Celebrating 100 years of making voices heard

Strategy: Agile coaching | Campaign: Design and brand | Experience: Digital design and build

In 2018, the English-Speaking Union (ESU) celebrates 100 years of promoting better communication between people of all cultures and countries. They wanted to build a campaign website to celebrate this achievement, engage their audiences, and communicate both their illustrious history and the ambitious future of this world-renowned organisation.

The ESU, founded in 1918, is an educational charity and membership organisation which believes in the power of spoken communication. It has spent the last 100 years changing lives through promoting oracy skills, and global and cultural understanding. With a wealth of personal stories which illustrate the ESU’s impact – from alumni and supporters such as Sir Trevor McDonald and KT Tunstall, as well as a distinguished history including the likes of Sir Winston Churchill and TS Eliot – and archive imagery to bring those stories to life, they wanted to bring all this content together in a celebratory site which would link their rich history with their future focus: equipping young people with the oracy skills and confidence to engage with the world, discuss their ideas and share them with others.

What we did

We kicked off with an in-depth discovery workshop with the team at ESU, to dig into the audiences we wanted to reach with the site, and their needs, determine what the parameters of success were for the project, and work out how to generate maximum value for the organisation.

Out of this workshop came a reimagined brief that aligned the goals for the website with organisational objectives. Alongside a vision board which would help translate needs and features into logical user journeys leading to clear calls to action, and a description of the site’s main content types, we emerged with the following goal:

“Create an innovative and immersive campaign hub that informs, updates and inspires interaction with the ESU to celebrate a landmark 100th anniversary.”

Introducing Agile

This would be the first time that the ESU team used Agile methods to manage a digital project. We helped guide them along the path to working confidently and efficiently with these techniques, beginning with one of our regular Intro to Agile events, to improve their overall approach to digital delivery.

Brave new design and direction

We established a brave new design direction for the website, featuring full-width imagery, bold use of colour and strong typography. Working with the ESU team to define a content direction, we then iterated over the designs of page templates to create an immersive storytelling experience across the site.

Seamless journeys, user-friendly technology

Through our discovery work with the ESU team, we knew that the website had to deliver a fast, seamless experience for the user as they navigated between different sections of the site. We achieved this through use of an animated, colour-coded hero banner which would seamlessly direct users to the relevant section of the site. We also knew that the experience for ESU editors had to be user-friendly, which is why we opted to use WordPress as a content management system, with a customised page-builder to facilitate the flexible use of images, text and video for telling stories.

How it went

The 100 ESU website launched on January 8th 2018, just three months after the project began. The site’s bold visual direction has since been rolled out to the wider campaign.

Communicating the ESU’s mission through reference to its long history and hopes for the future, the centenary site illustrates the impact the organisation makes through powerful personal stories told by people whose lives have been changed by ESU activity. And it’s helped spearhead a campaign to empower young people to speak out about issues affecting their lives. See the results at #ESUSpeakOut

“We’re delighted with the impact that the website is having so far. It is enabling us to extend our reach further than ever before and to share both our relevance today and the importance of developing and harnessing oracy skills in young people to improve social mobility.

 For the first time, we are able to share our compelling alumni stories on a modern, eye-catching platform which reflects the direction we are moving in, as a forward-thinking charity and membership organisation.” – Sarah Matthews, Digital Marketing Manager, English-Speaking Union

As well as achieving its primary objectives, the project has been a catalyst for driving change across the whole organisation. The thinking behind the new website has opened up new opportunities for the ESU as we begin to explore how it can get the most value from its audiences by developing further digitally. We’re excited about subsequent projects that will build on this thinking, and help the charity thrive for the next 100 years and beyond.

How this helps us on your project

We’re adept at digging into the reasons and thinking behind a brief, helping you to challenge your previous assumptions and ensure that the goals of the project are aligned with those of the organisation. Wherever you are on your digital journey, we can help you build the teams, tools and creative assets you need to engage and inspire your audiences.

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