Q&A: Cystic Fibrosis Trust

Tamsyn Clark, marketing director of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, and newly promoted head of brand, Alex Scott-Baker, tell Jo Roberts why the charity is investing in a new strategy.

Marketing Week: Explain the Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s new business strategy.

Tamsyn Clark (TC): Living Longer, Living Better is our new business strategy, which launched in January this year. It details how the charity will be taken forward over the next four years.

Living longer is about improving the length of life [with cystic fibrosis] and because people are living longer, there is a whole raft of other issues around their quality of life – which is where the living better part comes in.

MW: How do you encourage people to support the charity?

TC: We have a very active CF community – there are 9,000 people living with the condition in the UK. As you can imagine, their families, friends and colleagues are all working fiercely to help us to achieve our goals.

Given the size of our patient group, getting cut-through in the wider world is actually quite difficult. It’s difficult to get people to understand what CF means if you’re not directly affected. So we’re working on ways to engage a wider group of people and educate them about CF.

Another branch of our fundraising marketing is a campaign aimed towards major donors. We are developing a new research strategy at the moment looking at ways in which we can help the CF disease cycle.

We’re going to create a major donor campaign based on that whole tranche of research – it will be something along the lines of an ‘Innovation in Cystic Fibrosis Fund’.

Our focus is getting our brand right and articulating ourselves better. At the moment, I think we’re quite a confused charity

MW: Why are you reviewing your brand strategy now?

TC: We’ve just appointed brand agency Johnson Banks, which will be looking at our vision, the mission and the visuals. And we’re looking at completely redeveloping our website.

Part of our strategy is to shout louder. There’s a lot of misconception about what CF is and how it affects people. We want to get the story out there to get people to understand what it’s really like to live with cystic fibrosis.

MW: How does a digital strategy fit in with this new approach?

Alex Scott-Baker (ASB): While we have a social media presence, none of it is being handled very strategically. The website is a bit out of date and not serving the CF community in the way it should. My strategy is to tie the social media together and make it consistent.

MW: Why is social media so important for you?

ASB: If you have CF, you can’t have a face-to-face meeting with someone else with CF because of the risks of cross-infection. Social media and digital media are therefore incredibly important to our community in terms of building a support network.

We have a very active Facebook presence, Twitter account and forum. So far, our social media spread has grown despite us rather than because of us. What I want to do is look at how we can better use those tools to serve the CF community.

The new website design will follow on from all the brand work that we’re doing. We want to look like a far bigger charity player because if we want to be raising online donations we need to be competing with other charities like Macmillan Cancer Support.

We are developing a new research strategy at the moment looking at ways in which we can help the CF disease cycle

MW: How important is effective storytelling in getting key messages across to potential donors?

ASB: I think the element of storytelling is phenomenally important. The CF Trust rebrand is about getting the message across about why you should support cystic fibrosis in a quick and succinct way. Once you hear someone’s personal story, that’s incredibly engaging and inspiring.

TC: Our focus is getting our brand right and articulating ourselves better. At the moment, I think we’re quite a confused charity. But we do think there’s a great potential to cut through to the wider public.

MW: How do you justify investing the charity’s money in branding work to donors?

TC: Ultimately, the charity sector is moving towards a corporate model. We are a business – a charity business. We have to compete with the big boys with much bigger budgets.

I believe that if our brand is stronger, we will raise more money and therefore deliver back to people with CF. Ultimately, this is not about employing expensive agencies telling us something we already know.
ASB: This isn’t something that is simply going to be imposed on the CF community. We’re having discussions, feeding back responses and educating people – it’s very much a collaborative process.

MW: Where are you investing your marketing budget at the moment?

TC: We are investing in direct marketing – telemarketing and direct mail. That’s something the charity has never done before in a big way. The real benefit for us is that although we engage with our audience quite well, we could be doing more.

We’re speaking to everyone in the CF community and getting them to sign up to direct debits and giving regular gifts. This is a model increasingly used by charities.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust is the Marketing Week Engage Awards 2012 charity partner. You can find out more about the charity via its website.

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