collective voice

Thanks for dropping by our blog page. Our team of over 60 full-time experts use the latest thinking in behavioural design and enablement via our people-shaped methodology to Make Better Happen for individuals, organisations and communities. Our specialisms of applied behavioural insights, design through co-creation and leading-edge social marketing and engagement are at the core of all that we do. Our mission is to be part of a society that is well, confident and resilient. If we can help you take a journey to be your best self, please call us on 0845 5193 423 - our promise to you is that we never settle for second best.

The first thing to consider to avoid digital transformation failure

July 31, 2017 09:34

There are many reasons for public sector organisations to begin a digital transformation journey; the two most common reasons are to increase organisational efficiency and improve customer experience. It is easy to see the attraction of moving services into an online environment as part of a number of initiatives to reduce costs across our public sector system. The desire to improve customer experience through digital transformation seems to make sense when taking into account the continual increase of internet usage across all of our adult population, and particularly those aged 65+:

  • 88% of all adults use the internet
  • 99% of adults aged 16 to 24 use the internet
  • The largest increases in the number of internet users are women aged 75 and over (169.0%), women aged 65 to 74 (80.7%) and men aged 75 and over (80.3%)
  • There are over 38,000,000 active social media users
  • 73% internet users – which is 63% of all adults - have a social media profile, with 9 in 10 having a Facebook page
  • 65% of those with a social media profile say they visit social media sites more than once a day, and they mostly use a smartphone to do this.

So, digital transformation certainly seems to be the way forward, however successful digital journeys are few and far between. Forbes estimates that 84% of companies fail at digital transformation, whilst McKinsey estimates a more conservative 70% failure rate.

Digital transformation is a journey and one that may not have an immediate end point, or one that you can see on the horizon. This is because technology and digital solutions keep advancing and evolving, and so do the wants and needs of your customers. Therefore, your digital transformation strategy is one that also needs to evolve and adapt over time. But this doesn’t necessarily explain why so many organisations are failing in their attempts to embrace digital more completely into their service offering and ways of working.

Whether you are just starting out on your transformation journey or if you have formalised your strategy and are underway, I would like to make one recommendation to you -  consider undertaking a demand analysis. A demand analysis starts with you really understanding who your customers are and engaging them to find out what is most important to them and what digital services they expect and need. Equally, you need to find out what they don’t want from a digital perspective.

At ICE Creates, we advocate a people-centred approach and apply this in all of our work with our public sector partners. A focal point of this approach is demand analysis to understand how your customers interact with your organisation and the services you provide. We work with your customers to establish how demand can be managed more effectively and, in some instances, how it can be removed from the system by co-designing a better way of working. We’d really like to support you to implement a digital transformation strategy that meets your organisational objectives and also delivers an exceptional customer experience.

I recently came across a published tender opportunity from an organisation looking to procure a digital complaints handling system to log complaints received from web forms, email and by post. I can see that internally this makes sense and will no doubt save the organisation substantial sums currently spent on manual complaints handling and logging. Tick. Problem solved. Money saved. However, perhaps a better way of dealing with this is through a demand and root cause analysis, looking into the areas where the complaints are generated from and working with customers and staff to define the solution, implement the changes and resolve the problems. This then removes the need to source a digital complaints handling solution.

Although the evidence suggests more and more adults are using the internet regularly, it doesn’t necessarily mean they use it all the time for everything. This will have an impact upon your digital transformation strategy. Moving services online will not necessarily work if your customers do not want to be engaged through a digital channel for that service. Over the years, I have come to trust online banking. I am old enough to remember the early days of internet banking and some of the security issues that meant I wasn’t an early adopter, more in the late majority. Now, I save my bank a small fortune by conducting all of my transactions online; I manage my accounts online, I pay my bills online, I switch money between my accounts online. By using my heuristics to trial it in the first instance and being successful, my self-efficacy improved and has empowered me to become more and more ambitious with online banking, encouraging me to try new services.

But, every now and then, I need to talk to someone. Noticing a payment to someone I don’t recognise cannot be resolved online, even through the chat facility. I need to speak to a human being, a life saver, a hero in customer services who can look into the issue and reassure me – even if they are using digital solutions to help me! The point is that you need to have a very clear vision for how digital is going to become part of your service offering from the perspective of your customers, finding out what they need and not what you think they need. Transferring a service wholesale into a digital environment may make absolute sense from your organisational perspective, but if it does not match your customers’ expectations, you may find yourself needing to procure a digital complaints handling system to deal with a sudden increase in objections from your customers.

So please get in touch with me and together, we can explore the steps we can put in place together to ensure your journey is a successful one.

 - Paul

0151 647 4700

07970 037 012

How to make social media work for the public sector

June 13, 2017 11:24

Social media provides you with the opportunity to reach the vast majority of the population and it is a quick, easy and expedient platform to communicate through. For public sector organisations, social media can help you to promote your services, share best practice and positively influence your organisation’s reputation and brand perception.

A quick glance at user numbers demonstrates how widespread digital consumption and use of social media is in the UK:

  • 88% of all adults use the internet
  • 99% of adults aged 16 to 24 use the internet
  • The largest increases in the number of internet users are women aged 75 and over (169.0%), women aged 65 to 74 (80.7%) and men aged 75 and over (80.3%)
  • There are over 38,000,000 active social media users
  • 73% of internet users – which is 63% of all adults - have a social media profile, with 9 in 10 having a Facebook page
  • 65% of those with a social media profile say they visit social media sites more than once a day, and they mostly use a smartphone to do this.

I recall one public sector organisation realising this. Every Thursday, they would unleash a week’s worth of press releases and news articles through their social media channels. However, they viewed social media as a broadcast medium and didn’t respond to their followers when they commented and didn’t engage in the wider conversations. As a result, their number of followers declined rapidly. As an organisation, they concluded that social media wasn’t realising any benefit or return for them. By failing to understand that they needed to engage in conversations with their audience and be relevant to the conversation, this organisation severely limited the impact of their social media’s potential to increase engagement and rapport.

Imagine you are attending a social function where you don’t really know anyone - how would you engage with the other attendees? I doubt that you would march to the middle of the room, stand on a soapbox, pull out a megaphone and start talking about whatever was on your mind at that moment. Rather, you’d probably circulate for a while, listen to what different groups were talking about and introduce yourself into the conversation that you were most comfortable with or to the people you have most in common with.

So where do you start? Well, first of all, you need to have a clear vision of what you want to get from social media - what are you using it for and how will it fit into your wider communications and engagement programme? You also have to be prepared to accept that social media is not effective as a broadcast channel. It is an extremely effective way to engage people in two-way and often multi-way conversations.

You also need to generate exciting, informative and meaningful content that is relevant to the people (and organisations) you are trying to engage with. Knowing how to do this and where to find the source or inspiration for your content might be seen as a challenge. However, you may be surprised to learn where you’ll find inspiring and unique content for your social channels – I’ve found some of the greatest stories coming from conversations I’ve had in corridors, in the canteen, or by the kettle. Not every story you tell needs to be war and peace!

Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Brand awareness, reputation and management – by creating unique content, not only do you improve your SEO, but you can tailor your ‘voice’ and create, manage and maintain your identity. The key is to not be too self-promotional. Talk about the wider industry as whole, and about what good work you see other people doing
  • Community building  - you have to be systematic about this. Decide how often you want to engage with your community and then stick to it, schedule your tweets and posts using a solution like Hootsuite or Buffer and make sure your followers get your content when they’re online. We like this optimal scheduling tool from Buffer
  • Influencer outreach – I don’t think this is talked about enough in the public sector, even though influencers can be extremely engaging. Take a look at how Dr Andy Knox is using it to offer really sound advice and, by doing so, potentially freeing up GP appointments
  • Engagement and involvement – I’ve saved this ‘til last for a good reason. Most of us believe that this is the main use for social - to engage - and I think we should be smarter about this. The best engagement and involvement comes from doing the three points above well. It’s no longer enough to just use your social platforms to push out information as I mentioned earlier.

We’ve followed our own advice and put it to great effect - last year we won a CIPR PRide gold award for our work. We’d like to share what, how and, most importantly, why we use social media to engage and influence behaviour with you. If you want to know more about building a social strategy or want to come to one of our social and digital workshops, please get in touch with me and join us for our coffee and cake morning with our digital behaviour change experts.

0151 647 4700

Changing behaviours to A&E access - a proven approach

February 15, 2017 15:25

At 2016's CIPR PRide Awards, Advice ASAP - co-created with NHS Gloucestershire CCG - was presented with the Gold Award in the Public Sector Campaign category. The PRide Awards recognise deliverable results for clients and employers.

"With clear objectives and a well thought out strategy, this campaign delivered tangible results and significantly changed behaviour amongst its target audience. The judges were highly impressed by this outstanding entry. A clear winner." - CIPR PRide Awards Judges

At an average cost of £114* per A&E attendance, the reduction of 13,447 attendances means Gloucestershire CCG achieved more than £1.5m in savings, which was redirected to other services such as primary care and community minor injury units. 

*Department of Health reference costs Nov 2013

Do our citizens know where to turn?

5 January 2015 saw both Gloucestershire Royal and Cheltenham General Hospitals declare ‘major incidents’ due to high demand in their emergency departments, with 30% of people attending with non-urgent ailments. Advice ASAP was co-created with Gloucestershire CCG to combat the number of inappropriate attendances at emergency departments.

Insight was used to identify the ‘why’ – why were people who could be treated more appropriately by other health services visiting emergency departments? Parents of children aged 0 to 5, 10 to 18 and adults aged 17 to 39 were identified as the key target audiences.

With these audiences presenting with minor conditions that could be more appropriately treated in the community health access centre and community minor injury and illness units, we needed to produce a solution that would help inform citizens about where best to turn.

Development of ASAP:

The innovative app and website allows citizens to identify the most relevant health services to treat their conditions, locate the services closest to them (using geolocation functionality such as maps), and to view opening and waiting times.

Videos are used as a visual aid to advise on the roles of different services – raising education and awareness of where and when to attend, depending on the condition.


Within the first week of the campaign, the NHS Gloucestershire health community witnessed an 8% reduction in emergency department attendances and a corresponding 8% increase in attendances at the county’s community minor injury and illness units.


“Our ASAP partnership project with ICE Creates has been hugely beneficial and has resulted in a striking, sustainable campaign and intuitive campaign tools co-produced with clinicians and local people.

Through genuine and meaningful insight gathered from our population and reflecting changing times and the ‘key message culture,’ ICE identified that highlighting the clear routes into assured advice on what to do if you are ill or injured was the right path to take.

As well as signposting to face-to- face and telephone advice options, ASAP offers a groundbreaking app and website that guides people through health conditions and symptoms, care advice and provides the user with specific (and appropriate) service details.

This was a challenging project, but ICE provided friendly and professional project management support throughout, highly creative campaign concepts and visuals and were patient and understanding in our shared approach to developing wireframes and the wider digital assets.

Early signs from evaluation have shown that where people have seen or have acted on the ASAP messages, there have been clear signs of intended or actual behaviour change that can only benefit the local NHS and individual patients as we look to build on the first phases of the campaign.”

Anthony Dallimore, Associate Director, Communications – NHS Gloucestershire

You can view the Advice ASAP website here:

To request a full case study or to discuss how we can co-create solutions bespoke to the needs of your citizens, contact Paul Williams on 0845 5193 423 or at

Do you need support to manage your content online?

October 26, 2016 16:02

With the digital revolution, there are now so many more customer touchpoints – be it via your website or your app. Are you looking to improve the user experience on your digital platforms? If so, we have the tools to help. Our bespoke solutions make sure that your needs are met in a co-created and cost effective way.

Orbit Group worked with ICE to understand the views and experiences of stakeholders and staff implementing their Community Investment programmes. These include support for Orbit customers on managing debt and finances, seeking employment, improving life skills and improving health and wellness. However, take up of the programmes was low and a new strategy was required to engage customers in the opportunities available.

“The delivery has been excellent given the constraints, hitting the brief and spec with more accuracy than a lot of longer projects!”

Tim Dumbleton, Digital Inclusion and Development Manager, Orbit Living.

Stakeholders and frontline staff involved in offering or delivering the programmes to customers told us that one of their biggest challenges was keeping track of what programmes were being offered, when and where. Traditionally, communications raising awareness of the programmes happened in a piecemeal way, and staff and stakeholders needed to keep a record of what was currently available in their area and what might be coming up in future.  When speaking to customers, they relied on their memory to get all the information across.

As a result of this insight, we proposed a ‘one stop’ online space where all the community investment work could be stored and kept up to date. We worked in partnership with the Orbit web team to ensure the site was built to maintain a seamless user journey from the main Orbit site into the ‘HUB’ site – one that could also easily be migrated into any future rebuild of the main Orbit site.

The web portal was built using the latest version of Umbraco (7); this was based on a site structure and specification devised by Orbit. It was built using an open-source Microsoft framework called ASP.Net, utilising the MVC (Model-View-Controller) design pattern which offers excellent flexibility and options for future development and future-proofing the solution. A key area for the website was to build an easy-to-use advanced search tool which uses our faceted algorithms to help the user define and refine their search results based on key words/phrases, geo distance (miles) and cleaver page tagging. We’re currently scoping out phase two of this project to integrate this as a secure intranet, as well as a public portal using AD Federation services.

The site was deployed to a test environment for the Orbit team and our internal team to test. User acceptance testing was delivered by Orbit with a group of stakeholders and staff. The entire build process took less than four weeks.

“Just to say a huge thank you to all that have been involved up until now with the HUB. It is looking really good and ultimately the feedback from staff and partners after three sessions today has been really positive. They easily see the value of it, how it will be used and people in different parts of the business are saying how useful it will be and how they would use it. I realise the amount of time and effort that has gone in to getting this to this stage in the time scales. Really impressed.”

Sam Scharf, Head of Community Investment, Orbit Living.

Health+Care - Looking Back and Looking Forward

July 6, 2016 14:56

We've taken time to reflect after last week's Health+Care and wanted to share our thoughts, insights and takeaways with you...

Richard Forshaw-Smith

I enjoyed hearing how people are pushing the boundaries of innovation, and was impressed with the appetite for trying out new ideas. I heard how new technologies were helping with better diagnosis of abdominal illnesses, how disruptive tech is changing the way hearing tests are carried out in care homes and how improvements in wound care products help district nurses help their patients. Above all, there is a real willingness to explore partnership working to support people and make better happen.

Simon Platt

The interesting insight I gained from Health+Care (and it is a common theme across all health and care landscapes) was the importance of listening and the language we choose to respond with. Every visitor to our 'secret garden' and every individual I spoke with as I walked around the event hall had a different set of needs and reasons for being there. Therefore, the significance of concisely and attentively conversing with individuals before then connecting them to the most appropriate offer was key.

I witnessed conversations on other stands ending both successfully and in failure because people were either capable or incapable of 'joining the dots' with potential clients. At ICE's secret garden stand, the messages and language were clear and we are always proud of our ability to listen to what people have to say.

Being able to conclude an event such as Health+Care with over 100 new 'budding' relationships across our diverse portfolio is testament to getting our approach right. We listen, we learn, we excite, we reconnect the passion and the aspiration and that establishes trust and wins hearts and minds.

Amanda Madden

From the outset, ICE wanted Health+Care to be a place where we could engage with people. We wanted to create an environment that put people at ease, that intrigued them so they asked questions and that helped us to explain the things we are passionate about - helping people and organisations to be at their best. Our creative team set to work and the ‘secret garden’ was created. As a stand it did everything we hoped it would; it drew people in, it was a talking point and it enabled us to connect with people in a very different way.  

Personally, people never cease to amaze me. We spoke to people who are working in some of the most challenging environments, yet their commitment and resolve to ‘make better happen’ was immense and inspiring. It was a privilege to be able to explore how we could support them, and I am really looking forward to working with a number of the people/organisations that we met.

Stuart Jackson

A meeting of 1000s of people exploring what is important to them for their places and their people - that is what Health+Care was like for me. Did we find the answers? I doubt it.

Did we find inspiration? Yes, I did. We spoke with amazing people who were passionate and clearly committed to a journey to an unknown place called ‘integrated care’. I loved being in our garden and most of the kind feedback we received was that it was so very different and welcoming, which was one of the main themes of our shared conversations. We must think and act differently. 

This means we all need to be brave, creative (have ideas that add value) and I think most importantly, be ready to give power over to others, particularly for our citizens, patients and families. At the end of all of this, trust is the most important virtue we need. So in the week that saw British politics reach crisis point, we must one by one take our decisions from the perspective of acting for the good of the many, and not of the few. We must drive towards making our health and social care systems one. We know the end point, what we don’t know is the journey. What we do know is there is every bit of resource skill and an amazing amount of passion to get us there. 

Heidi King

It has been interesting and insightful to hear from over 100 health and care organisations at the show.

I was really pleased to hear and see that our metaphors for successful integration and transformation really chimed with individuals and organisations from across the spectrum. It was also really exciting to see how the personalisation agenda could support patients towards greater control over their health and how digital innovation is really driving this forward. I was also pleased to hear about how mental health is rising up the agenda so that as a system, we can work together to tackle whole person wellness. The platform is set for useful and exciting conversations over the coming weeks and months.

Carly Farley

It was nice to see what I’ve been hearing about being put into practice. Pharmaceuticals are now really coming round to new ways of working, and it isn’t about sales reps pushing for more sales and more profit. Going beyond the pill now means better outcomes for patients, so more support - digitally and physically - which means better outcomes for clinicians and therefore a better return for pharmaceuticals. After all, a better health population and happy clinicians means more profit.

Since the conference, I’ve been particularly looking forward to catching with up with one or two contacts around what they’re doing digitally and how Puffell can support that; some are definitely further down the line than others! 

Stephen Theobald

This year was a real mix for me; the conversations I had across the two days were really varied and interesting. The meaningful conversations for me were the ones that explored current challenges that individuals and organisations are facing, and what they thought the answers to these challenges may be. Some had a clear plan of how to move forward, some were shaky but felt they had something in place, unsure whether it was right or wrong, and some had no clue where to even begin! What was great to see was the real leap even from last year’s event of people and organisations willing to explore digital solutions to support better health and wellness for the entire population.

 We are looking forward to taking our learning forward and continuing these conversations.

As always, you can call us on 0845 519 3423 to see how we can co-create and inspire together.

My top 3 challenges to the housing sector for 2016

January 4, 2016 09:55

I’ve been a fan of social housing for years.

Last month, a team of us at ICE had the pleasure of giving a presentation to the rest of our company about our social housing clients, what they do and the sort of work we are helping them with.

Preparing for it took me back to the days of working as a reporter on the magazine published by the National Housing Federation. Even at the tender age of 25, I loved the sector (once I had learned the jargon). This is social affairs and community investment at its finest. These are organisations that are independent, not-for-profit social businesses, set up to provide affordable homes for people in housing need.

That’s no mean feat, given that the people most in need of housing have a wider variety of challenges to deal with than just not having a roof over their heads. Five million people are supported by social housing landlords. Yes, there’s the roof and walls, the rent and repairs, but how many private landlords also offer community initiatives, employment training, coaching, IT lessons, health and wellbeing groups, crime and safety work, projects with young people and children, not to mention the whole regeneration of chunks of our towns and cities?

Private sector organisations with a public sector heart. We’ve worked with Home Group for over four years now, and I love their raison d’être: “To help our customers and clients to open doors to new opportunities and healthy lives”. [link]

These are values we share.

But the sector itself faces a number of challenges. Like everyone else, it suffers from budget cuts and policy changes, such as the extension of the right to buy and a 1% reduction in rental income. Many are under threat. [link]

But they are, in the main, clever organisations run by clever people. They fund millions of pounds of affordable rental development and community investment programmes by building shared ownership and outright sale properties. Our design team, copywriters and marketers do an incredible job of helping sales staff up and down the country.

Our research teams have spoken with hundreds of tenants and customers from Margate to Cumbria to understand how they understand the impact of Universal Credit and the effect it will have on their lives – including their ability to pay rent. No surprise that 90% of those already on Universal Credit are in rent arrears, with many organisations struggling to cope with the changes in the benefits system in a timely way. [link].

Here are my top three priorities for housing providers for 2016:

-       Understand your customers: get deep, qualitative insight into what they want, how you as a landlord can improve, their aspirations for the future, their challenges with employment, literacy, IT, money management, benefits. It will pay dividends as you plan your approach based on evidence, and not assumptions

-       Communicate well: keep innovating. Try new things, even if the old ones are working. Don’t give up if something doesn’t work – learn from it and try something else. Use digital and social to surprise and delight. Use quality design and innovative campaigns to make your developments stand out from the crowd

-       Keep your own house in order: if you want tenants to see you as more than just the landlord, do the landlording exceptionally well. Get that repairs service running efficiently and effectively. Scrutinise how your approach to tackling rent arrears matches your brand. Create a values-led organisation.

2016 will present more challenges for the sector. The heart will always be in the right place. Follow your heart – but take your brain with you.

For more information on how ICE are supporting housing providers in digital, design, marketing, insight research, organisational change and the provision of healthy lifestyle service interventions, please call Richard Forshaw on 07540 412304 or email