Taking half a million members on a three-year journey

Keeping you all up to date with our journey towards a new programme has been our biggest challenge to date. Find out how we’ve embraced it from Membership Communications Officer Francesca

Francesca Brown
22 Feb 2017

Sharing our journey

Since I started working for Girlguiding we’ve worked with members to launch a new website, transformed guiding magazine and our e-newsletter, introduced a new Chief Guide, and supported countless other initiatives that needed to be communicated to our members. But announcing the widest changes to our programme in a generation might have been our biggest challenge as a Membership Communications team yet.

Transforming our programme will give you the support you need to deliver even better guiding in your units, so naturally we wanted to share the news with you as soon as we knew. However, while there are lots of exciting things to say right now, there will also be many more developments over the next three years.

We had to decide - how were we going to launch without every detail laid out? How could we update half a million members all at once? And how could we hold your interest and keep you involved over such a long time?

Some of you have been in contact to ask why we communicated the changes when we did, and in the way we did. Hopefully this will give you a little insight into the process.

Take off

Transforming the programme is exciting and new and we wanted to capture that. It’s also the sort of thing that can feel a bit abstract – especially as we hadn’t even started the process of creating activities and badges – but we wanted to give you a vision of what the new programme will mean for you in every day guiding.

Lots of people were involved in planning, writing and designing our communications – from volunteers based across the country, to other busy teams here in the Girlguiding office. It took some time to get it right, but once we had a plan we were all happy with, we could start telling you.

We let you know something was coming - you probably got tired of us telling you to check your details on Go! but we were worried you’d miss important updates if we didn’t have up to date contact details.

We gave Commissioners extra tools – before the big news hit your doormats, we prepared your local Commissioners and those in other key roles by sending special packs to them. They received a run-down of the plans, a sheet of frequently asked questions and videos to summarise what was happening.

We told Senior Section Leaders in advance - so they’d be ready to talk to the girls in their units about the changes affecting them once they found out.

We launched in guiding magazine – more of you read the magazine than any of our other communications and, as we were giving it a new look in November 2016, it was the perfect opportunity to tell you about programme changes in style.

We created resources for Unit Leaders – it’s not easy to explain to younger girls what transforming our programme means, so we created a work sheet, frequently asked questions, a video, and a special activity to help Leaders get their Rainbows, Brownies and Guides interested.

We made a web hub to answer all your questions - hopefully, when you have questions about programme changes you know to go straight to the Our journey web pages, where you can find everything that’s been decided on so far. It also holds all the launch videos, a timeline, opportunities to get involved and a specially designed page made with storytelling tool Shorthand.  

Our guiding principles

As we continue to write and create communications about the plans for our programme there are two main principles that we’re following.

1. We will be member and girl led

We make sure the project is led by girls and members by advertising all opportunities to get involved through our communications. Then, when you do get involved, we invite as many of you as possible to share your experiences.

We’ve set up a mailbox, [email protected], so that you can send us your questions. We’re using them to shape our future communications. We go through them every week to find themes, identify when we’ll know the answers over the next three years and map a response into our plans.

To help us make sure our content really meets our members’ needs, we’re constantly talking to and asking for help from Member Communications Lead Volunteer Tegan Jones and Programme Renewal Lead Volunteer Sally Illsley (also the Deputy Chief Guide), along with many others.

2. You’ll know as soon as we know

We communicate all decisions to all members as soon as they’re made and agreed, so that everyone can feel informed and follow the journey together at the same time.

However, to make sure Leaders are prepared to support girls through the changes, they've asked us to make sure we send updates in Discover, Grow slightly before we send YeSS or other emails to members of The Senior Section. We also aim not to share any major updates during UK school holidays so nobody misses out while they’re enjoying their break.

We understand it can be frustrating when sometimes we only have small snippets of information to share, but we decided it was best to announce anything we do know, when we do, so you can follow the developments as well as the result.

What’s next?

The Membership Communications team are loving the challenge of supporting this project. We find it really rewarding and helpful when members engage with us through the Our journey mailbox. We’re also delighted to see so many of you are reading the communications we’ve released to date.

As more detailed plans for the next three years are developed, we’re looking forward to finding more ways to share our journey in an engaging way.

Learn more about how we develop communications for projects across the charity

Consider joining our Readership or Youth Editors panel, to work with the Girlguiding Membership Communications team. For more about information email [email protected]

Email [email protected]