Nick Capeling on the crowded world of digital content

Nick Capeling on the crowded world of digital content
Want to learn from the best? Our interview series is the best place to get advice from those with their finger on the pulse of what's new in the comms arena.

Nick Capeling, Head of Digital Content at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, checks in with us to chat about all things digital content. Read on to learn more from his experience gained in digital communications, content, and platform development.

Why did you choose to pursue a role in digital content? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance? 

It happened by accident really - I started out as a journalist, then became a magazine editor, then magazines started having websites too (way back when!) so I started managing those too. From there, it eventually became a focus as digital grew and social media took off too, so now for many years, I have been managing both content production and social media outreach.


What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the digital content sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular? 


Multi-tasking is very important. The opportunity to learn new skills is always there so it's great to pick up on new challenges and learn how to deliver new concepts. Although I started out as mainly a writer/editor, I now also edit video, do graphic design work, and have done marketing, overseen user experience and technology teams, all sorts. Being flexible and adaptable is key really - it's a great space to work in if you are interested in skills development beyond the usual 'moving up' ambitions.


What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out? 


Being a jack of all trades and a master of none is a risk. It can be challenging to get clear focus in organisations that are not heavily resourced and yet are highly ambitious in the digital space. There is a sense often that the 'digital person' can, or should, do everything but that's not the best approach. If you want the ambition, resource it. Or moderate the ambition. Be aware of what you really want to focus on or you could end up down the wrong track or pigeon-holed into an area you aren't keen on as an organisation builds its digital resource up.


How is your role perceived in your organisation? 


Still a bit of a 'can do all digital stuff' but it has changed a lot in recent years. I think it's often easy to forget how far you've come as an organisation but, in my experience, if you think back 5 years, you can usually see a huge change in where you've come to so it's always good to reflect on progress. Digital iterates so much over time that it can feel like a never-ending challenge but, in reality, you are making great strides all the time and working in an area that never gets boring, never gets stuck in a rut. There is always something new on the horizon to work towards. 


At React & Share, we’re obsessed with measuring our efforts to prove our worth to internal stakeholders - what measurements do you think digital content teams should be presenting to their board?


Impact is the key metric but deciding what that is can be tough. Engagement levels with content are all very well (and nice to see the numbers rising) but understanding the actual impact of your content is the thing. It's easy to produce more and more digital content these days but it's a crowded space, so you need to know why you are producing it and whether that why has been achieved.

What advice would you give to those at the start of their career? 

Experiment and be prepared to try new skills. Get a feel for lots of things and don't settle for a single pre-defined career path. They largely don't exist anyway now!

What do you think the secret of success is when working in digital content?

Being flexible and helpful. Lots of people still don't understand the power of digital or how to exploit it. Others think they do know but in reality, don't. So it can be frustrating, but keep in mind that digital content is powerful and interesting to deliver, and full of possibilities that other content forms don't have. The lack of restrictions can be nerve-wracking, but also exciting. So embracing innovation is important, but do it in an iterative, controlled way. Experimentation is exactly that. It might work, it might fail. Either is fine.