First world problems: charities newsjacking Twitter

Beth worked as a sustainable funding consultant at NCVO, specialising in business planning, fundraising portfolio analysis and new product development. Beth left NCVO in July 2014 but her blog posts are kept here for reference.

During the tube strike earlier this week, a few charities adapted the tube map to highlight their cause and newsjacked the hashtag #tubestrike. The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network has already blogged about the different views – whether it was disrespectful or not – but here’s my take.

If responsible for raising the awareness of your organisation and generating income, often with challenging budgets, there are a couple of things that you absolutely have to do:

  1. balance your activities that you know perform well financially with newer, slightly riskier activities to ensure a balanced offering that remains attractive to your audiences; and
  2. get creative with your comms – because if you don’t, you can guarantee that your supporters are re-tweeting someone else’s clever ideas.

Some think it’s poor form to ‘interrupt’ Twitter with charity messaging at a time when people are wanting information or are themselves campaigning. I think what these charities did was smart.

Why it worked: organisational goals and bittersweet reminders

Leonard Cheshire’s version was spot on given its goals around accessible public transport. And Save the Children’s really stuck with me. In terms of brand awareness and reminding people of the issues, they’re both excellent. The Syria crisis presents an ongoing need for Save the Children’s services while other humanitarian issues and organisations are vying for our donations – not to mention the social, economic and environmental issues closer to home. Instantly recognisable and easily turned around in-house at virtually no cost, the amended tube map reached hundreds of thousands of people: the volume of coverage that organisations pay through the nose for any other day of the week.

If these organisations had included an ask for donations, I feel that would have been a bit grating. But as they are, they’re good – if I’d been behind one of them I’d be pretty chuffed.

Innovation or more of the same?

There’s always a lot of chat in the sector about the need for innovation and “why do charities keep doing more of the same?” With another tube strike announced for next week let’s see if amending the tube map is something that others emulate – and if so, if they’re received with greater or less appreciation.

What’s next?

Perhaps your organisation missed the boat this time, so how can you make sure that you’re prepared in the future? It strikes me that the success of the #tubestrike newsjacking was founded in pure opportunism. One way of ensuring more people in your organisation are able to identify such opportunities may be to give them the freedom and access to get involved in social media, i.e. it’s not just the digital or media team that do the Tweeting. It doesn’t mean you’ll end up with 17 versions of a tube map, but it might mean that you spot the next opportunity for one.


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