Why we love blogging – the story of Future Proof July 24, 2014

Blog With Authenticity Without Getting Fired

A little while ago we were asked by another government agency interested in blogging to explain how the Future Proof blog fits in with State Records’ business objectives, and to outline some of the outcomes we think Future Proof achieves.

To us, this form of social media engagement has been really critical in helping State Records to achieve some of its business objectives.

We are sharing our feedback to help other government organisations who might be contemplating blogging or other forms of social media engagement.


What is the role of Future Proof?

The role of the Future Proof blog is to:

  • raise awareness across government of the need to manage digital business information
  • share strategies and advice to improve the management of digital business information
  • help State Records to better understand the information needs and risks in the NSW public sector and to develop effective advice based on this understanding


How does the blog help State Records to improve its service delivery?

The blog has become a key tool to help State Records disseminate current, fast, strategic advice to support the digital business transformations underway in the NSW public sector.

The digital business world is complex and evolving rapidly and the information management issues that organisations face are incredibly diverse. Traditionally, State Records has issued formal advice and guidelines about records management, but taking time to develop this formal advice is no longer a viable approach when so much diverse advice is rapidly required across the sector.

Future Proof has therefore become a key tool to share information on digital information management issues quickly across the NSW government jurisdiction, to help improve digital information management across the sector.

The blog also improves service delivery because it stands alone and is not tied to State Records’ existing formal records management rules and advice. Information can be packaged quite simply and the blog creates clear pathways for lots of different people including records, information, business, ICT, communications and project staff across government to engage with advice about digital information management issues.

Feedback and questions we receive via the blog also indicate that blog content does reach a very diverse audience, a broader audience generally than that which engages with traditional website content. This broad information dissemination, beyond State Records’ traditional audiences, also helps State Records to improve its service delivery.


How do you measure engagement?

Primarily we measure engagement with Future Proof by looking at:

  • visitor metrics
  • visitor engagement
  • responses to specific posts.

In terms of visitor metrics, in 2013-14, Future Proof had 88,216 unique visitors who made 259,882 individual visits to the blog and who viewed 1,335,263 blog pages through the year. Compared to 2012-13 statistics, this is a 16% increase in visitors to the site and an 18% increase in page views.

Importantly, the metrics show that each year, visitors are on average engaging with more blog content each visit, staying to read several pages and not simply the page they landed on.

This shows that after more than five years of operation, the blog has developed into a freestanding information resource on a range of digital information management issues relevant to Government.

We receive comments on quite a few posts through the year and receive a number of meeting requests from individual government organisations to discuss issues raised on the blog which again are measures of engagement. We also sometimes conduct informal information surveys using Future Proof and gain lots of useful insights about digital information management across the public sector through this engagement.


How has ICT enabled service improvement?

ICT is obviously fundamental to the success of Future Proof.

The fact that it is a blog enables Future Proof to be very dynamic and enables messages to be disseminated very quickly. We can hear about an issue and then post some advice in response to it almost immediately.

With the blog’s RSS feed, auto tweet and auto Facebook updates, when we issue a post, information about it is disseminated immediately through all these different channels and each of these channels engages a different audience. At State Records we also use the RSS feed to capture records of our posts and to also capture comments and responses.

The comment and contact features of the blog enable us to engage directly with people, answer follow up questions, update the information we post and to organise follow-up meetings if required.


Conclusions and lessons learned

Content is king and currency is king, so repurpose whatever you can

Digital business environments are tranforming rapidly and government needs frequent, timely advice in order to manage information through these transitions, and so we constantly need to ensure we are disseminating as much current and useful advice through the blog as we can.

This is an ongoing challenge but one of State Records’ core functions is to provide advice to government on information management issues. We receive over 1000 enquiries from government organisations each year about all manner of information management issues and we repurpose a lot of the work we put into answering these enquiries and turn the advice into blog posts. Our thinking here is that if one organisation is asking about an issue, several other organisations are likely to have the same issue and so by proactively disseminating advice about a topic, others  can learn from this experience.

We also regularly go out and meet people across the public sector to provide advice on specific information management issues. We again turn a lot of the examples and lessons learned from these meetings into blog posts, to try and keep current issues, ideas and advice circulating.

Measure and respond to metrics

With online tools you can learn so much about the specific posts and issues that your audience is reading and responding to. This has really helped us to track key issues that our audience is really engaging with and has demonstrated that there is a need for more advice and guidance in specific areas.

For example, the popularity of posts about managing social media information and on managing information in SharePoint indicated that there was a significant need across government for more advice about these issues. State Records was able to respond to this need and developed more detailed advice and guidance in these areas.

Be open to and engage with feedback

One of the great things about the blog is the feedback. We are genuinely open to both positive and negative feedback and post all comments, good and bad (but the bad is honestly very rare).

We post a lot of advice and guidance on the blog that is based on our knowledge, experience and on solutions we are seeing but it is new advice for  new and emerging business challenges.

By putting our advice out there and asking for feedback on it, we can get responses from practitioners, we can test our ideas and we improve them in response to feedback. We find this collaboration incredibly useful.

Trust your staff and community

With a blog that is trying to provide dynamic and new advice to emerging issues, management does need to have a lot of trust. Staff do need to be empowered to post blog updates without a lot of oversight. The organisation also does value the discussion and engagement that comes through open feedback and to open itself up to this.

Value social media

State Records was an early adopter of social media and the Future Proof blog has been in operation since 2008.

Social media frameworks like Future Proof enable so much dynamism, collaboration, sharing and open communication and there is tremendous value and efficiency to be gained by opening up business processes to social media frameworks.

So these are some of the lessons learned from our social media engagement. If you have lessons you would like to share, please do let us know.

One Comments
Patrick Crowe April 1st, 2015

Really good article Kate. Certainly the value of social media is not something to overlook. Encouraging staff to engage is also something that we have found can be beneficial in the longer term.

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