Interview: Gail Scott-Spicer, the Scout Association

She talks to Kaye Wiggins about the challenges for the organisation of lobbying and campaigning for the first time

Gail Scott-Spicer had a hard act to follow when she took over as director of marketing and communications at the Scout Association in January. Her predecessor, John Palmer, made wide-ranging changes to the organisation's communications work in an attempt to change the public's perception of the charity.

Palmer introduced a new look for the charity and asked each member of the communications team to take a personality assessment and share the results. He also made it clear that, like other charities, the association could lobby MPs and campaign, something it had never done before.

"The 'rain tax' campaign started before I joined the Scout Association," Scott-Spicer says. "The aim was to raise awareness of changes in water rates that could mean £1.5m in new charges for local scout groups.

"It's basically very dull and technical, so it could have been difficult to motivate people to campaign on it.

"In fact, local scout groups became really impassioned about the issue, so it was relatively easy to organise the protest at the Houses of Parliament in July. You should never underestimate the value of your grass-roots supporters."

Scott-Spicer has worked in the sector for five years, first as deputy chief executive of chief executives body Acevo, then as director of marketing and communications at Rainer.

"I've always worked in marketing and communications, which is basically about presenting a company to increase sales," she says. "But I've never wanted to do that to line shareholders' pockets, so I've always worked in the public and voluntary sectors."

She says charity work is very different from marketing in the public sector. "Charities tend to be leaner, and they allow you to be closer to seeing the output of your work. Personally, I find charity work much more motivating."

Scott-Spicer's new ideas in the role include visiting local scout groups and producing guidance to help the volunteers running scout groups to write press releases and organise fundraising events.

She says she is also thinking about integrating local groups' websites into the Scout Association's main site.

And now the scouts' ability to campaign has been demonstrated, Scott-Spicer says the organisation will do it again. "Our young people are our best advocates: watch this space for what they'll do next," she says.


2009: Director of marketing and communications, Scout Association

2006: Director of marketing and communications, Rainer

2004: Deputy chief executive, Acevo

1995: Market development executive, Transport for London

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