Digital round-up – January 2020

Highlights this month: personal stories driving donations, lots of new campaigns, #BongForBrexit, #DollyPartonChallenge, the climate as a global risk.

January is such a long long month. Luckily there was lots of great charity content and good reads to get us through the dark days. Catch up here with some gems you might have missed.

Winter sunlight pouring through a window making a silouette of a sewing machine and a pot plant

How to use: Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox.

Content

Imagery from BHF campaign. Totaliser shows air quality in London exceeds WHO safe levels
Gif showing a dusty street with tumbleweed rolling through. Tweet text says Want to know the science about #BlueMonday..... There isn't any.

Comms

Digital – strategy, design, culture

Infographic showing use of Facebook by audience
Three examples of how memes could include alt text. Screenshot taken from Time article.

Fundraising

People and organisations

Climate crisis

wef top ten risks over the next ten years

And finally….

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

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Did you miss December’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

Digital round-up – April

 

Highlights this month: Notre Dame, Extinction Rebellion, New Power, April Fool comms, surveys and more….

Another Bank Holiday? Already? Excellent! Catch up with charity digital content and reads you might have missed while you were trying to squeeze some work in between days off.

cherry tree heavy with pink blossom

How to use: Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox.

Content

screenshot from National Trust video - 'freshly baked cheese scones. Ketchup or Mayo first?'
screenshot of National Library of Scotland's tweet showing the black hole over the Edinburgh skyline

Comms and marketing

Digital – strategy, design, culture

Screenshot of Matt Collins' article

Fundraising

People and organisations

There has been lots of talk this month about shifts in power, diversity and representation. Here are some useful reads (and watches):

acevo leadership framework

And finally….

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

——

Did you miss March’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

Does your digital team blog?

Child's drawing: stick people. One says "I've had an idea". The other says "I have too". Both have lightbulbs above their heads!

Digital teams going the extra mile to share their knowledge.

I love our sector. We do so well to connect and learn from each other. From attending meet-ups, mentoring and shadowing, or learning from hashtags or other people’s top takeaways from events, there are lots of free ways we can share and learn from each other.

One of my go-to sources of knowledge and inspiration are the blogs of big charity digital teams. More and more digital teams are starting them. Here are some examples and ideas about the benefits.

Charity digital team blogs

Here are a few of the team blogs I have found (updated in July 2019):

I regularly include posts and links from these blogs in my monthly round-ups as they are so useful. As well as an excuse to peep in at the window of these big charities, the shared thinking and best practice is good food for thought for us all. Posts can prompt discussion, collaboration and new ideas.

Other good digital reads

There are quite a lot of councils and other public sector blogs from digital teams around too. For example:

Benefits to the team

If you work for a big charity or are part of a team, how do you share your knowledge internally? Or externally with peers?

Although producing the posts and curating the accounts can be time-consuming, the task brings other benefits. For example:

  • Team building – done collaboratively, creating posts about projects can help the team to reflect and review the work they are doing. In busy teams, it is easy to move on to the next task, project, crisis with no time to review or think about how to share successes, challenges or failure with others. Creating a culture of review and sharing can help to give space for reflection and improvement.
  • Knowledge sharing and skills development – if members of the team read each other’s posts, it can help them to learn from each other and appreciate stresses and demands. This can drive better future projects.
  • Internal comms – content can help non-digital internal colleagues to understand the processes and thinking behind digital projects. If writing for a non-digital audience, it can be good practice for team members to be more careful about the terminology used in their posts, cutting out the jargon too. Posts can be repurposed for internal channels.
  • Profile raising – well-shared posts can help to raise the profile of the digital teams, helping with future recruitment. Who wouldn’t want to work in a team doing cutting-edge work?
  • Creativity – a blog gives the freedom to be creative, finding different ways to share knowledge. It feels nice to do the thinking around a topic, write it up (or draw pictures or make a video) and share it. A blog can be colourful and fun showing the personality of the writer and team. And no-one gets bored of seeing photos of post-its (do they?).

colourful post-its used in content planning

Follow and write your own

So do follow / subscribe to these accounts.

And if your team has knowledge to share, why not start your own team’s blog to share your processes, successes and failures? We can all learn from them.

Your top tips

Are there other blogs or Twitter feeds run by digital teams you’d recommend? Have you contributed to your team blog? Any top tips for making it work? Do you have a content calendar or a blog owner who manages / edits it?

Please share in the comments.

<Headline image drawn by my son, found on my desk recently!>

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with digital comms, content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. Can I help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck or ideas injection?

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How to illustrate difficult causes and subjects

Images are an important part of web (and social media) content. But for many organisations using images is problematic. There are thousands of charities who cover sensitive or difficult to illustrate causes. Many therefore don’t use images at all which makes their message hard to engage with. This post focussing on websites looks at some ways around the problem.

The purpose of images

A web page without images can feel overwhelming. Images help skim reading as they break up the text and work as shorthand to help the user make sense of what the page is about. Therefore images play an important part in boosting the usability of a page.

They also help to soften difficult subjects. Websites with no photos can feel cold and impersonal with no human connection. Using a photo in a case study or an information page about an issue or condition can help to bring the subject to life. On a donation page it makes us feel empathy. We relate to text more if we can picture the person or issue being described.

For example, here is Albert’s story from St Joseph’s Hospice, shown here with the image taken out. It has good headings and an engaging first paragraph.

Case study with no image

Here is the same story again but as it appears with an image. The image instantly connects you with Albert and the care he received at the hospice. It draws you in to the story as you can relate to him straightaway. It also brightens up the page and humanises a potentially upsetting story. It helps that it is a beautiful picture clearly showing care in the setting of the hospice.

Case study but with image

“We can’t use images”

But what if Albert’s story was so sensitive that he couldn’t be shown? Or the page was one about a medical condition or dealing with bereavement – much harder to represent? It can be tempting to just not bother because it is too difficult. A culture of “we can’t use images” can develop and become the norm without anyone challenging the fears or trying out some creative solutions. It is understandable that worries about alienating readers or lack of time, budget or skill create barriers to solving the problem.

I looked at hundreds of small charity websites while researching this post. The vast majority didn’t contain any images at all. In a competitive market, having a dense text-only website where users can click on to something more friendy within seconds, means you can’t afford to ignore images. Images perform an important function and there are creative ways around the problem.

What makes a good image?

Images can appear at lots of different sizes depending on how they are formatted and what type of device is being used to look at them. Images that work well online are therefore clear and uncluttered. They are unambiguous. They instantly tell a story and are emotional where they need to be.

It can be tempting to use a literal image; something which shows the obvious and is easy for everyone to understand. But being too literal can help to reinforce stereotypes. Time to Change’s Get the Picture campaign provided alternatives to the standard ‘headclutcher’ which they argued stigmatised mental health. To date they say that their bank of alternative images have been downloaded 17,000 times. And this blog post by Patrick Murray from NPC called Do charities need a ‘Gran test’ for fundraising argues that stereotypical images of beneficiaries used in fundraising material are doing much to reinforce negative views in order to raise funds. He cites a few examples of organisations who are consciously not using obvious images.

But even if you aren’t working to change attitudes, showing the same type of literal image over and over again can lose impact. If you are medical condition charity how many pictures of people wincing in pain can you show?

Images don’t have to be literal – the actual person going through the actual thing being discussed. They can instead create a tone by showing the context of a situation. Or they can help to reinforce your brand by showing images of the work you do and the people you help. How you do this depends on the style of image you use. Finding your own “tone of voice” for images should be part of your branding (for example Parkinson’s UK include their image style in their brand description) and your content strategy.

Remember that what works offline might be different from what works on your website or Facebook. And what works on your donation pages might be different from the images you use in your services section.

Images of people

Stories which describe the work you do can be very powerful. For many organisations there will be sensitivities around privacy. There are lots of different ways to illustrate a story if you can’t directly show the person involved.

This case study from drug and alcohol charity, Addaction tells the story of Alison, a young mother. The image preserves her anonymity as it only shows the side of her face. It could of course be a model rather than Alison but it helps us to connect with her story. It feels like an appropriate image to use.

Addaction: Case study image of woman looking towards a window. We can see her hair and cheek

Images don’t always need to show a face to give impact. Showing a personal object or situation can be just as effective. This survivor’s story from Women’s Aid uses a close-up of women’s hands holding mugs. It suggests warmth and support.

Woman's Aid: close up two women's hands around tea cups

Images of children have to be handled sensitively. If you are a children’s charity you can’t avoid the issue. Options include using images which protect anonymity, making use of very clear model release forms or good stock photography.

This page from Adoption UK about aggression in adoptive families uses a very strong image. It is quite brave but having an image of an aggressive child might help to normalise or reassure families going through the same thing. The page wouldn’t feel as supportive without it.

Adoption UK: page about aggression showing a young angry boy shouting direct to camera

Other images

Images don’t have to be photos of people. This Prisoners Abroad case study includes an image of a quote. It helps with skim reading and to highlight the important message.

Prisoners Abroad: use an image of a quote to break up the page

Images of things can also bring your work to life. These stories from Make Lunch use a thank you letter and an image of the food cooked.

Make Lunch: close-up of a thank you letter and an image of pizza

Illustrating difficult subjects

Illustrating shocking stories can be really hard – how much should or could you show? It’s always a judgement call based on the topic and the culture of your organisation. But storytelling is much more effective with images and shocking ones are sometimes needed to show the gravity of a situation. For example, the shocking image of 3-year old Aylan Kurdi in September changed many views on the refugee crisis. Read more about why images trigger empathy.

Images illustrating shocking stories don’t always have to be graphic or shocking themselves. Showing the situation can be really effective. This blog post from British Red Cross on the refugee crisis uses lots of images taken in the camps in France. This picture of a muddy toy is really powerful.

British Red Cross: blog on the refugee crisis showing a muddy teddy in a refugee camp

Simple graphics like this page from NE Child Poverty Commission can work well especially if used sparingly. (See previous blog post on illustrating data.)

NE Child Poverty: graphic showing one in five childrenin the UK live in poverty

Photos from an image library can be a life-saver when illustrating common-place but sensitive subjects. This example from a page on sex by Diabetes UK is a good example.

Diabetes UK: sex and relationships page using a stock image of a couple in bed

Using graphics, illustrations or stylised images can also be used instead of photographs. They can be a good way to illustrate a complex idea or situation. See this blog post from Mind which uses an illustration. Kelly’s story from Crisis is an example of using an illustration to tell the whole story rather than just illustrate it.

Mind blog: illustrated with a cartoon about taking compliments

Filling blank spaces

When your website has a space for a photo on every page, it can be a real challenge to fill those spaces especially on “subject” pages. In these cases it can be tempting to be literal. But images which show detail or pattern or a general mood can work well here.

For example, this navigation page about seizures and the brain page from Epilepsy Society uses a close up of brain scans. The picture doesn’t actually teach us anything but helps to lift the page which would otherwise be very functional.

Epilepsy Society: image of brain scans

Practical tips

  • Sourcing images – can you find an expert volunteer or talented member of staff to take photos of your work? If not, it is worth investing some budget into producing a portfolio of quality images you can use across your work.  Plan your shoot so you maximise the time and resources you have.
  • Model release / photo consent forms – if using images of ‘real people’ you should always get signed permission from them which specifies how and where you will use the image. Take a look at Macmillan’s photo consent form and this one from Parkinson’s UK (Word). Diabetes UK have an open form for people to share theit story.
  • Stock photos – images of ‘real people’ always feel more authentic than stock photography but for some organisations or situations stock images are a good solution. There are lots of free sources available (see below) but remember that the images you choose may be being used by other organisations to illustrate other topics.
  • Alt text – when including images you should always include alt text. Alt text is important for people who can’t see the image due to accessibility or technical reasons. See the 5 golden rules for compliant alt text (AbilityNet).
  • Manage your images – plan where you use which images. Using the same image over and over again means it will lose impact. Build a database or manage your images online (see below).

Useful links

Don’t miss the Social Media Exchange on 8 February, this practical event is a change to develop your skills. There are a few sessions on photography and images.

In summary

If you need alternatives to literal images or find it difficult to find people to represent your cause there are lots of creative ways to use images. Why not experiment with some of the following and see what works for your brand and cause:

  • close-ups of people
  • images of things or text
  • images which show the siutation
  • stock photography
  • graphics or illustrations.

Your tips and examples

Have you seen any good examples of images? Have you done creative things with images to illustrate a sensitive subject? Got tips or thoughts to share? Please join the conversation in the comments box. I’d love to hear from you.

Can I help?

I help charities and non-profits with their content. Whether you are looking for training for the team, copywriting or  input into your content strategy, please get in touch.