The importance of aligning digital objectives with organisational objectives

This morning a re-read of Tim Lloyd’s ten mantras for a digital communications team and a subsequent tweet got me thinking about the importance of setting objectives when working in digital communications.

Objectives are imperative to any organisation. Working without a clear objective not only means measuring your success is at best subjective it can badly hit morale and drive. Imagine going into work and not knowing what you’re working towards.

Ohh, shiny!

Digital can be particularly prone to working without objectives as new and shiny tools excite and enthuse people to work towards a self-determined goal, e.g. ‘I want a website with integrated Twitter and YouTube content’. Lack of understanding of what digital can do can hamper senior decision makers ability to see whether one digital activity/project compared to the next is adding any value. Both things add to the opportunity for digital projects to slip pass the usual tests of:

  1. Is this adding value to the organisation?
  2. Is this an efficient use of our finite time?

Aligning digital to organisation objectives

If digital teams are to show their organisations they are worth the salary, digital teams have to be working towards the same goals as the organisation.

It bears repeating…

If digital teams are to show their organisations they are worth the salary, digital teams have to be working towards the same goals as the organisation.

It’s a question of getting the right individuals together who understand the limits that statement puts on them collectively. There may be a guy or girl who loves making videos, but if videos aren’t passing the above two tests then they shouldn’t be making videos. The approach brings with it good conflict – valuable conversations about personal goals, learning discipline and efficient use of capacity across the team.

An NHS example

A colleague in a Foundation Trust who enjoys working with Twitter wants to create some additional tweets to the numerous ones sent through by the national campaigns team. It will take them an hour of their 37.5 hours a week.

Will the tweets add value to the organisations? Is producing them an efficient use of the individuals time?

If the tweets are going to direct people to local services and/or start up a local conversation I’d say it does. If not that hour could be used to create other tweets which supported an organisational objective. For example:

Organisational objective = increase awareness of our safety record with the local population (as measured against the yearly ‘Do you think hospital X is as safe, safer or less safe than other NHS hospitals?’ question).

Alignment with organisational objective = a series of tweets to be used across the year that highlight the best safety aspects of hospital x and how the hospital is improving its safety record.

Management’s job

This simple writing tweets in one hour example shows how a good manager can turn a person’s motivation towards the common good of the organisation. It’s a tough job.

A good digital manager will be able to turn around to their boss and show how the team’s work has supported the achievement of organisational objectives; not just reel off a bunch of outputs. This is where the value of digital really starts to show itself. This is how digital teams can get investment and influence. This is along with Tim’s 10 mantras is a map to the future of digital.

Ten mantras for a digital communications team

Here’s a post from Tim Lloyd that I keep coming back to. I find it extremely useful to remember these when starting a new digital project or even just when deciding on what to tweet.

Number 7 is always the one I need reminding. Number 9 is often entirely alien to the NHS.

I’ve printed the list out and have it on my desk at all times. I’d recommend you do the same.

1. Put users and their needs first

2. Go to where your audience are

3. Listen, then engage

4. Measure engagement, not traffic

5. Content is king

6. Only start digital activity that you can sustain…

7. …and have a plan for leaving


9. Fail fast

10. No I can’t make a PDF, you need the IT help desk

Ten mantras for a digital communications team.

An internet free Thursday #ift update

Yesterday went well. The turn off mobile internet trick worked a charm and I’m pleased to say I went the whole evening internet free.

Nothing bad happened. I got back to a couple of emails and mentions today. Everyone left happy.

I even dusted off my German language skills an spoke an hour of German with my girlfriend. It’s amazing what you can achieve without the ‘net.

Internet-free Thursday #ift

Yesterday was my first internet free Thursday (#ift).

Why am I having internet free Thursdays? It’s all explained in my ‘Dealing with digital distractions‘ post.

How’d it go? Well sadly I had a good distraction from digital – a colleague’s leaving do. Being at the pub with great colleagues reminiscing helped stop the cravings but I was amazed how subconscious my movements to my phone and it’s unlock button were.

To help get over that I turned off my mobile internet, plunging myself into circa 2005. This taught me to stop looking at my phone!

After that I enjoyed a spell of just concentrating on chatting and enjoying the company of the people in my immediate vicinity. It was lovely.

There was one slip-up though. Once home I ordered a smart new shirt from

What?! There’s a good sale on!

I’d recommend #ift to all of you. It’s a helpful reminder of the need to turn off and look up from the screens.

Dealing with digital distraction

Last week The Telegraph published an article on Shutting out a world of digital distraction which looked at how the internet is affecting the writing of works of literature. Its content is relevant to anyone who uses the internet.

This article peaked my interest in how I deal, or don’t deal with being always connected to the internet via my phone and what that is doing to my productivity and quality of life.

I thought I would share six mechanisms I use to try and pull myself away from the screens once in a while:

  1. Prioritise the hour before going to bed. This let’s my brain stop whirring. 
  2. Occasionally leave my phone at home when I go out on a weekend day.
  3. Set certain tasks to complete online in the next 30mins/hour/two hours.
  4. Sign out of my email account and Tweetdeck account when working on documents.
  5. Reminding myself the quality of my work may go up if I wait a little longer to respond to contacts.
  6. Listen to my girlfriend when she’s says, “Get off that damn laptop!”

Figure 1: Information is Beautiful’s clever graphic. I imagine the differing levels of distraction exist for all of us, each personalised to our favourite internet fixes.

Despite these mechanisms the below paragraph struck home far too much for me to be able to say I’m free of the distraction of the internet:

“[Neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield, professor of pharmacology at Oxford University] We all like being acknowledged. Emails and messages reinforce that you’re worth contacting.” The little dopamine hit your body releases every time an email arrives in your inbox or someone tweets at you overwhelms the less immediately gratifying pleasure to be found in long, unbroken periods of thought and introspection, and we become hooked on distractions.

I’ve some way to go to say I’m more in control of my often habitual internet usage.

As a start towards being more in control I’m going to designate Thursday evening as internet free and see how I get on. Perhaps I’ll start on the pile of literature I’ve yet to make it through from Christmas!

Now press RT, I need the dopamine!

Will Jeremy Hunt improve NHS reform comms?

Communications and lack there of has be a consistent problem during the last two years of NHS reform. The Department of Health hasn’t been able to find a lead spokesperson to outline in easy to understand language the huge challenge of changing the way the NHS operates. And there has been a lack of understanding from all parts of government and the NHS (bar the NHS Confederation in the last few months, in my opinion) of the need to take time to build up the case for change with the public, NHS staff and the media.

Andrew Lansley’s approach to the reforms helped propagate these issues, so will Jeremy Hunt help reverse some of the communication problems?

The consensus seems to be that Hunt as the better, smoother communicator is able to reverse the comms problems but has no understanding of the thing he is now trying to communicate. As Paul Corrigan rather politically put it on his blog:

The appointment of the new secretary of state for health is a move away from someone who had a single idea about a policy to reform the NHS but could not communicate it (Andrew Lansley), to one that has no idea about NHS policy but communicates that very well – Jeremy Hunt.”

His implementation record during the Olympics and Paralympics is being flagged as proof of his abilities. Let us not forget however with the NHS we’re talking about the largest employer in Europe with 1 million+ staff spread over 400+ organisations all holding onto their slice of roughly £105bn of funding as the turbulent seas of reform buffet them from job matching to redundancy to opportunity and back again. Two, two week sporting events pale in comparison; as do the number of acronyms.

Olympic and Paralympic acronyms NHS acronyms

Digitally speaking Hunt has a Twitter account, something Lansley wisely opted out off, and has just witnessed digital comms at its most persuasive and pervasive during the Olympics; the first social games. Will this help him see the full suite of digital communucations as one way of the DH and NHS leadership building trust with NHS staff and the public? Hopefully so.

However, if the government wants health to quieten down then I doubt digital will get the step up I’d like it to.

As a stab in the dark, if I was in his position I would go with something along the lines of:

“We’ve all be dumped with this set of reforms. We must now enact the law. I want to work with you all to ensure we make these reforms as good for patients and the general public as possible.

I will take the next four weeks to understand my brief in depth and hear your thoughts on how we can get the best of these reforms. Please write to me or leave a comment at [link].”

Perhaps that is a naive view of political life, but I know that would resonate with my NHS colleagues more so that any of Lansley’s communications ever did.

Hunt has two years or less to implement the reforms before the election. He can either do it with or without communications. But only one of them has the potential to deliver a committed and supported change for the good of our nation’s health.

Mobile phones and nurses: @theRCN releases guidance

The guidance, ‘Nursing staff using personal mobile phones for work purposes’ was released on 22 August 2012 and it took the recent HSJ spin on it to draw my attention to it.

In short this guidance looks at whether or not nurses should be using their own phones while at work. The answer from the RCN is no, something I wholeheartedly agree with. Why should an employee have to meet the costs of a job they are employed to do and potentially divulge a personal mobile number in the process?

A look at some of the details

It may be a little picky but I’m disappointed not to see ‘and opportunities’ include in this sentence from the very first paragraph of the guidance:

“…as with the introduction of any technological innovation, new issues [and opportunities] have been raised by mobile phone use in health and social care.

That aside I was very pleased to read throughout the guidance a tone of understanding about the potential benefit to staff and patient a mobile phone can bring.


Making up for the earlier omission of opportunities the RCN do include a useful list on page three of the benefits of mobile phones. A couple additions I would have added would be continuous professional development and communities of interest but overall it’s a good list and I’ve replicated it below:

The benfits of a mobile phone to staff and patients in health and social care

  • communication via telephone, SMS text
  • messaging and email
  • photography, for example, of patients’ wounds or skin condition
  • basic tools such as calculator and stopwatch
  • internet/intranet usage to access guidelines and other knowledge sources
  • downloadable apps designed for specific purposes
  • use of global positioning system (GPS) software for getting directions or calculating mileage, and for protection purposes by tracking the location of lone working nursing staff.
  • [Continuous professional development via access to online and app-based courses]
  • [Joining communities of interest to share knowledge and solve problems]

A comment on publishing timelines

The report was published on 22 August 2012, yet there are only two references from after 2010, both 2011 RCN reports. There are no references from 2012. In fact the large majority of the online references were accessed on 21 March 2011, nearly 18 months before publishing the report.

In the field of mobile technology 18 months is a long time.

The guidance is flagged for review in July 2014. I would have preferred to see July 2013 for this area of guidance.

Perhaps the RCN guidance needs to be even more dynamic and be reviewed every quarter to keep up with mobile technology? Is there someone within the RCN who would be willing and funded to keep abreast of the subject area all year round?


Overall, I think this is a measured and open minded piece of guidance and well worth a read for an insight into community nurses’ work.

I fear though that nurses on the ground will face a tough road to getting a work phone that is useable, secure and technically able to take full advantage of what an internet enabled phone offers.

As usual local autonomy on policies covering this area in place of a national top-down policy brings its own difficulties.

@NHSCB’s social media and comment moderation policy – some thoughts

As you may have seen the NHS Commissioning Board (NCB) has published its Social media and comment moderation policy

The NCB, as new official leader of the NHS from October 2012, has set itself the goal of being an open and transparent organisation, setting the tone for the rest of the NHS on publishing data and risk registers, and answering the public’s questions (see Roz Davies blog post as one example). So does the policy stand up to that ideal?

Pre-moderation of comments

Why is it a pre-moderation policy? As the BBC clearly sets out in its editorial guidelines post-moderation and reactive moderation were two of the more open and transparent options available to the NCB.

By not publishing any comments before moderation the NCB risks slowing the flow of discussion.

Does it show that in the soft under belly of the NCB there remains a worry that people might say what they think in unkind terms? Do they not trust other commenters to correct others mistakes or rants? Or it is just that they don’t think they’ve the manpower or hours to skim the comments and moderate any that break the rules? If it’s the last one, fair enough… just.

Additional delays

Why delay comments being published in order to answer them as this section alludes to: “Sometimes there is a delay in publishing whilst we seek information from various sources to be included in our response to questions.” let the discussion flow don’t stall it. Then go back with answers when you have them.

Stay on topic

Posting ‘on topic’ (bullet point one in the approval checklist) is subjective.

I think that some constant complainers about one thing or another – you know the type, the people you see on every comment stream who quickly turn a point of view towards the chip on their shoulder, that these people will not get their comments published and therefore will get ever angrier bringing more pain to the comms team instead of less. Let them have their off-topic moment.

Sharing is caring

What is this… “don’t reveal personal details, such as private addresses, phone numbers, email addresses or other online contact details”?!

Clear enough on the personal details part but what about the online contact details? So, no Twitter handle, no email address, no blog? How are people going to network via the comments and build up communities of interest and knowledge?

A lot of sites ask you to sign in to a service before commenting. Why haven’t the NCB followed up their desire to use social media well with a social commenting function?

NB: It is required to give the NCB an email address to be able to post a comment.

It ain’t all bad…

I thought the following section was a stroke of genius:

“NHS CBA Staff Tweeting

Some NHS CBA staff tweet under their own names or pseudonyms. Despite their professional affiliation with the NHS CBA, their tweets do not represent the official position of the Board, and should be considered the product of each individual as a private citizen.”

Great idea, very clear and a positive step allowing staff to maintain or start a Twitter account (and hopefully other social media accounts) will at the NCB. NHS Trusts take note.


Overall this isn’t a bad policy, and the fact they have one is super. It sounds to me that they haven’t completely shaken off the worries about what the public could say in the comments. Perhaps in six months the policy will be updated based on their experiences. Let’s hope so.