Personal blogging by Steph Gray, founder of Helpful Digital and erstwhile bureaucrat


About me

In some ways, I’m living proof you can blog honestly as a civil servant and live to tell the tale.

This blog was set up in 2008 as ‘Helpful Technology’, while I was leading the Digital Communications team at the (modern day) Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. My team earned a reputation across and beyond Government for pioneering approaches to using social media for policymaking including online consultation, work with online communities and social media monitoring. A lot of the content on this blog from 2008-12 is around those themes.

I turned the blog into a company of the same name in 2010 after leaving the Civil Service, keeping the focus on practical strategies, tools and ideas for digital engagement. I hosted a number of events aimed at digital practitioners, and was an organiser of UKGovCamp, which brings together hundreds of people interested in the public sector’s use of digital. I set up the Digital Engagement Guide, a collection of examples and practical tips for not-for-profit digital and social media.

Nice people paid me money to help them do that kind of thing, my business grew. In 2020, I sold the part of the business which offered website build and support, so now Helpful Digital is a team of about 10 people in the UK and USA, focusing squarely on building people’s confidence communicating in a digital world. We run practical training and workshops on how to deliver engaging social media campaigns and social customer service; and we help leaders and teams practice their response to crisis situations in a safe, simulated environment.

These days, a lot of what I do personally is about shaping and growing a small but diverse, international consultancy in the context of widespread friction and disenchantment with social media in the world. Over time, more of the posts here will be about what we can do to empower people to engage online, and what I’ve been learning while trying to build an organisation to do that.

Please don’t get in touch with guest posts, link exchanges or product review offers – I don’t cover that on this blog.