Eighteen months ago the agri-tech team entered the world of digital engagement with the publication of its first newsletter. From this humble starting point digital engagement has expanded with several other digital communication streams (including a GOV.UK blog, a twitter account, infographics, and GOV.UK web pages). Along the way, we experimented with different streams and methods to decide how best to engage with our stakeholders. Once sceptical team members have become enthusiastic, and are now taking digital seriously. Here is the story so far about what we have done and more importantly learnt.
Why has the Agri-tech Strategy team taken engagement digital?
The ‘traditional method’ of engagement with stakeholders and the general public is through official events, press releases, and public appearances. The addition of digital tools for engagement has helped alleviate the time, money, and audience constraints associated with these methods. Now through our digital communications we can provide updates on the progression of the strategy to a wider, but also more specified audience, at a lower cost to the taxpayer. For example, our funding announcement in March 2015 through Twitter and newsletter had a reach of approximately 20,000 people.
Twitter has become an important method to communicate the strategy announcements, increase the awareness of the strategy, and engage with stakeholders on policy. The latter is something the whole team continues to improve upon through personal accounts. An excellent example of this was when a member of our team, Jon Petchey, tweeted live from the Milan Expo agri-tech GREAT week.
Jon shared a fear that many civil servants hold, the fear of being engulfed in a ‘twitterstorm’. Jon took the plunge and was surprised by the reach and engagement he could get in the few minutes that he spent tweeting.
Examples of how we engage online
The largest part of our online engagement is increasing awareness of funding opportunities and publicising the projects that we have funded.
Easily our most popular content is the Catalyst Infographics. These bring the complex and technical Catalyst projects to life by explaining the science in a simple way using bold and colourful schematics. As an example, our most recent infographic, designed within the agri-tech team using Piktochart, is below:
The drive for content generation to engage with our audience has led us to develop some interactive ways to communicate. To improve the user experience for finding Catalyst projects funded to date, we recently created an interactive map that contains information on all the funded projects across the UK, including embedded YouTube videos (see Wheatscan, and Developing Resource Efficient Strawberries). Users are able to filter projects by sector (crops, livestock, precision agriculture, or aquaculture) whilst also understanding where agri-tech expertise is located in the UK.
Our future digital engagement?
Over the past eighteen months, we’ve made a good start to our digital engagement, but we are by no means finished. We will continue to build upon the three main digital communications streams that we have (Twitter, blog, and newsletter) currently. Innovative ways of raising the awareness of the strategy will continue, perhaps in the future we will become viral Vine stars or artsy Instagramers.
Conversing with stakeholders is where we really want to expand, with team members becoming more involved in online conversation. There are people and personalities behind the Strategy and we want to listen and talk to you all. Government interaction with stakeholders is changing and we will be at the forefront of this. The agri-tech team are ready to join the conversation!