WEDNESDAY 1 JUL 2020 12:02 PM


Last year, at the end of his tenure with the Scouts, charity comms veteran David Hamilton discusses reputation management in charities and his outlook for the NSPCC

How do you increase a charity's reputation and improve its image without solely depending on people's pathos?

Ask the question: who are you trying to reach? Identifying your key audiences, their needs and wants and aligning these with your charity's goals will provide the foundations of your communications strategy. You need to measure reputation to know if you are making a difference. 

Establishing if there is a gap between how you want to be perceived and what people think you, will often give you the clues on what to do next.

Understand your place in your sector, and gain an accurate picture of what your stakeholders think about you.

Don't spread yourself too thin: there will be groups of people who can make the biggest difference to your aims, so you need to focus your resources on them. Demonstrate relentlessly the unique benefit your charity brings.

In our case, a key measure is trust. The trust of young people, parents and our volunteers is the currency that keeps Scouts going. 

At Scouts, you introduced a strategy to modernise the movement's image and improve its engagement. How did you go about doing that? What were the outcomes? Was it successful?

I'm so proud of what we've managed to achieve at Scouts. I worked with the super talented team to develop a communications strategy to extend our reach, improve our relevance and build our reputation.

The strategy set out what we wanted to be known for (skills for life, which lies at the heart of our brand) what people thought of us, and critically, established our key audiences for the first time. We set out a range of measures around trust, diversity and relevance and stated when we wanted to reach specific targets. We rebranded Scouts in 2018 and focused on a whole new proposition based on extensive research. We built a new ambassador programme, overhauled internal communications, invested in digital communications, and adopted tactics around innovation and surprising people – which is often easier to do with an established brand. As a result, we have extended our reach, improved our relevance scores and built up our reputation.

What are your plans for the NSPCC, and what do you expect the major challenges to be?

It's very early to say as I'm not starting in my new role until June 2020. However, going into any new organisation, it's essential to be in listening mode. I'm going into this role determined to get more people to stand up, take action and make Britain a safer place for children. Every child deserves the best start in life, and we need to mobilise more support from every corner of the UK to make that happen. I know that through a combination of clear goals and compelling communications, we can galvanise support and help transform society to keep children safe.

The charity sector has suffered scrutiny recently. How do you overcome that through communications? What other challenges do communication teams face in the charity sector?

Charities and volunteers are the lifeblood of our nation. We sometimes forget how much goodwill there is for charities, but we should never take that for granted.

It takes many years to earn trust and just moments to lose it. Reputation is the most precious element you have. When facing a decline in trust, it's essential to invest in communications and focus your efforts on those stakeholders who make the most significant difference to your organisation. Rebuilding trust is about showing how you have learnt from past mistakes. It's not only telling people about your commitment to putting things right but showing what has changed.

It's important to remind what people what you are there to do in the first place. Demonstrate that the cause and the need are still crucial and require support. 

Integrity is everything. Live your values, and put your beneficiaries' interests at the centre of decision making. Great charity communications highlight impact, not just activity, demonstrating the difference charities makes to society.