Why I quit as Head of Comms and what’s next…

I’ve worked as part of an incredible charity for almost ten years. I started out with Relationships Scotland as Development Manager back in 2007, became Digital Media Manager in 2010 and then landed the role of Head of Communications in 2013. The Head of Comms role was 14hrs per week and budget was limited… very limited.

Despite that, with the support of great staff, we managed to achieve an incredible amount – running successful campaigns both online and offline. The charity is front and centre when it comes to the big debates around reforming the family law system. The need for stronger relationship support services within Scotland is now on the political agenda in a way that it wasn’t before.

While I was working 14hrs per week as Head of Comms I was still spending the other half of my week with charities, social enterprises and communities groups across Scotland to help them get the most out of digital. In the last twelve months I’ve helped major funders up-skill grant holders to get digitally confident, I’ve given a range of charities beautiful, accessible websites they can be proud of, I’ve run a third sector digital senior leaders programme for SCVO and I’ve trained thousands of charity staff in digital and social media skills. This is something I’ve been doing since 2008. This is what I’m passionate about. From now on this is what I’ll be focused on full-time.

This is something I’ve been doing since 2008. This is what I’m passionate about. From now on this is what I’ll be focused on full-time.

I took the difficult decision to quit a senior role for a charity I love because I’m convinced these next few years are going to be critical for Scotland’s third sector and digital is going to be key. With ever-shrinking budgets and changed public expectations we can no longer ignore the potential offered by digital as way of delivering services, collaborating with our users, better understanding societal need and raising much needed funds. I want to make sure I have the time to be part of some of the amazing work going on across Scotland to get the third sector digitally confident.

At Third Sector Lab and Be Good Be Social I’m now working alongside a range of people to make this stuff happen – designers, developers, multimedia storytellers, animators, SEO & Google Adwords Grants experts, digital skills trainers and social media strategists. We’ve worked with a wide range of organisations, including Cosgrove Care, The RS MacDonald Charitable Trust, Big Lottery Fund, ACOSVO, SCVO, GCVS, The Alliance, Breast Cancer Care, Angus Council, NHS GGC, The Scottish Government and more to help them get the most out of digital.

So if you’d like us to help your organisation get to grips with all this give me a shout. Whether it’s a new website, delivering elements of a service using digital channels, making better use of data, training staff in use of social media, getting trustees excited about digital or if you’d just like a chat here’s how you can reach me:

I’m looking forward to working with more people across the third sector to ensure Scotland becomes a world-leader in the use of digital as a tool for social good.

The Gathering 2017 – my slides and resources

The third sector’s digital call to action

The Scottish third sector is on the cusp of something big. 2017 could be the year we leapfrog the rest of the UK and become a world leader in the use of digital as a tool to bring about positive societal change.

Over the last six months I’ve been working with nineteen leaders from across Scotland’s third sector on a journey of digital leadership, part of the groundbreaking #OneDigital programme. From the work has emerged a Call to Action (read in full at the bottom of this post) which challenges Scotland’s third sector to better meet the needs of service users, supporters and partners. As Beth Murphy, #OneDigital Project Manager at SCVO, outlines, this is about people:

Being digital doesn’t mean being inhuman. We don’t see it as a way to save money and cut corners. Evolving your charity to fully take advantage of digital can mean having the data you need to demonstrate impact, developing services that meet the 21st century expectations of your users and freeing up time by reducing administration.

To bring about the change the public demands we need strong leadership. We need leaders like Mary Allison, Scotland Director at Breast Cancer Now. At the recent 3rdsectordigicamp Mary talked openly about embracing digital, the need to challenge the status quo and the need to learn from failure.

Digital isn’t a nice-to-have. It shapes how people live their lives, the third sector needs to embrace digital to ensure we remain fit for purpose. We need leaders who understand that. As David McNeill, Digital Director at SCVO, makes clear:

Leaders in the third sector do not need to be digital experts, but we do need to lead change which will enable our organisations to be fit-for-purpose in a digital world.

The Call to Action asks three main audiences to take specific actions over the next twelve months to ensure the Scottish third sector leads the way:

Charity trustees, chief executives and other third sector leaders

  • Ensure that you have the knowledge you need to drive digital change and engage in networks to support your professional development
  • Understand the digital skills of your staff, volunteers and end users, and invest in training and support to develop them


  • Encourage charities to recruit a trustee to their board who understands digital and can support organisational change.
  • Highlight best practice in digital adoption in charities to inspire and motivate other organisations.


  • Make explicit statements about the importance of digital and advocate for consideration of a digital approach in the work you fund.
  • Train grants officers to understand how to assess and evaluate digital initiatives.


How will you get involved?

Share the Call to Action with your staff, volunteers and trustees. Join in the discussion using the #OneDigital hashtgag.


10 UK social media stats you NEED to know [video]


Gathered from ONS, Department for Culture, Media & Sport and Ofcom data, my short video rounds up the latest stats from 2016 that every marketer should know:

  • 82% of British adults use the internet daily.
  • Facebook has 38.9 million UK users.
  • 64% of British adults use social media.
  • Instagram has the youngest users.
  • LinkedIn has the oldest users.
  • 71% of British adults have a smartphone.
  • The most common use of social media is to find out what’s happening locally.
  • 99% of 16-24 year olds in the UK use social media weekly.
  • LinkedIn has more male users (62%). Instagram has more female users (56%).
  • 37% of people who use social media do so several times a day.
  • Twitter has 20.9 million UK users. The majority of whom are 25-44 years old.
  • Messaging apps are on the rise. There’s now 16.7 million UK WhatsApp users.

Any surprises in there?

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Charity trustees & CEOs need to get to grips with digital

My recent piece for Third Force News looks at my work with Scottish charity chief executives and senior staff on the OneDigital action learning programme. It’s been a privilege to be involved with charity leaders who are really challenging their organisation and future proofing the work they do.

Many of the non-profits participating are taking a fresh look at the fundamentals of how they work. Their starting point is service users and supporters, not digital tools. They’re making simple changes to transform the way their staff and volunteers work, and allowing them to get excited and empowered about the vital work they deliver.

All of this work is propelled forward by the broader OneDigital programme and the Scottish Government’s digital strategy. However, having worked with these charity leaders over the last few months it’s clear that we need radical change if the sector is ever going to truly embrace digital.

Effective leadership needs to be the starting point. The charities taking part in our action learning sets have embraced change because they’ve got passionate, effective leaders. Senior leaders and trustees can no longer rely on junior staff to make key strategic decisions about digital. It’s not just about social media, it’s not just about the server that sits in your cupboard and it’s not just about your fundraising database. This is about looking at what you do with a fresh pair of eyes, experimenting and empowering staff and service users – it needs to be about real culture change. It’s about seeing the transformational potential of digital service delivery.

For many organisations all of this leads to one fundamental question: is your chief executive or chairperson ready to fundamentally reassess how you do things in light of the potential offered by digital?

Charities need a new relationship with technology. Let’s end the age of the giant IT infrastructure system and aim to get to the point where IT becomes invisible. Beyond that, we need to ensure all decisions we make are based upon effective use of data. We need to be geared up to spot societal trends. It’s vital that we respond quickly to the needs of our communities and we need to be able to truly measure the impact we have.

We need to move away from seeing data as a tool to win and report on funding, it’s about delivering the best services we can, when and where people need them.

Funding is going to be key to all of this. That doesn’t necessarily mean more tech-focused niche funding streams. In fact it would be much more productive if funders simply encouraged more people to make digital-first grant applications to mainstream funding streams. That’s probably going to mean training grants officers to assess projects where digital is key, and we need more funders challenging charities to think about where digital can improve outcomes.

Alongside the OneDigital team, I’m currently working on a charity senior leaders’ digital call to action. This will be a blueprint for change, shaped by those taking part in the action learning programme. Hopefully this will kick-start a wider conversation about the need for effective leadership, culture change, flexible technology, smarter funding, and collaborative data. Less strategy, more doing.

The Call to Action will be launched on 2 November at the Senior Leaders Digital Unconference – 3rdsectordigicamp. This event is open to senior leaders and key stakeholders from across the third sector.

#SocialMediaSanta has been nominated for a 2015 CIPR Award

I’m incredibly excited that #SocialMediaSanta has been nominated for a Chartered Institute of Public Relations Scotland Award. Something that started out as a really simple idea I had in 2012 has snowballed in to a campaign that last year provided thousands of toys to homeless children across Scotland – thanks to your generosity and the amazing hard work of Shelter Scotland. Watch this space and follow the #SocialMediaSanta hashtag to find out how we get on at the awards tomorrow and to take part in the 2016 campaign.

How Berneslai Homes use social media to engage younger tenants

I’ve been doing a lot more training and consultancy work with housing associations, in particular I’m interested in how housing providers can use social media to connect with young people. In this guest blog post, Molly Howe, E Communictions Officer at Berneslai Homes, looks at their efforts to connect with Generation Y.

Molly Howe

Berneslai Homes value social media as one of the key tools to enhance engagement with Generation Y tenants. Having struggled to engage with younger tenants for the past few years, we turned to social media as a prime engagement tool for this specific audience and have found that it has not only allowed us to reach a wider, more diverse audience, but has also boosted our online presence.

A lot of our younger customers are communicating with us online daily, whether it’s asking us to chase up a repair, ask us a general question or tell us about their experiences with us, so it’s absolutely vital that we offer them various social media channels to support their choices in engaging with us digitally. Offering not only younger tenants, but all tenants more free and accessible channels of communication has opened up so many opportunities to communicate with our audience and achieve particular organisational aims.

I personally found it very useful undertaking some research into why Gen Y tenants prefer to use social media as their preferred method of engagement and the results showed exactly what I expected – faster response rates, privacy, no associated costs and it’s much easier for them than picking up the phone. However, I was even more surprised to find that a wide range of tenants prefer social media as their preferred method of engagement, with our second biggest audience being built up of those tenants over the age of 60. With this in mind, my team at Berneslai Homes have spent a large majority of the past year dedicating campaigns and media releases to the world of social media.

Our theory relating to Facebook engagement with younger tenants is that our younger audience prefers to be captured by images, videos and posts that are short and sweet, so most of our campaigns are launched with this in mind. We’ve found that doing this increases our followers at a steady rate as opposed to big surges followed by shortfalls. Part of my role is primarily dedicated to social media engagement so offering an office-hour chat facility is something that really attracts our younger tenants to engage with us via Facebook. We’ve found that this is because of the 3 minute response rate they receive and the fact that it is a free tool that only requires their internet.

What I find particularly interesting is that our Twitter account currently has roughly 1,600 followers, most of them representing partners we work with, relevant organisations and staff members. Not many of our younger tenants are currently engaging with us using this channel and this is something that I personally really want to push over the next year. When speaking with some of our younger tenants, we found that Facebook is the only social media channel that they currently use to engage with us because of its unlimited uses and its popularity amongst their social groups. It seems as though our task for the next year is to combat this and try and increase the engagement with our younger audience through Twitter. We have so far started to implement this by encouraging different departments in the organisation, particularly those with front facing staff, to host their own Twitter accounts relevant to the needs and wants of tenants. For example, our Hoyland Housing Management Team uses their Twitter account to post about tenancies, the local area, rent etc.

Throughout the rest of the year we aim to continue increasing our engagement with younger tenants via social media in the hope that we can build on our current strategy and deliver a highly satisfactory customer service experience to more of our customers.

Could hyperlocal social networks transform how your charity reaches people?

If you’ve been to one of my social media workshops you’ll hear me banging on about the need to go to where your audiences are. I really cannot emphasise this enough. It’s great that you have a 500 Likes on your Facebook Page or 3000 Twitter Followers but if your key audience is single parents living in Inverness where are they congregating online right now?

With that in mind I asked Joe Cockerline at Streetlife to guest blog his thoughts on how charities can use his site to connect to local people. This isn’t a paid-for post, while Joe is talking specifically about Streetlife the lessons apply equally to local forums, Facebook Groups, etc.

These days, a social media presence is a given for any charity. Facebook and Twitter are the obvious candidates for reaching people en masse, but the trouble is the majority of people who see your updates already know about your charity.

For charities operating on a local scale, it can be more valuable to connect with those in the local community who don’t already follow your social media channels. Every one of these people is a potential supporter and, with the cost of printed publicity materials so high, it’s becoming harder than ever to reach them.


Is there another way?


Streetlife is a British social network for local communities. Used by more than 800,000 people and 2,800 charities across Britain, Streetlife works by connecting people within their neighbourhoods – there are no friends lists or followers, just open conversation at a community level. Below are five of the key ways that charities are using Streetlife to connect with their local communities:


1. Finding new volunteers

Recruiting volunteers is always going to be a challenge for any charity. 74% of Streetlife users are aged 40+, representing a settled, community-minded group, who have free time and are prepared to give back to a local cause.


2. Sharing news and updates

Charities are using Streetlife to share news updates beyond their established followership on other social networks. This means local people are kept informed and raises your charity’s profile within the community.


3. Publicising events

From bake sales to raffles, small-scale events are the cornerstone of fundraising for many local charities. Local residents are the people who attend these events, and sharing upcoming events on Streetlife helps raise awareness within the community and boosts attendance.


4. Attracting support for campaigns

The kindness of strangers never ceases to surprise, and you’d be surprised what members of the local community are prepared to help out with. Streetlife users have donated furniture, offered to fundraise and helped to spread the word about charity campaigns in the past.


5. Establishing a presence in the local community

Any charity is much more likely to gain traction and support in the local community if it’s viewed as a real part of that community, rather than just a shop front on the high street or a logo on a leaflet. Streetlife allows charities to have a voice in the community and gives them the chance to offer help and advice to fellow residents.

For a charity, of any size and scope, forming meaningful connections with the local community is always going to be a challenge. Streetlife represents another tool in a local charities’ arsenal, a way to attract support among an important, and too often overlooked group. Namely, your neighbours.

Have we had enough of charity food and booze abstinence fundraisers?

The British Heart Foundation are challenging us to give up chocolate for the whole of March. This nationwide, sponsored challenge, is asking us to raise money for lifesaving heart research in Britain’s first ever #DECHOX (see what they did there). This campaign is as well executed as you’d hope for, with a slick sub-page on the BHF website, a brilliant video and strong social media campaign behind it.

The question is, have the public had enough of fundraising campaigns where we’re told to give up alcohol or ‘bad’ food for a month?

I’m genuinely interested to know your thoughts on this one. Part of me thinks it’s all just a bit of fun, it’s about raising dosh for an important cause first and foremost. The other part of me has concerns with terms like ‘undercover chocolate eater’ when we know so many people have a difficult, often guilt-ridden, relationship with food.

Some people even believe that charity campaigns like ‘Dry January’ actually do more to stigmatise sobriety than they do to combat addiction.

Drop me a tweet with your thoughts.