Vicky Browning: Digital products are the next big thing

The latest thinking in charity communications is taking a leaf out of the Silicon Valley book, writes our columnist

Vicky Browning
Vicky Browning

I've been having some interesting discussions about digital products. This latest thinking in charity communications takes a leaf out of Silicon Valley's book, producing highly focused, audience-led digital products to meet specific objectives or challenges.

An example is The Source, Macmillan Cancer Support's collection of tips on how to talk to a friend or family member with cancer. Part of the charity's Not Alone campaign, The Source has enabled Macmillan to engage a new, hard-to-reach audience and a new, younger demographic to boot.

The underlying concept is a digital platform that connects Macmillan with this audience, and members of that audience with each other. It was created as a minimum viable product: in the development of a product, this means the product with the highest return on investment versus risk, allowing you to learn about the product with the least effort. It was then tested and honed after going live. The results are impressive: more than 70,000 unique visits in the first six months, with more than 60 per cent of them new to Macmillan.

Digital products and services such as The Source are the next big thing, and digital teams are, naturally, being asked to produce them. This is an exciting development: most digital folk are part of marketing or communications departments, which have not traditionally been asked to develop products or services. Maybe this shift shows a recognition that comms and marketing people have a really good understanding of the needs and motivations of their charities' beneficiaries and supporters.

Vicky Browning is director of CharityComms

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