On Tuesday 19th January, we heard from Macmillan Cancer Support and Girl Effect, who helped us explore the importance and power of brands in advancing charitable causes.
Charitable organisations have to communicate across a wider range of channels than ever before. To unearth some experiences and learnings from those at the fore of these challenges today, we invited two speakers from very different charitable organisations to join us on Tuesday 19th January.
James Renwick is Senior Brand Manager at Macmillan, the UK's leading charity in cancer support, providing care, solace and practical advice to those diagnosed with, or affected by, cancer.
After a brand overhaul in 2006, and a refresh in 2014, Macmillan’s communications are warm in tone — and visually characterised by vivid shades of green and striking, hand-rendered type. Avoiding jargon and overly technical language, Macmillan uses real-life stories to create engaging communications that inform people of the important services the charity offers.
James Kennedy is Brand Manager at Girl Effect, a charity launched by the Nike Foundation. Working in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Rwanda, Girl Effect aims to help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty by empowering girls to be agents of change.
By creating cultural brands, the charity works to leverage the power of brands to influence and change behaviour, in order to effect social change. By harnessing media in innovative ways — from helping create a radio drama, talk show and music station, Yegna, in Ethiopia, to co-creating an editorial platform, Ni Nyampinga, in Rwanda — Girl Effect work directly with girls to facilitate skills-sharing, create strong peer group networks, and to tell inspiring and informative stories.
Here are four things we learnt:
1. Community engagement is key
Macmillan’s approach to communications — especially on social media — takes a conversational rather than a broadcast approach, ensuring channels of dialogue are always open between the charity and its audience.
Twitter has become an important platform in facilitating that discussion, and the brand also creates other online forums for communities to converse, allowing people to share their experiences, advice and tips — often acting as a vital and valuable resource for people in treatment, as well as families and friends hoping to provide support.
Girl Effect co-create brands in direct collaboration with local people, going with the grain of culture to develop ideas borne out of local cultural insight — ensuring that these brands are more likely to resonate with audiences, and therefore more likely to effect change.
On each project, Girl Effect works in collaboration with local research agencies, as well as an international network of partners in order to build an understanding of the area, and a network of ambassadors.
2. Let the brand go
Macmillan’s creation of open online forums forms part of a broader strategy to “give away the brand.” The Macmillan logo is available to download online, while be.Macmillan is a dedicated platform that allows people to create and customise their own branded posters, adverts and tickets for events they might be organising — empowering people create their own assets to support their fundraising efforts.
As James explained, this approach aims to give people creative freedom to engage with the brand, while still defining some parameters that allow the team to retain an element of control over the communications created.
Ultimately for Girl Effect, the aim is to gradually step away from the projects it co-creates entirely, and the initial intent is always to develop something that will be run and sustained by the local community.
3. Equip everyone in the organisation with an understanding of the brand
Whilst Macmillan aims to offer its audience a sense of ownership over the brand, and branding is not policed too tightly, it is only possible to relinquish some control when the master brand itself is strong.
As such, Macmillan invest in brand onboarding for new starters, and refreshers for the rest of the team. All materials coming from the central office are subject to review by the brand and creative team, who also hold daily brand clinics — 15-minute drop-in sessions with members of the creative team where anyone in the organisation who creates communications can come to ask for advice.
4. Pay attention to the media, as well as the message
The insights garnered from research in communities and in direct discussion with girls in Ethiopia and Rwanda helped Girl Effect choose the right media to reach and influence audiences. These insights help inform the brands and initiatives that the charity goes on to build, ensuing projects are executed effectively, gaining the broadest reach possible.
Macmillan has a dedicated social media team, with Twitter and Facebook becoming platforms for conversations, prompting people to ask questions and share their experiences with one another. Charities must understand that people expect to be answered through the same channels that their questions are asked: rather than directing people seeking help to the charity’s helpline or website, questions and comments are answered directly on Twitter — often sparking more questions and new conversations.
Thanks to our speakers, and to Sam Bush for the photographs.
Location:72 Rivington St,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:19th January, 2016 at 6:30pm
End:19th January, 2016 at 8:00pm