New Year’s Resolution – don’t work all the time…

A New Year, a fresh start and a list of resolutions …but go on, admit it, have you already succumbed to the biscuit tin (don’t worry your dentist isn’t actually watching you!)?

We all start the New Year pledging to shave an inch off our midriff, start reading some improving books, or perhaps be more mindful. The problem with New Year resolutions is that if we don’t see or feel the benefits quickly, we give up and quickly return to our former bad habits.

And so it is with our work-based aspirations. For me, having some strong resolutions and sticking to them throughout 2017, is essential if I’m really going to gain some momentum with my business growth.

So armed with self-knowledge and a determination to gain some traction with Well Read in 2017, here are my work-based resolutions for 2017…they might just work for you too:

  1. Write a weekly blog – on anything. Being in the social-media sphere without anything original to say is a bit like going to a party and having nothing interesting to talk about. Be inspired by current affairs, reputation management issues and digital media. Don’t worry so much about it being too heavily referenced, clever or witty, but draw upon experience and insight gained over the years – don’t hide your light under a bushel.
  2. Do more face-to-face networking. With the world at your fingertips it’s easy to fall into the trap of scouring the internet for opportunities and treating social media marketing as the ‘be all and end all’. Events and local business fora not only provide great opportunities to dish out the business cards, but also helps you to keep abreast of funding opportunities and local issues.
  3. Ensure you capture great feedback and testimonials. There’s nothing like a strong independent endorsement to give your business credibility. There’s a window of opportunity for asking clients to write nice things about you, while the benefits of what you have done for them is fresh in their minds. Giving people an idea of what you’re looking for can really help, as can giving them a deadline, offering to include a link from your website to theirs, and offering to write a testimonial for them, perhaps on Linked in, by return.
  4. Have a positive attitude and plan for success. Imagine everything that is possible for your business and have the focus and discipline to put in place short, medium and long-terms goals, rather than simply drift along. With a strong brand and website, a growing network of contacts and some of the practical processes in place (I weirdly enjoy the HMRC self-assessment webinars), the world really is my oyster in 2017.
  5. Last but not least – don’t work all the time. The advantage of an overactive brain is that meditative activities like sewing, walking the dog or even, tackling a messy child’s bedroom, enable creative ideas to flow and solutions to problems rise to the surface much more readily than when staring at a blank screen. In any case, remember that you’re freelance for a reason, so you’re not going to get sacked if you take a couple of hours out to do something else and come back to your desk feeling refreshed and enthusiastic.

Okay, so I might not get thinner thighs as a result of doing all the above, but hopefully, I might just reap the business dividends in 2017.

I’d love to hear your work-based resolutions. Please write in the comments box below. Oh, and invite me to any events you think I might be interested in – I really need to get out more! You can contact me via email: kate.dawson@wellreadpr.com

Do you know which media your target audience consumes?

Whether it’s reading the BBC news headline through blurry eyes on waking, listening to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme during the drive into the office, or checking Twitter at lunchtime, there are a myriad of ways we keep up to speed with what’s going on in the world and how our consumer choices are influenced.

We simply can’t ignore the fact that adults spend an average of 21.6 hours online each week.

Check out Ofcom’s latest report on media usage for some more eye-watering stats.

In today’s world of 24 hour online news and the advent of social media, we might hear about a breaking news story via social media well before it’s published in the traditional media. And in any case newspaper journalism has evolved, with their online version invariably going live before any print copy hits the news-stands.

That’s why understanding how our customers and service users consume media is vital to ensure that your communications resources are being used effectively. There’s little point getting coverage in your local newspaper each week if you’re allowing your competitors to steal a march on you by securing product reviews and promoting their discounts online – although a combination of press coverage and digital marketing is highly effective.

Lifestyle data, such as Acorn, can provide you with invaluable information about your target audiences, if you have a defined geographical area for your business. If you can’t afford this level of market intelligence, you can find out more about your customers’ / service users’ media usage by asking them to complete a short form in order to receive a discount offer, sign up for your newsletter / blog, or register for an event.

You could also invite some of your stakeholders (I hate this term, but you might equally be trying to reach new members, or get people to give their views on a new development, not just sell a product) to attend a focus group or complete a telephone survey, to find out more about their media behaviour and habits.

But it’s not rocket science – you’ve probably got a good sense of the types of media that influence your target audience without going to great expense. Have a brain storm, ask colleagues – you’ll be surprised how productive an hour with a white board can be. Take a look at the following for inspiration:

Bob, 55 years, listens to his local commercial radio station at work as a builder. He casts his eye over the local rag during his tea-break. He owns a smartphone but only uses a few Apps – mainly to keep abreast of the football results and have an occasional bet. He recently joined Facebook mainly to share pictures of his fishing ‘catches’. Other than booking flights and holidays, he makes very few online purchases.

Cathy, 25 years, picks up a Metro newspaper at the train station. She scans Twitter on the journey to work – she follows thought-leaders in the fashion and retail industry. She has the latest iphone and takes advantage of offers and discount by her favourite brands. She uses WhatsApp and Snapchat to keep in touch with friends.  She enjoys podcasts and media streaming websites.

Brian, 45 years, is a professional who uses Twitter to network professionally and keep up with news and commentary in his sector. He uses consumer websites such as moneysavingexpert.com. He tends to watch the news at 10pm.

So, by painting a picture of who you’re targeting you can see how your PR strategy might begin to take shape; and getting to know your target audience’s media consumption and behaviour can really help you to up your game.

Here at Well Read PR we don’t churn out a one-sized all approach for our clients, instead we get to know you and your audiences to create a bespoke PR strategy that will ensure press releases convert to pounds.

You can follow us on twitter (@katewellreadpr) or facebook. We also like to meet people face to face – and the first coffee is always on us!

pic: istock, javi_indy

Let us help you tell your story

Whether it’s recruiting volunteers, selling tickets for a fundraising event, or simply getting people to engage with your cause, we can help you give your story legs.

We’re offering up to ten charities or not-for profits in Derbyshire or South Yorkshire the chance to tap into our PR skills at a discounted rate.

For just £25 you can commission a press release or blog that will help you reach donors, connect with new partners or simply start a conversation that needs to happen. We will work with you to deliver the press release or blog by the end of January 2017

Simply email us at kate.dawson@wellreadpr.com with an outline of the story you want telling and we will discuss with you how we would go about tailoring your story to gain media coverage, or how we would go about creating a compelling blog post.

This offer closes on midnight 1st December 2016. Up to ten charities will be selected on a first come, first served basis. Price excludes cost of press release distribution.

Emmaus – a charity providing a life-line to homeless people

Pic: John Jarrett, Emmaus companion

Making a difference to people’s wellbeing and life chances is a key aim for many charities, but in order to be truly effective charities need to ask themselves whether or not their activities make a sustainable difference. Put simply, it’s the difference between giving somebody water, or giving them the tools to build their own well.

One charity that does this really well is Emmaus (pronounced ‘Em-may-us’). The charity owes its existence to a French priest called Abbe Pierre who set up the first Emmaus community in Paris. His first beneficiary was a former prisoner called Georges, who had lost all hope and tried to commit suicide. In Abbe Pierre’s own words: “That is how Emmaus was born. Because, without giving it a second thought, I spontaneously decided to go against the very notion of charity. Instead of saying, ‘you are unhappy, I will give you a home, a job and some money’, the circumstances made me say quite the opposite. I could only tell him the truth, ‘you are dreadfully unhappy, and I have nothing to give you (…). But you, seeing as you want to die, you’ve got nothing to lose. So why don’t you come and help me help others?’ (…) ”.

Emmaus now operates worldwide and was introduced to the UK in the early 1990s. There are currently 25 Emmaus communities across the country, providing a home for those who have, for a variety of reasons found themselves homeless, together with the opportunity to work and gain new skills and confidence. Each regional Emmaus operates as a social enterprise selling second hand goods and providing other services.

Beneficiaries, known as ‘companions’, get involved in all aspects of running each Emmaus community and can gain qualifications which act as a stepping stone to independent living. There are over 600 companions in the UK and the charity plans to grow this by offering at least 750 companion places by 2017.

At Emmaus Sheffield, 17 companions currently live onsite in the stunning converted Sipilia building, a former cutlery factory, bordering the canal. Their shop is a veritable Aladdin’s cave full of furniture, clothes, household goods and books. Companions participate in all aspects of running the store, collecting donated furniture and goods, serving customers, as well as helping to run the café and take care of the charity’s two pigmy goats and rabbits. Other commercial activities include undertaking repairs on furniture and carrying out electrical safety tests for retail outlets. In addition, the charity provides qualifications ranging from manual handling, to a diploma in social care. A particularly uplifting sight on my recent visit, was seeing a door marked ‘Boat House’ which transpired to be a workshop set aside for one resourceful companion who has embarked on building his dream boat.

Companions stop receiving benefits when they move into Emmaus, except their housing benefit which goes to the charity to help fund their accommodation. All other funds are raised by their social enterprise activities and fundraising. In addition to their accommodation and food, each companion receives £35 a week in payment plus £10 worth of savings (which they can begin to draw upon once they have saved £100).

Graham Bostock, Community Manager of Emmaus Sheffield, whose role is supported by the Big Lottery Fund, explained: “It’s about supporting the whole person, giving them the skills and confidence to have a meaningful and ultimately, independent life. For people who have been living on the streets or serving time, it might be getting used to everyday tasks which may seem daunting at first, such as going to the supermarket. We also broker relationships with families, as many of the people who come to us have lost touch.”

John Jarrett, 47, has been living at Emmaus Sheffield for six months. Prior to that he was a companion at Emmaus Bedford, where he worked as a Community Assistant, supporting people moving into Emmaus. John has a long history of homelessness and drug use, combined with anxiety and depression. Since moving to Emmaus Sheffield he’s undertaken a digital business course and is responsible for managing the charity’s Facebook page and has started a blog.

“Being at Emmaus has been the best rehabilitation for me – I’ve been clean from day one and I’ve been given a lot of responsibility which has improved my self-worth. Living as part of a community helps keep me well and for the first time in my life I wake up feeling content,” said John.

Kris Becker, Emmaus companion

Kris Becker, Emmaus companion

Kris Becker, 34, was first in prison at the age of 19 due to criminal offences to fund his heroin habit. A key worker put him in touch with Emmaus when he left prison as he was no longer in touch with his family and had nowhere to go. Being at Emmaus Sheffield has given him a new lease of life: he’s passed his driving test and undertaken an NVQ in Health and Social Care level 2 and is working towards level 3. He’s also now working as a community support worker at Emmaus, helping others to overcome their issues. He explained: “I’ve been on the other side, so I can relate to people who feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.” Kris is also back in touch with his family and also sees his two year old daughter.

“Without Emmaus I’d be back on the streets, inside or dead,” said Kris “it’s not that I didn’t want to change before, I did, but here you get the practical support you need to make it happen”, said Kris.

Graham has a background in the probation service and running hostels, but he says the reason he is so committed to working at Emmaus is that it really does have an incredible impact on people’s lives. He says the reason for this is that companions have a focus and structure to their day, rather than being in a system which focuses on people’s issues. He explained: “We do have quite strict rules – no drugs or alcohol, and everyone has to be up and ready for work at 8.45am, but giving people a meaningful role and restoring their self-belief is extremely empowering,” he enthused.

“The proof really is in the pudding: one of our success stories is a former alcoholic who was involved in gang fighting and street crime who ended up living on the streets in Sheffield … following a three year period as a companion at Emmaus, he is now working full time in the health and social care sector,” said Graham.

Emmaus can’t eradicate the problem of homelessness in the UK, but it does provide an innovative solution to hostels for getting people off the streets, whilst also improving their overall health and employment prospects – saving the governments over £6 million in the process. In human terms, the impact of Emmaus may be immeasurable and without doubt, it helps people build their own well.

Ends

Related links:
Emmaus impact report

Top 10 tips for producing your Annual Report without losing sleep

Top 10 Tips for producing a great charity Annual Report

Top 10 Tips for producing a great charity Annual Report

It’s this time of year when many charities are preparing to publish their Annual Report and Accounts. In addition to being a statutory requirement for registered charities, your Report is also a great opportunity to demonstrate to your stakeholders (be that donors, fundraisers, volunteers, or allied organisations and policy makers) that you’ve managed your funds effectively and made a difference in line with your charitable aims during the past financial year.

Those of you working in charity communications may have been slaving over your Annual Report for several months now: co-ordinating content, working with the finance department to streamline in the audited accounts and agreeing that all important ‘Welcome’ message. Believe me, I feel your pain…over the years I’ve learnt a great deal, in some cases through trial and error, about producing an Annual Report which complies with Charity Commission requirements, as well as packing a punch with your supporters.

So here, for the uninitiated, is my top 10 list of do’s and don’ts for producing an Annual Report without the headache:

  1. Do get to grips with Charity Commission SORP (Statement of Recommended Practice). Charities with an annual turnover over £6.5 million are required to give much more detail than smaller charities. It can be tricky trying to shoe-horn in your induction process for new Trustees, or how you manage risk at the eleventh hour.
  2. Do ensure colleagues, principally fellow Directors / Heads of Departments (and your Chief Executive!) are involved at an early stage in planning, agreeing the format, purpose, and the overarching focus of the report, as well as taking on board what information their teams need to supply and by when.
  3. Do establish at the outset if your Annual Report has a broader purpose, other than fulfilling your statutory reporting requirements. Do you want to use it to help launch a new strategy or brand; celebrate the success of a particular fundraising campaign (thanking key donors – and keeping them warm for the next time); or perhaps using it to influence key policy-makers or service commissioners, by demonstrating the impact you’ve made? If so, think about how to make the content compelling and ensure that it’s clear how people can get in touch. You may decide it’s necessary to produce a separate impact report and to keep your Annual Report fairly perfunctory, whilst standing up to Charity Commission scrutiny.
  4. Do be crystal clear in your brief to your design agency (or in-house designer) about the purpose of the Report and your organisation’s brand personality. (Look no further than Red Stone if you’re looking for an agency that combines creative flair with a knack of getting under the skin of your organisation’s brand.) Similarly, ensure that you have guidelines on tone of voice and language use, if you’re using a freelance writer.
  5. Do consider which format will be most attractive to your intended audience(s). Back in the day a printed A4 landscape ‘book’ was standard, but now charities are more confident trying out different formats which are lighter and which stand out from the crowd (and therefore won’t be immediately filed under ‘recycling’). You could consider publishing your Report online and making it interactive, perhaps linking it with video testimonials. If you decide to go down the digital route, make sure it’s optimised for tablet and mobile. It should also be printer-friendly, perhaps with a separate summary document, or ‘year at a glance’ section, allowing people to zone in on the key facts and figures.
  6. Don’t scrimp on photography. They say a great pictures paints a thousand words and it follows that a great photographer is worth their weight in gold, helping to visually convey the human impact of your work. (Without hesitation I would recommend Richard Bailey, Nick David, Rebecca Marshall and Elisabeth Blanchet). It’s essential you get consent forms signed at the time (for use across all your communications channels), as trying to get consent retrospectively can be a nightmare.
  7. Don’t have a once a year Annual Report mentality. Instead, have a radar in place for gathering case studies and testimonials that relate to your charity’s impact all year round, providing you with a bank of great content to draw upon when it comes to producing your Report.
  8. Don’t leave proof-reading ‘til the eleventh hour. Allow adequate time to proof-read copy and check all the financials add up (and that figures in copy tally with the accounts) before sending it off to the designers, and ask colleagues to physically sign-off any copy which they need to ‘own’. Making extensive corrections at design stage is a hassle and may require fundamental changes to layout or pagination to accommodate additional text.
  9. Don’t assume that your stakeholders will be frothing at the bit to read your report – they won’t. Give some thought to how it will be launched as an integral part of your communications strategy. If the Report includes great quotes, case studies, or data which could be made into an infographic, think about how these might be integrated into your social media content plan, or could the publication of the Report be timed to coincide with an awareness day and media push?
  10. Don’t forget to ask stakeholders what they think of your Annual Report. What did they learn from it and importantly, were they motivated to do anything after reading – share, sign up to your blog, make a donation? Would they have preferred a digital / paper format? What would they have liked to have known more about? Build on what you’ve learnt next year.

Please post a comment if you have any more do’s or don’ts you think should be added to this list.

In the meantime, here are three charity Annual Reports which I think have nailed it:

British Heart Foundation

Great use of imagery and graphics throughout. The branding really packs a punch. Looks expensively produced, but succeeds in tugging on those supporter heartstrings – so presumably well worth the investment, as it’s clearly been used for more than just a statutory reporting exercise. Top marks!

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

Visually exciting and really connects the reader with the difference their funding makes to beneficiaries. Love the ‘Esmée in Numbers’ spread on pages 12-13.

Mental Health Foundation

This report is beautifully structured in line with SORP and the simple design reflects the authoritative tone of voice of the organisation. Good use of supporting quotes.

Related reading:

Third Sector article on charities whose Annual Reports are failing to cut the mustard 

The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network – tips on submitting charity annual accounts

Before you start writing, know your Pooker

Do you know your Pooker? It’s who I have in mind every time I sit down to write. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Pooker is some kind of imaginary friend, a kind of “binker” *or “Pig that never was”*, providing inspiration and perhaps companionship during those lonely hours at my desk. But no, Pooker is not a friend in the usual sense; if that were the case it wouldn’t be such a challenge getting him to read every word I write. I know I’ve only got a paragraph, maybe only a few words to get his attention.
It helps if I’ve met one or two of Pooker’s latest circle of friends and can tap them up for what’s getting Pooker fired up at the moment. Pooker’s acquaintances can be found in all sorts of places: in hospital wards, visiting an art gallery, in the student bar – it really depends what’s flavour of the month for Pooker.
Thankfully, I can now stalk him on Twitter and suss out who his current media bedfellows are – although being the fickle fellow he is, these can change on a whim.
What I’ve learnt over the years is that if I really want to get Pooker’s ear, I’ve got to talk his language. He can’t bear it when I try to baffle him with science, or simply don’t get to the point quick enough.

Above all, Pooker likes it best when I give him some nugget which he can share with those he likes to chew the proverbial fat over with; something to help keep him ahead of the pack.

He also likes it when I grasp the challenges he’s facing, and best of all, when I help get the ‘movers and shakers’ on board with his latest passion.
Pooker comes in many guises; he’s often illusive and he’s undoubtedly my harshest critic; but despite all the effort required, it’s never too long before I’m tapping away again at my keyboard trying to get Pooker’s attention.
Pooker’s name has been imprinted on my brain since attending a National Union of Students feature writing course, many moons ago. And in case you haven’t guessed it by now, ‘Pooker’, dear reader, is you (and yes, ‘he’ can be a ‘she’, too! ).

** A A Milne, ‘Binker’
Nanette Newman, ‘The pig that never was’.

image credit: http://www.canstockphoto.com/dagadu/

A noble concept, but what will charities gain from Giving Tuesday?

So it’s begun, the interminable hours surfing the net for the latest gizmos and tramping up and down the high street to find something… anything… other than the fall-back novelty socks for the impossible-to-buy-for relations. It’s a bit of a cliché, but haven’t we all rather lost the point?

The same notion must have crossed the minds of partners of 92nd Street Y, a Jewish led but multi-faith community centre in New York, who in 2012, together with the United Nations Foundation, created a national day of giving on 2nd December. Giving Tuesday aims to channel the generosity of the festive season to inspire action around charitable giving. The date follows Black Friday (regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping period) and Cyber Monday (one of the biggest online shopping days in the year).

As an antidote to the epic levels of consumerism as Christmas approaches it’s a noble concept, but what will charities actually gain from being part of Giving Tuesday, when surely they will just be shouting to be heard above all the other causes vying for attention? Emotionally bruised and a little lighter of pocket following Children in Need, and having dutifully purchased Band Aid 30, is it possible that the population may be suffering a little from ‘giving fatigue’?

In addition, the prospect of a national day of giving just two days before the Big Give, which enables charities to obtain match funding for their appeals, might also present a timing issue for charities who have chosen to participate in this established fundraising platform – which raised a combined        £11 million for over 380 charities last year.

The bottom line, according to a survey by The Non Profit Times, is that US charities received donations totalling at least 32 million dollars on 3 December 2013. Its success lies in harnessing the power of social media, to spread the message of giving. Last year the launch of the hashtag #Giving Tuesday was endorsed by Bill Gates and Barack Obama, no less.

Given the different culture of giving in America, one might also be forgiven for wondering whether something conceived in America will work so well this side of the Big Pond.

Step forward the Charities Aid Foundation who have taken up the Giving Tuesday UK mantle together with a steering group consisting of the Cabinet Office, Cancer Research UK, Scope, Charity Comms, Hope for Children, Stewardship, and Live Creative. The venture has been professionally co-ordinated and given a British make-over, with a slick Giving Tuesday UK website providing a plethora of ideas about how organisations can engage with the day, including some fundraising tactics which will come in handy any time of the year.

And the marketing seems to have worked with some 600-plus charities planning to use the day in a variety of ways: to promote existing Christmas appeals, signal new partnerships with corporates, or simply raise some awareness of a little known cause.

Connect Reading is one of the charities using Giving Tuesday to drive support from local business for its community focussed work.

“As a small local charity any opportunity to raise the profile of our mission is gratefully received.  Giving Tuesday will enable us to have increased awareness of our purpose to help the local community through the support of locally based businesses.  We are on our way to reaching        £1.5 million in-kind support since our launch in 2003 and with the increased awareness and participation from businesses and their employees we hope that Giving Tuesday will take us past this monumental milestone before Christmas,” said Clare Wright, Managing Director.

 

Music Heritage UK, a relatively new organisation which works to protect music venues, celebrate music history and engage new audiences with our musical heritage, is using the day to help raise its profile generally. The charity is hosting the unofficial closing party for Giving Tuesday featuring the Ringo: Music Bingo music quiz, hosted by Irish comedian Ronan Leonard.

“It’s not just about fundraising for us. We hope that by taking part we will become better known as a serious organisation committed to our charitable objectives, as well as attracting new visitors to our website, and increasing our following on social media,” said James Ketchell, chief executive.

Other participating organisations are simply using the initiative as a vehicle to remind their existing donors of their preferred charity on the day, and hopefully make more people aware of their cause by tweeting using the #Giving Tuesday hashtag throughout the day.

The impact of Giving Tuesday UK is yet to be revealed, but clearly charities do see the merit in participating with a view to boosting their coffers, as well as attracting new supporters which may last far beyond the season of goodwill.

…and if you’re really are bent on buying those novelty socks, look no further than the Sock Shop who have teamed up with a number of charities, so at least your purchase will help a worthwhile cause.

If you’re taking part in Giving Tuesday next week, we’d love to hear what you’ve got planned and how it worked for you.

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Related links:

Giving Tuesday: More orgs, more money, more questions about donors, The Non Profit Times

Holly Mitchell at Charities Aid Foundation answering some key questions about Giving Tuesday

Charities Should Give, Not beg, On Giving Tuesday, The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Learning from Samaritans’ RADAR

1282219_97975456

Recently we have witnessed the untimely passing of a number of young celebrities who felt unable to continue with their lives. People who to all intents and purposes seemed to have the world at their feet. Their deaths undoubtedly caused much distress and sadness to their loved ones, and left us all wondering: how could they, of all people, possibly feel such insurmountable despair? And why couldn’t anybody do something to help?

The answers to these questions are not simple, but organisations such as Grassroots Suicide Prevention and of course, the Samaritans, have much expertise in this area – but to extend their reach they need to educate more people about how to recognise the signs and provide the appropriate intervention.

The need for these charities is all the more pertinent given recent figures released by CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) which reveal that the highest cause of death in men under 45 years in the UK is suicide. Quite clearly, something needs to be done to reach out to those who feel that their life isn’t worth living.

In October the Samaritans launched a new Twitter App, created by digital agency Jam, to try and identify young people using Twitter who may be feeling suicidal. The opt-in RADAR app worked by analysing people’s tweets for signs that they might be feeling at a low ebb, and then notified their followers that someone they know may be distressed, providing them with advice on how they might be able to help.

The App, although undoubtedly well-intentioned, came rapidly under fire for being invasive and potentially having the opposite of the desired effect, by making people less likely to share their feelings using social media. It was also suggested that it could be used to target those who may be vulnerable.

RADAR has now been suspended pending further consideration, not least the extent to which it potentially infringes Twitter users’ privacy. The Samaritans have acted swiftly and used the brouhaha to reassert their core mission: to reach out and support those who may be feeling depressed and unable to cope.

It’s important to note that the initiative aimed to target a younger demographic who may feel more inclined than others to share their private thoughts and feelings online. Understanding how different groups are communicating via social media and tapping into these channels to signpost potentially life-saving services, should not be condemned. However, where it may be open to abuse or even potentially make the very people it aims to help withdraw from participating in their social networks, serious questions need to be asked.

On the other hand, social media is here to stay, evolving rapidly and any charity worth its salt should be exploring how they can utilise the various tools and data analyses available, to engage new audiences with their work.

My point is that we shouldn’t let this one media storm in a tea-cup put charities off exploring the potential for utilising social media to engage people with their services or a particular campaign. What we must learn from this, is that before launching any such social media ‘tool’, it needs to be adequately tested not only for its functionality, but also its legal compliance, and crucially, the potential reaction of the target group and related professionals; this is where the Samaritans clearly fell short.

Despite the furore around Samaritans’ bungled App, they should be applauded for continuing to develop innovative services to support people when they are in a fragile state of mind. On this occasion they didn’t quite get it right, but in this brave new world of online chatter, we shouldn’t chastise them for attempting a new way of enrolling young people as the eyes and ears of their organisation.

Related links:

BBC News, Technology

The Guardian, Voluntary Sector Network Blog

Paul Bernal’s Blog, Privacy, Human Rights, The Internet, Politics and more

Image credit: http://www.freeimages.com uploaded by SSPIVAK, New Zealand

A lesson in strategic planning from …Thomas Hardy

on the horizonID-10024375

Earlier this year I took a break from planning my new business and picked up a novel off my bookshelf – Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy.

Far from taking me away from the world of communications, Jude Fawley’s plight struck me as a cautionary tale for organisations with half-baked mission and goals.

You see it’s all well and good having an inspiring vision, but the key to success lies in knowing how you’re going to get from A to B, understanding the barriers you might face along the way, and what resources you need to get there. Continue reading