It’s all about digital these days. You can’t get away from it.
Your twitter feed is constantly bombarded with ‘top ten tips’ on great ways to engage via social media. Everyone thinks they’re comms gurus now that they can broadcast and push their own online content. Even the Government is talking about the need for staff to become ‘digital natives’ in order to flourish in the modern world.
And, much of this is right and proper….. except, it doesn’t always work.
Take one of our latest campaigns for example. We launched a public engagement exercise asking people to take part in our survey on NHS waiting times in Wales. There were only 10 short questions – easy and quick to do, so bound to yield results, or so you’d think.
We wanted as many people as possible to take part, so we could paint an accurate picture of what service users think about the issue. The findings would form part of the evidence base for a national report on waiting times in Wales – which is due to be published later this year.
As with any other campaign, we compiled a comms plan. We did it text book – adopting a ROSIE approach (research, objectives, strategy, implementation, evaluation) not an SOS (sending out stuff) one – @AlexanderAiken would be proud.
We devised innovative ways to drive traffic to a microsite we created – using online tools as well as other tactics.
But, despite this, I am now convinced that we were lured way too much by the forbidden fruit of digital.
Blinded by our successes in previous public engagement campaigns, we were seduced by the immediacy, the cost free and shareable aspects of social media.
And it wasn’t without its plus points. In terms of pure engagement, it was impressive for us locally. For example, in the first two weeks we secured a Twitter reach of almost 90,000, an exposure of nearly 400,000 and 130 retweets. Our #NHSwaiting hashtag was also trending in Wales on two occasions.
But, in terms of actual responses to the survey – responding to our call to action – the whole raison d’etre of the campaign?
Well, that was disappointing – 75 responses.
We were doing some things right. Most notably, we were evaluating the impact of our communication throughout the campaign and this gave us the opportunity to switch tactics and amend our approach before it was too late.
And, we went back to basics.
We didn’t ditch digital completely, but we really upped our game when it came to the tried and tested.
We put on the comfy slippers of offline again and created and distributed posters, contacted target groups and upped our press office efforts. Four days later the number of responses had gone up 26 per cent. There was clearly still a long way to go – but it showed us that our offline activities were yielding results.
By the time the 4 week survey closed, we received 225 responses to to the survey. It was an improvement, although admittedly lower than we’d hoped overall.
But here’s the real point.
What I didn’t mention until now was that a paper version of the survey had been posted to target groups at the same time as our online campaign. And, 900 questionnaires yielded 400 responses.
What does that tell you?
From our experience digital engagement works well for many topics we look into – but our engagement work in certain areas, such as in health, seems to find greater success offline.
We’re learning all the time as a team – and that’s part of the fun. We’re getting more savvy about audience insight through our failures as well as successes and through constant evaluation we’re gaining so much knowledge. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is wasted.
But one thing we have really learned from our latest campaign is that it is all too easy to get swept up in the digital euphoria and forget that some of the old school tactics are still cool – yes, really.
So, are you finding digital a bit rubbish when it comes to some of your comms efforts?
Are you falling back in love with offline?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Photo credits – creative commons:
Social share icons by Jason A Howie.
Michaelangelo’s forbidden fruit was a fig by Rubber slippers in Italy
Keeping warm while relaxing by Ana C.