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How British Heart Foundation hopes its new social strategy will help people view it as a local charity


By Natalie Mortimer | N/A

April 10, 2017 | 5 min read

As the largest independent funder of cardiovascular research in the UK, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) is well known across the nation. However, the charity is hoping to shift perceptions of its brand to help people see what it offers at a local level via a new social media strategy.

British Heart Foundation

How British Heart Foundation hopes its new social strategy will help people view it as a local charity

The BHF is working with innovation consultancy London Strategy Unit (LSU) to empower its hundreds of shops, fundraisers and other volunteers to create social media content on Twitter that gives an insight in to the many facets of the charity that are created by those who are on the ground. The idea is to give as many people as possible the opportunity to tweet out content, but without the risk of damaging the main brand.

To do this, BHF is utilising LSU’s new business tool named Okey Dokey that enables companies to easily create, review and publish social media content from a mobile device or browser. The tool helps businesses deal with inbound enquiries, essentially turning employees into content creators and customer service agents, in a safe and controlled manner.

Speaking to The Drum, BHF social media manager Athar Abidi said by giving its volunteers a voice in the social space it will help encourage more donations and ease the pressure across the business to create content centrally.

“The key challenge that we have as a huge national charity is that people have a misconception about what we are, and what we do and what services we offer. So some people are much less inclined to donate to what they consider to be a national charity as opposed to a local charity, and so we face the challenge on social of having a local presence where rather than having lots of people trying to get prominence on our main channels, we want them to have a branded local presence.

“So, we want to have a network of local accounts where all of these people can input in to it and we can present a local voice without it having to be centrally managed but with a degree of risk management.”

One use case for creating local content came in the shape of a BHF shop in Dartford, which was able to secure comedian and presenter Joe Pasquale to announce the winner of a raffle it ran in December 2016. Through having a branded voice, the shop was able to tweet Pasquale, and BHF was able to police how many other celebrities the store was approaching so that it didn’t damage the main brand.

Aside from retail, BHF is also hoping it can better utilise local Twitter accounts to shine a light on the important research the charity is carrying out everyday, but that isn’t necessarily right for the main account.

“If something is getting traditional PR I can shout about it… but it doesn’t all have to be breakthrough, because we need people to understand that the research is happening daily, and that is why we need a constant source of funding. If we only have these big key mile stones when we make a breakthrough and it gets national press, people don’t really realise the scale and continuous nature of our work.

“It brings us back down to grassroots level and lets people think of us and know about researchers in their areas as well. When you talk about medical research it is far too ethereal in the public mind so where we can have our researchers submitting photos from the lab for example, we can say this lab is in Leicester that changes everything for us.”

As well as BHF, Okey Dokey is currently being used by Barclays, Accor and the Scottish Government. The impetus for creating the tool wasn’t only to address the similar business problems that many large organisations are facing with social, but also to “practice what we preach” when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurialism, explained Matt Boffey, founder of LSU.

“We noticed that a lot of large organisations have great expertise within the company, but they often struggle to surface it,” he said. “There is a reticence to open their social channels more widely, as it increases the risk of inappropriate or off-brand content getting published. We created Okey Dokey to empower people and companies, giving them confidence whilst also providing them with a safety net so that they don’t run the risk of damaging a brand’s reputation.”

Boffey added: “We are always preaching some degree of entrepreneurialism to clients and encouraging them to innovate. If we go in and talk to them about entrepreneurialism, and moving in an agile manner, we have to practice what we preach - be it services or products.” v

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