Connecting the charity landscape: part 3 – Creating content

In two previous blogs we’ve considered how technology can be used to create connections which can then be used to further a good cause. You might want to dive right into part 3 below or start from part 1.

In week one – connected communities – we examined what we mean by community and how, in the internet age, it can mean shared values, interests and mutual connections as well as a shared location. Week two – taking a stand – asked you to look at the values of your organisation in order to see how best to use its reach and influence to create authentic change and impact. 

This week, we’re looking at converting good intentions into content that’s engaging enough for people to take on and spread as the central ideas of any good cause. We’re all comfortable with the idea of online content as a means of entertainment, education, engagement and information to rival the one-way ‘old’ mediums of TV and the press. We’ve even shrugged off the idea of everything being free online and, thanks to the rise of streaming services such as Netflix, have started to pay for more content than ever before.

This willingness to pay for what we want, when we want it has been accelerated over the last two years as so many of us were locked into our homes for the first time in our lives. New content became our window to the rest of the world in so many ways and, during the spring 2021 lockdown alone, UK citizens bought an incredible 21m smart devices as a way to spend more time alone and at home.

It’s not just ready made entertainment that we’re passively consuming either. The abundance of digital technology has lowered the entry bar for content creation and creativity. Pretty much everyone now has access to tools that let them make music, web pages, movies and animation. Let’s not forget that there have been at least two complete movies shot on iPhones, even though the sound was recorded on more professional equipment! Along with the likes of Augmented and Virtual Reality, and with dissemination platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, it’s no exaggeration to say that every individual and organisation has the ability to create content and spread it globally. The big ‘if’ being, of course, if that content is something that others want to engage with.

For a teenager posting a video of them performing a new dance, the hope is that it will go viral and they will gain millions of Likes and Followers. While it’s a bit different for an organisation or brand, the goal remains to be seen and to engage others. Whether through direct content or by building connections with creators, influencers and ambassadors, engaging content from organisations can be a powerful additional way to reach, engage and drive support for social causes.

Using content to engage

The true value of digital content is that it’s not just a different channel to deliver the same old thing. Yes, reading text on a website can be the same as reading it on a printed page, just as watching a video online can be the same as watching it on a TV. But it doesn’t have to always be this way. 

Digital content has the potential to be interactive, immersive and experiential. It can be something you do as well as something you view and, by doing so, can be far more engaging, memorable and valuable. For a sector such as charities, where authentic engagement is the first step towards building a connection, creating content that delivers a valuable experience can make all the difference. The work of the British Red Cross’ social media manager, Nana Crawford, for example, was so exemplary that in 2020, it won numerous ‘Best use of TikTok’ awards. Her team’s work on vaccine hesitancy also won the ‘Best social media campaign’ category in The Drum Social Purpose Awards 2021

Of course, the central message delivered by any charity is crucial. But through digital, charitable organisations can also give a person a far richer return on the investment of their time. To give a simple example, a webpage supporting and promoting overseas aid can be enhanced by the sounds, sights and personal stories from that country that are triggered as the viewer scrolls down. Or, as a more ambitious experience, a digital experience could encourage learning a new skill in order to move the viewer from a passive role into one of self development.

For instance, The Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) has, since its inception in 1991, taught over 40,000 young people across the UK about the Holocaust. The HET’s digital transformation, spurred on by the pandemic and its impact on traditional face-to-face sessions, resulted in Manifesto creating an online version of its Lessons from Auschwitz programme. This learning platform is not only accessible and educational but, with its range of interactive and archival approaches, is a memorable learning experience that seamlessly blends with HET’s other activities.

Building trust through content

Digital’s ability to be so immersive is why it’s important to be honest and open about what personal data is being asked for, what it will be used for and why it’s being asked for. According to dentsu’s Digital Society Index, 40% of people have reduced the amount of data they share online, compared to the time before the pandemic. The data also showed that one in four internet users have installed an adblocker.

Online trust has been a volatile issue for years now, with the fake news and misinformation widely spread through social media taking a big note out of everyone’s credibility. For the likes of the UK charity sector, absolute transparency is vital in order to build and maintain the trust of their audience. Suspicions about gathering personal data, for example, can be defused by explaining upfront how such data capture can be used to offer each user a more enhanced, personalised experience. 

As we move into a world of increased content consumption, much of it paid for, what does that mean for future collaborations and partnerships between organisations? How does our content strategy, frameworks, messaging, brand and channels need to evolve in the future?  How do we build trust with our audiences?


Questions to ask yourself and your organisation:

  • What does the role of engaging content play within your future storytelling strategy?
  • What opportunities could content partnerships open to you?
  • How could content access change the face of your services, stories and audience experience?
  • What content could you give audiences that they would value in terms of entertainment, education or experience?
  • What can your organisation or sector do to build trust when audiences engage with your content digitally??

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