In my first post for the We Are MC2 blog I’d like to explain why I’ve joined the consultancy – and why I think that charities have a unique opportunity to use digital content that isn’t necessarily open to commercial organisations with products or services to sell. George Osborne is right, the commercial sector should be scared.

‘Content is at the heart of digital strategy for charities – there’s no product, just the story of your work.’ This is how we introduce our content strategy services at WeAreMC2. And I was struck again by the simple truth of this statement yesterday as I watched the Sightsavers live internet broadcast from Malawi (part of their Million Miracles campaign) showing the moment Winesi, a family man who has been without sight for years, had the bandages removed after an operation and was able to see again.

The broadcast hit some horrible technical problems, and in fact had to be called off before we got to see the crucial moment live. (And having been the senior editor helping to plan similarly complex live internet broadcasts for the Tesco Eat Happy project recently – though admittedly our locations were slightly less challenging: farms and food factories across Europe – I have every sympathy for the team at Sightsavers who had to try and overcome an unexpected power cut in Malawi!) But before the connection went down they’d broadcast a series of hugely informative video shorts about Winesi and Sightsavers’ work. Looking at the website today, the critical video – the moment Winesi sees for the first time – makes emotional viewing. And the blog that tells the whole story leading up to that moment is wonderfully powerful.

If the end goal for this project was: ‘tell our story’, I’d say it’s mission accomplished. If the social media strategy for the project beyond this point is right, I’m sure it will raise awareness and a much deeper level of understanding about what Sightsavers does – and will also lead directly to donations.

This is a charity using digital content in the most compelling way. To have the bravery to innovate in this way – knowing the technical challenges as well as I do – I have to raise my hat to the team at Sightsavers. I’m pretty sure once the technical glitches get ironed out, this kind of approach will work brilliantly for charities. A direct way of telling the story of ‘our work’.

Can you imagine a creating such a compelling digital content proposition if your end goal is ‘sell more stuff so our shareholders get a nice dividend’? Perhaps a live broadcast from behind the scenes at the new M&S Christmas advert? Hmmmm … kind of interesting, I suppose. For 20 seconds. Maybe.

At the risk of annoying Mr Osborne, I don’t think commercial organisations can really make digital content that delivers in the way that charities and pro-social organisations can. This is partly because they can’t justify the spend against hard cash ROI targets. And partly because most normal people (customers rather than marketers) aren’t in the slightest bit interested in their ‘stories’. It’s why you’d be shocked by the poor analytics of some of the most high profile blogs and editorial spaces on commercial brand websites. And I should know, I’ve seen the analytics.

To put it another way, compare M&S’s 2010 Christmas advert on Youtube (posted in November 2010) with the Girl Effect video posted a couple of months earlier. The first has 40,000 views the second has 1.7 million views (and counting).

This isn’t to say that all charities should immediately start spending big pots of supporters’ cash on becoming ‘content marketers’. Or that if your charity decides to commit to content as a strategy for digital it is going to be easy or quick! It’s certainly not as simple as that. But in a digital landscape where the demands on attention grow ever greater with each passing moment, having something to talk about that isn’t driven by the underlying message ‘buy this thing’ or ‘like us and then buy this thing’ is a clear advantage when it comes to content strategy.

So that’s why I’m joining WeAreMC2. Because I want to work with organisations who have something meaningful to say – and who can use content in innovative and brave ways to say it. It’s a professional choice driven by personal ethics and by my certain belief that when it comes to the competition for attention online, charities can and should be beating commercial organisations hands down.

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