On Saturday my husband sets off on a week-long, 109-mile walk to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. The preparations have been going on for some months now, covering everything from choosing the route to booking accommodation, setting a fundraising target and packing his rucksack with all the essentials. He has also had to tell people about what he’s doing.
Being a football fan, he decided to build the walk around a local club, Maidenhead United, starting from one of their away games and ending up the following weekend at a home fixture. The club have been a fantastic support and have helped him to promote the walk and spread the word. He has also, of course, been updating friends and family about the trip. Telling people what’s going on has been so successful that he has already secured nearly 150% of his initial fundraising target before he has even put on his walking boots.
He has never undertaken anything like this before, so I asked him what this experience has taught him about communication. His top 3 lessons were:
Word of mouth is a powerful communication tool.
Initially he told a few people about his plans, including close friends and family and a contact at Maidenhead United. People were interested in what he was going to do and were able to introduce him to others who were also keen to know more. This network of connections grew and spread the details more quickly than he would have been able to do on his own.
Online channels work well for groups with common interest.
Although he had never used Twitter before taking on this challenge, he was already an active member of online football discussion boards. He has been surprised by how many people he has never met, but who have a connection to him and his story through Maidenhead United or football more generally, have taken the time to respond, retweet and even sponsor him.
A good story captures people’s interest.
The consistent thread throughout all the communication that he and others have done is that he is walking a long way to raise money for a great cause. The football connection and the fact that he has a personal reason to support Macmillan are details that add extra layers of human interest. Being interviewed by a journalist from the local newspaper, the Maidenhead Advertiser, was another new – and somewhat disconcerting – experience, but it led to a pitch-perfect telling of the story that has reached out to a yet wider audience.
I am very proud of my husband for taking on this challenge. Our 9-year-old and I will be joining him for a day of walking and we’ll be there to cheer and celebrate at the end. He will also be accompanied at the end by a 7-foot magpie, Maidenhead United’s mascot Yorkie – something else to chalk up to experience!
If you would like to follow the story as it unfolds, you can follow @tristanswalk on Twitter.
Until next time