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Not just for geeks: digital media across teams

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Digital content officer, Lucy Boyd,explains how digital expertise was developed across the learning disabilities charity Mencap.


At Mencap we're always looking for ways to improve how we work with colleagues, to turn them into staunch digital supporters.

One of our most successful steps has been to set up our digital champion scheme.

The aim is to make sure teams have their finger on the digital pulse - our digital champions develop expertise in a wide range of digital skills, from social media and blogging, to email marketing and web content.

The issues we faced

We started the scheme to tackle:

  • digital media as an afterthought, rather than integrated into project plans from the start
  • online materials that were not consistent with best practice for digital communications
  • teams duplicating work, or missing opportunities to work together to amplify their messages
  • teams briefing us late in the day, making much of our work reactive, and compromising our more strategic, proactive communications.

Our four aims were to:

  1. strengthen communication and relationships between the digital staff and the other teams at Mencap
  2. improve digital literacy and raise the bar for the quality of materials we commissioned to reduce time spent on editing them
  3. make workflows more efficient
  4. turn our digi champs into digital evangelists to highlight our core messages.

The actions we took

We started a sort of internal campaign, meeting each team and introducing the idea of the scheme. There seemed to be a real appetite for it, and around 50 people volunteered to become digital champions.

We now host a lunchtime meet-up every two months to talk about all things digital – each session adopts a different theme, and we discuss everything from web accessibility, to new digital innovations, and the latest online trends. One of our the themes of our meet ups is user experience and Zone Public's head of UX, Tory Dunn, talked to us about what she’s learned from working with other charities.

We introduced a culture of digital show and tell - the champs are the digital eyes and ears for their team and they horizon-scan with us. Sharing ideas and links to inspiring digital ideas is also building cross-team relationships and better communication. It means we’re better poised to jump on new trends.

We made our digital guidelines shorter and sweeter in the hope they’d be easier to remember! This includes tips and tricks for Twitter and Facebook, blogging guidelines, web editorial guidelines and content templates.

We introduced Digi Champ of the Month. Our champs have the privilege of adorning their desk with our digi champ trophy (a Nokia 3210 glued to a plinth of floppy disks.)

We devised workshops to help upskill the champions and provide support outside of the meet-ups.

Examples of workshops we offer:

  • using Drupal to edit web content
  • Twitter best practice
  • web accessibility 
  • online safety.

Digital activities we collaborate on:

  • Tweets, Facebook posts, and other social media content
  • email marketing
  • web pages and content
  • online marketing such as Google Adwords and social media campaigns
  • staff engagement.

Positive outcomes

We’ve found that giving people more autonomy over their content means they take much more interest and pride in what goes up on the website or is put out on social media.

Since starting the scheme we’ve delivered dozens of workshops and seen an increase in people actively using Drupal and engaging with their web content. We’ve also seen an improvement in the quality of the work we receive, in line with the new guidelines.

Our chief executive took up the Twitter challenge and encouraged all senior management on to Twitter within weeks. Getting the senior management team on board with the scheme gave it gravitas which was key to ensuring that digital champions gave it the time and dedication the scheme needed.

We used our super digital champions to inspire others - and get a bit of healthy competition going!

Negative outcomes

Reaching people in regional offices in Northern Ireland and Wales

It’s been difficult to include people based outside of London in meet-ups. We’ve been hosting remote meet-ups or workshops via Google Hangouts or conference calls, but to get online working well you still need some offline, face-to-face time.

Too much content and not enough long-term planning

It’s brilliant that people are keen to get their work online, but in such a large organisation, there’s a danger of content overkill and losing your audience. People often see digital as free and immediate, and don’t factor it into long-term plans. The scheme is encouraging people to think ahead, horizon-scan, plan and budget for content they may want in the weeks and months ahead.


Keeping a large, diverse group of people engaged, and coming back to the next meet-up has required some work. 

Lessons learnt

Make each meet-up relevant to everyone in the room, or risk losing elements of your audience - their time is precious.

Don’t be too vague or too specific, and try to give examples that each team can relate to. Separate into groups based on digital literacy level and tailor the activity to them. That way each group is being challenged and learning something, without being lost or bored.

External speakers are a good way to get bums on seats. We’re hoping to get someone from Twitter to join one of our meet-ups.

Don't make the scheme mandatory or a chore - people need to feel motivated by it to produce quality content and become active on Twitter themselves. Getting the senior leadership team on board really helped with this.

The digital champs are the lifeblood of the organisation's digital content – we need them to be excited by digital and aware of its possibilities, We want them to care as much as we do about the quality of their copy, video or other visual content, and consider from the start of a project - 'how can we best communicate this message to achieve this goal?'

There are always risks to encouraging your staff to be more digitally active for work - whether they’re writing blogs, tweeting about the latest campaign or updating a webpage in the CMS - but as long as the digital team can be there to offer guidance and continue to give feedback, the benefits generally outweigh the risks.


Page last edited Jan 04, 2016

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