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.

Six reasons why charities should harness hyperlocal communications

21 Jan

I wrote this blog for The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network last year. With the election campaign  underway, I predict that hyperlocal media will become even more important. Here are my top tips on how charities can make the most of these channels.

RNLI picWhat’s the first port of call when you’re trying to get publicity for your charity? National newspapers? The regional press? A blanket post reaching out to all your Twitter followers? What about when you’re trying to reach local audiences and service users?

It can be easy for your message to get drowned out using mainstream channels but increasingly, charities are tapping into the power of hyperlocal social media, with fantastic results. Charities can either create a branded social media account for a specific community or get coverage on a hyperlocal site, many of which have strong social media presences.

Hyperlocal sites are a valuable tool for charities – they are often the first place people turn when they need help in their communities. Examples include The Kentish Towner, Sheffield Forum, (one of the largest hyperlocal sites with 260,000 unique visitors monthly), or Birmingham Updates, which has 24,000 Twitter followers.

Nesta recently invested £2.4m in hyperlocal media. Its report into the demand for hyperlocal revealed that 66% of adults in the UK are interested in news and information about their neighbourhood. This trend is driven by the rise in smartphones with GPS enabled technology, as well as the public’s growing expectation that communications are personalised.

I spoke to some of the charities leading the way in hyperlocal to see why it works for them:

  1. Immediate access to communities

Many hyperlocal sites have high levels of engagement which is a gift for charities. Nicola Strong, regional communications officer at Macmillan, says: “They allow you direct and immediate access to communities and enable you to be far more targeted than sometimes a traditional press release does. In the future, I see our local channels maximising their online reach by engaging heavily with hyperlocal social media, and also by empowering committees and fundraising groups to do the same.”

  1. Brings big local stories into the public eye

In March this year a local RNLI volunteer boatman took a photo of a lifeboat emerging from the mist at Tower Bridge and it was retweeted 25,000 times. Meanwhile, footage of the rescue of a young boy in Bude was viewed 353,000 times and garnered press coverage from Sky and ITV.

  1. Gives local volunteers and staff their own voice and a trusted presence

At the RNLI, each of the 235 operational lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland have their own Facebook and Twitter accounts, run by volunteers and crew. This helps them engage with current and new supporters at grassroots level. The RNLI provides training and toolkits to its volunteers, helping them build online communities in their local areas.

Emily Pykett, RNLI’s social media manager, says: “It succeeds because we take a hands-off approach, enabling our lifeboat crews to have very natural and authentic dialogues with the communities that are closest to them.”

  1. Gets your news out more quickly

Nicola Strong of Macmillan works regularly with Andover UK (which has 3,000 Twitter followers) and Andover and Villages which has nearly 6,000 likes on Facebook. She explains: “When doing some fundraising, I sent press releases to both of these sites who hosted the stories on their websites and posted the links on social media the same day, whereas the press release equivalent can take a week to feature in the paper.”

  1. Brings local service users directly to you

Welsh cancer charity Tenovus has worked with community blogs such as Roath Cardiff and Awesome Cardiff to promote local fundraising events, and to raise awareness of new services. These include the ManVan, a mobile cancer support unit for men affected by prostate or testicular cancer.

Liz Rawlins, a communications consultant who was previously part of the Tenovus team, says: “To encourage men to use the ManVan, we knew that people needed to hear about the service from a trusted source of information in their communities.”

Tenovus targeted influential hyperlocal sites in the areas where their community fundraisers are based, building a network of influencers and gaining local coverage and saw an increase in visitors to the ManVan in the given areas.

  1. Helps develop extra connections and resources

Macmillan’s Cornwall fundraising manager Emma Wright says through using hyperlocal social media and sites she has “gained meetings with local corporates which have developed into partnerships, had gifts in kind, such as donated rooms, accessed free or very cheap printing, and gained things like auction and raffle prizes very quickly.”


New year’s resolutions for effective email communications

8 Jan

This is a guest blog from Dr Monica Seeley, founder of Mesmo Consultancy and an international expert on best email practice.  Monica has written several books and many articles on email use. Her latest book is ‘Brilliant Email’.

net etiquette - internet concept

For at least the last four weeks Sony have constantly featured in the press as a result of their systems being hacked.  It used to be said that there was no such thing as bad PR but this might not be true for Sony. Indeed given the viral nature of electronic communications, perhaps we all need to be more judicious about what we commit to email (and on social media) as we move into 2015.

Setting aside the political aspects of the hacking incident, it is not just the scale of the attack (possibly costing Sony up to $200M) and the stealing of corporate confidential data which should be ringing alarm bells.

It is all the in-fighting and bickering which the leaked emails disclosed which should be raising the fire alarm in every CEO’s ears (regardless of the business’s size and sector). What lessons are there for the new year in terms of how we use email going forward?

Why is that email seduces us into committing vituperative words to the archives?  At the flick of a key we can criticise our colleagues, and friends (even partners).  In the past we would never put such words on pen and paper and if we did they would most probably be shredded before they were ever sent. Perhaps one reason is the 24 x 7 x 365 world in which we live and the feeling that we must either respond and say what’s on our mind regardless of what might happen to these words. Equally email does not have the tactile sense of permanency of paper.  Although that might change now with such a high profile hacking incident.

In today’s digital business world there is neither an organisation nor person who is completely safe from the cyber criminal, no mater how sophisticated the technology you use.  Indeed, the weakest link in the chain is always you and I the users of the systems.  We are never deliberately careless (unless we have a grudge against the organisation), but we do create openings for the cyber criminal without thinking.

What can we learn from this very high profile hacking incident and how can smaller less well resourced organisations at least lower the risks of the type of PR disaster associated with cyber crime?

From the email perspective here are my key learning points and which form the basis of my new year’s resolutions to help improve how we use email to communicate and avoid another ‘Sony-Gate’ type PR disaster.

  1. Avoid using email for any form of negative feedback (e.g. criticism of a person or organisation). Always talk first to elicit what is really happening and causing the problem.
  2. Before hitting send ask yourself what if hackers found this email?
  3. Build in a cooling off period before sending emails which contain controversial content. I call this the ‘quiet email’ approach.
  4. Avoid sending highly confidential information by email. If you must then either send the information as an attachment or encrypt the emails. Also include a line that this email is for the recipient’s eyes only and not for circulation.
  5. Train members of your organisation in business email etiquette best practice to reduce leaking sensitive and potentially damaging information.

You may also want to review your use of Out of Office messages, taking care to disclose the minimum of information.  I know of at least two organisations (one charity and one private sector) where cyber criminals have used the information to enter and obtain information illegally.

What new year’s resolutions have you set to improve how you communicate in your organisation?  Please send responses to info@mesmo.co.uk.  There is a free copy of ‘Brilliant Email’ for the best one.

I am very happy to talk further by phone and share some of the ways my company has helped other charities improve their productivity through email best practice.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 245 other followers