Central Bank of Ireland: Focus on content for better UX
As part of our 10 opinions for 2021 campaign we interviewed Ronan Smith, Content and Insights Manager of the Central Bank of Ireland. The Central Bank of Ireland is Ireland's central bank and is part of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). The Central Bank of Ireland serves the public interest by safeguarding monetary and financial stability and by working to ensure that the financial system operates in the best interests of consumers and the wider economy.
Digital is a primary communication channel for them and offers a single destination serving all audiences.
Talking about digital, what was your biggest challenge in 2020? If there were no challenges, what were your biggest learnings?
COVID-19 presented many challenges but – to look at it from a different perspective – it was a catalyst for digital innovation and new ways of doing things. Like many other organisations, we had to adapt our planned digital and content strategy for fast-changing circumstances. And, like people across the globe, we were embedding new ways of working, juggling home and family responsibilities, and initiating and implementing changes remotely – which was new for me, my team and colleagues across the Central Bank.
While COVID-19 is first and foremost a health crisis, it is of course a significant threat to our economy and to people’s livelihoods. We needed to increase awareness of the financial/economic implications of COVID-19 and the supports that the Central Bank and ECB have in place – and digital was a critical enabler for this. So we built a new COVID-19 Hub in a matter of days, our Governor started a new blog to share his own thoughts on the pandemic, our statisticians and economists produced timely research on the impact of COVID-19 and forecasts for the economy. Infographics, explainers, and a new plain language video series – in English and Irish – supplemented other activities. We used cost-effective, in-house digital marketing to generate almost 750,000 views of that series so far and create significant awareness of our content amongst those most affected by the pandemic.
Looking back on it – and we’re still amidst it – I’m really proud of the collaboration, innovation and hard work that has taken place across the Central Bank to deliver on our mission in serving the public interest.
Where you are now, what do you think 2021 holds for you? In other words, what will your focus for 2021 be in terms of digital.
A key focus for us over the next year or so is to review and improve our website operational model so that we can realise greater efficiencies and develop enhancements faster. This will help us to match the growing expectations of our website and ensure we can deliver a better user experience online. We recently worked with Arekibo to complete a significant upgrade of our CMS, so we will be exploring its new capabilities as part of a broader focus on user experience.
Digital capability is no use without engaging, relevant and timely content. Our approach for next year will be to build on our existing user-centric, plain language strategy – with a further focus on visual content. Placing our people at the heart of our brand, creating greater understanding of our work and building stronger engagement and listening capabilities via expanded use of social media, story-telling, and relatable content will be central to this.
What company/companies inspire you in terms of their digital achievements? Why do you find it inspiring, and what initiatives do they do?
I’ve really admired the BBC’s digital presence over the past two decades. Although it has of course evolved over the years, the BBC is a good example of how to implement progressive, iterative change at scale rather than big-bang change-everything approaches, which often see companies “throwing the baby out with the bath water” in their quest to achieve digital perfection. Whether I’m looking for football gossip or to catch up on international news, the BBC website has provided me with a reassuring, consistent experience over a long period of time – which is, I think, something of a holy grail in user experience.
I take a lot of my inspiration these days from engaging, effective digital content. Sometimes it’s the technical and design element that appeals to me – such as strong data visualisations (the Central Statistics Office is doing some lovely work in this space) and the underlying tech. But often it’s simply recognising the simplicity and effectiveness of various content types and taking inspiration from that. For example, the World Economic Forum produces huge quantities of really engaging videos and we adopted elements of their winning formula in developing our COVID-19 video series.
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