What struck me the most when sitting down with Mark Jordan, VP Brand Strategy & Chief Communications Officer at Kids Help Phone was his interest in me – his honest desire to LISTEN – a skills we don’t often see an abundance of in marketers.
His team at SickKids Foundation and again here at Kids Help Phone likely feel that every time they interact with Mark. His respect for all and desire for simplicity is at the core of his marketing decision making and it produces results. And is that not what direct response marketing is all about?
Now that He has had some “settling in time”, Mark’s leadership is beginning to re-shape the public face of Kids Help Phone and their marketing campaigns. Under his leadership marketing works as a single team, regardless of the campaigns you are accountable for. “The right hand has to know what the left hand is doing if the overall marketing direction is to be effective” states Mark. “Large or small, an organization cannot afford to create silos in their marketing efforts.”
More About Mark
“My career journey to date can probably be summed up in one word: non-linear. From my start in the industry at a small startup in Ottawa (incubated at Carleton University), to my work agency side (which has formed the bulk of my career to date), and now my work in the non-profit space – it hasn’t been a straight line “traditional” or “normal” journey (quotation marks intentional).
Some things have remained consistent throughout however. They are also things that I look at now and reflecting on them, I realize they are not only factors that have helped me along my journey, they are also critical in my opinion to the world of marketing and being a marketer in today’s world.
As marketers, we need to be curious. We need to constantly be learning. I consider myself a lifelong learner, and learning further fuels my curiosity. Being curious also means leaning into things that make you uncomfortable. It means actively listening. I see curiosity as the “top of the funnel” using marketing terms for any marketer.
Having a growth mindset, I feel is, like curiosity, table stakes in today’s world. Not just for marketers, but in any industry or business. Being open to new ideas. Being open to new ways of thinking and doing. Things are changing so quickly everywhere. If we want to lead, not follow, we have to be living with a growth mindset.
Comfort level with technology and data
When I first started out in the industry, people would react to my formal educational background, which is engineering. “A marketer who is an engineer? Interesting…”. Today, that comfort level with technology and data isn’t as much a question, it’s a mandatory. To be a marketer of any kind today, you have to be comfortable with technology and data, and not abdicate that comfort level to others (IT, Analytics teams, etc.).
Extreme comfort level with ambiguity
There are no playbooks anymore in marketing. Consumers are changing so quickly. The technology we use is changing even more quickly. Having an extreme comfort level with ambiguity is a quality we need as marketers. One of the most dangerous statements is “we’ve always done it this way”. Status quo doesn’t work.
You will note I didn’t list degree, background or skills in the above qualities. We are seeing more and more organizations leaning away from looking at specific degrees and skillsets as defaults for hiring. I see this as a strength. Marketing is so complex and so diverse today, that having people coming from different and diverse backgrounds only makes our teams, our strategy, our thinking, and our executions stronger.
Case studies/examples of work
- End-of-Year Campaign
Every year, Kids Help Phone, along with most of the rest of the charitable sector, runs an end-of-year campaign during the months of November & December. This past year (November & December 2018), the theme of the campaign was “Spark a Kids Courage”. We know it takes courage for a young person to reach out with the challenges and issues they are facing. We also know that if Kids Help Phone didn’t exist, and most recently our texting service, 80% of young people would have done nothing at all (hoping their issue would go away). https://kidshelpphone.ca/get-involved/spark-kids-courage/
The campaign was rooted in digital, with the following components:
- a video (Real Kids, Real Quotes) as a core asset that was promoted in social, as well as used as a PSA across Shaw, TSN, and Landmark Cinemas
- Kidshelpphone.ca homepage and custom landing page presence
- Targeted emails (a series of 10 emails over the course of the campaign)
- Digital ads, AdWords, organic social media targeted to current and prospective supporters
- Corporate support from: Marshall’s, NHLPA and Hockey Canada (NHLPA & Hockey Canada provided a matching gift for Giving Tuesday as well as digital presence)
- A custom content and Facebook LIVE event in partnership with Ehm & Co.
The campaign contributed to an overall increase in our annual giving revenue (first time and monthly donors) of 12% vs plan. We also saw a 200% increase year-over-year in our Giving Tuesday revenue.
- Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone National Launch
In February 2018, Kids Help Phone piloted a new texting service, Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone. The service itself is a partnership with Crisis Text Line, a 5 year-old startup based in the US that has amassed over 88 Million text conversations in their 5-year history.
The Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone service pilot took place in Manitoba. The goal was to see if we could accumulate 5,000 texting conversations to learn and optimize the platform and the rollout.
Of note, the platform is deeply rooted in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning which helps not only triage conversations, but also inform trends related to conversation topics.
Also of note is the online-based Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone platform is powered by crisis response volunteers, overseen by trained professional supervisors, allowing us to significantly spread and scale our service offering, and do that in a nimble and agile way.
To illustrate this nimbleness, what ended up happening is a series of events caused us to expand our initial pilot. The first being the Humboldt bus tragedy in April 2018. Within 24 hrs, in response to that tragedy, we opened up texting to Saskatchewan and Alberta. And we saw the response. Young people were texting in with issues and concerns about topics related to the crash (anxious about going on a team or school bus trip for example).
The second event was a series of high profile suicides in Nunavut, some of which impacted one of our National Youth Council members directly and personally. Again, within 24 hrs, we opened up texting to the community of Nunavut. One of the learnings was how important texting was in particular to remote communities such as our Indigenous populations. Because of the lack of infrastructure and connectivity, texting can be the only mode that young people in those communities have to outside support.
National Campaign & Campaign elements
On November 6th, we rolled out Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone nationally, in English and French.
The National rollout campaign consisted of:
- National and regional PR push (which achieved over 65 Million impressions)
- Digital ads (Facebook and Instagram) targeting our texting demographic
- AdWords (both paid and Grant-based)
- Email outreach, including a digital toolkit for key community partners
At the time of the National launch on November 6th, we had taken approximately 13,000 texting conversations (averaging approximately 100-150/day).
Since launch (and as of December 31st, 2018), our team of now over 850 trained volunteer crisis responders received over 40,000 texting conversations (averaging 500 conversations/day – a 5-fold increase since the end of the pilot). We also saw 1-2 active rescues (an active rescue being a situation where we keep a young person deemed at high risk engaged in a texting conversation while we help deploy emergency response personnel).
NOTE: As of the writing of this, we have surpassed 50,000 texting conversations, and have another 1,000 crisis responders in the queue for training.
Take a listen to a brief talk he recently gave at a Marketing TO event. Where he talks about people and how culture and people affect brand: