Search engine optimisation (SEO) for trade unions

We’re getting a bit techy with our latest report. It’s an introduction to Search engine optimisation (SEO to its friends). This covers a range of concepts around content strategy and editorial or technical optimisation, designed to make your content rank higher in the results returned by search engines.

So, why is search engine optimisation important for unions?

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Looking ahead to 2022 in trade union tech

Unions have seen a lot of changes in tech since our Digital Lab programme started in 2019. In particular, the pandemic gave immediate impetus to many new tech projects over 2020 and 2021.

We’ve seen some great work happening in unions over the last year, and I think it could help us focus the crystal ball for 2022. In particular I’ve got five areas where I think the union tech environment may be set for interesting things. 

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Understanding our digital-only union members

Over the last 20 months, many unions have seen a spike in new members joining. But with a reduced physical presence in workplaces, and with fewer opportunities to network, we’ve been unable to offer them a “normal” experience of membership. 

Indeed, a great many members, suddenly told to work from home yet fearful of the impact of the pandemic on their jobs, joined up looking for support, despite being unsure of what they were going to find.

Last week, we hosted the final TUC Digital Lab session of the year, on the topic of “digital-only Members”. We want to better understand these recent joiners’ experiences and needs, to make our unions as relevant to their lives as we are to those of our traditional members.

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How can unions choose which tech tools will work for them?

Over the course of the pandemic, every organisation has had to come up with new ways of getting things done. For unions, that’s meant a lot of hard thinking and experimentation about ways to organise workers without them being able to meet face-to-face.

While this isn’t a completely new trend (as William Gibson famously said: “the future’s here, it’s just not very evenly distributed”), these moments of great acceleration can leave organisations looking back at their former selves, wondering how they were ever the way they were.

Suddenly, everyone working for a union has had to use new tools and behave differently to do their work. And bringing a much wider range of new tech tools into the organisation so quickly has had lots of wider implications for unions.

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What does the new normal look like for digital change in unions?

In my role at ASLEF I’m a campaigns and communications advisor, which includes digital comms. It will be familiar to colleagues that having digital in your job often means you’re seen as the best person to ask about anything with an on button. That’s particularly common in small organisations.

When I started in this role in 2019 I very quickly became a bit of an agitator for tech in the union. We had some really old tech – a website with a very difficult back end and a membership database in dire need of an upgrade. None of it really worked together or in the way anybody wanted or needed it to.

This was a feeling across the organisation so towards the end of 2019 we had some great leadership from the top and commitment to roll out a new digital system.

We set off on this project and then three months later, the pandemic happened.

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The pandemic and the drive for #digitalunions

In the first week of 2020’s lockdown, I took part in Simon Sapper’s great UnionDues podcast, sitting on my bed with my laptop to record a conversation about digital change in unions. During the call, Simon asked if I thought the pandemic could become a turning point for unions in digitising.

I wasn’t sure. We were in for what looked like being a really difficult couple of months for unions in supporting members to stay safe at work, without access to much of our infrastructure.

My worry was that was as likely to eat into our limited capacity for new digital work, as it could be a spur to new digitisation.

As it turned out though, Simon was onto more than I had thought.

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Data protection responsibilities in designing systems and processes for union casework

As unions bring digital tools deeper into their case management processes, they start generating loads of often sensitive personal data. And that brings some clear responsibilities with it under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

This blog is intended as a kind of broad checklist for principles and practices that you might find helpful to think about to ensure what you’re doing is lawful. As always you should check with your own advisors when planning detail for your union around this, as there will likely be specific factors that affect you in different ways.

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Adapting to the new normal for trade unions

The last 18 months have been a time of drastic change. Along with the rest of society, unions have had to adapt to the pandemic and the effects of the response to it. We had to work quickly to get operations functioning again with closed offices, safety concerns and huge disruption in our members’ workplaces.

Digital played a large part in this adaptation. Denied physical meetings and conferences, and with travel options severely limited, there was no choice but to move as much activity online as possible.

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7 things for unions to think about when updating member contact data

We’ve been working with RCM recently on how unions might work with members to keep contact data up to date. An automated SMS campaign succeeded in getting some great levels of engagement (read the full report here), but making the process as simple as possible for the member to complete.

We talked about the project at our last Digital Lab office hours session, and had a really useful discussion between practitioners from across our affiliates.

I wanted to share some of the points made by our colleagues, as there was a lot in there for unions to consider if they’re planning their own data check projects.

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