Kirsty Marrins: How your charity can work with vloggers

YouTube can be a powerful tool for charities that want to get their messages across, writes our columnist

Kirsty Marrins
Kirsty Marrins

I attended a YouTube event on Monday at Google called YouBelong, which was about how the platform can be a powerful tool to tell a story and how working with influencers can help you reach more people and raise awareness of an issue or your cause.

The event started with a screening of a 20-minute documentary called Waiting at the Door – A Glimpse Into the Lives of Syrian Refugees. Filmed by Syrian-American brother and sister Akram and Thawab Shibly, it was released exclusively on YouTube. The documentary was so powerful, highlighting the inspiring work that can be done by YouTube creators without big budgets.

A panel discussion facilitated by Jennifer Quigley-Jones, partner manager at YouTube, followed with guests from non-profits, creators and digital agencies. The panel included Charlie McDonnell (Charlieissocoollike on YouTube), Suli Breaks, spoken word artist and YouTube creator, Joe Wade, chief executive of the creative agency Don’t Panic, Jaz Cummins, chief executive of Montfort, and Tasneem Albarazi, spokeswoman for Syria Relief and aspiring YouTube creator.

The discussion covered a range of topics, from how working with a non-profit is different from working with a brand and their worst filming experience (Charlie recorded a parody song with Tim Minchin for Comic Relief only to find out later that the microphone wasn’t on) to how YouTube creators can partner with non-profits and use their influence for good.

Here are their tips:

Look for Youtube creators who have already created content around your cause because there’s an obvious connection. Charlie had already mentioned his grandfather’s Alzheimer’s in some of his videos, so his collaboration with The Alzheimer’s Society for Project For Awesome was a natural progression.

Give them access to things they wouldn’t necessarily have access to. For Charlie, it’s about being able to make a video that’s not prescriptive (like it often is when working with a brand) and being able to do something a bit unusual or different. For Suli, it’s important that he understands why the charity exists, what it's trying to achieve and the passion behind it, so he asks to meet the founder or chief executive.

As a charity, you are in a unique position to offer YouTube creators access to very interesting people, whether they are your beneficiaries or celebrity supporters. But as Jaz (who works with UNHCR) points out, you have a duty of care to those people you are putting forward, so ensure you have processes in place to keep the project running smoothly. Joe advises on keeping those involved in the process to a minimum because you might start with a really good idea, but it often gets diluted as more and more stakeholders get involved.

A lot of senior people at non-profits are quite traditional and working with YouTube creators is foreign to them. It’s good to be aware of that so you can manage their expectations and those of the creators. The last thing you want is a video that seems like a corporate advert. It needs to be authentic, and that means giving the creators some freedom.

Make it easy for YouTube creators to contact you. Create a page on your website, like this one from Mind, where you can explain what you offer and how people can get in touch. Remember that a collaboration needs to be a mutually beneficial relationship, so make it clear what you can offer and what you expect in return.

Don’t just try to reach out to the celebrity YouTube creators who have millions of subscribers, such as Zoella and Marcus Butler. There are a whole host of creators you could work with who have big fan bases but are not necessarily household names. Childline is a great example of a YouTube channel where they have popular vloggers talking about issues such as eating problems and exams. The great thing about its videos is that the vloggers are interviewed by Childline staff. In fact, why not try and nurture your own YouTube creators?

The last tip is that many people think YouTube videos have to be about something funny or light-hearted, but there is a space for people to talk about serious issues. Jonny Benjamin, who has schizoaffective disorder and is a mental health campaigner, speaks openly on his YouTube channel about his illness.

Take a look at YouTube’s Non-profit programme for more tips and examples of great content.

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