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Storytelling, phones and people

In this article, Howard talks about how the National Trust is going through a period of large scale digital change and how ‘storytelling, phones and people’ are at the heart of their digital strategy.

This is radical for the National Trust, but in reality, compared to the ‘outside world’ a lot of what we are doing is common place – we are just a little bit behind the times.

The platforms we are putting in place are designed with empowerment at the core.

We aim to enable all members of the National Trust staff – both paid and volunteers – to be able to publish ‘content’ to every supporter whenever and wherever they feel.

The aim of this is to communicate our cause, and to drive support of the National Trust in all ways.

Marketing Rigour

Digital marketing is nothing new or different in some ways to classical marketing. That’s my opinion at least. The same principles exist regardless of the techniques or medium you choose to speak to your customers or supporters through.

As with any kind of communication to your customers, you need to think along the lines of POST:


This is not my acronym, but Charlene Li’s who is the founder of Altimeter Group and author of the bestselling book ‘Groundswell’. It is one I firmly believe in for all aspects of digital marketing.

Too often people focus on the technology first before they’ve truly thought about what they want to achieve and who with.

All of the digital technology and platform developments we are putting in place are designed to bring content to the front of people’s attention, and keep the technology to a minimum whilst delivering the biggest impact for our supporters.

Mobile First

As a locations-focused organisation we are really far behind in addressing the needs of the mobile internet. Our strategy is to address this head on, and rebuild all key digital touchpoints from the smartphone up.

We’re currently tracking 45%+ on average daily for traffic from mobile devices (66% tablet, 33% smartphone) and peaking during holiday periods (Christmas, etc.) to just under 60%. So our audience are way ahead of where we currently are. This will change as we begin the phased launch of our new platforms.

All of our content delivery will also be closely tied to geo-location to ensure that not only is the device being correctly identified, but also that the supporter’s physical location is being addressed.


Whilst we focus specifically on digital channels in our team, the content we produce is being created with an ‘omnichannel’ approach. This doesn’t just include different digital channels like the various social networks and ‘owned’ areas like the website and apps, but also offline channels like traditional direct marketing (DM) and print materials.

All of our content will eventually be stored in a single omnichannel repository which will ‘feed’ the website, apps, print, and to some degree social media – although we see social much more as an engagement channel than anything to do with broadcasting messages.

This will still need a human element to ensure editorial quality, but the single store repository will make it a lot more efficient for both delivery and creation.

Big Data Driven

Whilst the term big data is a bit of a cliché, the truth is we have a lot of information stored about our supporters. At present the data is quite fragmented and disjointed, but as we begin to join more and more together to create a Single Support View (SSV) this will enable us to deliver more relevant content to our audience.

Whilst we have a lot to learn from the commercial sector, we also need to be aware of how far is too far, and what level of ‘digital intrusion’ is right for our organisation. How do we balance having big data in the right place and at the right time so that communications are useful to our supporters but not intrusive?


The digital strategy can be summed up with three simple words: content, devices and relevance.

In turn these relate to: storytelling, phones and people.

If we keep these simple words close to all of our projects we will be in the right place!

You may be interested in reading this very favourable endorsement of the new National Trust app.

eConsultancy recently met with Tom Barker, new Head of Digital for the National Trust, to hear more about the impressive website relaunch and the introduction of the mobile app.

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Digital Marketing: Challenges and Insights

University of Southampton

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