a crisis
Tim’s changed his mind about digital press offices. Social media screens bolted to the wall won’t cut it. Press officers have to be ‘of the internet’, not simply publishing stuff to it.
For internal communication teams, is digital restricted to forums and intranets? No way, says Tim
Tim has been helping clients to overcome their worries about getting involved with online conversations – and having a bit of fun along the way
Steph highlights a nice digital launch around the Government’s Estates Strategy
Luke blogs about his and the team’s work on the new website for Parliament Week, informed by user research
Tim spoke at a Social Media Week London event organised by Keene PR on how social media is changing public affairs from the government perspective
Steph blogs at The Social Simulator, our social media crisis training and simulation service, about strategies for handling the reputational side of a data breach in social media
Tim writes about the trust that organisations have to put in their staff, if audiences are to be properly looked after online
Steph shares a planning tool he an Al have been working on to help communicators plan integrated digital activity
Steph blogs about policymakers using social media to find the unrepresented voices, and challenge the reliance on stakeholder and representative groups
Tim writes about the great work social media editors are doing online – often in very difficult circumstances
Al blogs about what was discussed at CommsCamp in Birmingham earlier this week
Al shares a work-in-progress framework for thinking about digital communications skills
Luke shares a simple tool and process for managing the migration of content to a new website
Steph shares six ways to use YouTube for public sector communications on the community best practice site, comms2point0
Third Sector covers our innovative ‘conversation’ site work for Big Lottery Fund, a partnership with Delib
Steph blogs about how attitude and critical mass are what counts in building an organisation’s digital skills
Steph’s been addressing a group of public servants in Melbourne, Australia on lessons from the UK on digital engagement and crisis handling in a social media world.
Luke reveals some of the new staff directory templates and features in our WordPress intranet theme.
Luke gets down to the nitty-gritty of tracking document downloads as part of your content trail in Google Analytics.
Our work doesn’t normally make it into Harper’s Bazaar, but then we’re not usually creating iPad web applications for exhibitions quite as cool as the Royal Academy’s ‘Sensing Spaces’ installation. The reviews are coming in, and audiences seem to be loving the exhibition.
Luke blogs about how publishers use tags and keywords on the web and intranet.
Steph blogs about helping people develop new digital skills through practice and support, beyond traditional classroom courses – and introduces a project we’re working on to create a ‘digital gym’
Over on All Things IC, Rachel Miller reviews a site our client Transport for London have launched as part of the Fit For the Future Stations strategy
Luke blogs about the new release of GovIntranet, our lightweight WordPress theme for intranets
Steph blogs about the Government Digital Communications Capability Review