Digital Works #5: PPC and Social Content

Author: Ash Mann

Digital Works #5 took place at the shiny Roundhouse offices in Chalk Farm, huge thanks to Max Heanue for organising everything for us.

I put together the lineup for Digital Works #5 based entirely on conversations I’d had with people at other Digital Works events.

People had repeatedly raised both PPC and Content as topics that were either a priority or something organisations were struggling with. PPC in particular seemed to be an area where organisations were stuck between a dearth of capable agencies and being unable to take it in-house due to the level of time and specialist knowledge required.

We were lucky to be able to showcase the thoughts and opinions of Jo Carnell-Phipps (Founder of Illuminate Digital, a specialist PPC agency) and Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media at the Royal Opera House).


Jo kicked off the day outlining the changes Google have made to the Google Grant scheme, they are significantly tightening up the rules around how campaigns need to be structured and run which will mean your campaigns need to be demonstrably effective otherwise Google will simply suspend your account.

Whilst these changes may seem intimidating (we’ve written about what the changes involve here), Jo thought that overall they’re probably for the best. They’re going to mean that charities and non-profits have to give more thought to what this activity involves and why they’re running the campaigns they are. This will mean better quality campaigns which are more focused and meaningful to users and which, in turn, will be more effective for the organisations running them.

Although it’s worth stressing that it did become clear that these changes won’t just look after themselves, running this sort of activity requires regular (at least weekly) attention and a level of specialist knowledge that it may not be realistic to expect all cultural organisations to have in-house.

You can view Jo’s slides here:

It seems to be the case that whilst organisations know this activity is important, they are also acutely aware that they don’t have the time or understanding to be able to deliver it properly.

Mainly as a result of these sort of conversations at Digital Works we are unearthing a number of capable freelancers and specialist agencies if you are looking for support in this area.

Jo’s Illuminate Digital, Chris Unitt’s One Further and Oliver Embank all come highly recommended by people who have worked with them. We also offer Adwords training and most recently delivered a session for The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Social Content

Chris is the Royal Opera House’s Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media. He shared his experiences developing the ROH’s social content strategy, particularly focusing on their successes around social video.

I always think that, for most cultural organisations, content is a massive missed opportunity. Afterall we all have mountains of stuff that people are demonstrably interested in. So it’s disappointing to see that what comes out is so often videos of boring people, sat in chairs, in boring locations, saying boring things, for ages.

Chris shared his tips around creating compelling, shareable content. He said that the ROH’s most popular content was the stuff that featured performance (surprise, surprise) as opposed to, say, talking heads.

The ROH have moved to a point where they have a fairly lightweight technical setup with which they can quickly and easily get in, shoot something, and get out without too much faff or setup time (which makes it easier to get people to agree to participate). You don’t need 5 cameras, multiple microphones and complicated lighting rigs, you can capture great stuff with a far more lo-fi setup than this.

On a similar lofi theme he also shared the successes that ROH have had with Facebook Lives which provides a straight-forward way for them to open up access to some of the inner workings/behind the scenes aspects of the company’s activity.

He also urged us all to look at the content we’ve all already got stockpiled and to think about how it can be repurposed, remixed and reused, you don’t always have to start from scratch.

Chris’s slides will be available soon

Discussions following the presentation focused on; how in some organisations there’s an unresolved (and unproductive) tension between how the artistic side of companies believes the work should be talked about and the sort of content that should be created, and the communications teams who have more regular and measurable engagement with audiences on the channels in question – what goes in the programme and on the stage should not necessarily be the same as the content going out on digital channels to engage people with the work; how you make the case for pushing back against content ideas that you know won’t work; on the difficulties achieving cut-through and reach on Facebook; the difficulties securing meaningful access to be able to cover and capture artistic activity; how all aspects of communication should be looking to utilise compelling content (not just when you’re trying to sell a ticket); how having the space and opportunity to experiment with new and different content ideas is essential.

Overall it seemed that whilst people were confronted with an increasingly atomised audience and ever-more fragmented landscape of content channels and platforms, the technical and cost-related barriers to entry around the creation and distribution of content are coming down – which is definitely good news (we didn’t touch on AR or VR which, depending on whether they take off or not, will empty a whole bag of spanners into things!).

If you would like to host, speak at or attend a future Digital Works then please just drop us a line:

The next Digital Works will be taking place as part of Birmingham Design Festival in June.

Cover Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash