There’s plenty out there about the skills and functions that a digital comms team need to have. I’ve learnt, somewhat painfully, that the behaviours and mindset are probably more important.

If I could turn the clock back a few years, here’s the behaviours I would encourage from day one. They’re in no particular order.


Focus on audiences, content and using the tools and platforms they prefer. Try and identify examples of where your colleagues and their audiences are already using digital, rather than blind people with jargon and process.

Identify the Hey Martha!

Journalists on the Sunday Times used to (and may still) refer to ‘Hey Martha!’: a nugget of random, but interesting information that would cause the reader to exclaim ‘Hey Martha, listen to this!”. I love this moment in a digital communications team. Hidden pieces of great work that the originator thought were simply routine. Sometimes these things reveal a team’s hidden talents or connections. Get them out in the open, and nurture.

Practise and preach

Every member of a digital communications team should have a personal online profile, and be able to talk about their own experiences of the web. This doesn’t have to be innovative, but it must be credible. A team blog is a good way to help people catch up.

The good, the bad and the ugly

Successful digital communications builds a comfort zone, while failure is quickly forgotten or avoided. No-one wins. Blog openly about what works, and what doesn’t, and take it on the chin.

There’s no ‘IT’ in ‘communications’

If it looks like IT, smells like IT, then it probably is IT. But it certainly is not digital communications. Lose the ownership of email, firewall and hardware issues.

Get ruthless with priorities

Apply some simple tests or filters for all projects and ensure these relate to what your whole organisation is trying to believe. Get people to give up traditional core tasks that don’t make the grade, and commit time to priorities. Break the cycle of ‘he who shouts loudest’.

Be confident

Press office hold the pen on announcements, marketing on advertising spend and so on. Why should digital comms be a service delivery function for any organisation? Don’t be told what is needed: listen to suggestions and advise accordingly.

One for all, and all for one

Who takes the credit for coverage in online press? Or when a stakeholder uses our digital content? Who knows how these came to pass. Often we don’t. So let’s evaluate activity as one comms team, not in silos.

Everyone is a front man

There cannot be a digital comms team in the world that is so big individuals can restrict themselves to specialist areas. Everyone has to be able to do the basics: write a headline, tweet, record, respond to a question.

Agree? Disagree?