Furloughed – out of office and Deepening relationships with targeted newsletter content #DigitalLab
Daina Heaton, Administration and Communications, Create Sheffield navigates furlough and takes a deep dive into creating newsletters that increase engagement. Part of her Fellowship at Digital Lab.
Blog 1: Furloughed - out of office
On the very first day of my post in March this year, I met the Director and the Public Programme Coordinator of Bloc Projects at their space in the heart of Sheffield. We walked through their gallery and into their office at the back, which overlooks Bloc Studios; a beautiful brick courtyard, home to many artists and craftspeople.
Over coffee we chatted about their work, their community of contemporary artists, their visions for the programming of the gallery and ways in which they hoped to work with children and young people, as business owners that care about their community, and as parents of young children themselves. Three weeks later Boris Johnson announced lockdown measures and my working world was reduced to the four walls of my living room.
At Create Sheffield we are committed to working with a whole range of partners to ensure that every child and young person (aged 0-24) receives access to the best cultural and creative opportunities. Although we are unable to meet in lovely gallery spaces, attend events, visit schools or plan and co-create face-to-face with artists, teachers and educators; our digital comms have enabled us to adapt so we can still meet our goals.
Left photo, Bloc Studios. Right photo, Sheffield taken by Anton Velchev
The Digital Lab couldn’t have come at a better time for us, but what specifically do we want to do?
- We want to capitalise on the new flexibility we have to communicate and share.
- We would like to serve our community of arts and cultural practitioners better by increasing audience engagement with their partner profiles on our website; and ensure that the audiences engaging with the content reflect the diversity of our city.
- Our hope is that this will help us build on existing relationships with our arts and cultural partners and enable them to build further relationships with each other.
Here are two ways we aim to do this:
Create a digital marketplace on youtube where arts and cultural partners can ‘sell their wares,’ share stories, skills and information
We will launch our offer on youtube... Though our audience numbers will start from zero - we will aim to get things moving with video views, likes, comments and channel subscriptions.
The plan is to run video teasers through paid facebook, twitter and youtube ads, and through Instagram stories and posts - using captions and varied storytelling techniques to ensure our work is accessible and interesting to diverse audiences. Tracking numbers through the acquisition function in Google Analytics will help us measure the impact of these changes too.
Peer-to-peer monthly zoom session with our Partners, for skill sharing, CPD and to invite community members in to dream and co-create
The important change for my working practice is in setting up systems (in my case an excel document) that monitors our relationship with our Partners through different indicators such as feedback forms, social media engagement, newsletter and event engagement.
Photo taken at Yorkshire Artspace
The days of visiting gorgeous studios, exhibitions, schools and offices across our city for most of us have been paused. I have been asking myself, how do we recreate that same tactile experience in our online world? The smell of the acrylic paint from someone's project, the vision board placed proudly on a wall full of hopes and dreams, the gesture of a freshly brewed coffee in a mug that might read ‘best mum’. Our endless zoom meetings can be exhausting, but if this world is our ‘new normal’, then we have to make the best of it.
I hope that during my time in the Digital Lab, Create Sheffield will co-create an online space that allows all stakeholders to share authentically. I’m imagining a space that feels personal and creative, one that nurtures and supports our community of practitioners to share generously. Hopefully these online spaces will reflect the vibrancy and value of the art and cultural work in our city and ensure that practitioners get paid appropriately for their efforts.
Here are some of the resources I have been collecting along the way in helping me towards building digital spaces and content, whilst tracking and measuring its impact. I hope it is useful for others navigating their own ‘new normal’:
Thinking of starting your own digital experiment?
- How to begin a new digital experiment - AMA Digital Lab, Devon Smith
- ‘Digital Offer’ training and resources - Create Sheffield
Getting those newsletters to work
Better online meetings
- Manifesto for good online sessions - Manifesto for good
Online audiences & social media
- Online Audiences Toolkit - The Space
- Engaging Audiences with Social Media - Digital Culture Network
- YouTube Course: Learn How to Grow Your YouTube Channel - Hubspot Academy
Blog 2: Deepening relationships with targeted newsletter content
In my previous experiment, my focus was on deepening our engagement with our arts and cultural Partners through the creation of regular zoom meet-ups. In this latest experiment, I wanted to focus on one of our other main audience segments; teachers and educators.
This past year has been really challenging for us to reach, support and deepen our relationship with educational settings. Schools are dealing with high levels of stress and ambiguity, they are being asked to go above and beyond what they are used to. The ‘new normal’ we are all navigating is changing the way we work, and for us, one of the only ways we can continue to build on these relationships with educators is through our newsletters.
Since our company's birth we have released a newsletter around every half term. Much like our website and social media, our comms content needs to be relevant and interesting to wide audience segments which include teachers, artists, young people, parents & carers, business and the voluntary sector. This can be difficult!
To better target and support schools and educators, I wanted to experiment with creating a newsletter specifically for them, building on the existing readership and engagement levels of our more ‘generic’ newsletter.
My first step was in thinking about the ‘why’ behind this:
- We want schools and educators to consider Create Sheffield for anything cultural-education related in our city. We want them to see us as experts.
- We want them to come to our website when looking to work with Sheffield arts and cultural practitioners, increasing the visibility of our Partners work.
- We want to advocate and celebrate creativity and culture in the city.
- We want to advertise events, increasing participation in our programming.
There are many resources available to those looking to increase the readership of their newsletters, here is one that stood out to me the most:
- Start with audience insight - who are they, how do they engage with content, when do they engage with content?. For us looking and how to engage with teachers and educators, we might want to target their commute or their CPD time.
- What is the goal? Increase subscription numbers? Build relationships? Buy something? How will the content help?
- What are the human stories, what do people want to hear? What are they curious about? What is going to help us build relationships?
- Format of content - looking at point number 1, what format or content type works best for those time slots? Would a 10-minute podcast be best for a teachers commute? Would an article or group exercise work for their CPD? How can we do this in a regular format? Weekly? Daily?
- Test and make!
I would have loved to create podcasts which shared real-life stories of the creative work teachers and young people are doing in Sheffield, this would have been brilliant for them to listen to on their commute to and from work. Capacity, expertise and lack of resources has prevented me from doing this.
What we have done is created the ‘Staff Room,’ a re-branded newsletter full of information and opportunities especially for schools and educators. This is a work in progress and I believe it needs more stories written by teachers, in addition to high-quality articles which educators can use in their personal development time, helping them to build on their creative offers to young people. I hope to develop these ideas in my future experiments within the DigitalLab fellowship.
- How to make your online content accessible - Digital Culture Network
- Digital guide: an introduction to online accessibility - Heritage Fund
Daina Heaton, Administration and Communications Create Sheffield
Daina’s interest in storytelling through digital media has grown through her work as Studio Coordinator for art production studio and co-working hub, Kaleider. Her work engaging young people in social action projects in Uganda and the UK has also greatly shaped her approach to sharing narratives.
Daina loves her role in Create Sheffield as it puts her in the thick of an ever-growing creative movement and network of diverse and inspiring people across the city of Sheffield.