Here are some of the most common questions, in my experience, faced by a digital communications team working in Government.

Some will be familiar, some will be more specific to digital health. None are supposed to be a rant, apart from number ten. I hope some of the answers will be helpful to my colleagues now and in the future.

Piece of paper that reads help

1. Can I have a new website?
Perhaps. But first let’s have a chat about:

  • who you are trying to communicate with
  • where these people might expect to find your content right now
  • your aims
  • the content you have prepared
  • how frequently you will be updating the content

It’s likely that what you need is a way to help people find your information more easily through better use of tags or categories, rather than a separate site. For limited communities a simple collaborative tool like Yammer may suffice.

2. Can I have a Facebook group/Twitter account/blog?
Yes. But have a think about the points above and be prepared to generate lots of content, on a regular basis. Social is personal so you will also need to put some faces and names to these profiles.
Take a look at our attributed content policy.

3. How do I respond to these comments on our article?
Ask yourself: Do they really need a response? Are you engaging or defending? (please say engaging). Do you have time to deal with follow up responses?
Take a look at what the US Air Force say.

4. My policy area is called the same as XYZ. However, we are more important than XYZ, so I need to make sure that we appear top in all website searches. Can you do that?
No. Content on our website is published based on categories that make sense to the broadest possible audience, and are not a reflection of the organisation’s structure.
If you share the same name, or very similar terminology, with another team then the website can’t solve that problem. First, you need to work with your namesake to sort out your shared taxonomy.
We can help you to make your content more engaging and cross-link with similar policy areas.

5. Here’s a draft of something. I don’t know exactly when it will be finalised but it must be published by XYZ. Can you guarantee that?
No. But send us the complete, final information as soon as it is ready and we will turn it around as quickly as possible. If it’s late, it may not appear in the place you expect it to, to begin with, but people will be able to find it quickly and easily from our home page.

6. How can we deliver this consultation online?
Take a look at our consultation space. Remember that your consultation needs to be kept clear, simple and relevant to maximise response.
We can help promote it through forums, blogs and social media, but the product itself needs to be simple and easy to navigate.
Wherever possible, make sure you have an easy-read summary of the main points and questions.

7. I am developing a strategy for social media – can you give me some pointers?
Yes. Have a think about your audience and objectives; what you want to achieve. Before you write anything though, take a look at all the other strategies already out there, including the Department’s own, pick some objectives and activities that sound relevant and we’ll help you turn it into something useful.
Don’t forget to consult with specialist online communities like #nhssm too. They’re full of ideas and pointers.

8. Please can you give me the number of hits, clicks and referrals for this page for the past two years?
Yes. But it is going to take ages. Tell us more about why you need this information and we can probably give you more relevant stats, something useful to compare with, and some honest analysis of how well you’ve done and what we can do together, to help more people read your content.

9. How can I correct this content on someone else’s website?
Get involved. Leave a comment on the site, speak to the author and make the correct information easy for them to link to and extract.
Be completely transparent about who you are and why you are asking for their content to be updated. Be friendly and collaborative, not defensive or confrontational.

10. Please can you fix my computer?
No. Call IT.

Obviously these are only my top ten. Feel free to add your ‘favourites’ below.