CharityComms Podcast Oct 2020: Enda Guinan
2:23PM Oct 5, 2020
Lauren Haizel-Cobbina, CharityComms
Hello everyone and welcome back to the CharityComms podcast. We are now well into our Inspiring Community Series and it was only right I have my favourite, come along and join us for a chat. He is the digital whiz and full of fun and his name is Mr. Enda Guinan. Enda, I was really bracing myself to say your last name. So please help me if I said it right,
No, you've made a really good job of it. Thank you very much, Lauren.
Welcome, welcome. Welcome. So I do like to do a bit of a backstory as to how I met my guests. And I fell in love with Enda as soon as I saw him, oh my gosh, I'm gonna be his friend. He doesn't know I'm gonna be his friend.
So every time
I see you him at a CharityComms event I just grab him and I scream, "Hi, Enda, how are you? And he's so lovely. And I thought, you definitely are someone I need to talk to you and get to know a bit deeper and use this space to do so.
Wow. Well, I think that's the that's the type of introduction one could only dream of, oh, by the way, listeners, it's downhill from here.
So when I first met, and he had an entourage his whole team loved him. They came in full force to support him. So I was like, he must be extraordinary. I need to talk to him. So
We'll I'm honoured to be here
so I would love to know a little bit more about you. How did you get into comms? What was your journey like? And what inspires you as a chatty communicator?
Well, it was interesting that you mentioned the the entourage who came along with me from Sarcoma, UK, I mean, one of the best things about my job is working alongside people who really mean what they do. I mean, there's a real sense that what they do is important, and that they can bring about change. It's a kind of a collegiate thing, that they're not just punching the clock. And that brings me neatly into my career path. And I think like most people, it's it hasn't really been a straight line into into charity columns. I started my career in education. I was working in a university in Ireland for what we call access, but I think over here, you call it maybe is widening participation. So basically, yeah, so when you have outreach programmes, designed to to get students from non traditional backgrounds into education, and one of those groups was people with disabilities, physical disabilities, or learning disabilities, mostly people with disabilities, such as dyslexia. So when I was working there, that the whole thinking was that these are people who need to adapt to the environment, so we shoved technology at them, or we gave them extra time and exams or other things like that. But what, what struck me was that actually, maybe the environment should change a little for them. Because when I was working with students as a kind of educational technology person, there they were, they had their own phones to check their spelling, they knew how to get their computers to read notes back to them. They were using business planning software to take their notes in a more visual way. So it was easier to comprehend. And then they had developed all these networks online where they would share notes and materials with each other. So I think we were doing things the wrong way around. So the learning environment I thought could adapt to these people, as opposed to making them the ones that stuck out and having to fit in. So I guess you have to kind of bring that up to cons. It showed me that digital communications can be really empowering. So when people are perhaps isolated or disadvantaged in some way, or need something, there are solutions there in digital. So I think a real a real attraction for me is helping people to build communities or to somehow to become empowered.
That is very inspiring, I must say, lovely. Are you still in touch with the organisation I used to work with?
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, again, it was like such a, I've been very lucky that the last two jobs I've had your proper jobs, and it had the same type of people, you know, people who are are interested in doing something which was a little bit more than just maybe helping to make someone else make money. I mean, it was actually around trying to, to empower people to give people access to things that maybe they wouldn't normally get, or to help them to help themselves, that sort of thing. I mean, with sarcoma, it's, I mean, all everyone who has cancer has so many barriers in their way. It there's still a stigma around it, I think less and less so and less so as time goes by. But something like sarcomas is a lesser known cancer, and it's even more isolating. We had a campaign last year which we call the loneliest cancer. And I think it's kind of it's it's, it's, it's one that's hard to explain. A GP might see only one or two people with sarcoma in their entire lifetime. There isn't enough research being done on this. So it's very tough to attract investment from, you know, big pharmaceutical companies. But yet, there's all sorts of wonderful things happening in little pockets all over the world. And being in digital comms means that I can shine a light on some of those good things that are being done. And give hope to people over here who might not otherwise hear about this. Or we can be a conduit for people to share their stories and make the world a little less lonely, maybe for people with sarcoma. So we can show the progress is happening, or we can share disappointment when things go so well. But there is a sense that, you know, people are not alone. And because of digital columns, you can kind of it's a bit of a privilege. I mean, we all need to pay the bills, we all need to do work to keep us from going insane. But if you're able to do all of that, and also help people out, then it's pretty much a privilege, I think,
definitely. That actually brings me on to my second question, you're not actually the best answer charity person that we've had on the podcast, we actually had Karen Hobbs on our first episode from the evil pill. And I think it's quite interesting, because he's an advocate for women cancer, but Emma is a really rare form of cancer. And I've noticed again, as I mentioned in her podcast, like in this pandemic, and other illnesses have been pushed to the battleground and services have kind of become limited. So how have you been able as a cancer charity to react in terms of engaging supporters but also with in the charity? What what are you doing now? That's different from what you were doing before?
Yeah, it's, yeah, it's interesting what what what Karen was saying to me, but we would identify a lot with that. I mean, the pandemic has brought about so much uncertainty for people. And for people being treated with cancer, uncertainty is not what you want. At this time, you know, appointments are cancelled, people were afraid to attend because of their immune system being compromised. They weren't allowed to see friends and family, you know, we're hearing these awful stories about people not being able to hug their grandchildren. And you know, this is a time when they kind of they need support, and a bit of love and all they can get. So our first priority at sarcoma UK was to try and get our hands on the best information, we could and remove the ambiguity, because there was a lot of confusion at the beginning, and then try to communicate that as best we could to the supporters. And we had a special section on the websites and just the hits to that sorge. We have a support line where we have sarcoma specialists, who can you can talk to, and calls to that quadrupled. So basically, our job was to try and get accurate information out there in a calm way to the people who needed us. I mean, internally, it's been it's kind of different to I mean, I'm sure just as everybody has at charity calm is where we're all working remotely now. And, and yet, things have gone smoothly. Interestingly enough, I wasn't so confident at the beginning, either. But we It was interesting, we had two campaigns running, which involves other teams within the charity. And normally, if we were all in the office, I guess, you know, we'd be called out to a room and we would have a meeting about it. And then we'd have a meeting about having another meeting. But instead, everybody started using Microsoft Teams. And it's almost like, it's it's fast forwarded our adoption of these technologies, that kind of makes makes things a lot easier. So I mean, that's one of the one of the good things has happened. And particularly for me, I think I quite liked working like that. And it kind of made people more money, but a little bit more accessible, in fact, than if we were in the office. But of course, there's the negative side, you know, that the whole sector is in crisis because of the drop in fundraising that's, that's coming through. And, you know, that's a shame because we have plenty of plans to do lots of things. But you know, we've had to Coast A major research funding programme, we have people in farlow. We can't plan too far ahead anymore. And I don't think my PR colleagues and fundraising I don't think they've stepped down from from Red Alert since since March.
You've touched upon my next question, because you meant so many good things. I've come out the pandemic, but again, like you said, some of the challenges that the funder is reason team are facing etc. Well, digital comms manager, well, currently the biggest challenges working with that sector at the moment. So if you don't mind me, you know, sharing your business and the dead have COVID. So that's another thing to battle with both tribes to deal with everything that's going on in the world. So how will you Able to how was that for you, actually? And are you able to juggle that alongside work?
It was interesting. It's ironic because I remember when I first manifested the symptoms, it was on March the 12th, which happens to be my birthday. So I was like Happy birthday to me from the university. But in the days leading up to that we had, we put together a COVID Task Force. So basically, we were going well, what happens if we have to lock down and what happens if this happens. And ironically, I was part of that team. And then I didn't get to attend the second meeting, because everything shut down immediately. And I had COVID, it was it was horrible. I wasn't able to work, I didn't need to go to hospital. Thankfully, I didn't have any breathing issues, but I wouldn't wish it on anybody. It's a horrible, it's like it's like a really nasty flu. But what's different about it, and what surprised me was just the exhaustion that goes on for four weeks afterwards. I mean, after you get over the sweats, and after you get a little bit of energy back, I would go for a walk for 10 minutes, and then I'd need to come back and and take a nap for for an hour. And that went on kind of long tail of fatigue. So I think that that meant I couldn't go back to work. Either I really had to stop and say I need to get better. And I think that it was interesting it was it was only from following things like Twitter and seeing people's experiences again in real time. Or you could read about people, you know, people saying it's day 24. And this is how I feel. Because this is a completely new illness. This was authentic material coming in, and it kind of made me feel okay, I'm not going crazy. There's nothing, there's nothing else wrong with me, this is actually just a symptom of this condition. It's just that it hasn't been talked about very much because people don't know about this. But again, there you go social media, bringing people together and dispelling myths and whatnot. So that was really useful. I mean, as a social media manager, it's always difficult to find new ways to cut through because people are bombarded with messages all the time. And I think right now, people are a little bit traumatised, because, you know, life as we knew it change really quickly. And people are more concerned about, you know, their loved ones becoming ill, themselves becoming ill that worried about their job, is it going to still be there in a couple of months. I mean, it's a really stressful time for people. So I think, you know, as a charity, I mean, what we need to do is, we'd have to try somehow and communicate that you know, what, we're also in trouble. And the things that we do in terms of supporting people or investing in research. You know, that's all under threat, because our fundraising has been sliced in little pieces. But we still have to try and keep a tone of you know, we don't panic people, people are already going through enough. So it was an interesting, it's an interesting time at the moment where we have to try and just strike the right tone. I mean, what be friendly and approachable as always, but we have to be conscious of being positive but serious.
Definitely shoot is trying to be as genuine also as possible. And, and I know that creating a community that feels genuine isn't always easy. But you've done a great job of that with the London Marathon Facebook repos. Okay, my gosh, yeah. How did that come about?
Yeah, that's an interesting one. I mean, I really, really feel for for everyone who signed up to do the London Marathon, because there's been so much uncertainty about it. And you know, they, they put in so much work in terms of training, and they put in so much work in terms of fundraising, and then, you know, it's been postponed, okay, postponed to when we'll tell you later. So, it was very frustrating for them. I mean, we, a few years ago, we created this marathon club, and we would invite people taking part to come to London for a day. And we'd have guest speakers, you know, people who have run the marathon before, people who had some fundraising tips, and we just kind of maybe blow off steam a little bit and have a giggle. And then about two years ago, we decided to replicate that online and so we created the Facebook group. And, you know, it's generally it's been a really positive experience, you know, people are kind of sharing awful photographs of the blisters that they're getting. And, you know, they're, they're getting sympathy. They're kind of asking for tips, you know, when they're a bit when they're feeling this under the weather or that they're not raising enough for that sort of thing. You know, people just rushing in to support them and it's just been a really lovely positive experience. But this year, we could see the frustration building because of All of the uncertainty so we use this to be brutally honest with them. And I mean, we, when we suffer my colleagues from fundraising, when we're there, we use our own names. We don't we don't post from sarcoma UK, we post from our own name. So we're deliberately making this human. And I think a good example of this would be Friday before last, the organisers of the marathon had a webinar, a q&a q&a webinar for charities, to kind of let them know what was happening. So we told our group that this is happening, we're going to attend, we have a few questions ourselves, we're not entirely sure about x, y, and Zed things. So we're hoping that we'll get more clarity. And we'll come back to you with with with the information when we have it. And that has made a huge difference. You know, they kind of they feel that they are supported, that we've got their backs that we're being really honest and authentic with them. And it seems to work.
That's amazing. The fact that you've still been able to encourage fundraising, even in a time when people can't eat anymore, and event isn't even going on anymore. So it's like, what's the point?
Yeah, yeah, amazingly, we have, you know, people in the group, when we were writing these apologetic messages saying, gosh, we're really sorry that this is happening, and it must be so frustrating. And we have people coming back and going, don't worry about it, it means more time to fundraise. Hmm, I mean, people spirit has just yet they're amazing.
That's what you need, especially free encouraging. And that's great content for you as well to show people that regardless of what's going on, you can still do your bit of doing your bit. You've done your bit for us many a time. And I couldn't not plug our mentoring scheme. For those who don't know, charity comms runs a mentorship scheme, along with our many other services. And this is essentially a relationship based around peer to peer support, or form of mentoring, which provides reflective space for everybody to have a chat. And I wanted to specifically ask you ended up because you've both been on every recipient, and I'm a giver of mentorship. So I wanted to see what your perspective was like on the service and how you found it beneficial?
Sure, I'm gonna have to say something which will hopefully surprise you. It's all it's all good. It's all good, don't worry. I mean, first, can I say that, you know, what? A genuinely valuable service that this is. And, you know, some of my colleagues also do it. And it's, it's, it's invaluable. And the fact that it's kind of free and available, and people make themselves available to do this is a, it's a wonderful service. So first of all, I want to say thank you, I was a mentor, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I have to say, I mean, it's first of all, you're meeting someone who is, you know, usually a younger person who's working in the sector, and they're fired up, fired up enough to seek out a mentor. So it feels, you know, it's valuable. And it's not just me as similar, you know, wise old buzzard imparting wisdom.
But you're also gonna get an insight, I feel like Madonna is and surround yourself with younger people and just suck out all of those ideas. But it's also getting an insight into, you know, the different experiences that they may have or the different ways that other organisations do things. So I found that I found it really valuable actually, to be a mentor. However, I was not a good mentee. Yeah, I wasn't, I didn't take advantage of what was offered. And I can say that, you know, COVID got in the way, and deadlines get in the way. But on reflection, I think I just wasn't ready to do this. So one tip, I would say that if you, you have to respect the fact that someone is making time to give their the benefit of their their wisdom or experience or willingness to help, just make sure that you're ready for us, because it's too valuable to to to not take advantage of properly. So I'm going to wait so I'm going to try again. And when I'm in a better headspace for it, I'm definitely going to reapply because the experience for me as a mentor was so good. I would really like to benefit from that. And I have some ideas. I think I need to maybe just be a little bit more focused on one of the like one to get from us. And I think maybe I haven't worked that out fully.
Can I ask in terms of mentoring someone? What did that relationship look like? Was it weekly that you spoke or when they had a question? They just throw it to you? How does it look like for your mentor? mentee?
Yeah, well for my mentee, we we met we met I think once a month we met met a formal sit down with a you know a cup of coffee and check in how's everything going? And we would set it set some some tasks, you know, wasn't like doing homework, but it's like well, what what are the type of things you working on right now. What do you feel you that we could, we could tackle in terms of maybe something tangible. So it wasn't just getting together and kind of just talking, even though that's that can be okay, as well, we did have targets as to what what we want to achieve what we want to achieve by the end of the year perhaps. And then in between that the email was always open. And the phone's always open. So it wasn't like, he was saying, I have this problem, how do I fix it? It would be I have some ideas. Can I run them by you know, that sort of stuff? So yeah, so I guess we it worked? Well, I think because we we were strict enough with ourselves to introduce a little bit of formality into it. So it wasn't just a free free for all me when we got together and just had a chat house. So I thought that was good to have a little bit of structure.
Yeah. So would you recommend anybody trying to proceed looking for a mentor to have a real goal or target?
Yeah, yeah, I think I think particularly if maybe, if you want to advance a little in your career, and you might want to you want to talk to someone who is at that level? That sort of targets isn't what sort of, what sort of, what sort of hoops Do you think you may need to jump? What sort of skills would be important at that level? What do you already know? What are the gaps, that sort of thing?
So um, did you have a mentor in your earlier comms career? I
didn't, I didn't, and I still wish I had, I mean, one of the mean, again, I think a lot of people in comms just end up coming into it in a in a very zigzag fashion, as in you. circumstances change or opportunities arise. I think it's quite rarely a direct career path. I mean, but I would have loved to have spoken to someone in comms before I probably got into it. I think there was there was a lot of learning on the job. And there was a lot of, I guess, using transferable skills, as they as they say, I would, I would, I would have benefited benefited from it, I think. And the fact that charity gums offer this as a service is amazing. So if you say to anyone, if you're gonna, if you're not familiar with it, read up on it. If you are familiar with it, and you're thinking about it, I would think very seriously, go for it.
I think you've sold it enough for me. Okay.
Check in the post,
And a past life, you are a freelance copywriter. I wanted to touch upon this specifically because like I mentioned many times in this chat, we still are in the midst of a pandemic and circumstances are changing by the day. And so it's important to have another option. And I'd like to basically hear about tips and advice that you may have some people may be looking to start out as a freelancer, maybe in copywriting any other thing and how to build their own client base and and then what?
Well, I've got, I've got three tips. If you've got time for that,
oh, get me ready.
The first one is you have to tap your contacts for leads, you know, almost every client that I had when I was a freelancer was because of recommendation from someone I already knew. And that included getting into sarcoma UK, I was hired as a freelancer to give their websites and oldest five years ago, and then then that mistake wasn't just because I use the passwords for the Twitter account at that point. So tap your contacts for leads, you know, they, it's it's that that means having the confidence in your own ability as well. Because I think sometimes we feel what I can tell someone that I'm a copywriter, or a social media manager or whatever. Because I've never done it by myself, you know, you need to kind of get the confidence to be able to say to people, I'm doing this now, can you if if opportunities come up, or you know of anyone who needs my services, please let them know that I'm available. So that's that's the first tip. The second one is, and this is a bit counterintuitive, because I'm really not one of those people who says work for free in order to get exposure. Because I think that people get taken advantage of particularly at the start of their career. But I would say there's one circumstance where you can work for free. So for example, if you have networks on Facebook or LinkedIn or even Instagram, wherever you have a network of people who are not doing the thing that you do, then do something like Okay, guys, I'm now available as a copywriter. And in order to get myself going, I will do five pieces of work for free for the first people who contact me. All I asked for is that you give me a good testimonial. So that kind of gets it out there that you're doing is it gives you a bit of experience of dealing with some With a real client, and yeah, I guess it'll give you a little bit of confidence as well to say, Well, look, I've got five clients under my belt, I am experienced now and doing this so offered for free or a heavy discount. But that's the only time that you would ever do something for free. The third thing, and I think this is probably an in maybe a more achievable one for someone who already has experience in the sector is buddy up. Find someone that you know who's doing the same or a similar thing and just be there for each other because freelancing can be really lonely. And you'll benefit from having someone to hang around with about those nightmare clients. But also, you'll get the recommendations, you know, when they're busy. Yeah, when I was a freelancer, I particularly towards the end, before I started working for sarcoma UK full time, I had a lot of people requesting services that I couldn't do, because it didn't have the time. But I was able to say, Oh, actually, I'm not free. But my friend Lauren, recommend her to you because she's really good. So buddy up with people.
That's great advice. So essentially, guys in network is the network, chat, everybody, and be open about what you're doing. Because
n dice, soccer moms, it
was really cool. So I want to come on to one of my last couple of questions. So how do you keep inspiring your team in these tough times? And what is your secret to saying so motivated? And is because you're literally one of the curious people?
How did you do it? Tell us what?
I don't think you've met everybody who knows me. All right.
Guys, I'll take it, Lauren, I'll take.
I mean, just in terms of motivation, I mean, that the sector we're in, first of all, I've got I've got really great colleagues, like I mentioned before, we're all working towards the same goal. But I think I'm also I know that I'm valued there. And I think that it's it's a very important thing, especially when you're not in the office now is to feel valued. So I think dishing out praise to people where you can do that. It's really more important than than you might think. I mean, I have friends in more corporate roles, and I've heard the horror stories about not being valued. Your colleagues actively working against them, and that sort of thing. And it just seems so alien to me. But yes, I mean, they might earn more money, but it sounds really dreadful. I have one friend who's a corporate lawyer, and we were talking about my job. And he said, Look, I earn plenty of money, but what you do is actually socially useful. All I do is help make rich people richer. And I mean, that's when you remember that, that that keeps you motivated, because what we do genuinely makes a difference to people. And that's quite a humbling thing. And it's a privilege. So in terms of job satisfaction, I mean, it's off the scale for me really.
Yeah. That's amazing. If you have to give people three tips on how to motivate their team, what would you say? I love three,
you love three.
It's just about,
yeah, I think the praise elements, I mean, the encouragement and praise has to be number one, because we work better when we feel that we are doing a good job, and that we are making some kind of difference. Number two, I would try to try to allow people to do things that stretch them a little bit. I think he again, one of the things I'm a little bit worried about during the lockdown and working remotely, is that maybe while some of us that are in maybe more senior positions, we can kind of we know what we need to do, we can put our head down and do us. I think maybe for some of our more junior colleagues, it could be quite a difficult time because they're in isolation. They don't get the chance to maybe you know, turn their screens someone say is that right? So I think checking in on people and offering offering Yeah, checking in on people quite regularly is one that I would do. So I think that's my three nervousness. So praise, checking in on people and giving them something to aspire to stretching them a little bit.
Love it. I can handle that.
Okay, after you've
been amazing. I've pretty much come to the end of my questions. Yeah, you made it.
But I do like to ask each of my guests
sentence that they need to end or three sentences, shall I say? Because I did say I like three. Okay, so I'm working for a charity is a privilege.
You get to do so many things that help you grow. But it's also valuable to so many people. So it's a privilege.
Being a part of the sector is
it's increasingly enriching. I see more and more collaboration, more and more openness and willingness to share ideas between organisations. So you know more of that, please.
And lastly, being seen as an inspiring communicator feels like
a deeply humbling
mission. We're in a sector, you know, that typically doesn't have big budgets. We have to be forensically transparent about the spending that we do. And we have people who trust us to do the right thing. And, and when people often in very difficult situations commune communicate with us, like we're a friend, I feel very humbling. I feel very humbled. I mean, I want to do right by them. So yeah, so being seen as an inspiring communicator is something quite humbling.
Oh, you deserve it. Awesome. Honestly. Say thank you so so much for joining us. I'm sure. Everybody learned a lot. And I'm glad you've recovered from the dreadful Covid. You
Me too. I'm full of antibodies now I'm indesctructible
He's free, guys.
But yes, thank you so much. That's it from me and Enda, and I hope you will all be able to join us for our next episode. Just wanted to plug the nominations for the Inspiring Communicator Awards 2020 are now open. For those who don't know, it's an annual celebration of these in the sector, who were inspirational in their use of communications for a cause or a charity. Don't forget, this is your chance to nominate someone you think is great. So please get involved - bye.