Charity sector’s response to the Ukraine crisis

The situation in Ukraine is urgent and shocking and changing day-by-day. It can be difficult to know how to respond as an organisation. Do you launch an appeal? Use the news to campaign? Do you share your expertise of war situations or launch a new service? Do you manage people’s worries? Or not mention it at all, business as usual, not wanting to add to the noise? How might that change as the situation changes?

Here are some useful links and examples of the sector’s response to help you plan your own.

Advice for charities

NCVO’s blog post by Alex Farrow looks at how charities and civil society can support Ukraine. It also explores potential implications on charities such as increasing costs, cyber attacks and disaster recovery. Clare Mills of CFG also shared thoughts about the potential impact of the crisis to the sector.

CIoF’s Daniel Flusky has written advice about fundraising during an emergency with some excellent tips for charities. This includes being clear about how donations will be used. Here’s a nice example of this from Hope and Homes for Children.

The Charity Commission issued a statement about potential implications of the crisis on charities and a reminder about running effective appeals and managing funds.

Fundraising Everywhere have started a list of consultants offering their time for free to support organisations running emergency appeals.

Examples of appeals

The DEC launched its appeal on 2 March. (Update – It has raised £100m in four days.)

UK Fundraising have a list of fundraising appeals launched for Ukraine.

Refugee Action haven’t launched their own appeal but have shared advice about how to help including appeals and actions people can take.

London Plus have a google doc of London organisations offering and fundraising for help.

With so many different appeals, it can be hard for anyone to know where best to donate. The Charity Commission shared how to give safely. OSCR in Scotland issued something similar.

Deborah Meaden tweeted a plea for people to donate money rather than items due to the difficulty of transporting supplies overseas. See also this post about donations of ‘stuff’ and the problems it can cause – Ever sent clothes or toys in response to a disaster?

Emma Insley wrote about why donating to AirBnB hosts might not be the right thing to do either.

Services and support

Some stories from Ukraine are still getting out at this stage. For example, this dog shelter received funds from ifaw.

UK charities have started to offer services to people with connections with Ukraine. For example Relate are offering free telephone support for people with family in Ukraine.

St John Ambulance translated their first aid advice into Ukrainian and Russian.

Citizens Advice shared information about bringing family members from Ukraine to the UK.

Communicating about war

ICRC shared a thread about the rules of war.

Help for Heroes are calling for the media to be sensitive about the way they communicate about the war. Here’s their comms guide.

Greenpeace are raising concerns about the divisive language used by some of the reporting.

The Rory Peck Trust are running workshops for journalists about reporting during a war. They also have a crisis fund to support freelance journalists working in the conflict area.

Full Fact shared tips about how to check that information is correct before sharing it.

Cruse have shared information about bereavement through conflict and war.

Campaigns

Some organisations are using the situation to raise extra profile about legislation changes going through parliament. Like the treatment of refugees – see Freedom from Torture.

And the Policing Bill from Greenpeace.

Engaging Networks shared a thread of appeals and campaigns.

Greenpeace are asking the Government to Get Off Gas.

Managing mental health

Mind offer tips about managing stress and dealing with anxiety.

5 ways to help manage your mental health during a stressful newscycle, from Rethink.

There are useful resources from BBC Newsround on how to talk to children about the situation. Tips from Save the Children and British Red Cross too.

Crisis comms or business as usual?

What comms mode are you in? If you are a disaster relief or humanitarian charity, you are likely to be in crisis mode. If your work doesn’t touch these areas, it can be hard to know how to respond. Is it insensitive to broadcast your everyday news and events? You’ll have to decide on a day-by-day basis as the situation changes. People still need good news and other work doesn’t stop during this time. But it is worth reviewing scheduled messaging, stopping any campaigns if needed and being conscious of the language or images you are using.

Many organisations are sharing messages of unity with Ukraine. A few have changed the colours in their logos, eg Women in Journalism, and this BHF charity shop decorated its window in the Ukrainian colours. What is right for your organisation?

It’s a good time to review your crisis comms plan and think about possible future scenarios and how you would react. Look especially at the NCVO post above (how charities and civil society can support Ukraine) about the possible impact on charities such as increasing energy costs and cyber attacks.

I’ve seen a few examples of companies returning to sharing important information as images of text (see this example from MandS). This inaccessible comms method was widely used lockdowns, especially by supermarkets and Government. See why you shouldn’t tweet images of text.

More

What stand-out content or appeals have you seen from charities? Please do share in the comments.

Digital round-up – April 2020

Highlights this month: covid content, covid comms, covid language battles, covid fundraising, covid-driven digital services, covid burnout.

Well, March was intense. April was the same, but different. Now we are in May, it feels like a good time to review and reflect on the month just gone. This round-up, like most of the comms this month, is 98% coronavirus. Here are some gems you might have missed. Stay safe everyone.

Street art - Triangle with man in a hat walking across a zebra crossing. Says 'Virus' underneath. Looks like a warning sign.

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 and digital fundraising

At the start of the pandemic in March, comms was focussed around hand washing and protecting vulnerable groups. As we moved into April, fundraising appeals, digital fundraising and lockdown coping strategy content emerged. It has been really inspiring to see so many creative campaigns turned round so quickly and made from home.

Most charities have built covid information hubs on their websites, very quickly writing lots of new content to meet the needs of their audience. These hubs are generally prominently linked from homepages and in some cases appear as a new item on top-level navigation. Here’s a selection:

Comms

Illustration of a Tank from Yasmeen Serhan's article

Digital – strategy, design, culture

Inaccessible tweet from 10 Downing Street. Uses image of a letter with no text description

It has been really worrying to see the rise of so much inaccessible information during this time from official sources, businesses and some charities. The accessibility of official information provided by No10, DHSC, PHE and even the NHS has been especially poor at a time when it matters most. This was covered on Channel 4 News.

It has been particularly noticeable that so many organic and promoted tweets used images or gifs of text to share statements and complicated information. These generally appear with no alt text or link to an html version of the information, or text version in a thread. The information is therefore inaccessible to anyone who can’t view images. There have also been lots of videos without subtitles and without voice overs.

Clearly this has been a pressured time to release information as quickly as possible. But accessibility matters.

Fundraising

2.6 challenge image. boy in a superhero costume

People and organisations

We’ve all had to rapidly adjust to this new way of working. It has been tough. Not least because of the technological learning curve and the loss of face-to-face contact, but also because we are all dealing with big additional mental loads as we come to terms with the situation we are living and working in. The home schooling, the loneliness, the worries about food and health and the future and our loved ones. There’s lots to deal with.

There was a flood of ‘top tips for working at home’ type-articles at the start. And now, there are more about recognising that wall-to-wall Zoom calls and WFH (especially when your home isn’t set up for this) is very draining. If you are finding it hard, or your team’s motivation is draining, this is normal. Here are some articles which it might be worth sharing internally. You are doing great. It’s ok to have off-days. Working life is likely to be like this for a while.

The current situation has lots of implications for long-term outputs. Organisational strategies have been parked and business as usual pivoted. It’s a challenging time for senior leaders and trustees.

Sector

And finally….

Lavender field in Kent

I am missing train trips and walks in open countryside. I have been sharing some virtual walks and adventures including Cornwall, a sleeper train to Spain (and back) plus the lavender fields of Kent.

If you want to transport yourself to other places at a deeper level, take a look at Radio Lento podcasts. Get some headphones and listen to 30-minute soundscapes of woods, rivers and birds. Perfect for meditation, some quiet before sleep or just switching off during the day. Subscribe via your podcast provider or get updates via @RadioLento.

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch? Please share 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 the last round-up? Catch up with more good reads from a time before lockdown.

Coronavirus comms – planning ahead

As we move into a more widespread experience of the virus, our comms will change. So far, we have been in a full-on crisis planning stage. We have been mobilising to work from home, digitising our services, getting ready to do the work which is needed, fundraising and campaigning under #EveryDayCounts.

Now, the situation will change as we hit the peak with more cases. More of us will get ill, know someone who is ill or who has died. At the same time, we will be feeling the impact of increased financial and practical pressures individually and on our organisations.

How and what we communicate on behalf of our organisations and between ourselves will change. The leadership team should be setting the tone and framework for this. Work with them to plan now what this might look like for your organisation.

Graphic of brightly coloured houses

Here are some resources and thoughts which might help you to plan for this stage. Effectively we are all working through a constant crisis situation.

External comms about your work

What you say about your organisation at this time, clearly depends on the work you are doing. But your comms need to be agile. The situation is changing rapidly. The priorities for your organisation and your audience have completely changed and will continue to do so. What are you able to predict with confidence and what scenarios are likely to be ahead?

Is your comms process working in the current situation? If not, what needs to change to streamline publishing? For example, who is deciding on and approving messaging? Where are the bottlenecks and can these be removed? Who is identifying new content you need to create to cover subjects people need to know about? Are you able to turn this round quickly but to the same quality standards?

Your audience is likely to be flat-out and also needing to switch off. So, the volume of your comms, the range of topics you are covering and the channels you may use, will be different. Streamline what you are doing as much as possible so you are sharing the same messages across the channels you are using.

Do you have time to respond to people’s comments and questions via social media? People may be lonely / bored / frightened and more likely to reach out this way, than before. Are you set up to deal with this type of ‘customer service’? Who do you priorise if you have limited time? It can be helpful to have a playlist of common responses and links which you edit as needed.

Keep one place updated as your primary information source. Many organisations now have a coronavirus section on their websites where they share resources and information about their services. Create a go-to place if you haven’t already.

What does your content mix look like? Is it appropriate to share good news, fun stories or reassuring content? People will need cheering up. Think about your tone of voice. Make sure what you are sharing is appropriate for the general mood / news.

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 by Ella Saltmarshe about how language changes through a crisis and how to frame your comms is useful. 8 tips for framing covid19. And the NHS styleguide now has a coronavirus entry.

Beware of sharing misinformation or yesterday’s news. Things are changing rapidly. Only share current and official sources of information.

Don’t forget about accessibility during this time. Everyone needs to be able to access important information. For example, don’t share images of text, gifs of videos without text descriptions and / or links to an html version. Use subtitles on videos.

Scheduling messages may be risky at the moment. We just don’t know what is ahead.

Comms about your people

How is your comms set up to deal with bad news about colleagues, volunteers or the people you work?

For individual cases

  • How will you receive the news? Are you checking in with each other? Do you have contact details for next of kin?
  • How will you tell people the news internally? Who will do this?
  • Are there some people you might need to share the news about publicly, such as patrons, founders or trustees? If so, do you have a template for biographies or tributes? Do you have appropriate photos you can use?
  • Do you have ways that people can come together online to share their stories and memories of that person? For example, through a hashtag or in-memory board? How will you curate or share these with the person’s loved ones?
  • In the absence of funerals and with so many people working from home, not seeing each other, the usual ways of coming together to grieve are not possible. What can you do to help people mourn within your organisation?

For multiple cases

  • How will you keep track of people within your network who have died? Will you manage a list? Who will look after this? How might you need to use this now and later?

Tone of voice

What is your internal and external tone of voice talking about death? Do you use euphemisms like ‘passed away’? Or talk in a more matter of fact way? It is a good time now to work this out if you haven’t already. The NHS health writing style guide has just added an entry to clarify how they write about death and dying. They use direct language.

Internal comms

What systems do you need to put in place to help people process bad news? This can be really hard especially when everyone is working remotely. Good internal comms is key.

Regularly review whether your internal channels are working well. Is everyone engaged? Are your systems making things easier or adding more stress?

How can you add some light relief? I have seen people starting their team conference calls with a quiz or tours round their homes or with a fancy dress theme (such as a hat). Other people bring their children or pets on the calls to say hi.

Useful resources about mental health

Look after yourself and your colleagues. This thread from Matthew Sherrington about managing your team through a crisis – organising, communicating, taking care of yourself and others, is full of useful tips.

Here are some other useful links.

Useful resources about grief and bereavement

Other resources

Have you read anything else useful I should add here? Or seen examples? Or got tips. Please add in the comments or let me know.

See also: Coronavirus comms for charities.

Look after yourselves please. And wash you hands.

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 2018

Highlights this month: #YouMadeItHappen, #GivingTuesday, Christmas campaigns, Charity Digital Code launched.

November is always a rich time for content with Giving Tuesday and Christmas appeals. This month it was also the first ever #YouMadeItHappen day. It was great to see so many large and small charities joining in by thanking their supporters and sharing detail of the impact they had made.

children's self portraits hanging in a classroom

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

Content

Christmas campaigns:

Cute dog. A dog is for life not just for Christmas.

Need more Christmas? See UK Fundraising’s collection of Christmas ads and my top 5 charity digital advent calendars.

Giving Tuesday:

Also this month:

screenshot of video shared by Age UK of older lady standing next to runners in a race. She holds out her arm to get high fives from friendly runners.

Did you join in with #YouMadeItHappen day? The hashtag reached 5.4m people. Here are some highlights of YMIH 2018.

Twitter takeover of the month: Scope for International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Comms

Mind tweet showing video of Erther McVey arguing for Universal Credit in the House of Commons.

Don’t forget to book your ticket for the Social Media Exchange in February.

Digital – strategy, design, culture

'Join the conversation about the #CharityDigitalCode'

Following the consultation period, the Charity Digital Code has now officially launched. Do have a look if you haven’t already.

The Small Charities Coalition challenged Zoe Amar to explain it in three post-it notes. And in Charity Digital News she shares 7 things you can do in 30 minutes a day.

The Code advocates digital skills across staff and the board. This helpful infographic produced by Zoe Amar, Ellie Hale, Sally Dyson and Janet Thorne asks Do you need a digital trustee?

Also this month:

Fundraising

JustTextGiving to close in March next year. Are you ready? (See also Figure for text donation plummets by £86m and donr announces text giving service.)

Movember's contactless fundraising badges

People and organisations

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

Digital round-up – September 18

Highlights this month: AI, ethics, the Human search engine, and hope.

September is a busy month of awareness days and a good time to launch new brands or websites before the noise of seasonal fundraising. Pop the kettle on and catch up with some content and good reads you might have missed.

vintage toy yellow citron car on a fluffy blue carpet

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

Still from Wayback video. Two older ladies using cardboard VR viewer, open mouths - wow!

screenshot of 4 human search engine images

There were new websites from Sue Ryder, and NPC this month. Plus new brands from National Autistic Society and RNIB who created a short video about the change..

Comms

Digital

Fundraising

In case you missed it, I wrote this about donor experience / in-memory fundraising.

People

Hope… and where to find it – read this moving post by Kate Carroll to help remind yourself why your comms / information / fundraising work, really matters.

black and white photo of hands holidng a piece of paper with the word 'hope' written

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, skills review and ideas injection.

——

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

Digital round-up – June

June passed by in a blur of great weather, football fever and lots of great charity reads. Get an ice cream / cool drink and settle back to hook some juicy digital catches!

metal fish in a paddling pool, ready to be hooked for fun. Summer picture.

Warning – this is another bumper crop. 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!

Content

Dogs Trust - cute animation. Starts with a dog shuffling across the screen looking cheeky

Map with hundreds of red dots, each clickable to read the supporter's comment

5s video showing a small wave washing away a person (in lego) talking a photo of the weather.

Screenshot of doggy Twitter Moment

Digital

In case you missed it Brathay Trust: a lesson in crisis comms.

Brathay's instagram - image of a young man in a bright yellow t-shirt completing the run

Teams and ways of working

Mind your language

Suicide has been in the news a lot recently. Here are some guides to writing about it responsibly.

Events

Fundraising

Scope subscription box Mindful Monsters for parents and chidren

More

And finally….

1970's BBC presenter next to a BBC micro computer.

 

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

 

 

 

How to share lived experiences using #rocur or Twitter take overs

Hearing someone’s story firsthand can build empathy, a sense of community and crush stereotypes or assumptions. But in a noisy world, how can we as charities get those voices heard?

Finding ways for people to engage with real experience is key. More charities are trying rocur (rotation curation) or media take overs. Find out how they could work for you.

colourful children's drawings of faces

Hearing lived experience

We’ve talked before about empathy and the power of stories (following Jude Habib’s amazing Being the Story event in 2016). Last week at the Social Media Exchange Lemn Sissay argued that charities shouldn’t be working to ‘give children a voice’ as they have voices already. Rather we should be working to find ways for their voices to be heard.

This idea was explored more deeply by Gemma Pettman in her blog post following the event in which she included reflections about the Expert Citizens programme.

We may feel like we are working hard to get the voices out there but your case study or a video probably isn’t doing this. As editors we are applying our own filters and key messages to these stories. Of course as comms professionals, we might feel like we know what makes a good story and we want to streamline the story so it ticks our boxes (we don’t want any other causes or issues getting in the way). But this isn’t the way people work.

It might feel scary or dangerous but how can we create a platform which we can hand over to the people we represent? Some charities are doing this through their blog or vlog. For example Mind invites anyone to contribute. Others are using social media to share user-generated content. For example read about Anthony Nolan’s Facebook content strategy.

To actually hand the keys over to the channels is another level, with no editorial control! Here we look at some examples.

Rocur (or rotation curation)

According to wikipedia, rotation curation started on Twitter in 2011 with the @sweden account. Rocur accounts are usually managed on a weekly basis with each new person sharing details of their lives. An administrator manages the account, ensuring every week is covered.

The Sweden account (which itself says it started in 2009) is still going strong and has 104k followers. There are now many other location-based accounts including @LondonisYours, @WeAreXPats and HI_Voices.

In October 2016, the nhs account launched with Richard who shared his experience of living with cancer. The account is ‘manned’ by staff, trainees and patients and already has 10.6k followers. It is used from 8am-8pm, Monday to Thursday and from 8am-6pm on Friday.

text says: @NHS aims to celebrate the NHS by bringing to life the stories of staff and patients through their own words. To highlight the amazing stories that happen every day and the people involved. @NHS enables people with an NHS story to tell to share their experiences.

This account works so well because it is well curated with different voices each week. The weekly host tends to share a lot of personal information and they respond to questions and treat it as a conversation. It feels like followers are genuinely learning about someone’s job or condition from reading the tweets. Read more about the @nhs account.

In a similar vein, @Parkinsons52 is used by people who have experience of Parkinson’s. The account has been live since February 2016. It has been hosted by patients experiencing varying stages of the disease from across the world as well as health care professionals and staff from Parkinson’s UK including CEO Steve Ford. It was set up by David Sangster who saw it as a way to connect the Parkinson’s community, raise awareness and to show how the disease can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.

tweets from Parkinsons52

Take overs

Less of a committment is to host a social media take over, where someone outside of the comms team uses the account for a short time. This is generally less about lived experience and more about giving an alternative insight or perspective. Museums are good at doing this such as with their ask the curator sessions.

Kids in Museums drive an annual day where museums let children take over. Some organisations do this by letting young people use their social media accounts to share their experiences of the museum. The Teen Twitter Takeover is in August and there are useful factsheets about how to let teenagers tweet from the museum account. The guide says that the biggest benefit is that the teenagers feel really trusted to be allowed to do this. Read more about Take Over Day.

Take over day tweet from Helston Museum

Each year local government joins in with #OurDay. This is more managed than a take over but gives an opportuity for councils to share the stories of employees and locals who use services. Through the social media activity they can show the detail and breadth of what they do. See this Moment of #OurDay in 2016 for some examples.

Could it work for you?

If one of your goals is to raise awareness, then somewhere within your comms strategy should be a way to show rather than tell.  Finding simple ways to build understanding and empathy is key.

These examples are all about showing the detail of something, the everyday impact of a condition or situation. It is the detail which connects us. And it is the detail which is often missed in our corporate comms where we are often trying to show the bigger picture to make a point.

Giving a platform in this way can be daunting. Some of the barriers could be:

  • “it sounds too time consuming to administer and monitor”
  • “we don’t have access to a big bank of potential people who could contribute”
  • “we have a duty of care for children or vulnerable people – what if people ask probing questions or they get trolled?”
  • “is it really worth it – will people listen or engage? Will it actually change anyone’s minds?”
  • “our community has low IT skills or limited access to tech.”

A good plan, policy and support are key. Be realistic about what you can take on. You don’t have to sign yourself up to a year-long stint of weekly hosts. It is ok to take a pause. Why not start small, an hour on the first Friday of every month or a pilot project?

Of course, this method will not work for every cause and will be out of reach for many small charities. But as the examples show, they don’t have to be owned by a charity. Parkinsons52 works so well because it is about the disease rather than about the charity. PUK are occasionally involved but they don’t own or manage it.

For contributors it can be a real opportunity to share their experience and feel like they are helping other people to understand. It can be empowering. It can be a way of connecting with others in a similar situation.

If there are accounts out there related to your cause why not support them, promote them and even contribute to them?

Tips for recruiting and managing contributors

  • Recruit a good mix of volunteers to help you get started. This will also help to establish the tone. Think about people who have interesting stories or ideas and who are used to using social media. Once the account gets going, think about how you’ll find new people to contribute. Make it easy for them to sign up and keep good records of who has contributed and who is to come to make sure you have a good mix.
  • Produce tips and guidelines to give to contributors. Include an idea about how often to tweet (5 times a day is achievable for most) and best times of day to get a conversation. Be very clear about your posting guidelines (eg no obscene, offensive or self-promoting material) and what contributors can do (such as unfollowing or DMing people).
  • Provide instructions for the practicalities of using the account such as the handover between people and logging in. Will you change the password each time a new person uses the account?
  • Help your next contributor to prepare for their time. Ask them to think about what they do and don’t want to tweet about, what questions they will ask to prompt conversations and how they’ll deal with people they disagree with. Help them to think about a ‘message’ they’d like people to go away with at the end of their week if this is relevant. It is also useful to help them prepare for the lull days in the middle of their stint. Polls can be a good way to drive interaction. As can photos.
  • Be ready to step in if they need support. It can take a brave person to put themselves out there (especially on mega accounts like @nhs). You should also do some thinking about the things that could go wrong and have strategies in place to deal with these.
  • At the end of their time, think about how to support them – it can be hard to get used to normal life after having so many people listening and talking to you!

Tips for getting the most out of the content

  • Pin a welcome message for the new account holder so your followers can understand what is going on.
  • Personalise the avatar and username – the nhs account do this really well.
  • Curate the best tweets from the event or week. For example take a look at the @nhs Moment from Yvonne’s week and the full list of @nhs Moments. Think about how to showcase these on other channels.
  • Prime some friends, colleagues or family to ask questions to get the conversation going, especially as the account gets established.

screenshot from @nhs account

Share your examples

Have you seen any other good (or bad) examples of rocur or take overs? Are there any other charity or public sector examples? Do share them here.

If you are looking to experience a take over firsthand to get a feel for how it works, accounts like @LondonIsYours are always looking for new contributors. Why not see if there is an account you can contribute to?

With thanks

Big thanks to rocur users Leah Williams Veazey and David Sangster who shared their experiences for this post.

Saying thank you on #GivingTuesday

Giving Tuesday started in the UK in 2014. Charities use it in all sorts of different ways. Some ask for money or time. Others ask for action. (See Do something good this Giving Tuesday by Kirsty Marrins for some examples).

Others just say thank you. Here are some of the creative and lovely thank you’s I have seen today.

Videos

Mind’s staff read out messages from people who have been helped by Mind. At the end it says ‘We can’t thank you enough for helping us to give people a place to turn and a way forward’.

Mind's staff reading out thank you messages

The Trussell Trust have been tweeting very short thank you messages covering all aspects of how people support them. There is one long one (37s!) on YouTube.

Trussell Trust's staff hold up thank you signs

The Donkey Sanctuary said thank you to their supporters with lots of lovely pictures of donkeys.

Video of still photos of donkeys

Images

War Child UK shared a thank you photo with children holding up letters and waving.

Children hold up letters spelling out 'Thank You'

Refugee Action shared ‘thanks to you’ numbers showing how many people they had been able to help.

Refugee Action - 'this year, you've helped us to...

Marie Curie have been using lots of different ways to say thank you. Here they share statistics showing the impact of their work. Other tweets show them writing thank you letters. Members of staff talked about this on their personal twitter accounts too. And they made fab personal doodles.

Marie Curie - a supporter says thanks for the fun thank you

Personal thanks

Rethink Mental Illness also called supporters to say thank you. In total they contacted 221 people!

Rethink Mental Illlness contacted 221 people to say thank you

Breast Cancer Care started a #ChainOfThanks.

Debbie's thanks to her best friend as part of BCC's ChainOfThanks

The British Heart Foundation thanked their 68,000 event fundraisers and also tweeted a special thanks to the Marathon runners. They also tweeted personal thank you’s using gifs and red and white images to certain supporters. And the CEO Simon Gillespie tweeted his thanks to staff and volunteers.

BHF: 'you ran the miles, you made it count'

Dogs Trust thanked their corporate partners, saying they were ‘wagtastic’.

Dog's Trust sending personal thanks

How do you say thanks?

It is easy but important to say thank you. How do you do it?

A general thank you works well with an image or video to attract attention. These images, videos and actions are low cost and reasonably low-effort. You don’t need a big budget to say thank you well using social media.

Have you seen any other creative thanks today? Please do share them in the comments.

Thanks for reading 🙂

See also GivingTuesday’s Twitter Moments showing some of the UK charity activity and how brands got involved.

Images on social media

Images are crucial to social media. This post looks at how charities can use images to grab attention or tell their stories. It uses lots of examples from Twitter but many of the rules also apply to Facebook

Just two years ago, images were a nice-to-have. Now they are a must-have to grab attention. This screenshot from my Twitter feed shows the difference. In 2014 in a random sample, just one tweet out of nine has an image. In 2016, four out of five, does.

Twitter in 2014 = one tweet with an image out of 8. Twitter 2016 = 5 tweets, 4 with images

Personally I used to scroll through tweets sifting by account. Now I primarily sift by images. Images have to be eye-catching and engaging to make me stop and read. But, what makes a good image?

Images which tell a story

L-R Maurice at St Paul's, Toilet Twinning donations jar, Rio's life-saving heart transplant

Images can tell a story themselves or can be a gateway into a story – a hook to get the reader’s interest. For example, the image of 101-year old volunteer Maurice at St Paul’s Cathedral makes you want to read his story. The image from Toilet Twinning of a jar of coins is intreging, it makes you ask questions about how much they are trying to raise and how. This BHF image of Rio following his life-saving heart transplant shows him in hospital surrounded by medical equipment and with a breathing tube. Each is a powerful image, hooking us in to want to read more.

Images which are cute / beautiful

L-R Blue Cross ginea pigs, National Trust property with 2100 likes on FB, Royal Academy #imageoftheday

Images are like a reward, they can brighten someone’s day. Social media is made to share cute or beautiful images.

Unsurprisingly, animal charities such as Blue Cross, share lots of cute images. These are rewards for people who love guinea pigs / cats / hedgehogs etc. The images are useful to illustrate messages about rehoming and general education about animals. Images are also crucial to support social media fundraising. See this tweet from the Barn Owl Trust – awww.

Many museums and galleries share items from their collections via social media. For example, the East London Group and the Royal Academy connect with their followers with an #imageoftheday often connecting this with something that is topical. Heritage organisations are great at using images of their properties. The National Trust share their amazing collection of photos brilliantly on Facebook and get a high level of interaction.

You don’t have to be the National Trust to share beautiful pictures. Do you have a garden or view to share (see tweets from Canal and River Trust or Lewis-Manning Hospice)? Are you having a cake sale (see Maternal Worldwide’s Muffins for Midwives campaign)? Think about what is cute or beautiful in your organisation.

Images which are fun

Fun images are harder to get right as humour is very subjective and hard to translate through technology. You can be creative, playful, topical and fun but only if it is relevant and appropriate for your brand and audience. Take a look at Give Blood’s recent use of emojis or YoungScot’s use of animated gifs.

L-R Bill Bailey with an owl on his head, St John's tips for Jon Snow, Dave the Worm enjoying his breakfast

Images can be fun because the people in them are having fun (think fundraising or volunteering activities) or include notoriously fun people (see this tweet of Bill Bailey with an owl on his head from the Barn Owl Trust).

Images can also be fun because they join in with something lots of people are talking about. Memes, TV shows, the weather, news stories can all be used to join in with existing fun. See St John Ambulance’s first aid tips for Game of Thrones characters.

Organisations sometimes create an alter-ego for their brand which can do the fun stuff. Examples of this are RSPB’s Vote for Bob and Dave The Worm from Parkinson’s UK.

Images which are shocking

Images can be shocking because they show things we wouldn’t usually see (such as Dr Kate Granger’s moving deathbed tweets).  Or because they show a truly shocking situation (think of the images of the young Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach in September 2015). Images which are shocking may provoke feelings of disgust, anger or sadness. However, reactions may vary; it can be difficult to predict where an image goes too far (think of the backlash against Barnado’s adverts in 2000).

Whether you use shocking images depends on your cause and what you are trying to achieve. Remember that you have a duty of care. Images don’t need to be graphic to have impact.

Think about your audience and what they will tolerate. Think about what you are trying to achieve, what action you are trying to prompt. Think about balance. If your subject matter is only ever shocking, how can you illustrate it in a sensitive but impactful way which brings people in to find out more?

L-R Oxfam, Greenpeace, Brain Injury Hub

  • Sometimes text can add impact to an image. This example from Oxfam International shows a beautiful image of a Burundian mother and child with the words ‘A refugee is a person who doesn’t have any options’.
  • This Greenpeace campaign about the recycle-ability of disposable coffee cups uses images of Caffe Nero, Costa and Starbucks cups with a shocking fact (7 million coffee cups are used per day in the UK. 1% are recycled).
  • An image can be shocking without being obviously sad. This example from The Brain Injury Hub shows toddler Harmonie-Rose who had meningitis playing with her dolls.
  • This image shared by Aspire is a still from a Channel 4 news item. It shows a man cutting food with a sharp knife using his prosthetic hand.

Images which give information

Effective images can also be ones which give infomation or are just interesting. This could be a photo of something which helps someone to understand a situation or topic (such as this tweet from Thames21 showing microbeads), or an image which illustrates data (see using graphics to illustrate data on social media for lots of examples) or illustrates text (such as Mind’s series of quotes).

L-R Thames 21 fingertip showing microbeads, Mind quote (I have many separate distinct and unique 'parts' of my personality), GoodGym runners

Information pictures also play an important role in inspiring people to get involved. Images of people doing fundraising or volunteering can inspire other people to do the same (‘there’s a picture of people running, they look like me and like they are having a good time, I could do it too’). This example from GoodGym is great as it shows runners in bright T-shirts running along a street, smiling!

Your image strategy

An image strategy may be an over-inflated term but it is important to spend some time thinking about and documenting how you will use images.

  • Do your images fit into the categories above? They can of course just be window-dressing, there to look pretty or eye-catching (see this tweet from MindApples).
  • Do you have something in your housestyle or brand guidelines about the types of images you use? What about your social media or content strategy?
  • Do you have a different style for social media or do you use the same image for the same story across all your channels?
  • Do you use an image for every tweet or post or just when you have something appropriate ready to use? What is your policy?

What thinking or analysis have you done about images? It is worth testing out what style actually works for you and on what channels. What works on Facebook might not necessarily work on Twitter. And what works on these ‘news’ channels might be different than what works on other types of social channels such as Instagram. Don’t assume that your audience are the same.

Spend some time testing out different techniques and using the analytics within Twitter and Facebook to find out the impact / level of interaction.

The rules

Images are very subjective. What appeals to one person, might not work for another. Whether you are taking the picture yourself or are choosing from your image library, there are some basic rules which apply.

  • Don’t use pictures which are unclear or blurry or dark – on social media you have seconds to get your message across or to attract attention. Images need to be instantly appealing with strong contrasting colours (like this RNIB tweet of a bright green broccoli in a red colander). If you only have poor quality images, why not make them into a collage to make them more interesting. This this collage from Muffins for Midwives which tells more of a story than a single image.
  • Don’t use images which are cluttered or hard to understand – photograph your subjects on a plain background if possible. Your tweets and posts will be looked at on all kinds of devices and may appear very small. Sometimes this rule can be broken if the background tells a story. For example, the BHF image of Rio above or this image from the Trussell Trust of a big group of children in a warehouse.
  • Avoid pictures which are too complicated or badly cropped – these can lose meaning. Strangely cropped images may attract attention but might just be too wacky (see MyCommunity’s spade image).
  • Don’t be boring – do you really have to use that giant donation cheque image?! (Just do a search for ‘charity cheques’ to see how universally boring these are.) Of course it can be politic to take a cheque photo but does it really work on social media? There are lots of ways of showing a fundraising total without having to show the dreaded cheque / handshake (see this press release about JD Wetherspoon’s CLIC Sargent fundraising which shows the total in giant golden balloons or this big thank you from SeeAbility).

Google search for 'charity cheques'

>>See more about cheques in this newer post – Say no to GIANT cheque pictures

Remember also, that not everyone following your social media channels will be able to see your images. Twitter and Facebook do now have some accessibility features, although on Twitter it is applied manually and only via apps. Unless you use alt text, avoid using an image on its own. Instead include meaningful text about what the image is showing and ideally a link for more information (the Mind tweet above is a good example of this).

Checklist

  • Do you know what is right for your cause / brand / audience / channel?
  • What is your image policy and style?
  • Do your images follow the rules of good pictures?
  • Do you use images which tell a story?
  • Are your images cute / beautiful?
  • Are your images fun – do you use humour or respond to topical stories or memes?
  • Do you use images which are shocking?
  • Do your images give information?
  • Are they just window-dressing?
  • Are you using images accessibly?

Bottom-line is, don’t be boring!

Experiment, be creative and involve the team to take new images. Use analytics to check what is working. Find your image style.

Further reading

See also, my previous posts on using graphics to illustrate data on social media and how to illustrate difficult causes and subjects. Also, my chapter on images in the Charity Social Media Toolkit on the SkillsPlatform.

Do you agree?

When have you broken the rules and it has worked? Do you have a style guide for images? How do you manage your images and how they are used? What images have you seen or used recently?

Please do share your experience and examples by adding a comment. I’d love to hear from you.