Marie Curie’s Claire Hazle on the charity’s digital strategy (Interview)

We recently caught up Claire Hazle, who joined Marie Curie in May 2014 as the charity’s head of digital and spearheads a significant digital change programme.

| 20th Mar 15

We recently caught up Claire Hazle, who joined Marie Curie in May 2014 as the charity’s Head of Digital. Claire is spearheading a significant digital change programme that will transform how the charity engages with its supporters, people living with a terminal illness and their families.

She leads a thriving multi-discipline digital department and personally brings over 15 years’ digital experience from a number of industries including travel, financial services, charity and the arts. 

Do you think digital is positively disrupting the charity sector?

I think that digital integration is as much of a natural progression for charities as it is in any other sector. In some quarters the charity sector is seen as being rather slow on the uptake when it comes to embracing digital, and I think this is unfair when you look at the innovative campaigns and initiatives being spearheaded in our sector. Having said that, established charities can face a potentially greater hill to climb when it comes to digital change. This is because there can be a lower appetite to innovate and try new things against a backdrop of complex legacy data system challenges and communication methods that have been tested, optimised and proven over a number of years. Luckily at Marie Curie we have a very forward-thinking Chief Executive and Board of Directors who encourage us all to think and act in an integrated, multichannel way.

Essentially, digital channels can offer charities even more cost-effective and targeted ways to engage with supporters, and this can only be a positive thing. Embedding digital into your charity’s business strategy is fundamental, even for charities whose core demographic is slightly older. You only have to do a quick search on the Office for National Statistics website to discover that the use of social networking in the 55-64 age group rose dramatically from 29% in 2013 to 37% just twelve months later. Similarly, 84% of 45-54 year olds used the Internet to find information about goods and services in 2014 (Internet Access – Households and Individuals, ONS, August 2014). Question digital’s relevance at your peril!

And, let’s face it, charitable giving has been revolutionised over the past eighteen months through user-generated social media phenomena that nobody could have predicted nor engineered, along with some exciting trials of alternative payment technologies.

What factors do you think make a great digital experience?

My idea of a great digital experience is that it should be:

  • created firmly around the user (it’s about me, not you)
  • integrated with all the other channels that the user chooses to interact with (don’t confuse me)
  • personalised (recognise and value me)
  • engaging and interesting (entertain, inform and have a conversation with me)
  • simple and intuitive (don’t make me work too hard)

Given the fast-paced and sporadic way we consume digital media, you can quickly lose someone if any of these factors are out of kilter.

What factors did you take into account when launching the charity’s digital transformation plan?

Our strategy was very much underpinned by thorough research, both inside and outside the charity. This allowed us to take an evidence-based approach to our business case that gave our Trustees confidence in the direction we wanted to go.  We ensured that our plan considered the following factors:

  • Relevance to our current and future audiences based on insight. This ensured we focused on the right areas during the transformation period.
  • A consideration of ways of working so that we organised ourselves in a way that engendered agility and a culture of test, learn, optimise (and fail, if necessary).
  • Development extensibility, always retaining a strategic architectural oversight (‘build once, use many times’ mentality).
  • Affordability during the Programme and on-going in business as usual.
  • Measurable capabilities, outcomes and benefits. We have learned some valuable lessons from the first year of the Programme and have re-structured the second year to better drive the acceleration of a number of these benefits.
  • A sense of realism and pragmatism to ensure that what we were proposing was achievable.
  • An acknowledgement of the business and cultural change that would inevitably accompany the Programme. I have been really struck by the enthusiasm of Marie Curie staff and volunteers in trying new ways of doing things, but it’s really important to actively take people with you on the journey.
  • Alignment with strategic priorities and vision to ensure that digital will transition from having a dedicated Programme of work to being a fundamental ingredient of a powerful multichannel mix.

You unveiled a new website at the end of last year. What changes did you make and what has been the result?

Our old website was built on a rather creaky platform that required us to ask IT whenever we wanted to make certain content changes. We have completely transformed our approach to website development, building up a talented in-house web development team who rebuilt our website using a brand new content management system that has put content control firmly in the hands of the business.

One of the most fundamental changes was around information architecture. We conducted extensive user testing and created a set of personas that enabled us to re-architect the site based around how people wanted to use the site, rather than around our charity functions or priorities.

We also completely redesigned the site to make it far more appealing and engaging, and it is also responsive. This enabled us to decommission our separate mobile site and ensures a smooth user experience regardless of device.

Lastly, we rewrote a lot of the content and culled many of our pdf documents in favour of more rich media alternatives.

As a consequence, we have seen a number of encouraging results including increased dwell times and engagement levels, as well as improved mobile conversions on key funnels. From an internal perspective, the new content management system has meant that we can be far more responsive to the needs of our colleagues and the whole process of maintaining the website has become significantly more efficient.

What digital innovations do you have up your sleeve for 2015?

That would really be letting the cat out of the bag! We’ll continue to build on the great work we started in 2014 around our website and personalised communications but we’ll also be looking at how we can become even more multichannel – so watch this space!

Follow Claire on Twitter at @clairerosehazle.

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