Charli Bevan has been a member of The QNI Communications Team since 2015, championing all things social media as Digital Marketing Officer and later running the QNI Community Nurse Executive Network. As Charli prepares to leave The QNI move into a new role she reflects on the charity sector’s relationship with digital communications and The QNI’s achievements within the field.

‘When I joined The QNI in 2015 fresh out of university and a gap year working abroad I had no experience in professional social media. I hadn’t even put two and two together that there were real people behind corporate social media accounts!

When I applied for my (then) part time position at The QNI I was hoping and praying the passion I had for digital and social media in my personal life would shine through in the interview. Luckily it must have, as the team took a chance and hired me as The QNI’s first Digital Engagement Officer.

The QNI communications team were very open to letting me take control of key social media channels – in my first few months I researched the difference between professional and personal social media, slowly building a picture of the QNI’s unique audience and how best to engage with them.

I tried lots of different methods to build engagement, some worked (Our regular ‘Feel Good Friday Nursing News’ story on Facebook remains popular almost three years later) and others didn’t (Education and policy charities don’t do so well on Instagram…) The QNI’s ‘Like’ count on Facebook doubled within a year of me joining and impressions were up by over 500% – something was definitely working.

By tracking analytics and turning numbers into commentary I found I was able to engage colleagues and start to cultivate an organisation wide culture change when it came to digital. QNI programme managers began to set up professional Twitter accounts, putting a face to the amazing work they were undertaking and boosting engagement of general QNI content.

At first some staff were sceptical, did our audience of busy and often over stretched nurses really have time to look at Twitter? The way I explained it then and still do now is:

'Every day an organisation is silent online is a day their message is being lost.'

We live in a digital world. We wake up and log on to Facebook, during breakfast or on the commute we scroll through Twitter and check over flowing email inboxes, scanning the list and only opening items that look appealing at a glance. Everything is online – shopping, doctor appointments, travel bookings and even catching up with friends – gone are the days of individual phone calls when instant group chats are available.

If people have the time to listen to a computer generated voice over and over again to discuss what name they hear (It says Yanny by the way…) then they certainly have time to read about subjects they are passionate about – IF the information is available and easily accessible to them.

It is important that all charities stop thinking of digital as an ‘extra’ and include it as a vital component within their communications plans. Of course taking audience demographics into account is always important, but potential donors and supporters are being bombarded with digital communications at all angles from the private sector and beyond.

In our increasingly fast paced and environmentally friendly world, charities need to be IN inboxes and ON timelines regularly. If they aren’t their monthly printed newsletters are likely to end up being out of date by the time they hit the door mat…and go straight into a recycling bin. Any money or time the recipient has to spend will have already been given to the sender of that morning’s catchiest marketing email.

The future is not digital, digital is now and it is all around us. The QNI has become a well-recognised and respected voice on social media in recent years. A recent campaign started by The QNI and QNI Chief Executive Dr Crystal Oldman encouraging registered nurses to add RN to their Twitter title went viral in the nursing world with increasing numbers of nurses going ‘From Silence To Voice’ and being proud of who they are on professional social media.

A Student nurse who took part in the filming of The QNI’s new short social media films (launching later this year) commented on the fact they had been instructed by university course leaders to follow The QNI on Twitter to keep up to date with current affairs in the field, and to use The QNI website to access our vast digital resource library.

The QNI blog showcases comment from a diverse cross section of the nursing and healthcare world, whilst our online ‘Policy Response’ posts give peers and the public instant access to The QNI’s stance on breaking healthcare reports and policy developments.

I am proud of how far The QNI has come in terms of digital engagement and marketing and I truly believe The QNI’s digital presence is helping to shape the narrative and policy around community nursing practice and education.

I encourage all charities to embrace digital and social media. Use it to your advantage to engage audiences in a way that works for you. Methods don’t have to be refined or perfect, the digital world is fast paced and what fell flat today will be forgotten tomorrow- embrace innovation, encourage engagement and work towards a culture change.

The QNI allowed me to kick-start my career in digital communications and marketing and I will be forever grateful for that. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Dr Crystal Oldman CBE and the rest of the team. As I enter my last week working at The QNI I reflect back with pride, passion and hope that the charity sector will continue to push digital to the front of its agenda, making the most of all it has to offer.’

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