Blog posts by and mentions of the Helpful team across the internet, on our own blogs and elsewhere.
Tim looks at why Facebook isn’t just listicles and baby pics
Tim explores how ‘advanced’ is a relative term in digital skills
Alasdair comes clean about why he had to go rogue, and stop assuming he knew everything about a very different audience
Funny old week at Helpful HQ: amongst other things, kicking off a new project with an NHS Trust, simulating cyberattacks and public disorder and welcoming a new team member, Alasdair
Tim blogs about what former ministers’ reflections tell us about crisis
Claire’s got some tips on avoid embarrassment when your clever social media post scheduling goes awry
Kate reviews the role emojis are playing in corporate comms
Claire shares a neat digital public safety campaign
Kate writes about sustaining your crisis comms response over time
Anthony shares a trick for adding a document icon to links automatically
A thorough social simulation should be demanding, but not impossible. And while we don’t say a lot about all the interesting projects we get involved with, that doesn’t mean we’re not having a lot of fun in the process.
Understanding how the web impacts your work isn’t always easy, particularly if most of your work happens offline. Working with people who are sat at desks, with computers and internet connections to hand, all day every day, is one thing. But helping those who are out doors, moving around and operating machinery is quite different.
New flyers for our Social Simulator service. Digital’s great but it’s nice to have something in print now and then
Steph’s worried that celebrating digital ‘experts’ puts up an unhelpful barrier
Our new colleague Kate get shot at in her first week
Tim wonders if Theresa May should be the first modern leader to leave Twitter and look elsewhere online for engagement
Anthony’s rebuilding one of our products, and shares a simple accordion pattern he’s been working on
We’re always up for providing some work experience and shadowing opportunities. Especially when the thank you gifts look as tasty as this!
Birthday lunch venue for our Head of Helpfulness. Verdict: recommended Mexican street food and more
Just because your organisation isn’t a household name, doesn’t mean digital skills are any less important. Tim outlines some of the things we’ve been doing for regulators, so far.
Luke blogs about supporting a new, more efficient and flexible intranet for the Government of the Cayman Islands
Steph blogs on the Social Simulator site about how to handle unwanted celebrity endorsements
Phil’s been making his own site faster: here’s what he’s been tuning
This week Max St John from Wild Things has been shining a spotlight on how to give and receive feedback, better
Tim writes for CIPR on how those in leadership roles can be helped to communicate naturally online
Claire looks beyond automated notifications and mentions to explore what you can learn from following online conversations more closely
Luke shares a great tip from a client – build up an intranet stock photo library with a walk around the office
Tim reflects on the ingredients for really effective workshops
Francis blogs about how digital can support local democracy
Steph shares a nasty trick we pull on participants in some of our crisis simulation exercises
Tim’s surprised how many many internal comms folk he meets who say they ‘don’t do digital’
When we figure out the practicalities of muting and unmuting each other, the Weekly Build Team Hangout works really well as a way of looking across the projects we have on the stocks
Our French colleague Justine brought us back a Galette des Rois cake. Phil’s slice contained the lucky charm… http://anglophone-direct.com/la-galette-des-rois/
Extra munchies for the lucky end-of-term Digital Action Plan cohort, who are kicking off their digital skills with a workshop today
Luke’s working on incorporating machine learning and personalisation to make our client intranets more effective
Tim’s notebooks: about 18 months’ worth of meetings and thinking. Like Leonardo’s legendary notebooks, they’re full of indecipherable scribbles (Tim maintains his journalist’s shorthand skills) and I reckon there’s a primitive helicopter design and a formula for nuclear fusion in the notebook third from bottom
Our 20+ Chromebook kit (a mix of Samsung & ruggedised Dell 11" machines) travels the world with us, helping teams experience a social media crisis, diagnose their digital learning needs on our Digital Action Plan, or learn how to manage their WordPress intranets.
Steph highlights a great summary by the team at Department of Health of what they’ve learned about effective digital consultation
From inside accounts of observing Myanmar’s elections to life as a scientist monitoring thousands of penguins on Bird Island, our clients tell some amazing stories on the blogs we create for them. Our office dashboard helps us follow their stories.
Tim ended up running a short session on personal Facebook security, for a client. Perhaps we’d rather be talking about Snapchat, citizen engagement or the impact of ad blocking. But if Facebook security is what’s holding a client back from doing more with social media, then that should be our starting point.
Some of the team – that’s not us in the combats by the way, fit though we are – were helping with a #999exercise this week, pulling some of the strings as part of our @socialsimulator service (Image: Kent Online)
A #throwbackthursday to Helpful Towers three years ago: lots of space, but just Steph & Luke on the payroll
Tim spent a few hours helping people who work for different parts of Essex County Council – from schools’ crossings to libraries and finance – think about the opportunities for customer service and listening, using social media
Luke shares the highlights of a breakfast session we held recently with our intranet clients to compare notes
We had a group of our intranet clients in yesterday to compare notes, share tips and tricks and give us ideas for the product roadmap
Helpful gets the Fair Tax Mark A little write up and mugshot (geddit) of Steph talking about why we feel it’s important for us to be open about tax
On the speakers today at Helpful towers, helping to keep us all calm and focussed: Elgar https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Elgar
Chris and Steph have been in the US and Canada over the last 10 days delivering a crisis simulation exercise and meeting some of our agency partners. Seattle looking good in the autumn sun.
That’s one hell of a judgement cycle A Helpful HQ teamster puts their non violent communication skills training into practice. It’s helping us notice frustration, and sometimes empathise with the source of it.
Luke rounds up some neat examples of how our clients are using their WordPress intranets
One of client Sarah Quill’s photographic studies of Venice now hanging proudly in the office. Thanks Sarah!
A lively old mid-August week at Helpful towers, with the team calendar at least as busy as normal. Roadtrips to West Sussex, Norwich and Leeds for a lucky few, plus much slaving away over hot websites and crisis exercise scenarios.
We’re meeting as a team today in the church vestry over the road to work on our listening and communicating. A naturally calming, reflective place to stop and think about working better.
We’re always up for providing a bit of mentoring here at Helpful. Especially we can rope in mentees to help us with user testing 🙂 This is Gurpreet completing some tasks on the Digital Action Plan
We’ve spent a number of weeks coaching senior leadership teams who want to do more online. Tim explores the things that often get in the way of great leadership using digital more effectively
Steph shares a template for a website development brief, based on what kind of elements help us as a supplier to write a useful proposal
We supported CommsCamp on Thursday, a gathering of 150 comms folk from around the public sector in Birmingham discussing everything from media law to intranets, WhatsApp to local resilience. An unconference-format event made even better by gargantuan quantities of home made cake.
Steph shares what he picked up at CommsCamp, an event we sponsored
We’ve enjoyed the calming influence of Max St John today. He’s helping us think about how we can be, well, more helpful (to ourselves, as well as those we work with)
Operation Strong Tower: Heavily armed SAS troops and police stage mock terror attack on the streets of London This kept several of us rather busy this week…
Sad to say this is getting an outing this afternoon as we say goodbye to Al and Mark…
We hosted an away day for the Competition and Markets Authority digital pioneers, in the beautiful vestry of St James’ Church Clerkenwell Green
Al’s swansong: a full day facilitating workshops on customer service comms in a severe weather crisis
Tim writes about the Head of Digital Capability role we’re hiring for at Helpful HQ
Steph explores how real-time video is posing new challenges to corporate communications in a crisis
Steph & Al have been helping stress-test a Scottish client’s social media customer service. Now for a wee dram and the Sleeper home.
Tim’s changed his mind about the role of Communications teams when it comes to digital skills
Chris and Tim are dusting off the cobwebs in preparation for a triathlon in 2016 (we’re big on planning here at Helpful). This is the view from the first of their bike rides, looking South from the top of Crockham Hill in Kent
Prototyping a simple portfolio-building tool for our Digital Action Plan product, so members can log their first steps and achievements in social media, and share with their colleagues
Some days, a full Helpful sink can be a sign of a happy team at full stretch. Today’s is more a symptom of a scrappy, difficult, weary Wednesday. Even the coffee machine struggled. Onwards.
Young half-term intern in the house today. Scratch show+tell, some useful screenshots taken, and some all-important shredding action.
Well of course, we would want to distance ourselves from Katie Hopkins… Wise participant in today’s social media crisis simulation exercise in reply to a media call
Setting up WordPress and a database from the command line Phil from the team has a handy bash script which takes the hassle out of a laborious job.
We’re making a new start here. Rather than weeknotes, we’re going to be sharing smaller, more frequent snippets of life at Helpful HQ, as a complement to the heavier-weight blogging the team does on our own sites and the corporate stuff on helpfultechnology.com Photo credit: Phil Banks
Steph reflects on five years since Helpful Technology started
Tim takes a look at the latest ministerial appointments to see where the latest opportunities might be for more digital engagement between government and citizens
Steph and Luke talked at the WordPress VIP Big Media and Enterprise Meetup in London about the cultural change behind WordPress-based intranets in government
Tim is interviewed on the Culturevist blog about technology, organisational culture and what he’d rather be doing
Finding colleagues can be tricky. Luke blogs about how to make the process easier and richer.
Steph writes about the issues for charities and other organisations trying to justify the counter-intuitive in social media
If Government communications leaders really want to embed digital in their teams, they need to challenge themselves. Tim poses ten questions to get leaders thinking about their role in digital.
Steph writes about the tricky question of when organisations should pay to promote their crisis messages in social media
Tim writes about the questions and challenges communications leaders in government should be asking of their teams in relation to digital
Steph and Tim are quoted in this ComputerWorld piece looking back at the legacy of Francis Maude at the Cabinet Office
Steph tells the story of a change in ministers, and the jump-starting of digital engagement which it can prompt
Luke publishes an update on developments on our WordPress-based intranet platform, GovIntranet
Tim thinks that, as a consumer, it’s time for him to take a stand. In 2015 he’ll only be buying from companies whose staff are allowed to engage online. His blog post explains why.
Steph writes about fairness as a test for digital government services, in response to the Digital Government Review which we helped to put online
We’re helping teams to use digital tools and techniques by learning and making, with personalised plans. Tim explains why.
Some people will swear they don’t have any skills or experience to bring to digital communications. Tim reckons otherwise.
We’ve joined over 850 employers by gaining accreditation as a Living Wage employer
Helpful Technology is now one of 850 employers who have been accredited by the Living Wage Foundation as a Living Wage Employer. The Living Wage commitment will see everyone working at Helpful, regardless of whether they are permanent employees or third-party contractors and suppliers; receive a minimum hourly wage of £7.65 – significantly higher than […]
Steph and Chris are presenting at J. Boye’s Aarhus 2014 conference next week. The team at J. Boye caught up with Steph to share a few thoughts on what good and bad performance look like in terms of handling social media in a crisis
Tim’s changed his mind about digital press offices. Social media screens bolted to the wall won’t cut it. Press officers have to be ‘of the internet’, not simply publishing stuff to it.
For internal communication teams, is digital restricted to forums and intranets? No way, says Tim
Tim has been helping clients to overcome their worries about getting involved with online conversations – and having a bit of fun along the way
Steph highlights a nice digital launch around the Government’s Estates Strategy
Luke blogs about his and the team’s work on the new website for Parliament Week, informed by user research
Tim spoke at a Social Media Week London event organised by Keene PR on how social media is changing public affairs from the government perspective
A summer of Helpfulness: Tim joined in July, along with his buckets and talked at Social Media Week. Ladi, our intern, learned a load about WordPress. We’ve run more crisis simulations than ever before, from Belgium to Singapore, and relaunched our Social Simulator site. We wrote about horses and data. We helped DCMS relaunch Connection Vouchers, and helped […]
Steph blogs at The Social Simulator, our social media crisis training and simulation service, about strategies for handling the reputational side of a data breach in social media
Tim writes about the trust that organisations have to put in their staff, if audiences are to be properly looked after online
Steph shares a planning tool he an Al have been working on to help communicators plan integrated digital activity
Steph blogs about policymakers using social media to find the unrepresented voices, and challenge the reliance on stakeholder and representative groups
Tim writes about the great work social media editors are doing online – often in very difficult circumstances
Al blogs about what was discussed at CommsCamp in Birmingham earlier this week
It’s been lively at Helpful HQ: We put the new site for the excellent Education and Employers Taskforce live on Monday, replacing their ‘think tank’ style corporate site with something which gives the team control over their public face again, so their diverse audiences can understand the dynamic and interesting work they do Followed up by […]
And we’re back! It would be nice to say we’ve made a strategic decision to focus our social media efforts on other channels, but the fact is, we just forgot our Tumblr password. Happens to the best of us. Since <ages ago> we’ve: Relauched the Grantham Institute website, one of our biggest builds to date, […]
Al shares a work-in-progress framework for thinking about digital communications skills
Luke shares a simple tool and process for managing the migration of content to a new website
Steph shares six ways to use YouTube for public sector communications on the community best practice site, comms2point0
Third Sector covers our innovative ‘conversation’ site work for Big Lottery Fund, a partnership with Delib
Steph blogs about how attitude and critical mass are what counts in building an organisation’s digital skills
Steph’s been addressing a group of public servants in Melbourne, Australia on lessons from the UK on digital engagement and crisis handling in a social media world.
Luke reveals some of the new staff directory templates and features in our WordPress intranet theme.
Luke gets down to the nitty-gritty of tracking document downloads as part of your content trail in Google Analytics.
Our work doesn’t normally make it into Harper’s Bazaar, but then we’re not usually creating iPad web applications for exhibitions quite as cool as the Royal Academy’s ‘Sensing Spaces’ installation. The reviews are coming in, and audiences seem to be loving the exhibition.
Luke blogs about how publishers use tags and keywords on the web and intranet.
Steph blogs about helping people develop new digital skills through practice and support, beyond traditional classroom courses – and introduces a project we’re working on to create a ‘digital gym’
Over on All Things IC, Rachel Miller reviews a site our client Transport for London have launched as part of the Fit For the Future Stations strategy
Let’s pretend two months haven’t passed since the last update. Jolly good. Luke’s been growing the intranet community around his open-source WordPress-based GovIntranet platform – we’ve got three organisations using or implementing GovIntranet right now, and lots more interest. Even better, there are some folks DIYing with the code we’ve released, so we’ve set up […]
Luke blogs about the new release of GovIntranet, our lightweight WordPress theme for intranets
Steph blogs about the Government Digital Communications Capability Review
It’s a bit autumnal and back-to-school at the moment, and we’re feeling it too at HT: Luke’s kicking off two new intranet builds for central government departments, with more enquiries – we’re thrilled not only because intranets are his first love, but also because it makes us feel better about the effort invested in open-sourcing […]
It’s been an exciting few weeks: we’ve moved, in with our friends Claremont Communications, to a funky new office in Clerkenwell we’ve grown to a team of four! Anthony O’Malley joined us this week, working on our visual design and front-end development – he’s already built us a nifty slider-based costing calculator for simulation projects […]
Recently, at Helpful & The Social Simulator HQ… Steph’s been talking a lot: at the CIPR Share This Too event, about lessons we’ve learned from teams who’ve done well in crisis simulations, as well as at the Law Commission on social media … and with Howard at the Media Trust, where we ran a day […]
Over the last couple of weeks: Howard’s been helping a new agency partner run a simulation exercise With Steph, they’ve been simulating a nasty emergency situation at an airport Steph’s been doing some cleaning up, fixing, sorting out and updating of clients’ legacy WordPress sites, and also popping out to meet some interesting folk to […]
Last week at Helpful HQ: Steph’s been haggling over office leases, putting live a little intranet for a unit of the Medical Research Council, continuing to discuss the length of consultations and #openpolicy on the Independent Panel on the Consultation Principles, and talking to an unusual crowd about social media crises at Reputation in the […]
We put a new site live for GuildHE at the start of the week, using WordPress’ multisite mode to enable them to host what will eventually become a family of sites, cheaply and cleanly Luke’s been pitching our services to a potential new client – sadly, even our laminated credentials didn’t swing it for us this time […]
It’s been a lively week fortnight three weeks. Ahem. Luke’s been talking about DCMS groundbreaking intranet over at Digital Workplace 24, a 24-hour extravangaza of webinarery Steph’s been wondering Why Bother? at Eduserv’s symposium Howard and Steph have been prepping and running crisis exercises for three separate clients in the retail, pharmaceutical and financial services […]
Steph’s been reading The Cluetrain Manifesto in the bath recently (toe-curling and brilliant in equal parts) and enjoyed this little line from Rick Levine’s chapter: “One definition of community is a group of people who care about each other more than they have to” That was certainly true of Mailcamp last week, where 60 or […]
The reason for the mysterious turtle will be revealed in subsequent weeknotes… in the meantime, here’s what we’ve been up to: In amongst painful trips to dentists, Luke’s been preparing to release some of our work on a GOV.UK-style intranet, working on a demo and abstracting some of the bespoke client functionality into configurable modules. […]
April is the cruellest month, breedingLilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirringDull roots with spring rain. – T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land Blimey. Thankfully few signs of such cruelty here, so far: Steph’s on a new Independent Advisory Panel, helping the Cabinet Office with a review of the Consultation Principles, […]
Time to get back onto this horse. This week’s been fun: – We helped the FCO put live the 2012-13 edition of their Human Rights and Democracy Report, publishing several hundred pages of material in HTML, open for public comment, with a look and feel reminiscent of GOV.UK – Howard Gossington’s joined the team, mainly […]
This week has been lots of fun. Luke’s been kicking off an exciting new intranet project, applying some of the content principles and formats of GOV.UK and taking cues from the GOV.UK design, working alongside a stellar departmental team He’s still been chugging away at the London College of Communication delivering WordPress training to MA students there […]
Luke’s been earning his crust, delivering training on web writing and basic web management skills for the London College of Communication; and MailChimp setup training and template help for Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust Steph and Luke have been moving our work for the Committee on Climate Change from the design phase into prototype form, including […]
We didn’t miss a week, we just thought we’d roll up a Christmas bumper edition. Ahem. Luke’s been wireframing and testing layouts for the Committee on Climate Change, but he’s mainly been finessing his beautiful WordPress build for Wilton Park, full of elegant custom taxonomies and post types With Simon from Claremont, he ran GCN’s […]
We’ve been knocking some meaty things off the to-do list recently: Luke and Steph have been working through wireframes with the Committee on Climate Change, working out how best to serve some diverse audiences and run a pragmatic, efficient website Steph & Simon ran a session on Digital Engagement at the Medicines & Healthcare Regulatory […]
Steph and our colleague Giles from Claremont delivered a session on social media skills to media teams from the nuclear energy industry, taking our mobile iPad-based training kit on the road again Luke’s been learning WordPress like a demon. Not for him the gentle introduction of tinkering with default themes, though. He’s launched headlong into […]
Some solid office time this week: Luke’s been working on wireframes for our new site for the Committee on Climate Change, incorporating some interesting visual answers to the question “What’s coming up?” which media and stakeholders are keen to know He’s also been working on his first WordPress build at Helpful Technology, planning out the […]
We kicked off a new project with the Committee on Climate Change, helping them team revamp and migrate their current site from Joomla to WordPress Steph and Simon from Claremont ran a packed session on Digital PR and Media Management skills for a cross-government group of Press Officers and other comms staff, via the Government […]
Some weeks you make headway into your meaty projects, and some you don’t. Happily this was one of the good ones: Luke’s been wrapping up new wireframes for the new CLG intranet, applying some of the visualisation work in Gephi that he’s been doing as part of his course to helping understand relationships between content […]
Lots of bits and pieces: Luke’s been preparing his courses for his guest lecturing at the London College of Communication (helping new PR students get to grips with writing for the web, SEO, accessibility and blogging) He’s also been deep in content from the CLG intranet, reviewing the results of his information architecture testing, and […]
Lots of talking, rather less coding this week: Luke’s been treejacking (see the rather nice visualisation above, courtesy of Optimal Sort), looking at whether real intranet users at CLG can complete tasks efficiently using the proposed new information architecture Steph’s been out training, first for a great bunch from the RAF, then delivering one of our […]
It’s been a busy week for the Government Digital Service, but the headline launch of the week was of course the Boundary Commission for England which went live at midnight on Tuesday… The site – which we’ve inherited from another agency and made tweaks to, fools that we are – makes a further 5,000 PDFs of evidence […]