Coronavirus comms for charities

Updated: 6 April (new: Charity So White report, write your own coronavirus style guide, how to communicate with furloughed staff).

Since I wrote this post on 3 March, everything has moved on. Coronavirus is dominating world news and the way we live and work has completely changed. I have been adding new useful resources as well as removing ones which are no longer relevant. I have kept the examples of charity comms for reference.

Whatever your size of organisation or purpose, you will be meeting to plan how you’ll respond internally and externally. There is lots of noise and misinformation about the spread of the virus with rumours and blame escalating. What are you doing to reassure your beneficiaries and keep your staff safe?

illustration of lots of people moving around a big space - maybe on escalators

Here are some useful links and good reads to help you manage your own charity’s response.

Writing about Covid19 for beneficiaries

Information about the virus is changing all the time. Keep an eye on official advice which is being updated on a daily basis and share / incorporate it into your comms:

Full Fact are working hard to fact-check lots of the information circulating. Are there any misleading memes or discussions circulating related to your audience or cause? It’s worth checking FF’s website to see.

Knowing what and when to communicate about coronavirus depends on what type of organisation you are.

If you are a health charity, one working with older people or one with public-access buildings, you may be sharing updates, especially if you are getting lots of helpline calls or forum discussions about risk. As there is so much misinformation circulating, this is your chance to be the go-to authority on the subject for people with specific needs and spreading good advice.

Dan Slee says that “we have all become public health communicators whether we like it or not”. In his post (The basics of communicating the coronavirus), he shares lots of useful tips about making sure your information is factual and shareable. And also notes that your comms need to go where the people are as rumour and misinformation circulate (see Enlist a team to play whack-a-mole with online rumour and How covid is playing out in Facebook groups).

Examples

Here are some examples of information charities have created for the people they represent:

Comms tips

Think accessibility – not everyone can read the text on an image. If you are sharing images with text on via social media, include a link to a web page where the same information can be read and/or repeat the text in your post. I have seen so many covid statements which are just images of text with no link (and probably no alt text). See more from @CovidAccessInfo (new account set up on 19/3).

Make information easy to find. Pin your tweets. Use hashtags (#covid19UK / #coronavirus etc). Clearly layout information so it is easy to read. Add the story to your homepage.

Tweet from Bloodwise UK. Very clear layout. Hashtags and signposting to sources of help.

Only ever link to one page which you are keeping up to date. As the situation develops you don’t want people to be seeing old advice. They may be seeing old posts or looking at old emails but at least you’ll know they can click through for current information. Avoid PDFs for the same reason.

Clearly indicate information you have added or changed. You might do this at the top of your web page or by highlighting what has been added. See this example from Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Even if you don’t have infomation you have produced yourself, at this stage it is probably a good idea to have a page about coronavirus on your website which links to the key sources of information and something about the services you offer if there are changes to them. A quick random search found lots of charity websites showing no covid results in their searches.

Website search results: says no items found

Don’t include information about the current number of cases or deaths. This instantly dates your information and shows that it is not up-to-date.

As the situation develops, you may need to use more effective and urgent ways to communicate your messages. Plan ahead now. Are you able to use video or audio or other methods to respond to a crisis comms situation? Might you need to devote your entire homepage to the story? Can you send out mass emails to your stakeholders? Are your crisis comms processes up-to-date? See this thread from Gemma Pettman sharing crisis comms planning tips.

Check your scheduled messages. For example, do you have messages scheduled which are promoting events which are likely to be cancelled? Be aware that the situation could change over the coming days / weeks.

Start planning ahead. We are now moving from the crisis planning stage into a more widespread experience of the virus. This means that your comms needs to be less about explaining the virus and how to respond to the changes we are all making. The next comms stage is describing our ‘new normal’ of operating and communicating about ill or dying colleagues, volunteers and stakeholders. See Coronavirus comms – planning ahead.

New: Think about your language. How you talk about the virus and its impact on your beneficiaries and organisation will change. Write and share a mini styleguide to include standard phrases which you use, as well as ones to avoid. This post about how language changes through a crisis and how to frame your comms is useful. 8 tips for framing covid19 – Ella Saltmarshe.

Running your organisation

Internally you will be looking at the impact of a wider spread of the virus and what this might mean for how you operate.

Here’s some of the current advice:

New: Charity So White have written a position paper sharing the ways coronavirus can impact BAME communities disproportionately. It calls on charities to consider that in their response and includes five key principles to guide them.

It’s useful to see other organisations’ internal plans if you need to write one yourself. Some have shared theirs publicly:

Reassuring staff and volunteers that you are prepared is key. Internal comms must play a vital role. What internal comms systems do you use? Do they work to reach everyone? There is some good advice in this post by Rachel Miller of All Things IC.

New: Rachel has also written this. How to communicate with furloughed colleagues.

What about your events or meetings? Many have been cancelled / postponed or changed to online. Here’s how Bond announced the cancellation of their annual conference.

Digital service delivery

What does the situation mean for the services you run and the support people in your community might need? What might you need to do more of or change?

For example, can you move face-to-face services , online? What different services could you offer to expand to support people through a scary and challenging time? Are you able to run digital events or make fun content to entertain?

Community response

Here are some examples of community and charity-run services:

Community Action Response - 5 steps

If you are a community volunteering charity, how are you keeping volunteers in touch with how they might be needed? And reassuring them about measures you’ll be taking to protect them?

Virtual working

More people are switching to virtual working as a way to reduce risk. It can be a real shift for an organisation if you are not used to working like this. Here are some useful links:

Fundraising

Fundraising is being hit hard.

The London Marathon has been postponed until October (announcement 5pm Friday 13th March). Read this thread by Russell Benson with great tips and alternative options for events fundraisers if you haven’t already. Here are a few examples from charities responding to the news in case you want some ideas.

Sarah Goddard is building a collection of resources for the fundraising sector including template appeal letters for hospices and smaller arts organisation from Mark Phillips.

Charities are launching appeals:

  • This from Kemp Hospice was released very early on.
  • Asthma UK have added a donation ask at the end of their information page.
  • Age UK Camden have put out an appeal to help them to support ‘an increasing number of anxious older people who are reaching out to us for help’.
  • FareShare – Help us get food to vulnerable people. Donate online or ‘text MEAL 10 to 70480 to give £10’.
  • New: JustGiving have shared some of the campaigns on their site.
Image from FareShare's homepage with their covid19 appeal

Other good reads / useful links

Archive:

Examples of warmer comms from week 2/3 of the outbreak:

Have you read anything else useful I should add here? Or seen examples? Let me know. I’ll add more useful links here as I find them.

Thanks to Charity Digital who published a version of this post on 10 March.

Digital round-up – November 2019

Highlights this month: digital benchmarking and engagement research, Star Wars, social media for leaders, digital inclusion.

November is always a hectic month of awareness days and the build-up to Christmas. This year, add in the General Election, increasing responses to the climate crisis and lots of knowledge sharing at conferences. There was so much to keep up with while also trying to get some work done! Here are some highlights you might have missed.

Coloured plastic pipes

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.

Charity content and campaigns

Ad from West London Mission - he is (a dad of two, a brentford fan, can finish any crossword, excellent at conkers) sleeping in the park

Comms

Digital – strategy, design, culture

Celebrating the Web Foundation’s 10th birthday with highlights from each year and ending with the launch of the Contract for the Web. There are five days left to watch Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s Dimbleby Lecture on iPlayer.

The sixth Charity Digital Index launched, benchmarking digital capability and essential digital skills. Here are some highlights from the launch event and a link to download the Charity Digital Index report.

Reason Digital surveyed over 2000 people and have produced The new rules of digital engagement: 2019 report with insights into how the UK population interacts with charities digitally. Essential reading.

Charity Comms’ annual Charity Digital Conference was huge. Catch up with my Moment of my live tweeting through the sessions I went to including this one by Bruce Daisley about workplace culture. You can now also access the conference slides and Laura Robertson’s blog post summary.

Slide from Bruce Daisley's session at the Charity Digital Conference - quote from Fleabag author "As an audience all you really want is to be surprised by things."

Digital inclusion:

Fundraising

People and organisations

Social media for leaders:

Climate

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 October’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

How to use a Twitter Moment

Twitter Moments were launched in 2016. They are generally underused in charity comms. A quick survey of 50 charity’s Twitter accounts found that only 18 had ever done a Moment. Most of the 18, had only done one or two. Yet they are a quick and easy way to present and preserve content.

Screenshot of 2 Cats Protection Moments with a small number of Likes

Engagement levels of Moments seem to be generally low but if you are using them infrequently and only sharing them once, this isn’t surprising. You need to have a content plan for sharing and integrating them within your comms.

Value shouldn’t just be based on likes, shares and opens. Having a permanent document of something is useful for lots of different reasons. For example a Moment can make it easier to share the story of an event during and afterward. Having an archive of Moments can help you to take stock and plan future comms. A Moment can be a great way to show Twitter activity to colleagues. Moments can also be used and reused as evergreen content.

Here are the most common uses for Moments:

  • to share an event
  • to preserve or share fragmented content
  • to have a permanent record of something important
  • to showcase your community
  • to present content in a different way.

1. Events

Runs, fundraising challenges and other events can generate a lot of tweets. The good ones can get lost in the noise or missed altogether. Having a Moment is a great way to showcase and celebrate what happened. They can brilliantly show the live atmosphere and hype of the event better than any write-up. And they can be useful months later when recruiting for next year or sharing the impact of what happened.

screenshot of Macmillan Cancer's tweet sharing their Moment of the London Marathon

Top tip: Try and make the Moment as soon after the event as possible. People get home and want to relive it. If your Moment is ready then, more people will look at it and share it with their friends. A Moment made a week later has missed the boat.

2. Content curation

Moments are also a great way to curate content on Twitter. Think of them as a simplified, single channel (much missed) Storify or Wakelet.

A Moment can be used to bring content together that would otherwise be hard to find. For example, responses to a question (user-generated content) or a series of tweets not made into a thread or when you want to include tweets from other people into your messaging.

screenshot of Time to Change Moment 1.4Likes

3. A permanent record

If something big is happening, why not make a Moment of it? Tweets will soon get lost in your back catalogue, never to be seen or used again. Document it live or after the event to help others follow what happened.

Tweet promoting Heads Together's Moment of the #MentalHealthMinute for Mental Health Awareness Week

See also: Rocur and Twitter takeovers – blog post from 2017.

4. Community building

I didn’t find very many examples of Moments being used to showcase community action. How could you use a Moment to thank or celebrate your community?

  • Cambridge CVS showcased small charities during Small Charity Week 2018.
  • Cats Protection gathered some of the best responses to their #CatMenDo campaign.

5. Fun / interesting content

Be creative. Moments can work in lots of different ways. Could you use a Moment to show your impact or as a brochure to your services or present complicated information (such as symptoms or research) in a Moment? Here are some examples of more unusual uses.

How to make a Moment – tips

If you haven’t ever made a Moment, they are pretty simple to do, just follow the steps once you click ‘Create new Moment’. Here’s a how-to guide from Twitter if you need one.

Here’s are some tips on how to do them well.

  • Choose a great cover image which will will be eye-catching and sets the scene for your Moment. I tend to put this tweet at the end of the Moment so that people don’t see the image twice straightaway.
  • Think of a Moment like an essay with an introduction, main points in the middle and conclusions at the end. Ease people in with a tweet which introduces the topic and at the end finish with something fun or silly or thoughtful. Don’t just trail off. I have sometimes written a tweet purposefully to use at the end of a Moment either in thanks or to ask a question or to signpost to further reading or a donation.
  • There should be a rhythm to your Moment. You have to curate it, so it flows and tells a story. For example you might put tweets next to each other which use the same colours.
  • Try not to include tweets which are very similar to others. Be ruthless. Not many people will make it to the end of a 20 tweet Moment. Put some good ones at the end – reward people for getting there!
  • Try to use tweets which only have one image. Tweets will multiple images take up more space and can disrupt the flow.
  • Include tweets with video or gifs or graphics to keep it interesting.
  • Make the title clear and short. Include the #hashtag if you are using one.
  • Tweet your Moment and @mention some of the accounts you have included to broaden engagement.

Top Moment makers

More about Moments

Do you use Moments?

Have you used Moments? Do you like them or think they are a waste of time?

Share your favourites and top tips in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Charity web at 30

The World Wide Web is 30 today (11 March 2019). Five years ago I used the Wayback Machine to look at trends in charity website design, using British Red Cross as an example. Here is the post, now updated with lessons from 2019.

Is your charity website keeping up with the latest developments in design and functionality?

Starting out – 1998

British Red Cross website 1998

The British Red Cross homepage in 1998 shows that the web standard of logo in top-left was there from the start. The site was very basic, probably hand-coded in html and uploaded via FTP.

  • Brochure-ware content – dense homepage to be read like a book.
  • Email to make a donation.
  • ‘Click here’ links.
  • No images.
  • No search.
  • Approx 10 pages. Only one-level down.
  • Sponsored by Vauxhall.

Increased functionality – 2006

British Red Cross 2006

Fast-forward eight years and the 2006 homepage leads with an appeal. Fundraising and raising awareness is now most important. There is greater awareness of design. More thought about actions and audience.

  • Published using CMS.
  • Images but no coherent design.
  • Site-wide (top) and left-hand navigation.
  • Fundraising prominent – 6/12 ‘Quick Links’ are fundraising. Donate now tab.
  • Search button.
  • Functionality – ‘In my area’.
  • Accessible links.
  • No social media (Facebook launched in 2004, Twitter in 2006).

Integrated digital comms – 2014

British Red Cross website 2014

Another eight years and now the 2014 website still leads with an appeal using a single emotive image. The site is sophisticated offering many opportunities for interaction, transaction, discussion and commerce but also has a presence across many other digital platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blog, Apps, games etc). It feels like digital is now being taken more seriously.

  • Multiple channels (links to six network channels at the bottom of the page).
  • Optimised for mobile / tablet.
  • Many opportunities for interaction.
  • Greater use of video, audio, photos, games to tell a story.
  • Donation button and quick PayPal option on homepage.
  • CMS powered, integration with CRM and other databases.
  • Evolution of ‘in your area’ functionality.
  • Accessibility buttons.

Website in 2019

Red Cross homepage in 2019. 10s full-screen video

Now the 2019 homepage is all about clarity and impact. Previously the homepage would have had to work hard at promoting everything as most people would go to the homepage first. Now sites are so well indexed with people going direct to the pages they are looking for, so the homepage can be devoted to telling a story or running a campaign. The homepage can appeal to hearts and minds rather than acting as a directory.

The currently site uses a full-screen video for the current appeal. It shows 10 seconds of different views from Yemen to tell a story to drive donations.

Below the appeal, the page is segmented into sections with different types of links (UK appeals, get help in a crisis, support, first aid, how we help, shop). These use colour and photos to make it easy to use. This architecture is replicated in the top-level navigation which is now reduced to five options.

  • Images are more powerful, instantly telling a story. Video is centre-stage.
  • Simplified navigation (no more What we do, Where we work etc).
  • Language is shorter and has more impact. Links are 1-3 words. Appeal text is ‘Help give life-saving aid to families in desperate need’. In contrast with ‘Help us continue giving thousands of people vital aid in this desperate situation. Please give what you can today’ from 2014.
  • Donate button on top right-hand side.

Web design in 2019

I have been training people on writing for the web since 2003 – over half of the web’s life – and working on websites since 1996. Many of the old rules still apply (short sentences, headings, meaningful link text etc). But the way we consume information and content online in 2019 means that we now need to be even tighter with our words. Attention spans are shorter and screens are smaller. The language we use needs to be immediate, strong and clear. There is no room for wasteful words on the homepage or in navigation links.

Photographs and images now need to have more impact. They should use strong colours and instantly tell a story. Compare the images used in 2006 / 2014 with the images used now. They use close-ups and are not afraid of sharing an intimate moment, pain or emotion. They are beautiful and difficult to look at.

Homepages generally use a hero image (or in some cases video) which is shown at full-screen. This image has to work very hard to communicate everything you want in that key real estate location. Do you have images that are strong enough to do that? Take a look at the homepages of Crisis, NCT, Brathay Trust, and Bloodwise for examples. (See also Review and improve your use of images.)

Your digital strategy

You don’t need to be the size of British Red Cross to need a clear plan for how your website and wider digital platforms support the goals of your organisation. Technologies and design standards are changing all the time. Just today, Samaritans launched its new website which has a cool features such as a dynamic homepage which changes depending on the time of day.

A digital strategy can help you to persuade trustees to invest in new technology or staff. You may use it to plan your increasing use of social media, create digital services and have a reference for how you’ll deal with a crisis. Or it may help you plan the next 6-12 months, ensuring you are using your resources in the right way and keeping up with your peers.

Take a look at the Charity Digital Code of Practice which was launched at the end of 2018. It aims to help charities increase their impact, develop skills and improve digital sustainability. Zoe Amar recently shared data from the self-assessment tool to show where charities are at with Code.

Whatever the priorities for your website, it is worth investing your time in producing a digital strategy to support its future evolution.

Useful links

If you need in-person help, there are lots of Digital Strategy courses and freelancers / consultants who can support you.

More on the web at 30

Read more about the web at 30:

Look at other examples of how design has evolved via the web design museum.

Google Doodle for the web at 30

Digital round-up – May

In the month that we were all swamped in GDPR emails and RNLI and Dog’s Trust were responding to endless negative comments following misreported press stories, there were lots of great reads. Pull up a comfy chair and catch up with some great charity content and digital reads you might have missed from May 2018.

View through a glass case of butterflies, we see a child with open mouth in amazement. At the Natural History Museum

Warning – you may need longer than a tea break to catch up. 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. Enjoy!

Digital

Useful resources and reads if you are working on digital projects, thinking about future technologies or just getting on with your everyday digital tasks:

Screenshot from CAST's design principles showing the first 5.

Inspiration from other organisations getting stuck into digital:

New websites / rebanding:

Events:

screenshot of one of the slides from the charity comms seminar.

Content / comms channels

street painting of lots of faces

ICYMI – I updated my 2013 post about trustee / staff pages on charity websites with new best practice and examples. How does your site match up?

Fundraising

Graphic from UK Fundraising - charities have a problem with men

Working with people

Great content

Still from ARUK video showing a hand drawing a healthy brain on the left and one with Alzheimer's on the right.

Plus there was lots of nice content around for the Royal Wedding, such as this knitted couple from Age UK and this blue blood image from NHS Give Blood.

Age UK tweet showing a knitted Harry and Meghan.

This Royal Wedding Moment contains lots of fundraising related fun from large and small charities. Great examples of how to join in with a feel-good event.

Strawberry Social even did a comprehensive thread of an A-Z of Royal Wedding tat which should have got more likes than it did.

See also

Coloured print outs of T&Cs from social media sites. Instagram's is the longest.

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 digital copywriting, 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 April’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

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#firstfiver – a democratic viral fundraiser

Selection of #firstfiver images from twitter

I have been watching the spread of the #firstfiver campaign since it started just under two weeks ago. It has been great to see how many organisations have joined in with this very simple idea.

Unlike other viral fundraisers (such as #nomakeupselfie which I have blogged about before) this was not connected to a particular cause. It also didn’t feature a complicated or strenuous ask (such as the Ice Bucket Challenge or the current #22PushUpChallenge).

Instead it was simple and easy to ask. And simple and easy for supporters to join in with.

Examples

If you haven’t come across it yet, look at my storify showing the spread of the campaign and how different charities have responded.

It includes examples from small charities such as Trinity Hosice, Harrogate Easier Living Project (HELP), The UK Sepsis Trust, Freedom from Torture and Make Lunch. And large ones including War Child UK, the Children’s Society and Sue Ryder.

Images, videos, thank yous and shopping lists showing the difference a £5 donation could make, all help to make a request stand out.

#firstfiver Storify – showing tips and examples

Get involved

If your organisation hasn’t joined in yet, it is not too late. The hashtag is still going strong and many people still haven’t had a new £5 note yet.

Share your views

Have you seen any good examples that I have missed? Any particularly humourous or creative or persuasive posts?

Has your organisation had (m)any donations? How easy was it for your organisation to join in with this campaign?

Have you made a donation yourself?

Please do comment, I’d love to hear from you.