Digital Works

Episode 002 - Katie Moffat

February 21, 2020 Digital Works / Katie Moffat Season 1 Episode 2
Digital Works
Episode 002 - Katie Moffat
Show Notes Transcript

We sit down for a chat with Head of Digital at the Audience Agency, Katie Moffat to talk about her career, her thoughts about the usefulness of a digital strategy, bridging the digital skills gap, what defines a digital mindset and more.

Cas and Ash also discuss the recently announced Digital Culture Compass (https://digitalculturecompass.org.uk/), Nesta's Digital Culture Survey (https://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/digital-culture-2019/) and how artistic practice seems to remain mostly untouched by digital.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the digital works podcast. This podcast is about digital stuff in the cultural sector. My name is Ash Mann and today I'm joined by my colleague Caspian Turner. Good morning, Caspian.

:

Good morning. How are you? I'm all right, thanks. How are you? I'm good, thank you. It's a beautiful sunny day here in London. It's incredibly cold. It feels like winter is finally arrived, which I think is probably a good thing because it's February now. Yeah, it should have. It should have started really before. Before coming to the studio to record the podcast, I was , I went to the Globe to have a cup of tea in their cafe. I'd strongly recommend the cafe. It's really nice space and because the Globe always has lots of stuff going on, there were lots and lots of school groups, which seemed like pure chaos. You know, my respect and admiration for teachers is, is endless.

Speaker 1:

Even more so when those teachers actively decide to take large groups of children into central London to cultural institutions.

:

Yeah. You're shaking your head. Yeah. Just thinking like sometimes on the tube. You see large groups of school children and I can just imagine how easy it would be just to leave one behind the platform and thinking how stressful that would be. This is a complete tangent but I'm going to go with it cause I remember trips into London at primary school and it was always super exciting , um , going, you know, going on the coach and then getting on the tube and you never gave any thought to logistics and logistics and the nervous breakdown that you are probably causing your teacher and the one parent volunteer that was looking incredibly harassed, bringing up the rear, trying to make sure that no child is left behind. and regretting their life decisions.

Speaker 1:

There was that amazing set of live tweets from the bloke who accompanied his child's school trip to the science museum that the man was @SimonfromHarlow on Twitter. And his tweets were sort of back in 2018 I think. But it was a , a searing insight into the stratospherically high stress levels that accompany any school trip and the feeling of, you know, that you put that many children together and then plonk them into central London and you've, you've created it a chaos machine.

:

I've just tried to look up those tweets and the tweets aren't loading yet, but the headings themselves just outlined the ordeal. The children's curiosity quickly proved to be the most annoying thing on the trip so far. I'm going to read that. It's brutally honest. He was a husk of a, of a man by the end of the day, I think. Um, anyway, that was a , a fun, a fun tangent.

Speaker 1:

I was playing. Spectator was sipping my cup of Earl gray in , in the globe. All the kids look to be having a great time. I think there was a multitude of nationalities cause the , uh, the guide was congratulating the , the children on their excellent English. Um, and I can confirm that children, regardless of their nationality, like to run around and scream. So that was, that was fun. So today we've got an interview with Katie Moffitt and Katie is head of digital at the audience agency is a mission led charity whose purpose is to enable cultural organizations to use national data to increase their relevance reach and resilience. And, and Katie's had a long and varied career and she brings a really interesting perspective to the things that she's observed people are struggling with and the common elements to organizations and individuals that seem to be doing digital. Well. I once again, the interview with Katie was beset by technical difficulties with microphones and I'm starting to think that the common denominator in all this is not faulty equipment. It might be me. However , we were in a studio that had four microphones and three of those microphones either didn't work at all or sort of made it a faint rattling noise, which was quite annoying. And so once again, Katie and I just like with the interview I did with Mike Harris, we ended up sharing a microphone, which hopefully doesn't compromise the quality of the conversation, but it was maybe that's the key to his success. Yeah, I mean it was good cause this microphone was on a, on a stand that you could sort of swing backwards and forwards. Whereas when Mike and I sat down and have a chat, we were on it with a fixed microphone, which meant that we had to sit very, very close together and Mike was essentially sat on my lap , um , which is not a, not a professional , uh , dynamic to conduct an interview in . Fortunately with Katie and I, there was no lap sitting. Um, but we did have to swing a microphone back and forth between us. We cover a huge range of stuff. Um, we know from Katie's career that started in a council press office through to how digital's evolved over the last decade or so. Katie's thoughts on strategy, on digital leadership in the, in the cultural sector. I hope a really interesting conversation. I really enjoyed speaking with Katie. I think she is really smart, insightful, but explains herself in a really down to earth and accessible way. So this is my interview with Katie Moffitt . Hi Katie. Hi. Thanks for coming in being on our podcast. Thank you for inviting me. So you've been working with digital things in and the arts sector

Speaker 2:

for for a while now. So I'm interested to get your perspective on what you think is changed and got better and maybe the things that haven't changed or if maybe got worse. But I, I was always on your LinkedIn this morning cause I was like how did Katie get into, get into the, the job that she did. And you worked in the PR department of a council as far as I can tell back in the nineties so how, what was your route into digital? LinkedIn?

Speaker 3:

Um, yeah, so, well God you came back is now, so my original path or career was in kind of traditional media relations. So I worked , I did work in a press office of a council that was interesting for many reasons. And then I went and worked for a consultancy and that was a kind of comms agency and they worked with a lot of consumer brands and it was kind of PR and it was all glitzy and stuff like that. And then I sort of did a sideways move to another agency that mainly did events, but they had a really small department that was called the multimedia department. And it was about, God, I'm old. It was about 1999 that sort of time. And they used to make CD ROMs, which for you young folk , um, were like, I don't know what were they? They were like earlier than websites. They were things that you put in your computer and they, sometimes they were games and other times they were like ways that you could, they were like a sort of mini website thing. I don't know. Anyway, so I , I ended up being a project manager in that department and then we started to building like early stage websites, which were rubbish. And again, it was around the time of like the first internet bubble. So like boo.com for old people who might remember that then. So that was that. I said if you weren't in my whole life, just asking about the , uh, the council thing. So , uh, then, so I worked there for two years and I actually genuinely loved it. And I really, I just loved everything about it. I loved the job, but also I loved everything . I instantly thought I found something that I really find engaging and the whole kind of new stuff and also just building things. Not me personally as a project manager, but so then I went on maternity leave and I didn't want to go back to work full time and at the time he wasn't the most, how to say this diplomatically. It wasn't the most easiest job to go back into part time. So I went freelance basically and then actually the two things converged. So I had a background in sort of coms digital experience and I ended up doing like work that involved the two things and then gradually they converged and yeah, I ended up doing lots of, so around about 2007 2008 I started specializing in sort of digital strategy type stuff. Lot of social media staff around that time and things like that. The end of my exciting life

Speaker 2:

and I, I guess the reason I asked the question is because sometimes people get in touch with me sort of people at university or people just starting out in their career and they're like, how'd you get into digital? How do you build a digital career? It feels like there's not necessarily a defined path or obvious way in and it feels like because the expectations around what digital roles need to know and do in cultural organizations is pretty broad. That actually it's everyone seems to have made their own fairly Securitas way into it and I think that's not necessarily a bad thing and actually maybe being a bit of a generalist is helpful and having those, especially those common skills I think is super, super important and I think it's, it's really, it's really interesting that you started with CD realms and the first.com bubble. I guess just a a high level maybe. What do you feel, or rather how do you feel the cultural sector has engaged with digital? Because I guess it's maybe moved from a sort of new thing, a nice to have towards something that everyone should be doing towards the way, the primary way that so many things happen now.

Speaker 3:

It's , the first thing I'd say is obviously it depends what area of digital we're talking about. So a lot of what we just talked about is like generally around , um, you know, let's call it digital comms . So whether that's websites, whether that's social media, digital marketing, whatever. But of course , um, there's a whole lot, you know, there's, there's all sorts of different types of digital activities. So digital as part of the, as part of an experience or the artistic program, you know, you've kind of got, you know , lots of other things that require lots of quite specific skillsets . So when people talk about getting into sort of digital, it's, I think there's a question there about even maybe what they mean about that. Yeah, I mean, I th so I think we have the cult and when we talk about the cultural sector generally, yeah, I think it's , there's been a huge sort of development in the levels of sophistication around the use of digital. I'm , I think we have got to a place where we're no longer talking about the latest shiny thing. I think, I hope, but you know, there are, there's also still unfortunately some of those misnomers around , um, you know, online engagement is the way to reach massive audiences or new audiences or whatever with not much discussion or thought about whether, you know, there's audiences might be busy doing other things. I mean, certainly on a very prosaic level, things like, you know, sophistication around use of social media is much improved. The other thing about , uh , the other thing I did really want to say about the kind of , um, how the cultural sector is sort of, you know, what the changes have been over the last, let's say, 10 years, is I think there's a massive difference between actually even between , um, types of organizations within the sector. So obviously museums , um, to performing arts to visual arts, to um , actually [inaudible] , you know, those organizations in that that would be classified as being in the heritage sector and not to massively generalized . But I , you know, I think museums historically have been a bit faster with digital stuff and you know, I'm sure there's many reasons around that to do with them, you know, to do with what they do and the kinds of people they employ to do those things. But , um, we've definitely come a long way, but there are still massive challenges and largely of course I'm preaching to the converted there around resource and funding and lack of means that it's often hard for cultural organizations to do really good stuff.

Speaker 2:

And I guess on, on that point, I was talking to a mutual friend of ours, Chris unit the other day. And we were, we were talking about how, I think we were talking about social media and this sort of environment, this needs to be, needs to be created in order for people in organizations to be able to engage with social media to make the most of it. And I sort of said, Oh, you need to have time and space to be able to do these things well. And Chris said, well that's the question, isn't it? Is it, do organizations actually want to do it well or do they just want to do it well enough? And actually it feels like all too often lots of digital activity falls into the, we're doing it, we're doing it well enough. You know, we've done that. We've done some emails, we've done some social media, we've done some digital advertising, we've done, there's a digital aspect to the artistic program or the curatorial program. There's a digital, we're doing some teacher resources online and I, I wonder what your thoughts are on whether co cultural and heritage organizations should continue trying to spread themselves across the full breadth of the , you know, all the possibilities that digital presentence ticking all those boxes so that they can say to funders or boards or whoever it might be that, yeah , Oh yeah, we're doing that. Or whether actually effectiveness and efficiency and impact would come from doing less and ensuring that what you are doing is making a difference. Is high quality.

Speaker 3:

So I think the answer to that is yes, the number of times that I say to organizations that, you know, I work a lot , um, with all sorts of different cultural organizations. I've also different sizes and across art forms and the number of times I say to um , people, in fact last week I was working with theater and aesthetics exactly that it's better to do so this was a specific conversation around social media and I said it's better to do one or two channels really well and just forget the others . Like nobody is going to be bothered if you're not on Instagram. And I'm also, last week I was at um , an event, I was talking, I'm an analytics events and watersheds communications manager was there and she was saying that they don't use Instagram, which I thought was quite interesting in itself because watershed are known both as being quite digitally savvy. They are. And also , um , they have quite young audience. So you would naturally assume that Instagram was a good one for them. And she was really clear that that was a very conscious decision around time and resource and that they at the moment could not give it the, you know, the attention that it needed to do it well and so they weren't going to do it and I, and it shouldn't be a brave decision to do that, but actually I think it is better to not do it at all. Then you know, the number of Facebook pages I look at and it's really just an exercise in, and this is not a criticism because I understand absolutely why people get to that stage, but you know, really posting to Facebook has become a kind of just a tick box exercise and really they might as well not be doing it or just doing paid ads or, or taking a step back and saying actually what is the point in all of this and what are , what is it achieving and not achieving? So the short answer was yes, I would agree. Absolutely. When it comes to comms stuff and you know, it less is definitely more or can be more.

Speaker 2:

I wonder if that's how I was in my , uh, in my preparation for today, I was reading some of your, some of the articles that you've written over the sort of past 10 years and, and a recurring theme that you seem to return to is the idea of a digital mindset and sort of being digitally literate. You know, I'm sure that means a huge number of different things. And I wonder whether it's , it's the organizations that are more in the digital editor at camp that feel equipped to be able to make those decisions about what they are and aren't going to do. And perhaps those who feel less confident in the area do feel the expectation to, Oh God, people are on, you know, we've got need to have a LinkedIn account, we need to have an Instagram account , we need to blah, blah, blah. Because actually they don't feel able to confidently make, as you say, the quite brave decision to stop doing things, to re divert the limited resources that we all absolutely know. And recognize of there . And I wonder if over over the past 10 years, you know , working with lots of different types of organizations, what are their sort of defining characteristic shared characteristics of those organizations, whether they be big, small UK or otherwise, where a digital mindset is more prevalent or, or is it, is there no real pattern to that and it's still down to individuals?

Speaker 3:

So I think there are some kind of key traits of those types of organizations. Ultimately it is about the senior staff in an organization and their mindset, and I don't think it's the case that they themselves have to be hugely digitally experienced or you know, skilled, but they just have to be open minded. And I think they also have to trust staff and let stuff experiment and demonstrate. So in experimenting, hopefully demonstrate when things work, but also critically when things don't work, accepting that that's really useful as well. And then again, that's something you think, well we tried that, it didn't work, but we've definitely learned from it. So I think it's, it , it's, it's that intangible thing to do with leadership, which actually isn't really anything to do with digital stuff. It's about people who, who I hate the at empower, but what's a better word? You know, who, who give their staff license to, to kind of do good work. So that is definitely the case no matter what the size of organization. And I don't really know how you get round that apart from maybe a leadership type courses that aren't to do with being leaders in a kind of very didactic way, but are to do with how you nurture individuals and bring out the kind of best and so on. I think also to some degree, organizations who, who invest in digital and bio investing, I don't mean spend huge amounts of money. I mean they, they recognize that it's something that needs attention. Um, and now in smaller organizations or organizations who are perhaps , um , not as far along in their digital journey, I think that's about how they think about, you know, staff upscaling. So sending them on courses, for example, if they want to go perhaps doing kind of, you know, regular workshops where this kind of stuff is discussed. I think there's lots of different ways you can do it, but certainly you need to kind of, you need an environment where it's talked about rather than it just being kind of another thing. And, and as we've sort of said it earlier, a lot of this conversation is sort of hovering around the kind of digital Mar comms area . But there are lots of other areas, you know, where, you know , it's kind of their issues. So as I say, digital as part of an experience or digital as part of the artistic program, that's certainly an area where I think lots of organizations struggle and understandably because it's , it's quite a specialist thing. But I, you know, I think ultimately it comes down to, to the people at the top and how they, how they lead, which isn't really anything at all to do with digital.

Speaker 2:

And I think I would absolutely echo that. And you know, I'll work at subtract working with organizations big and small here and in North America. I think the ones who, who get it, who make the most of the opportunities that digital presents, they're not always the people with the most money to throw around. They are the people where teams feel empowered is actually, as you said, and I do think it's a leadership thing and I've sort of written about this in the past that I think actually when cultural organizations misstep on digital, it's often, it's not necessarily down to a lack of competence is often a lack of leadership and a lack of clarity and a lack of empowerment.

Speaker 3:

Sorry, I just thought of one other thing as well, which sounds a bit jargonistic but it's genuinely not. I think the other characteristic is that actually those ordinances or organizations do you think about their audiences so they're not just, they're not just thinking about their program or their events or their shows or their exhibitions or whatever it is that they do and getting that content out there. They think they are thinking about how, you know, how does, what are the digital touch points for our audiences and what do they do and how do they, I think the welcome collection or the best example of that, cause I know Tom has written about, you know about this Tom Scott a lot in a lot of detail and he said one of their strategy points is kind of understanding users is at the heart of everything we do. And , and that sounds like such a, such a simple thing, but actually it takes a lot of constant questioning and thinking and questioning about why you're doing something and if you should be doing something. So I think that's the other thing. And again, a lot of cultural organizations that the audience agency work with that are highly effective in other ways. So not just to do with digital, it's usually because their audience focused. And so the same applies with digital I would say.

Speaker 2:

And I think that's an undoubtedly true that the best digital activity activities inherently user focused . And I think forcing that perspective on any conversation means you're going to have impact and reach people. And I was doing some, some reading, Google did some research a couple of years ago now in 2018 around the traits of highly effective teams. And this sort of number one common factor across all of the research that they did was that there was an element of psychological safety for these teams, that people felt empowered, but they also felt able to make a mistake and that, you know, the world would come crashing down around them and they wouldn't get fingers pointed at them. You know, there were other other characteristics that were identified around clarity and impact and sort of purpose, but the idea of psychological safety, you know, the idea that you, you mentioned earlier around empowerment. I think that's hugely important. Too often it feels like conversations around digital in the cultural sector are so fraught with everyone's so worried about squandering money because no one's got any money. And actually digital stuff can sometimes seem to be expensive. And if you don't quite understand what it is that you're doing or why you're doing it and you're not in a supportive environment, and that is a recipe for failure really. And I think both of us have seen cultural organizations doing digital stuff across all areas that they operate in, whether that's sales, marketing, you know, Vista experience, artistic experience. What are the best examples that you think you've seen? All of digital in action that could be big, small, you know, recent or in the distant past,

Speaker 3:

people asked me this quite a lot and understandably so, people will say, can you give me examples of best practice on Instagram or organizations that use Twitter really well? And um , and that's, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that question. And I probably have got some examples, but I think first I would say we , we just need to say that there's kind of a note of caution about when from the outside looking in, people say, Oh, look at how they're using social media. It's amazing. Isn't that great? And it may well be great, but what we don't see on the outside is the actual impact of that work. So you're just seeing the output. And with social media in particular, of course, as we all know, what you could be seeing is lots and lots of like noise, but not actual, any actual, you know, impact in terms of the organizational objective . So when we sort of judge what's good in digital, we tend to do that from the outside. And when it comes to Mark comms , that tends to be, as I say, we look at stuff and say, Oh, that's gone viral or that's got lots of engagement, which, you know, great. Or if it's to do with , um, you know, some kind of, I don't know , uh , digital VR IX , you know, some VR experience or some kind of three 60 trailer or something. And , um , again, you know, you look at it and you look at it aesthetically and you say, that's beautiful and that's amazing. And, and, but it , but what we don't see is the , the, the sort of last bit of that which is about, okay, well did that sell more tickets and , or did it get more people through the door or whatever. Now, not everything, of course we do necessarily has to have a , uh , a specific action. But some of it does. So, so with that caveat though, I would say, you know, there are examples of best practice. Of course there are, it's tricky sometimes because smaller organizations don't necessarily get the visibility that some of the bigger organizations do. The Royal Academy, who I know , you know really well of course, are often cited in terms of their approach to content, which is absolutely an undeniably brilliant, you know, but they , they have a lot of resource to do that, that that doesn't mean that that alone means you'll be good at it though. Their actual approach is fantastic. But I think, you know, organizations like the Royal Academy , again, the welcome collection, I mentioned them before, their use of Instagram, I really liked just because it foregrounds the collection first and foremost. So again, they're thinking very much about um , how they use the content that's relevant to them and how they can kind of use that platform to connect with their audiences. Again, sounds simple but quite hard to do. Well actually other organizations just generally I think that do good stuff. Royal historic palaces, again, do lots of good stuff on the socials but you know, big organization, I think actually English heritage are doing some interesting stuff around digital content. We did some work with them a couple of years ago and they, they, again, they have a dedicated team for this, but they think very hard about the content that they produce online for online purposes. Scottish ballet actually doing some really nice stuff across all in all areas. They had, you've probably seen, they had a digital season last year, which I think was the first time they did it and quite , you know, I think by their own admission and probably a bit of an experiment. Again, that's an interesting one because I don't know how successful it was in terms of numbers and stuff but , but lots of interesting stuff there. And then, and then of course you've got, you know, they're sort of using digital technologies as part of the artistic program or part of kind of experience. I'm slightly biased because I'm on the board, but abandon normal devices or have perhaps been doing for years. Amazing stuff. You know, like back years ago they put, you know, they were doing VR experiences in Rosedale forest and continue to do really interesting stuff like that. And then the other thing I just wanted to mention, which was, which I was alluded to earlier, is in terms of thinking about like doing good with digital and how broad that goes, we did some research with on this creative people and programs work and how they were using digital and that were , and that was about how they were using it in lots of different ways. And one of the things that came out of that is because creative people in places have this quite , um , specific model for how they work. So they work absolutely in collaboration with their communities to create their artistic program. When it came to digital, a lot of communities in areas where CPPs operate, they have high digital exclusion. And one of the, you know, one of the factors for digital excuse exclusion, as I'm sure you're aware, is this kind of sense of not for me. So there are lots of reasons for digital exclusion, but the idea that something is always , you know, it's not really for me, I don't really understand it. It's a bit confusing. Um , and one of the things that came out quite clearly from this research that we did with CPPs is actually if you, when the CPPs were working with our communities and it involved a digital project of some kind and that, and that, you know , was anything that sort of touched on digital, actually one of the amazing outcomes of that was that it gave those community members a real sense of confidence around digital and the annex sort of mitigated some of those issues around digital exclusion. And, and, and that's a , it's a slight sort of tangent to what you're asking because it's not about organizations doing good stuff with digital particularly. But I do think there's something really interesting in how the arts and culture sector are in quite a unique position to potentially help some of those issues that some of some of their communities may have. I mean that's probably a bigger, a bigger conversation, but that there was certainly some really interesting examples of individual projects where the outcome wasn't so much, Oh wow, look at this amazing shiny thing. Or didn't we use Twitter well or Instagram well, but it was about the actual impact on that community. So yeah, that, that you know , that that kind of stuff's amazing to see with the, with the kind of caveat that we only see the uh, we only see the output, don't we not necessarily the outcome

Speaker 2:

com . That final example is a really nice one and I, it often feels like the sort of learning and engagement activity that so many cultural organizations undertake is almost the area that could be supercharged the most with digital. But it also feels like the area of many organizations that feels perhaps least well equipped to engage with digital. I mean, I'm sure there's many good reasons why that is. Or equally, it might just be my experience, but it feels like professionals working in those departments on, they will be the ones who say, Oh I know I'm not so comfortable using X, Y or Zed. Whereas as you've just identified and I think you know, we've, we've done work with sort of digital learning projects and the impact can be transformative

Speaker 3:

and I think so we've definitely worked with organizations who have quite digitally savvy learning and engagement teams definitely. But I would tend to agree that they might be more the exception than the rule. Again, actually the ones who in , in my experience, only the ones who perhaps are doing more interesting work in that area are, they're probably, you know, are they, are they organizations who are, we've you have the traits or exhibit the traits that we've identified around, you know, strong leadership, etc . But for sure that there are, there are examples of , of quite interesting work around learning participation, engagement with digital definitely. But it doesn't, it come back to that thing of like who owns digital as well? Like which department originally, originally. And traditionally it was always marcomms . Well that's where it does get interesting because I think in museums it's probably slightly different historically. Yeah. Because you know, again, and that comes from, you know, how a museum is structured and etc . But , but maybe, and hopefully, and I've seen examples, I'm sure you have of as digital becomes much more small disperse throughout an organization and, and he's less the preserve of, of one department, then hopefully that will, you know, that will mean that, you know, you get the benefits around things like that. I know you're talking to , uh , to karate price and I know she's done is doing loads of loads of research in the area of kind of that , uh , distributed to how do you , how do you kind of get a Digi digital across your organization? But yeah, I think, I think one of the issues historically has always been that it's in a silo, hasn't it?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And I , I think I, I share your opinion that broadly speaking, the performing arts sector and the museum sector have digital has developed in those types of organizations in slightly different ways. And I wonder whether that's because in forming outset to the imperative or rather the obvious application of digital wards to sell a ticket and I wonder whether for organizations where that's less of the driving or at least the primary priority to sell a ticket and the goals are perhaps more around curation, engagement with the collection and engagement with the temporary exhibition or whatever it might be. So narrative and engagement is the starting point rather than sort of commercial impact and effectiveness. But I wonder if, do you have any thoughts on, you know , if someone's listening to this and they're working in an organization where digital is seen as something that very much just lives in one department, wherever that department is, do you have a perspective on how or what can be done to start to spread the load? Is it, is it about there being changes in job descriptions? Is it about changes in structure? Is it about new roles being created? Is it about projects being engaged with that sort of cut across multiple teams but have digital as the primary driver? Is it all of these things?

Speaker 3:

Um, yes. I think it probably is all of those things. I think there are a few things to unpick there. Usually if you're in that type of organization and it's, let's say it's the sort of medium to larger size organization, cause if you're smaller you probably like if you're very small you maybe don't have that issue cause it's not, you haven't got the , the departmental silos. But , um, I think with medium to large size organizations, what you have to do is you have to try and start those , um, conversations across the organization about what, what could we do with digital? What are we doing now? Is it working? Is it not? Why is it not working as well as it should? We all, you know, what do we all want to do? Um, what's practical to do? Um, because obviously what you might want to do and what's practical might be slightly different. Um, so somehow you have to start those conversations. Now that often happens. I, well that I think that can happen in a number of different ways. One, it happens because somebody from above says let's do this. But in your quest question, you were sort of suggesting that maybe someone hasn't done that. So it's just an issue where everybody's sitting there thinking like, Oh, you know , uh, digital sits within marketing. It's not my thing and it's not being pushed , uh , from senior team. So I think the other way that it can happen is by, you know, you get an external consultant and they come in and kind of shake things up and , and sort of do it for you. Um, or actually the other example I've seen , um , is where you have somebody within the organization who isn't necessarily senior, but it's just just talented at what they do. And again, that's not necessarily that they're, you know, they may well be very digitally literate and experienced and so on. But also there I think it's also to do with their um, attitude and their ability to get people engaged with stuff, to fire people up, to excite them about possibilities to go and have conversations and just sort of, and again that comes back to being, feeling like you can do that, you know, that psychological safety thing that you talked about. Um, so sometimes where you have people within an organization who are sort of fire starters who , um, cause I think you inherently, what you can't do is say here's a digital strategy and everybody, this is your role in the digital strategy. You have to involve people. It sounds very arts and culture and touchy feely, feely and all that stuff. But, but ultimately you have to let people have the conversation where they say, I don't get it or this doesn't seem rye or I disagree with you because if you don't, it's going to be very hard to get to the point where you are all genuinely doing stuff in an effective way. Um, but I'm not, you know, it's, it's, I can't remember who said the kind of, it's not hard. It's just difficult thing. You know, it's not rocket science but it every , I mean there'll be loads of people out there who are , who work in these organizations who obviously live and breathe this , um, day in, day out. It really does require those somehow for those conversations to be facilitated and it doesn't have to be in a hugely formal way, but you have to do that to start the process I would say

Speaker 2:

because all of the best stuff happens when your entire organization is engaged in it. You know, all the best social media stories that you would have seen have come out of, you know, someone in the collections team noticing an interesting story about an object and feeling able to take that to someone who then told the person who was doing Twitter that week and they crafted that into a narrative that lots of people engaged with and blah, blah blah. It's not just that someone was marching around with the digital hat on being digital. I mean it ago, not a minute ago before we started recording our conversation we were, we were discussing the new arts council, England 10 year strategy. Don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to have a specific opinion on that, but let's use that 10 year timeframe as as this sort of MacGuffin for this next question, but you know, if we're , if we're looking forward 10 years, what do you think organizations , priorities should be around digital? Is it around more money? Is it around new roles? Is it around doing less but doing it better? Is it around trying to get artistic teams to more meaningfully engage with, with the potential of digital, you know, is it about really trying to make the most of new technologies? If there were sort of two or three key priorities standing here in 2020 that you would recommend the sector starts to address because as we know, change in this sector happens over a number of years over the next five or 10 years. In terms of digital thinking, where do you think people should be prioritizing their focus?

Speaker 3:

The answer would be different depending on where, where organizations are currently in their digital journey. But I would say there's a whole question isn't there around whether organizations should have that should have a separate digital strategy. Some people feel very vehemently, strongly that they shouldn't, it should all be embedded into the overall strategy and some people feel that , uh, it's , uh , it's useful and I think you can argue both ways and often, you know, people have an opinion one way or the other depending on what type of organization or the type of organization that they work for. But one thing I would say that where there is a value in a digital strategy is it at a minimum, what it does is it gets you thinking about what, just as a general, let's, let's think about what the potential is with digital. Like what could we do and where given what we're trying to achieve organizationally given our current kind of situation on analysis in terms of like realism, what is practically sort of achievable over the next five years, let's say. I probably, I think 10 years is probably too long in , in, in this world of digital. But I th so I think in terms of, in terms of specific advice, I think it varies so much depending on both the type of organization, the size and where they are now. But, but I think actually my advice would be that if it's not already being foregrounded somehow within the organization as a discussion, so what can digital do? Where are the potential areas? What, what should we prioritize for the next 12 months? And then what should we prioritize as you know, for the next sort of three years. And the reason I say that is because, because for some organizations, there are some very specific, very bait , not , not so much basic, but very practical things that they may need to do. So for example, they may need to just , uh , have somebody in house who can use Google analytics really well. Right? So that's a quieter , for lots of organizations, that's a really simple thing. For lots of others, it's actually still an issue. It really is. So, so I think it's , it's prioritize the stuff now that you know is like, really you just haven't been able to do. And some of those things might be, might seem quite small fry for some organizations, but then also have a sort of , um , have a sort of ambitious AUT or discussion around what, you know , what could digital do. And then, you know, and some of that may involve looking at new technologies and all the rest of it. But the really important thing is you've got to have a kind of roadmap to get there. Because if you don't have that, it all just becomes like a theoretical, Oh, well maybe in, you know, I'm a theater and maybe, you know, within the next three years we'll look at , I dunno , we'll look at like virtual reality or we'll look at some other thing. And , and that's , so that's fine and it's good to have those ambitions, but if you, you don't really have a sort of plan for how you're going to get there. So I think it's about, say, you know, it's about those, what do we need to fix now? And, and, and if we have a strategy, how can we break it down into like really , um , achievable things. So that's not a massively kind of sexy answer, but it's just a practical, and that's why I tend to, I tend to fall in the camp of that's why our digital strategy can be useful. Not because I think it should be a standalone thing because, but because I think it gives people a means to think about it and to talk about it, which for a lots of organizations, they don't necessarily, they haven't done all or they don't do. So it's sort of a vehicle to do that. Beyond that, I don't think there are any specific like get yourself on tick tock or Idaho, like whatever, do live streaming, you know, whatever. Uh, I think it's more about the sort of the, how are you going to get to where you are , you know, it's like what are the opportunities basically and how might you get there?

Speaker 2:

It's, it's been interesting to see how the arts council in England has funded digital specifically and it feels like the arts council and Nesta and then the arts council and Nesta and then the arts council and Nesta and the BBC have all tried to approach digital as a problem to solve in a number of different ways. It feels like there was the, at one point there was the acknowledgement that there was a clear skills gap that needed that needed to be bridged. Um, so resources and an initiative sprang up around that and then it felt like there was a lack of funding to , to testings , you know, R and D funding. So it felt like there was, there was, there was funding around that. And then there was , um, you know, there have been like geeks in residence type programs and to try and again, I guess start the , the shift to being, to introducing that, that digital mindset. If you were recommending an approach to , to improving digital resilience, digital competency in, in the sector, which , which of these approaches do you think has been most effective? Or do you think there is another approach that , that had that hasn't been tried yet?

Speaker 3:

So I think that, I actually think that the tech champions , um, I actually think that that's a really good initiative and I , and I think that, you know, there may be naysayers who say, Oh, but it doesn't work because X, Y, Z. But I think it's a valid approach and it's useful to have people there who have very specific skill sets . One kind of thing I would flag about that is obviously tech champions are very much kind of about, let's, let's say marcomms they're very much about content marketing. Okay. Websites, but let's bundle those. And again, there's nobody there who's really an expert in digital participation or that's , that's not a criticism. I don't think it was ever set up to do that. So I think that the tech champions is a good initiative and obviously we'll wait to see what the actual impact of , of their work be. I think though, sort of building on that and thinking like where there might be something that hasn't been done that would be useful. I wonder about, I work with a lot of arts organizations who generally just head down and get on with staff day to day, week to week who are just trying to kind of battle through everything. And I think sometimes those organizations don't have enough what I'd call opportunities to see opportunities to share. And that will again that can , that sounds a bit sort of touchy feely. So specifically what I mean by that is you might work in a theater in new castle or a small museum in Kent or something like that and you might try and, you know, read newsletters, listen to this excellent podcast, whatever, to just learn what's going on and make sure that you're , you know, that you're being inspired by interesting things. But actually it's , it's quite time consuming to do that and people are busy. So I think there is something in how organizations may be like the arts council and Nesta, the space, et cetera , how they are able to facilitate more. I mean, I call it opportunities to see, I think it's something around, again, if you've never done anything do with live streaming and your theater, you may be, can go to , um , a session, like a workshop or something about live streaming and , and that's obviously useful, but then sometimes you just want , you need to like see it and you need to see a good example of it. I think it's probably easier with marcomms actually than it is to do with the other, with, with some of the other areas . These are areas of digital, but there's something around how we, arts and culture as a sector is pretty good at sort of sharing stuff and being quite open and especially compared to the sort of commercial brand type organizations. But I think there's more that could be done to sort of somehow get people sort of seeing what's possible but in quite a, in more than just like reading a newsletter or, and , and I don't know what the form of that might take but, but I agree that you know, lots of the approaches that have been put forward like upskilling and uh , funding and everything are fine, but there's still something around how people learn off what other people are doing. And, and I think actually at the moment how that tends to happen is a much more informal type network. I think there is actually, having said that, I think there is a plan that the tech champions are doing. I mean they're doing a blog, they're doing a website, they're doing resources, et cetera. But I sort of mean more than that. I mean actually getting out and being able to see some of these things, talk to people in something that isn't a training workshop.

Speaker 1:

Is there anything else you wanted to chat through? You've got loads of notes,

Speaker 3:

maybe sound like a rights. What are just professional and prepared? I am very professional. I'm very prepared . No, the only thing I was going to say was we were talking about roots to digital. One thing sometimes people sort of say to me is like they real , they , they struggle to find people with specific experience that can be hard to fill certain roles. And I think that's , that is, you know, that that is an issue in and generally not just in arts and culture. But one of the things I think is some of the, some of the people I come across who are sort of really good at what they do actually, again, it's , it's, they , it's more their mindset than it is their sort of skill set . Now of course, if you're employing someone to do digital marketing and it, and it is a , and it's a particular level of role and they need to have, they need to be able to, you know, they need to able to understand SEO and, and uh, you know, Google ads and all the rest of it, then obviously that makes sense. But I do think there's something about employing for kind of attitude as well. And, and some of the most kind of Sparky brilliant people I've come across, it's, it's more that they just all curious and fascinated and interested and want to get stuck in , in this stuff. And I think that's actually the great thing about digital is it's one of those, it's that top, it's that kind of topic where there is just lots of interesting stuff going on. And I think the people who do really well in it are the people who are naturally curious and actually some people that that's not something that they're naturally that interested in and that's fine. You don't have to be like, it's not , not everybody has to be, but I think if you're working at the coal phase, she , you probably do need that natural curiosity.

Speaker 1:

Obviously quite a wide ranging conversation that Katie and I had. And I think there are a number of interesting and salient points that , that she raised. I mean with , we're recording this , um, the day after the digital culture compass initiative was announced, the day after the most recent Nesta digital culture survey was released. And both those pieces of work either look to address the perceived or actual gap in around leadership in relation to digital in the sector or they analyze the effectiveness or not of leadership around digital in the sector and that was certainly something that Kate and I talked about and it feels increasingly as as I'm having these conversations that yes, of course there is, there's always a question of resources, a question of capacity, a question of priorities, but ultimately the , the thread that seems to run through all the difficulties, the thread that seems to run through all of the examples of people doing things well is leadership. It is around people either really understanding the potential of digital and doing digital well or good quality leadership that understands how to set a direction and then empower their teams and equally where where, where digital feels like it's still siloed in one part of that organization or not prioritized. That feels like it is always ultimately down to a lack of leadership or lack of buy-in. You've worked in the sector for almost 10 years. If all of these things are saying that there is a , a gap around leadership in relation to digital and that the organizations that are making the most of digital, it is because of good leadership. What is your perspective on that issue?

Speaker 4:

I think it's coming down to understanding and allowing people to take risks. In your chat with Katie, you talk about curiosity and the freedom to explore. And I think with that comes the freedom to make mistakes. But I think that is around controlled mistakes in terms of things like user testing , uh, in terms of things like AB testing, there's an idea in the arts I think that people, people require, or not to people, but I think organizations expect to have a polished product before they present it to the world in terms of their digital representation. And that ties to what you were just saying around it needs to be intersected and integral to the organization rather than a way to present rather than only to present the work that they do. And so I think that idea that everything has to be waterfall and polished is what prevents people from, from achieving what they could do.

Speaker 1:

I w I absolutely would not disagree with anything that you've said there. And I think this was something that Mike Harrison, I touched on the idea that the digital mindset is inherently iterative. That it embraces testing an idea, understanding what can be improved and then quite quickly being able to make those improvements. Whereas for example, the exhibitions team at the RA isn't going to, isn't going to open an exhibition and be like, ah , you know, maybe we'll try the paintings in the different order or actually we'll going to paint that wall a different color or we gonna we'll take that one down entirely and put something else there instead. Yeah. So perhaps in, in the specifically they're talking about exhibitions, perhaps it's understandable why embracing digital or engaging with digital in the most meaningful way is a challenge. Because if you've , uh, you know, if your career has mostly been in a space that is very sequential, that has a number of clear steps and you won't progress from one step to the next step until everything is correct and then you will move on to the next step with certainty. I can absolutely appreciate why digital feels like a threat and feels like a very different way of thinking and operating. However, it feels like in the performing arts sector, the idea of theater making, the idea of scratch performance, the idea of going into a rehearsal room and developing performance, trying ideas, that feels like much more a part of how things happen, how shows are developed. So therefore it's, it's often a surprise to me that it's , it's sometimes those performing arts organizations that seem to struggle the most with the idea of engaging with digital as an iterative process. The idea of just as you said, treating digital's primary applications should be as a poster that exists on the internet that gives some sales messages and then allows people to buy tickets rather than something that could extend or enhance the thing. You know, the show the art and it feels like as well, even when people look to extend the art in inverted commerce in a digital way, that's often through interviews with the creative team or whatever it might be. And I'm not saying that those are invalid ideas. In my conversation with with Luis Coen, which will be out in a couple of weeks time, she made the interesting point that cultural institutions should start to think more as content creators. Yeah . Um, which I, I immediately know with some degree of certainty, some people will bristle at that language. We talk about skills gaps quite a lot and that's the , that seems to be in skills gaps relating to running cultural, you know, the business of the cultural sector skills gaps around data analysis or around social media or around digital marketing. I think there is an equally obvious skills gap around digital thinking in , in so far as how it relates to artistic practice. And it feels like that's the big opportunity. Threats , however you want to, you know, if you're feeling a glass half full, the glass half empty. I mean I , I've sat in in workshops with artistic directors of new writing theaters and they describe their institution as a storytelling machine. And I was like, yes, I really like, I really liked that description because when you say that with the institution is the storytelling machine and actually a performance on stage is one way of telling stories. And equally you could do radio plays, you could do , uh , you know, short form video things. You could do things that would just text if the, if the institution's purpose is storytelling and sharing narrative and exposing people to points of view that they haven't been exposed to before, then that is really interesting. That's a really interesting sort of choice that you haven't included the idea of standing on a stage and giving a performance as inherently linked to the , the core thing. And absolutely you are a theater, so that is always going to be a part of what you do. But the fact that you've identified stories, storytelling felt really exciting because suddenly then that opens you up to your then sort of channel agnostic where and if you see, if you see, yes the physical theater space as a channel but just as equally just as valid is the plethora of digital opportunities and that felt like a real fundamental shift because then you start to redefine your artistic thinking. It's not just about trying to produce a a season of plays that's performed in a venue or venues. It's about how do we best deliver the stories that we're , that we're developing. And for some of those stories, absolutely at, you know, a hundred minute two act play is going to be the most appropriate channel for that. But for other stories it might be a serialized podcast over three months or it might be a bunch of one minute videos or it might be long form articles. However, it doesn't feel that that is necessarily a widespread shift in thinking. And if we start to think more sort of shiny bauble like and we think about things like AR and we think about things like VR and how that could impact artistic thinking. I mean I , I'm not quite sure what my point is. I was very struck I , I went to coach geek a couple of years ago , one day conference here in the U K and Toby Coffey , who's head of digital development for the national theater, spoke about the work that they have been doing around VR performance and it, it was very obvious that he was describing a program of R and D work because they were figuring out what type of stories most appropriately fitted to that sort of experience. They were figuring out whether or not it was easy possible for sort of playwrights who were used to writing plays to be performed in a traditional theater space. Whether they could easily move to writing a play that is delivered in a VR experience. He talked about the fact that they realized that you couldn't, for , for , for some of the plays that they had commissioned, that you had to build a physical environment for someone to have that VR experience in. Because without that it sort of didn't make sense. It wasn't rooted enough in, in the physical world. He was talking about the fact that, so they identified a playwright that identified a story. They identified that you needed to build a physical set. You could only put one person at a time through this cause it was quite an individual story. And they, and another thing that he mentioned with , I think, and I might be misremembering this, but there , there were actors in the space who would physically interact with the audience member at certain points of the narrative in response to what was happening in the VR experience. You know, a hand on someone's shoulder. Um, that sort of thing, which they know is massively increased the , the impact of the audience members experience. And so suddenly then it's not, it's not just a case of designing a VR experience and putting a headset on someone. There's a whole a whole shift in thinking that needs to happen before you can meaningfully engage in these new ways of doing things to to be able to effectively deliver your story. Yeah , and I mean you know the national theater is fortunate in that number one they have a role title is head of digital development and number two that they can have partnerships with technology companies that gives them the time and space to be able to experiment with these new technologies and understand how these new technologies can most effectively be YouTube utilized by a theater. But, and again this may just be due to my complete ignorance, it doesn't feel like that sort of R and D experimental iterative failing and learning from what doesn't work and identifying what does work sort of thinking or activity is taking place elsewhere. At many other organizations, and I'm sure people listening to this will go, of course it's because no one has any money. No one has any time. So we focus on the core thing. The core thing is is putting a , we are performing arts, we are performing the art on a thing. At a physical audience set, consuming it and that is, that is our primary priority, but it feels like if we, and again people may disagree with this, but if we accept that digital is a threat opportunity or at least that it's having a significant impact on shifting consumer expectations and understanding motivations and all that sort of stuff, then surely there needs to be an R and D program at every NPO funded organization around understanding how digital could be used to differently think about deliver their , their main thing and I think the sector is only going to be able to really get their heads around that if it's ever decided that that is enough of a priority if they allocate time and resources to it and that probably means doing slightly less of the stuff that they've always done.

Speaker 4:

I think that kind of ties into the conversation that you and Katie were having around where digital sits in an organization who owns digital because that ties directly into the leadership conversation. And if that's confused, then it's, it's going to be confusing to your audiences if you are splitting up who is in charge or who manages what you're producing. If it's disjointed internally, I think it's all too easy to let that slip out to the public. Yeah . And that is lack of coherence.

Speaker 1:

Yes. And it's interesting, it's always interesting to look at job titles that the sort of the most senior in the most senior parts of, of organizations, cause I think that says a lot about the priorities of those organizations. And we want to see a situation where digital is embraced and understood and prioritized across every strand of an organization's activities . So the need for, for sort of centralized specific ditch to expertise dissipate somewhat. However, it feels like we're still quite a long way from reaching that point. And so in the meantime you probably need to create

Speaker 5:

or [inaudible]

Speaker 1:

prioritize digital in an overt way. In the, in the leadership of organizations and it's, it still surprises me how few organizations have senior digital staff and I absolutely do not think that is because those organizations have embedded digital across everything they do. I think it's because there will be a digital marketing officer that sits in the marketing team and that is the organization feeling like that's the digital person and actually you , if you look at the organizations that I'm aware of that have directs of digital or heads of digital, those teams have a responsibility for an incredibly broad range of activities because as we've touched on before, digital is an incredibly broad range of activities and it feels like until we see a greater of digital in its full fullest scope being staffed, I guess then then the sector is going to continue to rumble along with digital being a subset of business units within the organization rather than something that cuts across everything that they do and in order for digital to to in order for the sector to respond to. The challenge of digital transformation, it needs to be an aspect of everything that everyone does. And frustratingly, it feels like we are still a long way from that being the case.

Speaker 4:

I read something on Twitter the other day about , uh, being at a stage of being teenagers as part of a digital transformation journey that the idea of digital transformation has been around for [inaudible] , that sort of amount of time and that , um, we maybe now in like a moody state of being not quite knowing where we're going next and it's still evolving and obviously it will continue to evolve. And again, this is touching on new , this is touching on the chat with Katie around , uh , continuously learning and having a sense of curiosity.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And I think that again, I can understand why that shift in thinking seems threatening something that has the word continuous in sounds expensive. Something that has the word, the words curiosity and iteration attached to it feels risky, risky. It feels ill-defined, it feels like sort of, it doesn't have an inherent sense of certainty. And as you touched on earlier, CAS , it feels the sector is very good at embracing uncertainty and experimentation and trying things. And they might not always work in, in the, on the artistic side of things. But when it comes to the , the administrative side of things, it feels like there is extremely low appetite for risk. And all the research says, again, Katie touched on this, but the research that Nestor has done time and again shows that organizations where there is a culture of experimentation and we're failing is it's not encouraged. Of course, it's not encouraged, but it's okay because you learn the most from when you try something and it doesn't work.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. Why do you think that Google has incubator labs that are trialing all of these new products? There are far more , uh , Google products that have been and died to them . There are on the market now because they're trying and failing and getting rid of what didn't work.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And , and, and I think, you know, if you never try anything new, then you're never going to do anything new. Uh, Rob Costen, who's head of digital at the national museum of Scotland, was asking an interesting question on, on Twitter the other day, and I put this to Luis Coen when I sat down with her, but he said, what's the thing that you find yourself coming back to and repeating to colleagues all the time? One of the things that he said is, what's stopping you from trying that? Now you know, you don't need to secure a whole new load of funding, experiment with different formats. You don't need to secure a whole new load of funding to try talking about the work in a different way. You don't need to secure it. You know, there will be low fi, low cost, sort of low effort ways of trying all of these things and yes, that might mean that you have to stop doing something else, but it's not forever. It may be that you stop doing something else for a month or for a year to try this, this new thing. You try it and it doesn't work. You can then restart the thing that you were doing before. What did , what does an example of this sort of approach look like? And you know we've talked a lot about I'll work with bridge and I work with, I really enjoy working with next door because he I think really does embrace this mindset. And we were doing some campaign analysis and as a result of that Nick cancelled a suede of tube advertising, you know, posters on the underground cause he was like, well let's see what happens. And that might sound brash, but he was very clear about what he was looking to understand from that because the idea of putting a poster in at X station Y station and this format, you know, they were doing that because that was the way that traditional theater marketing campaigns worked. And he was interested. What would happen if they stopped doing that? Does anyone actually even notice or are they on the whole finding out their information from other means ? The reason I'm getting so exercised about this is because it feels like the time is coming. I don't know if it will be a cliff edge or if it will be a slow imperceptible change. But the way that we've always done it is no longer going to work. And I think that is true across everything that we do. We were going to need to increase the pace of evolving what we do and responding to the changes in the way that everyone thinks about and interacts with the world. Because if we don't, then we're gonna get left behind. I think this touches directly on what you, in case you were saying about meeting audiences where they are and uh, how the Wellcome collection present themselves online. Everything being user centered means that there's a user need backing what they're doing. So people want to interact in a certain way and they're meeting that need. As I said last time, I'm really interested to hear what people think about what we've discussed, why, well I spoke about with Katie. We want to hear your questions. We are on Twitter at digital underscore works underscore, there is a second underscore after the works. Uh , if you want to listen to episode one, which is already out now, you should be able to get it on iTunes. We were certainly stuck in iTunes purgatory, but I think we're now all approved and they've um , validated that we're not hate speech or doing anything naughty, so you should be able to get digital works through iTunes. If you can't, then go to substrat.com forward slash digital hyphen works and all the episodes are there. There's also information about upcoming digital works events, so we've got digital works 10 which will be taking place on may the 20th at the Gerta Institute in London and we will be discussing digital storytelling. There were still some tickets available for that. I'm really pleased to be able to welcome Matt Locke from story things. Matt is going to be talking about digital formats. Matt previously worked channel four and the BBC and has a really interesting and insightful things to say about formats and we also are welcoming Hannah headman who is a podcasting expert. She has a number of her own podcast . She's worked with lots of different museums to help them develop their podcasts , so I think she'll have some really interesting experiences to share with everyone in terms of future podcast episodes. The next episode will be focused around accessibility and inclusive design and features. A conversation with Robin Kristofferson who is head of digital inclusion at ability net. If you want to contact Caspian or I were both on Twitter, I'm at big little things and Caspian is at Caspian Turner. If you want to send us an email where on digital works@substruct.com subtract for the K a I hope you've enjoyed the conversation today. Until next time, goodbye. Bye.