One of the things I love about my job is the endless potential it affords. There’s always something to learn; a new tool to play with; a process to improve upon. Experimentation is woven into the fabric of what digital is all about, so coming up with ideas for experiments to run as part of the Digital Lab was definitely not a problem. The only tricky part was going to be figuring out which one to pick first…
We were encouraged to identify an experiment that fits directly into our current to-do list. Instead of feeling like yet another thing to fit in, it should just be a version of your day job that happens to benefit from the expertise of a mentor. So with that in mind, I knew pretty quickly that I was going to focus on content.
The way we produce content at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has been changing. Rather than funnelling everything through a centralised team, we’ve been working with individuals across the organisation to skill up a team of ‘content champions’. They might post onto social media, write website content or create videos; the aim is to empower our people to tell the stories relevant to their area of work, direct to our audiences.
As our champions have gained confidence and got to grips with the mechanics of content creation, our attention has been turning to more strategic matters. Introducing a diversity of voices means our content increasingly reflects the living, breathing collective of passionate individuals that makes up the Trust. We see this as a hugely positive thing, but it comes with some practical problems to overcome, and a risk that the overall coherence of our output could be compromised.
To reduce this risk, we use a shared content schedule. By plotting everyone’s plans in a single place we hoped to increase transparency, encourage wider campaign thinking and enable opportunity-spotting for collaborations between teams. In practice, feedback tells us it’s mostly just used to find a gap in which to schedule up a post. It’s a useful reference point for avoiding timing clashes, but not much more. There certainly isn’t any evidence that champions are using the document to inform their analysis or broader planning.
So the focus of my first experiment is to see if there’s anything we can do to change that. After a helpful chat with my mentor I’ve gone back to the drawing board, thinking about what else a content plan could and should offer. Are we capturing all the information that we should be? How can this tool work harder to guide people’s thinking about what to create, not just when to send it out into the world? Is there a format that could offer reporting and insights to people at different levels of the organisation for a variety of purposes?
While I’m working through these questions I’m also on the lookout for alternative platforms that could provide a more flexible solution than our current Google doc. The one that intrigues me most so far is Airtable, which has the familiarity of excel but a lot scope for data interrogation in more visual, calendar-based formats. I’ve run a quick demo of the tool past our champions, and my next steps will be to set up a beta content plan that incorporates the findings of all my thinking so far.
There’s a lot of work still to be done, but I’m feeling really positive about the opportunity to take a fresh look at something that sort of works, but could be better. It’s not always easy to make time for that, but I’m excited to see what the impact of a relatively straightforward change could be on how we manage our content for the benefit of our teams, our stakeholders and – most importantly – our audiences.