James Gadsby Peet is Senior Digital Services Manager at Cancer Research UK, the charity funding scientists, doctors and nurses to help beat cancer sooner. It also provides cancer information to the public. He spoke to CMO.com ahead of his address at November’s Festival of Marketing, and I began by asking him how important social media is in raising awareness and money for the organisation.
Gadsby Peet: It is has proved perhaps most successful for our broad spectrum of events. Dryathlon for example, which challenges people to give up alcohol for the month of January, was fantastic – we were able to drive a lot of entries directly through Facebook and Facebook paid ads. Lots of people returned significant donations to us during that campaign, and the cost per acquisition (CPA) is very low compared to the returns they are able to generate for us. We see that across a lot of our event portfolio but especially our ‘virtual’ events – something like Dryathlon where there is not actually a physical event to go to. Social media resonates very quickly in that space.
CMO.com: You also saw huge success with the recent #Nomakeupselfie campaign, which saw the charity adopt an initiative started by an individual, raising £8m in just six days. How did you mange to harness – and fuel - that momentum?
Gadsby Peet: Our social media team work out of office hours as well as 9am to 5pm, and they spotted the trend on Twitter. They tweeted saying that they loved people’s #nomakeupselfies and although Cancer Research UK didn’t start the initiative, if people wanted to help beat cancer sooner they could visit our web site and donate. By the following morning the original Facebook page had over 100,000 likes and our news feeds were full of it. We put a picture of broadcaster Dr Kat Arney, who's one of our science communication team, holding up a sign saying thank you, and again , ‘if you want to help, please text and donate’. It went viral.
We created two more posts on subsequent days thanking people for taking part. It would have been easy to go out with more of an ask that second day, but by saying thank you at that point it really resonated with people. That was a great example of content that absolutely spoke to our supporters. The social team handled it in a very smart way, taking the initial ask, which was for awareness, and translating it into a fundraising message in a sensitive way that didn’t feel forced.
We also supported the activity with spend - promoted posts on Facebook for example - and created live PPC and ad copy relating to it on that first day, which provided a lot of value.
CMO.com: What lessons did you learn from executing such a spontaneous campaign?
Gadsby Peet: It proved to us that you have to have out-of-hours teams and you have to have speed of process to enable those teams to react and to do it in a sensitive way that speaks to the audience. Those were real proof points for us.
There were some technicalities around which text number to donate to. WWF, the wildlife charity, in particular received a spike in donations because people were texting ‘BEAR’ to 70700, which is WWF’s short code, but meant to send ‘BEAT’ instead. We now have a dedicated charity short code so that can’t happen in future.
CMO.com: As mobile grows in importance as a channel, how is the organisation embracing this?
Gadsby Peet: All our digital properties are designed for mobile first now, such as our recently re-launched Cancer Chat Forum. We also have some innovative mobile projects, such as Citizen Science, designed to get as many people involved in data analysis as possible. The latest Citizen Science product, launched in early November, is Reverse the Odds, a mobile game which incorporates small pieces of scientific research. Our scientists have huge amounts of data which need to be analysed by human beings. By incorporating data analysis into a game we can get thousands of players to help our scientists learn more about different cancers. This research is fed back to scientists, saving time and providing more accurate results than many of the other analysis techniques available.
We have also seen an incredible performance from SMS donations across many of our products such as our recent ‘Stand Up for Cancer’ campaign, with thousands of people donating by text. We are looking to further develop that as a channel through some of our partners like OpenMarket and Open Fundraising, where people can give regular gifts by texting in. This replaces direct debit, because for many people texting is an easier way to give. It is a big area for us and we are looking to continue to drive it.
CMO.com: How has the growth of digital informed the charity’s overall marketing strategy recently?
Gadsby Peet: We have done a lot of work in the last eight months trying to integrate digital marketing far more into our product teams. Digital marketing and product marketing used to be handled by the digital team in partnership with our product teams around the business, but that has now reversed so product teams around the business now have responsibility for developing those campaigns and making sure they are integrated with the other channels they look after. We see that as our direction of travel – to be more integrated with our TV campaigns, for example, which we run for our brand team, as well as things like Race for Life and Stand up to Cancer.
CMO.com: How has this shift changed the structure and remit of the digital marketing team?
Gadsby Peet: We still have a centralised digital team but our primary responsibility is our owned digital assets. We are putting more and more resource into ensuring that information within the web site is structured in the right way. Our wider remit is to make the whole organisation far more digital than it is at the moment. We are a very forward-thinking organisation but over the last few years digital has been a separate team so it possibly hasn’t been integrated as much as it could have been. We have recently appointed a Digital Director so we now have the ability to influence and educate at board level, and to identify greater opportunities from a slightly different perspective. That’s a really exciting move.
CMO.com: Where do the biggest challenges lie when embedding digital into the wider organisation?
Gadsby Peet: People often see the technology and focus on the ‘new’ channel as opposed to seeing the user or supporter, or the content itself, so a large part of what we do is about building confidence. There is a temptation to think of digital as something new and completely different and we spend a lot of time showing our marketers that the end result is very similar to what they have always been doing: storytelling. It is still about connecting with our supporters and showing people the value we can add and the incredible work we are doing – but through a new channel.
CMO.com: How are the skills you look for in the organisation’s marketers changing?
Gadsby Peet: While there are huge parallels to what people have been doing, the skills needed are quite different in many ways. We are looking for very analytical people, and while we don’t necessarily seek people who are technological specialists – not everyone needs to be coding and pulling together SQL queries for example – they do need to have an excitement for it and not be scared by technology and what it can do for us. They need to want to embrace it.
We have a culture of sharing within the organisation. If people have side projects or are testing different things within their role we really encourage them to share that within their group. That happens across our digital marketing and technology teams quite a lot, and it is certainly a mindset we encourage.
James Gadsby Peet is speaking at the Festival of Marketing 2014, 12 - 13 November, Tobacco Dock festivalofmarketing.com