June 29, 2012

In Depth: Jack Lundie at Save The Children

In an in-depth interview, Jack Lundie, Director of Brand and Communications at Save the Children, talks to Figaro Digital about engagement, content, social media and maintaining a consistent brand identity across different channels

“One cause but a million different conversations” is how Jack Lundie, Director of Brand and Communications at Save The Children describes the charity’s digital strategy, and it’s a handy reminder of the fact that, whatever your industry or sector, digital campaigns need to reach diverse audiences in a variety of channels and contexts while still communicating a brand’s core identity. So how does an internationally active organisation involved in everything from work on the ground in Africa to campaigning and raising engagement at home bring those strands together to create a clear and consistent digital strategy?

Long range broadcasting

“Save The Children is a well established charity brand in the UK and we’ve got a global cause which people know about and understand,” says Lundie. “We have a simple idea at our heart but the changing digital landscape means that we have to find new ways to tell our stories. And we do have a range of different stories, because we’re not an organisation that does just one thing. Sometimes we’re responding to an emergency and it’s about urgently raising money to save lives. At other times we have more of a developmental approach where we might be saying, sign up for a monthly subscription and we’ll change communities in a long-term, sustainable way.Sometimes it’s about doing a cake sale. We have loads of different activities that demand a range of different approaches, all targeted at different audiences and using different channels. Range is what it’s all about, and what I’m particularly interested in right now is what it means to have so many different tones within one consistent voice and how we make sure we stay relevant to different audiences.”

For Lundie, creating effective content means understanding the context in which it’ll sit, being clear about what you want it to achieve and tailoring messages to specific situations. “And not just content,” he says, “but the overall story – crafting that content and then telling those stories across different channels over time.” 

How you go about doing that, of course, is a challenge familiar to most brands. So what advice does Lundie have for marketers seeking to broadcast different messages across different channels which nevertheless convey all those distinct and recognisable brand values?

Communication without compromise

“There’s so much change going on at the moment that everyone really has to find their own way,” he says. “Users are so busy and have access to so much information. But one of the strategic principles for us at Save The Children is not to become completely audience-defined. Finding an audience for everything we do is the second port of call, if you like. The first is to be really clear about the cause and how we want to deliver that. In some ways that’s easy for us, because we’re a charity with very clear objectives and we work with lots of very passionate people who connect with that cause on a daily basis.”

For Save The Children, says Lundie, communicating effectively with new audiences doesn’t just mean reaching out to potential supporters. It also means being clear about the issues that can’t be compromised on; these are, in fact, the foundation of the organisation’s strategy. 

“In our case,” he says, “we can’t pretend to be anything other than an organisation dedicated to changing the world for children. And that can be difficult when you present a challenging portrait of reality which may make people uncomfortable – may, in fact, be intended to make them uncomfortable. So for us it’s about finding a balance between where we’re at and where our audience is at.” 

Giving to receive

We all know that the key to getting users engaged on social platforms is to provide genuinely useful, sharable and compelling content, but what that actually means can vary dramatically from sector to sector. Does Lundie think there’s anything unique about the way charities need to project themselves in the social space, as opposed to commercial organisations? 

“Social media is a brilliant opportunity,” he says. “But there are also very clear and present risks. You need to be realistic about what it actually means to be trending and what that’s really worth in business terms. It can take a long time to build up a brand which can very quickly be taken apart by some vociferous, highly motivated micro-publishers. And I think that can be good!” An organisation feeling that it can win an argument is one thing, he points out. “But you also have to be careful about where you have that argument, how you conduct it and whether it necessarily feels like an argument. That’s an interesting development. Across the whole of the voluntary sector now there’s increased scrutiny on how transparent we are and the difference made by the money we raise. There’s pressure to be more accountable than ever before.”

In common with commercial companies across the board, for organisations like Save The Children, digital campaigns need to yield tangible results. What, for Lundie, constitutes success in the social sphere?

“We do a lot of media work and when we release a piece of news we look to support that across our social channels. But at the moment we’re not running campaigns exclusively in any one channel. We would never have something that was just a social media campaign. Social will always be a key channel, but if it’s a campaign that involves collecting names for a petition – which is a tried and trusted format in terms of making political change – well, we clearly can’t do that in social channels. You have to take people to a space where they commit some kind of personal data. Social channels are brilliant in terms of making noise and then directing people to a space where you can have more meaningful engagement.” 

But, says Lundie, this may change. “It might be that you can influence opinion formers and policy makers by saying, look, we’ve got 50,000 people who ‘like’ this action on Facebook and that’s enough of a petition. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a name and a postcode. So I think social media is changing the definition of what it means to be an engaged supporter.” 

Now that we’ve all got over the novelty and innovation that marked the arrival of social media in the mid-2000s, many marketers are finding that the distinction between online and offline activity isn’t just becoming less distinct – it’s also becoming less relevant. Has Lundie found that to be the case?

“Absolutely. We’re all just interacting more. If the way people interact with a brand or a marketing proposition is like a fabric, then the weave of different channels is becoming increasingly fine. You can’t pull the social component of the campaign away from the real-world aspect. If it’s about running 10k, for instance, well, you’d absolutely look to be using the social channels. Running for a charity obviously means putting your trainers on and getting out there, but it’s also a digital experience. So online and offline are much more closely interwoven and that means there’s a greater requirement than ever to have a proposition that really does work and which offers choice – which feels real, just as it feels interactive.” 


Article by Jon Fortgang