This episode is sponsored by my friends at Keela, a comprehensive fundraising and donor management software that will help you expand your reach, increase fundraising revenue, and foster a dedicated community of supporters.
Several of my clients are currently using Keela and have continued to be impressed with how easy it is to use, how affordable it is and most importantly, the results that they see and the impact they are able to create.
Keela is hosting a webinar, led by me, on June 6 - How to Drive Donations and Get Engagement Using Social Media. It’s totally free, and you can get all the details and sign up by clicking here.
Taking care of our mental health should not be something that falls down the list of priorities, especially when working in the ‘always on’ culture of comms. So how do we make sure we are taking steps to protect ourselves and others?
In this episode, I talk with Kirsty Marrins about ways in which charities can look after the mental health and wellbeing of themselves, their co-workers, and volunteer or intern content creators and social media moderators.
Connect with Kirsty
About Julia Campbell, the host of the Nonprofit Nation podcast:
Named as a top thought leader by Forbes and BizTech Magazine, Julia Campbell (she/hers) is an author, coach, and speaker on a mission to make the digital world a better place.
She wrote her book, Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits, as a roadmap for social change agents who want to build movements using engaging digital storytelling techniques. Her second book, How to Build and Mobilize a Social Media Community for Your Nonprofit, was published in 2020 as a call-to-arms for mission-driven organizations to use the power of social media to build movements.
Hello This episode is sponsored by my friends at Keela, a comprehensive fundraising and donor management software that will help you expand your reach, increase your fundraising revenue, and foster a dedicated community of supporters. Now several of my clients are currently using Keela. And they continue to be impressed with how easy it is to use, how affordable it is, and most importantly, the results that they see and the impact they're able to create. Now, Keela is hosting a free webinar led by me on June 6, how to drive donations and get engagement using social media. It's totally free. And you can get all the details and sign up at www.jcsocialmarketing.com/keela that's www.jcsocialmarketing.com/keela see you there. Hello, and welcome to nonprofit Nation. I'm your host, Julia Campbell. And I'm going to sit down with nonprofit industry experts, fundraisers, marketers, and everyone in between to get real and discuss what it takes to build that movement that you've been dreaming of. I created the nonprofit nation podcast to share practical wisdom and strategies to help you confidently Find Your Voice. Definitively grow your audience and effectively build your movement. If you're a nonprofit newbie, or an experienced professional, who's looking to get more visibility, reach more people and create even more impact than you're in the right place. Let's get started. Hello, hi, everyone. Welcome back to nonprofit nation with your host, Julia Campbell. Today we're going to be talking about something that is really near and dear to my heart. And I think especially relevant with everything that is occurring in the world in the international sphere right now. Social media and mental health specifically. So I train a lot of social media managers, a lot of communications professionals on specific tactics and ways to increase engagement and ways to increase reach. But I really believe that taking care of our mental health should not be something that falls down the list of priorities. And when we're dealing with the constant responsive, always on culture of communications, we do owe ourselves a duty of care. But we also if we're working with people, and for supporting other people that are running social media that are using these social media accounts, they're often the front line when it comes to any kind of crisis, or any kind of controversy. So thankfully, we have an expert here today, Kirsty Marrins has been working in the charity sector for over 15 years. So she's passionate about helping organizations improve their communications, and connect and engage with their audience. Over the last nine years, she has trained 1000s of charity professionals in the areas of social media, digital marketing, and copywriting. In 2016, she won a charity comms inspiring communicator award. And in 2017, she won Best trustee and social media and the social CEO Awards. She is a proud trustee of charity comms, I will link to that in the show notes. One of my favorite organizations a fantastic resource, especially for social media professionals, and it's the professional membership body for charity communicators and Kirsty is joining us all the way from London. So welcome to the podcast.Kirsty Marrins:
Thanks, Julia. Thanks so much for having me.Julia Campbell:
Yes. Okay. I'm so thrilled to have you here. How did you come to do the work that you're doing today?Kirsty Marrins:
Oh, how far do I get that?Julia Campbell:
That is a tough question as far back as you want, or as recent as you want.Kirsty Marrins:
So in 2004, I moved to the UK from South Africa. And I happened to just get a job in the finance sector. And I worked in the finance sector for about three years. But whilst I enjoyed it, and you know, clearly the money was much better than the charity sector. It wasn't really my passion. So I had decided I really wanted to work in the charity sector. And it took me probably about a year to actually land a job in the sector. And when I did, that was in 2006. It was definitely the sector for me because I've stayed in the sector ever since. So my first job in the charity sector was for a really small charity at the time, which is now quite a big national charity. I worked in fundraising events. And I did that for about a year and a half. And I enjoyed it, but not gonna lie fundraising, and events was not really for me. I was much more interested in comms. And so I moved into comms and helped set up all their social media channels. Because back in 2006, social media was fairly new, besides set all of that up and like the E newsletter, and yeah, I've sort of been working in comms ever since really, and I've been freelance for about nine years, I think. So that's been amazing, because it's given me the opportunity to work with lots of different organizations big and small, and just, you know, learn a lot more about the sector as a whole.Julia Campbell:
Fantastic. So what really drew me to you and why I invited you, on the podcast, you write a lot about the impact of social media content moderation on mental health. And you say that it's an increasing area of concern, which I absolutely completely agree with. So, how can we start to look after the mental health and well being of social media staff and volunteers in this, you know, always on culture?Kirsty Marrins:
It was back in 2019. I was sitting at my computer, and I could see a crisis unfold before me of a really big children's charity in the UK that was been hounded, and I won't go into the reasons why. And they weren't actually the first charity that this had happened to. And it made me suddenly realize, because it was relentless. They were literally trending for like, two, three days. And it made me think of the people having to manage that Twitter account. And you know, it wasn't just it, it also gone on to Facebook, and Instagram, and probably LinkedIn. But as we all know, Twitter's more real time. And that's really where that kind of crises tend to hit and grow. And it was then that I really started to think about the sort of mental health and the well being and what support was being offered to the people having to look after the social media feeds, because as you know, they're often not the decision makers. You know, sometimes they're waiting on statements, but they still have to respond. They may be seeing really horrible comments,Julia Campbell:
Death threats, evenKirsty Marrins:
Yeah, I mean, just really awful things. In this particular case, it started getting quite personal people were googling staff members, and then commenting and sharing pictures. And it was just really, really awful. And it was then that I thought, you know, there isn't really a resource out there. You know, what, what do you do when this happens? because not a lot of charities plan for a crisis, or they plan to an extent. And sure, they might have a plan about how do we handle the crisis more from like a PR perspective, but they don't really think about, hang on a minute, what about the well being and the mental health of our stuff you're having, whether they're social media or the PR professionals? So I decided to ask charity comms, I was a and still am a trustee at the time, whether I could put together a guide for wellbeing for charity comms professionals, and they thought it was a really good idea. And I think I want to stress so whilst it is aimed at sort of comms professionals in the charity sector, it really applies to anybody, you know, the things that are in there are relevant to any sector to any, you know, any kind of role, I guess, even in fundraising or, you know, it's it's just about how to look after your mental health, how to build resilience, how to be an active listener, how to spot the signs of, you know, maybe a breakdown or mental health how to create a mental health strategy for your charity. So the guide really is authored I guess, by myself but with by the experts, such as a counselor or a tote, and then charities themselves where they share examples of things that they've done in their charities that have really worked for them, or things that they do. So for example, one of the charities mind which is a mental health charity, they actually have Yeah, so they have like mind for the workplace. So basically, they sell sort of like mental health, first aid training, for example. So like they've written a section. And obviously, they are experts in their field, the guide is a living guide. So we keep adding to it. So it's not, you know, we've now got a whole section about hybrid working and remote working and how, you know, to look, how do you look after your colleagues mental health when you're not in the office, and maybe you don't see those physical signs necessarily. So that also then spun off a bit into like a podcast. So we've got, you know, loads of podcast episodes where I think there are three different ones, if I remember correctly, and like one, you know, I interviewed different people at different charities about different topics on wellbeing and mental health. So I felt like there was something missing as a resource, but also, we weren't really talking about it, I don't think there was a conversation. And I feel like the guide helped sort of open that conversation up.Julia Campbell:
So the resource is the charity comms wellbeing guide for comms professionals. I will link to it,Kirsty Marrins:
in the show notes. And I definitely think that there is a gap here. Because what I see in my work, people either think that the work of social media is just posting what you had for lunch, or posting about, you know, an event that you're doing or putting out promotions. And what I think a lot of people that are not in communications work, or not even in the charity sector, the nonprofit sector don't understand is that everything we do, and I always say this, I don't care if you are a tiny little museum, a food bank, a library, everything we do is controversial to someone. Yes. And there are going to be trolls and there are going to be negative comments, but especially in the climate that we're in now. So you've written and I'm going to quote you, you know, having managed social media for many different charities, I can tell you that we're often the first point of contact, and we see and read distressing things, images of torture, and death, desperately ill children whose parents are pleading for help images of badly abused and neglected animals, racist and homophobic slurs. And I know a lot of my clients and students are dealing with that. And I think this, this particular topic is especially relevant right now. Because as I was saying, Before we hit record, as of this recording, there have been 67, mass shootings in the United States alone in 2023. And I'm sure by the time this, unfortunately, is going to go public, there'll be more. Also, we're dealing with the devastation, the impact of the Syria and Turkey, earthquake 33,000, as of this recording, are counted dead. So what impact does that have on people that are dealing with these kinds of issues? These distressing, you know, images, news, you know, how can, how can they help manage that?Kirsty Marrins:
it's really interesting, because, as you were saying, there are obviously issues that charities will have to deal with directly. Because as you said, there will always be someone who has an issue or disagrees or thinks something's controversial. But there's also the flip side in that, as you've just mentioned, those mass shootings, the just devastating earthquake, which may not be aligned to your organization at all, but as a social media manager, you are going to be exposed to that content on social media, because it's in the news, and it's trending. So whilst it might not have anything to do with your organization, and there's not necessarily a need for you to respond, it's still that internalization of those distressing images. You know, and I think we sometimes forget about that, or don't think about it, or don't consider it, you know, are any of your staff members of Turkish descent or Syrian descent? Like, how are they feeling at the moment? You know, thinking about, you know, yes, they might not live in that country, but they may have family that are there, or they, you know, it's still their homeland in some sense. So, you know, thinking about things that are happening that might be triggering for them, even though it might not necessarily be anything directly linked to the work that they're doing at the moment for the organization. And I think there are lots of ways that we can support people so one would be, you know, I guess identifying those as possible triggers. So we know that the Syria, Turkey, for example, earthquake is going to be distressing, whether you have a personal connection or not that maybe just check in with your staff and your colleagues, you know, are you affected by this? Do you need a break? How can we support you, you know, also thinking of ways to protect yourself. So you know, you can mute or unfollow certain like news accounts, you can mute certain words, if it's all just getting a bit too much. You can have, you know, Twitter lists where you just look at what's relevant to your organization right now. Or you could be using, you know, maybe a paid social media platform where you can moderate so you can only see when people have, you know, tagged you or commented, you can almost filter out the rest of what's going on in the world. It's not necessarily ideal, because obviously, part of social media is being reactive. But if it's about protecting your mental health and your well being right now, then I think that that's okay to do. I think it's just having those channels of communication open and having staff knows that they can be honest, you know, that they can say, I'm being impacted by X, Y, Zed. You know, could I maybe, you know, not work on social media tomorrow, is there anybody else who could moderate tomorrow in my place or, you know, have like a rotor system or, you know, have other staff of volunteers trained to be able to step in, and help out. And that in a crisis is particularly necessary, because when there's a crisis and the charity, and it's relentless, there is no way that only one or two people can monitor the social media, they have to have a break, there has to be some sort of rotor system, some sort of relief, you know, the ability for them to just say, I have to step away for an hour, I need to go out, I need to walk, I need a break. And for that to be okay.Julia Campbell:
I know that when, here in the US when Tyree. Nichols was murdered by police that horrific video that actually really just came out. And a lot of people were posting the video because they thought that it was going to be raising awareness. But something that I learned from a friend of mine is that people of color experience something called link to fate, where when you watch a video like that you're substituting the victim for a family member. So it's important not to spread the trauma by sharing that video. But understanding how many times a video like that might have been seen by someone managing social media because like you said, they're on Twitter, they're on Facebook, they're on LinkedIn. That's what they're doing. They're they're supposed to be monitoring things that are trending and reading the news. And seeing that kind of traumatic video and I it was gone. Before I saw it, I knew that I didn't want to watch it, I had the privilege of not watching it. And I just remember, there was kind of a pushback about sharing that traumatic video and re traumatizing people. So how, how can we cope with this and still do our jobs?Kirsty Marrins:
Effectively? It's really hard.Julia Campbell:
I think first thing recognize it's exactlyKirsty Marrins:
recognize it's really hard. Recognize that whatever you put in place is not going to be perfect. Because we're all human with different needs with different ways that we react to things with different resilience levels, with different histories with different cultures. So you know, there's never going to be a perfect, you know, if you do X, Y, and Zed, then it's you know, your social media managers are all going to be fine. And they're going to cope fantastically. But I think it's just having things in place. So having the ability, and you know, this really, sadly, is often more for nonprofits who have more resources and more money is to have access to counselors. So like an external helpline, for example, some of the bigger charities I've worked at, as part of your sort of like benefits package, you have access to counselors. And again, depending on the charities, some of them have that anyway for specific teams. So teams that have to deal with bereavement or you know, terminal illnesses or you know, that sort of really emotional content for one of a better word, you know, they will have access to a counselor, someone that they can talk to, but that's, you know, Talking to someone is whether they're an expert or not, is helpful anyway, and I think any charity can offer their staff, somebody who will listen. So someone who will just listen to how they're feeling, let them kind of offload, give them the opportunity to have a cry if they want or, you know, to say, I have to step away for an hour and give them the permission to do so. Every charity can do that. And I think that that's really important is just having that kind of open openness around mental health, and a culture where it's okay to say, like, I'm not really coping right now, you know, I just need some space, or I need a hug, or I need a cup of tea, just allowing people to have that is really, really critical. Again, things like, you know, it doesn't again, necessarily have to be a big charity, but charity should consider having Mental Health First Aiders. So, you know, like, we have a first aid person in the office, there always has to be someone who's trained in first aid. Why don't we train people in Mental Health First Aid, you know, also, we should have in inductions, when people join the charity, you know, that mental health should be in there, that conversation that like, this is a cultural at all charity around mental health and well being, you know, we have x y Zed that you can access, we have a strategy, you know, whatever it is, like all of that should be front and center and not, you know, charity, staff shouldn't have to have you know that what is available to me almost like they don't know, like, exactly, they don't know what their charity actually offers. It should be front and center, that this is how we will support you with your mental health and well being.Julia Campbell:
I think it's interesting that we do this with program staff. So yeah, in every nonprofit I've worked in, it's usually been a pretty hard issue, whether it's sex trafficking survivors, or rape crisis or domestic violence, there is always support for the people that are running the hotline, running the support group working in the shelter, because there should be but support Yeah, for the development director, there's often not a place to turn, there's not a place for the communications person to turn or they think they're taking away resources from someone else, or they think they shouldn't be feeling this way. Because there's still that stigma. There's still that stigma around accessing mental health resources, which I really want to break down.Kirsty Marrins:
Yeah, no, I absolutely agree. I think any nonprofit that has like a helpline or support line, or as you say, like service staff, if they are receiving counseling, or training that really should run across the whole charity, to be honest, I mean, it really should be accessed by anybody who feels that they need it, or it would help them in their role.Julia Campbell:
So I know that this is much more than just dealing with trolls. But I think that a lot of nonprofits no matter the size, maybe they're not dealing with huge crises, or maybe they're not, as you know, they're not, they're kind of focused on their own little local corner of the world. But no matter who you are, you're going to deal with trolls at some point. Right? So yes, how do we identify trolls? And how do we deal with them? Sort of in our every day? Yeah, no, I deal with them, I don't think I have the authority of myself to do that, like someone that doesn't have that authority.Kirsty Marrins:
I think it's really important to know if they actually are a troll. So sometimes, you know, maybe that someone is just actually critical of the work that we do. Or they may be upset or irate about something. And they might actually have valid concerns or a genuine complaint. But it may come across as confrontational or angry, that doesn't necessarily mean that they're a troll. So I think it's important to make that distinction. First off, and one of the ways that you can do that is, you know, have a look at their profile, you know, look at who else they are tweeting at, you know, are they saying similar things to other people organizations? Do they seem to have an agenda? Are they actually a person, you know, have they got a proper profile picture? Are they just an egg? There is often you know, how many followers do they have? So sometimes you can spot them quite easily. Sometimes you may have to think, is this a troll or is it someone that is just being critical? And obviously, if they're being critical, there are other ways to address that. At, but if they genuinely are a troll, the best thing you can do is, as we say, Don't feed the trolls. So ignore them, they're probably just gonna go away. Or they'll, which sounds terrible focus on someone else or another organization if though they are trolls on mass, so that happened with a charity here in the UK, where one of our prominent politicians, so it's a it's a charity are an ally. So they are the lifeboat charity here in the UK, and they save refugees in the channel, if you know the boat goes down.Julia Campbell:
Oh I can imagine the trolls, right?Kirsty Marrins:
Well, yes, so one of the politicians just basically called them a taxi service for refugees, and that they were spending donations on helping people legally come into the country, etc, etc. So of course, they got inundated with people trolling them, essentially. And what they did was really good was they just responded with facts. And they didn't respond, obviously, individually, one, there were far too many. But they kind of shut down the conversation in a way with responding by facts, being really bold in their messaging, and just saying, we're really proud of the work that we do, every life is worth, you know, living, we don't discriminate, you know, we're here to save anybody who needs us, etc, etc. And what actually ended up happening, you know, because there are, for every troll, there's 10 People that are lovely and giving, and they ended up getting 1000s, hundreds of 1000s of pounds and donations, because people were saying, that's why we support you, because you know, you do amazing work, etc, etc. So sometimes to shut down the trolls, you have to give the facts and you kind of have to fight back, but not on a one to one level of, like rise above. Yeah. And of course, you know, if you really wanted to, you know, now with Twitter, you can shut down replies, or you get so it's almost like a statement tweet, or you can limit it to people, only people who, you know, follow you. So you can at least limit that kind of, I guess, you know, having trolls leaping on to your content. So those are a few things that you can do. And obviously, if the trolls are threatening, or you know, racist, or anything that goes against the social media platforms, rules, you can report them, and you can block them. And obviously, if it's so criminal threat, like death threat or something, report them to the police, if you do have to deal with trolls, and on a really wide scale, or even to be honest, if it's, it could be just one person that's consistently trolling, but they're not necessarily doing anything that warrants them being reported, you know, it's still not really a nice experience. So you know, we'd say, sometimes social media managers, they don't want to bother anybody else with the issue, they sort of just think, oh, but it's my job, I just need to handle this. Whereas they could actually be impacting on their mental health, and they may not really realize it. So I would really encourage them to talk to their manager or to talk to her colleague, also, maybe just ask advice on how to handle it if you're not really sure. And just maybe get their opinion. And just, I guess, being able to just share that burden in the way because sometimes it can feel a bit like a burden having to deal with something that's not very pleasant on your own. So just, you know, having those channels of communication open, I think is really important.Julia Campbell:
I think you bring up a great point where, you know, I do think and I know the majority of people that work in the charity sector identify as women. And I think that there's a tendency to not want to make waves to want to take it all on to want to, you know, like you just said, Just weather the storm. We'll get through this, you know, I'm not going to talk about this. I'm just gonna hold it all in and creating a space at your organization where these conversations can happen. And those open lines of communication that you talked about are so important. If you have an executive director who you know is just going to shut you down or not want to talk about it or too busy or just deal with it on your own, then you're going to have to deal with it on your own and which I think no one should have to do. I also think the work of communications is infused into programs, it's infused into development, it's infused into everything that the organization does. So it affects programs, it affects the day to day, you know, it affects the people that are on the ground. And, yeah, we really need to, we need to all be thinking of it as a group, a group of people like a rising tide lifts all ships, I think that's the way we need to think about it. And also, it's a bigger conversation about Destigmatizing mental health. Yeah, conversations,Kirsty Marrins:
I would say, there are some really great online kind of peer to peer communities that charity professionals can join, if they are unfortunate enough to have leadership that maybe is not that concerned about listening to, you know, their sort of mental health. So on Facebook, there is the third sector PR and comms network, Facebook group bit of a mouthful, private group can't remember how many people are in there at the moment, probably 9000, at least. And that's a really safe space for people to post. You know, and I've seen a few posts about, you know, maybe things that they've seen on social media that they just want to, I guess offload and just have maybe some words of sympathy or empathy, or, you know, come, you know, feeling like, they're not that alone. And then there's another Facebook group that sort of spun off of that group called charities solidarity. So that's mainly for people who work in social media. And that's another closed private Facebook group where people can say, you know, we're dealing with this crisis, or sometimes we can see that a crisis is unfolding for a charity. And we know that there are people in that group, so someone might post, you know, I've seen what's happening on Twitter with X, charity, solidarity to you all, hope it's hope you're all doing okay. You know, let us know if we can do anything. So just having that nice community, you know, because we understand, right, other people in your organization might not fully understand, you know, that it's, it's really unpleasant, like, it might not be obviously aimed, it's not personal to the person. But it takes the toll. And it can maybe sometimes feel personal, if you see what I mean. So it's just having, I guess, like minded peers, understanding what it's like and being able to offer either advice, if they've been through that before, you know, it might be that someone, this is the first time that's happened to them, and they're not quite sure how to handle it. So there are at least some communities, you know, that you can go to, if you don't, either don't feel supported by your organization, or maybe you do. But again, you know, it's difficult. If that's not your job, you don't really understand maybe how relentless it can be and how mentally draining and emotionally draining and you know, at least your peers who do the same thing would understand.Julia Campbell:
If people are not on Twitter, they do not understand Twitter know, exactly think they might understand it. But if you do not have an account, if you're not on there, you do not understand yet the nature of Twitter, I'm just thinking of Twitter specifically. This is wonderful. I'm going to put those links to those groups in the show notes for anyone that would like to request membership, but Kirsty where can people find you learn more about you, and connect with you?Kirsty Marrins:
So I am on Twitter, but I have locked my account.Julia Campbell:
I quit Twitter, but it's okay.Kirsty Marrins:
Yeah, I honestly have been debating it.Julia Campbell:
It's so hard though for communication. Yeah, I'm really hard. Yeah.Kirsty Marrins:
It does seem like quite a toxic place to be. But as you said, unfortunately, it's part of our job.Julia Campbell:
I know, I did ask you a question. But I'm on the school committee. I can't quit Facebook. I want to I can't as an elected official, I really do feel like a lot happens there in conversations that I need to not necessarily get involved in. But look at and be there be accessible. So I think this is another whole thing of like, where do you draw the line? But yeah, so you're on Twitter. Where else do you hang outKirsty Marrins:
on LinkedIn? Places? Yeah, I'm also on Instagram, but to be honest, that's more personal or channel rather than a professional one. So you know, if you like to see photos of food and travel, then come follow me on Instagram.Julia Campbell:
We do. That's great. I will link to all of that in the show notes. And any any final thoughts for the stressed out social media comms managers out thereKirsty Marrins:
talking about it as the first step. So whether you talk about it to your partner, whether you talk about it to a friend, whether you hopefully feel comfortable enough to talk about it to your manager, or to someone senior in your organization, whether you go and find that online, peer to peer support, I think it's just important to be honest and open, because you will feel a relief. And also, you'll get probably some validation, some advice, some really useful things. So I feel like only good can come out of being honest about how you're feeling. And that's probably the first step to you know, looking after your mental health and well being.Julia Campbell:
Thank you so much. Well, thanks for being so honest and open and vulnerable with us today. We really appreciate it. And to everyone listening, we'll put the links in the shownotes. You can get more resources, the well being guide, the Facebook groups, some of the other writings that Kirsty has done. So yeah, until next time, but thank you so much, Kirsty for being here.Kirsty Marrins:
Thanks, Julia for having me.Julia Campbell:
Well, hey there, I wanted to say thank you for tuning into my show, and for listening all the way to the end. If you really enjoyed today's conversation, make sure to subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast app, and you'll get new episodes downloaded as soon as they come out. I would love if you left me a rating or review because this tells other people that my podcast is worth listening to. And then me and my guests can reach even more earbuds and create even more impact. So that's pretty much it. I'll be back soon with a brand new episode. But until then, you can find me on Instagram at juliacampbell77. Keep changing the world you nonprofit unicorn