We held a retro with digital and communications leaders from a range of charities and not-for-profit organisations

A google meet screenshot with 12 people in a variety of different settings
The digital leaders that joined us for the retro

Here’s their pulse check on the sector and digital trends and some tips on navigating some of the challenges that everyone is facing in their organisations.

User-led prioritisation and planning

All digital leaders commented on struggles with prioritising workload, particularly the balance of self-generated work versus work driven by other teams.

Putting our audience first

One leader shared that a supporter had got in touch to explain they felt “bombarded” by the organisation’s communications and there was a lot of shared sentiment about the need to prioritise content for their audiences.

This has been a perennial issue for digital teams - as it’s often the only place where the whole organisation sees that they’re bombarding people! While no one has landed on a solution, there’s been some headway made by some of our leaders:

  • Quarterly prioritisation process for digital product team support, where teams across the organisation write bids for support that include user impact, the problems they’re trying to solve, data and tech requirements etc so that they can be prioritised. Everyone buys into this process beforehand so they can be sure that prioritised projects will be delivered.

  • Targeted user-centred design training for teams across the organisation to support the culture change needed for creating better user experiences through audience focussed communications and prioritisation

  • Think about people and experiences and not chasing numbers when setting goals. Organisations typically want to see big numbers getting bigger and, instead, we need to engage our senior leadership teams in the digital experiences we want our audiences to have.

  • Get lots of internal stakeholders involved from the start of your project, to create momentum and get people engaged in what you’re trying to achieve and how.

Define clear digital goals

We talked about how digital strategies should come out of organisational strategy (which we are big fans of at William Joseph!) and one leader had recently created digital goals for their organisation and shared some insight:

  • The digital goals are anchored in the organisation’s new strategy

  • The goals were shaped by the MarComms team and so take into account all channels and audiences.

  • Agree the digital goals between MarComms team and rest of organisation

  • This engagement means that the MarComms team and the wider organisation all now know where we headed

  • This agreement should have now created a firm base from which to have conversations about priorities and planning

Social media and content strategy

Since our last digital leaders retro, the social media landscape has changed; Threads suddenly appeared, Twitter is now X, LinkedIn has become more chatty and new features are continually appearing on Instagram and TikTok. We asked our digital leaders how they have kept up with the changes and what’s become most important and challenging in their organisations:

Instagram and TikTok are our most important channels now

Digital leader

Content-led channels

Our digital leaders all shared the importance of Instagram and TikTok now, which has been challenging for some organisations as they’ve found that other teams want to be on Facebook and Twitter/X more. This has often been with a fundraising focus and so more work is needed to build relationships with those teams and understand the strength of the emerging, content-led organic channels.

On top of this, some leaders found that their senior leadership teams are hesitant about TikTok because of the fun and quirkiness of the channel. One leader commented on the importance of sharing thewhy when relaying TikTok performance metrics - for example, why trending sounds garner higher engagement levels.

Graph showing that WhatsApp is the most popular social channel followed by Instagram and Facebook
The popularity and usage of different social media channels is changing rapidly and many are struggling to keep up!

Tik Tok content tips

We talked about the Natural History Museum’s success on TikTok and they shared some advice for organisations wanted to get started or step-change their presence on the platform:

  • The algorithm prioritises content based on user engagement and so it’s important to stay on top of trending topics and audio.

  • Content is more funny and irreverent than other social media channels

  • Quirky facts perform well

  • NHM have sprinkled science and other informative content within the fun, trend-led content to land their message.

The Natural History Museum’s page on TikTok features a wide range of content from T Rex’s in Christmas jumpers to their sleepover events

It’s important for us that Twitter is there but we’re definitely posting a lot less

Digital leader

Purpose of Twitter/X in charity social media strategies

  • Everyone agreed that Twitter/X is challenging and performance on the channel has changed significantly.

  • Some organisations have stopped running paid content on Twitter completely as the moderation is challenging and quality of engagement is low.

  • However, lots of leaders also commented that the news and political agenda is still important for Twitter/X - much more so than Threads or the other channels. This is particularly true for breaking news and so charity media and digital teams are still focusing on Twitter/X for news stories and “the establishment’s” reaction to them.

LinkedIn has entered the chat:

  • Organisations are seeing more engagement on LinkedIn and so some are putting more effort there instead of Twitter/X and other channels

  • LinkedIn can be more targeted to your audiences rather than broadcasting on Twitter/X and so the quality of engagement is high.

Looking after our people

Our leaders talked a lot about looking after their team in what feels like a challenging time of humanitarian crises, cost of living increasing, political upheaval and, of course, seasonal changes that affect teams at this time of year.

  • Don’t contribute to burn out and make sure you keep an eye on your teams’ workloads

  • Lean on other teams across the organisation for support with campaign messaging and delivery - just because something is on a communications channel, it does not mean the Communications team must do it alone!

We also wanted to share this advice from our friends at the Film and TV charity on talking to colleagues at this time of increased conflict and rising anti-semitism and Islamophobia

The politics might be complicated. Supporting our colleagues and showing kindness really isn’t.

Film & TV Charity

A brief guide to supporting our Arab, Jewish and Muslim colleagues during this time of increased conflict and rising antisemitism and Islamaphobia
Approach your Arab / Jewish / Muslim colleague and say, "Hey I know you're Arab / Jewish / Mulsim (use as appropriate), i've been watching the news and seeing the rise in Antisemitism and Islamaphobia, I don't want to make any assumptions but just wanted to check how you're doing
If they say "I'm doing fine, thank you for asking" you may want to respond with "cool, do you want to grab a coffee some time?" If they say "It's really affecting me, thank you for asking" you may want to respond with "I'm really sorry to hear that, do you want to grab a coffee?"
Now here is the really important part, please listen to your colleagues when they are talking to you over coffee. Do not try and impress them with your knowledge of Middle East politics or win any arguments
Sometimes, the best advice is the simplest, as the Film & TV charity have shown with their advice about talking to colleagues at this time of increased conflict and rising anti-semitism and Islamophobia

Thanks for joining us Joe Freeman (NHS), Josh Hardy (Swim England), Harriet Hart(Film and TV Charity), Lucy Taylor (Natural History Museum), Miriam Zendle(NHS Providers), Clare Hooper (Christians Against Poverty), Betty-Sue Smith (Health Foundation), Clare Roebuck (Moorfields Eye Charity), Mark McKenzie-Ray (Local Government Association), Matthew Farrand (Maudsley Charity) and Katherine Newbigging (Locality).

We’d love to hear your thoughts on these opportunities and tips — please do let us know