#ReclaimSocial: How RNLI uses social media as a force for good

#ReclaimSocial: How RNLI uses social media as a force for good

Guest Bloggers | 6 February 2019

RNLI is involved with numerous partnerships, but it is the charity’s drowning prevention initiatives which have been making a splash online. RNLI’s Social Media Manager Rich Ward explains why social media is at the heart of its supporter comms, and why #ReclaimSocial is more than just a one day job.

From Netflix documentaries about the involvement of celebrity influencers in the Fyre Festival fiasco and the impact of fake news on political outcomes, to concerns over data privacy and the harmful effects of screen time on mental health; social media is all too often a part of the daily news agenda for all the wrong reasons.

#ReclaimSocial day held every 6 February is an attempt to counteract the negativity and show that, with the right priorities in place, social media can be harnessed as a powerful force for good.

However, just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, it takes a little more than 24 hours of uplifting social media content a year to change the world for the better. At the RNLI, using social for good is at the heart of what we do on our channels and this consistent, long-term approach has yielded some amazing results for us.

Although the RNLI is best known to people as a rescue charity assisting those in immediate danger around water, we also invest a significant amount of our annual income and resources in the area of prevention to help people avoid getting into trouble in the first place and, if they do, making sure they have the knowledge they need to survive. As a social media team, the secret to supporting this mission is in finding innovative ways to cut through all the (negative) noise online and reach our target audience with a message that resonates.

‘Partnerships that fit properly’

We’ve been able to demonstrate that – when the partnership fits properly – social media influencers can have a hugely positive impact in this regard. Working with the renowned angler Henry Gilbey, a man whose passion for safety around the water is as strong as ours, we are creating a series of videos dispelling commonly held myths about fishing, such as the belief that waders make good floatation devices. The response when Henry shared these eye-opening films on his Facebook page was phenomenal, with dozens of comments pouring in from avid anglers stating that they would now be purchasing a lifejacket in response. Just weeks later, we had confirmation of the first life saved by the campaign after angler Neal Dews survived being swept out to sea thanks to the brand new lifejacket his wife had bought him as a present after he’d seen one of Henry’s videos.

Building a network of respected advocates like Henry is so important for turning a single voice on an issue into a movement. Over in Ireland, our work with the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has been instrumental in embedding the values and key messages of the Respect the Water safety campaign within local communities there, both on and offline.

Emotive case studies and humorous content

In the past, we’ve also worked closely with new media publishers like LadBible to reach segments of our target audience with the #FloatToLive lifesaving message that we simply couldn’t do if we relied entirely on our own channels. From emotive case studies to user generated-style humourous content with a hard-hitting twist, we’ve adopted a creative and bespoke approach in order to produce social media-ready video that has disruptive cut-through, yet is complementary to our partners’ day-to-day output and tone of voice. Man pretending to float

Importantly, this campaign work is continually reinforced as part of our daily drumbeat of social content. In a recent episode of Channel 4’s Britain’s Wildest Weather, three boys told how they were able to survive being caught in a rip current thanks to a beach safety tips video one of the group had seen on the RNLI’s Facebook page, which we had put together in-house using archive lifeguard footage.

What all these examples show is that social media is a valuable tool to connect our different audiences to the incredible work of our volunteers and our drowning prevention initiatives. So remember: with a level of commitment, a bit of creativity and the right partners, social media really can make a lifesaving difference.




Rich Ward, Social Media Manager, RNLI

The RNLI will be speaking at Fundraising Convention 2019 on its major corporate partnership with Helly Hansen, where the Fundraising & Marketing Team will be explaining how they got involved in the tendering process, the internal challenges they faced in changing ways of working, and how companies reacted to being asked to pitch for business. Read about their session, and see the full programme for Fundraising Convention 2019 here.


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