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Janine Duggan on marketing for charity Guide Dogs

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 05 August 2020

Guide Dog logo 150x150Janine Duggan from Guide Dogs on marketing the charity through challenging times

Social Media Portal (SMP): What is your and what do you do there) for The Guide Dogs?

Janine Duggan (JD): I’m Janine Duggan, senior digital marketing and planning manager. I oversee a team of seven who plan and deliver digital marketing activity across Guide Dogs. I also work strategically on planning our marketing campaigns and initiatives with our marketing and strategy director and her key team.

SMP: Briefly, tell us about The Guide Dogs  

JD: Our ambition, as an organisation is to create a future where every person with sight loss has the confidence and support they need to live the life they choose. We are currently almost two years into our five years strategy where we aim to reach and support many more individuals over the next three years, from 200,000 people today, to 500,000 by 2023.

Guide Dogs website homepage

SMP: It may be obvious, but who are your target audience and why?

JD: As an organisation we offer support from birth through all the stages of life. Childhood sight loss is on the increase. There are around 35,000 children and young people living with a vision impairment in the UK. Most of a child’s learning takes place using vision, and every day they go without support can affect their development.

At the other end of the spectrum, the rise in the UK’s elderly population continues to impact social care. With shortages in funding, local authorities have prioritised the services they provide, leaving the third sector under great pressure to plug gaps. Despite the devastation caused by sight loss, 70% of adults receive no support within Guide Dogs sponsor s puppy badgethe first 12 months of diagnosis, and are likely to encounter poor education, high unemployment, depression, loneliness and financial insecurity throughout their lifetime so we need to communicate with the visually impaired community in the UK to make them aware of the support we can provide.

We cannot deliver our services without the support from our donors as we are a registered charity. Our donors, fundraisers and volunteers make it possible for us to deliver the services we do. Yet we know that the public does not always find our charitable cause as relevant as other causes; people fail to relate to the issue and consequently we need to work much harder to build emotional connections with the public.

Photograph of Janine Duggan senior digital marketing and planning manager at Guide DogsSMP: How did you initially attract users to site, social channels etc., and how do you do it now?

JD: We are celebrating our 90th birthday in 2021 so we are one of the UK’s older charities. We have a long history of traditional direct marketing activity which has shifted over the recent years. Today we work hard to communicate with our services users, potential service users and supporters across the key media channels including television, radio, print – but an increasingly large percentage of our efforts to increase our reach are through digital channels from organic and paid social, to email, display and partnerships.

SMP: What are the challenges that you’ve encountered and how are you overcoming them in what you have been doing so far at The Guide Dogs ?

JD: Over 80% of charities* (The Charity Digital Skills Report 2020) would describe their own digital delivery as substandard and behind those in the commercial world. This remains one of the biggest challenges facing us in this sector, and Guide Dogs is no exception. We have made significant progress but we have a long way to go. Like most charities, we want to increase our digital service delivery, however, with limited resources and the high investment levels required to really begin to tackle the issues around data and platform performance the challenge is tough.

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

JD: I’ve been working for Guide Dogs since 2014 and have been lucky enough to have been involved in some great campaigns. From our Sponsor a Puppy flagship product to more recent developments promoting the services we offer to support children and young people with sight loss there is a lot of variety. This was the first not for profit organisation I worked for and the job satisfaction you feel when you can see first-hand the impact our services makes on someone’s’ life doesn’t really need any explanation. Working with amazing dogs and cute puppies is always going to cheer up any miserable Monday morning :)

SMP: What recent and most important campaigns are you working on and how are they being communicated (e.g. COVID-19)?

JD: Like many organisations we have had to adapt our services in the past few months and have needed to be agile, responsive and innovative in being able to support our service users, train our dogs and continue to raise funds to pay for it all. The adaption of these services and the ‘new normal’ status has been a continuing and evolving campaign that has seen us all pulling together across the organisation. We also have some exciting plans around our children and young people’s services that are due to be communicated in September and this is a really exciting campaign that I am really pleased to be working on…I think you’ll see why when you see the campaign launch!

SMP: How do you tailor your campaigns to reach visually impaired and blind audiences?

One of the most important but challenging aspects of being who we are is ensuring we are leading the way in accessibility and technology and digital capabilities is a key part of that journey. We have a team of accessibility experts who will test and report back on any digital development whether that be a new piece of software or a partner or third party, or piece of content that has to be able to be usable by a visually impaired person.

SMP: What's going to be the most interesting aspect regarding social media, social platforms and/or technology for the next 12 to 18-months?

JD: This isn’t an easy question as there is so much focus on this area. The over dependency on data driven targeting and audience profiling as challenges around security and fraud across all social platforms mean people trust social platforms less than they would do a known search engine, for example. This is not a unique challenge. The two environments are becoming increasingly integrated as SEO techniques increase in the social space!

SMP: What are your top five predictions for social media for the next 12 to 18-months and why?

JD replies with:

1. Marked increase in live event streaming broadcasting content from internal brand experts - i.e. dog behavioural tips from our national breeding manager allowing for a more interactive experience.

2. Increase in off core platform transactional activity as more 3rd party solutions sped up by the recent covid impact forced live events and campaigns in market this year i.e. Guide Dogs Virtual Dog Show; our Guinness World Record award winning Tea Party, other community fundraising live events hosted digitally enable us to be more responsive.

3. Continued growth in individually driven closed groups and networks as more personalised and localised stories and relevant content is shared and consumed, providing more challenging access to key audiences for marketeers. i.e. local and regional social media and marketing managers essential to be effective.

4. Growth in presence of artificial intelligence and voice activated capabilities across all markets. This is particularly significant for the visually impaired sector for obvious reasons. i.e. working with key technology partners to ensure our presence in this space.

5. Although present in some markets, where the usage is more obvious like fashion and design, visual and Augmented Reality will creep further and further into main stream marketing and communication. This will bring an increasing dependency on even more visual and motion image content developing beyond words into the live experience space. Virtual reality is very interesting for Guide Dogs to help show what life is like for people living with sight loss.

SMP: What are your top overall five social media tips and why?

JD replies with:

1. Mobile first optimised content. Seems obvious and old school, but is surprising how much content is out there that doesn’t design or test mobile first, desktop second

2. Following on- platform optimised content. Consider the formats restrictions, opportunities of each platform and take the time and budget to allow to develop content for each of these platforms. A six second Facebook video edit needs story boarding and scripting, not just cutting a 15 second edit in half but making the effort for each content opportunity, knowing you’ve got three seconds to capture attention max.

3.Don’t underestimate the threat of fake news on whatever format and likewise, don’t underestimate the power of positive and successful influencer marketing. Identifying key influencers already and growing in a topic or space harnessed at the right time and with genuine collaboration and effort can be extremely impactful.
4. The use of chat bots is almost an expected functionality on a website today. Utilising chat bots to deliver a service or range of services 24/7 to number of identified groups or individuals rely not only on technology but on sound audience identification and content sourcing, organisation and development. Not forgetting the advantages of social listening and sentiment analysis to feed into content strategy decisions. This will be a key part of our strategic approach over the next few years.

5. Finally, but probably one of the most important is the consideration of viewing search engine optimisation techniques and social media strategy as an integrated, joint content approach identifying brand strengths and building on weaknesses, managing threats and harnessing opportunities. Just look into it. It is definitely key.

SMP: Is there anything else we should know, or is there anything that you’d like to share?

I think I’ve probably talked more than enough in the answers above….;0)

SMP: Best way to contact you and The Guide Dogs?

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

JD: Poached egg on toast.

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

Donated blood yesterday, although it always makes me feel hungover the next day.

SMP: If you weren’t working at The Guide Dogs what would you be doing?

JD: I would have said I would probably have migrated back towards the travel industry where I started, however, had I been, as it is July 2020, I may not be working at all if that were the case….but people love to travel that will never change so who knows.
Guide Dogs sponsor s puppy badge
SMP: When / where did you go on your last holiday and why?

JD: France, the Loire Valley last summer (seems an age ago) .. why.. France.. do I even need to answer that? And why so long ago… because Covid put a stop to anything planned in 2020 so far.

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

JD: Talk, chat, talk and coffee.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

JD: Tricky, my boys are Marvel maniacs so I had a lot to choose from, but after careful consideration an extremely fast metabolism would set me up for life ;0)

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