Government Communications Service
A day in a life of a Channels and Community Manager
Blog posted by: Vanessa Schneider, Senior Channels and Community Manager, Government Digital Service, 9 June 2021.
My job title, “Senior Channels and Community Manager” can, I fear, feel opaque to anyone outside of my organisation, the Government Digital Service (GDS). Even within GDS, there are community managers who have nothing to do with the Communications profession – that’s the beauty of words! Let me demystify what I do, by sharing a typical day with you.
I start, currently from home, at 08:30. I’ve always been an early bird at work, as it allows me to go through my emails in peace – and I get a lot of those! I’m responsible for GDS’s social media profiles, the GOV.UK Twitter account (with 1.8 million followers, it’s one of government’s busiest accounts), and multiple blogs to various degrees.
The first meetings of the day are with my own team, to understand what everyone’s priorities are and if we’re facing any blockers, and with the cross-government Heads of Digital group. They meet daily to share social media plans in a more detailed fashion than the weekly grid that is shared. It’s the chance to follow up on points of interest as well – such as requests for different departments to amplify one another’s content.
Colleagues in HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) might mention they are posting new Transition content, so I’ll make a note to check with my GDS contacts if this is a service we can promote on the GOV.UK Twitter as well.
My next half hour meeting could be with 2 colleagues at GDS, who run a blog for the cross-government accessibility community. I provide support for such roles, as they are non-comms volunteers running these blogs as part of their corporate objective -– that could be anything from helping them with the blogging platform itself, to advising on topics or helping to find those golden threads between a post and the wider GDS or cross-government narrative.
Any content that is drafted by GDS colleagues goes through me for content design and internal sign-off, whereas for colleagues in other departments I only provide content design, as their own comms teams can provide sign-off on the topics.
But in this meeting, we discuss more the pipeline of blog posts in progress – it helps to keep readers engaged by maintaining a regular posting rhythm, and my colleagues will take this into consideration. I’m glad to be able to share my comms insight with colleagues outside of the profession, as the application of best practice improves outcomes everywhere.
For the next 2 hours, I might split my time between 2 tasks: first, for example, I’ll build a blog for a team in the Department for Education (as GDS owns this process); then I’ll conduct some more desk research for our annual update to the GDS Social Media Playbook.
We can add to the Instagram section, as IG Lives can now support up to 4 accounts simultaneously.
After lunch, I usually take another 30 minutes to check on my inbox and get back to anyone who is waiting on a reply. Then, at 2pm, I check that our scheduled social media content for a campaign has gone live on Twitter from the GDS account, and make sure to notify stakeholders so they can amplify it, as agreed with the Campaigns Manager in charge.
Next, it’s time for the bi-weekly People Survey working group meeting. Contributing to this is my corporate objective, and I enjoy discussing how we can improve and maintain good practice across the organisation with colleagues outside of comms in other parts of my directorate.
It’s almost the end of the day, and time for one of my favourite tasks, which might surprise comms colleagues. Together with other members of the Communications & Engagement team at GDS we respond to user queries received by the GOV.UK Twitter account, and it’s my turn for the afternoon shift.
I’ve previously explained how we approach what we call community management, but I think it’s important to emphasise that this matters because it helps our users, no matter where they are. Answering queries help individuals directly, but the insights we gain helps all future users as we use it to improve the service we provide and to shape our content.
Comms professionals shouldn’t dismiss this as a customer service task, as insights into how our messaging comes across is invaluable! I highly encourage you to consider how you engage back and forth with your followers.
For example, I might have a tricky question about hotel bookings for quarantining after travelling abroad. Colleagues in the Home Office, whom I reach out to first, direct me to contact the Department for Health and Social Care, which owns this policy, and I am able to pass on the user query to content colleagues there, who work with me to develop a response.
As my shift ends, I update my colleagues on the common themes of the messages – shared knowledge will improve all of our work. Finally, I write up my to-do list for tomorrow, followed by a final sweep of emails. I sign off for the day, happy that my contributions helped strangers and friends, users and colleagues alike.
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