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Announcing the winners of the 2015 #SocialCEOs awards

12 Nov

I’m absolutely thrilled to announce the winners of the 2015 #SocialCEOs awards.

Here’s my blog about the awards from The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network this morning.

We’ve also put together a handy infographic of the 2015 winners, including our 3 new awards for best trustee, best senior leader and best rising star. In partnership with JustGiving, we’ve created a free briefing to help charity leaders maximise social media. We’ve covered all the issues that CEOS have been telling us they need to know about, including fundraising, stakeholder management and culture change.   Get your copy here.

As you may know, Matt Collins of Platypus Digital and I co-founded the awards back in 2013. Our goal then was the same as it is now: to celebrate charity leaders who are using social media to help achieve their charities’ goals.  Time and again, we have seen how charity CEOs who lead from the front on social not only inspire supporters but encourage their staff to embrace digital.

Thank you to JustGiving for hosting our awards event last night. The 2015 awards are in association with JustGiving, the world’s largest social giving platform, helping charities grow their online fundraising, increase donations and raise brand awareness. Discover how JustGiving can help your charity grow online.

We’re grateful to TPP Recruitment for sponsoring our 3 new awards and for the support of Grant Thornton.

The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network is our media partner for the awards. It’s a space dedicated to those working in or with the voluntary sector. Join for free to benefit from exclusive insight and thought leadership, news and connections that will enhance your career. Register now.

Finally, whilst there are 12 women amongst the top 30 we are keen to encourage further diversity and will be taking steps to encourage this actively for next year’s awards.

Let me know what you think of this year’s top charity #socialceos.

infographic final

Feel the ‘digital’ fear and do it anyway

9 Nov


“I’m scared.”

It’s one of the things that I hear most often from trustees, CEOs and other staff who are new to digital. Sometimes they don’t even spell it out but express it in other ways. Opting for a broadcast style digital approach or burying their heads in the sand about innovations are classic signs. Fear and lack of confidence are behind the Digital Maturity Index’s finding that 70% of charities don’t see digital as important, and two thirds don’t see the point of social media.

I know you are often frustrated by colleagues who are nervous about digital. I bet you embrace the new wholeheartedly and are not scared to ‘fail fast.’ Yet if we truly want to influence senior people the first step is to understand their point of view, then help them move forward. I want to share some insights which will help your organisation get more confident with digital so that it can seize the many opportunities it offers.

Here are 5 tips that will help banish your colleagues’ fear of digital.

  1. Refocus your team on goals.

    Fear can be paralysing. I have unlocked it with clients by helping them understand the benefits of going ‘digital first.’ Anna Markovits, a leadership coach who specialises in people development says, ‘You might be feeling the digital fear, but spend some time exploring what your end result looks, feels and sounds like. Then identify some tangible steps you can take to help you to achieve your goal.’ She also thinks that it can be helpful for organisations to explore their concerns openly. ‘We’re often fearful because we’re not sure what to expect. When I encourage my clients to think of the worst case scenario, they usually find that it is not as daunting as they originally thought, and it’s also usually unlikely to happen. This helps them to feel that it’s more manageable and they are motivated to overcome their fears.’

  2. Culture and attitude are critical.

    Digital isn’t just about processes; it means helping colleagues to trust their instincts as communicators. Amanda Neylon, head of digital at Macmillan encourages her team to use the phrase, ‘Be Brave.’ She told me that, ‘Having trained so many of our staff in the processes of using social, we realised that culture is just as important. The essence of great social isn’t really about things like analysing the best time to post or the right calls to action (though they help!), it’s about the engaging conversation and the inspiring content – and that’s hard to teach in a training course. So now we say, “Hey, be brave, be yourself, just don’t be stupid” and that culture has resulted in so much more innovative content and helpful exchanges with our customers.’

  3. Use your network.

    If your CEO and board are nervous about digital, why not encourage them to talk to another organisation who have been where they are now? Anna Markovits says that charities should not be scared to ask for help: ‘Who in your network has skills you can utilise? Most people are willing to help or share advice if they are asked.’

  4. Make change manageable.

    Digital transformation doesn’t have to be a big bang; even small steps in the right direction will make a difference. Claire Hazle, ‎head of digital at Marie Curie thinks that, ‘Digital transformation shouldn’t be measured on how much money you spend. Some of the biggest wins can be found in addressing some of the simplest issues. Arguably the most valuable transformation is in changing a mindset, which is free of charge.’ Her top tips for digital teams include earning people’s trust and working hard to keep it, de-mystifying digital technologies as our natural tendency is to fear what we don’t understand, and to anchor your digital activity in broader organisational goals.

  5. Encourage people to get started.

    Euan Semple, a digital consultant, likes to challenge boards’ assumptions about digital by showing how it can be low cost and easy to get going. He encourages leaders to focus on people and conversations. Semple says ,The important thing is having the intention to build relationships and the courage to reach out. If you get those two right the response will amaze you.’

Above all, I think that one of the best ways to help our organisations grow in confidence with digital is by showing that we are not scared to take risks. We must keep challenging our charities to do bigger and better things online. If we want them to lose the fear, we must show that we are brave. Who’s with me?

A version of this blog first appeared on JustGiving. 

5 secret ingredients of digital strategies

6 Oct

national trust pic

This post originally appeared on the JustGiving blog.

A big part of my day job is developing digital strategies and having spent the last few months doing just that for several well known nonprofits, I’m aware how much of an exciting and challenging process it is for organisations to go through. A good digital strategy is the first step towards online success and I’ve noticed that some charities aren’t always aware of the ‘make or break’ factors. Understanding these will help you prepare the ground and manage your organisation’s expectations.

Here are 5 secret ingredients of successful digital strategies.

1. Buy-in is essential

According to Deloitte , digital strategy and corporate strategy are merging into one as digital becomes the bedrock of new ways of living, working and doing business. They predict that if your executive team doesn’t yet have a Chief Digital Officer (the executive in charge of digital) it soon will, and their work will be a catalyst for the innovation and transformation agenda of the CEO. If your charity doesn’t have a Director of Digital yet your CEO will have to fill that role by default. What can we learn from this? Don’t attempt to start your digital strategy without the buy-in of your board, CEO and executive team. If they are new to digital I’d recommend briefing them on the key opportunities and risks.

Completing your strategy will inevitably raise questions about recruitment and the current digital team. If you recruit for a Director of Digital (or equivalent), you’ll need to find someone with both exceptional technical and ‘soft’ skills; McKinsey estimate that they’ll spend 80% of their time building relationships.

2. Establish your digital brand identity

Your digital strategy is the equivalent of shining a great big searchlight on your brand. If you don’t know what your charity stands for, what its proposition is and how it makes a difference then you will find it difficult to stand out online. Branding has come up as an issue in pretty much every strategy project I have worked on. This doesn’t mean that you need to rebrand before you start your digital strategy. It just means that you might need to take another look at your brand identity and see if it is fit for purpose in the digital age. The National Trust are a brilliant example of a charity who have used digital as an impetus to modernise and connect with new audiences.

3. Adapt your tone of voice for social

Social channels such as Facebook and Twitter are informal spaces and your charity’s tone of voice needs to adapt to this. In contrast, I know a charity who had a very emotive, personal tone of voice which they struggled to adapt for the professional content required on LinkedIn. Once you’ve decided which digital channels your charity will use as part of the strategy, dust off your tone of voice guidelines and think about how you can adapt them. Done well, a great tone of voice whether on or offline can become a valuable component of your brand. Movember have a witty and irreverent tone of voice which is memorable and distinctive.

4. Establish your digital culture

The saying ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ is very true of digital. I’ve blogged for JustGiving before about how you can avoid your strategy being stifled by your charity’s culture. Culture is sometimes an afterthought but if your charity isn’t, for example, collaborative it will struggle to adapt to your audience’s expectations of digital. As with your brand, consider what your current culture is like and whether you need to change. What does the right culture for digital look like? Econsultancy’s blog on 10 characteristics of digitally friendly companies is a good place to start. Bear in mind though that you will have to take each of these values and make them your own.

5. Think about internal communications

So you’ve got yourselves a shiny new digital strategy. Excellent work. The next challenge is how you communicate it. I recommend sitting down with whoever looks after your internal communications and thrashing out how it will be shared with staff and volunteers. You may have to take a gentle approach. One organisation I know chose to talk about ‘new ways of doing business’ instead of leading with the launch of the digital strategy. There are lots of resources which will help you on the All Things IC site .

When it comes to getting internal buy-in though always think people and strategy first, tools second. Before you invest in a new intranet, start by having coffee with your most influential internal stakeholders and ask them for their ideas on how to build support for your strategy.

If you follow these tips then it’ll give your digital strategy a much greater chance of success.






Who will win the 2015 Charity #SocialCEOs Awards?

8 Sep


I’m so excited to launch this year’s awards, which you may have seen on The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network  this morning. In my piece I’ve argued that the recent wave of negative stories about the sector mean that our leaders need to be more visible on social media than ever before. Matt Collins and I set up the awards to help charities engage with digital and this seems even more timely this year.

Who can enter?

This is the third year that we’ve run the awards, and we hope this year is going to be even bigger and better than before. We’ve had some amazing winners over the last two years, including Peter Wanless from the NSPCC, Ruth Hunt from Stonewall and Javed Khan from Barnardo’s. The awards are open to leaders from registered charities of any cause or size, based anywhere in the world.

Alongside the top 30 CEOS, we are launching 3 new awards to recognise individuals’ social media presences in the following 3 categories:

  • Best trustee
  • Best senior leader (director or equivalent i.e. head of)
  • Best rising star (senior manager/manager level)

How do I make a nomination?

Nominations can be made here. It is free to enter. Please send us your nominations by 5pm on 25th September.

Who’s supporting this years’ awards?

We’re delighted that the 2015 awards are in association with JustGiving, the world’s largest social giving platform, helping charities grow their online fundraising, increase donations and raise brand awareness. Discover how JustGiving can help your charity grow online.

We’re grateful to TPP for sponsoring our 3 new awards and for the support of Grant Thornton.

The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network is our media partner for the awards. It’s a space dedicated to those working in or with the voluntary sector. Join for free to benefit from exclusive insight and thought leadership, news and connections that will enhance your career. Register now.

Who’s on the judging panel?

Simon Blake, CEO of the NUS has returned for the third year as Chair of judges. He joins our panel, who are:

  • Julie Bentley, CEO of Girlguiding UK
  • Lucy Caldicott, Interim CEO of Diversity Role Models
  • Meg Garlinghouse, Head of LinkedIn4Good
  • Mandy Johnson, UK Director of Partnerships at
  • Joel Lunenfeld, VP, Global Brand Strategy, Twitter
  • Polly Neate, CEO of Women’s Aid

What happens next?

This year’s awards will take place at JustGiving on the evening of Thursday 12 November, and the results will be announced officially in the press the next morning.

How do I get my CEO/ board/ executive team to use social media?

Once again we’ll be sharing content to help you do just that. This will be published when we announce the winners on 13 November.

We look forward to seeing your nominations. Don’t forget that the deadline is 5pm on Friday 25th September, so get nominating!

How to create a mobile app for a charity

27 Aug

This is a guest blog from Louise Horner, Digital Communications Manager at Target Ovarian Cancer.

target ovarian cancer imageThis July, Target Ovarian Cancer launched their first ever mobile app – The Symptoms Diary – to help women who are worried about ovarian cancer record their symptoms and talk to their GP. Improving early diagnosis is a core aim for the charity, as it has a proven effect on survival. Three quarters of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed once cancer has already spread, and if diagnosed at the earliest stage, up to 90 per cent of women would survive five years or more – significantly more than the current 43 per cent.

Target Ovarian Cancer has long urged concerned women to keep a symptoms diary, and we recognised a need for a digital solution that would be straightforward, easy to use, and would encourage women to record their symptoms accurately and regularly.

Thankfully the development process was pretty straightforward. Here are some tips we can impart on how best to make the process work:

Use focus groups/expert panels to ensure the need is there and the solution is the right one

We are fortunate to have an expert GP Advisory Board to advise us on any of our GP related content, so we had clear guidance on what the app needed to achieve from the outset. We also involved women with ovarian cancer heavily throughout the entire process. This refined the format and the usability of the app a lot before we even started working with our agency. A simple but important step.

Have a clear idea of what you want from an app

Dr Sharon Tate, our Head of Primary Care Development, lead on the app development. Her experience with GPs, and women with ovarian cancer, how they communicate with each other and the gap in communication meant that she keenly understood exactly what the app needed to do. She was therefore able to write a pitch proposal to agencies that pinpointed what was needed from the app – without being too prescriptive about the functionality, which was left to the digital experts.

Get an agency who really get you

We worked with BrandWave, an agency who previously worked on our award-shortlisted website (launched in 2014). This isn’t a prerequisite, obviously, as you won’t always have a previously used agency to contact, but even after a pitch process, it was BrandWave who truly understood us as a charity, as a brand and in terms of what we wanted the app to achieve.

Have a preliminary ‘what if?’ meeting

We came up with many, many questions that we needed to answer during the project at a preliminary meeting where we threw ideas at each other: ‘What if someone records their symptoms for 3 weeks then stops?’ ‘What if they record [n] instances of one symptom but none of the others?’. These questions needed to be posed earlier enough into the project that they didn’t cause delays or additional cost later on.

Sort out your disclaimers/legal advice

This is maybe not relevant for some apps, but given that ours is a medical app, it’s very important to consider early on the disclaimers or legal notices that the app needs to make it viable. The information provided in our app matches our existing information in other formats, which is peer reviewed and reflects national NICE guidelines available for diagnosing ovarian cancer, but since that format of it is different, and because its interactive functionality provides an entirely different user relationship the role it plays needed to be entirely clear. This can take a while!

Apple and Android apps work quite differently and so do their app stores

Thankfully, we had this knowledge through our agency, but as it was our first app development, these were learnings for us. We developed our Apple app first, then Android, as it’s much easier to get an app approved on the Google Play Store than on the Apple App Store (which takes over a week). Once the Apple version was developed we worked on the Android version. This required quite a few tweaks to get it to look how we wanted – and interestingly there are some elements of styling that simply do not carry over from one to the other.

Provide an offline version if possible

We’ve had a fantastic response to our app, with more downloads than we were expecting. But far more than this, the publicising of the app has actually publicised the print version of the Symptoms Diary far more. We’re really pleased we provided both, as it means we’re not excluding those people who’d rather carry a handy bit of paper around with them instead.

Find out more:

The app is free to download and is available for iPhone and android. The Symptoms Diary app is also available in a printed version. The symptoms of ovarian cancer are feeling bloated, abdominal pain, feeling full and needing to wee urgently. If any readers have been experiencing these symptoms 12 times or more in the last month, then they should go straight to their GP.

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


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