Communicating Digital Community of Practice – feedback on our first monthly meeting

Last week saw the first monthly meeting of our ‘Communicating Digital’ community of practice.  We’ve had 16 comms practitioners sign up to the community since we launched it back in May.

A shared space and encouraging engagement

A good community of practice can help break down silos, accelerate professional development and share knowledge and experience. Over time we hope this community will develop into a self-managing group and to help this we’ve created a shared planning document where any members of the community can add ideas for speakers or challenges they’d like to discuss.  We also put some structure around the monthly meetings to make sure we have the chance to hear from the group and get value out of the time together. The group can self-nominate a situation, problem, challenge or success that could either be helpful for the group to hear about or is asking for some help from the group.  We want the community to be the opportunity for members to shout from the rooftops about the great work they’re doing, the place to get advice and support and a place to prompt debate.

To help with this our first meeting followed an outline agenda:

What do we mean by communicating digital transformation?

In the section on ‘What do we mean by Communicating Digital’ we heard from Victoria Ford who has been working in comms and digital across numerous roles, including as a Head of Communications in the public sector, for many years.  Victoria talked about the difference between communicating digital change or transformation and digital communications. She kicked off with a definition of digital that says:

The terms digital and IT are often used interchangeably, but digital transformation is so much more than just technology. It’s designing services around the needs of your users, it’s creating an organisation with the culture and skills for change to succeed. It’s about people.’

As well as talking about the concept of ‘working out loud’ and the role of comms professionals in supporting individuals, teams and organisations with this, Victoria explained about the need to set context and bring a human, flexible approach to communicating digital transformation.  She talked about collaboration and looking for opportunities to engage organisations with digital change.

The group had a discussion about Victoria’s presentation including the role of comms in developing organisational strategy and how we adapt our tools and techniques to respond to the pace and challenges of digital change.

Sharing challenges and seeking advice

As the conversations around the definition of digital and the role of comms teams went on longer that we had anticipated, we only had time to cover off one of the questions from the group. This came from Rob Owen-Jones from Vale of Glamorgan Council who asked:

“I’d be interested to know if anyone has experience of coordinating internal networks of non-comms people who are doing elements of comms work and how to encourage best practice.

The nut I am trying to crack in our internal network of content editors for the website. We have a set up where there are dozens of colleagues in individual service areas who maintain sections of our website.”

This question prompted an engaging conversation around techniques for bringing people together from across a business to collaborate on subjects outside their core roles and grouping people together by skill and interests rather than business topics. The group discussed style guides and assurance and talked about examples of where it had worked well in the past with sites like gov.uk. Rob and others are now planning to take these away to consider in their organisations.

Looking forward to our next meeting

It was great to be part of such a lively conversation and start to understand how this community can add value.  We found that we were a bit ambitious with our agenda and will aim to have one presentation and one group question for the next one! 

As the community develops we’re also hoping that we’ll see the group bring back their experiences of implementing some of the ideas discussed so that the learning becomes cyclical and really based on the lived experiences of the comms pros in the (virtual!) room.

If you’d like to become part of this community and have ideas and experience to share, or challenges you’d like to debate with a wider group of comms pros, then please drop us a line on info@digitalpublicservices.gov.wales, we’d love you to get involved.

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