My choice: to produce video and social media content for the third sector

After nearly 3 years of unpaid freelancing journalism in Birmingham, I was looking at alternative options for my MA final project. With the scarcity of news websites or magazines to pay for my work in the area, offering my skills set to the third sector seemed the next best option. It also combines two important passions in my life: content creation & social engagement

Besides Birmingham Mail  and Birmingham Postand a few local newspapers, such as Express&Star, the options to do online journalism in the area are fairly limited. I Am Birmingham, an independent media outlet, and Birmingham Eastside, the news website run by the School of Media at Birmingham City University, publish quality reporting. But they cannot afford to pay.
Where does a journalist with over 7 years professional experience go from here?
If they want to stay in the region, rather than moving to London and Manchester, what are their options?

2 months of social media campaigning for local charity

For me, it started on Twitter, where I arranged a meeting with Pauline Roche (photo) from RnR organisation. A social enterprise which offers digital and data support to charities and NGOs, they introduced me to Ashiana Community Project. I put together a media proposition for this local charity and ran a two months social media campaign for ACP. This forms now the basis for the final project in my MA studies.

During the time spent working with the charity, I produced and published 20 videos for them. Also, I increased engagement, bringing over 60new users to their Facebook page. With event support and with two sessions of social media training, I left them equipped with knowledge and basic skills to carry on what we started. We learnt valuable lessons together and I will share some here.

Five digital lessons the third sector needs to learn

The first and most important lesson speaks about the need for digital skills in the third sector. Digital specialists in the industry talk about how much everybody has to gain using social media, video, multimedia. Yet, a high number of organisations don’t employ communications or media people. They rely on the personal knowledge of employees whose main job is to provide services, not run campaigns.

Read which the other four major lessons are:

    1. The team needs to know their goals. By use of (social) media campaigns, they can better reach what they are aiming for. They also need clarity and confidence about their organisation’s identity and their message to the world.
      In the video below, I interviewed two service users who run a peer support Art Group at ACP. Their message speaks about what their group is all about.
    2. An organisation’s social media presence should reflect their achievements and real contributions.
      When they put together great events for the community, the content published can easily reflect it. Take a look at one post covering the International Women’s Day 2018 on ACP Facebook page.
    3. At the same time, their social media presence risks reflecting the gaps in skills and difficulties unresolved in the team. When certain barriers affect communication within the team, their Facebook page will send out confusing messages.
      I will give you a few examples. Two different staff members can post similar content, from the same event/activity, without knowing or checking somebody else has already done it. For page users/followers, this can look like spam.
      Another frequent example relates to everybody in the team assuming somebody else covered it on the social media.
    4. Also, team members need to understand how social media works in their favour. If they do it just because it is the thing to do, the trend, their message will lack coherence and assertiveness.

“We are told IT is the answer – but what is the question?”

Since collaborating with local organisations, I have also exchanged experience and knowledge with specialists in both the digital field and the third sector. At a working event organised by RnR with representatives from the sector (photo), participants shared the following:

We’re often told that IT is the answer – but what’s the question that’s being asked? We need to turn it around the other way and ask what do you want to do with it? The answer often is visibility, and connection.

Stuart Ashmore, Sandwell Council of Voluntary Organisations

A lot of times in the sector there is an issue about what they are going to do in the next 20 minutes. What they can’t affect is getting money into the IT.

Ted Ryan, RnR


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