Digital responsibilities: focusing engagement on the issues that matter most

Katie Buchanan


Posted in: Consumers, Corporate Reputation, Guest Writers, Speaking Out

Digital responsibilities: focusing engagement on the issues that matter most

March 31, 2014

Katie Buchanan of Virgin Media discusses how engaging with customers on safety concerns led to a new approach to collaboration and innovation.

In Britain almost nine in ten of us have gone online and digital technology plays an increasingly important part of our daily lives. But how do we ensure its impact on people and on society at large is positive? This is a question we at Virgin Media set out to explore two years ago, following an in-depth stakeholder engagement programme, We’re all ears.

By speaking to over 2,500 people from across the country, 50 industry experts and 15 MPs, we heard that people are overwhelmingly positive about the web, enjoying the unprecedented access to information and education it brings, as well as new ways to be entertained and keep in touch. But there are also issues that people want to tackle. One challenge is how to help kids access all the benefits of the web, while making sure they’re safe online.

People told us they don’t want to be told what to do by internet companies or the Government, but they’re also unsure what they should do. We learned that four out of five parents with children under the age of 18 felt they held most of the responsibility for keeping their kids safe online. But just two in five parents have taken action to shape their children’s internet behaviour. Many parents told us they would like to do more, but need support and guidance about the right steps to take.

We launched Switched on Families in response to what we heard and to help parents make an informed choice about how they bring up their kids in the digital world. We worked with parenting experts The Parent Zone and brand communications agency Given London to understand how to engage parents in ways that were useful and meaningful for them. So rather than focus on isolated issues like bullying online or inappropriate content, our starting point was a natural one for parents: given the age of my child, what can the web do for their development and what are the issues I need to think about?

The practical tools and advice are structured around four different development stages. Video content created for families by families helps people to learn from other parents’ experiences and choices. And the Switched on Families Playbook is an interactive guide that takes parents through a series of smart app-like experiences to help them understand what’s likely to be going on in their child’s digital life at any time and how to manage potential issues.

The thinking behind Switched on Families is that a deep understanding of our customers’ needs and expectations about the issues that matter most is the first step in developing ways to help them create meaningful change in their own lives.

This approach is applicable to companies in all sectors because you can move from a “less bad” way of thinking, to finding ways to create “more good”. At Virgin Media, this has enabled us to drive new opportunities for collaboration and innovation across teams throughout the company and with our commercial partners. Doing this well demands creativity and I’m excited to see new ideas to inspire and enable positive change in customers’ lives launched by other sustainability teams in the future.
Katie Buchanan is Head of Sustainability and Reporting at Virgin Media, leading on company-wide programmes including the recent ‘Our digital future’ and ‘Helping everyone live an independent digital life’ initiatives. Find her on Twitter @Katie_Chaps.