Hello from the world of Social & Digital Engagement

Gail Lyon (so you know what I look like)

Gail Lyon (so you know what I look like)

My history with the Co-op goes back a long time, a really long time – in fact if it wasn’t for the Co-op I wouldn’t have been born. My Mum and Dad met across a crowded dance floor in the now sadly demolished Helena House in St Helens at a Co-op dance. My Dad’s first job was at the Co-op – he went from wrapping meat in brown paper to having his own store and so it felt like fate when 3 years ago I was approached to join the group.

Helena House - Image courtesy of Geolocation
Helena House – Image courtesy of Geolocation

I am results junkie – I love seeing an instant reaction, that’s why I guess I love social media so much, and why I ultimately ended up making a career out of it. I started my working life at BT, after a couple of years I went to Siemens to set up their telemarketing operation and then moved into marketing, where I did every job under the sun from product management to proposition development – chasing a job where I could see the results of my work immediately. I became impatient with direct mail, advocated the use of email and the wondrous world wide web. Finally I ended up with responsibility globally for their digital and social presence.

And so back to today – I’m the Group Social Media and Digital Engagement Lead for the Co-op – and I can honestly say I LOVE my job – why? Well, I work with the most amazing group of individuals – smart, passionate, kind, caring, co-operative with boundless energy – wanting to make a difference and get stuff done.

I’ve had the opportunity to build a strategy and an approach to social media from the ground up with the aim to turn the Co-op into a social organisation, with social integrated seamlessly throughout. We’ve gone from a team of 3 to a team of 10, covering both internal and external campaigns (paid and organic), content creation and community management. We developed the first UK retail Snapchat campaign which was named by Campaign Magazine as one of the top 10 digital innovations, was short-listed at Cannes Lions plus we were awarded best use of social media at the e-commerce awards for a Twitter campaign for our electrical business.

I love being able to have an idea and do something about it – a perfect example of this is how to connect our store managers quickly, simply with no cost – what was our solution – WhatsApp. Something easy to use, roll out and perfect for our disparate employees. On launch day we saw over 3,000 messages, images and videos, in the trial area we saw double digit sales growth – all because colleagues could connect, talk, bond and share. I’ll save the details for a later blog – but need to credit Jordan our Senior Community Manager for making the idea a reality.

And now it gets even better, what more could a digital professional ask for – we have a leader in Mike Bracken with an exciting vision of how the Co-op can be a pioneer again in a digital age, I feel beyond excited and privileged to be a part of it.

If you want to say hello you can find me on Twitter @gailtwist (Twist’s my married name in case you were wondering)

Digital Talent, Co-op Digital

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I’m Mike Bracken, Chief Digital Officer for the Co-operative. This is a new blog, designed to start a conversation about our digital future.  Our aim in digital is to be open, agile and have a relentless focus on members – existing ones and new ones.

We are here to make the Co-operative a world-leading digital player as we continue our rebuild phase. Our ambition is bold: to re-create the Co-operative for a digital era, and demonstrate a different way of doing business for an increasingly connected community.

To achieve this, we will need to build on our position of trust with our members, create teamwork around a commitment to digital excellence, and continue to develop and attract the best digital skills.

The internet was made for co-operation and that starts with how we communicate with our millions of existing members. That starts with small steps like communicating online and saving over £500,000 in sending letters out twice a year.

In my brief time in Manchester I have been hugely impressed by the teams in place and the work already underway: Helen Carroll and her team on brand and marketing, Dave Johnson who is leading the technology delivery for the Meaningful Membership scheme along with architects like Danielle Haugedal-Wilson, and Paul Morris and the digital and social teams.

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Colleagues starting the conversation about user needs

I am yet to properly meet several teams – such as Membership and Data and Insight – but will do so over the next few weeks and then look at our organisational set-up in November. I have spent much of my time with teams in the businesses – Funeral care in Rochdale, Food in Liverpool and St Helens – and I’ve been hugely impressed by their relentless focus on our members and customers. We have to match that focus in our digital operations, both at Group and in the businesses.

Wherever I have gone I have always looked to help support and develop existing teams – and add new skills to the mix. To that end let me introduce some people:

Russell Davies is joining us today as Digital Strategy Director, Tom Loosemore is our new Digital Services Director and Ben Terrett has joined as Group Design Director, and Mat Wall is working with the team to review our digital and data architecture.

Mat Wall is a leading technology architect, with experience in Government, The Guardian, Sony and elsewhere. He has been working with web technology since the 1990s and has delivered a number of large scale web sites. He started before me, and is working with Dave, Michael and the membership team, and also across the Technology Organisation.

Russell will lead in defining digital strategy for the whole Group – integrating our approach to communications, vision, loyalty, brand and membership. Russell’s spent the last twenty years working out what should happen when brands and services meet the internet, delivering industry-leading projects for people like Honda, Microsoft, Nike and the London Olympics. He’s also a Contributing Editor for Wired Magazine.

Tom will be responsible creating a world-class digital services unit at the centre of the Co-operative Group. He brings twenty years’ experience of digital product management, strategy and transformation at the BBC, Channel 4 and OFCOM. He was a founder of civic tech charity mySociety.

Ben will build a first-rate design and brand capability inside the Co-operative Group. He is a recognised leader within the design industry delivering outstanding and innovative work for Nike, The Guardian and Wieden+Kennedy. Ben is also a governor at the University of the Arts London and sits on the London Design Festival Advisory Board.

Together, Ben, Tom, Russell, Mat and I founded the Government Digital Service. With our colleagues there, and across government, we delivered GOV.UK, saved billions for the taxpayer, won the Design of the Year Award and – most importantly –  delivered substantially improved services for millions of people.

We’re used to working as a team so we hope it won’t take us long to get up and going.

This group brings extraordinary skills and experience to the Co-op, and I’m delighted that we’ve persuaded them to join us, but they won’t be the last brilliant digital people we’ll bring in. If you’re interested in creating fantastic digital services with co-operative values keep an eye on this blog. We’ll be looking for help.
Watch this space for more news. I’ll be blogging regularly about our digital progress. My personal blog is at www.mikebracken.com, and I’m @MTBracken on Twitter.