The top 30 charity CEOs on social media

22 Nov

I’m really excited to share the results of the first ever top 30 charity CEOs on social media, which was launched last night at a special event kindly hosted by young people’s charity Brook. (Do check out the Storify of the event). Matt Collins and I have been working away on this initiative since the summer, which we created as the voluntary sector equivalent of LinkedIn’s top 30 CEOs on social media.  It is great to see charity CEOs from such a range of organisations- both large and small- and so many different causes in the top 30. And huge thanks to our event sponsor The Access Group.

You might have seen my blog about the top 30 on The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network this morning.

We’ve also produced an infographic of the top 30 (see below) and have published a handy guide (download it here) to help charity leaders use social media more effectively, with contributions from digital thought leaders including Ben Matthews, Simon Blake, Alex Swallow and Steve Bridger, plus some ideas from Matt and I. If your CEO or leadership team want to get the most out of social media our guide is a great place to start.

I’d love to know what you think of the top 30 charity CEOs on social media.


On digital storytelling

6 Nov

I’m really excited about attending Media Trust’s digital storytelling conference tomorrow.

Everyone in the sector seems to be talking about digital storytelling at the moment, i.e. how people use digital tools to tell their ‘story.’ Digital stories combine photographs, video, animation, sound, music, text and hyperlinks in a creative way. The best digital stories are emotionally engaging and compelling.

For all the emphasis on digital, it’s reminded me how fundamental stories are to our lives. When I read to my toddler and baby at bedtime they sit quietly on my lap and stare up at me; I can see how books fire their imagination. When I was at university studying English Literature I learned how Greek myths like The Odyssey and Iliad weren’t written down, but remembered and retold down the generations.

Digital tools are amazing and have the potential to help charities reach millions of supporters and donors around the world. But before you start on your digital storytelling campaign, remember that the focus should always be on telling a strong and effective story. Child’s i are brilliant at doing this in their videos, such as Katie’s story.

So I hope to see you at the conference tomorrow, which will cover:

  • What makes a good digital story
  • Provide skills based workshops on how to use digital tools
  • Reveal how organisations can achieve the most impact through digital storytelling
  • Provide an opportunity for communications and charity professionals to debate the digital freedom of information

Let me know if you’re going by tweeting me @zoeamar

Is Fund the Frontline the future of fundraising?

13 Oct


You may have seen that Fund the Frontline, a fundraising initiative focused on local ownership and sustainability, launched this week. It is led by the STARS Foundation with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Pears Foundation and Charities Aid Foundation.

Currently  in its pilot year, the campaign is asking for public donations through GlobalGiving UK’s online platform (you can donate here.) Donations will be matched by the campaign and sent to six local NGOs  working with children and communities across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific. The NGOs have previously won the Stars Impact Award.

A Guardian microsite accompanies the campaign. It will offer content from campaign partners and organisations working in the same space such as CIVICUS, Peace Direct and OECD.

I’m really excited about this initiative as it puts power back in the hands of people on the ground. Tightening aid budgets and growing demands for transparency from donors have made rebuilding troubled communities in developing countries a challenge. In my view, Fund the Frontline is just as empowering for donors as it is for those at the sharp end. This is a funding campaign which actively encourage short term responsiveness and long term sustainability.

What do you think of Fund the Frontline?

PS Speaking of leadership, we’ve had lots of amazing entries for the top 30 charity CEOs on social media. Nominate your CEO here

PPS I hope to see some of you on Tuesday evening (15th Oct) for the next CIM charity event on successful charity and corporate marketing partnerships with UNICEF and Barclays. Let me know if you’re coming by tweeting me @zoeamar

How social is your charity’s CEO?

26 Sep

I am super excited to launch an initiative today which will really help charity CEOs engage with social media. Read my blog about it on The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network.

Digital expert Matt Collins (aka @charitychap) and I were inspired by LinkedIn’s top 30 social CEOs to create our very own independent voluntary sector equivalent . I spotted that there weren’t any charity CEOs amongst the top 30, which surprised me as an increasing number of charity leaders are keen to develop strong social media presences. Matt and I decided that there was an exciting opportunity here to celebrate the best social charity CEOs and hopefully encourage more charity leaders to get involved in social media.

A key trend I am seeing as a digital communications consultant is that a strong personal social media presence is essential for charity leaders. Done right, it is an empowering tool which can help charity leaders achieve more for their organisations and themselves. Alex Swallow has written a great blog about this.

I’m thrilled that we have a fantastic panel of judges to help us choose the top 30, who are all experts in the use of voluntary sector social media. They are:

  • Simon Blake- CEO of the Brook (@simonablake)
  • Lucy Caldicott- Director of Fundraising at Clic Sargent (@lucycaldicott)
  • Danielle Atkinson- Head of Digital and Individual Giving at Merlin (@roxymartinique)
  • Kirsty Stephenson, Digital Strategist at Child’s i Foundation (@kirsty)

We would love to hear who you think are the best charity CEOs on social media. You can nominate them here . Please submit entries by 5pm on Friday 25th October.

The results, along with a guide to help charity leaders use social media more effectively, will be launched at a special event for charity CEOs on the evening of 21 November at Brook.

For more details please drop me a line on In the meantime, get nominating!

Ryanair’s 5 social media mistakes

23 Sep

Low budget airline Ryanair joined Twitter last week and has already caused quite a storm on social media.

This isn’t surprising. Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO, is well known for his provocative soundbites. On passengers who forget to print their boarding pass: “We think [they] should pay 60 euros for being so stupid.” He summed up his approach to customer service as follows: “People say the customer is always right, but you know what – they’re not. Sometimes they are wrong and they need to be told so.”

At the time of writing Ryanair had only tweeted ten times- and hadn’t pulled any punches. When UK consumer magazine Which? revealed that Ryanair had been voted worst brand for customer service, they responded with:

ryanair tweet

Some have said that Ryanair is simply being true to its brand values. I agree with that, but I also think that they are making 5 classic social media mistakes. They are:

1. Not understanding that social media is ‘social.’ Yep, the clue is in the name. Joining Twitter and being rude to everyone (sample tweet: “Ryanair carries over 80m passengers a year so we can’t write back on Twitter”) is just, well, rude. It’s like turning up to a fantastic party and then sneering at everyone in the room.  Why bother? Next time, stay at home and watch reruns of Downton Abbey.

2. Not responding to replies/ DMs. See above. Again, not surprising as they aren’t following anyone.

3. Sharing nothing of real value. Ryanair have tweeted about new routes, their new advert and the availability of more tickets. Fine, but all they’re doing is broadcasting messages, rather than considering what is genuinely useful to their customers. Contrast this with Easyjet’s Twitter feed which includes helpful information such as this:

easyjet tweet

4. Not talking like their customers. Ryanair’s Twitter profile simply says ‘Europe’s ultra-low cost carrier.’ It’s factual jargon which sounds cold, and sits awkwardly with the profile photo of bikini clad girls, a Ryanair plane looming ominously overhead. Contrast this with British Airways’ Twitter profile which includes this: ‘We love reading your tweets & try to answer all of them between 0900-1700 GMT Mon-Fri.’ They sound like an airline who actually care about their customers, no?

5. Being complacent. I know people who’ve said that Ryanair’s Twitter feed is just a cynical means of reinforcing their brand values. Ryanair have been able to get away with their non-existent approach to customer services so far. But things aren’t going their way anymore. For the first time in ten years Ryanair is due to miss its profit forecast and has now pledged to improve its website and social media presence. Whether they will truly commit to changing things for the better remains to be seen.

What do you think of Ryanair’s tweets?

PS As it’s Social Media Week I’m giving away an hour of free advice about social media to one organisation. Email with your name, job title, organisation and what you need advice on by 5pm on Friday 27 September. Thanks!

Before you start your social media strategy, read this

2 Sep

Lots of people have been asking me recently how they can get started with their social media strategies. In particular, people want a template or off the shelf action plan. There aren’t any quick fixes here and as with any good strategy it takes hard work, but it is worth the investment. I’m going to recommend  a few points well worth considering before you write your social media strategy and plans, which will get them off to a flying start.

  • Consider how social can help your organisational goals. I can’t stress this enough. Take another look at your organisational strategy. I guarantee that social can contribute towards many of its aims. Are you delivering services?  Perhaps social media can be used for some of the outreach. Are you aiming to raise more funds? Social media can obviously help here too, for example by fundraising through Facebook or researching high net worth individuals on LinkedIn. In fact I’d suggest running a session with your CEO and board to show them how social can support different elements of your organisation’s strategy. That will help them understand social’s potential as a tool and get buy-in for what you’re trying to do.
  • Understand that a social media strategy is …just a strategy. There is a tendency for people to think that a social media strategy is something distinct and different from other strategies, because it involves social. Sure, you need to have a good understanding of the platforms, how your audience uses them and how success should be measured. That aside, I don’t think it should look very different from a normal marketing strategy. (So if you want a template you might find the guide I wrote for Charity Comms about marketing strategies useful). Your social strategy must be underpinned by thorough research about what’s going on in the environment your organisation operates in, and has to have some well thought out goals. It needs to support your organisational strategy and marketing strategy.
  • Analyse your audience’s social habits. Which platforms are they using? How are they using them? What’s the best way to engage with them on there?
  • Monitor how other organisations are using social. Whether it’s your competitors, other charities or corporates, keep an eye on what other people are doing well (and not so well) and think about how you can learn from it. Mashable is a great source of social media news. I would also recommend that you start following competitors and organisations who use social effectively on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other platforms.
  • Be realistic about your resources. We all know that social media isn’t free and requires a lot of time to do it properly. As tempting as it might be to jump on every platform, don’t feel that you have to. Be honest about what you can invest in social.
  • Integrate, integrate, integrate. At the core of your marketing and comms strategy you should have some strong, punchy key messages. These should be integrated across your organisation’s use of social media.
  • Think about the role your stakeholders can play. Time was when the marketing and comms department owned their strategies and could control most aspects of them. Social has changed the game here, and  your supporters all have a stake in your brand and your communications strategies, including social. For instance, you might want to consider how you can unlock the potential for your staff to be brand ambassadors through being a social organisation (see this excellent blog by Comms2point0). Equally, if your external stakeholders are big on social they may even want to create their own social media campaigns to help your organisation. For example, the Sherlock fansite Sherlockology (an independent site which isn’t funded or managed by the BBC) recently ran their own social media campaign to launch the promotional trailer for Season 3. The #SherlockR3VEALED campaign reached  over 12 million unique viewers worldwide on Twitter alone. If you have some great supporters who love social, why not talk to them about how they can help with your social media strategy?

Once you’ve put together your social strategy, the next step is to plan how you’re going to implement it. Live Free Range has published an excellent guide to social media campaigns.

A social media strategy must never operate in a vacuum; the clue’s in the name. Ultimately it should help you to have valuable conversations with supporters. Done right, it is a catalyst that will drive your organisation forward.

If you want to ask me any questions about social media strategies, drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

7 secrets of great charity consultancy projects

13 Aug

I’ve been pretty busy since setting up as a marketing and digital communications consultant this summer. I’m lucky enough to have worked on some brilliant projects and you can find out more about how I can help here.

With that in mind, I’d like to share what I think are the essential ingredients for a fantastic consultancy project, one which can help a charity achieve its goals, add value and kick start things with new ideas.

  1. A clear briefing. In an ideal world a charity will provide this to the consultant. However, charities are understandably sometimes too busy to do this and a consultant needs to be able to ask the right questions to understand what’s required and then summarise it in a short proposal document. It should include deadlines, budgets and deliverables. This will help get everyone on the same page from the start which will make for a smooth and successful piece of work.
  2. Agree expectations. Now everyone’s clear about the key points for the project, other details need to be nailed down. Things like who the main points of contact on either side are, if key people work part time, best methods of communication etc. These may seem like small details but it’s useful to find out about them upfront, rather than on the day of a deadline.
  3. Listening. I’m a great believer that both the consultant and the charity should listen to each other and be alive to new approaches. The right consultant can set the tone for this from the first meeting by asking lots of open and thought provoking questions.
  4. Get to know the organisation. Whether it’s familiarising yourself with the organisational strategy and brand or meeting the team, I’d advise all consultants to find out as much as they can about their client. I once worked with an amazing charity who offered me a quick tour of their offices before our kick off meeting. It gave me a sense of the organisation’s culture. I could see how ambitious and motivated they were so I put together some bold and exciting communications advice for them, which they were very happy with.
  5. Get a consultant with good contacts. Speaking as someone who used to hire consultants as part of my previous role as a national charity’s head of marketing, I always did due diligence on their network. A consultant with excellent contacts can increase the impact of the project and open doors. This is particularly important for press work. In my last job I wouldn’t hire communications consultants without strong relationships with journalists.
  6. Make the most of having an external perspective. A consultant is a fresh pair of eyes for a charity, and they may have other valuable insights to offer too. Consultants are lucky enough to get an overview of the charity sector (and perhaps even the public and corporate worlds, depending on their clients and background). I’m always happy to discuss my views on the market that the charity operates in.
  7. Build a relationship for the future. If things have gone well, then you might end up working together again. Even if there aren’t any immediate projects on the horizon, it’s nice to stay in touch.  You may be able to help each other out with ideas, contacts and resources.

That’s my take on what makes a great charity consultancy project. What’s yours? Why not share your ideas below?

PS A huge thank you to everyone who has supported this blog, which now has more than 320 followers . I’m honoured that Amazon PR have included it in their top charity blogs. Thank you for visiting, sharing and commenting. Please do get in touch if you want to pitch an idea for content.


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