Wouldn’t it be great if as soon as you’ve secured funding for your programme and that as soon as you announce the project, prospective users come looking for the support or information on offer, and in high enough volume to ensure that you can reach your outputs without you having to worry?

And then feel secure in the knowledge that you’re making the biggest difference to your end users, even those hard-to-reach people who are furthest away from the job market or the super busy business owners who are occupied keeping their business afloat and safeguarding job in these tough economic conditions, all the while ensuring that the impact of Brexit is minimised within their business.

I’m Caroline Thomas and I’ve been marketing public sector funded programmes since 2012. In that time, I’ve worked on many different projects. From writing the marketing strategy for programmes, to running marketing campaigns to prove concept of programmes so that they can secure further funding, to the initial launch of a programme soon after funding has been approved, along with being called in to help secure outputs towards the end of a programme with only a few months left to achieve outputs. I’ve also trained council and LEP teams on how to use digital marketing to maximise results in-house when budgets haven’t allowed for outsourcing.

I’ve worked on projects for skills, business engagement, Mid-Life MOT and Low Carbon Business, with funding from DWP and ERDF.

I’ve seen a lot change in that time and have a thorough understanding of how digital marketing plays its part in helping you to achieve your outputs, whether they be getting young people to apply for apprenticeships, getting businesses to apply for match funded grants to lower their carbon emissions, engage with businesses to take up their 12 hours of support, encourage Mid-Lifer’s to take an MOT on their health, money and work and any other outputs you need.

The case for using digital marketing for your programme.

First, let’s cover off the difference between comms and marketing. Comms focuses on conveying a message, getting that to be seen and heard by your ideal audience, but it doesn’t SELL your programme to the SMEs, Corporates or individual users who can benefit the most. It simply puts it on their radar.

Wait, what? I mentioned the selling word.

You may be thinking that you don’t need to ‘sell’ your programme or project to the people who need it the most, but the truth is that you need to provide your ideal programme/project beneficiary with a call to action, here’s a few examples of calls to action that you might want people to take to benefit from your programme or project:

· Sign up for this webinar

· Come along to this event

· Check out all of these job vacancies close to you

· Discover all the different apprenticeships in your local area

· Take a look at how your business can lower its carbon footprint AND get funding to do so.

· Book a call

There are literally hundreds of calls to action that you could use.

But your ideal user/SME isn’t going to take that call to action, without knowing what the benefit to them is. They might now know about your programme due to the excellent work of your comms teams, but to get them engaged they need to know why they should participate.

That’s where digital marketing comes in.

It provides your ideal audience with compelling, irresistible benefits of engaging with your programme, with a strong call to action, so that they can easily ‘sign-up’, engage or ask more.

Digital marketing provides you with a way of getting your calls to action for your programme(s) in front of your target user audience via the means of the internet, whether that be a website, social media, webinar, blogs, podcasts or email marketing. It can be used to attract your target user audience directly or to engage with stakeholders and influencers to amplify and distribute your marketing messages.

You will most probably have a portal or website or website page to promote your programme and will have spent time (or need to) creating great content that can support the users of your programmes, and but you’ll also know or realise that launching a new portal, website or webpage can often met with crickets and low visitor numbers, making it difficult for your prospective users/beneficiaries to find the portal or website and to request support or more information.

Whilst there’s always stakeholders (for example, your local growth hub) who can support you in reaching your audience with their contacts (with the relevant GDPR permissions of course), as well as well-known business support organisations such as the Chambers of Commerce or FSB, the fact remains that you become reliant on your prospective users opening emails from those organisations to discover your programme/project and how they can engage with the support available. And email open rates are getting lower and lower.

Of course, local and national press coverage, radio soundbites and TV can also make a big difference in who can find out about your programme, but less and less people are consuming information in that way as behaviour has changed so much over the years!

A lot of TV is consumed ‘on demand’, more and more people are watching what they want on Netflix and Amazon Prime for example and watch far less ‘traditional TV schedules’ meaning people watch less news, and if they do, they may only watch the section that they want to know more about by accessing YouTube (another massive ‘on demand’ source of information).

Whilst local radio remains popular as a news source, again, behaviour is switching to ‘on demand’ and podcasts are growing in popularity, meaning that people may miss your sound bites about your programme.

Local press is available both on and offline and gives you access to be able to reach your prospective users, but there’s no way of measuring how much reach that gives your marketing messages (and online local news sites as so often littered with advertising, it can distract from the key messages), nor whether people have actually seen your article in printed press.

I’m not ruling out any of the above at all, on the contrary, they all need to be a part of your marketing toolkit to reach the widest audience possible, but in order to maximise the reach of your marketing messages to engage people in your programme, digital marketing extends your reach even further, and certainly makes a huge impact in engagement levels for your hard-to-reach/engage audiences.

And digital marketing doesn’t only help you reach more people with compelling calls to action to engage in your programme, it can give you so much more:

Demographic insights:

You’ll be able to discover where your prospective businesses or users are based geographically and find out what age range are engaging most with the information that you are posting, and learn what profile the key decision makers have (ie job roles or sectors).

Inform decisions and strategy:

You’ll be able to see use analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Social Media platform analytics and email open rates to learn which messaging gets the best results, which pages on your portal or website prospective users read the most and who (demographics) is most interested in your programme. This can inform ongoing marketing messages throughout the programme and help you to create future content that gets the best results, inform your strategy (where to invest most effort to get the best results) and even help you with reporting for your outputs that you may not have been able to gather in other ways.

Real time information:

The best part of all of this, is that it will give you real-time information. Imagine running a skills programme and finding that the majority of the users engaging with your messages are over 55+; it can inform the support most needed, where to invest more time and resource and focus. Or imagine that a particular geographical location is responding more to your business support funding programme, or a particular industry sector. Reports that you may have built your initial funding requests on may have been a year or two old; knowing day by day, week by week, month by month that you have interested prospective programme users in specific areas/demographics/sectors keeps you focused on achieving the outputs needed for your programme.

And finally, one thing we absolutely cannot ignore in the case for using digital marketing to promote your programme or project is protecting the reputation of the programme, your council, your LEP, your stakeholders, and everyone involved in the delivery of the programme.

We’ve all heard horror stories of online trolls.

Wikipedia’s definition of a troll is a person who starts flame wars or intentionally upsets people on the Internet. This is typically done by posting inflammatory and digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newgroup, social media or blog), with the internet of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses and normalising tangential discussion. This is typically for the troll’s amusement, or to achieve a specific result such as disrupting a rival’s online activities or manipulating a political process. Both the noun and the verb forms of “troll” are associated with Internet discourse.

It’s easy to be naïve and think that trolls won’t be interested in anything positive that can help individuals or businesses; on the contrary, at times this makes them even more determined to ‘bring everyone down’ to their negative level and stop people from accessing the support that they need and can benefit from.

Let’s take a look at an example of a skills site, promoting jobs in a local area.

You’d think that no troll could find anything negative to say regarding that. Oh no! In this instance, it could be someone who is a long way from the job market, struggling to find employment in these tough economic times, with lots of time on their hands, that wants everyone to feel as rubbish as they do. So, they’ll argue that the number of jobs displayed on your portal is incorrect or ‘all lies’, that it’s only full of courses or low-paid apprenticeships (they haven’t used the search function correctly), that certain sectors whilst having significant employment opportunities receive thousands of applications per vacancy so why bother?

Or another example; this time of 12 hours of business support. They’ll make comments such as the courses/webinars don’t work, that the advisors don’t know what they’re talking about because they’ve never been in business themselves, that the topic for support won’t make any difference to the business… they’ll use any comments that they can think of to plant a seed of doubt in the mind of the people who will benefit from the support your programme offers.

Most trolls use ‘fake profiles’, they certainly will not reveal their true identity.

Whilst we like to think that our prospective programme users will ignore the troll’s comments, sadly it’s not the case, especially if the trolls are ‘pressing the buttons’ of your prospective programme users, for example, someone who feels that there is too much competition for a job, and so maybe they won’t consider applying at all because they feel like there’s no way they are going to be successful.

We can most often find troll behaviour in the comments section of online press articles, and whilst this has less impact to your programme than something that’s posted directly onto your own digital channels such as your website/portal or social media platforms for your programme, they do have a negative impact on those considering engaging in your programme, and it’s harder to manage on your own platforms unless you have a strategy to deal with negative comments.

There is, however, a lot that you can do to protect the online reputation and integrity of your programme and to prevent trolls from negatively influencing people considering engaging in your programmes.


Digital marketing will make a huge impact in reaching your output goals, by focusing specific compelling key messages/invitations to participate at specific audiences who are most likely to benefit from your programme.

Interested in finding out more?

A 15 minute conversation with us to discuss your output goals and how digital marketing will help you to achieve those output goals costs you nothing!

Simply call our friendly team on 01245 791969 or drop us an email to

[email protected] to arrange a confidential chat.

The Social Accelerators, founded by Caroline Thomas in 2010 advises clients around the UK on strategic marketing of your public sector funded programme.

Her firm designs and runs digital marketing campaigns that get the results you need across social media, websites and email campaigns.