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More on Google Ads

Remember that we got a grant and we weren’t sure what to make of it? Well rather a lot has happened since then.

I wrote a post on the Media Trust website:

We received a Google Ad Grant recently, that’s pretty cool. We think. Like, it’s $10,000 a month worth of ads, which is clearly awesome, but we’ve never really engaged with that sort of thing at all before. Plus, we’re mostly furloughed at the moment. So, we are looking for someone who fancies playing with our Google Ads account. You’d start with a blank slate – we don’t have any campaigns to run, or particular goals yet. What we do have is a fair number of interesting posts and resources we would like people to find, and it would also be cool if they signed up to our mailing list. If you drive up our website traffic by any significant amount then you’ll have done a great job. If we get to the point where that converts into contacts and work for the charity, then that would be double awesome.

As a result of that stream of conciousness, a wonderful volenteer got in touch. In turn, she connected us with the Google Ad Grants Online Marketing Challenge, and now we have a team of students managing our Ad Grant.

This produced two cool things – firstly, ads are running and they appear to be having some effect.

Secondly, the student produced a really thorough evaluation of our exisiting websites (for example, this one has an outdated design) and pointed out a bunch of small (and large) things I could fix. You can read the report they did below.

I’m still nervous about the whole thing – we haven’t been able to show any real advantage to the charity from this yet (to be fair, the students have only just started) but I’m feeling a lot more positive than I was.

Thoughts on Furlough

By Joe Reddington, COO

I’m currently furloughed. I was completely furloughed for most of the pandemic and I’m now part-furloughed since that became part of the scheme. I work a limited number of hours a week. I also keep being asked how I feel about it, so I ‘ve put my thoughts together here.


It is, absolutely, the best thing for the charity. It’s also the best thing for my young family – I’ve seen more of my baby son than I would have otherwise.


It’s still frustrating. My work gave let me help people, experiment, be inventive and being honest, let me hear appluse. I miss those things.

The hours are limited so that I only manage the overhead needed to keep the charity alive and conforming to regulations. So I spend my time putting the accounts in order, keeping on top of emails. That means that I’m only doing the bits of the job that I dislike rather than the ones I love.

There’s an sense of pressure: because of the limited hours you have a real pressure to make those hours count, so I’m being a lot more risk adverse on things like networking.

Also – those hours are difficult to find in a pandemic. Because the question stops being ‘how am I going to do the work this week?’ and becomes ‘Where am I going to find eight hours of real quality time where I can totally focus?’ – for example I wrote the draft of this post at 4.47am on a Saturday because the answer turns out to be ‘before the children wake up’.

It remains the right thing to do, and I remain very lucky that I have the option, but I think that everybody who is furloughed should think carefully about what they might be missing.

Finace Upgrades

A good rule for life is ‘if you have to do something regularly, make it easier for yourself next time’. One of the things we have to do regularly at eQuality Time is put the accounts in order.

It’s got a lot smoother over the last few years. Proper use of Quickbooks, sending staff off to learn accounting, and increasing the amount of accounting knowledge on our board have all increased our general capabilities.

For example, one thing we’ve been doing much more recently is sending out proper offical estimates of work rather than working out a figure with a school or organisation and then having to search emails to find out how much we agree.

The thing we’ve changed over the last few months is that we now do a offical ‘end of month’ processing: quickbooks gets reconcilated with the bank, all the invoices are chased, all wages and bills are sent to trustees for authentication.

This month the thing I was very grateful for is how easy it now is getting to fix mistakes – we had found an old transaction without documentation and by working reasonably through Quickbooks audit trail, and then looking at our banks ‘transaction added date’, the right document popped up in our archived files. It feels a lot like that would have taken all day a couple of years ago rather than 15 minutes this morning.

There’s still things to work on (mostly things that are hard to do in a pandemic lockdown) – mostly around making sure that everybody can do all of the tasks, but we’re getting there. And the more efficient we get at managing our money, the more time we’ll have to do the things we really want to do.

New Project Nerves

Our Hashtag Poundsign project has its first contact with school students in the next few days and I have New Project Nerves. I have all of the fear in fact.

The best thing to do with that fear (for the project) is to think about all the things that could go wrong, and what we can do to make sure that they will go right, double check everything with the risk assessment, and move on from there (you can see the risk assessment here).

It’s a project that involves children, so child protection is absolutely key, and we have to make sure that we’ve thought of all the possible issues. In this, I’ve been helped by people at two other charities that shared their risk assessments for the online work they do.

There are risks inside the sessions: we’re going to be talking about fake news and internet safety, and it’s far from impossible that one of the students makes a disclosure of some form of online abuse. It’s also possible that a child discloses something after the sessions (the risk here is that we handle it badly, not disclosure itself), or that they are emotionally hurt by something that turns up in the sessions. I believe that these risks are very unlikely: White Water Writers has tackled difficult issues with students for years without an incident of this type, but it’s our responsibility to make sure that we’ve thought about everything properly.

Our domain experts/influencers are also a risk. These are people that are new to us, that we are bringing into contact with minors. Worse, they are people who are, by definition, easy for a child to contact online.

There are obvious things that we can do to compensate for this:

  • DBS checks for influencers
  • Strict and clear rules for influencers about what to do if one of the children gets in contact.
  • Clear information for parents, including who spoke to their child.

There are less obvious actions we can take as well. I’ve moved away from the idea of doing video calls with influencers and now I want to do a private live stream, so that the communication is one way, and the teachers or staff members can pass on comments and questions. In such cases, anyone with the link to the private stream doesn’t get any information about the students.

What other risks are there?

  • Many of the risks to the students also apply to the influencers (particularly because future influencers may themselves be children) and that should be accounted for.
  • Reputational risk if it goes wrong (hardly important comparably)

The ‘if it goes wrong’ is quite an interesting one. I’m fully expecting the research to go wrong – that’s sort of the point and I’ve made it clear in every call that I’ve had with an influencer that I expect it to go wrong and that we’ll have to change a lot of things as we go on. I think this is broadly managed, but it is a little way down the list for me.

Things to know as one of our artists.

So, you are drawing a cover image for one of our White Water Writers books. Let’s give you all the information we can. You can see previous covers here.

You are going to be put in contact with an individual camp leader. They’ll to be on the ground with the writers from Monday to Friday and will press the final publication button. My assumption is that they’ll send you a selection of character ideas on Monday and then you are good to interpret them as you see fit. One of the things we frequently ask writers is ‘who would you case to play this character in the movie?’, and I suspect that would be useful to you, although it is obviously not expected that the illustration looks like the actor (otherwise you’d be drawing Emma Watson on a ridiculously regular basis). The leader would probably like in-progress photos, if only to show writers when they lose motivation. We need the final image by 2pm on Friday because that’s when we press publish.

I’m hyper aware that artists should be paid fairly, and I want to be very clear that I’m NOT looking for “Produce me a high quality professional cover for this low fee” I’m looking for “Give us a sketch that we can use in our cover for this book that these kids made for this set fee”. It’s very much “£50 worth of your art” rather than “Do lots of art for £50”.

  • Analog/digital. We prefer digital drawings to scanned in ones, and scanned and then digitally coloured is a nice middle ground.
  • If (and it very much isn’t complusoury) you are going to do a background it’s ideal if we get that as a seperate layer because it makes it a lot easier to fit the title in and so on.
  • Work-in-progress shots are very nice for social media, so feel free to throw them up on your channels, tag us (White Water Writers or me personally) and we’ll boost. Also please let us know if you are okay with draft images you send us being used on social media.
  • Feedback is good, we like feedback – the more good feedback we get on the process the more that we can make it nice for everybody 🙂
  • Invoice! You’ll have to invoice us for the £50 because that’s how the charity’s payments work. If you haven’t done an invoice before – here’s a sample one. Feel free to send one in advance, it gets actioned when we get the cover.
  • Amazon Cover template generator – you aren’t being paid for a full cover, you are being paid for an image someone else will put on it. But some artists like doing the whole cover anyway (for portfolios, or because they don’t like how Joe ‘fixes’ their art 🤣). If you fancy putting it into a cover template, this is the one to use. The camp leader will tell you roughly how many pages there are.
  • Let us know how you want to be credited in the book! We normally end up putting an instagram tag in…

Below are some examples of covers we like and the sketches we got halfway thought…

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WhatsApp Image 2019-11-29 at 17 34 43
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New Project!

With partners at Glasgow University and Northumbria University, we’ve been awarded £40,000 in funding from Not-Equal for a new project.

The project has the working title “Hastag Poundsign” until we can come up with something better.

Intervention Concept

A problem is that a lot of people, particularly young people, are terrible at working out how to judge the value of information online.  We are particularly interested in the case of young people who:

  • are likely to make significant errors with trust online
  • Don’t know that they are
  • Don’t trust us (or school, or any authority figure) to tell/show them how to make better evaluations of people in this space.

Okay, so how do we reach the people who don’t trust us, so that we can explain to them that they are trusting the wrong people and how they should trust other people in future?

Let’s turn this on it’s head: who do they trust?

  • friends
  • famous people

Actually it turns out that 70% of young people trust YouTube personalities more than traditional celebrities and 40% think their favourite influencer understands them better than their friends.

So they trust influencers. And what makes this really interesting is that (a lot of) influencers are quite willing and able to help for afordable fees. So hiring some influencers who the students would be more likely to trust (not recognise, but trust based on the platform and the metrics) to run a virtual workshop is a surprisingly economical approach.

Project Plan

The intervention will use co-creation techniques to produce lesson plans for four or five 40 minute sessions, to be used in school’s personal development sessions. A cohort of students (the ‘End Users’) will work through these lessons and we will pre and post test them to find out if there are any changes. 

The lesson plans will be developed by other students (the ‘Creators’) in co-creation sessions. These co-creation sessions will include 6-11 students each, and each will focus on a different topic around our target material.  Our guess of thumb is that one hour of co-creation might produce a 15 minute or so exercise for the wider cohort.  

Timelines

We’re intending to start co-creation sessions by the end of Febuary (we need to if we are going to get the results evaluated by the end of the school year), so we’re currently busy getting all our ducks in a row, recruting, doing lots of paperwork, and generally being on top of everything.

Okay, so we got a massive grant? Maybe?

Bit of an odd bit of news.

We’ve got a massive grant. We think. But every charity gets it. We think.

Let me start at the beginning.

We got this email:

This says that we are part of the Google Ad Grant. We had to jump through some hoops to get it, but it was relatively simple. I understood it would give us a few hundred pounds worth of ads to promote ourselves.

It turns out to be $10,000 worth of ads a month. A month.

We don’t know how to feel about this. On the one hand, $10,000 worth of ads and £2.70 will buy me a cup of hot chocolate – In my heart of hearts I don’t really believe that most advertising is effective, that we run the sort of projects that benefit from it, or even that we are a big enough organization to manage the process effectively. This grant won’t pay wages, help our end users or solve any sources of stress…

But… it is $10,000 a month. And maybe that’s advertising that helps us promote White Water Writers to schools, or Flowers for Turing to donors, maybe there really is value in raising our brand once it gets properly working. Maybe this is the start of a real opportunity to scale up the organization – more income, more staff, more projects. Maybe it will be worth it on the ego level – a few more blogs written about us, the odd newspaper article.

Right now I don’t know. A lot of me is excited about the opportunity, a small part of me resents there being yet another thing to learn about and manage. We’ll know soon enough. I’ve set up some test adds. The response hasn’t been overwhelming. So far I’ve had exactly one click:

…and got all my adverts banned because they appeared to be advertising a gambling site…

So, you know, I’ve probably got a long way to go…

Vitual Camps in Japan

This August we ran our first truly virtual White Water Writers camp with a group of Japanese students.

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The students were learning English as part of their degree (and I think were doing it in the evening after their classes, which is very hardcore). Their book is the wonderful Changed Daily Life, and is ready to buy now.

The camp went strangly smoothly (one of the harder parts was working out cool-down games: we settled on pictionary) and we’ll be talking to schools about how this style of delivery might work for them during the lockdown.

 

 

 

References

careers

In the last three years I’ve written 31 references for employers who are interested in employing one of my former White Water Writer camp leaders.  I’ve written effectively the same email/had the same conversation in all of those cases and it’s time to write it up so I can send future references to this page.

If someone has been a leader on one of my camps it means that they:

  • Attended at least one earlier camp as an assistant to learn what was happening and was signed off to learn on their own
  • Is completely trusted by me to work with young people and has been DBS checked.
  • Hasn’t been late. At all.
  • They have worked, for one week, in a school (or prison, but leader feedback indicated that the prison work is easier that some of the school work) with the same group of ten students. Sometimes these students are gifted and talented, sometimes they are last-chance-before-expulsion, I’ll tell you which in the reference.
  • The camp leader has worked with the students to get them to write a novel between them. I know you don’t believe this, that’s okay. The novels are published here. The important point is my leaders have to manage the energy levels, inspiration, and workload of the writers without having any power to sanction. It is an excellent introduction to any sort of school-based role.

In general, leaders have to be something special for me to use them more than, say, twice.
As a person, I prize integrity and timekeeping higher than perhaps I should, and that sometimes affects references.  I am, in general, unable to comment on my leaders’ subject knowledge and skills. Some of them fail to punctuate text messages at all well, and they are, as a group, generally late filing expenses.