I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes of Kate’s time recently to chat about all things social, winning the coveted Best Social CEO trophy last year, and being your authentic self. Grab a cuppa and enjoy.

Congratulations on your Social CEOs victory last year! You looked delighted on the night. What did winning Best Social CEO mean to you?

Thank you! I was thrilled – and really surprised – which I think was indicated by my garbled speech where I just said how chuffed I was and how proud my mum would be (she was!).  Quite simply it hadn’t occurred to me that I would win, I’ve followed the awards since they started – and used ‘The List’ as my ‘people to follow and learn from who clearly get social’. Kate Collins smiling holding her award

So to not only make ‘The List’ but to win felt very leftfield, especially in my first year as a Chief Executive when I felt I was finding my feet Chief Exec-ing. To get such positive feedback in an unprompted way from people who’d found value in something I was doing instinctively – my tweets are very much me – was a lovely thing. 

I have to say though that I got total tweet-fear about my first tweet after winning…suddenly it felt like pressure…until I just got on with thanking people for their lovely nominations and messages of congrats!

Why do you think you were nominated?

Having read the write up it seemed to be that people liked how I was sharing my enthusiasm and passion for not only the work of Teenage Cancer Trust but for the sector more broadly, especially the children & young people’s cancer charity sector where historically things haven’t been as collaborative as they are now. 

My approach is that there should be no difference between the Twitter-me (which is the channel I use, I’m not yet an Insta-adopter and am not a lover of LinkedIn… yuck!) and the in-person-me.  I’m wholehearted & energetic, I like people, I’m proud of my team, Teenage Cancer Trust supporters amaze me, the young people we support need us to do so much more and my family rock my world (and don’t take me too seriously) and that’s the stuff that inspires me to say things – whether in 280 characters or in person – and that seemed to be what people mentioned in their nominations.

You are judging this year – what will you be looking for in the nominations to help you make your decisions?

Well I am glad I am not the only judge as I think it will be tough to decide this year – I see a lot of people using social in a really smart and engaging way now.

Kate Collins, in conversation, laughingPersonally a big stand out for me will be people who are using social as a listening tool. Tuning in to the views of others as well as championing their views/voice. There are some bold leaders out there, using social to speak truth to power as well as share positivity and I am looking forward to learning from the nominations – what a luxury to get to see them all!  

I do suspect that some teams in bigger organisations get really organised now, trying to get their boss listed with lots of coordinated nominations so I won’t be looking for volume of nominations – for me it will be about content.  If one person has one nomination for doing something really engaging, really authentic and totally grounded in purpose and pushing boundaries then that is worth way more than a high volume of nominations where an organisation with the resources to have a comms team has got organised. 

Can you remember when and why you joined Twitter?

I can – and it was because I had to rather than because I was an early adopter!  The work of Teenage Cancer Trust – and more importantly the needs of young people with cancer – had been put into the national spotlight because of the phenomenal fundraising efforts of Stephen Sutton through his campaign ‘Stephen’s Story’ which inspired a huge wave of donations for our work back in 2014.  

Once the peak of Stephen’s Story had passed and we moved into sharing where the funds would help our work we became aware that there were some accounts on Twitter that seemed to be purporting to be me and were randomly sharing bits of erroneous information about cancer in young people and the charity.  Those accounts don’t exist now but they were the prompt for me to realise that you need to own your space, even if it doesn’t feel the most natural when you start. I simply decided I’d sign up and start to learn – and I haven’t looked back, it rapidly became a core element of how I lead and, most importantly, listen and learn.

What does being on social media add to your life – professionally and personally?

It does what it says on the tin – it’s a network.  It adds depth, connection and insight – and saves me time tussling with things when there will be generous, experienced people out there already sharing their knowledge and perspective but most importantly I try to use it to keep me connected to voices I don’t typically hear in other ways on a daily basis, whether that is our frontline teams in the NHS, young people, their parents or our supporters – the value is immense. 

On a personal note it never fails to top up my motivation and creativity when I see individuals and organisations doing such impactful work and sharing it every day… I do also love a dog video so those make me chuckle too!

Do you ever take a digital detox? (I have tried but usually fail miserably!)

I think the key is balance – Twitter can feel like you ‘have’ to be on it all the time but I tweet when the rhythm of my day gives me the space to do it.  I do check it at weekends and in the evenings because those are times when some of the people I need to connect with and listen to are likely to be active but it’s also important to remember that people really won’t notice if you take a break for a bit!  I always delete Twitter from my personal phone when I go on holiday with my family but that’s as far as I’ve got with switching off or detoxing….

Who are your must-follow accounts on Twitter?

There’s too many to pick just one – especially as it depends what it is you need to use Twitter to tune in to and listen to. Kate with Matt, Zoe and Simon BlakeI’d say start with the Top 25/Top 30 lists from previous Social CEO Awards and follow those – as well as the winners in all the categories – they are all doing things in the way that works for them. 

The approaches differ across people’s personalities and areas of work so some will resonate with you and some won’t – that’s fine.  Listen and tune in – retweet things you like or that have made you think (ideally say why!) and just get going… you’ll find your voice and how it works for you the more you do.

What would your advice be to any charity leader considering making the leap onto social media for the first time?

If someone told you there was a place you could go – for free – where you could become better connected to the voices you need to hear in real-time as well as able to learn from and deepen your network AND be a brilliant advocate for the work of your organisation then I bet you’d go there… that’s what social media can do so my advice would be just join in, listen, find your voice and crack on!

Nominations for the 2019 awards are open until midnight on 27th September so get nominating your social and digital superstars now!