User engagement top tips
|27 May 2021
|Best Practice and Impact Division
|Who this is for:
|Members of the Government Analysis Function
User engagement is about building a sustained and ongoing dialogue with those who use our statistics to ensure they continue to meet society’s needs.
As part of the User Engagement Strategy for Statistics, we have developed ten top tips to help improve user engagement. These build on the themes set out in the Office for Statistics Regulation’s guidance on user engagement.
1. Understand your users
Find out who your users are and consider who could use your statistics:
- write down a list of users that you are aware of
- don’t forget secondary producers who may reuse or republish your statistics and potential users you’re not yet in contact with
Discover more users by snowballing:
- hold a workshop with colleagues to brainstorm and collaborate
- do you have different users or are there common users?
Find out what your users need:
- run a discovery workshop with groups of your users to establish their needs
- how would they like you to engage with them?
- discover what your users want to hear, rather than what you want to say
Conduct user research. You could create user stories using this research to help tailor your engagement – you could use the format – ‘As a [type of user], I want to [goal], so that [benefit or outcome].’
- “As an academic, I need to know when the datasets are released, so that I can analyse the data myself” – you might engage with these users more frequently to keep them updated on when the data is available.
- “As a parent, I need access to headline figures so that I can know how my child’s school is performing” – you might send an annual newsletter to these users when new data is published.
2. Engage early
Set up regular meetings with stakeholders to build sustainable relationships and understand each other’s perspectives and requirements.
Map out some user journeys:
- identify the steps users take, highlight potential points of contact, and look for opportunities to interact and gather feedback
Run workshops, focus groups, or survey different groups of users – make sure that you reach out to all types of users, not just those with the loudest voices.
Identify the ‘quiet’ users and discover what they need to become more engaged.
Set up Google Alerts – these can be used to monitor how your statistical publications, or important phrases linked to your statistics, are being used in Google.
Use social media to listen to what others are saying about your statistics – use analytics.twitter.com and Hootsuite to find some high-level information on followers.
Hold information sharing events to discover how your colleagues and other analytical teams currently engage with different groups of users. This might include using the expertise of your communications department, your press office and/or policy colleagues.
Identify any established stakeholder engagement networks and link into their activities.
Don’t forget we are all working towards the same goal of understanding user needs.
Speak to other statistics producers working on a similar topic.
Look for opportunities to join up your engagement activities and share user intelligence and any lessons learned.
5. Tailor the engagement to your users
Be consistent, but not uniform in how you engage with users of your statistics. Different forms of engagement are likely to be needed to reach different audiences and to understand their different needs.
Take the user needs which you have discovered and use these insights to tailor the content and format of your statistical products, so they target the different audiences. The Office for National Statistics’ user personas are a helpful guide to different audience types and the Government Digital Service Standard provides a useful framework for ensuring our work is underpinned by user needs.
6. Be proactive
- build a mailing list
- send regular updates and communications – don’t wait until your users come to you
- actively seek feedback from your users – make it easy for them to engage with you
- make use of online user forums like StatsUserNet (an interactive website for communication between users and producers of statistics)
- use technology to discover what users are looking for, for example, use Google Analytics or your survey hosting software to collect paradata about how users are interacting with your online products
- consider how social media is used:
- are particular posts or topics being retweeted or are different users engaging online?
- how can you use this information?
- review queries that come in:
- seek patterns in Freedom of Information requests, Parliamentary Questions or Assembly Questions and ad-hoc requests
- consider if it is appropriate to address requests more widely with a webinar or blog post, for example, or review the content of your statistical publication
7. Keep talking
Focus on building lasting relationships with users through regular contact and having open and honest discussions to help build trust.
Adopt a ‘you said, we did’ approach. This means seeking feedback at regular intervals and ensuring that the user knows their feedback is welcomed and valued. Report back on the impact of their contribution.
Recognise and build on the engagement that you’re already doing. Regular calls, emails, newsletters, and webinars are all forms of engagement. Consider how you can do more to get the most value out of these.
8. Be realistic
Realise that you cannot do everything. Embed and build on your current engagement activities in a proportionate way to uncover additional user insight.
Be realistic about what is achievable and honest with users about what is not.
Ask questions in user surveys that you can act on and be specific about the options and scope for change. Offer alternatives when requests can’t be met.
9. Be inclusive
- use plain English and conversational language, with a professional tone – avoid jargon
- be accessible, clear, and concise – use the correct accessibility standards in all communications
- use multiple platforms to engage with your users and be open to new approaches and technologies
- make yourself easy to approach – where possible, provide contact details for users and encourage them to get in touch with you (although advice on how to do this online is currently under review due to phishing and spoofing of telephone numbers)
10. Learn and reflect
Seek feedback on your engagement activities from both your statistics users and other producers of statistics.
Regularly conduct retrospectives to review your process and reinforce good behaviours and activities. Ask yourself, “what is going well?” and “how can we improve this?”. Often engagement techniques are inherited and may not always be as impactful as they could be.
Regularly review and update your user lists – keep adding to these as you continue to identify users of your statistics.