Liam Ross, Digital Engagement Manager within the Communications and Public Engagement Directorate at Leicestershire Police sits down with us to discuss the challenges of covering all elements of digital and to share his advice for those seeking their first role. Read on to learn more about the importance of grabbing opportunities and setting goal-oriented KPIs for messaging.
Why did you choose to pursue a role in digital engagement and communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?
I’ve always been interested in tech and photography and whilst at university my interest in social media grew as I headed towards my final year and thoughts drifted to what I might want to do as a career. I realised the impact and power this medium of communication had, further than just connecting with friends. I had started teaching myself to edit video using Sony Vegas (now made by MAGIX!) and applied for an internship with my University’s Digital Communications team. That really opened my eyes to both professional video production and social media management and I learnt a lot doing just one day a week with them during my degree. Thankfully after I graduated they created a full-time role for me. So I really did fall into it by chance but had good skills and interests to back it up.
What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the digital engagement sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?
Being able to multi-task is a big one for me. You have to be aware of what’s going on in society, in the news, what’s trending online, and be across that with your content on multiple channels on different platforms. That goes hand in hand with creativity and imagination to come up with those engaging ideas and deliver them in a social-friendly format. You also need a healthy amount of insight into your audience – is that idea you’ve had going to do really well, or go down like a lead balloon?
What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?
The requirement of digital continues to grow and has done particularly throughout the pandemic as people have moved from street to screen. As the industry grows so too does the expertise and resource you need to operate as a functioning digital media and communications team. So there’s definitely a challenge there in terms of my own continuing professional development, but also being aware that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to cover all the elements of ‘digital’ as an individual or small team.
How is the role of digital engagement perceived in your organisation?
Working for the police in this area is a pleasure because there are loads of new and emerging opportunities to connect with members of the public digitally, through force-wide channels but also localised communications. Our Chief Officers really get what we’re trying to achieve, use the channels to connect with the public themselves, and support us to do that, which is absolutely vital. Our officers, PCSOs and staff increasingly want the public to know about all the amazing work they are doing, and there is a lot of it! So we’re seeing more requests for help to do this, which is brilliant.
At React & Share, we’re obsessed with measuring our efforts to prove our worth to internal stakeholders - what measurements do you think digital engagement and comms teams should be presenting to their board?
You have to look beyond the numbers on the screen and measure the real-world impact of your activity. Move out of the mindset of using comms to ‘raise awareness' of something and set goal-orientated KPIs for your campaigns and messaging. For us, that might be sign-ups to our local neighbourhood messaging system from social media posts. Or, and it sounds strange, but it might be an increase in reports of domestic abuse because people have seen our targeted comms and feel empowered to speak up about it and seek help.
What advice would you give to those at the start of their career?
If you’re searching for your first role in digital, make sure you have examples of your work and seek out opportunities to create that evidence base. It might be running social media channels for a local charity, your hobbies or even your pets! Anything to show you know what you’re talking about and you can show your creativity. Connect with people on LinkedIn that are in roles you might want to do, and reach out to them for advice.
If you’ve just started in a job for the first time, listen, engage, grab hold of opportunities and ask loads of questions. Be proactive and confident!
What do you think the secret of success is when working in digital engagement and communications?
I’m not convinced I’m qualified to answer that question! For me, it’s all about taking every opportunity that I can to improve my skills and to experiment and try new things. I’ve also had great support from leaders, mentors and colleagues around me, and offered that support back where I can.