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Volunteer Makers Training Programme

The Volunteer Revolution – Volunteer Makers

Volunteer Makers Training ProgrammeToday we are launching Volunteer Makers (VM) pilot training programme.  This is a training and technology programme for arts, heritage and charities that is a rethinking of how organisations are working with volunteers.

It is driven by the principles of the digital revolution, but taking this virtual engagement into the reality of real-world working together.

From January to March we are running a pilot programme, giving free support and training to a limited number of organisations to create or build on their volunteer engagement and work with the Volunteer Makers online platform.

This is part of a Volunteer Makers pilot project to inform demand for the platform before a national roll-out from July 2016. Our results will be shared with the sector.

Our first three workshops this week are with Frome Museum, Royal College of Music and Corinium Museum.

As a new model of volunteer engagement, Volunteer Makers is presenting the value of volunteering in perhaps a different way, which is making some organisations shift their thinking about how they work. It is based on research and development work we have carried out during the past 4 years.

It is necessary to think this way because of significant challenges for organisations with their future sustainability threatened due to funding cuts, while we also have significant changes in demographics – simply that the pool of people who volunteer have changed. Both factors are having a huge impact on organisations in arts, culture and heritage. No longer can there be a one-size-fits-all model of working with volunteers, instead organisations have to understand who is volunteering and how they want to get involved and how this will work best for their organisation.

The VM training programme follows a three-year digital engagement programme working with 40 museums which we ran for the South West Museum Development Partnership. Many of the tools we are using were developed during this programme.

Volunteer Makers App is the technology behind Museum Makers and was developed for Luton Culture as a standalone web platform nearly four years ago. The results were phenomenal, driving volunteer numbers up from 50 to over 1000 for one museum in Luton. 50 businesses also became Volunteer Makers providing valuable support to this museum. It has transformed the museum into a Peoples Museum and provided sustainability.

We are currently developing a cloud-based version to allow wider accessibility to the VM system for all organisations. Along with the technology, we are rolling-out bespoke support and training, which we are using during our pilot programme.

Volunteer Makers is making organisations think about their own needs and then consider the potential of volunteers from specific demographic profiles. Two examples of important volunteer profiles are Young People and Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers are a significant demographic for arts, heritage and charities and need to be understood, here is why:

• Over 50s hold 80% of the nation’s wealth
• Increased giving by Boomers forecast to eventually double annual charitable bequests
• Boomers and Matures are the single largest consumer group and spend more than £5bn a year online (US)
• Nearly 33% do voluntary work (and its growing)
• Potential monetary value of over 50s’ voluntary work in UK is more than £5bn
Volunteer Makers is particularly useful for engaging Babyboomers as it is designed to let them take control and ownership of their volunteering while supporting the organisations overall strategy.

This rethinking of working with volunteers does present exciting opportunities. The Volunteer Makers vision is to galvanize communities of volunteers to make a real difference by getting them involved with organisations in ways that helps long-term sustainability of organisations, but maximise a volunteers’ potential.

Our work with our partners during the pilot Volunteer Makers programme will include:

- Analysis of the organisation’s current volunteer engagement
- A telephone interview with key staff
- A workshop with teams involved in volunteer engagement
- Provide a volunteer digital engagement annotated template
- Review Volunteer Digital Engagement Plan – after 6 to 9 months of implementation
Volunteer Makers enables organisations to maximise the potential of existing volunteer community and build on that. It does this by empowering volunteers to help drive an organisation’s vision. It increases the scope of what volunteers can do, whilst engaging them in a way that suits them. This increases the diversity and range of your supporter-base through greater access to volunteer opportunities, while widening the opportunity for participation – allowing you to target specific skillsets and demographics.

For further information please visit VolunteerMakers.org.



Digital Networking – the Essential Way to Do Business

At the recent Discuss and do event in Frome, Somerset, I talked about the digital game changer and how essential it is for today’s  business people to use digital networking to succeed.

Discussing the concept of Me-Branding,  I interviewed via Skype LA-based  Indie film Marketing pioneer Sheri Candler.  The transcript of that interview is as follows.

Q. How have you positioned yourself in the market?

My early positioning was meant just to raise up my profile in order to gain employment. I thought if I could bring attention to myself as a knowledgeable person, providing value to an audience, then it would make me stand apart from other candidates. What I found out was I was a pioneer in this field for indie films. Most employers (distributors and studios who are typically in charge of marketing films) were not paying attention to social networking and its power when I was starting to gather attention. Truth be told, they still really don’t. They see it as just another outlet for advertising.

So I really started thinking about what I could do if I my enthusiasm wasn’t interesting to employers. I could work for myself and I could work directly with filmmakers who started not seeing distribution outlets for their films. Many indie distributors were closing down but video on the internet was coming up as a real possibility of distribution to a global audience. So how do  you tell a global audience about your work if you don’t have large sums of advertising money to blanket the market? Well, that’s where marketing strategy comes in and being able to make connections with people is what social media is about. I show I can do that every day by actually connecting with people in social media.

My positioning came then from being a helper. If you share your knowledge in this space, you attract people and it is a much stronger lead generator because they are specifically looking for a knowledgeable person. This mindset is the absolute antithesis of the competitive and greedy nature of business where it is the norm to hide information, to make it proprietary and one must pay in order to access someone with it. The way I felt about it was I can show information and if someone takes it and does their own work, then they didn’t need me. But if they agree they need it and they can’t handle the job on their own or they don’t have time or they just don’t want to, they can hire me and they know what I do and that others recommend me.

Q. What part did social media play in helping to achieve success

My original platform was just my blog, my own website. I knew that it would be very difficult for me to espouse best practices for internet marketing and not have my own presence. I am astounded at people who say they work in marketing or public relations and do not even have their own website or blog.  They might have a Linkedin page or a Twitter account. You can’t work in marketing today not have accounts on all the major sites, you just look like a fool. And if you do have accounts, you have to maintain them regularly.

I started out with a Myspace account and Linkedin. I quickly moved to Facebook when it was becoming more known and also started up a Twitter account. And when I started I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it. On my blog, I knew I wanted to share the information I was learning about social networking, about online platforms for selling films, about how sales agents worked and how distribution works. I was very curious because I had never worked in film before and I wanted to know how it was different from working in other industries. The 2 previous marketing jobs I had were business to business marketing jobs. Social media can be both B2B and B2C. Film sales and distribution is really B2B, but most people don’t realize that.  So whatever I wanted to find out, I did, and then I wrote about it. Once you start writing, little search bots visit your site and start ranking you under terms and I started being found by independent filmmakers and facilities teaching filmmaking under the term Independent Film Marketing or Independent Film Publicity or Independent Film Distribution.

With Facebook and Twitter I just continued to do what I was doing on my blog. I shared useful links on Twitter. I contextualized those links on Facebook. I separated my personal profile on Facebook and built a business page (or fan page when that first started) because I was starting to bore my personal friends and family with too much talk about indie film business.

I started researching influential people and people whose mindset I was closely aligned with in the film business. There weren’t that many really. Everyone then, this was 2008, was very much in the old way of doing things. And that was an advantage to me. I purposely connected with those people on Twitter and Linkedin, mostly Twitter. I sent them emails mostly saying what I liked about their approach, never asking them for anything. But when you show someone you are listening and you like what they have to say, they are naturally curious about you. I tried to meet these people in real life whenever I could. Face to face is still important, but it is made easier by starting the dialog online. It lessens the awkwardness, you feel like you already know each other somewhat.  Same thing happens when I go to film festivals or other film events, I see people sometimes for the first time, but I have been conversing with them for months online.

Q. Did you have a plan or did a plan emerge or did it just happen

A plan emerged. I started with a blank sheet of paper, marketing knowledge and an internet connection. I had no connections in the film business at all. I started working at a local film festival which put me back in touch with filmmakers and I learned of their concerns and I started talking to them about what their options were now. I read every day, mostly about what people are doing with marketing in other industries, and I adapt that to the independent film industry and show how it is relevant.

I decided that since I was a pioneer in this new thinking, I couldn’t align myself with those who didn’t have that mindset. It is easy  and for some people preferable to go with the herd, not stand out. Standing out takes courage and you will be ridiculed. I had to not care about that because I strongly believed that the age of the artist being responsible for their own career, not dependent on a system to give them breaks or make things happen for them, is here. I have to live what I preach and it has worked for me.  It doesn’t appeal to everyone, and that’s ok with me. I am not trying to please everyone, I won’t reach everyone. Marketing strategy is not about reaching everyone, it is about reaching the right people at the right time. I was a little early, but not too early and so it was the right time.

My plan organically changes as I go though. No plan should be set in stone, you have to adapt to changes. When I started, I never thought I would write a book or write journalistically for industry publications or be a public speaker or teach courses. I thought I would only work with filmmakers and my writing would just be on the blog. And as I have worked more with film, I have changed my mind on how some things should be done. I have learned it through experience of my own and also by talking to other people. Guess how I find those other people? Via social networking and from reading other blogs and from interviewing people for my own blog. I can’t tell you how useful it is to get to know someone you want to know by asking to interview them for your blog or to include them in an industry article. When I was first starting, that is how I got to know many influential people.

Q. 3 pieces of advice to those looking to achieve success

-perseverance. When I started out and became more vocal, I began to see a little bandwagon jumping from some people, people who didn’t have marketing backgrounds but saw there was opportunity in selling social media services to the film industry. Those people flamed out pretty quickly because they really didn’t know what they were talking about, or it took a lot longer to be known for those skills than they were willing to wait. If you can keep plugging for the long run, you’ll see your competition halve just because you kept going and they gave up.

-always keep up with emerging trends. You must read, read, read from different sources to know what is happening with your industry. There is absolutely no excuse now that anyone in business has access to Google not to know anything. If you don’t know it, Google it! If you don’t know a term or how to do something, google it! Someone has made a tutorial video, written a blog post about whatever it is you want to know. Make that research a habit. Also share your knowledge, don’t horde it. Being a genius in silence is not helping you. People won’t just find you. You have to speak up and the best way to do that is to share what you know.

-Have a clear voice and make it unique. Don’t go with the crowd, you’ll never be found. You all have something to offer that is unique to you. You should share that in everything you do online. It is no different than you would be in the real world. A brand is not a logo. That is just a visual representation of what you are about. Your brand is what you believe and how you represent that in your actions. If it is for a company, what is the company ethos? What do they stand for? If it is yourself, you must show the world what you believe in for every part of your work. Social media is a way to show it, that’s all it is. There are many tools to do that with (Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) but those don’t work if you have not determined what you stand for.

About Sheri:

Sheri Candler is a digital marketing strategist. Through the use of content marketing tools such as social networking, podcasts, blogs, and online media publications, as well as relationship building with organizations & influencers, she assists filmmakers in building an engaged & robust online community for their work that will help develop and sustain their careers.

Sheri has been involved in many indie film campaigns including “YELLOWBRICKROAD” (Slamdance 2010); “The High Level Bridge” (Sundance 2011); “Ride The Divide” (2011); “Undertow (Contracorriente)” (2011). In 2012, she helped to distribute the feature documentary “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” which screened theatrically in over 90 venues, is available on DVD/digital and was broadcast nationally on PBS American Masters series. Through her work, the production was able to connect with the ballet audience worldwide.

You can find Sheri:



About Claire Sully

Claire has been a strategic marketing professional for the arts and creative industry for 15 years. She is MD of Bristol-based digital marketing agency Tickbox Marketing, working for local authorities, creative businesses and major charities, including Creative England, international charity The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), St Peter’s Hospice, Bristol City Council and Luton Culture.

For the last 6 years, Claire has also championed digital creative arts in the South West working with leading companies such as Aardman, Icon Film, Grace Productions and BBC Natural History (and other major creative businesses and networks in the region), running industry showcase and training events with a focus on inspiring the next generation and opening up access to jobs and skills for new talent.

Claire’s recent training programme for children, digiKids, attracted hundreds of children over a two day period from Cornwall, Somerset to Bristol. This programme saw children experiencing: Cool Coding for Kids, Get Animated, model making with Aardman, pinhole photography and master classes with leading documentary makers.

You can find Claire @clairedesully & claires@tickboxmarketing.co.uk

Branding: Skills, talent and the right attitude

As you probably know I run a digital marketing agency based in Bristol and Somerset.  Finding new recruits with the right skills, talent and attitude is challenging. In fact it is widely accepted amongst many digital media businesses in this region that recruitment is a nightmare.

Creating a platform for new talent to emerge, to be inspired, learn industry skills is the first step to solving a big problem.

With industry colleagues from Icon Films and supported by Aardman and other independent filmmakers and creative digital media companies in Somerset and Bristol, I set up Shepton Digital Arts Festival an industry showcase for the south west. This led me to Creative Skillset who were already tackling the problem head-on; from Government policy to engaging with education and businesses, to roll out a different training and education approach.

Investing in Potential: The apprentice question

I considered an apprentice for my company, but was apprehensive. They may need more support than we had time to provide and all hands count with a busy production schedule.

This all changed when I went to a Creative Skillset apprenticeship graduation showcase and heard from apprentices and most importantly their employers – employers like me. The stories were transformational. Employers said investing in someone’s potential was actually a big benefit to their business. This led us to take on our first apprentice. Taking industry ideas and practice into the training room

Creative Skillset focus on the end game, which is helping young people develop industry-based skills and find employment. They encourage training providers to work with businesses to ensure training is relevant to today’s work place.

So I found myself in the training room in front of a bunch of talented and bright apprentices last week. Working with apprentices from the BBC, Icon Films and other specialist Bristol businesses, my task was to talk about social media and I felt a buzz being in front of the next generation of creatives.

Social media is a big area to cover, there is the strategic marketing aspect, the technical aspect, and people have varying levels of understanding and experience. In my view, to embark on social media without understanding marketing principles is a non-starter. Using social media platforms in a business and media context needs an understanding of fundamental marketing principles.

Businesses also have varying levels of understanding of social media and marketing, knowing it’s important to engage with customers/audience online but not knowing how to go about it. Apprentices shouldn’t be tasked with the responsibility of social media marketing for their employers without guidance and a digital marketing plan to work to.

Understanding social media engagement with an audience is central to broadcasters and media companies delivering creative output; this is the digital game changer and where I started my session:

  • The businesses that succeed most in the future will be those who offer a complete and seamless experience across devices and platforms.
  • All growth driven by the creative sector is digital

My feeling was that if these apprentices understand the power and importance of the digital game changer and online engagement it would help them enormously as they also develop their other technical and creative skills.

My job as a trainer was to help the apprentices see social media slightly differently and start to pin this down to how they could apply this knowledge practically in their professional lives. Therefore the digital revolution needed to be understood, but for audience engagement to work marketing principles come into play, so my session was about marketing as well as social media.

So working through:

  • The digital game changer
  • Marketing view – how does it look digitally?
  • Creating a digital marketing plan – from vision to delivery
  • Web presence
  • Blogging
  • E-marketing
  • Social media tools/platforms
  • Goals and measure – web metrics

The students were asked to apply social media marketing to creating and presenting themselves as a Me-Brand. A Me-Brand is how you present yourself across the social media platforms, to represent what you stand for and where you want to be in your professional career, giving your employer a positive reflection at the same time. Thinking about your audience and being strategic is key. This is why a digital marketing plan is necessary.

My session was as interactive as possible and involved the groups own experiences. My intention was to take the apprentices on a journey from why do I need to think about social media and the digital game changer to how do I use social media in my professional career? I think this is a small but significant step to learn as the apprentices develop technical skills in the digital creative industry.

Claire Sully is a strategic marketing professional, MD of Bristol-based digital marketing agency Tickbox and has run industry training sessions for creative and digital media apprentices. You can find Claire @clairedesully

New website for Luton Culture

We’re celebrating the launch of our latest website – a powerful and user-friendly site for Luton Culture, a major urban arts and culture charity.

Luton Culture manage manage 12 venues and provide cultural services to more than 250,000 people across Luton and surrounding area, with more than 300 employees.

The site promotes events at the 12 venues, as well as providing an online cultural community for the region.

The site, built on our open-source based Hummingbird platform, includes complex online event listings for multiple venues, as well as e-commerce, social media integration and e-marketing management.

Detailed planning, usability and accessibility testing went into creating a site that works for a highly diverse audience across multiple platforms, and provides Luton Culture with a highly-flexible, easy-to-use website for managing all their online communications.

We were also briefed to ensure the site ensured each venue kept its own identity and worked as a stand-alone area of the site, while ensuring ease of use and a sense of a single organisation working together.

We conducted user-testing with a wide range of subjects in Bristol and Luton, as well as planning detailed wireframes and paper-prototypes to ensure the finished site delivered the marketing aims of the organisation.

The site is now up and running, and can be seen at http://www.lutonculture.com/

Using Social Media to Engage and Empower Local Communities

In today’s “Big Society”, there’s increasing importance for local authorities and other public bodies to engage directly in a two-way dialogue with the people on whose behalf they are working.

Social Media  can be an extremely effective tool for empowering and giving a  voice to communities, but its use needs to be carefully planned and managed.

On the positive side, Social Media is in widespread use, and has low barriers to entry in terms of cost and technical difficulty.

On the negative side, without being part of a wider engagement strategy it can exclude important sections of the community and can become directionless,  with no real ROI.

Although Social Media is about learning by doing, often the lack of basic IT skills and experience with using Social Media platforms can prevent valuable members of a community from being included in a wider online consultation and engagement.

A multi-agency engagement approach

The Somerset Coastal Change Pathfinder Project (SCCP) is a multi-agency body tasked with consulting coastal communities on the future of the coastline.

As part of our work with SCCP, we have been running social media engagement workshops – bringing in interested groups and members of the public in the communities affected by coastal change.

The philosophy behind the workshops is to educate and enthuse local people in engaging with the project via social media.

The keys to making this work include:

  • Its about engagement, not social media – not everyone who want to get involved in the consultation will know, or want to know, about social media. It’s important that the workshop is sold and promoted as a platform-neutral engagement opportunity. Members of the public can engage in consultation any way they want to, but it’s good to let them know how useful social media is as an engagement tool, and to help them use in case they want to learn how.
  • Creating a shared learning environment – rather than just showing people “how its done” you allow them to work together to solve problems and find solutions.
  • Identifying levels of engagement – make sure you understand where individuals are in terms of their understanding of social media and allow those who know more to help those who know less.
  • Keep the project at the heart of the workshop – any training or practical examples should be focused directly on engagement with the project. Let delegates actually have their voice heard as they learn.
  • Make it goal-focussed – if you are showing people how to use Flickr, for instance, teach them by allowing them to create – for example in this case – a gallery of images of coastal change in  particular part of the coast which will feed directly into the consultation programme. By creating something that is directly relevant to the consultation, you are doing more than just teaching skills you are beginning the engagement process.
  • Evaluate and follow up the session to help drive future engagement with the community project.

You need to bring not only expertise in the technology involved, but also in the project issues and in the local community. The best workshops are those where the delegates feel empowered and because they will know their own community better and the project issues, they should be  the  real experts in driving forward the social media.

It is important to remember it isn’t about the technology, but about the conversation. People need to be shown how to use the technology initially, but then they should forget about it and think about the engagement. Just like we don’t think about the fact we are using a telephone when we call someone up,  or even the mechanisms of using e-mail.  True engagement through social media begins when it is just about the engagement, not the social media platform.