Productivity and cloud collaboration on CultureHive Academy

I’ve blogged again on the CultureHive Academy website about productivity and cloud collaboration. I’ve set out some of the tools and practices that Carl and I are regularly training our clients in, and which we aim to employ in running our company. If you’re struggling with an inbox full of unread emails, or you’re losing track of which document version is the latest, it’ll be useful, I promise!

More CultureHive blogging about digital arts and marketing

I’d just like to flag up a couple of posts within the CultureHive Digital Academy blog – one that I wrote about baking marketing into the production of art, and another one by one of the fellows that I have been mentoring, about developing social media content strategies.

Both are useful insights into the use of digital within the arts 🙂

How should arts companies use digital? Lessons from SMI: Arts

Over the six years of NativeHQ’s work, we’ve been developing our approach to delivering the best social media learning and development process for our clients. We aim to improve our clients’ own capacity to deliver good quality online social media communications that actively serve their mission.

We have developed a method that helps them to understand relationships with their networks, think through their digital strategic goals and develop skills and knowledge for turning their ideas into reality. We call it our Social Media Insights (SMI) programme. It takes place over a series of half-day sessions, which are scheduled between two weeks and a month apart.

Social Media Insights: Arts

Between 2013 and 2014, we worked with Arts Council Wales to trial this method with five arts companies at different stages in their development, working in a range of art forms across Wales in both English and Welsh. This post is about that project, and the lessons that we learnt through the work.

The SMI process starts by exploring the networks of people and organisations the company works with, who has relationships with them and how those connections impact on work. We then pin down their artistic and business aims within each set of relationships. This is the basis of a creative ideation process that helps us to develop ideas about how specific uses of digital media could improve the effectiveness of the work they do.

From this set of possibilities, we draw up a shortlist of initiatives, and the training and launch processes they need in order to start. The company picks the initiatives they want to prioritise and we plan a bespoke programme for them to take place over the remaining sessions of the programme.

NativeHQ’s work with Arts Council Wales

SMI: Arts Applicants Map

SMI: Arts. Applications

Arts Council Wales was interested in learning about how we support arts organisations in this way and commissioned us to deliver this service to five arts companies in Wales, and to learn from the experience.

We announced the project via social media and our call for applications received 45 applications from a variety of companies all across Wales.

There were many high quality applications and only space for five (MOSTYN, Dawns Powys Dance, Urdd Gobaith Cymru, Hijinx Theatre and Response). We then set about delivering our service to them between October 2013 and June 2014.

Responses to the programme

Here are a couple of the positive responses to the programme:

“Social Media Insights came at just the right time for Hijinx. We were in a period of change as a company, so it was the right time to stop and reflect on who are we, what we do, and how digital and social media could help us do that at a foundational level. NativeHQ have helped us to take a holistic approach to digital and social media as a company: to see digital’s potential for serving the company’s entire mission, rather than just as part of the marketing strategy.”

Vanessa Morse, Hijinx Theatre

“When we embarked on the Social Media Insights I really had not anticipated quite how the project would touch on every aspect of what we do and how we operate. Instead of some glib, generic advice on what to do / what not to do on social media, the project went so much deeper than that and required us to unpack who we are, how we do things and how we want to be and do. It was very, very bespoke and accommodated everyone’s’ skills and needs as well as the organisational needs. As a result of the SMI Arts, we now manage our projects; communicate within the team; manage our time; market ourselves; make and edit films and of course, use social media – much better than before!”

Amanda Griffkin, Dawns Powys Dance


While writing our report to Arts Council Wales, we reflected on some of the lessons we had learnt. We are constantly learning and updating our methods and have now adapted our programme to incorporate them. Here are a few:

Blocking of essential internet services

Many arts companies, especially those working within the public sector, are struggling to access consumer web services (e.g. Facebook, Google Drive) that are being widely adopted by collaborators and audiences beyond their firewall, often because of IT security concerns. We now work with clients to help them tackle these issues within their company.

Need for strategy and the centrality of social media

Many people are still unclear about why they are using digital media and social media, which is increasingly a normal and central aspect of their network’s communications landscape. A result, they struggle for clarity about what their learning needs are, or how to manage their competing digital priorities. We start by helping them to think through their strategic priorities before we begin to plan a training programme.

Broadcast approaches

Many people take a broadcast approach to their social media presence, continually pushing information and talking at people. As this approach often fails to develop the potential of the medium, we work through alternative communications patterns, such as listening and conversations, collaborations, research and investigation. We seek to think through the possibilities of these digital patterns within their work objectives.

Leadership, sustainability and resourcing

While many organisations leave the work of social and digital media to the communications manager, digital media impacts on the whole organisation and is best tackled by a group that includes wider leadership and a breadth of team representation. While many organisations are worried by the resourcing requirements of a good social media presence, there are areas where more efficient communication skills can win time for them to make the work more sustainable.

The need for bespoke training programmes emerging from strategy

Having started with a focus on strategic aims, the training programmes that we delivered to the organisations involved in the Social Media Insights: Arts were unique to each company. Over the programme, we delivered training sessions on a very wide range of topics.

Training types chart... SMI Arts NativeHQ

One interesting statistic was that 58% of the training topics we worked on were delivered to just one organisation, and only a minority of topics were prioritised by more than one of them. The lesson from this was that there is limited value in “general” social media training, because the training needs of organisations are unique to them, if you pay close enough attention.

We have taken encouragement from this finding that our approach of focusing on thinking about strategic priorities first with our clients will result in a bespoke programme that will accurately prioritise their development priorities.

Programme adjustments

We learnt lessons about the programme, which we delivered as an eight-session programme over eight months. During the strategic development process, we have found value in compressing the sessions so they’re closer together to concentrate the thinking and creative process. Our training programme remains one in which sessions are spaced out by at least three weeks (preferably a month), so that new learnings have time to be embedded into working practices. Our current Social Media Insight programme is now structured as follows:

The programme’s impact

In our evaluation of the programme, we asked each company if they had experienced a change in confidence in their ability to:

  • understand how their work on digital platforms contributed to the company’s mission;
  • develop tactics for projects and initiatives;
  • how they resourced social/digital media;
  • innovate and develop new approaches;
  • run their own media, with existing skills and knowledge;
  • evaluate their own digital work effectively by knowing what metrics mattered to them.

Across all categories and organisations, there was an increase in confidence of 45%.

Dig deeper

If you would like to know more about this programme, our approach, or how we might be able to help enable your organisation, please leave a comment, or question, or get in touch.

Blogging for the CultureHive Digital Academy

DMA-logo1I’m currently working for a new project run by the Arts Marketing Association called the CultureHive Digital Academy, which is an initiative aiming to innovate in digital learning. It’s run by Carol Jones, recently of Chapter, who also teaches the RWCMD in Cardiff.

The Academy’s model is to encourage its fellows to learn through rapid innovation, experimentation and reflective learning. They are encouraged to develop initiative ideas, implement and evaluate them, then reflect on their experiences through the Academy blog. This participatory education programme consists of online action learning sets and regular sessions with a mentor, and I was asked to be one of those mentors in the summer of 2014.

From September 2014, I’ve been meeting with fellows via Google Hangouts and Skype, helping them to think through the programme and develop their learning from the programme.  So far, I’ve been working with; Amy Rushby, who works in digital marketing for the Royal Shakespeare Company; Ruth Catlow, a digital artist and leader at the digital arts collective Furtherfield in Finsbury Park, London and Jamie Eastman and Jamie Wooldridge, who work at Live at Lica, a University based multi arts venue in Lancaster.

The programme leaders have asked me to reflect on my experience as a mentor through the programme’s blog, and today I published my first post, which is about establishing the purposes for setting up a digital media initiative, and ideation, the process of generating and combining ideas for solutions. You can read my post, Thinking through digital innovation before you start creating initiatives on the CultureHive Digital Academy website.

I’m chuffed to have been asked to continue being a part of this exciting initiative when the next batch of fellows join later in 2015, and I’ll continue blogging about my insights into what the fellows have needed to tackle during their mentoring sessions with me over the next year and as long as I’m involved with the programme. You’ll be able to access an archive of my posts into the future. Enjoy!

Y Bont, Gwobrau Theatr Cymru 2014 a diolchiadau pwysig

Mae’n anodd credu bod blwyddyn lawn wedi mynd heibio ers cynhyrchiad Y Bont yn Aberystwyth. Roedd y ddrama yn nodi hanner ganrif ers y protest iaith torfol enwog ar bont Trefechan yn 1963. Mae Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru yn lansio archif o’r cynhyrchiad ddydd Sul yma (2il Chwefror 2014). Bydd e’n cyfle i bobl a fynychodd y ddrama weld safbwyntiau eraill yn ogystal a chynnig cyfle i’w wylio i bobl a fethodd y digwyddiad. Ewch i gyfrif Twitter Theatr Genedlaethol am ragor o fanylion cyn hir.

nativehq-gwobrau-theatr-cymruMae NativeHQ a Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru newydd dderbyn gwobr am waith ar Y Bont oddi wrth Gwobrau Theatr Cymru, sef Defnydd Gorau o Gynnwys Digidol/Ar-lein. W00p!

Fel y dwedais ar y llwyfan nos Sadwrn, y stwff digidol yma ydy cyfrwng. Fydd ddim llawer i wneud ar ein pennau ein hunain ac rydym yn hollol ddibynnol ar bobl eraill er mwyn i ni ddogfennu, dehongli, rhannu, recordio Vines fel yr un uchod (platfform yr oedd yn newydd sbon ar y pryd) – ac ati.

Rydym fel cwmni eisiau cymryd y cyfle i ddweud diolch i’r bobl ganlynol.

  • Heledd Hardy a’r tĂŽm digidol am eu gwaith caled, sef myfyrwyr o Brifysgol De Cymru a Choleg y Drindod Dewi Sant: Efa Harris-Davies, Lowri Wynn, Catrin Lewis, Sioned Evans, Elen Jones, Aaron Cooper, Mali Rees, Bethan Evans, Aled Bishop, Steffan Morgan, Steffan Griffiths. Mae’r wobr yma i chi hefyd.
  • Yr ysgrifenwyr Catrin Dafydd, Ceri Elen ac Angharad Tomos
  • Lois Jones, Chris Hoskins a’r cast i gyd
  • Elin Williams a Steve Dimmick am eistedd mewn ystafell dywyll gyda llwyth o dabiau porwr ar agor tra oedd pawb arall tu fas
  • Green Bay, Dylan Richards, S4C a Huw Marshall am gydweithrediad weddol esmwyth rhwng platfformau
  • Arwel Gruffydd a phob aelod o dĂŽm Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru a’r criw ar y cynhyrchiad

This post is about our Wales Theatre Award: Best Use of Digital/Online Content for our work on Y Bont with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru. There isn’t enough room on the slate for the names of the digital team who are sharing in this award with us plus the others we want to thank, so we’ve credited them here. Congratulations to the other nominees in our category too!

Ein model ar gyfer twf mewn busnes digidol – yn cyflwyno cydweithwyr NativeHQ

English version of this post

Rydym yn dal i hudo gan y broses o adeiladu cwmni, pum mlynedd ers i ni ddechrau.

Mae adeiladu busnes bach yn broses gymhleth a mentrus ac mae sawl cwestiwn. Un maes allweddol yw twf eich tĂŽm: pryd ydych chi’n ehangu neu dyfu eich tĂŽm, sut ydych chi’n dod o hyd i’r bobl iawn a pha sgiliau neu brofiadau dylech chi ddatblygu? Eleni yn NativeHQ rydym newydd ddechrau ein chweched flwyddyn ac yn ddiweddar penderfynodd i dyfu ein tĂŽm.

Mae llawer o fodelau a chanllawiau ar gyfer tyfu y tĂŽm mewn busnes bach. Mae yna hefyd nifer o ragdybiaethau y dylid eu cwestiynu yn rheolaidd. Ni fydd unrhyw fodel neu ddull yn addas i bob busnes, ond yr hyn sy’n hollbwysig yw beth sy’n addas i’ch gwerthoedd a diwylliant ar hyn o bryd. Rydym yn gobeithio, trwy rannu ein model o dwf tĂŽm rydym yn dechrau yn y flwyddyn hon, efallai y byddwch yn codi rhai syniadau defnyddiol.

Mae’r model yr ydym bob amser wedi defnyddio yn NativeHQ yn un sy’n dechrau gyda chydweithio. Fel partneriaid (Carl Morris a Tom Beardshaw), rydym bob amser wedi cydweithredu gyda rhwydwaith o bobl ar sail ad hoc. Mae’r perthnasoedd hyn wedi cefnogi ein gwaith ac yn ein herio i feddwl a gweithio’n wahanol gyda chyfryngau cymdeithasol a chleientiaid. Rydym yn penderfynu cymryd y cam nesaf ac yn ffurfioli hyn trwy benodi dau gydweithredwr i ymuno â’n tĂŽm yn ffurfiol.

Perthynasau cyswllt fel model ar gyfer twf

Gall y model cydweithredwr ar gyfer tyfu busnes cael ei adeiladu ar nifer o egwyddorion gwaith. Mae anghenion prosiect yn ei arwain, gyda strwythurau agored, cytundebau gweithio hyblyg, ac yn canolbwyntio ar gyfathrebu parhaus a chynydd mewn perthnasau ymhlith cydweithwyr.

  • Anghenion prosiect: Mae pob cydweithiwr yn berson yr ydym yn cydweithio â hwy ar sail prosiect-wrth-brosiect. Mae hyn yn dibynnu ar anghenion y prosiect, y cleient ac i ni fel arweinwyr prosiect. Pan fydd unrhyw brosiect penodol wedi dod i ben efallai na fyddwn yn gweithio gyda’n cydweithiwr am sawl wythnos. Mae hyn yn caniatĂĄu i ni i fod yn bartner gyda’r bobl orau mewn gwahanol feysydd ar sail anghenion.
  • Strwythurau gwaith agored: Mae cydweithwyr yn rhydd i ddatblygu eu gyrfaoedd a gweithio ar brosiectau yn eu rhwydweithiau eu hunain. Mae NativeHQ yn dod i mewn ac allan o’u bywydau gwaith fel y bo’n briodol. Mae llawer mwy i rannu ar yr arferion a’r offer a ddefnyddiwn i gydweithio o bell a byddwn yn eu rhannu mewn cofnod blog yn y dyfodol.
  • Trefniadau gweithio hyblyg: Nid ydym yn cyflogi ein cydweithwyr ar gytundeb sefydlog neu gynnig taliadau fel cyflog misol, ond yn datblygu pob prosiect gyda chytundebau prosiect sy’n hyblyg i anghenion pawb. Nid oes angen adeilad mawr chwaith neu’r gorbenion cysylltiedig sy’n dod gyda chyflogi pobl, gan ddewis yn hytrach i weithio o’n swyddfeydd cartref, mannau rhwydweithio a gofodau gweithio ar draws y wlad, fel Indycube.
  • Cyfathrebu parhaus: Hyd yn oed os nad ydym yn gweithio ar brosiect byw gyda ein cydweithwyr fel arfer rydym yn cadw mewn cysylltiad â hwy i gyfnewid syniadau a gwybodaeth a dysgu mwy am y gwaith arall y maent yn wneud. Egwyddorion a rennir yn bwysig i ni yn ogystal â lleisiau a barnau amgen i finio ein meddyliau.
  • Tyfu perthynas cydweithwyr: Rydym hefyd yn tueddu i beidio â chyfweld cydweithwyr posibl, ond yn dewis cydweithiwr o bobl yr ydym wedi gweithio gyda nhw yn y gorffennol fel ffordd o ddechrau perthynas broffesiynol ac asesu os byddwn yn rhannu gwerthoedd a meddyliau tebyg am gyfryngau cymdeithasol.
    Ar gyfer y math o waith arbenigol a chymdeithasol a wnawn yn NativeHQ, rydym yn credu y bydd y berthynas cydweithiwr dod i ganlyniad llawer gwell i’n cleientiaid a chymhelliant gwell i bawb na phe baem yn cyflogi gweithwyr cyflogedig.

Yn bendant nid ydym yn dweud fod y model hwn ar gyfer pob cwmni ond rydym yn credu ei fod yn gweithio i NativeHQ yn sicr.

Y llwybr fwy traddodiadol i dwf ac ein safbwynt ni

Mae llawer o fusnesau bach sy’n bwriadu tyfu eu tĂŽm yn meddwl am y model o adeiladu tĂŽm o staff llawn-amser â’r ymrwymiad i’w talu bob mis, i sicrhau gwaith i lenwi eu dyddiau a’r gorbenion ychwanegol o brydles hir ar swyddfeydd ac ati.

O ystyried y gyfradd uchel o fusnesau bach nad ydynt yn cyrraedd eu chweched flwyddyn, mae’n hawdd dychmygu sut y gall NativeHQ mynd y ffordd yma pe tasen ni wedi mabwysiadu’r model mwy traddodiadol ar gyfer ein gwaith.

Yn y pen draw beth sydd o ddiddordeb i ni ydy gweithio gyda sefydliadau cleient, gweithio gyda’r bobl orau ar gyfer y prosiect wrth law er mwyn helpu ein cleientiaid i drawsnewid y ffordd y maent yn ymgysylltu â’u cymunedau digidol. Mae ein diffyg pryder am bob dim sy’n gwneud cwmni ‘traddodiadol’ megis ‘letterheads’ trwsiadus, placiau enw mewn marmor a thĂŽm staff parhaol wedi dod yn fantais. Rydym wedi goroesi’r hinsawdd economaidd anodd, ac yn edrych at ein chweched flwyddyn mewn busnes, gyda llawer o ddysgu a chleientiaid hapus.

Ein cydweithwyr newydd

Wedi dweud hyn i gyd, hoffem ni gyhoeddi i’r byd yr ydym wedi penodi dau gydweithiwr newydd at ein tĂŽm yn ddiweddar; Dr Kelly Page a Marc Heatley. Mae Kelly a Marc yn bobl rydym wedi adnabod ac wedi gweithio gyda nhw am amser hir ac ymhlith y gorau ar yr hyn maent yn eu gwneud.

Dr Kelly Page

Dr Kelly PageRoedd Kelly yn ddarlithydd yn Ysgol Fusnes Caerdydd, ac er ein bod yn drist bod symudodd i Chicago yn 2012 i ymgymryd â swydd newydd fel Athro Cynorthwyol yn y Coleg Columbia Chicago, rydym wedi bod mewn cyswllt ers iddi adael. Mae Kelly yn ymchwilydd rhyngrwyd profiadol iawn yn ogystal ag artist, awdur a siaradwr â meddylfryd strategol call, llawn profiad yn astudio cyfryngau cymdeithasol a rhwydweithiau byd-eang.

Mae hi’n dod â’i ymchwil a meddwl strategol i’r tĂŽm NativeHQ, a bydd yn ymuno â ni i feddwl am sut y mae’r cwmni yn datblygu, gan archwilio’r materion yr ydym yn dod ar draws drwy ein gwaith gyda chleientiaid ac yn gweithio ar brosiectau sy’n gallu elwa ar ei harbenigedd ymchwil, ei hysgrifennu a dealltwriaeth strategol. Byddem yn argymell dilyn Kelly ar Twitter, lle mae’n rhannu ei syniadau diweddaraf yn rheolaidd.

Marc Heatley

Marc HeatleyMarc yn ddylunydd gweledol a creawdwr WordPress sy’n rhedeg ei gwmni dylunio ei hun yma yng Nghaerdydd. Yn ein barn ni, fe yw’r ‘wrangler’ WordPress gorau yn y ddinas, yn ogystal â bod yn math arbennig a phrin o dylunydd gweledol sydd yn wir yn deall y we ac yn gwybod sut i adeiladu profiadau defnyddwyr gwych arno. Rydym yn gwahodd Marc yn rheolaidd ar brosiectau NativeHQ technegol sydd angen ychydig o arbenigedd ychwanegol a meddwl dylunio, er enghraifft ein gwefan mapio diweddar i Gwmni Theatr Forest Forge

Mae dealltwriaeth Marc o’r we a chyfathrebu gweledol yn wych ac sy’n cryfhau gallu technegol ein tĂŽm, ac mae’n mwynhau heriau ychwanegol yr ydym yn cynnig iddo fe. Mae hefyd yn werth dilyn ar Twitter, lle mae e’n rhannu o’r hyn mae wedi bod yn gwrando ar yn ddiweddar, i’r fframweithiau cwl diweddaraf ar y we a driciau WordPress ac ategion ei fod wedi darganfod.

Rydym wedi diweddaru’r tudalen Ein TĂŽm ar ein gwefan gyda’n ychwanegiadau newydd ac yn edrych ymlaen at lawer o flynyddoedd cynhyrchiol yn gweithio gyda Kelly a Marc – croeso i NativeHQ!

Our model for growing a digital business – introducing NativeHQ’s new associates

Fersiwn Cymraeg o’r cofnod hwn

Even five years since we began, we’re still fascinated by the process of building a company.

Building a small business is a complex and risky process, and one filled with many questions. One critical area is team growth: when do you expand or grow your team, how do you find the right people and what skills or experiences should you develop? This year at NativeHQ we have entered our sixth year and recently decided to grow our team.

There are many models and guides for growing the team in a small business. There are also many assumptions which should regularly be questioned. No one model or approach will suit every business, but what is critically important is what fits with the values and culture of your current team. We hope that by sharing our own model of team growth we are embarking on this year, you may pick up some useful ideas.

The model we have always used at NativeHQ is one starting from a place of collaboration. As partners (Carl Morris and Tom Beardshaw), we have always collaborated with a network of peers on an ad hoc basis. These relationships have both supported our work and challenged us to think and work differently with social media and our clients. We decided to take the next step and formalise this a little more by appointing two associates to formally join our team.

Associate relationships as a model for growth

The associate model for growing a business can be framed around a number of key working principles. It is project-needs led, with open work structures, flexible working agreements, and focused on ongoing communication and growing established peer relationships.

  • Project-needs led: Each associate is a person with whom we collaborate on a project-by-project basis, depending on the needs of the project, the client and us as project leaders. When any given project is finished we may not work with our associates for several weeks. This allows us to partner with the best people in various fields on a needs basis.
  • Open work structures: Associates are free to develop their own careers and work on their own projects, in their own networks. NativeHQ comes in and out of their working lives as appropriate. There is a lot more to share on the practices and tools we use to collaborate remotely which we will save for a future blog post.
  • Flexible work arrangements: We don’t employ our associates on a fixed contract or offer renumeration in terms of a fixed salary, but develop each project with project agreements that are flexible to everyone’s needs. We also don’t need a large premises or the associated overheads that come with employing people, choosing instead to work from our home offices, popular networked hotspots and office space hubs across the country, like Indycube.
  • Ongoing communication: Even if we are not working on a live project with our associates we typically stay in contact with them to swap insights and knowledge and learn more about the other things they are working on. Shared principles are important for us as are dissenting voices and opinions to keep us all sharp.
  • Growing established peer relationships: We also tend not to interview potential associates, but select an associate from the peers we have worked with in the past as a means of beginning a professional relationship and exploring if we share similar values and thinking about social media.

For the kind of highly specialised, highly skilled and socially-oriented work we do at NativeHQ, we believe the associate relationship will yield a much better result for our clients and a better motivation for everyone than if we were to take on salaried workers.

We are definitely not saying that this model is for every company but we think it is one that definitely works for NativeHQ.

Why we stepped away from the more typical path to growth

For many small businesses looking to grow their team, many think firstly of the model of building up a full-time team of fully dedicated staff with the commitment to pay them monthly, to bringing in the client work to fill their days and the additional overheads of a long lease on premises and so on.

Given the high rate of small businesses that don’t enter their sixth year it is easy to imagine how things may have gone this way for NativeHQ if we had unquestioningly adopted this more traditional model for growing our team.

What ultimately interests us is working with client organisations, drawing on the best people for the project at hand to help our clients transform the way they engage with their digital communities. Our lack of concern for the trimmings that make a ‘traditional’ company such as vanity letterheads, marble name plaques and a permanent staff team has become an advantage. We have weathered the tough economic climate and are looking to our sixth year in business, with lots of learning and many happy clients.

Our new associates

With all this in mind, we’d like to announce to the world that we have recently appointed two new associates to our team; Dr Kelly Page and Marc Heatley. Both Kelly and Marc are people we’ve known and worked with for a long time and are among the best in the business at what they do.

Dr Kelly Page

Dr Kelly PageUntil recently, Kelly was a lecturer at Cardiff Business School here in Wales, and while we were sad that she moved to Chicago in 2012 to take up a new post as an Assistant Professor at the Columbia College Chicago, we’ve stayed in touch ever since she left. Kelly is a really experienced internet researcher as well as an artist, a writer and speaker with sound strategic thinking , bags of experience studying social media and extensive global networks.

She brings her research and strategic mind to the NativeHQ team, and will join us in thinking about how the company develops, exploring the issues we encounter through our work with clients and working on projects that can benefit from her research expertise, her writing and strategic insights. We’d highly recommend following Kelly on Twitter, where she shares her latest thinking on a regular basis.

Marc Heatley

Marc HeatleyMarc is a visual designer and WordPress creator who runs his own design company here in Cardiff. He is, in our opinion, simply the best WordPress wrangler in the city, as well as being a special and rare breed of visual designer who really understands the web and knows how to build great user experiences on it. We regularly bring Marc in on technical NativeHQ projects that require a bit of extra web expertise and design thinking, for example our recent mapping website for Forest Forge Theatre Company.

Marc’s understanding of web and visual communication is a great quality that strengthens the technical capacity of our team, and he enjoys the extra challenges that we bring him. He’s also well worth a follow on Twitter, where you’ll find him sharing everything from what he’s been listening to recently, to the latest cool web frameworks and WordPress tricks and plugins that he’s discovered.

We’ve proudly updated the Our Team page on our website with our new additions and look forward to many more productive years working with Kelly and Marc – welcome to NativeHQ!

National Assembly for Wales announces digital engagement plans

Cardiff Bay

PierheadSpeaking tonight at The Royal Television Society lecture in the Pierhead building in Cardiff Bay, the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, Rosemary Butler, announced a series of actions that the Assembly plans to take in order to address the Democratic Deficit, including some significant plans to develop the way that the Assembly engages with digital publishers and communities.

‘Democratic deficit’ is the term that Mrs Butler applied to the problem of many UK and Welsh media organisations failing to properly cover the work of the Assembly and the public policy differences in Wales as a result of devolution.

For example, viewers of television news in Wales regularly find themselves watching stories involving the English Education Minister Michael Gove, when it is in fact Huw Lewis, the Minister for Education in Wales, who makes policies affecting the education system in Wales.

In her speech, Mrs Butler announced a set of specific measures the National Assembly will take to improve how the Assembly communicates its work with the people of Wales including,

  • work with digital and hyperlocal media and partner organisations to create a journalism hub in the Senedd that could provide content to these new digital channels;
  • make it easier to report the Assembly’s work by providing better communications facilities on the Senedd estate;
  • make the Assembly’s data more open and accessible;
  • ensure that Assembly Members are fully informed about how best to use the communication tools now available in this digital age;
  • work more closely with media organisations to take the Assembly out to the communities they represent with a series of regional Assembly press days; and
  • also work with those organisations to provide induction sessions for trainee journalists to ensure a better understanding of the work of the institution.

NativeHQ welcomes these announcements. They will make a significant contribution to the way that the work of the Assembly is communicated to the people of Wales. We have been involved in the discussions the Assembly has held about these issues over recent months – you can view a video of Carl Morris contributing to the discussions on our blog.

The key to the success of these initiatives will lie in the way that they are implemented. Some of this is already underway. The flagship Pierhead building in Cardiff Bay, where the Presiding officer made her remarks, has finally been given internet connectivity, which the public can use via wifi, and it is good to hear there will be better communications facilities across the Senedd estate.

NativeHQ will itself be involved in the effort to inform Assembly Members about the best ways to use digital communications tools as one of the organisations chosen to deliver training in digital and social media to AMs and their political staff. We’d welcome comments from our blog visitors if you have any thoughts about the key skills that Assembly Members need to know in order to become more effective using digital tools. What do Welsh politicans need to know about the social web?

The proposal to ‘make the Assembly’s data more open and accessible; opens up the exciting possibility of allowing journalists and citizens to analyse the data in new and innovative ways that could provide fresh insights to help the Assembly to do the important work of representing the interests of Wales and its people, making laws for Wales, and holding the Welsh Government to account. It will be important for the Assembly to work with industry leaders in the field of digital democratic engagement such as MySociety as well as local Welsh technology companies who understand the specific nature of the Welsh political landscape.

The idea of creating a journalism hub within the Senedd for niche digital publishers to engage with the work of the political community is a promising one, though not without its challenges for the Assembly. We would suggest that the Assembly guards against over-reliance on the idea of ‘hyperlocal’, as not all niches are geographic. While hyperlocal sites are an increasing feature of the digital landscape in Wales, many digital publishers focus not on an area of the map, but on an area of policy. For example YnniCymru is a blog which looks at the specific topic of renewable energy, right across Wales.

These topic and hyperlocal specialists are savvy digital users, so we’d suggest that the Assembly looks to create an information resource with smart filtering and notification systems that they can use to ensure that any Assembly activity relating to the area of  information that they focus on – be that geographical or topic based – gets to them quickly.

Image by Capt Gorgeous (Creative Commons BY licence)

Social Media Insights: Arts programme gets underway

NativeHQ recently started a project working in partnership with Arts Council Wales called Social Media Insights: Arts. It’s similar to the Social Media Insights service that we offer commercially, and is based on meeting with clients for monthly sessions to address digital strategy, tactics, training, tools and analytics.

We think this is one of the most effective ways to improve client’s effectiveness on social media platforms for clients who want to retain control of their internet presence, and avoid outsourcing it to an external agency.

We put out a call for Welsh arts organisations to apply for the five places on the scheme, and were very pleased to receive a total of 46 applications, which has obviously made it very difficult for us to narrow down to five, but demonstrates the a very strong demand exists within the Arts scene in Wales for more support in this area.

We were very interested in getting a diverse portfolio of organisations to work with, in terms of the artforms they work in, their geographical location in Wales, their organisational size and the languages that they work in.

We have made our decisions and have informed all the applicants of the results. The final list of the organisations we will be working with over the next eight months is as follows:

  • Oriel Mostyn, Llandudno
  • Hijinx Theatre, Cardiff
  • Urdd Gobaith Cymru, National
  • Powys Dance, Llandrindod Wells
  • Response Wales, Vale of Glamorgan

This is a pilot project, and will involve a research element which will explore some of the common challenges and needs of the sector in creating effective work in social media, which we will make available to Arts Council Wales. We are currently getting underway, booking our initial sessions with the organisations and conducting benchmarking surveys to assess their perception of the issues they face at this point in time.

As we deliver this programme, we’ll post occasional updates on our blog to keep you informed, and we’ll explore the issues that the arts sector is presenting us as we help them get to grips with this transformed media landscape.

Free Folk collaborative map project

Free Folk Map

We’ve just finished putting together a collaborative map project for Forest Forge Theatre Company for their new production, Free Folk.  The Free Folk map is a place where anyone can add their story to the map in a place that they have lived in the past, whether or not they stayed.

The map is a living document of people’s relationship with the places they’ve lived, and asks them to tell their story, and answer the specific questions; did you stay or did you leave? And was that your choice, or did you have to?

Built on Google Maps, the Free Folk map builds on work we did to create a similar public mapping site for National Theatre Wales for their show Love Steals Us from Loneliness. We worked with the young people in Bridgend to help them tell their stories using digital media, and populating the map – mostly with stories of love.

Now, we’ve updated the platform, giving it a responsive design that works on tablets and smartphones, and uses the updated Google Maps API for it’s interface. Many thanks to our associate Marc Heatley for his contribution to the project

The Free Folk map will be used to engage with audiences on the theatre company’s national UK tour of Free Folk, which throws five strangers together on a dark night and asks; who will be left come the morning?