Category Archives: Charity

Why small can be beautiful

Small Charity Week (13-18 June) is an opportunity to reflect on the incredible work done by some of the smallest organisations in the sector.

In a world where bigger is often considered better, it’s easy to overlook the work of organisations run by small teams with modest turnovers, and without the resources of big charity ‘machines’.

But, through our recent work with the amazing charity Birth Companions, we’ve been reminded of the power of small. Instead of being a negative, modest size can often be a real positive, particularly when it comes to comms and PR.

Here’s a reminder of how small charities can use their size to make a big impact:

  1. Be the expert – Rather than working at arm’s length, being part of a small charity often means you’re closer to the action. You understand the needs of your beneficiaries, the challenges they are facing and how they are changing over time. Use this to your advantage and keep an eye on trends. Build anecdotes about the service users you come across into your media and marketing materials. Authentic story telling is what it’s all about.
  2. Stay focused – A good comms strategy is tied to wider organisational objectives, so it doesn’t just serve its own purpose, but those of the charity. No one knows those better than you and your team. A clear comms strategy with measurable objectives will keep you focused on what you’re trying to achieve, and the best way to do that, ensuring no efforts or resource go to waste.
  3. Keep it personal – Good PR is all about building relationships and journalists love to know they can come to you for comment. As a small charity, having good relationships with a handful of trusted journalists who understand your organisation will set you in good stead and will make achieving quality coverage much easier.
  4. Be nimble – Free from the challenges of large teams and disparate departments who don’t talk to each other, you’ll find that decisions get made faster and sign-off is easier, which means you can be more responsive, not only in dealing with the media, but in reviewing your activity and adjusting it if it’s not achieving what you need it to.

Let us know about your experience of comms at small organisations.

Whole lotta love (or haha, wow, sad or angry)…

You’ll have noticed a new set of ‘Reactions’ buttons on Facebook. An extension of the ‘Like’ button, you can now choose from a range of emojis to show how you feel about a post. You can add a reaction by hovering over the Like button on a PC or by holding it down on a mobile, and then clicking on either Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad or Angry.

reactions picReactions will initially work in the same way as a Like – they’ll carry the same weight (loving something won’t mean more than liking it) and by ‘Reacting’ to something, Facebook will infer that users want to more see more of that type of content. Facebook has said this weighting will change over time, as they gather data and develop their understanding of what people want to see, since, clearly, being sad or angry about something doesn’t necessarily mean people want to see more of that in their newsfeed.

This is a potentially exciting development for charities, which often employ emotive and moving content, meaning users may be reluctant to ‘like’ a story highlighting the negative impact of a disease, for example. The fact that people can now express a wider range of emotions will help give a more accurate reflection and nuanced understanding of their reactions – which can be monitored and used to inform future content and campaigns.

It will be easier to see whether people are reacting in the way we want or expect them to, and to analyse which type of content gets which particular reaction. So if, for example, a positive post gets a large number of angry responses, you’re either doing something wrong or reaching the wrong people – and it’s possible that in future Facebook might let you select your ad audience based on different Reactions.

This latest development will hopefully lead to increased engagement amongst Facebook users, but let us know what you think and how it might change what you do.

Our #digital future

After attending the recent CharityComms seminar on digital communication trends, we wanted to highlight and share just two of the many interesting and inspiring ideas discussed, about how we should be using technology now and in the (near) future to engage audiences, and make sure we’re not just talking to ourselves.

Breaking out of the bubble was one of our favourites. Joe Hall of The Climate Coalition and Woo Hoo Yeah Yeah! reinforced the idea that while we might be doing very nicely in our bubble – having fantastic, engaged conversations – many activists and others who care about our issues remain on the outside. Meaning there are literally millions not being reached. Joe is right to argue that these people should become a much more prominent target and a defined focus for future campaigns.

With the assertion that social media is becoming people’s main source of news and information and Facebook making many of us more narrow-minded, it’s vital that we make a conscious and concerted effort to reach less engaged audiences, and not leave them behind.

Virtual reality (VR) was another idea with a lot of buzz. The technology has been around in various forms for a while. It looks like its moment has finally come, as devices are more readily available and affordable. For example with Google Cardboard anyone can make their own headset and experience virtual reality from a smartphone for arond £3.

These exciting developments open up a whole (virtual) world of possibilities for charities and organisations that rely on creating a connection between their work and their audience – giving supporters an immersive experience of the charity’s work.

Some organisations have already been exploring the use of VR. In May last year Amnesty International launched a virtual reality street fundraising project using VR sets to transport members of the public from the streets of London to the war-torn streets of Syria. And it worked. Amnesty reported strong, emotional reactions; some people were brought to tears. The figures are also impressive: after a week they registered a 16% increase in regular givers.

A big thanks to CharityComms for another great event, and to all the presenters for their enlightening talks. We look forward to seeing how these trends influence charities’ communications activities in the coming months and years.

For more info, look on the CharityComms website where you can check out all of the presentations and see some of the Twitter reaction from the day.

Charity Christmas Campaigns – a few of our favourites

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and charitable, so we’ve rounded up a few of our favourite charity Christmas projects. We’d love to hear which ones have struck a chord with you, or which you’ve been involved in! Tweet us @amzpr.

Crisis Christmas Party
This is a great way of building an easy fundraising ask into a season packed with pre-planned, cause-ready activities. Great to see it has been well promoted on social media by party-throwers and party-goers alike using #crisisxmasparty.

Crisis cropSainsbury’s and Mog for Save the Children
Sainsbury’s has pulled off another great charity tie-in, with a huge amount of editorial as well as advertising-led exposure for Mog’s Christmas Calamity with Judith Kerr, raising funds for Save the Children.Mog24 Lever Street Manchester – with Wood Street Mission
A beautiful offline project, with a giant calendar on the side of 24 Lever Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Each window will reveal a design created by local designers and illustrators which will then be sold to raise funds for Wood Street Mission, a charity helping children and families living in poverty.

Lever StWWF Advent Calendar
Unveiling easily shareable content including photography, films and facts each day to prompt donations in the run up to Christmas.

WWF#ObjectsUnwrapped – Historic Royal Palaces
A series of 24 films showing festive objects from the Historic Royal Palaces collection being unwrapped. This is a great example of just how effective simple, carefully produced films can be without breaking the bank!

ObjectsThanks to @madlinsudn for highlighting some of these on her great advent calendar storify.

Trust in charities: Who cares?

Public trust in charities is low. A raft of recent reports and opinion pieces makes for gloomy reading. Many commentators and sector bodies are of course looking to the future. Yesterday NCVO and ACEVO said they will work together to promote the positive impact of the voluntary sector.

CharityComms has been at it for a while, through the Understanding Charities Group. Last week we saw their draft narrative for the sector. Charities are invited to comment and contribute and it’s important that they do.

While we’ve been considering it, we happen to have also been finalising our latest guide, ‘Preparing a comms strategy’, which has reminded us that narrative and messaging don’t exist in a vacuum.

We mustn’t forget who we’re talking to.

A strategy cannot specify as its target audience ‘the public’. A comms campaign will only be effective if it’s based on an understanding of the people it aims to inform or engage.

So, while we read about the collapsed relationship between charities and ‘the public’ we must ask who that means. And who matters.

Not all audiences are turning their backs on the sector. Long-standing volunteers and supporters aren’t all walking away. Beneficiaries and service users aren’t jumping ship. Policy-makers aren’t all refusing to listen.

Indeed some charities we work with are seeing donor numbers rise. New communities of interest are forming, for example to raise money for people seeking refuge from violence.

We need to know exactly which groups have lost faith and who we need to reach. Which ‘publics’ really matter because they influence the sector’s ability to do its work? Who are we shaping a new narrative for and how do we want them to respond?

It may be out there somewhere, but we haven’t yet seen any research that provides this understanding. Have you?

We’d love to hear from you on this important challenge facing the sector. Comment here or find us on Twitter @amzpr.

The Amazon guide to preparing a communications strategy will be published tomorrow on our website.

Amazon at 15: older and wiser?

To mark our 15th birthday, we considered shouting about our greatest achievements. Exciting campaigns, award nominations, high profile events. They are some of our favourite moments. But so are many of the small projects we’ve done for little-known charities. Not to mention our work on challenging and complex social and environmental issues.

Many wonderful people have worked with us and supported us over the years. Thank you to those who have advised us, to all our inspiring clients, to our loyal friends and partners, and especially to our talented and tireless Amazonians. You rock!

Reflecting on the many clients we’ve helped and the people who have helped us, what seems more important than individual highlights is what we’ve learnt along the way. Things like…

Hand-in-hand is the only way to land
A successful project depends on a successful relationship. The way agency and client teams plan, work and communicate is directly linked to results. The same is true when there’s no agency and it’s in-house departments working together. We all know this, but it’s one of those maxims that’s easier to say than do.

What works? Constantly checking that lines of communication are open, issues and opportunities are being discussed while there’s still time to act, and achievements are celebrated together.

Not every ‘creative idea’ is a good idea
We all love an imaginative solution and a cool concept. But not if it doesn’t achieve objectives. The very best ideas are dripping with strategic thinking. Take a risk, but a considered one.

Does it fit? Do your research, figure out your strategy, come up with your ideas, then check back. Does the idea truly fit the strategy?

A difficult delivery?
Everyone rates ‘high-level’ thinking. But sometimes people under-value the hard graft and boring old project management that goes into effective delivery. There’s not much point having a stand-out campaign plan, but messing up on the implementation.

Our tip: Put as much effort into doing a campaign as you did in crafting and developing it. Value every member of the delivery team, whatever their role.

Less is more
Again, easier said than done.

Do this: Only say what really needs saying. You’ll gain hours. In which to be a smart and ruthless editor of everything written.

We’ve learnt – and are learning – these lessons. If we continue to practice what we preach, our next 15 years will be a breeze. See you all along the way.

The #FundraisingReview

Today is an important day for the sector. Following a summer of negative media coverage about charities and their fundraising tactics, the Charity Fundraising Review – chaired by NCVO’s Stuart Etherington – has recommended an overhaul of fundraising practice and how it’s regulated.

The report’s recommendations seem fairly obvious: a single regulator, a clear code of practice, increased Trustee responsibility, and an emphasis on the experience of donors including the creation of a fundraising preference service that enables supporters to opt out of appeals.

They are all good, sensible steps and the response within the sector has generally been positive and rallying. However, as with most things in life, the devil is in the detail and there are concerns about the preference service, in particular, with donors able to opt out of all asks. There are also some interesting questions about the implications for wider communications. When does comms become fundraising, for example? And vice versa. Is it when there is an explicit ask, and does that mean that fundraising information can’t be included in other materials?

Whatever this means in practice, the sector must welcome the review’s recommendations and take all the steps necessary to regain public support. We cannot let poor standards and a lack of transparency undermine the good work charities do.

All this will take time and there are interesting months ahead for the sector: we may see an initial drop in fundraising income and charities, services and beneficiaries will, no doubt, be affected, but for the long-term health of the sector and its public reputation, this review can only be a good thing. Three cheers for common sense.

Let us know what you think @amzpr.