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Our team: The Scout Association

5 November 2012

Gail Scott Spicer, the Scout Association’s director of marketing and communications tells us what life is like for its comms team.

How many comms staff are there working at your charity?

There are about 40 communications staff with over 200 staff in total at the organisation. The team is based at HQ in the middle of Epping Forest. Our building is modern and it sits in grounds full of history. In the summer, kids camp here and take part in lots of activities – it’s great to see our beneficiaries.

What does the comms team do?

The Marketing and Comms Directorate is broken into five areas.

Our digital and volunteers communications team lead all our content output across print and digital; we have in-house editors and designers as well as outsourcing work. This team also manages the messaging and scheduling of comms with our 100,000 volunteers, and our digital presence, external and internal. This is our largest team with just under 20 posts.

The next largest team, with 11 posts, is Fundraising and Marketing. Our fundraising team focuses largely on corporate relations, trusts and foundations, and major donors. The marketing team delivers promotions for our retail subsidiary and perception-challenging content, such as our Expect More TV and viral campaign Our brand advisor is the champion, developer and guardian of the brand.

We have separate Media Relations and Public Affairs teams. The Media Relations team undertakes a lot of proactive and reactive coverage – we have had great opportunities to showcase community Scouting through the Olympic torch relays and the Paralympic flame lighting recently. Sadly the team does occasionally have to go into crisis management mode too. Together they both support young people to be our spokespeople and to tell their stories and show the impact of Scouting to opinion formers. We also have the support of an external agency.

Lastly, but by no means least, we have our sole staff member who leads our Ambassadorial and VIP liaison. She works closely with our current ambassadors, like Lord Seb Coe, Chris Evans, Julia Bradbury, and Ian Hislop, and engages new people to work with us. She recently led our Birthday Badge awards to people including Steve Backshall, Frank Skinner and Miranda Hart, and worked with a leading British designer who created a new clothing range for Muslim Scouts.

What's been your biggest achievement as a comms team so far?

The team has won awards as a whole as well as for individual aspects of work. I think this is the key to great communications – to be integrated, to work closely together and deliver seamless comms across all channels and audiences. There have been so many individually great campaigns and activities – one which directly impacted our beneficiaries was a campaign against water companies whose charges to groups were increasing so dramatically that the groups would be put out of business. We made a lot of noise, Parliament got behind our campaign, and the water companies changed their charges.

What's in the pipe-line over the next year?

We are looking at how to build on the great success of our TV and viral campaign by producing a new film to move perceptions of Scouting further forward. We move into year two of Scout Community Week in 2013. Our UK-wide fundraising initiative, supported by B&Q, helps Scouts “do 1 thing” to have an impact on their community. HRH The Duchess of Cambridge is a Scout volunteer and she will be advocating for others to volunteer over the next year – with a lot of work for the team to maximise that unique opportunity.. And there’s lots more!

What do you see as your biggest comms challenge?

We are blessed with a really high awareness of our charity – I know a lot of comms professionals would be envious of that. But there is always a flip side of success – for us it’s that the public don’t see Scouting as modern or relevant to today’s society– such a shame, as it really is both! This is our biggest comms challenge.

What's it like in your office?

We all sit within earshot of each other – though we try not to yell across to each other! That helps with joining up our comms and making the most of each opportunity, as well as helping each other spot trip hazards. Some days there are loud upbeat debates about something emotive, other days everyone has their head down quietly focused on the job at hand – each day is different and we all try to get out of the office to work with kids and the volunteers as much as we can. We also have an on-site canteen, so lunch is a great time to chat about each others’ weekends or the latest celebrity gossip.


Gail Scott-Spicer

Chief executive, Carers Trust

Gail Scott-Spicer is the newly appointed chief executive of the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, a dynamic organisation which trains retired, world-class athletes to mentor disadvantaged young people, helping them to transform their lives.

She is an experienced chief executive, having led Carers Trust, a national organisation for unpaid carers, through a strategic re-positioning to meet growing demand in the face of diminishing financial resources.

Gail has a strong background in communications, policy and organisational leadership. She led the rebrand for the merger that created Catch 22, the youth services delivery charity, and as director of marketing and communications for The Scout Association improved perceptions of the charity’s relevance.

Gail understands the governance issues facing charities from all angles. She is deputy chair of the Money Advice Trust and vice chair at CharityComms. She has recently joined Charity Bank as an advisory panel member, and was formerly an advisor to the Department of Health on its carers strategy.