Adrian: Hi, I’m Adrian Maidment, and this is the WUMA Media Digital Marketing Podcast. This episode, we’re looking at digital marketing for charities. My guest is James Chen, who is a marketer with experience across multiple industries; including health technology, robotics, e-commerce sustainability and education.
James has worked on campaigns and projects covering traditional and digital mediums. His digital experience includes: Search, Native, SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Multi-Channel Advertising and Display. James is chair of the board of trustees for House of Science Tauranga and has recently become a board member of the Art and Play Therapy in Education Trust. Hello James.
Adrian: Good to have you here.
James: Thanks for inviting me along.
Adrian: What’s got you interested in charity work?
James: A couple of stories there. So, with House of Science Tauranga, part of that was when I was growing up, I was always playing sport on a set day, you know, rugby and soccer, and goodness knows what else that was kind of forced to play in it.
And the thing that House of Science Tauranga does is they provide kind of after school and holiday-based education programs covering not just science, but robotics and more. And to me that was something I’d much rather have done when I was growing up. And I think given COVID last year, it’s really shown the need for better science literacy, and better education for young people, but also how that translates as they grow up and kind of look at high school and what they want to do in university. So, it was really kind of educating a younger generation in something I’m passionate about.
Cause I did science all through high school before going, deciding I wanted to have a law degree then switching to do marketing and everything else. So, I just kind of had that, to me, it had that feel and kind of like a legacy project. In terms of Art and Play Therapy in Education… I was attracted to that because basically it kind of deals with, you know, where traditional counselling doesn’t work for youth in terms of using play and art.
So natural forms of childhood expression to kind of, to help people who’ve experienced traumatic events and their life to kind of, for like a bit word, get over it and work out that pathway forward. And for me, when I was younger, I had a massive stutter, which I still have today, every now and then.
And the only way I got out of it, despite going to a speech therapist and everything else was my mother gave me the Phoebus doll from the hunchback of Notre Dame. And I’d actually talk to Phoebus normally without stuttering. And it kind of built my courage up to kind of communicate with, you know, adults and other children, without that stutter.
So, it’s kind of like a difference, it’s a different pathway of education. It’s kind of central, kind of like my core values. What I believe in decentralising education away from, you know, the typical three-year bachelor’s program or anything else that actually there’s other ways to do education.
It’s not just the responsibility just as in the current education system, there’s other ways to kind of develop knowledge and develop people and other areas.
Adrian: Cause some of those, I mean, on the science, so some of those stats didn’t look too good about the science in the schools and the level of confidence that teachers had.
James: So, we’ve got House of Science, the national organisation. And then you’ve got your regional offices. So how science Tauranga…there’s other offices, say in Christchurch and in Wellington and other areas. It’s to bring in science resource kits to primary schools.
And it’s because science isn’t actually specifically funded in primary schools. So, including that teachers aren’t, you know, it’s not within the curriculum to teach it. So, it’s not until you think back to high school where, you know, you do your first-year science class and it’s all about the cells.
And when you know that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, we’ll know that. But, you know, say at a younger age, where do we start from there and how do we develop it? So, the resource kits actually give teachers the confidence to start doing scientific experiments in classrooms, with structured experiments.
Say if it’s on magnetics. Physics, biology, even just how honey is made from bees’… reproduction, life cycles, everything else, but it’s structured in the program. Here’s your kit, there’s ten different experiments, but it teaches you based on what that theme of that kind of resource kit is.
Adrian: It started in Tauranga, didn’t it?
James: Yes. Yeah. It was started in Tauranga. I think in 2012, don’t quote me on that number though. Yeah. And it’s just kind of progressively growing bigger and bigger and bigger. It is more people come up to it. And it’s still kind of, you know, quite shocking that, you know, science isn’t specifically funded in primary schools, because like I said before, we think COVID last year.
And I’ve experienced it before in Christchurch, that similar thing with the earthquakes suddenly we’re all becoming more scientific. We’re becoming more aware of the science behind, you know, natural disasters or different things. That I was fortunate cause I studied it and I had kind of got a general understanding of why things happened.
You know, so it’s still quite shocking that even after that, you know, in the government, there’s no more funding available in education for scientific literacy.
Adrian: That’s one of our weak areas isn’t it.
James: It is. Yeah, for a developed nation. It’s kind of like, well, this is quite a…
Adrian: [00:05:20] Maths is going down the toilet.
James: It is because most people just say, oh, you don’t need algebra. Well, realistically, I mean, in a career in marketing, most business careers or anything else, you do actually need to use algebra in places you just don’t, think about it until you need it. You’re like, oh, actually that’s from… I find X, how does this equation work to kind of come up with stats to show that your marketing is working or to diagnose, what’s not working, you’re still using algebra and basic math.
And in most careers, you do need it. I actually can’t think of a career where you don’t need some kind of element of math or understand some elements of science.
Adrian: It’s true. It’s true. Getting on to the marketing…cause you got some experience there. Is there any sort of differences between charity marketing and say commercial business?
If you walk on in, you walk on, in the door and say, here I am to help.
James: First step is definitely charities have no budget. That’s the biggest, I mean, from a corporate or a large organisation, generally has a larger budget, you can kind of chuck money at, and if it doesn’t work, there’s kind of little risk, you know, you can waste $10,000 on a campaign and if it doesn’t work, that’s fine.
That’s still a hundred thousand dollars sitting there. And you’ve learned from that as well. Yeah, we should be learning from it. If you’re not learning from, what’s not working at marketing, then, there’s something, definitely wrong in terms of how you run, manage marketing, but in terms of charity, it just means that you’re more focused on that connectability with humans, with people.
So, you’re more looking at that community-based marketing, who is actually going to be concerned about this. How are we helping? So, it’s a mixture of depending on the charity’s targets. If it’s fundraising, then fundraising, marketing’s a completely different ball game. You’ve got to have the human-interest story.
They’ve got to showcase. This is why you need to donate, you know, that $20 out of your wallet towards this cause. If it’s around adoption of some type of things, so it’s social marketing. So, it could be, you know, similar to smoking sensation, could be educating people to, you know, deliver a new action or to you know, start showing a difference in their behaviour.
Like environmental, sustainability in recycling, as a huge component of social marketing. That’s a lot different because you’re trying to get, you know, humans interested in doing something and adapting their behaviour. So that’s again, quite a lot different because you’re not, you can’t really measure people’s uptake in recycling.
But whereas as supposed to corporate, you can measure how many people are potentially, you know, buying that new Surface Pro or something else. So, yeah, there’s a lot of, there’s that message difference in budget, but also in what the outcomes are, is very different. And generally, to me, charities are dealing more of that, you know behavioural outcome there is that difference. You want to see that difference and, you know, society. Corporate, less so and private sector, less.
Adrian: So if you’ve rolled on in there and you say, okay, we’re gonna do some marketing, I’m generalising a little bit.
Is there a sort of a marketing strategy or channel you recommend?
James: Generally. I mean, first step of marketing, I do this, that’s kind of… this is kind of for both. Regardless whatever marketing role you’re walking into, the first step is always finding out, who is our target market?
Who are we working with? What’s the product, you know, and what’s, what’s the key benefit of using the product or the service or something else. What’s the unfair advantage that you’ve got of your competitors? But it’s to kind of understand both the person, the business and the environment you operate in, because people forget that marketing, you know, Marketing is about the market, the whole key to the roles in the title.
So, learn about the market first. The next step after that is to really, in terms of that charity space, is to look at what has worked and what hasn’t worked. You don’t always need to chuck money at marketing for a problem to be solved or for outcomes to happen. Because marketing is that kind of overarching thing. I mean, you’ve got certain specialties, so you’ve got digital marketing, you’ve got communication, does fall into that, and public relations.
You’ve got social media marketing and you’ve got customer relationship management. Quite a few things, product development, all fall under there. So, it’s leveraging what kind of sections under that you need to utilise. So, for example charity space key action would be, what type of media attention can we get for something?
What are we trying to do? Cause that’s obvious. The free way still takes a bit of work. But the free way to get mass exposure or awareness about something and to communicate kind of your brand values and your brand positioning. Quite clearly. And generally, from a marketing perspective, if it’s someone else talking about your brand it’s taken with a lot more weight, by a consumer, then if it is yourself talking about your brand.
Cause I mean, you know, every brand out there I was going to say the product is better than the competitors, but if it’s someone else, then suddenly it’s, I actually, I listened to that newspaper or I listened to the influencer. If it goes into kind of a digital public relations type of strategy where you’re using other people to communicate your brands.
So, generally, my focus would be on what the free channels are. That kind of causes the biggest impact, before kind of throwing budget and everything, because budgets and charities are generally a lot more limited as I said before.
Adrian: So, it can be a bit of PR?
James: Yeah, it can be. I think that’s where a lot of people do get a bit confused around the kind of role of marketing and PR.
You know, some people say, PR should lead marketing, other people say marketing should lead PR, but it’s all about having an integrated marketing communications strategy. So, “IMC”, it’s taught in like your first-year marketing papers. And it’s certainly something that is real, that does exist.
That is quite a fundamental thing. So having that case of messaging that, you know, if you’re locked out of the messaging on a billboard versus, and the newspaper, versus on your social media profile… it should all be consistent, all towards that same mission. And that’s the other thing is having objectives in place and measurable objectives.
Cause if you can’t measure what your marketing’s doing, then, realistically, it’s a sunk cost that is not achieving anything.
Adrian: What about if it’s a classic sort of small business situation and maybe a few people involved in running, running the business, but they’ve got some great ideas, but maybe lacking the marketing skills.
What do they do first?
James: There’s a couple of things. I mean, a lot of people by default, and probably correctly, will fall into correctly, let’s try digital marketing.
Adrian: A few ads on Facebook. Boost some posts.
James: [I’m going to quickly do like an express set up on Google AdWords. Sorry, Google Ads. They’ve changed from Google AdWords.
And that’s kind of the instant way to drive traffic and drive awareness. So, you’d start off with, to me, the first step would be understanding is your target market aware of your brand. And is there interest in your brand and interest in the service you’re providing.
And so, awareness, advertising’s a lot different to interest advertising. So, awareness is the Boosting on Facebook. You can refine it a bit. You can set up an advert, you can kind of say cool, we just want to target people, say 30 to 40 in Tauranga. Who’ve got these entrusts and look like this audience, and we’ve got, you know, a bit of a mailing list.
So, we’re going to use that to kind of help refine it. And we’re going to stick it to a 2% look alike. So generally, you know, keep the awareness to under 20,000 people. Anything greater than just kind of really you really aren’t just targeting everyone and just say what the results are asked how many people.
Clicking through from the advert onto your website. What are they doing after that? So, making sure you’ve got analytics installed, so you can see that they’re not coming to your website and leaving after three seconds because you’re, you know, your service is completely irrelevant. You can do that with search advertising as well.
So, what are the key trends people are searching for? Google has the keyword research tool that you can use for that. And a lot of resources that, allows SME owners to quickly kind of get up to speed and launch something themselves just to trial it. And then you should see some success, you might decide, okay, we’re going to bring in an expert to actually run these programs for us or whatever that looks like.
Adrian: [Have you got a favourite marketing channel?
James: Probably search advertising. So, if it’s on Google, on Bing… That’s probably my go-to first step. Cause generally most people, if they’ve got a product, we’ve got a customer base and if it’s a viable business. So, that’s the first thing… Is it a viable business?
If it’s a hare-brained idea that’s never been done before, you’d start with awareness. If it’s kind of interest, if it’s like a local plumbing organisation, then you know, people are going to be searching for plumbing at midnight because you know, your hot water cylinders decided to blow up at that point or there’s a leak or something else he say, you know urgent plumber put “keywords” for urgent plumber, Tauranga, or your local area, and you can generally get traffic right then and generally get customers.
So that’s my go-to and it’s using that kind of niche keywords. So, you know, words that are more likely to convert, commercial keywords. So, Google Ads first, Bing ads. Some Microsoft has got their own search advertising plan.
Adrian: Bing is getting a little more popular, isn’t it?
James: It is. People are decentralising away from Google. I mean, it’s still the most popular. I mean, you’ve got the likes of DuckDuckGo kind of taken in, and that’s kind of, as kind of society is becoming more consumed around data and privacy and kind of the term is, data sovereignty.
Cause you think if you’re searching everything on Google, you could imagine, you know, the picture Google has of your history. Places like DuckDuckGo kind of keep that data all hidden.
Adrian: There’s so much history. I mean, I started deleting some of my Facebook history yesterday. And I was just like, jeez, I knew there was a lot there. I don’t even use it that much, but it’s just like, jeez.
James: I haven’t deleted my history, but every now and then I’ll go back to my kind of initial statuses from 2008, I think is when I made Facebook.
My Facebook profile. So, 2008, 2009 to 2010. And now back in the day, people used to say they used to continue because of how it was structured, have you named there? So, you know, James Chen and you kind of continue the sentence. So, James Chen is at the beach today, and now over time, it just replaced that we don’t actually need to begin, you know, by stating who we are.
We can just say, I feel, you know, I feel so happy. I mowed the lawns and found some mushrooms and I’m cooking out for dinner tonight. Like, you know, whatever. So that’s interesting how language has actually changed media.
Adrian: So any recommendations of say charities, doing social media, digital marketing, well. Off the top of your head?
James: Off the top of my head, it’s quite hard.
I need to kind of really look at one. I mean, “A” I’m probably the worst person to ever advertise too, because I’ve been doing it for so long that I sit there and I kind of just block out . I critique and I block out a lot of advertising messages now. I mean, every day, Consumers are going to be bombarded with, I think in this stat is like up to 10,000 advertising messages.
I did this with Kevin, my husband, the other week when we’re at the mall, they were kind of walking around. I was like, oh, look at that. You know, this is how you tell advertising messages. And you’ve got, you know, every store with their own 20% discount thing off it’s massive.
So, it’s hard off the top of my head. Generally, if I’m looking at it, one company that unfortunately closed down or charity that closed down last year after COVID was Husky Rescue. So, I’ve worked with the PR firm that kinda helped them kind of deliver the kind of communication plan and marketing plan and everything, but they just, they bought kind of a sense of life to Huskies.
Because people adopt Huskies thinking, oh, it’d be great. You know, they run around and they’re smart and Game of Thrones. And then not realise you need like 18-foot fences. You need to walk them for 10 Ks a day. You need all that. But they did pitches that were cool, and took photos that really show that dog’s personality. Talked about it for the adoption drives and everything.
And it was a great charity. Unfortunately, COVID, lack of funding, lack of donations, economic downturn, just removed all that. But they were probably one of the better ones I’ve seen.
Adrian: It’s still very competitive isn’t it, for a charity.
James: It’s still is, because there’s only so many funds.
Adrian: People talk about competitive businesses, but the charity tip there is, are they competitive?
James: There is, I mean, you’ve got community funding, organisations that have got, you know, have kind of deep pockets. They make about – $2-$3 million of funding a year. But, you know, you were up against every other charity competing for, five grand, 10 grand, 20 grand, 50 grand. There are some larger organisations that, of course can bring in a lot more of those funds and then the smaller organisations who literally do run on the smell of an oily rag , they can’t get as much funding and because they also don’t have that expertise and skills in place to kind of really justify the increased funding. So, it’s yeah, it’s still highly competitive.
Adrian: And maybe say five years, where do you think the trends for digital marketing are going?
James: I’ve actually been researching this over the past week. What I generally focus on is what the kind of current Tech or SAS companies are doing. Because they generally at the front, cause you know, you’ve got your kind of adoption curve where you’ve got innovators in your early majority, late majority , laggards, etc.
I’m thinking it’s a lot more towards instructional design.
Adrian: So what does it mean?
James: So businesses actually providing kind of an education service towards the organisation. So, not just, you know, here’s our service, here’s our product, buy it. But how do we actually educate people to not just use our product, but better themselves?
So, if you look at lots of HubSpot, you know, CRM tool, but they’ve got the inbound marketing certification, they’ve got their content marketing certification. So, the stuff that fades into utilising this software for the skills you need and, and more and more SEO tools, PPC tools, have all got their own certification programs.
Obviously growing as a massive education platform, but that can be utilised as branches of… But I think more and more organisations need to be heading towards the education area. And that’s where instructional design comes in . How do we make sure what we’re teaching people is worthwhile because otherwise you can imagine everyone just goes onto Google classrooms and starts putting up a couple of videos found on YouTube and a couple of instructions that can’t be realistically, can’t be easily absorbed by people. And it’s not conducive towards anything. So, and that’s more based on content marketing. So, you know that next step. So, every business today is a media organisation, an element of it is…
I was reading Stuff this morning, and there was a New Zealand company using AI to recreate people. It was freaky.
Yeah. It is the next frontier though. It’s known as the fourth revelation, the digital revolution, that’s where we are at now. So artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, data sovereignty and education. Education, instructional design, kind of the five key things today that businesses needed leverage.
And not everyone has the budget to kind of start looking at machine learning or artificial intelligence and that’s probably not appropriate from most organisations.
Adrian: Some of that’s cheap, like the copywriting software. Grammarly.
James: Yeah. Dictation software. I just bought a Surface Pro yesterday, not yesterday, the day before, so I’m still kind of playing around with that, but I’m looking at, okay, how can I use Cortana to just dictate all my things? Cause it’s a lot easier to kind of sit there and read out an email response to something as opposed to typing it up there.
Cause you can kind of just quickly do it without sitting at your computer or anything else. So, all of it’s there.
Adrian: And we’re just getting, just getting started.
James: Yeah, it’s just getting started. And I think COVID as much as what it’s been debilitating for the economy and the massive loss of life and everything else, it’s also acted as a catalyst towards people adopting the newer kind of digital methods.
I mean, how, I mean, you know, last year, what do you think will, you know, before last year, look at, you know, our adoption of Zoom and just going all online.
Adrian: Well, like, I would suggest that to people before COVID and they’d be like, no, please drive an hour and a half so we can have a meeting, but now it’s yeah …Zoom!
James: There is still that bit of awkwardness with using a kind of Zoom and everything has to do business, but people have gotten over it now. They’re just like, okay, we’re used to it. That’s not as different as meeting someone face to face.
I think what people are afraid of more so, it’s gonna, people are gonna think, okay, you don’t have to leave your house. You can get your groceries delivered. You can get your stuff from TradeMe, Amazon, wherever you want to order it delivered. You can buy all your video games on Microsoft store or anything else we’ll get them delivered.
You know, is there a need to go outside? Well, no human interaction is still important. But you’re kind of more looking at what the reason behind the interaction is. So, it means actually being face-to-face with people becomes more memorable and more special.
Adrian: Or a greater let down, maybe.
James: Or a greater let down.
Adrian: I’m outside, I’ve met that person. That’s my person for today.
James: Well, they, I mean, or it’s just like, you know, going on Tinder, bidding on a blind date or something, you make them for the first time. And like my dating history after 27 minutes, I’d be trying to leave the date.
Adrian: Right… Summing up, summing up for a charity. We’ll say maybe a smaller charity, maybe three key tips for the not-for-profits. You say, I want to do some marketing, three top things I should be thinking about.
James: First one is what’s your human-interest story? So, the saying that if it bleeds, it leads, same thing for the media. Kind of does, but you know, what’s interesting about it?
Or if it’s outcome based, something else what’s going to make people think, ah, that’s the easiest way is to do what’s known as the couch test. So, what if you read something, what would you turn to and say to the person next to you on the couch while you’re watching Shortland Street. So, what’s the key 14, 15 words.
And if it’s interesting, run with that. Next step, make sure you can actually justify your results or justify the speed for any results you want to get. So, you want to know, okay, this campaign worked to bring in, you know, $20,000 for the sponsorship or brought us new customers, or it helped us change this behaviour or whatever is tied to your corporate outcomes. That needs to be tied down to your marketing outcomes. So, you need to be able to measure, measure and refine consistently.
So, make sure you have analytics installed, make sure you know what a UTM is. Don’t confuse UTM with UTI. Have that all there.
And third tip is to just trial. Don’t, don’t spend too much time, kind of as all greats sit there and spend three months working on the strategy and how this is gonna work and how this is gonna work, but take a more agile approach. And it’s called, the principles of growth hacking. So, it’s all about, okay, we’re going to run this test and see what the result is.
Okay. That failed cool. Next test. So, you build up a list of 20 things you want to trial, kind of justify, then go through… what’s easier…What’s easiest and quickest to implement. That’s going to have the biggest result that you think is going to cause, and then go through that list. And then you’ll say what works, what doesn’t work in a shorter time frame.
It’s a lot easier to kind of scale up charity marketing efforts that way, as opposed to, you know, the three-month strategy, the general waterfall development model that still plagues marketing today.
Adrian: So, do basically kind of do your research and then get into it . Don’t waste time.
James: I mean, yeah, there’s such a thing as over strategising and social media strategies are the perfect example of that. Because what your audience was interested in three months ago may not be the same today. So just kind of trial it, what works, cool, keep doing it and as soon as it starts to stop working, then look at changing it again.
And it’s just that continuous agile movement. There’s no need to, there is no need for any of that. It’s kind of like today, I’d even say this realistically for smaller organisations, no need for a dedicated marketing person. You know, did it had a full-time wage only needs to be 10, 20 hours a week. If that…
Adrian: Right, on that bombshell… I will say thank you, James, for your time.