Cause & Effect: Dan Papworth-Smyth
Dan Papworth-Smyth is Digital Engagement Manager at Breast Cancer Care. He was previously Digital Communications Manager at Teenage Cancer Trust, which was his role when giving this interview.
There is life for email marketing after GDPR. If anything, it makes email marketing more important than ever. Because you’re now working with people who’ve explicitly told you that they want to hear from you in that particular form. And for you not to give them the best possible experience that way would be a waste of that supporter and a waste of their connection to your charity and your cause.
Don’t bow down to the Facebook algorithm. I think the algorithm’s often a bit of a misdirection in some ways. The important thing is that we don’t lose track of the supporter. Through email, through social, it’s always about making that user-centered content rather than making content to necessarily please algorithms. You can make stuff that does both, which is great, but when push comes to shove it’s not about being forced into following the rules that Facebook sets and the hoops they force you to jump through. It’s how any content resonates with your users and your supporters, because that’s the content that will do well organically anyway.
And think outside of the news feed. Think about channels like Facebook groups, which are completely unaffected by the algorithm changes. It’s there that you can have very topic-orientated or area-focused conversations. It’s also an opportunity to arm your supporters to be almost your own social media evangelists — to be out there singing your praises for you — because their own friends and families will care a lot more about what they have to say than what an organisation has to say.
Resist the quick win. When someone signs up as a supporter, it can be tempting to go for the ask straight away. So, for example, with Teenage Cancer Trust’s annual shows at the Royal Albert Hall, if someone goes to see an artist like The Cure then it’s important to use relevant content when emailing them. You can contact them with content about the show, photos, videos etc, without it needing to have a donation ask immediately. We want that concert goer to connect with the charity in the long term. You can’t build those sort of relationships with ‘ask, ask, ask’.
I wish I’d understood the power of storytelling through social media earlier. We know the power of storytelling now, but it’s only through trial and error, and working at it for the last six years that we’ve got there. It would have amazing, had we been able to start producing that sort of story-based content from day one, and really mastered it right away, but it did take us a long time to work out and nail it properly. We’re in a very lucky position where the young people we support are often very happy to share their experiences with us. And they create a lot of amazing content themselves and I still think there’s a lot more we can do working collaboratively to harness and develop those stories.
Build your niche. While the cancer space, in itself is very crowded with lots of very large, very prominent organisations, we’ve always had our niche. As a charity, we founded the specialism of teenagers and young adults being their own group before the idea of ‘teenage cancer’ existed. It was only ever children, or adults. There are other charities in the space, but because of our history, and our strong and recognisable brand, we’ve been able to position ourselves really well alongside other organisations.
It’s hard to keep talent. I see a lot of people leaving charities, and leaving the sector, talented digital people, and it’s about how we as a sector can compete with non-charity brands to retain the skills. I think that’s always quite a difficult act when we can’t compete with the larger companies on salaries and perks, but we can compete in amazing inspirational stories and context, and the things you’ll be able to achieve.
Cause & Effect is a series from Hope, in which leading figures who have been involved in building and promoting good causes tell us what they’ve learned from their experiences. Hope is a strategic and creative agency helping not-for-profits raise their profile, promote their cause and raise more money (www.hope.agency).