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Space & Time has worked with Scottish mental health charity See Me, Scotland’s programme to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination, for over five years. The agency’s associate director client services Keith Benzie (KB), spoke with See Me’s communications and public affairs manager Nick Jedrzejewski (NJ) to discuss how Covid-19 has affected the charity and what the future looks like for charity marketing.

NJ: I’m the communications and public affairs manager at See Me, Scotland’s national programme to tackle mental health discrimination and stigma. I’ve been at See Me since 2014 and I’m now into my third different role with the charity, having started as communications officer. I love working here because it feels like we are making a real positive difference on something important. Previously, I was a journalist, telling a lot of stories that people didn’t always want me to tell. At See Me I still get to tell people’s stories, but I get to work with them to do it, to create positive change in their lives and the lives of the people who see the stories.

We’ve been working with Space & Time for almost as long as I’ve been at See Me. Originally, they worked closely with my manager when I started and in 2016 I became the lead contact. We have tried on occasion to do our own social media advertising, but we have never been able to properly target our audiences – or get the reach that we can with Space & Time. Having an agency who really understands our mission and what we are trying to achieve is great, and we know that we can trust Space & Time. It takes a huge amount of stress off our shoulders, particularly around big campaign launches – it’s reassuring knowing that we have an agency that we can hand our assets to and trust that they will be deployed and seen by the right people.

KB: So many things have changed for charities in the last year; what are the biggest changes you’ve experienced as an organisation and what have been the biggest challenges? What effect has this had on your marketing strategy and media plans?

NJ: The biggest challenge we have had is in supporting our volunteers. We have a large group of volunteers who all perform different roles with us, many of whom were out and about doing things before lockdown – whether it was training in schools, running campaigns in their local communities or speaking at events. All of that stopped with lockdown, so we needed to find new things that our volunteers could do or support them more in not doing anything if lockdown was having a significant impact on their mental health.

Over the summer we developed a new project called ‘The Anti Stigma Summer Sessions’, a series of events which took place via Zoom, or via live stream on Facebook – the idea being that our volunteers would come up with ideas for sessions and activities. We also adapted a number of these events to turn them into podcasts. We knew that people were being encouraged to go out walking a lot more, and that people would have been listening to podcasts more, so we put some advertising budget into promoting the podcasts, which had a huge benefit to increasing their reach and listener numbers. The podcast page on our website was one of the most visited over the last year.

KB: Given the changes that have happened, how did you adapt your media plans as a charity with the aid of Space & Time? Did you experience any change in the dynamic and support you needed from us, and did we succeed in providing this?

NJ: Our biggest promotion drives of 2020 happened in February and March, prior to the first lockdown. During lockdown we directed more budget towards our podcast campaign than we would normally have done as we felt the audience would be more receptive to it, and it also allowed us to re-purpose content from our ‘Anti Stigma Sessions’. We have just finished our ‘Time to Talk Day’ campaign for 2021. Normally we put a lot of money into promoting our activity packs for people, but this year we had to change that, in order to encourage people to run digital events and use our postcard pack to send messages to friends.

KB: What do you think the future will look like when it comes to marketing for charities and See Me?

NJ: We have always had the most success when advertising on Facebook. This is now becoming even more important to us. With changing algorithms we’re seeing far less of our organic content reaching the audiences than it used to. So advertising is really vital to us in reaching new audiences and targeting people. As we move forward, we want to focus less on reach and more on engagement, using a variety of channels where we can reach the right audiences – specifically those people who will take action.

KB: As you work directly with organisations, what is your advice for companies who want to make sure their staff’s mental wellbeing is kept at the top of the agenda? This year has seen a big shift in how we work, and how we work with each other, so what guidance can you give them?

NJ: The best thing to do to help staff’s mental health is to make sure you have the right culture; one where people are able to say when they are struggling. Having wellbeing sessions, mental health first aiders and drop ins to help mental health are all great, but unless you have a culture where everyone knows that they will get help and support and be treated with dignity and respect if they do say they are struggling, then you’re never going to be able to help everyone. If people worry that they will be judged, could lose their job, or be treated differently if they say have a mental health problem, then they will keep it to themselves, and that can make a problem worse. That is worse for the individual and the business.

So, my main advice is to actively promote talking about mental health, create a culture where people feel confident to speak about how they feel, make sure your policies are right to support and protect people, and educate your staff – especially line managers – to react well when someone tells them they are going through a tough time.