This is very much a digital transformation for the National Trust
A new website, a mobile app, some big social campaigns and lots of very positive changes, it's been a busy first year and a half for our Head of Digital, Tom Barker. Luckily, he's never too busy for a quick chat. We caught up with him to talk digital transformations, brilliant results and why he believes that he has one of the best jobs in the organisation.
What surprised you most about working at the National Trust so far?
Firstly, the website transformation landing on schedule! It was nice to get some very positive feedback on its development, even from colleagues I don't directly work with. People here are incredibly supportive and encouraging. It's always good for the team to get congratulations when great results are achieved.
Compared to previous places I've worked, it's a very non-hierarchical organisation. I've been pleasantly surprised by how responsive the Executive Board is to positive change and how much freedom you're given to directly impact that change.
The digital landscape is ever-evolving. How do you make sure you're keeping up at the National Trust?
We keep abreast of current trends so we can test and use them while they're happening. That way if that trend does takes off, we've already done the groundwork and it's tried, tested and ready to go. We've used Periscope several times when it first hit the scene and we're currently looking playing with 360' cameras. Keeping our digital footprint up to date, is a bit like buying a car: when you first get one, it's all shiny and new then, each year, it becomes more complicated and eventually not fit for purpose. We have a finger firmly on the pulse but we'll never use things that aren't right for the sake of it.
You've previously referred to a five year road map. What's the plan ahead?
The five year plan outlines a digital roadmap, which is absolutely essential. The first year has been all about getting the basics and foundations right, like our new responsive website, before moving on to more innovative opportunities. We have clear prioritised objectives in place and the following years will see us improving our website's UX and functionality, giving more training internally on how to best use the website and digital platforms. We'll also be updating our mobile app to allow people to join as a National Trust member.
This is very much a digital transformation, with big things planned by 2020. Only 36% of people now access the National Trust website on a laptop or computer with everyone else coming from mobile so in four years' time, who knows, we might even have a mobile first solution.
It all sounds very exciting. What have your favourite digital projects been so far?
The website, of course, and developing our mobile app. They've been big themes for us. Also everything we've been doing on social media has made me very proud, especially as we've increased our followers by 55% in the last year. How? By delivering quality content and sharing good, honest, exciting stories that build emotional connection with our audiences. That's all thanks to good digital and content strategies.
Why would someone want to come and work in Digital at the National Trust?
We have two million unique users each month to the website alone. So, the exposure, internally and externally, is huge. And everything you do, every bit of work you put in, will make a real difference to an important cause. We're a bunch of switched-on individuals who work hard but we're nice, we respect one another and really do live and breathe the National Trust cause. It's quite unique, really. My role is part agency, part client side and part visionary – and the direction we're going in is exciting. I think I have one of the best jobs in the organisation, I really do.
Tom Barker, Head of Digital