Training Public Information Officers to respond to the ‘Big One’

The City of Redmond (Washington, USA) asked us to support in the delivery of the Cascadia Rising emergency planning exercise to enable Public Information Officers (PIOs) to rehearse how they would handle social media channels in the event of a high-impact earthquake impacting the region.

Natural hazards represent one of the oldest risks that businesses and government agencies have had to plan for, but the rise of social media has created challenges and opportunities that communicators need to be prepared for.

Our role in the exercise was to put the PIOs through their paces, with a specific focus on:

  • The speed with which PIOs were able to engage with a range of audiences using social media
  • The consistency with which Joint Information Center (JIC) members were able to communicate and coordinate their efforts amongst multiple PIO teams
  • The information sharing capabilities of social media responders and wider incident decision-makers to inform interactions with the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the wider humanitarian response effort (e.g. triaging casualties and directing on-the ground medical teams) 

We used our Social Simulator platform to enable participating teams to:

  • Engage with lifelike recreations of Twitter and Facebook, with our team of role-players recreating the fallout from the incident and interacting in real-time with PIO teams
  • Post statements to mock-ups of their websites and monitor authentic-looking media feeds, including TV bulletins, radio broadcasts and traditional media articles 
Breaking news as Cascadia Rising gets underway – fictitious material created for the purposes of the exercise

Project Outcomes

Learnings identified during the exercise have led to updates being made to the City of Redmond’s public information process and revisions being made to the memorandum of understanding which sets out how the PIO teams for the different counties making up the City Of Redmond will cooperate in the event of a major incident

How could we help you?

Talk to us informally about how we approach this kind of work, ballpark budgets and timescales - or just to help you refine your brief: email hello@helpfuldigital.com

Social media skills exercising for Chicago O’Hare and Midway airports

Chicago O’Hare and Midway airports wanted to test their ability to harness social and traditional media channels as part of their emergency public information response to a high-impact incident impacting both airports simultaneously.

We were enlisted to take part in their triennial full-scale exercise in order to test Public Information Officers (PIOs) spread across two Joint Information Centers (JICs), including:

  • Examining how two JICs coordinated their public information response by sharing information and harmonising messaging
  • Testing how PIOs handled a high volume of passenger and other stakeholder queries across real-time social media feeds
  • Testing how PIOs handled a high volume of phone queries from reporters

We used our Social Simulator platform and associated role-play service to enable the participants to:

  • Engage with lifelike recreations of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, with our team of role-players recreating the fallout from the incident and interacting in real-time with PIOs
  • Post statements to mock-ups of their websites and monitor authentic-looking media feeds, including TV bulletins, radio broadcasts and traditional media articles 
  • Engage with role-played telephone queries from reporters looking for latest information in relation to the incident

Project Outcomes

Learnings identified during the exercise have led to updates being made to the Chicago Department of Aviation’s public information process

How could we help you?

Talk to us informally about how we approach this kind of work, ballpark budgets and timescales - or just to help you refine your brief: email hello@helpfuldigital.com

Empowering prisons to engage online

As part of the reform prisons programme, Involve UK were looking for help supporting Kirklevington Grange and Holme House prisons to work more openly and transparently online.

The Tees-Wear reform prisons were seeking guidance on how best to use social media to help them to:

  • develop more open and accountable forms of decision making
  • support prison staff to be more confident in listening actively
  • engage the local business community to identify opportunities

Researching conversations about Tees and Wear prisons, we quickly established that individual trusted voices would be more impactful than a corporate account in sharing prison communications. While staff working at the prison were enthusiastic and accommodating, there were some reservations about the impact of social media on their work. To allay these anxieties we ran several workshops with prison staff, including Ian Blakeman, Director of Tees & Wear Reform Prisons, to ensure they felt confident managing their own social media accounts.

Project Outcomes

The pilot staff members were great at recognising the importance of authenticity on social media and the importance of listening. Their work has helped the community to collaborate more closely with the two reform prisons and to better understand what happens inside.

Although Ian Blakeman has now moved onto a new role, he still uses his account in a professional capacity as HMPPS Director of Performance.

How could we help you?

Talk to us informally about how we approach this kind of work, ballpark budgets and timescales - or just to help you refine your brief: email hello@helpfuldigital.com

Auditing social media activity from in-country teams

Our client has 400 communicators in 22 different countries. 

In addition to a tailored digital training program for every member of staff, they asked us to audit the activity of 3 specific teams. The ‘digital diagnostics’ are designed to provide in-country teams with advice and support; to help them understand their strengths and development areas. 

Our audits include:

  • Audience mapping
  • Channel growth
  • Content analysis, including analysis of best performing posts and patterns for success
  • Engagement analysis

To provide maximum insight and value, audits are data-led and provide practical recommendations that are feasible for a small team to deliver quickly. We also provided longer-term recommendations to help the central team plan their global strategy and support.

Project Outcomes

As a result of their audit, participant teams:

  • Produced better evaluation of their own activity
  • Improved their planning and content production
  • Changed the way they worked with agencies, to be a more intelligent customer

How could we help you?

Talk to us informally about how we approach this kind of work, ballpark budgets and timescales - or just to help you refine your brief: email hello@helpfuldigital.com

A channel strategy for a military service

Within all large, complex organisations, social media grows organically. Before you know it, there are too many channels, which are difficult to navigate for users and hard for central teams to manage. The quality of content and evaluation varies considerably.

This was the case for one of the UK military services who asked for our advice on how they should manage the number of social media channels. 

We produced:

  • an audit of their branded Facebook and Instagram accounts
  • recommendations for reducing the number of organisational accounts from over 200 down to 50.
  • criteria for accounts that should be kept or merged
  • a guide to setting standards and processes for the remaining accounts

Project Outcomes

Our client has been able to:

  1. Close or merge more than 100 social media accounts (and counting)
  2. Demonstrate that they are in control of their presence on social media
  3. Place the digital team as a centre of expertise and ownership
  4. Help those with social media channels understand how their efforts can be made more efficient and deliver greater impact
  5. Challenge those teams to think clearly about the quality of their overall online presence, including web pages

 

How could we help you?

Talk to us informally about how we approach this kind of work, ballpark budgets and timescales - or just to help you refine your brief: email hello@helpfuldigital.com

Online crisis communications training for the UK Government

Since 2010, we’ve delivered crisis communications training for the Government Communication Service (GCS). 

We meet participants from different backgrounds and roles: experienced press officers, new social media managers or heads of strategic comms from the private sector.

These sessions are delivered entirely online using web conferencing, breakout rooms and our own simulation software. We encourage everyone to share their stories about crises they’ve had to work through.

We are constantly iterating an agenda that gives participants a clear overview of the “must-know” crisis communications topics and examines live issues and developments. 

Our training is interactive and uses our Crisis90 platform. Participants work in teams to share the pressure as they respond to an unfolding crisis affecting a hypothetical government department. 

Project Outcomes

Since 2010 we’ve trained more than 5000 communications staff

This course is consistently the highest rated piece of learning and development offered by GCS

How could we help you?

Talk to us informally about how we approach this kind of work, ballpark budgets and timescales - or just to help you refine your brief: email hello@helpfuldigital.com

Social media skills for defence communications

The client, a national defence department, recognised the importance of good digital knowledge and skills within its 30-strong communications team based across the UK. 

As part of a wider digital review, the client wanted training for their corporate and embedded comms officers. The training would allow them to produce high-quality content for web and social and would complement the strategy development work happening at the same time. 

We began the project by looking at their user needs and identifying the key topics that would be most relevant and effective for their staff. 

Training topics included:

  • How to stay safe and compliant online
  • Where to find digital inspiration
  • How to stay on top of the changing digital landscape
  • How to create good content, including photo and video, on smartphones
  • Understanding social media algorithms
  • Handling social media channels in an emergency. 

With the training content identified we:

  • Built and personalised a Digital Action Plan for their customised training content
  • Facilitated a two-hour workshop for users to launch their training. Participants completed two of the modules, kickstarting their training. 
  • Provided support and encouragement via the DAP discuss section and with regular emails. The team were on hand throughout the training for any questions participants might have. 

 

Project Outcomes

The learning was delivered remotely, in bite-size modules, that allowed participants to complete the training in 4-6 hours, fitting in around their busy schedules.

Over the course of the project, participants completed a series of practical tasks to prove that they had put theory into practice. For example, submitting new content they had created, or examples of social media plans.

How could we help you?

Talk to us informally about how we approach this kind of work, ballpark budgets and timescales - or just to help you refine your brief: email hello@helpfuldigital.com

Helping the UK’s largest housing group make sense of social

When organisations are merged, their social channels can be left behind. Purpose, tone and branding are confused. Social consumes disproportionate effort for little impact on the new organisation’s objectives.

Our client was created from several different housing organisations. With an ambitious digital strategy, a prominent media profile and some challenging tenants, their social media activity needed to get up to speed.

We worked with their digital and communications teams to:

  • audit their channels and activity
  • co-produce a social media plan that different teams could buy into
  • recommend those channels that should be developed, stopped or started
  • provide training for more consistent evaluation
  • establish a process for sharing digital skills across different teams

Mergers are always hard for people, so we needed to deliver this work in a consultative, sensitive way. We ran pilot projects to get different teams working together and build contributions to a final plan. We identified success stories as much as we flagged problems. Wherever possible we encouraged people to continue using social to meet their objectives, rather than simple rationalising accounts.

Project Outcomes

  • new social media team was brought together for the first time
  • piloted new approaches to content creation and evaluation
  • provided the senior leadership team with a plan that restored their confidence in social
  • activity was refocused  on the organisation’s goals, including sales, community outreach and customer service

How could we help you?

Talk to us informally about how we approach this kind of work, ballpark budgets and timescales - or just to help you refine your brief: email hello@helpfuldigital.com

A vision for digital at the General Optical Council

The General Optical Council (GOC) wanted to understand how social media should fit with their exciting plans for a new intranet, CRM and more online consultation with the ophthalmic community.

Our ongoing work with regulators means that we have a keen sense of the challenges they face online. This includes managing the balance between promoting standards and promoting their sector.

Working with the senior leadership and communications team, we:

  • produced an alpha digital communications strategy, using the GOC priorities as our starting point
  • interviewed key staff and ran a workshop to understand what different people needed from social media
  • ran a roadmap session, to determine what GOC needed to have tested on social, and by when
  • produced a beta digital communications blueprint for them to follow, iterate and improve

Communications activity from regulators is often (understandably) cautious. We were able to convince GOC that

  • the same social media channels could be used to consult their audience, as well as provide serious updates on investigations
  • it’s always better to start digital projects small and then scale, using simple platforms and tools

An important part of this project was finding ways to get the whole organisation using digital channels, with the small communications team acting as a centre of excellence rather than having to take responsibility for all publishing.

Project Outcomes

  • a blueprint for digital communications
  • an alpha intranet project using a free platform
  • user testing of the GOC website and social media content
  • a single communications plan with content crafted for different audiences

How could we help you?

Talk to us informally about how we approach this kind of work, ballpark budgets and timescales - or just to help you refine your brief: email hello@helpfuldigital.com

Helping a small safeguarding charity to build a workable crisis plan

An independent charity responsible for leading research into child sexual abuse were looking to strengthen their crisis communications plan. As a small organization based remotely across the UK, they wanted to build a response process which was easy to follow and adaptable depending on resources.

We worked with the Leadership Team to develop their existing plan by adapting their mobilisation and escalation process, giving them clear checklists to follow, and developing useful crisis templates. We then held an interactive workshop to test the plan against several realistic scenarios. 

This workshop was held remotely with the Crisis Management Team using video conferencing, our innovative Crisis 90 platform, and open-source documents. The workshop helped to expose those parts of the plan which needed adapting for real-life situations and where there were potential gaps in the centre’s procedures. 

Project Outcomes

Following the session, the team left with a tailored and workable crisis plan, actions for tightening up their processes, and the confidence that they could respond effectively to a crisis.

“The use of different platforms and mix of interactive and talking through was really good.”

“Clear research into us as an organisation and the specific issues we face.”

How could we help you?

Talk to us informally about how we approach this kind of work, ballpark budgets and timescales - or just to help you refine your brief: email hello@helpfuldigital.com

Mapping online audiences for an energy provider

One of the UK’s largest electricity providers were looking for help mapping their online audiences so they could build a better understanding of their stakeholders and ensure that social media was being integrated into their public engagement work.

Our work focused on identifying relevant stakeholders and helping them to build an understanding of their social media audiences, particularly around key priorities. As part of this work, we used various paid-for and free tools to research their social media channels, analyse how they could develop the breadth of their audience and build a community online. 

Project Outcomes

As a result of our work, the energy provider is working to integrate social media more closely into their stakeholder engagement process as they move more of their engagement work online. Based on our recommendations they have improved their social media monitoring, clarified channels strategies, and connected the social media and stakeholder teams more closely.

How could we help you?

Talk to us informally about how we approach this kind of work, ballpark budgets and timescales - or just to help you refine your brief: email hello@helpfuldigital.com

Crisis training with Kew Gardens’ Executive Board

The Royal Botanic Gardens in the UK wanted to test their ability to respond to a cyber incident. We facilitated a half-day simulation for their Executive Board, based on a realistic data breach scenario.

The objectives of the session were to :

  • Rehearse Kew Gardens’ response to a Business Continuity incident in line with their plan 
  • Test the process of mobilising and drawing on support functions identifying gaps in plans and processes
  • Work through the escalation process and management of external stakeholders in a contained scenario environment

Project Outcomes

  • Executive Board have now rehearsed mobilising and coordinating their response
  • Gaps identified in existing processes
  • Kew Gardens have streamlined their escalation process
  • Roles and responsibilities have been more clearly defined

How could we help you?

Talk to us informally about how we approach this kind of work, ballpark budgets and timescales - or just to help you refine your brief: email hello@helpfuldigital.com