Feel the ‘digital’ fear and do it anyway

5 Tip To Help You Banish Your Colleagues’ Fear Of Digital

“I’m scared.”

It’s one of the things that I hear most often from trustees, CEOs and other staff who are new to digital. Sometimes they don’t even spell it out but express it in other ways. Opting for a broadcast style digital approach or burying their heads in the sand about innovations are classic signs. Fear and lack of confidence are behind the Digital Maturity Index’s finding that 70% of charities don’t see digital as important, and two thirds don’t see the point of social media.

Social media for small charities

I know you are often frustrated by colleagues who are nervous about digital. I bet you embrace the new wholeheartedly and are not scared to ‘fail fast.’ Yet if we truly want to influence senior people the first step is to understand their point of view, then help them move forward. I want to share some insights which will help your organisation get more confident with digital so that it can seize the many opportunities it offers. We’ll be exploring these ideas in more depth at a special CIM event hosted by JustGiving with CLIC  Sargent and Contact a Family on 22 October.

Here are 5 tips that will help you banish your colleagues’ fear of digital.

  1. Refocus your team on goals.

    Fear can be paralysing. I have unlocked it with clients by helping them understand the benefits of going ‘digital first.’ Anna Markovits, a leadership coach who specialises in people development says, ‘You might be feeling the digital fear, but spend some time exploring what your end result looks, feels and sounds like. Then identify some tangible steps you can take to help you to achieve your goal.’ She also thinks that it can be helpful for organisations to explore their concerns openly. ‘We’re often fearful because we’re not sure what to expect. When I encourage my clients to think of the worst case scenario, they usually find that it is not as daunting as they originally thought, and it’s also usually unlikely to happen. This helps them to feel that it’s more manageable and they are motivated to overcome their fears.’

  2. Culture and attitude are critical.

    Digital isn’t just about processes; it means helping colleagues to trust their instincts as communicators. Amanda Neylon, head of digital at Macmillan encourages her team to use the phrase, ‘Be Brave.’ She told me that, ‘Having trained so many of our staff in the processes of using social, we realised that culture is just as important. The essence of great social isn’t really about things like analysing the best time to post or the right calls to action (though they help!), it’s about the engaging conversation and the inspiring content – and that’s hard to teach in a training course. So now we say, “Hey, be brave, be yourself, just don’t be stupid” and that culture has resulted in so much more innovative content and helpful exchanges with our customers.’

  3. Use your network.

    If your CEO and board are nervous about digital, why not encourage them to talk to another organisation who have been where they are now? Anna Markovits says that charities should not be scared to ask for help: ‘Who in your network has skills you can utilise? Most people are willing to help or share advice if they are asked.’

  4. Make change manageable.

    Digital transformation doesn’t have to be a big bang; even small steps in the right direction will make a difference. Claire Hazle, ‎head of digital at Marie Curie thinks that, ‘Digital transformation shouldn’t be measured on how much money you spend. Some of the biggest wins can be found in addressing some of the simplest issues. Arguably the most valuable transformation is in changing a mindset, which is free of charge.’ Her top tips for digital teams include earning people’s trust and working hard to keep it, de-mystifying digital technologies as our natural tendency is to fear what we don’t understand, and to anchor your digital activity in broader organisational goals.

  5. Encourage people to get started.

    Euan Semple, a digital consultant, likes to challenge boards’ assumptions about digital by showing how it can be low cost and easy to get going. He encourages leaders to focus on people and conversations. Semple says ,The important thing is having the intention to build relationships and the courage to reach out. If you get those two right the response will amaze you.’

Above all, I think that one of the best ways to help our organisations grow in confidence with digital is by showing that we are not scared to take risks. We must keep challenging our charities to do bigger and better things online. If we want them to lose the fear, we must show that we are brave. Who’s with me?

The CIM Charity Group’s special event on the latest social media trends takes place on 22 October at JustGiving. Book here.

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Zoe is director of Zoe Amar Communications, a marketing and digital communications consultancy who have worked with leading organisations including ActionAid, Crimestoppers, Macmillan and Anglia Ruskin University. She blogs for The Guardian about charities and communications and is on the advisory board for The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network. She co-founded the charity #socialceos awards.