My top 5 summer communications reads

29 Jun

Books pic

It’s that time of year when you’re either on the beach, in the garden or at the very least enjoying a quieter commute. Hopefully you have a bit of space to ponder and catch up with a great book. Here are the top 5 books which have changed the way I think about charity communications.

  1. The Brand Handbook by Wally Olins. I read this book some years ago when I was heading up a rebrand in-house. Rebrands are often emotive and highly charged. They involve a daunting amount of work and can be incredibly expensive and time consuming. This book demystifies the process, simplifying brands into tangible elements and demonstrating a way forward in the thorniest of projects. Do not embark on a rebrand without it.
  2. The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane. If you need to persuade and influence anyone as part of your job- and who doesn’t?- this book should be your bible. After all, stakeholder management is at least 50% of any communications role. Cabane explains how charisma is an asset if you need to lead people, grow your network or develop your career. Before I read this book I assumed that charisma was something you had to be born with. Cabane disagrees. She shares some simple, practical tips to be more persuasive in meetings, whilst presenting or when faced with difficult situations. I’ve used many of the ideas in this book; they are invaluable.
  3. Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do by Euan Semple. An excellent read for anyone who is encouraging their organisation to make digital central to their work, rather than a bolt on. Digital transformation can be a scary process and Semple’s book is a series of ideas that emphasise the possibilities. The perfect secret Santa present if your CEO is a luddite.
  4. Copywriting by Mark Shaw. When I led a team in-house this book went missing from my desk all the time as it was so useful. It helps you put yourself in your audience’s shoes and write memorable copy for both on and offline channels. Above all it taught me that the secret of good writing is ruthless editing. It’s beautifully designed, featuring lots of inspiring examples. I like to imagine Don Draper reading it whilst drinking an Old Fashioned. If you’re staring at a blank screen this book will get you writing again faster than a double espresso.
  5. Charity Comms’ Make it Matter edited by Joe Barrell. A methodical, thorough guide to charity communications strategies, covering everything from researching your audience to setting goals, developing key messages, and getting buy-in. If you can shepherd your organisation through the creation and delivery of a communications strategy it will make everything you do from then on so much easier. This is a reliable guide for those writing their first strategies and equally helpful as a refresher for old hands.

These are the 5 books which have changed the way I work. What are yours?

Why your charity’s culture is critical for digital success

1 Jun

culture v 2

Everyone thinks that digital is about strategies, plans and processes. That’s true, but it’s about people as well. And through my work as a consultant, I’ve come to realise that a charity’s culture can be  the difference between success and failure in digital.

The very nature of digital means that it requires collaboration. It has broken down traditional hierarchies- your charity’s supporters will expect your CEO to answer their questions on Twitter. Digital requires organisations to move quickly, as we saw with #nomakeupselfie. How can you do that if silos are entrenched in your culture? Above all, have you got the right people? New research from Eduserv has revealed that 51 per cent of UK charities haven’t invested in hiring in or developing the skills to support digital transformation.

Here are 6 things I’ve learned that will help charities develop the right culture for digital.

  1. Don’t outsource culture change to new digital hires. I’ve seen some charities try to go ‘digital first’ by hiring a trustee with digital skills or a head of digital. This only works if charities prepare the ground to maximise the impact of the appointment. Kate Maunder, Divisional Manager at TPP Recruitment, says, ‘Recruiting a digital champion can definitely work, but the end goal needs to be clear – what does the organisation want to achieve? This needs to be reflected in the job description. Focusing on one specific goal to begin with will make the whole process more smooth.’ She points out that your charity will need buy-in for the new appointment, especially from senior management.
  2. Think about what your external and internal audiences want. Emma McGowan, director at Let’s Work Better, believes the shift to a digital culture is necessary to meet stakeholders’ expectations. She states that, ‘Supporters and your audiences will want to hear as much from your CEO as they will from your community fundraisers or support workers.’ This requires your charity to be open and to let go, encouraging colleagues and external stakeholders to make your brand their own. ‘It’s important to build a genuine level of trust within your organisation and allow people to develop their own digital identity,’ counsels McGowan.
  3. Understand your people’s digital skills. Even in organisations that are very new to digital, there will be always be a few people who have untapped skills in this area. McGowan agrees: ‘There will already be digital champions that exist within your organisation – seek them out at all levels and work with them to reinforce the culture you want to create.’ However, other colleagues may need support in building their confidence with digital. She advises that charities ‘work closely with your HR and Internal Communications lead to avoid alienating those less confident, create an enabling culture by involving everyone.’
  4. Communication is key. Claire Reynolds is Head of Digital at Parkinson’s UK, who are on their way to creating a digital culture. The charity are currently developing a digital roadmap and have made it a collaborative process for staff through surveys, interviews and regular updates, as everyone will need to play their part in making the roadmap a reality. Keeping the lines of communication open will also garner useful data. Reynolds explains that, ‘We recently ran an internal staff survey to help us benchmark use of digital and digital skills, and this will become a key means by which we can measure the success of our work to develop a digital culture; but we’re regularly getting qualitative feedback through our ongoing conversations with staff.’
  5. Leadership is critical. Having a CEO who is active on social media can make a big difference. Reynolds told me that her CEO, Steve Ford, had a big impact in creating a digital culture. ‘He has set a really positive example for Parkinson’s UK staff not only on Twitter but on Facebook too, where he often responds to comments from our supporters, she says. ‘In particular, he manages to balance the personal/private divide well on Twitter which is something we know that other staff have been concerned about.’
  6. Keep your eyes on the prize. Culture change can be hard but ultimately it will improve your organisation for the better. Paul Taylor, Innovation Coach at Bromford, a leading social business in the housing sector, has seen the organisation emerge stronger , saying that ‘the results have been incredible,’ transforming the way they work. ‘Decisions get made in public, people form their own communication channels and networks. People become natural spokespeople – brand ambassadors. Our workplace language has been developed through years of formality but social networks make you start talking like real people again. Social has made us become a much warmer, more human organisation.’

Creating  a digital culture will take your charity outside of its comfort zone. It will require lots of handholding. And it won’t happen overnight. But it is mission critical if your organisation is to seize the opportunities and manage the risks represented by digital.

A version of this blog originally appeared on Just Giving

Will your CEO be in the top 30 #socialceos this year?

22 Apr
Peter Wanless of the NSPCC and a #socialceos winner in 2014

Peter Wanless of the NSPCC and a #socialceos winner in 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve been hard at work on our plans for the #socialceos awards this year and are so excited to tell you about them.

What we want the awards to achieve

In an age of austerity and increased scrutiny by the media and politicians, charity CEOs have never needed to be more visible and transparent. We want #socialceos to be even bigger and better this year and to keep raising the bar for a bolder and more innovative sector.

Who can enter?

The awards are open to CEOs from charities of any size or cause. Previous winners include Peter Wanless of the NSPCC,  Vicky Browning of Charity Comms and Richard Hawkes of Scope.

This year there will also be a select number of awards for other charity leaders using social media, alongside the top 30 #socialceos. Watch this space.

Our judges

We have some amazing people lined up for our panel,  including charity leaders who’ve pioneered the use of social media as well as experts from Twitter and LinkedIn (platforms which your CEO is likely to be using already).  Our judges are:

  • Chair: Simon Blake, CEO of Brook (and soon to be CEO of the NUS)
  • Julie Bentley, CEO of Girlguiding UK
  • Lucy Caldicott, charity consultant
  • Meg Garlinghouse, Head of LinkedIn4Good
  • Mandy Johnson, UK Director of Partnerships at Change.org
  • Joel Lunenfeld, VP, Global Brand Strategy, Twitter
  • Polly Neate, CEO of Women’s Aid

What happens next?

We’re planning to open nominations in early September. This year’s top 30 will be announced at a special event in November (dates TBC).  Keep an eye on @zoeamar and @charitychap for more news.

Who else is on board?

We’re working with some brilliant sponsors and will be announcing them over the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you’re a corporate who would like to get involved please contact me on zoe@zoeamar.com

How you can help your CEO/ board/ leadership team use social media

To coincide with the awards, we’ll be publishing more content to help your CEO and other senior colleagues make the most of social media. In the meantime, here’s the guide we produced last year.

5 tips for charity community guidelines

13 Apr

This is a guest blog from Joe Freeman. He is the Social Media Manager at Sue Ryder, overseeing the charity’s use of social as well as managing their online community project. Before that he worked at Diabetes UK, also managing their social media – amongst a few other roles in fundraising and membership marketing. When he eventually switches off from the digital world, he can mostly be found entertaining his two small children at various locations around London. Twitter: @JosephFreeman

Digital has clearly opened up channels of communications for charities. Websites, social media, Google+ Hangouts – it’s a long list. But there’s one aspect of digital communication that I’m quite keen on, and conveniently was asked to write about. The humble online community.

Photo credit: Light Brigading / Foter / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: Light Brigading / Foter / CC BY-NC

Before structured communities, chat rooms were the place to go to interact online. Picture, if you will, a pre-teen Joe typing “a/s/l?” into various Yahoo! chat rooms with the vague hope of having a two minute conversation with God only knows who, before my Mum needed me to get off the internet so she could make a phone call. What was I doing? I have no idea – but the potential of virtually meeting someone to chat about something you’re both interested in kind of excited me. I mean, I had friends (honestly), but this was different.

Fast forward a few years and the words ‘chat room’ are only muttered by people who were around at the dawn of the internet (which makes me feel old). Now it’s all social media. And whilst social networks can bring supporters together and provide an element of peer support, it’s not always used for that purpose. Arguably the best place for this is a good old forum, or online community.

There are lots out there. I used to manage Diabetes UK’s support forum. CRUK’s Cancer Chat seems to be going strong and Macmillan’s online community is – in my eyes – the pinnacle of a well-managed, active community. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. But how can you help make your community run smoothly?

Communities need guidelines – although there’s a fine line between being too controlling and too liberal (the latter being a problem when it comes to moderation…). So what do you need to consider when writing community guidelines?

  • Tone. No one likes being dictated to, and no one likes being confused with jargon. There’s a risk that community guidelines can be seen as a lengthy, boring, irrelevant document. You need people to read them for their own safety and for those of others – and also to protect your organisation from any potential issues. Just be conversational, using simple language that honestly outlines the importance of everyone getting on nicely. If any moderation issues arise, you’ll need to direct people back to your guidelines, so make sure there’s no room for uncertainty.
  • Be fair. There will be occasions within your community when things get ugly. You might have to hit people with your banning stick, but everyone deserves a second chance. When you’re dealing with sensitive issues emotions can run high, which can lead to disagreements or misunderstandings. Tell people that you understand this, and give them a chance to rectify what they’ve done. Your guidelines should also state that you’ll always give people an explanation for your actions, should you have to remove any posts or block them from using the site. You should also provide people with an email address so that they can get in touch outside of the community if they’ve got questions.
  • Involve the community. Things online can develop a life of their own. All your research and planning can go out the window once people actually start using something online, and it’s a good idea to recognise this. Your users should be the ones to ultimately determine what’s discussed online, and you may need to adapt to this. With that in mind, there might be things your community want included in your guidelines based on their experiences of using your site. Embrace this. If users contribute and feel like their wishes are being taken into account, they’ll be more likely to adhere to the guidelines and also be empowered to speak out if anyone contravenes them. You’ll find that self-moderation (which for me is one of the most positive things that can happen within a community) will become more apparent. And this then makes your Community Manager’s job that little bit easier too.
  • Make them visible. Your guidelines should be easy to find wherever users are on the site. Not only will this help keep them front of mind, but it’s then easy for you to direct people to them when necessary. It’s also a good idea to get people to read them before they can fully register on your site. Reading – and thus adhering to – your guidelines must be a condition that everyone should accept before posting for the first time.
  • Do some research. Read the guidelines from other charity communities as this might help you recognise something that you’re missing from your own. Who does guidelines well? I had a look around to see exactly how charities present their community guidelines, and what struck me immediately was that in a lot of instances they were quite hard to find. Tucked away in the footer or not apparent until you actually register or join. Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Chat have theirs listed in the left-hand menu at all levels within the site so they’re permanently visible wherever you are. They’ve also got a nice “meet the team” section so you know who from CRUK you’ll possibly be talking too (although personally I’m not sure about the cartoon avatars – I’d much rather see the real person because after all, this is about real people with real problems).

A few sites have “Forum Rules” which to me sounds very officious and off-putting, and whilst some display these “rules” before you can register (being up-front is good), they’re presented in tiny boxes you have to scroll through – and let’s face it, who is actually going to read these? There’s also a lot of jargon in those I found – one example talks about IP addresses, HTML tags and states “The site administrator does not want to be bothered unless vital”. How’s that for a happy, warm welcome…? I think across the sector there’s generally a lot of room for improvement – but I do like Scope’s approach where they have guidelines around what to keep in mind that then links to a fuller, more detailed set of “Blog and Community Rules”. I like this way of doing it – and despite my writing that guidelines need to be readable and welcoming, we do all need to legally ensure we’re looking after our users as well as the charities we represent.

Coincidentally, this is all very relevant for me in my current job at Sue Ryder as we look to launch our own online community in the coming months. It’s going to help people who are coping with the news that a loved one is going to die, and those whose loved ones have passed away too. We’re quite good at providing incredible care for those we help in and around our hospices and neurological centres, so this community will enable us to help more people across the country.

Excitingly, our dev work is finished, and we’re agonisingly close to going live. Our next job is to write our own community guidelines, and obviously I’ll be heeding all my own advice… But what have I missed? I’d love to hear about your experiences and any tips you’ve got for helping your own community run as smoothly as possible.

What every CEO should know about marketing

25 Mar
Matt Hyde

Matt Hyde, CEO of the Scout Association

If you’re a CEO, how do you decide what role marketing should play in your organisation? How much influence should it have? It’s the subject of some controversy. Earlier this month, Econsultancy reported that whilst 77% of senior marketers agreed that ‘marketing is a critical function within our business’, just 62% of finance directors shared that opinion. Only 43% of finance directors believe that ‘the head of marketing has significant strategic influence on the business’, compared to 62% of marketers.

As a marketer, I’m concerned about this. The research raises particular issues for charity marketing. In an age of increasing scrutiny from the media and politicians, further impending cuts to local authority funding, and growing expectations from stakeholders about delivering services seamlessly through digital channels I would argue that the nonprofit world needs to communicate even more effectively.

Recently the Chartered Institute of Marketing charity interest group brought together Matt Hyde, CEO of the Scout Association, Carolan Davidge, Director of Marketing and Engagement at the British Heart Foundation and Professor Ian Bruce, founder and President of the Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School, to debate what good marketing leadership looks like. The panel was chaired by Alistair Eglinton of Brand Core, a brand champion and transformation specialist. They shared a number of useful insights to help CEOs shape their marketing strategies.

Define your personal brand as a leader. Davidge felt that honesty was the most important quality in leaders, believing that people value the softer side of leadership such as emotional intelligence. Davidge said that a key question for every CEO was, ‘How well do you manage your people, how do you inspire them?’ Hyde, (a previous winner of a top charity #socialceos award) felt that CEOs should prioritise authenticity alongside their organisation’s mission and vision: ‘You need to be able to demonstrate hope and optimism through challenging times, because you are relentlessly focused on improving people’s lives.’ He thought that ‘resilience’ and the ability to take people with you in very challenging periods was essential. Being able to relate to people and understand their needs is sometimes an underrated quality in leaders. Bruce told the audience that, ‘if leaders haven’t got empathy they aren’t going to get anywhere.’

Use marketing tools to manage your stakeholders. The panel agreed that CEOs should put a marketing approach, stakeholder mapping and an understanding of how their internal and external audiences use communications channels at the heart of their work. Davidge said that having a consistent approach with stakeholders is as important as understanding who different segments of your audience are, for example your volunteers may also be represented amongst donors who give via direct debit every month. Hyde explained that digital had also changed how supporters communicate with CEOs- a young person might tweet him directly with a question, rather than waiting for information to be communicated in a hierarchical way. He thought that you need to emphasise different parts of your personal brand when communicating with different audiences. The way he would communicate the benefits of scouting to young people would be different to how he would do so with politicians, for example.

Understand the importance of your organisation’s brand and its values. A brand is obviously so much more than the logo- it’s more fundamental than that. Davidge told the audience that, ‘Brand values set the behaviours and values of people who work at the charity. Every brand has to have a story and narrative that it’s built on.’ Authenticity is as important for leaders as for the brands they lead- Hyde described brand as a ‘truth well told.’ However, with the charity sector still under scrutiny, he believed that ‘in an age of transparency the bar has been raised’ and leadership teams need to stress test how they have lived their values or their charities reputations’ could be at risk.

Use celebrities wisely. Barnardo’s recently defended their decision to pay Made in Chelsea star Binky Felstead £3,000 to endorse a retail campaign (she later decided to waive her fee). Davidge believed that Barnardo’s should not be criticised for this, as supporters need to understand that charities have to invest in marketing. Being transparent with donors is a good approach but it should also involve educating supporters why marketing spend is a worthwhile investment. Hyde explained that the Scout Association do not pay any of their celebrity ambassadors and cited the value of their relationship with Chief Scout Bear Grylls, who had helped position their brand as ‘cooler and edgier,’ embodied his charity’s values and had a broad appeal across all classes. He felt that CEOs should approach celebrity relationships as a partnership and always ensured that there was a clear line between the Scout Association’s services and the celebrity’s products.

Finally, no CEO should forget the value of strong key messages when leading their organisation. Hyde admired the simplicity and clarity of Ciarán Devane’s approach, who grew Macmillan’s turnover significantly whilst he was their CEO. When asked the secret of his success, Devane told Hyde that, ‘I had a really simple message and I just kept saying it.’ Understanding what your audience needs, how you can communicate with them and how to take people with you are the most important lessons every CEO should take from marketing.

Exclusive: watch the BHF’s new #DECHOX campaign video

13 Feb

Ahead of the press launch next week, I’m delighted to share the new British Heart Foundation video for their #DECHOX campaign. It’s a mass participation fundraising event which involves giving up chocolate in March. ‘Dechoxers’ are encouraged to ask friends and family to sponsor them and also to donate the money they would have spent on chocolate.

Close to 4,000 people have already signed up for #DECHOX. It is the BHF’s first abstinence-based fundraising challenge and works along the same lines as Cancer Research UK’s and Macmillan’s mass events asking people to give up drinking for a month. Could #DECHOX be the next big campaign of its type? Such events can be hugely successful: Cancer Research UK have raised £4 million from Dryathlon this January with 54,000 people taking part.

Enjoy the video, and find out more about the challenge on the BHF’s site.

How nonprofits can engage with community journalists

2 Feb

This is a guest blog from Professor Richard Sambrook, Director of the Centre for Journalism (the top ranking centre for postgraduate vocational training in the UK) at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies and former Director of Global News at the BBC, and Hannah Scarbrough,  Communications and Project Officer at Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism.

community journalism

How do people find local news and information for their community? Unsurprisingly, audiences are increasingly turning to the internet to find out what’s going on in their area, with Ofcom reporting that 48% of those who say they use local media say they use the internet for local news information now more than they did two years ago.

Benefitting from this trend is the rapidly growing community or hyperlocal journalism sector, which is defined by Nesta as online sites or social media channels serving a small, geographically defined community (such as a town, village or postcode).  However, although the communities these hyperlocal sites serve may be small, their impact is not.

A recent Carnegie UK Trust report found that “it is clear that the hyperlocal news sector has a considerable contribution to make to…accountability and information provision at a local level”, while Nesta has itself invested millions of pounds in hyperlocal news innovation. Meanwhile, hyperlocal websites such as Wrexham.com can attract up to 100,000 unique visitors a month, and Brixton Blog’s Twitter account boasts over 20,000 followers (vastly outstripping traditional nearby local news outlets such as the Streatham Guardian).

Community or hyperlocal news services are now an important part of the local media landscape, and an invaluable medium for getting your messages out to local, engaged audiences. Here we look at how charities and nonprofits can engage with hyperlocal media, with some tips and insights from community journalists themselves.

Do your research 

The first step is to do an audit of the services available in your area, which will help you find suitable sites to reach your target audience. Hyperlocal media is hugely varied in its platforms and aims, from a Welsh language guide to what’s on in Wales’ capital, to investigative reporting in Bristol. As with any communication, it’s important to select the right platform for the right audience – it may be that your campaign is better suited to a community newsletter than a hyperlocal Facebook page.

Get personal
 

Once you have found your community news services of interest, get to know the people behind them. Recent research conducted here at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies found that most (over 57%) of community journalists work part-time on their sites, often squeezed in around demanding day jobs. So find out what they want, and how they want it. They may just want to be included on your generic press release distribution list, or they may want a heads-up phonecall a week in advance of a story. Community journalists all work differently, and they are all short on time and resources. Your story has more chance of success if you forge a personal relationship and give them the information they need, in the way that makes it easiest for them to use and promote.

Be creative

Partnerships between nonprofits and community media can be much more interesting than a shared Facebook post now and again. Get creative and find out whether you can co-host an event or find a community-led way of telling your story. Geraldine Nichols of Roath Cardiff explains: “We offered local cancer charity Tenovus some free advertising banners in early 2014, and they chose to use them to advertise their Goodnight Walk. They designed and provided the artwork to fit the space, and also asked a client to write a blog post to tie in with the promotion.” Tenovus received 40 new users to their website as a result of the campaign. Tenovus Digital and PR Officer, Bethan Rees, says: “The exposure on the free advertising banner on Roath Cardiff’s site helped us to get the word out to those who might not have previously known about our Goodnight Walk.”

Pool your resources 

As mentioned, community journalists are low on time and resources. If you can provide more than just a story, you may yield even better results. For example, the South Wales news co-operative Port Talbot Magnet was provided office space by local community regeneration organisation NSA Afan, and have since forged a successful advertising relationship in return. You could offer one of your communications team as a ‘guest columnist’ to provide content, or a meeting room once a month. Pooling your resources could ensure the ongoing sustainability of your hyperlocal site – and provide positive results for your nonprofit.

Keep learning  

Community journalism is a rapidly evolving field and it’s worth regularly updating your knowledge of it. Some useful organisations to follow include Talk About Local, Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism, Nesta and Carnegie Trust UK. Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism have also produced a five-week MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in Community Journalism: Digital and Social Media, commencing 16 March 2015, which includes case studies from community journalists in the field as well as teaching transferable skills in social media promotion and digital publishing.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 233 other followers