Immersive experience

Spending time around family who live in another country is invaluable.

99% of it is all about Family, relationships and seeing the people we love.

But it’s also a precious opportunity to see, heard and understand a bit better. Their politics, the way they use their phones, their preferred social media and the different ways Covid has impacted their working lives.

This is far from scientific, representative, research. But, next time I need to think hard about how a client might approach social in the USA, I will feel that bit better informed.

Useful newsletters, podcasts and more

I started jotting down a list of useful resources for a colleague, then realised these would be better off here, where I’ll keep updating the links.

These are all very personal choices and quite specific to the work we do at Helpful.


Benedict Evans newsletter is all about tech and big business. He has an amazing way of explaining how digital channels are changing business models and how the tech products we consume reflect our needs and behaviours.

Useful for big picture conversations and presentations with clients.

Ben Whitelaw’s moderation newsletter

Ben is a contact of mine, a journalist and a contributor to our training. His focus is on how different platforms are moderating engagement, government regulation of social and the impact of all this on real people.

Tom Moylan

Loads of clear thinking and ideas about digital communications.

Hootsuite email subscription

Weekly email with lots of free resources and advice on channel features.


Digital Human podcast

Nice anthropological look at different aspects of the online world.

Useful for designing learning with empathy and remembering what the web looks like for real people.

Mepra podcast on evaluation

This podcast features the person behind the AMEC evaluation grid that we recommend and use with all our training.

Another Podcast


I recommend following the co-host, Toni Cown-Brown, on TikTok.

General reading

First Draft resources

Essential reading and resources for all our work with press and corporate comms teams. Amazing organisation, I think.

The digital comms team: a warm, safe blanket

This month we’ll complete a project to kick start digital engagement for a relatively small, but important, organisation. The delivery has involved reviews, planning, strategy, pilot projects and training: I feel like I have spent time with everyone, from the CEO to the newest recruits.

What made this project tempting to us, was the fact it had been commissioned by a team other than communications. This is unusual for us, but very welcome. We’re always keen to work with people who are on the front line, seeking audiences beyond media and wanting to get involved in conversations.

This wasn’t a case of the communications team hogging the sweetie jar, or not being helpful. But the impetus to do more online came from elsewhere in the organisation.

The challenge for an established organisation is that they’re used to channeling conversations, statements, broadcasts and engagement, through the communications team. Typing this blog post as I am (as I would have done years ago when employed by big Government departments) and hitting the publish button of my own accord, has been a completely alien concept for the staff we talk to. Without evidence of regular digital engagement from within the communications team, the rest of the organisation feels a little more nervous.Woman under a blanket with laptop

Digital can, and should, live everywhere in an organisation. But it really helps if the communications team are confident digital practitioners. They should have oversight of the critical messages coming out from any organisation, but they also have a responsibility to disseminate digital engagement, and empower their colleagues.

In the case of our latest project, the communications team became some of our best participants and proved to be fantastically flexible, encouraging and enthusiastic.

I used to think it was all about wresting digital from shrinking communication teams. Now, I’m changing my mind. Organisations need a safe blanket: confident digital communicators who encourage and empower.

Late night via photopin (license)

Social Media Week around the world

I’ve started contributing to the Social Media Week blog, as part of their global editorial team.
I’m quite excited, because I hope that it will give me an opportunity to connect with others involved in digital engagement around the world. I took part in my first Social Media Week in February 2011 and was really impressed by the way in which content, opinion and experience were shared between the nine or more cities who took part.
I’m keen to contribute to the work the organisers are doing and I think there is scope to do more in London. In particular, getting public sector workers involved.
Of course contributing to another blog on a regular basis seems like a big commitment, but I’m confident that it will give me a useful extra space to share ideas and information about themes specific to social media and with a global interest. As always, I’m eager to receive some useful feedback and turn the whole experience into a conversation. I’ve already made contact with fellow bloggers on the other side of the Atlantic and hope to speak to more, soon.
For now though, I need to keep writing.