Polly Neate, CEO of Women’s Aid
When I started tweeting I couldn’t imagine how my deep and profound thoughts could possibly be conveyed in just 140 characters (arrogance is hardly unknown among charity CEOs is it?).
Seriously, it shows how far I’ve come that a few months ago, when Twitter mooted the idea of unlimited characters, I felt this would mean Twitter no longer had any place in my life.
Less is more. A good tweet is a “thing” in itself, not a cut down version of something you’d prefer to say at great length. If you must have complexity, loads of detail, or cover off every side to an argument, do it somewhere else.
We need leaders who convey their values
We are living in uncertain times: it’s the cliché of the year because it’s true. That means charity beneficiaries, staff and stakeholders need leaders who convey their values in all they do, and who communicate authentically and clearly.
Public trust in charities – and in charity CEOs specifically – is suffering. Frankly, I’m not surprised. We should be out there in public, accountable, showing what we do, giving an approachable face to our organisations.
Dealing with criticism
This doesn’t mean put your whole life on Twitter. I don’t. It doesn’t mean you always have to engage with those who disagree.
But if you can’t deal with the inevitable level of inappropriately worded criticism (as opposed to abuse, which you can report) then you probably aren’t ready for Twitter. And are you ready to run a charity?
Connecting with our audience
I knew my organisation needed me to tweet when I started this job. But the benefits are far greater than I expected. I’ve engaged with, and even met in real life in some cases, a supportive, funny, clever group of feminists without whom I would undoubtedly be worse at what I do.
Twitter has given me a platform to learn from and share ideas with survivors of domestic abuse – and if they are brave enough for Twitter after what they’ve been through, there’s little excuse for anyone else. I’ve “met”, and then actually met, many people who have helped Women’s Aid in ways from funding to policy to campaigning to advice on everything under the sun.
Social media takes time
It does take time, which is something I know worries a lot of CEOs. I guess my view is that this job is bonkers anyway. And this is important, so you have to fit it in.
Twitter has taken over from the Today Programme as my main morning companion (you can get the running order on Twitter just in case), and I tweet away while drinking my tea, between waking and the onset of parental duties.
A popularity contest?
The other objection I’ve heard from fellow CEOs is that Twitter is a shallow popularity contest. If you’re advertising yourself as a feminist, a cyclist and a charity CEO (see @pollyn1), popularity can’t worry you that much. We’re not paid to be popular, are we?
But we are paid to be the approachable, honest face of our organisation, driven by its values. In 2016, I’d say one inescapable channel for that is Twitter.