Jude Palmer, Managing Director, Digital Outreach Ltd
I joined Digital Outreach in 2008 as a project manager, interested in the organisation’s remit to deliver programmes with a strong social impact and that help reduce inequalities. At the time, Digital Outreach was a special purpose vehicle for the digital TV switchover’s national outreach and engagement programme – the biggest public change programme since decimalisation.
Digital UK recognised that around 20% of the population would need some form of extra support to cope with the required changes. As with all communications campaigns, there are always those that are hard-to-engage or reach – and it is not always vulnerable people that fall into this category. We tap into the key drivers for behaviour or attitudinal change, working through vast networks of formal and more informal voluntary and community sector groups in order to engage those specific audiences, but most importantly, through the most effective channels.
I took over as managing director in May 2012 as the organisation began working outside its original remit. We have delivered programmes for Regional Cancer Networks, government and a telehealth organisation, as well as areas outside of health such as environment, fraud prevention and we are excited to be starting a programme to support fostering and adoption.
Whatever the subject matter, the principle is the same. Who are you struggling to engage and what is the call-to-action or change you want to achieve? We then test and embed that messaging within communities, through the most effective voice or channels, in order to affect that change. We know this works particularly well for emotive or personal subject matters, which often encompasses health. Working in this way also helps to shape patient information and messaging. We can be agile, responsive and work with the client organisation to develop messaging on the ground, with hard-to-engage audience groups and those who we train to embed the programmes. This has given us some surprising results in the past, proving we should never make assumptions and the value of listening to patients and communities.
Approximately two-thirds of our income has gone into the voluntary and community sector on past programmes and we work to build the capacity of the sector in the process. We enable an often fragmented, restricted or competitive sector to work together effectively, delivering a consistent campaign through lots of different groups and organisations, with the support and oversight of our team.
In its simplest form, we facilitate conversations, but importantly, in places where those conversations probably would never have taken place. We use key client messages to get people talking about a subject matter among their peers and motivate them to take an action or to change a behaviour long term. Peer endorsement and discussion should never be underestimated as a driver for behaviour and attitude change – we have so many examples of how quickly people’s level of interest changes when relevant to their friends or peers and how they support each other to reach goals, or cascade that information to others that they feel will benefit. It is very powerful.
Digital Outreach is expanding the work it is doing within the health sector and we believe we can really add value by helping organisations reach the seldom heard and often disengaged. We’ve been working to help shape new health services through getting wider, more representative views from people in the local area – people who potentially need the services most, yet would never self-select to give feedback.
We joined the Patient Information Forum in order to be able to share our learnings and experience, but also to learn from the vast range of organisations and partners that are involved. The support and ideas shared by members at events and through the forums is excellent, the range and quality of attendees at events and in the discussions is exceptionally valuable to us as we develop new programmes and we are delighted to be speaking at the Executive Circle Event in March.
Digital Outreach is a joint-venture social enterprise founded by Age UK, Community Service Volunteers and CEL Group. It specialises in outreach and engagement programmes that break down barriers and make inclusion possible for a wide range of individuals and communities.