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Women’s eNews: …

25 Mar

Women’s eNews: Many direct service nonprofits have a niche focus and find themselves siloed from intersecting issues and a broader cohesive change. This is where social justice journalism and specifically the work of Women’s eNews comes in.

I QUOTED MYSELF! The audacity. Read more about why I love the way Women’s eNews does what it does at http://ctrouper.tumblr.com/post/78960389038/how-womens-enews-is-making-a-difference-iwd2014

About Face: The #NoMakeUpSelfie and Digital Fundraising

25 Mar
Screen grab of #nomakeupselfie tagged photos online.

Screen grab of #nomakeupselfie tagged photos online.

There’s a lot of low hanging feminist fruit that I’m going to bypass in order to talk about the #nomakeupselfie social fundraising campaign that has racked up MILLIONS OF POUNDS in donations for Cancer Research UK. But if you really want to read about that I’m sure there’s hundreds of blogs about pro/anti make up feminist agendas – you’re on your own.

The big question is how did a user-led act of solidarity with friends and relatives dealing with cancer turn from an armchair-activist awareness campaign [which I’m not against] into a funding drive that spawned copycat campaigns by men in make up, or in nothing but a sock, and spread beyond Cancer Research UK into other Big C focused orgs.

Photo-based solidarity action on social media is nothing new. Ribbon overlays and avatar swaps have been sought and given freely to show care for causes and campaigns. But unlike many organization-led campaigns to raise awareness and donations the whole #nomakeupselfie campaign feels led by hearts not organizational direction and it brought in millions of pounds in non-planned, supporter pledges and donations almost as an afterthought.

From the organizational stance what this seems to reflect is a broader understanding of the digital space in both understanding of users/supporters/untapped audience, and responsive marketing in the digital space.

The Back Story

This campaign outline was formed by Breast Cancer Care and Escentual, a cosmetics company, to catalyze support for Breast Cancer Awareness month in October. A quick look at the site for that campaign shows that supporters who joined the campaign in October had struggled to find the momentum that #nomakeupselfie would this year and many failed to reach the $1,000 target set online. So what happened this time? Possibly, some of the contributing factors were that the action was spurred by compassion of the cancer supporter / survivor movement; the language used ran closer to digital native lingo – most people who have a phone know how to selfie; Facebookers were just coming down from the nomination to action template of neknomination.

Digital marketing speaks about emotion catalyzing action all the time – Buzzfeed is all about emotional engagement and sharing – and I can think of no greater reflection of audience need/emotion than one driven by them. This is a huge reminder of why you should always be listening to your audience, whatever your niche.

Selfless Selfies

Good intentions and pure emotion cannot create change alone so to look a little deeper at how the campaign spread we can look at the tools users had to communicate their compassion: the selfie.

The camera is an important first step as it’s the art of the selfie. Anecdotally, if you’re a selfie-taker on any platform you’ll see there’s always a spike in action – determined here as comments and likes – from friends and followers. Georgia Tech & Yahoo Lab researchers back this up with their recently released research on increased engagement for Instagram pictures that feature faces. The idea that ‘Faces are powerful channels of non-verbal communication’ applies across platform so I think we’re safe to roll out an idea that face-centric selfie images also attract more interest and reaction on Facebook & Twitter. Atop of this people making taking part in this action were using platforms like Facebook, which for many will be a hot bed of action for close friends and family increasing the likelihood of shared experiences as cancer sufferers or supporters and survivors of cancer sufferers. This instance is more likely to see friends and family mimic the supportive action, especially when nominated neknomination style. And from there on the circle widens.

And well…

Donations Across the Nations

Of course we’re not talking about just viral shares and awareness which is all very good and a nice thing but doesn’t often help an organization achieve its mission or increase the impact of their work. And really, at the route of all enjoyable, wonderful, awe-inspiring campaigning we should be trying to do those core things.

So, why so many donations? (help, I’m about to drift into feminism) There’s is a certain shame attached to women for ‘showing off” or being ‘vain’ by daring to do whatever #flawless thing they want on camera. Negative comments, Jezebel called selfie culture a ‘cry for help,’ and associations to this visual self-love of oneself is considered so damaging to female mental health and personal appreciation that #365feministselfie is a thing. Luckily, cancer charities found a lovely way to alleviate all that guilt about selfie love and benefit the greater good through penance – this time  small donation to cancer research via sms.

I’m being slightly facetious. But also slightly realistic. Not all the selfies had donation information attached and due to rising consumer understanding of pinkwashing and call-out culture unsupportive inter-friends were quick to ask posters to put their money where their un-lipsticked mouth was. People gleefully paid their penance to take part. And women dominate on social networking platforms giving them an opportunity, whatever their audience size, to make ripples on the web.

But of course #nomakeupselfie wasn’t confined to women on the web and very quickly it became a space for everyone to take part in conversations on cancer and funnel donations to cancer focused organizations. There were very few ways to lose out for supporters or organizations. The campaign was not started by one organization so #nomakeupselfie was open to all cancer focused organizations to co-opt for their campaigning whether it was to get users to take a first step and become an online fan on social media or a first time donor – Cancer Research UK clearly came out on top likely due to quick reactions.

For me it speaks to my true belief that nonprofits benefit most when we work together and share resources and messaging around our health or social justice issues.

But outside the warm glow of success and happiness there are other questions to consider.

How is that big money being spent?
What is the impact of all this money? Everyone loves to play their part in curing cancer but what does that mean in real terms? Dr. Marianne wrote a nice post looking at the fact that ‘cancer is hundreds of diseases’ and education on cancer screening and treatment. Can Cancer Research UK and its peers who have received a funding boost this March capitalize on community growth to increase people’s understanding? As a nonprofit/social justice person I can see a great opportunity for Cancer UK et al to continue their engagement and outreach with the #nomakeupselfie ++ campaigners by providing updates on where those millions of dollars go including: how that money effects staffing, policy outreach, research and education. That’s not only the right way to follow up with donors but a great way to make sure that donors stay with the organization and, best case scenario, increase donations and commitment over time.

Who didn’t the campaign reach?
A cursory look at the selfies accessible online showed a lot of white faces and little else – that could be a sign of problematic outreach for these organizations. In the UK, women of color face poorer outcomes after a cancer diagnosis and Black and minority ethnic women reported feelings of ‘frustration and marginalisation’ due to perceived support and treatment in breast cancer care. You can find this information on specific inequality and minority sections within cancer research sites but a stronger campaign focus on work to tackle discrimination within the health services and improve health outcomes for men and women of color could create a great opportunity for fulfilling organizational mission and growing supporter bases.

Could the campaign success be replicated?
It’s always hard to follow something amazing and it’s impossible to tell if any of the organizations benefitting from the windfall of #nomakeupselfie will be able to engage their supporters into viral sharing and donating action in the future but there are definitely lessons to learn. Organizations need to be ready, when something big starts happening it pays to be waiting with easy ways to catalyze next steps whether that means taking part in an action or making a donation. Everyone needs to be listening to their audience and be open to support and nourish their campaigning efforts even when they’re outside usual working remit. My big one: nonprofit and social justice organizations need to be open to working together with other organizations. We can all take steps to break down the silos and the notion that there isn’t enough money to go around when we share common social justice goals.

This is also a great place to note that Cancer UK is advertising for a new Digital Specialist role in London: https://cancer-research-uk-jobs.tal.net/vx/lang-en-GB/appcentre-3/candidate/postings/1610

National Geographic : Set Video Alight WIth Adults

23 Jul

A National Geographic representative recently commented that the organization has failed to set the world on fire as a YouTube paid subscription partner. Obviously, these are still early days and after the unimpressive results of news organizations generating revenue to return on their deals with YouTube we shouldn’t be amazed but to me, a subscriber, it got me thinking.

NatGeo Kids YouTube PageThe Nat Geo’s subscription offering currently focuses on kids with a $2.99 a month of $3.99 a year plan, Variety notes it’s had limited success. I know about National Geographic’s Kids magazine because every month I receive little paper inserts in my magazine that tell me I could subscribe today. Of course I have no kids but I imagine that if I should know of a kid who needs a gift in the future I should thoughtfully force the subscription on them [job done there NatGeo!] And while I can see the safety and sustainability in a kids channel – from the education market to cultivating future adult subscribers – I feel like they’re missing a trip to engage their avid adult subscribers.

I should come out of the closet as am old fashion print subscriber of three year who waits for the print version of the mag to arrive before delving into the brilliant digital offering side by side. National Gepgraphic’s digital magazine is breathtaking and exciting and the best features are trailed in the magazine. As a subscriber I also receive regular direct mailings and emails from the organization sending me what used to be called “National Geographic Picks” but have now, in best practices of email marketing, been reduced to “NG Picks.”

A Sampling of the email subject lines old to new:
National Geographic Picks of the Week: Active Adventures | Winter Sale | Out of Eden
NG Picks of the Week: Space Exploration | Photos from NASA | Space and Science Gear
NG Picks of the Week: Summer Top Tens | Traveler Photo Contest | Book Sale

The top subject line is from January, the other two from June and July.

National Geographic EmaiAside from the title change – shifting the focus from the email name to the top picks – the content of the email has also changed and the newer offerings have at least two links to video produced by the organization. One takes prime position in the top right hand corner of the email, embedded into the main ‘pick’ and the other is part of direction to other sections of the site [Books, Art Store, Magazine, Channel.]

The links go through to the videos embedded in the National Geographic skin as opposed to the YouTube page. There was never an explicit sell for the video, there was never a flag waving ceremony to get everyone online interested in visiting the National Georgraphic YouTube page and becoming subscribers.

The organization has amassed 2,822,867 subscribers and 967,831,264 views on National Geographic’s main YouTube account, a further 242, 243 on their NatGeo Wild channel [no data for NatGeo Kids]. There is no telling how many of those subscribers or viewers come from the email offering but I don’t doubt that it could be improved. After all, everything can. So where am I going with this?

Alongside the round-up emails I receive, very regularly, I get two other kinds of emails, sales for NatGeo Traveller [which I’ve never been interested in] and updates on photography competitions [of which I’ve never entered.] And the photography offerings are where I’m going.

A Sampling of the Promotion Email Subject Lines:
Photo of the Month — July 2013
Great Ways to Improve Your Photography with National Geographic’s Best

National Geographic is a visual medium – this is reflected in the magazine, in the brilliant digital presence, in the sheer size of its archive – and they have made their photography a huge part of who they are. Photo competitions, photo of the month, photography classes – the breadth of coverage both to sustain income and to offer a service that their subscribers and supporters want is breathtaking. So why not do the same with video?

It is very likely that adult magazine subscriptions are the main lead for kid’s magazine subscriptions so why not try to mimic that engagement pathway through the video service? There’s also no need to lock everything down under a paid subscription but there are plenty of opportunities to create paid tiers of access learning and build engagement through competitions.

If the bursting letters to the editor section is anything to go by users are only too interested in sharing their opinions and experiences. I imagine there’s a sizeable grant supporting the new partnership programs and I don’t think that National Geographic should be abandoning the very smart, sustainable source of income from NatGeo Kids. However, investing in the excitement and knowledge of their audience should be the prerogative of the community, communications and marketing departments.

So please, National Geographic

#Be more explicit about video, yes it’s front and center in your emails but would teasing it in the subject line welcome more email opens? Or different actions once users click through?

#Play to your strengths, the visual culture the magazine created should be celebrated across all multimedia from how to’s to competition entries. Ask users to get involved!

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“Do you remembe…

20 Jul

“Do you remember when I used to blog?”

Charlotte Cooper

Watching Alien with….

7 May

Okay. So I did it. I launched into my personal sad quest to rewatch all the Alien films with friends and tweet some of the gender stuff — as if I needed an excuse.

Get the round up here: http://storify.com/CTrouper/watching-alien-with-sizemore

Watch and listen for the next screening when we’ll all get to talk crap about #aliens and the breaking down of Ripley’s character for a mainstream audience.

Alien Concept

1 May

All too often people set about wetting their pants over new films and tv programmes and claiming they are creating or proporting to, feminist strong women girls things. Frankly, it’s dull. When something becomes all about proving strong lady credentials everything else goes out of the window. The gender message becomes a point of advertising, the plot seems irrelevent and everyone knows it puts stones in the pockets of the film/programme/whatever as it walks out into the lake unsatisfied with its work.

FACT. All the cool kids want to watch scary films that people pretend are watched by a 90% male audience. Lucky for you my strong point, and it has always been so, is an unhealthy consumption of the sci-fi and horror sectors. And, when I can stop myself mindlessly clapping like a seal infront of them, I like analyzing covert gender messaging. Because sometimes that’s where it matters. When it’s being massaged into our brains without us even noticing.

Case in point, Ridley Scott’s Alien. First let us note – Ridley Scott also brought the world Thelma and Louise and that is a conversation for another post; Ridley Scott is of an advertising background; they made me watch lots of Ridley Scott films at college.

While everyone was barking about the Hunger Games and the supposed portrait of kick ass female leads I found myself getting quietly passive agressive about the analysis lacking Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley. Why wasn’t she coming up more often? Apart from the massive maternal undertones of the ENTIRE Alien film she was practically androgynous and allowed to exist as the lead without having to play the gender card.

Though, let’s not forget the character was originally written for a man. And it’s worth questioning if that’s why she doesn’t have to undergo any massive gender based violence episode to prove herself, like say in the sequels where her gender and so her weakness has been established. Do you need clarification on the massive maternal undertones? The ship that turns against them is called ‘mother’ and Ripley risks her life letting the Alien into her escape pod to rescue the ships cat, read tiny baby (the librarians and feminists out there know what I’m saying!)

Where am I going with this? Absolutely nowhere, this is my personal blog not a newspaper. I just want to invite you all to consider watching the prequal to Alien, Prometheus, with me and then having a long discussion about the gender journey through the series.

I’ll kick us off by watching Alien and doing a breakdown for you, hopefully with some chum/s. And then I’ll watch Aliens. Etc. Etc.

Good. Then I’ll begin.

Hunger Games Review

5 Apr

Let it first be said that I don’t give a damn about the book. I haven’t read it. I won’t be reading it. I’m not the young adult audience. Good for you if you are.

There were two things I’d heard about the Hunger Games before I’d seen it.

1. This film is rewriting female lead roles for a new feminist generation (I had already dismissed this as bullshit and taken to writing ‘Alien’ and ‘Ripley’ in red food paint on clean windows)

2. It’s not true to the books, fans are disappointed. (considering my lack of interest in the book this is of little relevance)

So I enter with a sense that I may be disappointed. Well, I was not disappointed. In that I was disappointed.

Are you still with me?

I’m disregarding the feminist conversation here just because I can and so my main complaint lays with the fact that the film delivers so many soft blows. Yes, I know it’s for the YA audience but lets just admit they’re all squeeing over much more violent and savvy video games so they can handle a little bit of bad.

This could be a scathing satire on reality TV, but the film passes swiftly over this. The sense of the rich, blood thirsty bourgeois watching on the edge of their seat, dissecting every second Big Brother style would have added much to the drawn out plot. But lets face it Charlie Brooker did this already. Did it in brief but effective time. Did it better. His review of gender politics and the true worth of women in the eyes of the mainstream is better as well.

Here there are no consequences for playing the game. For playing at love to keep the audience interested. For accepting the waxing and the brushing and the tweaking and twirling for the gauche audience. It’s an accepted step to success. Play along. It will all be fine.

The film created multiple outs to keep the stars of the show pure. They didn’t have to kill the good kids, or really anyone. Non-direct violence through wasp dropping. You or me life saving kills. The good kids killed by dogs thrown in last minute or by the bad kiddies. Catnip didn’t have to cross any real lines, find any real strength from within. Her safety was handed to her on a plate time and time again. Her safety secured by men watching over. Saving her life this time only. Or following her around with bleeding hearts.

And it was poorly acted. And shallow. And too slow.

If I’ve ruined this film for you I’ve done you a favour.