Exclusive: The BHF’s #DECHOX is our campaign of the week

29 Jan

Before it hits the press next week, I’m delighted to launch the British Heart Foundation’s new #DECHOX campaign for 2016. Following the success of the campaign last year, The BHF are asking  chocolate fans across the UK to give up their favourite sweet treats for March and fundraise for life saving research.

Last year, more than 19,000 people took part in #DECHOX, raising almost £800,000 in the fight against heart disease. The BHF are aiming to  raise even more this year and you can help them by signing up.

It’s good to see another abstinence based charity campaign still going strong. Last year Ross McCulloch also blogged about the campaign, asking whether the public were still interested in abstinence based fundraising. The success of #DECHOX last year (and Cancer Research UK’s #Dryathlon) would suggest otherwise but it’ll be great to see how such campaigns evolve. #DECHOX  has a smart, funny video and has a great social media campaign behind it so I have high hopes.

Hope you enjoy The BHF’s #DECHOX video. You can sign up for #DECHOX here

PS Here at Zoe Amar Communications we’re hard at work behind the scenes developing our new website and brand.  We’ll be launching them in a few weeks’ time, so watch this space!

7 tips for a healthy online community

25 Jan

This is a guest blog by Michael Howard , Macmillan Cancer Support Online Community Manager. 

macmillan image


A Cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatment are life-changing events. Macmillan’s Online Community (community.macmillan.org.uk) is a place where people affected by cancer can communicate with others who are going through similar experiences. New research released by Macmillan Cancer Support today shows that 1 in 3 people affected by cancer recently felt lonely or isolated, but worryingly 88% said they wouldn’t want to make their feelings ‘someone else’s problem’.  Whether you are a patient, carer or family member – there is a group on the community for you, a safe place where you can get or give support, exchange information, pick up tips and hints from others or just quietly read about others’ experience and know that you’re not alone.

Macmillan’s Online Community is one of the UK’s largest healthcare communities with 72,000 unique visitors per month. I am the Community Manager on the site and I work with Community Officers to make sure that the community runs smoothly and that people are kept safe and get the support that they need. Here are my tips to run and grow a healthy and supported Online Community.

When dealing with sensitive content and vulnerable people, it’s especially important to keep them safe and supported. So tip number 1 is to have a good set of guidelines – everyone who joins the forums accepts the rules of the site and these set the whole tone for the community – it’s so useful to be able to refer to a guideline when you need to moderate a person or behaviour on the community.

  1. The importance of a good team. We currently have a group of 20 online volunteers, the Community Champions who are selected from our most active and supportive members to help us to run the community. They bring compassion, knowledge and honesty to the site every day. They share their own cancer experiences and tirelessly answer so many posts from people who are feeling desperate, scared or isolated. Our Champions are the perfect example of why the Online Community is so important – bringing people together and helping them feel less alone. It makes such a difference to get a supportive answer from someone who understands.
  1. Grow organically. We used to let people start their own groups, but this just led to lots of duplication and the added complexity really didn’t help new people find their way around. It’s best to start with a small number of groups or topics to concentrate activity and only expand when you are sure that there is a need.
  1. Get support, give support. We’re here to make sure that people get support but we never underestimate the drive to give support. Many members of the community who have been helped will in turn seek to help others – this is a great thing to see happening on the community. We asked the membership via a community survey last year and found out that 57% said that the Community made them feel inspired to give something back – and 29% have also fundraised for Macmillan.
  1. Welcome everyone. This is much easier to do when you’re small community just starting out – but just as important to us with over 95,000 members. We’re recruiting more online volunteers from the community to help us welcome new members and to quickly show them the groups relevant to their situation and to get them settled in. We also try to make sure that everyone who asks a question gets an answer, even if it’s just to say a quick hello and offer a reassurance that someone has read the post and others will be along later. We feature unanswered posts in a section on the community homepage.
  1. Start a newsletter. Once a fortnight, we send out a newsletter to everyone who is registered on the community. It’s our roundup of the most interesting discussions, quotes, blogs and pictures from the membership and it lets people know what is going on across the whole community. It’s a way of supercharging peer support by featuring ‘dilemmas of the week’ which encourage a wide range of help, support and advice. The newsletter is also a great way to re-engage casual users by acting as a reminder of all the activity across the site.
  1. Provide expert help. Be where people are. We created an ‘Ask the Expert’ area on the community to enable members of the community to get advice from various Macmillan professionals. We started small by asking one of our experts to give benefits advice – and then once we proved that there was a need, we gradually expanded the programme to include a specialist thyroid cancer nurse and then other experts. An early highlight of 2016 has been the launch of our Ask a Nurse area – nurses from the Macmillan Support Line are on the community answering around 50 questions a week – it’s a great way to provide an extra level of support on the community. And we also get to work with a brilliant team of nurses.

We’ve just re-launched Macmillan’s Online Community – it now works as a single, responsive site on mobile, tablet or desktop – the team and the community members are working hard to spread the word so that we can reach more people, because no one should face cancer alone. From the day of diagnosis, through treatment and beyond, we’re a constant source of support. So when you need someone to turn to, the community is there.

The Online Community, home to more than 95,000 registered members, can be found at community.macmillan.org.uk.

No one should face cancer alone. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk.

Campaign of the week: WaterAid’s Parallel Lives

15 Jan


Great charity videos have been on my mind recently, having been asked to select my favourites of 2015 for The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network. As a mum of two young children, I was very moved by the new WaterAid campaign video, which launched this week.

It’s a dual-narrative film featuring One Born Every Minute midwife Delia Jepson going about her work at Liverpool Women’s Hospital juxtaposed with footage of midwife Juliana Msoffe in Kiomboi hospital in rural Tanzania.  The film is a brilliant insight into how giving birth is such a different experience in each place, highlighting the challenge of delivering babies in a maternity ward which is among the 42% of healthcare facilities in Africa without safe water.

I asked Catherine Feltham at WaterAid about their approach to making the film and she told me:

“WaterAid had already made a connection with two of the midwives from the Liverpool Women’s Hospital who featured on One Born Every Minute, to go and visit Kiomboi hospital in Tanzania to see what the conditions were like for midwives like Juliana there.  So I decided to ask if they would also be involved in our Parallel Lives film idea.  We thought by making both an interactive piece and something featuring midwives from a recognisable UK TV programme that we would be more likely to engage a British audience.

We thought by making this an interactive piece it would have the most impact on the audience.  We could have made a split-screen linear film but these are not new to audiences and might not have grabbed people in the same way.  By allowing the viewer themselves to choose at what points they switch between Juliana’s day in Tanzania and Delia’s day in the UK we are allowing them to have a unique experience with the film.  Different parts of the film will impact people differently so if we’d have cut it ourselves in a linear film we would have taken away the extra engagement the interactivity of parallel lives allows.  It also allows real subtleties to come through as by making it interactive we can show the same activity/type of activity and how it looks in the two different environments.”

The video coincides with WaterAid’s Deliver Life appeal, where every £1 given by the UK public by 10 February will be doubled by the UK Government. Check out the trailer at the top of this post or watch the full film here.

4 brilliant social media campaigns you might not have heard of

22 Dec

walk together


#Movember,  #nomakeupselfie and #icebucketchallenge might be the first campaigns that spring to mind when we talk about social media. Amazing though these campaigns are, there are many that don’t get the same kind of attention. Perhaps they were run by a small charity, or featured a lesser known cause, or were just plain different. I want to celebrate these successes. So what can we learn from these campaigns?

Make it easy for people to participate. Aniridia Network UK are a small charity who support people in the UK with the rare genetic condition of not having iries ( the coloured part of the eye). Around Rare Disease Day they ran an Iris Selfie campaign. Initially the charity asked people to donate via its online donation sites, but once they  signed up to and promoted the JustGiving SMS service the campaign took off as it was easier to get involved. The campaign raised nearly £200, which for a charity whose income is only around £5,000 a year, is good going. Most importantly, it got people talking about the condition, helped the charity start a partnership with a similar US based charity, Aniridia International, and gave them confidence about running future social media campaigns.

Keep it simple. On the anniversary of 7/7, you may have seen the #WalkTogether campaign. It was an initiative that came from a wide group of organisations, Muslim and non-Muslim, coordinated by the small charity and independent  think tank British Future. They wanted to give people of all faiths and backgrounds a message of hope and remembrance as London and Britain reflected on the tenth anniversary of the  7/7 bombings on 7 July 2015. #WalkTogether  asked people to get off the bus, train or tube one stop early on 7 July 2015 and walk to or from work, creating a quiet moment of solidarity and reflection.

The call to action was to share a picture or message with the #WalkTogether hashtag.  A campaign image was designed for use on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This visual cue included the #WalkTogether hashtag  and acted as the focal point for social media activity. A comprehensive social media pack was also developed, including key messages, and distributed to partner organisations to promote the campaign. Over 15,000 tweets were sent with the #WalkTogether hashtag, leading to it trending at No.1 in the UK and No.2 globally. 15,193 tweets and 8,542 Instagram posts were sent using #WalkTogether in 24 hours. The campaign’s huge success is due to a simple, powerful idea  and strong visual imagery. It simultaneously created a moment for quiet reflection as well as bringing people together.

Challenge people’s thinking. Epilepsy Action wanted to create a campaign that highlighted the 600,000 people living with the condition in the UK, and the stigma attached to it. They developed Purple Day, a low cost campaign to question people’s preconceptions about epilepsy, such as that all seizures look the same. They asked volunteers to share their experiences of living with epilepsy and the barriers that some must overcome, through a number of short videos for use via social media and other digital channels.

The campaign launched on the eve of Purple Day (25 March 2015) via social media, with the premiere of Maggie’s video, depicting her fight back against bullies who filmed her having a seizure in public. #Purpleday campaign activities included 6 new campaign videos, volunteers offering peer to peer support on Facebook and promotion of first aid for seizures. It achieved a reach of 2.1 million on Facebook, with a reach of 1.8 million on Twitter and Pinterest reach. It was also shared on Instagram by Snoop Dogg with his 5.2m followers.

Press coverage include 37 regional newspaper articles and 5 BBC Radio interviews. Impressively, the campaign was completed in-house.  Its use of personal experiences to challenge received notions about epilepsy is key to its success. Philip Lee, chief executive at Epilepsy Action, agrees.  ” These very individual experiences highlighted the triumphs and frustrations of grappling with a complex neurological condition,” he says. “They gave the general public a clearer idea of what epilepsy is, and addressed some of the stigma that sadly exists.”

Be topical. During the general election Concern Worldwide ran a campaign asking supporters to tweet their candidates to pledge support for international development. The candidates who supported the election pledge card made our “Swingometer swing”. Over 600 tweets were tweeted during the 6 week period of the campaign from both supporters and candidates. 100 candidates committed to supporting the charity’s pledge card. Of those, 15 candidates were elected and Concern Worldwide are currently building relationships with these MPs.

Francesa Fryer, their Parliamentary and Campaigns officer, told me that, “Our tongue-in-cheek Development Swingometer was inspired by the BBC’s 1964 swingometer. It was a fun way to engage supporters and candidates on a serious issue during the election campaign.” The fact that the campaign was of the moment but also fun helped it stand out. It’s also an example of how charities are using social media to build relationships with decision makers.

Just because you might not be a huge charity, have a big budget or work for a well known cause doesn’t mean that your social media campaign can’t be a big success.  Creating strong content, getting your supporters on board early on and being bold and ambitious with your ask will all help you plan a great campaign.

A version of this blog originally appeared on JustGiving.

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.