Photograph of Jordan at the registration for the London Marathon 2013

Backstage at The Lowry: Jordan Ahmadzadeh, Digital Communications Executive

Photograph: Jordan ran the 2013 London Marathon on behalf of The Lowry raising £1,500.

In many ways yesterday was a microcosm of my time at The Lowry. The day began with a session of yoga in The Studio – the perfect start to any day. I got to meet some new faces through the day – The Lowry is definitely the friendliest place I have ever worked. In the evening I stayed behind to catch a show – something that is actively encouraged here. As this was to be my last show as a Lowry employee it felt fitting that it was dance – Boxe Boxe to be precise. After the performance the day ended in the bar with my colleagues sharing our different interpretations of events.

Even though dance was a passion and a lifetimes work for my grandparents in Iran, until I started working at The Lowry I hadn’t experienced it all that much for myself. Out of all the eclectic and wonderful artforms I have been exposed to in six years at The Lowry, dance has definitely been the most surprising and enthralling to me. You can watch a few of my highlights here including the work of Hofesh Shechter, Compagnie Kafig, Sidi Larbi and Anthony Gormley.

My contribution to The Lowry’s ‘Backstage’ blog series is a timely one as this will be my last week working for The Lowry after six years of embracing new digital possibilities, partnerships, experimentation, personal development, collaboration, the odd frustration and plenty of job satisfaction.

When I tell people what I do they can’t actually believe I get to do this job for The Lowry.

‘So you spend your whole day online managing websites, taking photographs, posting on social media and making films?’

Well yes, for the most part. It sounds like a cushty number (and I do love coming into work everyday) but there’s also a lot of hard work to be put in whether that’s in post production filming, the 24 hour nature of social media, project management and the big one – managing time vs expectations.

Follow The Lowry on twitter
I remember twitter day one.

I have been the Digital Communications Executive since 2012. I joined The Lowry in 2008 as the e-Marketing Assistant and this was a great starting point for me to gain experience across a broad range of emerging digital platforms. Creating and sharing digital content became easier and faster and I was able to embrace these changes and the emergence of social media as a new way of communicating more directly and personally with our audience. I consider myself to be an early adopter of new technologies and like to find new ways of working and this meant that after four years I was ready to take the next step into managing The Lowry’s online presence.

Two new homes for LS Lowry online – view his work as never before
Work in progress on the new LS Lowry website.
Work in progress on the new LS Lowry website.

The most significant project I have worked on in my time here has been the online presence for our namesake artist, LS Lowry. The need to re-evaluate how we presented LS Lowry online was made apparent following Tate Britain’s retrospective and an SEO report of our previous content by Needle. It is fair to say that user behaviour, how people search, shop and share content had moved on since that content had been created 6 years ago. Therefore there was an urgent need to reinvigorate the site so that it could meet the demands of both modern search engines and the user experience once they arrived on our site. The overall objective being that that online visitors would have easy access to rich content about Lowry’s Art, Life and Archive, affirming his status as a major 20th Century artist and at the same time re-establishing The Lowry as a one stop shop for the artist. Take a look at thelowry.com/lslowry

Google Doodle in honour of LS Lowry
Google’s Doodle celebrated the 125th anniversary of LS Lowry.

For many years now Google has been the single biggest driver of traffic to The Lowry’s website. Nothing highlighted this more than Lowry’s 125th anniversary which was celebrated with a Google Doodle. This drove record levels of traffic to our website and raised the international profile of the artist. We learnt a lot from that day about SEO in order to maintain our position within search rankings. Whilst we performed well in traditional web searches an area identified for improvement were our rankings within Google Images. Our new site should address this.

The Google Art Project
The Lowry on Google Art
A new home for LS Lowry on Google Art

Last year I enquired about LS Lowry’s inclusion within Google Cultural Institutes’ prestigious Art Project. For those who don’t know the Art Project is a unique collaboration with some of the world’s most acclaimed art institutions enabling people to discover and view artworks online in extraordinary detail.

I was delighted to lead on the partnership with Google delivering three key features for The Lowry’s profile:

  • Collection: 44 artworks available to view in high resolution
  • Gigapixel photography: ‘Coming from the Mill’ can be viewed at a level of zoom that will allow art-lovers to discover minute aspects of the painting they may never have seen before.
  • Street View: Have you used Street View in Google Maps to find your way around? You can do the same thing in our Galleries with a 360 virtual tour.

View The Lowry’s collection and take a virtual tour on Google Art.

With this partnership in place I feel like I’m leaving something behind to be enjoyed by millions of people all around the world.

MediaCityUK
The view from the office has changed immeasurably in six years. What once was a car park is now the home of the BBC and Media City UK.
Taking over the reins

So the person who replaces me will be responsible for managing and delivering The Lowry’s digital strategy to meets it’s artistic, business and charitable objectives.

What does this involve?

Broadly speaking you’ll need to have an open mind, be flexible in your approach and make friends with everyone. Over the past six years the sheer demand for digital output from all departments internally and from our audiences externally has risen dramatically. So you will have to learn how to manage expectations and get the most out of the resources available to you. One of the most satisfying parts of my job has been the development of digital skills throughout the organization, through in-house workshops and one-to-one training. With budgets as tight as ever, collaborating with other enthusiastic and passionate people is a key factor in ‘getting things done’. And at The Lowry you’ll find plenty of like mind people to work with.

The Digital revolution for me began about four years ago. We got on a treadmill and never really got off. Whenever I think of the journey we have been on I will remember a phrase frequently used in The West Wing – whenever a new law was passed or the Republicans were defeated, a character (probably Josh), would say, ‘So what’s next?’

Since I started the new role in 2012 my ‘What’s next?’ list has looked something like this:

•        Partnership with Google Cultural Institutes’ Art Project

•        New website showcasing the work of LS Lowry, optimized for search

•        Redesign of the The Lowry website header and footer

•        Improved integration with the box office website and customer booking journey (ongoing)

•        New email marketing system allowing for smarter communication

•        Integration of social media within the Communications team

•        Sharing of my digital skills and knowledge across the organisation

When you work in Digital you have to accept that your work will never really be finished. There is always new user data to be analysed, iterations to be made and emerging trends and technologies to consider. This is partly why I love the profession I have chosen. There will always be more to learn.

So whilst I am pleased with the improvements listed above there is still plenty of work to do.  Culturally we are not quite a ‘digital first’ organisation although most of my colleagues are keen to embrace new working practices. A responsive and UX designed website is likely to be at the top of the incoming persons job list and they will be heavily involved with Culture24’s action research group Let’s Get Real. So there is a lot of potential for digital projects and it is an exciting time to be joining the organisation.

It is a fantastic job in a world-class venue and I look forward to watching The Lowry’s digital developments from afar.

What’s next for me?

I am moving across the Pennines to work for The Lowry’s partner company – Opera North – as their Digital Manager. I am delighted to continue my career within the cultural sector as this is where my original passion to work began. I was lucky enough to be exposed to art and culture from a young age. My parents’ favourite country is Italy and our family holidays there; experiencing outdoor performances and visiting the world’s leading art galleries and historical monuments really stayed with me. I have always wanted to make the arts more accessible and meaningful to people from all walks of life and I strongly believe in the power digital communications as a way to achieve this. So my journey continues…

The role of Digital Executive will be advertised later this week. Please check thelowry.com/jobs for more information.

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