CRUK’s Charlotte Beaty-Pownall on digital, social media and #nomakeupselfie (Interview) » Charity Digital News

CRUK’s Charlotte Beaty-Pownall on digital, social media and #nomakeupselfie (Interview)


We recently caught up with Cancer Research UK‘s social media manager to discuss the role of digital in charity sector and take a look at the reasons behind the success of last year’s #nomakeupselfie campaign.

What do you think is going to be big for charity digital in 2015 and what can those working in the sector do to prepare?

In 2015, being mobile optimised is essential. There’s no escaping mobile, so if your website isn’t mobile optimised, then it has to be a focus. Also think about how your content will work on mobile – with Facebook encouraging more video, how does a piece of video content need to look in the newsfeed to grab attention and get your message across?

The other thing I’d say is reactive marketing. Charities are seeing success in this area, following the lead of big brands such as Oreo, by creating topical content and reacting to viral trends such as #nomakeupselfie and #icebucketchallenge. The recent campaign by The Salvation Army in response to #TheDress is a great example of making a trend work for what your charity stands for. It’s all about trying things out – if it doesn’t work then move onto the next thing!

Hashtag1For a charity deciding what their social media strategy is going to be, what would your top tip be? Do you think it’s important for charity CEOs to be involved?

It’s about making sure you’re really clear on what you want social to do, what the measures of success are and where your audience is.

For Cancer Research UK, we are on social first and foremost to engage our fans and followers with the work we do. Whether that’s encouraging supporters to sign up to an event or fundraising campaign such as Dryathlon; making sure we’re sharing our latest research with our supporters and the media or jumping on the latest trend.

We adapt our approach for each social media channel, as people engage on them in different ways.  It’s worth looking at what channels you think will be the best fit for your audience and the device they’re using to access your content, which will most likely be mobile. I’d say you don’t have to be everywhere, pick some key ones and focus on growing them before moving on to the next.

Would you say there are any forgotten channels of communication that charities should be paying more attention to this year?

From our point of view, video is starting to play a more important role for us in communicating with our supporters, so this is an area we’re focusing on.

We’re looking at ways we can maximise our reach on Instagram as well, it’s such a huge network now.  We’ve used it a lot in the past, but it’s something we want to pay more attention to as our supporters use it a lot, especially for events such as Race for Life, Dryathlon and Stand Up To Cancer. It’s a great way to raise brand awareness amongst a younger audience too.

NomakeupYour charity was quick to jump on the #nomakeupselfie bandwagon and ended up raising millions. How do you think you were so successful?

#NoMakeUpSelfie is a brilliant example of the power of social media. We have a team that works out of hours to continue the conversations in the evenings and at weekends. This was really important for us as it was out of hours that we spotted this opportunity.  We saw that people were sharing their #NoMakeUpSelfie with the hashtag #cancerawareness.  It was a great awareness campaign by itself, but then we noticed people started asking how sharing a selfie could help cure cancer and so we took it as an opportunity to provide a text-to-donate code.

People really got on board with the campaign and we saw women sharing their selfies in their thousands and sharing their proof of donation too, men also got involved by sharing their #MakeUpSelfie. We really didn’t know how long it would run for, we just kept listening to the audience and responding to that. When we got the first total through, we decided not to keep pushing the text-to-donate code but to thank everyone and this actually helped maintain momentum. We couldn’t believe how successful it was, and were truly taken aback by the generosity of the public.

What elements do you think made viral campaigns like #nomakeupselfie and #icebucketchallenge so successful?

The beauty, and therefore often the difficulty, of social media is you just don’t know what is going to go viral – just think about the most recent one, #TheDress, no one could have predicted that! The key is therefore being online as much as you can, being ready to spot and get involved with the latest trends as you just don’t know what might be coming on the horizon.

With both #nomakeupselfie and #icebucketchallenge, it was clear what the ask was and because everyone saw their friends and celebrities doing it, it was very hard not to join in too. The nomination element for both campaigns really helped it spread as well. They were also a bit quirky and fun which always helps when it comes to viral campaigns.

Do you think viral fundraising campaigns are the future of charity fundraising?

Social media is not a major income driver in itself, it usually works best as an additional engagement channel as part of a multimedia approach.  But I’m sure we will see more viral fundraising campaigns in the future, so it’s vital to be there and be ready when it happens.  Following #nomakeupselfie, we use our social channels for donation asks a lot more now, and many others in the sector are doing the same.  The most important thing is to learn from the past, and if you keep testing new ways to engage with your supporters, you might just be lucky!


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