Tiffany St James – Lara Croft of Digital Era
There are many analogies from government to business. They face similar issues in the use of digital engagement and social media: How can we get our leaders to recognize the worth of our endeavours?
Tiffany St James is the former Head of Public Participation for the UK Government, the first role of its kind in the UK; she trained the UK Civil Service on how to better engage with public online. Beside this Tiffany is also a digital strategist, trainer and international speaker. She aligns corporate objectives and digital people skills with her knowledge of evolving technology.
Tiffany launched social media outreach laboratory for Euro RSCG London in February 2011, one of the UK’s top five advertising agencies, and is retained as their Head of Digital Business Development.
As the former Head of Public Participation of the UK Government, the first role of its kind in the world, Tiffany was the strategic leader on all social media training, tools, skills and capability. She launched data.gov.uk, working with Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
Tiffany was the first Director of Communications for Directgov and designed and delivered national public consultations resulting in policy changes.
BO: How in the world you’ve got into this entire digital stuff?
Tiffany: I was always interested in technology. I had one of the first early home PC’s at 9 years old (a whole smoking hot 1KB of memory!) I was fortunate enough to be in the UK government publishing some of the earliest public consultation papers on the web when the UK Government saw the need for one citizen-facing website, Direct.gov, which I had the great pleasure to help launch. From there it was a natural progression to help with digital launches such as Data.gov and then assist in the strategic direction of social media interaction.
BO: What would you do professionally in another life? What did your parent’s want you to be? 🙂
Tiffany: My parents wanted me to be happy, but didn’t steer me towards any particular career. They massively encouraged me work hard and get a good education.
In another life I’d like to be Lara Croft, my female action hero – but in work terms I’ve always loved inspiring other people to think differently to further their own horizons, so some kind of coach or Enterprise Angel.
BO: Do you think that all of us must have Facebook, Twitter or some else social network account for making us visible?
Tiffany: Social Rank and Social Reputation is becoming more prevalent. Some tech companies in Silicon Valley won’t employ people with a Klout.com social rank under 50. People with a high social ranking are starting to be offered privileges from travel, hospitality and brands because peer to peer recommendation is more trusted than advertising (90% as opposed to 14%). Essentially it’s personal choice whether you have open networking profiles, and whether you want to be more private or want to use social platforms to increase your visibility.
BO: How does it feel to work for Government?
Tiffany: Working for the UK Government for 8.5 years in the age of earlier use of technology to open data and social media strategy was incredibly valuable experience and a piece of work I am extraordinarily proud of. I had the opportunity to work some of the world’s best minds in technology (Sir Tim Berners-Lee inventor of the worldwide web and professor Nigel Shadbolt Head of Artificial Intelligence in the UK) as well as some of the UK’s brightest coders and programmers for Rewired State – the UKs leading developer network. Andrew Stott who I worked for was awarded a CBE for opening up government data. So to have the opportunity to work with every other government around the world in early use of social media for governments was a fantastic opportunity and the Public Participation Agenda that led had the eye of the world at the time.
BO: Did you use the same approach that you use for companies?
There are many analogies from government to business. They face similar issues in the use of digital engagement and social media: How can we get our leaders to recognize the worth of our endeavours? How can we reassure our teams that letting control of our brand in social spaces is OK? Who should own and manage our social channels? Where should it sit in the business?
Businesses have the added Endeavour of leading people to direct purchase of course but the organizational infrastructure issues are the same.
BO: How much do you know about digital literacy in Serbia? What do you expect to see and to find in our country?
Tiffany: I’m delighted that BlogOpen is in its 5th year and galvanizes the Internet Community across several countries to look at participation which is a great thing to see. My focus is on digital use in government so I’ve been looking with interest about the opportunities your civil service can use to engage people in public social debates and communicate through social channel.
BO: Can you tell us what is the topic that you prepare for BlogOpen 2011. And for whom did you recommend it?
Tiffany: I’ll be talking about Digital Engagement: Citizens and Government which should be of most interest to people working in public sector fields although the strategy of galvanizing individuals for action can be applied to any organization.
BO: What is it that helps you to keep in your hands and mind in everything?
Tiffany: You have to be really interested in your subject matter so that learning the fast changes that happen particularly in digital and social technology is genuinely fascinating and not ‘work’.
Clay Shirky in his fantastic book ‘Here Comes Everybody’ famously quoted ‘It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure’. So focusing on what you can keep abreast of and what you have to recognize that you can’t keep an oversight on is really important.