Measuring the success of the UK’s overseas network

Every year, the digital team at the UK’s Foreign Office reviews how well the post sites are doing, or not, as part of an annual health-check of our capabilities, which ties up with the not-taken-up-often-enough opportunity to talk to the editors of the FCO’s 256 sites .

The post sites are critical to the digital delivery of the Foreign Office. We had 8.5 million unique visitors to the FCO platform in the past 12 months; 45% of that traffic was to post websites – a percentage we need to grow. The ability for local sites to tailor messages, both for service delivery (consular , travel advice) and for public diplomacy, is essential, a tool we need to use more.

But the annual doesn’t just cover the corporate website for each post, they also include the off-platform presences such as the twitter accounts and the facebook pages, and its not just a question of whether everybody has gone through the checklist of Things That Must Be Done To Look Modern, but whether they are being used well, used to inform and engage.

In short, we

  • Give recognition to sites that are performing well and those that are improving
  • Appraise each Post and provide constructive and practical criticism
  • Identify common problems and good practice

What we’re measuring against is a Post’s delivery against the Digital Diplomacy Agreement between posts and the central team in London (know as the Digital Diplomacy Group)

The judges are ourselves (in London), and the ‘hubs’ – small teams in Delhi, Singapore, Washington and London who work with post sites on technical and editorial issues, making sure that all have the capacity to deliver what they ought, and giving the FCO 24-hour news cover. The hubs have worked hard on this, as they do on everything else, and the view from on high they have given us of the health of the network is invaluable.

So, forgetting the drum roll, against these criteria this year’s best performances were:


Honourable mentions also go to mention to Indonesia , Jerusalem , Mexico and Turkey [] for the impressive progress made since we last conducted the review (this is the fifth annual version).

Continuous improvement is, of course, the name of the game – and more so in the coming years when the value-for-money arguments for digital need to be backed by solid, professional delivery and constant innovation. I’m confident we’ll get there (the variable is on how long) and I’m just as confident that we’ll be measuring wholly different things in a year or so. That’s the nature of the medium – what seems to be essential this year could seem horribly old-school next, and our measures of success will change accordingly.

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