In some ways, I’m living proof you can blog honestly as a civil servant and live to tell the tale. And also, that you can use a blog for different things.
Helpful Technology the risky blog
This blog was set up in 2008 as ‘Helpful Technology’, while I was leading the Digital Communications team at (what has become) the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology/Department for Business. My team earned a reputation across and beyond Government for pioneering approaches to using social media for policymaking including online consultation, work with online communities and social media monitoring. A lot of the content on this blog from 2008-10 is around those themes when I would write stuff that now I’d consider foolishly, naïvely, honest and opinionated.
Helpful the business
I turned the blog into a company of the same name in 2010 after leaving the Civil Service, keeping the focus on practical strategies, tools and ideas for digital engagement (with some of the same arsey opinions). I hosted a number of events aimed at digital practitioners, and was an organiser of UKGovCamp, which brings together hundreds of people interested in the public sector’s use of digital. I set up the Digital Engagement Guide, a collection of examples and practical tips for not-for-profit digital and social media.
The Postbureaucrat wilderness years
Nice people paid me money to help them do that kind of thing, and my business grew. I spent more time writing for the company blog and less for my own, which moved to the postbureaucrat.com domain and got a bit less active. I used the blog for longer, more reflective pieces which helped me articulate a thought, rather than get comments from friends and colleagues. Some good stuff, but not the same pingbacks.
In 2020, I sold the part of the business which offered website build and support, so now Helpful Digital is a team of about 15 people in the UK and around the world, focusing squarely on building people’s confidence communicating in a digital world. Helpful runs practical training and workshops on how to deliver engaging social media campaigns and social customer service; and helps leaders and teams practice their response to crisis situations in a safe, simulated environment. In 2021, we completed a management buy-out of the business, so my colleagues Tim Lloyd and Chris Malpass became the main shareholders, and I moved on knowing there’s a great team with experience, ideas and energy at the helm of the agency.
A lot of what I have been doing over the last few years has involved shaping and growing a small but diverse, international consultancy in the context of widespread friction and disenchantment with social media in the world.
Since Helpful, I’ve been a coach and advisor but I’ve also been back ‘on the tools’ – most of that stuff lives over at my consultancy site, pentri.com.
I think it’s likely this blog will get a bit more eclectic in the coming years, as I’m aiming to write about all the things I’m interested in now in the post-pandemic after-times, from woodworking to action on climate change; supporting local communities, to building digital businesses.
Let’s see how it goes.
Please don’t get in touch with guest posts, link exchanges or product review offers – I don’t cover that on this blog. But do drop me a line if you want to chat about other things.