Cathartic and powerful storytelling

Sharing my story helped me to be saved from it” – Forgiveness Project participant, shared by Marina Cantacuzino at Being the Story 2017.

Using creativity to form and tell a story can be very cathartic. The process of writing or singing or producing images – just getting ideas or thoughts out of your head, onto paper, shared with others – can be very powerful.

4 speakers from Being the Story 2017

Several of the speakers at the second Being the Story from the mighty Jude Habib and Helena Hastings at sounddelivery talked about how being creative helped them – either with recovery, or to give a sense of purpose or as a way of making sense of experiences.

So we heard from:

  • Eddie who had found a new addiction to photography to help him recover from his addiction to alcohol
  • Amanda, who as part of a collective of 12 women told their stories of street prostitution through their book An Untold Story
  • Homelessness support worker Bryony who writes amazing poetry and ‘dabbles’ in blogging to share the experiences of the people she works with and the frustrations of the system (see some of her work in this Storify from a Lankelly Chase twitter take over she was part of)
  • Simeon and Dylan who were launching a YouTube channel, DatsTV to change the culture around street violence and gangs, following their powerful documentary One Mile Away
  • Ric who worked with young people and shared his experience of being in care.

The day closed with the Missing People’s Choir, fresh from Britain’s Got Talent, made up of families with missing loved ones, joining together to make music.

Harnessing creativity

Being the Story shows that storytelling has many forms and is a powerful tool for the originator as well as the listener. Take your comms hat off, step back from the corporate end-goal of influence via a comms strategy or fundraising ask. Think instead about the creative healing process.

How can you help the people you help to creatively represent their stories? And the next step, think about whether sharing or publicising those stories heal or hinder that person.

How can you use your own creativity to help tell the story of your work? As frontline staff dealing with difficult issues or complex problems, we need a way to process these thoughts and experiences too.

As with last year’s event, the delivery was the most impactful thing. Hearing someone’s story first-hand, there in person through whatever means (poetry, rap, photos etc) was everything. A written case study doesn’t do it justice. Video and audio are the closest alternatives to being in the same room, hearing someone’s story.

Do you know of examples of organisations showcasing the creativity of the people they help? I’d love to see more examples.

Solving problems

The day also shared stories of people solving problems.

  • Ray set up a group of Geezers to combat loneliness in Bow, East London.
  • Nick set up a brewery, Ignition Beer to employer members of the Tuesday Club.
  • As part of the Power of the Periphery Rachel tackles class inequality via the RECLAIM project.
  • Onjali set up HerStory to support women escaping domestic violence.
  • Marina founded the Forgiveness Project to encourage people to consider alternatives to resentment, retaliation and revenge.
  • Dom is producing an app to fill information gaps and social isolation for children in hospital.

Brilliant people doing brilliant things!

Want to know more?

Read about last year’s event including blog posts from other people who were there.

You can also watch videos from Being the Story 2016 including the amazing Emma Lawton which has now had 13,500 views.

Don’t miss next year’s event – keep an eye out for Being the Story 2018!

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Review and improve your use of images

In the day-to-day frenzy of searching for the right picture to use, it can be easy to rely on the same old ideas and sources. But what if your pictures have become stale or are reinforcing stereotypes? Images should be a key part of your content strategy and brand planning. Here we look at the three stages to help you review and improve your use of images.

drawings of faces

1. Describe your approach

We use images to do lots of different things. For example, your image may be working as a brand reinforcer, eye candy, information giver, tool to help skim reading, inspiration prompter or entertainer, social proofer, or as housekeeping. Bad pictures can alienate, frustrate, shock, bore or just be ignored.

Collage of images from google search for volunteering

Getting the image right on your web page, email newsletter, social media post or blog is crucial. How you use images might be different on different channels and for different content.

[See these posts from my archive. Social media: How to use images on social media / How to use graphics to illustrate data on social media / Say no to giant cheque pictures. Websites and other channels: How to illustrate difficult causes and subjects – creative solutions for case studies and subject pages.]

So the first step is to think about what you use images for and to document your approach.

  • Map out your different channels – where and how do you use images?
  • How does your brand or tone of voice need to be reflected in your images? How should images illustrate your key messages?
  • Do you use photos, if so what style (portraits, posed, in action)?
  • What’s your policy on using graphics or illustrations?
  • How should you be representing the people you help or the cause you work on? How do they want to be portrayed?
  • How do you use alt text or descriptions so your images are accessible? (For example Scope are the only charity I have seen who describe the images they use in their tweets.)
  • What kinds of images would you never use (eg cat gifs, case studies over 2 years old)?

2. Audit and review

Do a spot check on your social channels and / or website. For example, randomly pick 10-20 web pages or all the tweets or Facebook posts from five random days in the last two months. Screenshot each page / post and put them all together. How do the images come across?

Here are some questions to help you get a perspective on how your images are working.

1. What proportion of your images are:

  • portraits of people (either in groups or on their own)
  • places or things
  • original images of your work in action or from a photoshoot
  • stock photos (ie pictures from a photo library which you have a licence to use)
  • graphics (infographics or quotes)
  • gifs (and/or video).

There is no right or wrong answer for your mix. Rather, does it work for your organisation? Do these images appeal to your audience? Do they help people to understand your topic? Do they draw people in? Are they of a good enough quality? Do they encourage people to read / click / take action?

Get a sense of their effectiveness by using your analytics. For example, what happens when you tweet the same story using a different picture?

You could also run a focus group or get opinions from family, friends and colleagues to gather some insights into whether people like or understand your pictures. Remember that images are very subjective and mean different things to different people. This is why it is important to make sure your images are clear and unambiguous.

2. Are your pictures diverse? Do your pictures of people reflect your audience or wider society? Are there non-white faces? A mix of ages, abilities, genders?

3. Do you rely on the obvious? Are your pictures reflecting your cause, relying on stereotypes to quickly bring people in to your topic? For example only using picture of people sleeping rough to talk about homelessness. Have you got the balance right between the obvious image and others to help change perceptions? Do you need to reframe your cause to help people understand it better? Image are key here.

4. Are your pictures triggers? For example look at this NHS Choice page about eating too much sugar which starts with an appealing image of colourful cakes. How does it make you feel? (It makes me want the eat them rather than reject them!) There are ways of illustrating topics like these without making the bad stuff feel appealing. A graphic or illustration could also work better. Be mindful about the effect your pictures could have.

NHS Choices about about sugar, top image is green cupcakes

5. Do you have the right pictures? Are you using the same images over and over again to illustrate different topics? What are the problem topics which you struggle to illustrate? Talk to colleagues to find out where your gaps are. Then think about how to fill them.

To source new pictures try these links:

3. Evaluate your processes

It can be useful to do some information mapping about how images are stored, accessed and searched for within your organisation. Do you have a central folder / database for pictures? Does everyone have their own set of pictures? What are the steps you go through to find an image for social media, an email newsletter or blog post?

What are the frustrations? What takes too much time? How can you streamline the process to make it more efficient?

Mapping this will help you understand where you can make changes.

Some organisations have a central database to store their images using keywords and permissions to manage use. Are there any free systems out there? Could you use Flickr or similar photo storage sites with password protection? Or are there security issues with these? Please do share your experience in the comments.

What’s your experience?

This is a hot topic for many organisations I train when we are looking at digital writing. What’s your view?

Do you struggle with images? Do you have problem subjects? How do you manage your images?

I’d love to hear your experiences – good and bad!

Previous posts about images

Social media:

Websites and other channels:

Say no to giant cheque pictures

A company / school / church / family / colleague has done some fundraising and raised lots of money for you! Brilliant! You both want to share the good news. But how to show how much has been raised? Yes, it is GIANT cheque time.

The cheque photo is still much used. I spot on average a couple a day on my Twitter feed.

Collage of awful cheque pictures

Cheque pictures are especially used by smaller charities, hospital charities, hospices and corporates. They can be terrible photos, best suited to an internal newsletter or local newspaper rather than social media. People who have raised money will of course still want their cheque pictures and that’s fine. I think that that we as comms people / charity fundraisers can help make them better and/or use them in better ways.

Pictures on social media need to tell a story and be interesting enough to make you pause and read more. Posed people shaking hands over a big piece of paper (or sometimes small ones), smiling in front of a busy backdrop isn’t enough.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Step away from the giant cheque picture and make your fundraising proof more interesting. As the recipient of the money, you can say thank you and recognise the effort made in more creative ways.

Show your total in a different way

Who still uses cheques anyway? Think about how to show your total in a different / interesting / unusual way.

This tweet from BHF illustrates the contribution from their corporate partnership with DFS, raising £13m, with red number balloons in a sofa showroom.

BHF show their total in balloons

St Wilfred’s Hospice shared a cheque made out of chocolate.

A slab of chocolate with writing on it to look like a cheque

I really like this illustration of the total raised through Clothes Aid for CHAS (Childrens Hospices Across Scotland). CHAS also seem to take their mobile logo with them to announce big totals – see this tweet from the Edinburgh Playhouse.

CHAS - clothes laid out on the grass, in the middle is a child holding the numbers £500,000

Show impact

A cheque photo can be improved by illustrating the difference the money will make. Include beneficiaries or an illustration of what you’ll spend the money on. FitzRoy’s giant cheque picture includes staff and beneficiaries.

Cheque picture includes two people in wheelchairs as well as three others holding the giant cheque

Get a mascot

Make your cheque stand out by presenting it to someone interesting. Naomi House Hospice featured a giant teddy bear and a nice thank you for the £406.54 raised.

Cheque presentation with a giant teddy bear

Look enthusiastic!

Celebrate your good news with some smiles and cheers!

No cheque here but Pilgrims Hospices are celebrating a partnership with a team photo.

Smiling and waving staff in front of a bus with giant sunflowers

And Railway Children celebrated a long-term partnership with a cheque, big logos and a train! They look so happy!

Cheering people next to a train, with cheque and train logos

Don’t show me the money

A big thank you can be more eye-catching than a cheque with lots of information in tiny writing. See this example from GirlGuiding with a big thank you to players of the Postcode Lottery.

Thank you in big letters held up by the Girl Guiding team

Tell a story

The handing over of the money is the least interesting bit of your story.

Tell a story about how or why the fundraising was done. It is great to say thanks or be enthusiastic about the amount raised (“they/we raised an amazing £xxx”) but that doesn’t bring the effort to life. How many people raised this money? Over how long? What did they learn or gain from doing this? Can they share insights about why this money is important?

Take a look at these messages from Kidderminster and District Youth Trust (KDYT) which they shared on Facebook. The first message shows how they responsed to getting a donation, the second is from the donor explaining what they did and why the thanks meant so much.

Thank you message for money raised for a youth group

A story can be told in a few words. Acorns Hospice shared the story of money raised by a couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.

Acorns - cheque for £150 from donations to mark a couple's 40th wedding anniversary

To cheque or not to cheque?

If you do have to use a cheque:

  • avoid the awkward line-up / shaking hands with the mayor-type pictures
  • use an interesting backdrop and make sure the picture is in focus and isn’t too dark
  • smile / be enthusiastic
  • use more than one picture – the cheque and then images from the skydive / fancy dress / cake sale
  • make the text interesting – use a quote and a link to bring it to life.

If you have to RT or share your fundraiser’s cheque photo, do it with a thank you picture and link to read more about how the money will be used. Don’t just RT it with no comment.

Other examples?

Have you seen any great examples of fundraising proof? I’d love to see them.

Read more about images on social media in my previous post, which is packed with lots more examples of how to say thank you and not be boring.

Digital round-up – June

So many huge things happened in June. The Manchester One Love concert raised £2m in three hours, dogs in polling stations had its own emoji thanks to Twitter and Dogs Trust, the awful events in Kensington and Finsbury Park and the wonderful Great Get Togethers. It was also a bumper month for good reads and interesting charity content. Here’s my round-up.

Photo of a fairground carousel

Digital culture

What a digital organisation looks like by Janet Hughes from doteveryone is a really useful 10 minute read about the characteristics of a digital organisation and its leaders.

5 aspects of a digital organisation

Good writing

Website content

Charity Comms tweet promoting Crisis blog post

Strategies

Nice content

lollies made with polluted water in Taiwan

For Small Charity Week I found some examples of brilliant small charities doing interesting fundraising. From wishlists to live crowdfunding, see five fundraising ideas for small charities.

And finally….

What did you read / write / enjoy this month?

Ollie’s birthday – a beautiful Twitter storm

It is always amazing and wonderful to watch a positive social media storm. It shows the best in people that they want to do something positive to help someone who needs help. The volume of replies and messages shared in response to this are amazing.

On Thursday (29 June) Ollie’s dad sent a tweet asking for birthday messages for his son who was being bullied and about to turn 9. Here’s how the word spread:

Within a few hours, Twitter made a Moment of some of the replies including the England Football team, Stormzy and Russell Crowe. Thousands of non-famous people replied with their own birthday wishes and stories of how they put being bullied behind them. Messages have been sent from across the world and some other 9 year olds shared their own messages too.

In just over 24 hours, there have been over 33,000 likes and 14,000 RTs of the original tweet.

Ollie's dad's original tweet

It has been covered by the BBC, various newspapers and online channels. Twitter said that there had been 47k tweets. Following these recent weeks of bad news, I think we all needed something positive.

47k tweets say Twitter

But the real story is what it means to Ollie and his family who have understandably been overwhelmed. The messages from famous people and offers of special visits and merchandise will no doubt make his birthday. The messages of support from other parents and now grown-up people who were bullied will take longer to sink in. Hopefully these can help to rebuild their strength and self-esteem to stand up to the bullies.

Ollie’s dad had sent several tweets asking for help about how to document the response in order to share it with Ollie on his birthday (on 5 July).  To help I made a Moment of some of the famous people responses for them to show Ollie.

Twitter Moment

I really hope that someone can do the same for some of the supportive messages about bullying. There’s so much rich content there. Maybe a bullying charity could do something to document these and then help share this with other children and parents in similar situations?

Several charities responded with their own supportive messages including NSPCC and The Children’s Society.

If you haven’t seen it already, do take a look at the thread. It is Twitter at its best.

Update (on day 4): Ollie’s family have understandably been completely overwhelmed by the response. Christopher shared this personal message on Sunday saying thank you and asking for it now to stop so they can go back to being a normal family. He is asking people to donations to one of four charities including the Anti-Bullying Ambassadors Programme if they want to do something positive as a result of reading the thread.

10 tips for great online legacy fundraising

In 2013 I wrote about online legacy fundraising content. Although well written persuasive copy is still key, digital trends move on. So four years later it is time to see whether the web pages about legacy fundraising have improved and what has changed.

I looked at a random sample of over 50 large, medium and small charities. In most cases the pages were pretty dull, especially from smaller charities. It is hard to write warm, engaging copy about legacies as we often fall over ourselves trying to be sensitive. But the charities who get it right have a confidence and a clear sense of themselves and their audience.

collage of various screenshots from sites discussed below

Here are ten ingredients for emotive and effective online legacy fundraising.

Be clear and persuasive

WaterAid’s legacy site stood out as the go-to example of a persuasive and well designed site. The page starts with a clear call to action – leave the world with water – which sets the tone. They use eye catching and engaging links and headings (leave your mark / what would you like to pass on?) which include and challenge the reader. Images are positive and inspiring. They also include a photograph and name of a person to contact as well as a legacy promise which are both reassuring and clear.

WaterAid

Save the Children UK also use clear and inspiring headings (write a child’s smile into your will) and use bold to highlight important words. They use beautiful pictures of smiling children to reinforce their words. Their writing is confident, concise and persuasive (make a lasting difference, your kindness).

Save the Children UK

Use social proofing

Campaigns like Remember a Charity week help to promote legacy fundraising. Many charities reinforce this message in their copy. They show that remembering a charity is something that everyone can do.

The Migraine Trust makes a clear statement which makes leaving a legacy accessible – “a gift of just 1% will make a real difference to supporting our charitable work”. This is a clearer way of what they were saying in 2013.

Migraine Trust

Many charities talk about ‘thousands of people who leave a legacy’ or ‘thanks to people like you’. Use social proofing to validate someone’s decision.

Use video

Since 2013, many more legacy pages include videos. Take a look at this personal message from a supporter on Prisoners Abroad. Or this slick video from ActionAid showing Mrs Harben’s legacy. Or this simple beautiful video from RSPB. Or this speaking from the heart story from Glenys who supports the Alzheimer’s Society.

Alzheimer's Society

Talk about impact

What difference will someone’s gift make? Talk big picture about your vision / mission or about specific services. More charities are making big statements about what a legacy means to them.

RSPB’s opening statement is clear and bold: Your legacy is nature’s future.

RSPB

Refugee Action’s Leave a legacy page goes into more detail. It is beautifully written using storytelling and sense of urgency. It frames the problem and talks about what they can do with a legacy gift. The page is short, concise and powerful. A great example of a small charity getting it right.

East Lancashire Hospice talk about leaving a legacy of love and explain that last year, legacy gifts paid for three months of care.

If your organisation is all about solving a problem or finding a cure, talking about legacies could be difficult. How do you frame the ask when you might not be around or needed in the same way in 20 / 50 years? Don’t avoid the issue – think about how you can present it effectively.

Macmillan Cancer‘s legacy page says: “In the future, doctors and nurses are going to get much better at diagnosing cancer earlier, and treating it.” But stresses that half of us will get cancer at some point so Macmillan will still be needed.

Say please and thank you

Choosing to leave a legacy to a charity is a big deal. The fact that someone is reading your page about this is a good sign. Keep them with you by recognising this. Say please and thank you in the right places. If you come across as kind and thoughtful at the asking stage, it will reassure people that you will behave in the same way when you are processing their gift.

Think about motivation

Why do you think someone might have reached your page? What are they thinking. This page by the Miscarriage Association is written really warmly and in a gentle tone of voice. The quote perfectly positions the ask.

Miscarriage Association

Include appropriate images

Brighten up a serious subject with colourful or inspiring images. Reward visitors to this page and make them want to stay. A collection of several images may work better than a single one. For example, this landing page for the British Heart Foundation includes images of family, medical research as well as a big thank you.

BHF

Many organisations seem to rely on stock images of grey-haired couples on their legacy pages. Remember to use images which reflect the demographics of your readers. Also people often write their will triggered by big life events such as getting married or having children. Your audience isn’t just people in later stages of their lives.

Take a look at NSPCC’s page which includes quotes and images from supporters at different stages of their lives. Their stories may chime with readers, validating their own idea to leave a legacy to NSPCC (see social proofing above).

NSPCC

Think about a hook

What could make your legacy fundraising stand out? What stories do you have to tell? Has a legacy gift allowed you to do something special or unusual? Is there someone you could write about or feature to make your ask come to life?

Mencap’s gifts in wills page is based around the inspiring story of Lord Brian Rix. The page says that he “helped change the future for people with a learning disability. With a gift in your Will to Mencap you can too.” It uses beautiful images from their archive and talks about what he achieved in his lifetime. It says that although lots has changed, people with learning disabilities still face challenges so by leaving a gift in your will, you can help change the future too.

Mencap

Similarly, Leonard Cheshire, marking its centenary say “Leonard’s legacy became our legacy. It could be your legacy too.”

Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity includes information about JM Barrie’s legacy gift in their pages. Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity talks about your final chapter and how to write your own ending.

Include practical information

Make it as easy as possible for someone to actually get the legal stuff right. So include:

  • information about different types of gifts (see this handy guide to the types of legacies by Demelza Hospice)
  • your official name (and any previous names) and charity number
  • suggested wording
  • information to help someone work out the detail of their estate
  • information for executors
  • contact details so a potential donor can get in touch.

A promise can offer reassurance about how a legacy will be dealt with when the time comes. A few charities included these – see WaterAid’s promise, RNLI and Breast Cancer Now.

Be interesting

There were a few examples of charities who’d produced interesting supporting content. For example:

  • Blue Cross reminds readers to think about their digital assets (passwords, data, photos, social media etc)
  • Cancer Research’s campaign with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Two Thirds of a Spring reflects the vital impact that one third of funding has on their life-saving work
  • Alzheimer’s Society has an online book of remembrance
  • visitors are invited to make a personalised video with Unicef UK. (NB Unicef UK have been running a campaign of promoted tweets about this recently, the only social media content I spotted about legacy fundraising during the research for this post.)

Unicef UK promoted tweet

 Get the navigation and terminology right

Think about where your legacy pages sit. How easy are they to find within navigation or search? Be your own mystery customer and check.

Don’t bury your pages – make them prominent, especially if legacies make up a sizeable proportion of your income. Don’t just stick them under ‘Other ways to give’.

Check where they appear in your content rankings on your Google Analytics. Are you using the right terminology for your audience? Test whether the word legacy or will works best. Many charities use both.

See my previous post on legacy fundraising (persuasive and engaging writing in online legacy fundraising) for some tips on terminology and placing of legacy pages. Also how to talk about legacies on social media.

How do you measure up?

Is your online legacy fundraising content strong enough or is it dull and unconvincing? Give your copy a facelift before Remember a Charity week in September. If you are not sure how well it comes across, get your mum to read it or do a page swap with someone else from another charity. Get some feedback and think about how you could bring your content to life.

Share your examples

Have you seen (or written) any good or bad examples of digital legacy fundraising? Please do share them here.

My top five online legacy fundraising sites are listed in a JustGiving blog post. I’d love to hear what yours are.

 

Digital round-up – May

Photo of dinosaur skull appeaing to eat someone in a museum!

Had a busy week? Here’s my round-up of good reads about charity content and digital stuff.

The tireless fight to bring press releases into modern comms continues with this post by Dan Slee: Educate your client on how alive their press release really is.

I thought this gave interesting insights into groups who are digitally excluded: The Changing Face of Digital Exclusion: It’s not your nan. The post is about skills so it doesn’t mention how the design of websites, apps and software is digitally excluding those with disabilities because developers don’t know or care about accessibility.

Citizens Advice - card sorting exercise

The Citizens Advice digital blog is always a good read. The latest post looks at internal knowledge, especially the barriers caused by poor search, volume of content and inconsistencies of language used. The post talks about how they’ve run workshops to identify common user goals. It’s a big and important topic to tackle, especially in an organisation of this size where information management is their bread and butter. What Citizens Advice needs from a digital workplace – And what your workplace might need too.

Graph showing low engagement for early school education and high for pre-school

This is a useful reminder about language and avoiding jargon. Use the language used by your audience. See also What charities can learn from MailOnline which is about ensuring your content is audience-driven and data-driven.

'Off to bed. You really need to buy some books off us. We are seriously skint'

The Big Green Bookshop in London (the one who live tweeted Harry Potter to Piers Morgan) tweeted an urgent request for help recently and were bowled over with the response. Similarly, a food bank in Glasgow sent an urgent appeal. Useful food for thought who those who don’t think it is right to fundraise on social?

See also

Content and comms:

Process and management:

Other stuff:

What have you read this week? Please do share your nuggets.

(Cover image taken at the Grant Museum of Zoology)