Five questions to ask of your management Current Awareness Service by Matt Holland

In any one person part-time library service spending any time on a regular Current Awareness Service is a commitment in time and energy.  You think a lot about what you do and occasionally come to some, hopefully, useful conclusions.  This is about the creation and launch of the NWAS LKS Human Resource & Organisational Development [HR & OD] CAS.  Part experiment to trial MailChimp and part attempt to create a service to reach out to non-clinical staff.  These are the five questions I try to ask of the content included with the aim of keeping it relevant, local and brief.

#Q1  It’s this just marketing … ?

Lots of business sell services, consultancy and advice through the web.  Intangible products are made tangible by offering free web content, white papers, case studies, infographics, expert comment, video and reports .  The size of the NHS’s organisation generates its own local eco-system of business services, charities, think-tanks and organisations that exist just to comment on the NHS and its activities.  The focus on management, however, tends to push searches further out for content that is definitely management without specific reference to the NHS or health care. It might include fairly prolific organisations like the CIPD.  Beyond that are the management consultancies and professional communication businesses.  There are rich pickings here to support a CAS service.  However, back to the point. Some of this is completely marketing copy and that is the question you always need to ask. Is this just marketing?

#Q2 Harvard Business Review Blog, does this really add value … ?

Let me explain.  Harvard Business Review for years supplied opinion from business leaders which was the bread and butter of business school teaching around the world.  Business schools turned out management consultants who went on to be business leaders themselves and possibly have opinions published in HBR.  The current drive to the popular market and onto social media has, and this is only a personal view of course, created a content deficit and a sales opportunity for new content writers. Business school graduates use their blogs on HBR as infomercials for their books and consultancy services.  There is a diminishing relationship between innovative and exciting ideas and a high volume of output of content.  You are going to start repeating yourself at some point or camouflage old ideas to make them appear new.  The learning point is … while HBR as a brand says management it pays to look deeper at what your getting. You can’t always rely on the HBR moniker as a stamp of quality or usefulness.

#3  Can you do anything with this … ?

With any Current Awareness Services aimed at a broad topic like HR or OD, even when think you know your audience it’s hard to gage the usefulness of information.  You can’t be sure of the context in which it is received.  The question Can you do anything with this?  is still worth asking.  Just put yourself in your readers shoes for a minute.  Useful areas might be summary of a legislative change,  trends in the UK job market, actions for managers to address specific management issues like leadership, motivation, employee engagement and organisational change.  Less useful are broad brush analysis of markets or trends that don’t touch healthcare or the UK context.

#4   Is it for managers or about management … ?

Possibly slightly nuanced but this is important none the less.  Is your CAS self help for managers, that is content that tells them how to be a better manager. Typically skills focused, leadership skills, time management and project management. That sort of thing.  Is it really Horizon Scanning, content that helps them to better understand their work environment.  I would suggest the Horizon Scanning approach is better suited to senior managers, the target audience for the HR & OD CAS.  This of course influences the selection of content. There is room for both, but I think it would be hard to maintain your focus if you tried to reach both audiences in the same CAS.

#5  Does it pass the filter test … ?

The filters through which I loosely parse material are relevance to the HR OD topic, being local either to the UK or to health care and brief, although some longer but really relevant reports may be the exception.  The filter is flexible of course so that I can generate a critical mass of material, never less than two pages, but never more than four for the Word version.

Is it a success?

Well, self referral to go on the mailing list is positive feedback in a way. There have also been comments about its usefulness from individual members of staff.  Having written about metrics and the need for comparative data elsewhere I share this in the hope it will be helpful also in the knowledge that this may be good or (very) bad.  Always a risk!  I just don’t know.

MailChimp tells me among other things it is slightly better than the educational industry average.

  • There are over 50 subscribers who have asked to be added to the mailing list for this service.
  • The service averages 200 plus Opens each month, tracked by MailChimp from 14 users (October 2015).

Back issues of the HR & OD Service can be found here. Let me know if you would like to be added to the mailing list.

Matt Holland  [ Matt.Holland@nwas, ]
NWAS LKS,  supported by HCLU North.
October 2015

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2 Responses to Five questions to ask of your management Current Awareness Service by Matt Holland

  1. Three questions to ask of this:

    #1 Is opens a good metric or should you be measuring clicks as an action to measure the success of your current awareness.

    #2 Are you not being harsh on HBR, the metrics of use in our bulletins would suggest this is a valuable element of the CAS mix, real clicks real use. The issue is selecting organisationally relevant material and recognising that what suits my organisation may not suit yours.

    #3 Love the question ‘Is this just marketing?’ so relevant and something we don’t ask enough…. but doesn’t mean the content is necessarily irrelevant, it’s much more nuanced than that.

    Just saying.

  2. Matt Holland says:

    HI Kieran, Thanks for commenting. Yes I agree clicks = action so clicks it is. Actions speak louder than words.

    On HBR Blog, not talking about the Magazine here as I don’t have access to that. Possibly too harsh. Of course it’s about selecting what is appropriate and you have to give the punters what they want. Would tentatively suggest that some of the pull of HBR is just the brand though, not the content.

    Nothing wrong with marketing. Some really good white papers and so on are marketing but in a good way. Give something of value and people will visit your website. That’s the kind of stuff we look for. Probably a better way of putting this is “Is this just selling?”

    Best Wishes


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