Digital Works #4: getting stuff done

Author: Ash Mann

The first three editions of Digital Works focused on a variety of topics, products, trends and concepts. Ranging from procurement to AI, digital strategy to e-commerce, analytics to content, crowd-funding, micro-donations and more.

We wanted to use the final event of the year to focus on something more intangible, simply, ‘getting stuff done’.

Digital roles within arts organisations take all sorts of forms, they are often responsible for a bewildering array of things and expected to be expert in a diverse range of skills and experiences. We were interested in hearing how various organisations tackled this challenge, what worked (and what didn’t) and if there were any common themes when it came to solving these problems.

We were very fortunate to be able to hear from the Barbican’s Nicholas Triantafyllou, English National Opera’s Aoife Breen, Jordan Ahmadzedah from Shakespeare’s Globe and the Royal Albert Hall’s Matt Griffin. Each speaker talked about how they deliver digital activity in their respective organisations, the pros and cons of their approach, and specific examples of each approach in action.

We tweaked the format (again!), having One Further’s Chris Unitt lead a panel discussion after each speaker had presented. Below are links to each speaker’s presentation, a brief summary of the discussions and also answers to follow-up questions after the event.

Matt Griffin, Digital Manager – Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall are undertaking an ambitious shift to decentralise their digital activity, empowering teams to own various aspects of the organisation’s digital activity. Whether this is the development team building and sending their own emails or the box office team responding to customer service enquiries on social media this approach seems to be producing real results.

However Matt highlighted the sheer level of work and effort that goes into making this a success. Clarity, training and support were all essential so that responsibility for activity could be shared without the central digital team losing control, or departments becoming overwhelmed with additional work.

Follow-up questions:

Download a pdf of Matt’s answers to his follow up questions.

Q: ‘power users’ – can you share more detail/examples on who/what/how people are training e.g. how many in each team / how successful has it been?

A: Each department has a DAMS power user, and one of us in the digital team will get them up so these power users can train new starters in their team using the DAMS. We have about 15 departments here.

Some of these power users have developed and are now doing more ‘digital things’, also being trained by us, for instance we have four of them (so that’s four teams) working on their team’s email campaigns, and three of these four making website amends. This will grow.

It’s streamlined communications a bit – teams talk to their CMS/email/DAMS person who can handle the digital requests rather than us. As I mentioned, this gives us in the ‘digital team’ a little more time to focus on developing things (targeting, UX, etc etc)

Q: How do you deal with power users in other departments who keep referring everything back to you? Does this happen much?

A: Referring everything back to us was happening anyway, but sharing tasks out into the teams has definitely improved efficiency in communication. The people mentioned are becoming something of an unofficial extension of the digital team and are improving their skills in these areas as a result. For example, this year we sent more people from more teams than ever before to the Tessitura European conference in the hope of becoming a more digitally-focused organisation

Q: What systems do you use for visitor/box office teams to self-manage social?

A: We use Sprout Social, which is a pretty good tool for the amount of traffic we get. 13 of our box office are trained up by me on Sprout, social media and RAH tone of voice, and we have review sessions every few months.

Sprout pulls through everything we ask it to (currently @mentions, DMs and quote tweets on Twitter, and comments, messages, ad comments and reviews on Facebook) into what looks like an inbox. It’s easy to respond to these, add internal notes to them, see communication history or simply ‘clear’ them.

All actions taken on tweets are name stamped on Sprout, so we can see which box office (or indeed marketing) staff was responsible for the clearance, response, etc, so we can follow up on any particularly bad or good service directly.

The box office agents monitor Sprout from 9am-9pm and endeavour to clear every mention. Since we started this we promoted social media as a means of contacting us with customer service queries.

Q: What is 3rd light?

A: Third Light is our Digital Asset Management Software (DAMS) and stores our entire media library. We currently have 61,000 assets in there and over 140 internal users. Third Light allows us to catalogue, tag and search images, as well as create lightboxes for internal discussion and external sharing.

Different teams/users have different access privileges. For instance, we have over 800 pictures of technical equipment for insurance reasons which are only accessible to the technical team and admins; and only 20 people have the ability to upload assets.

Third Light also plugs in to our CMS for simple image/video upload. I’m happy to talk to anyone who’s interested in how we use Third Light.

Q: What risks are involved in devolving responsibility? What went wrong? What did you learn?

A: Tbh it felt quite organic and it’s only when we look back we see the extent to which responsibility has been devolved!

The biggest risks are legal/reputational, and it’s those that I put the biggest emphasis on whilst training people and that we focus on the most when setting up systems.

For instance, training-wise, box office staff have the potential dangers of poor social media use drilled into them before we even give them the written tests. We won’t let them near our social media until they can answer a bunch of example, very difficult, tweets in a timed assessment.

Meanwhile, Sprout was attractive to us because of its feature allowing us to monitor who was responsible for each communication; on Third Light we made the legalities of what we could do with each image (eg. copyright, usage allowance, etc) a mandatory field on every asset to avoid the risk of anyone ever doing anything wrong with an asset (it also has a log of all activity by users on an asset). Finally, we made pre-sets on our CMS (silverstripe), so different people have different access. Some CMS users only have to edit one page on the CMS, so we’ve edited their access down to just that page.

Q: How do you continue to keep an ‘overview’ of customers and comms? Are there central people who come together or an internet etc? Do you create brief sheets for comms? How do you communicate the rules of communication?

A: We have ‘house style’ sheets for general tone of voice and email campaigns. I would share them, however both could do with an update!

Central people – hard to say. There’s pretty healthy communication between people in my team and the individuals who offer digital support for their teams, ranging from weekly catch-ups to monthly emails, etc. Depends on the people and tasks I guess. On this, I’m very keen for me or one of my team to regularly speak at other teams’ meetings. Occasionally I’ll present our digital stuff at a stewards’ meeting or box office training day or something. This allows them to know more about what we’re doing, and to feed back with their ideas. Some of them are genuinely useful and we’ve made changes to the way our website works based on feedback at these sessions (stewards and BO staff know our customers’ needs more than we ever will). Re. keeping an overview of comms, I guess it’s different on the channel. Simple answer is that I trust every single person who I’ve mentioned above, however to break it down:

Social Media – customer service is a matter of glancing at our ‘tweets and replies’ tab or ad campaigns every few days to see if there’s any howlers! Our team still posts 100% of all social activity

Email – we are the ones who proof content and data, device check and press ‘send’ on every single campaign – others are merely compiling the content. I maintain that once we’ve gone several weeks without having a single amend to a particular users’ campaigns then we’ll allow them to by-pass us and press send themselves. For now that hasn’t happened, though I think we’re getting close with our Friends team.

Website – there’s not much that can go wrong with what’s being done here. It’s predominantly date/name/timing updates. Again, I trust every individual and don’t feel the need to approve every amend of theirs

Q: How do you monitor or control what “non digital” users are adding to the website?

A: These people may not be in the ‘digital team’ but they’re no less digital than I am. Mistakes will always happen but we’re chill. As mentioned above, I don’t allow people on our CMS until they’ve been properly briefed and given the adequate training to perform the tasks they need to perform. One guy, for instance, updates a text list of our donors as and when new ones are added or removed, but I still made sure he knew the basics of our CMS and SEO, and he only has limited permissions to eliminate the risk of him accidentally deleting the homepage.

You can find Matt on Twitter @mattmightsay

Nicholas Triantafyllou, Head of Business Systems and Data – Barbican

At the Barbican there isn’t a single ‘digital team’, rather digital is a held in a number of departments which has led to an organisation-wide, joined-up approach to delivering digital activity.

This is the result of specific training around digital project management and an ambition to make the most of all the skills and talents available in the teams at the Barbican.

Follow-up questions:

Download a pdf of Nicholas’s answers to his follow up questions.

Q: How many and which roles of the agency were based at the Barbican during the project?

A: We had two developers based at the Barbican for between 3 to 4 days a week – the agency would then come in with their own Project Manager and Senior Technical Architect once a week to attend Spring Planning sessions and demos

Q: What is MOSCOW?

A: Useful information can be found here –

Q: Can there ever be disadvantages to such spread of digital management? Decision-making? Conflicting objectives?

A: It can only work if there are clear roles and responsibilities and boundaries set which are underpinned by the Digital Strategy. We have regular Digital Steering Group meetings with domain experts from each digital domain and any decisions/conflicts or other issues are raised to that group. Digital objectives are closely linked to our organisational business objectives and technology roadmap.

Q: How do you ensure quality and viability with digital being an integrated part of everything you do?

A: We do not think that “Digital” is necessarily a product but essentially an extension of what each team is already doing well in other formats. For example marketing and comms use digital technology to communicate with audiences. Digital is the enabling medium for communications and marketing but can not stand on it’s own as “digital comms”

Q: You mentioned that the company was already digitally literate (allowing you to do without a digital department) – how did the company get to that point?

A: Mostly through having a “digital” focus when recruiting for new roles and also through training and mentoring.

Q: What was the most surprising thing you learnt from customer feedback?

A: That people sometimes do not see things even if they are right in front of them, that you can not be everything for everyone and to only act on feedback if you have a significant cluster of similar issues

Q: Did you use Hotjar to gather the feedback?

A: We used hotjar and qualaroo for feedback. Hotjar in particular has been an eye opener and made us question our sanity a few times…

Q: Could you share more about the Barbican digital vision and how it was put together across the different teams

A: It initially developed quite organically and in its early stages was not necessarily as clear as it is now. We got to the point where new people started in key roles and felt that we had to formalise our way of working to provide clarity for the organisation and our board. We have a very horizontal way of working and work quiet collaboratively already so initially each “domain expert” wrote down what we “do” and what we “don’t” do and what each domain is and setting the boundaries and where the overlap is.

Jordan Ahmadzedah, Head of Digital – Shakespeare’s Globe

Jordan also outlined how Shakespeare’s Globe deliver their day-to-day digital activity, particularly focusing on their approach to increasing the impact and reach of their social activity.

He also discussed the projects he is currently involved with which include a new brand and visual identity. Alongside this they are also embarking on a website redesign and restructuring their digital teams. They are looking to bring a broad array of microsites and platforms under a single ‘digital umbrella’.

You can find Jordan on Twitter @Jordan_Zadeh

Aoife Breen, Digital Engagement Manager – English National Opera

Aoife outlined how ENO are looking to broaden the number of teams directly involved in digital activity. Using the example of a fundraising campaign she highlighted the difficulties and opportunities involved in cross-departmental collaboration.

Follow-up questions:

Download a pdf of Aoife’s answers to her follow up questions.

Q: Customer service twitter – how do customers know it exists?

A: When customers tweet ENO our customer service account replies instead, or DMs as appropriate. This has been primarily implemented as part of our overall strategy to separate ENO from the London Coliseum – i.e. the latter being a West End venue that hosts many diverse performing arts. Previously, the ENO account had to respond to queries about ENB, ballet and other visiting companies which was confusing for customers.

Q: Data & analytics – what and how are you measuring?

A: We have created a template in Google’s Data Studio examining top line monthly web performance, which is then distributed with a one-page analysis accounting for any YOY and MOM changes. We measure sessions, revenue, conversion rate, traffic source, and products. I have created segments for more in-depth analysis for particular sessions e.g. sessions only including our production pages to examine behaviour relating to those pages as well as using custom reports and dashboards for easier access to the metrics that are most important rather than having to constantly wade through GA’s many reports. I’d say custom reports and dashboards are the easiest and quickest way of accessing info and recommend setting up these.

Q: Data & analytics – any advice/recommendations on learning/training in this area

A: Google have (free) online learning: which is a fantastic place to start and where I’ve pointed people new to GA / GTM to start with.

Q: Digital ads – do you manage these in-house? If with an agency, how did you find it worked to brief? was it successful?

A: Our marketing managers/Head of marketing work with an agency to manage digital ads based on media plans negotiated at the start of the season. Please email Ant for more in-depth info on how this works for us.

Q: Match campaign – who created video content? How much of the content was non-digital?

A: Mixture – we have a Harewood Artist video created by our video production agency externally, this is more of an evergreen piece of content introducing ENO’s talent development programme that sits on the site all year round and is utilised in context with appropriate copy. Other pieces specific for the campaign were created by the artists on their phones and edited in-house where necessary. As this is a fundraising campaign that is curated by our Development team, the majority of funds come from careful cultivation of donors throughout the year which is predominantly face-to-face relationship-building, as well as direct mailings, and flyers at select performances. The notable increase this year was in the <£100 donations through online channels.

Q: Social media training for talent – can you provide examples, how is this done and by who?

A: Our Digital Comms Officer manages this and is offered as a service to any talent to anyone who wants it at the beginning of the production. The structure depends on who it is and their current level of engagement with social media, but can include everything from profile creation to takeovers, Q&As and advice on best engagement. If you want more info please feel to contact the Digital Comms Officer, Angelica Bomford:

You can find Aoife on Twitter @chiefbreenie