Reflections on an anniversary


Four years ago today, I sat at my makeshift desk (a garden table in the back room of our work-in-progress canal boat) and started work. It was my first day of self-employment and the day my (now) husband and I set ‘sail’ from London to the West Midlands to start a new phase in our lives.

For two weeks, I worked as my husband drove Portobello up the Thames, along the Kennett and Avon canal and into Bristol. I tried to continue as we set off up the Severn Estuary in choppy waters, but when our makeshift wardrobe fell onto the bed where I was sat, I decided it was time to take a break. It wasn’t until we got to Gloucester that I got a proper desk and a chair. And it wasn’t until a few months ago that those temporary pieces of furniture were upgraded, as we finally finished building our beautiful watery home.

Measuring success

One thing I have learnt over the years as a business owner is that I don’t feel like a proper business owner at all. I hear others talking about their long-term business goals – I’ve got a vision and some things I want to do, but no beautifully thought out business plan. I see business social media feeds that neatly follow the latest algorithm-beating advice – I’m much more interested in promoting behaviour change campaigns than myself. I read articles about the secrets to success – things like prioritising yourself and not taking life too seriously are rarely on there. But how are they defining success anyway? They’re usually focused on wealth and influence. But another thing I’ve learnt on this journey is that success is personal, which means it can be whatever you want it to be.

For me, success is earning enough money and having enough time to do the things that make me happy – horseriding, eating out, camping. It’s about being excited to return to work after a weekend or a holiday. It’s about getting to work with people that inspire and challenge me. It’s about working on projects that push me to my professional limits and make a difference to people and planet.

What’s next?

It’s impossible to predict what will happen over the coming months and how the world will recover from the coronavirus pandemic. I’m a big fan of the Latin proverb, “Fortune favours the brave.” So, whatever happens, I’ll still be bravely working towards the life I want to live. If I’ve done only that by this time next year, I’ll be toasting my success once more.


Director, Colvine Communications

What charity means to me


I’ve been reflecting recently on what charity means to me. Since I can remember, it’s been about donating to, fundraising for and volunteering with my favourite organisations tackling the issues that are close to my heart. But as I’ve grown older, it’s become more than this.

For me, it’s about weaving small actions into my everyday life that could have a positive impact on others. It’s participating in community life – from stopping to chat with a lonely neighbour to exercising my right to vote for the party I believe will do the most to lift people up. It’s about starting conversations with friends and family about the heart-breaking circumstances people find themselves in because of poverty, war or natural disasters.

It’s about questioning ‘Why should I care’ attitudes and encouraging people to explore their prejudices with the aim of changing hearts and minds. It’s about shining a light on our shared humanity and encouraging people to recognise our similarities rather than our differences. It’s about using these conversations to ignite our compassion for those who are suffering in our own communities and on the other side of the world.

But most of all, it’s about recognising that we all have the power to make a difference. It’s about believing that if our small actions make just one life better then that’s still a win – and that those small actions can create wider-spread change when performed by the masses. We can’t all be a Gandhi, a Mandela or a Thunberg. But we can channel the passion of those who inspire us and use it to make life better for others in our small corner of the world.


Director, Colvine Communications

Love ALL your metrics

Vanity metrics

It’s always interesting (and often funny) to see the trends and terminology that fall in and out of favour in comms over the years.

One of those is the notion of ‘vanity metrics’ – the assertion that likes and follows (for example) aren’t worth the pixels that they’re programmed on and that engagement is king. But I am inclined (in essence) to disagree.

I believe that you should love ALL your metrics and that the key to a successful social media strategy is understanding the value of each of them and aligning them with your organisational aims and objectives. In practice, this may mean that…

  • Every Facebook page like will not lead to a donation but building a sizeable Facebook community of people interested in your cause might be integral to your fundraising strategy.
  • Every Tweet like will not lead to taking action on a campaign you are running, but will help indicate whether your message is resonating with people, which is critical at the testing stage.
  • Even if size doesn’t equal absolute success for you, far-reaching social media communities can be attractive to corporate partners, which may be key to your business development plans.

Do you love all your metrics? I’d love to hear from you.


Director, Colvine Communications

Three top tips for effective storytelling

Words "Once upon a Time" written with old typewriter

Stories can connect people in ways that other words can’t. When events are happening far from home, stories highlight our shared humanity. When statistics become meaningless, stories give them faces. And when problems feel out of our hands, stories empower us to be part of the change.

People – and their stories – are at the heart of organisations that are working to change lives, which is why I’m passionate about helping them to tell the stories that matter. Whether you’re new to storytelling or you’re looking for a quick refresher, here are my three top tips for telling effective stories:

  1. Have a genuine conversation. When you’re interviewing, jot down a set of questions you want to ask but leave room for tangents – they often provide the details that bring a story to life.
  2. Get emotional. I love and live by this quote from author Indra Sinah: “Don’t start by writing, start by feeling. Feel, and feel passionately and the emotion you feel will come through the spaces between the words.”
  3. Let personalities shine. It can be hard to let go of organisational style and there are obviously some cases where you shouldn’t, but make sure you’re flexible enough to let your story-owner’s personality shine through.

Have you seen a great piece of storytelling from a non-profit? Or do you have a top tip to share? I’d love to hear from you 😊

So much more than information sharing


As part of our Does comms need a rebrand? series, I’ve been interviewing fellow comms folk to showcase the unique talents, backgrounds and experiences of people working in the sector.

Jo Dodd is Communications Officer at Peace Direct – an international charity dedicated to supporting local people to stop war and build lasting peace in some of the world’s most fragile countries.

Here’s what we talked about…

What was your journey into non-profit comms?

This is my first job out of University, so my journey has only just begun! I discovered a passion for non-profit comms while I was still studying – first through a summer internship at an NGO in Guatemala and then by setting up an initiative with some friends to celebrate refugees settling in Edinburgh.

How would you describe what you do to a friend of a friend you meet at the pub?

I find it hard. There is so much to the role, especially when you work in a small team. I usually end up rattling off a list of responsibilities! When I think about it now, I would like to say something like, “The comms team is responsible for crafting the organisation’s public image.”

How would your partner/best friend/parents describe what you do to their friends?

My Dad once said to me, “We all communicate, what is your job?” These days, I think he would say PR – it seems to be the bit people get the most and what they typically associate with comms. Because it’s hard to describe exactly what I do (as it varies so much day-to-day), I often talk more about the organisation than the role.

What is the best thing about working in the sector?

It’s got to be the opportunities you get to learn new skills. My role is hard to describe because it’s so varied – but that’s one of the things I absolutely love about the job. Working in a small non-profit means you get to experiment with communicating in so many different creative ways – I’m currently working on projects including comic books, animation, videos and blog articles! No one day is the same.

What (if anything) is not so enjoyable?

The things I love about the role are probably the most challenging as well! Being ‘on call’ for anything that needs comms input and having to prioritise that alongside ongoing activities can be hard. You’re also expected to be creative 24 hours a day – I love that people value my creativity but when you’re not in that mindset it can be hard to pull it out of the bag!

What one quality do you think all comms people share?

I’ve found that people working in non-profit comms tend to be quite humble… though I wouldn’t put myself in that category! The reason I say that is that you don’t get recognition for your work in the sense that you’re a bit of a ghost writer, producing comms on other people’s behalf. This can be a bit disheartening – you don’t get to build your profile and showcase your talents like in other creative professions.

What are you most proud of in your career?

That’s quite a hard one…I think it would have to be the refugee initiative I mentioned earlier. We matched refugees living in Edinburgh with local artists to help them tell their story. We wanted to help people understand the challenges faced by refugees, to spark understanding and empathy. It was quite a unique project at the time, but even though now there are lots more amazing organisations supporting refugees across the UK, it is still going strong.

If someone asked you how they could show the value of comms to their board, what advice would you give them?

I think it’s important to show the integral role that comms plays in an organisation. Imagine if we took the comms team away – how would this impact on our outputs, our public image or – importantly – the people we support? Once we understand this ourselves, we can convince others too.

Do you think comms needs a rebrand?

Yes! But I’m not sure how… bringing together different voices of people working in the sector would be a good start. And finding a concise way to describe what we do – both as a sector and in our individual roles. We need to get better at our elevator pitch and be proud of our achievements. We need to show that comms is so much more than information sharing – it’s key to making change.

If you work in non-profit comms and would be up for a chat that would be published here, please get in touch