Newsmaker: Multi-channel master Jack Lundie takes on comms at troubled Oxfam

As Oxfam moves to reverse falling revenues, Save the Children's Jack Lundie is stepping in to head up a reshaped communications operation.

Jack Lundie: soon to start as Oxfam communications director
Jack Lundie: soon to start as Oxfam communications director

Lundie will take the role of director of communications, reporting to Oxfam CEO Mark Goldring, who has been trying to reverse a £17.6m drop in revenue last year with a major restructure in a bid to save £7.5m. This included cutting the communications team from 80 to 55.

Institute of Fundraising trustee Stephen Pidgeon argues unclear thinking in Oxfam’s communications strategy was partly to blame for its problems, claiming recent moves to redefine a "powerful" brand were misguided. 

He says: "While this was happening it took its eye off the ball and fundraising dropped. There was some very unclear thinking."

Lundie’s arrival next month, Pidgeon adds, is part of assembling a highly skilled team to get the charity back on track.

It is not just Oxfam experiencing tough times, argues Forster Communications’ Peter Gilheany, who says a downturn in donations coupled with austerity cuts has led to difficulties across the voluntary sector. 

"This is part of a broader move in the charities sector to rationalise and move to a more integrated communications approach," he explains.

"Often charities have grown organically and have a siloed approach. Charities are seeing reduced statutory funding and they are all pursuing parts of the same pie, so they all realise they need to get their communications working harder."

This is where Lundie, whose background also includes stints at the BBC and Comic Relief, steps in. 

At Save the Children, multi-channel campaigns overseen by Lundie included the recent Save Syria’s Children campaign centring around the YouTube video "Most Shocking Second A Day".

The video, which shows how a child’s life is devastated by a civil war taking place in the UK, has had more than 23 million views since its launch one week ago.

Lundie embraces the role of integrated communications, saying: "It is the content and the use of multiple channels – owned, earned and bought – that has seen Save the Children’s cause re-emerge over the past few years, with brand awareness rising over 200 per cent in that time."

Not that multi-channel savvy will be all that is required – simplifying Oxfam's message will also be key.  

Outgoing Oxfam director of communications Sarah Ireland, now moving to a non-communications internal role at Oxfam, has overseen the reorganisation of the charity’s communications team.

Stating that the aims of the new communications operation are to be more focused and achieve greater cut-through, she nevertheless admits: "We’re a big organisation with a lot to say, but our messages may not have been clear in the past." 

Developing this clarity will be fraught with difficulty, warn Linstock Communications MD Jon Bennett.

"A major brand like Oxfam not only has to deal with its own constituency but inevitably gets drawn into big debates affecting the sector as a whole," he says.

"The reality is that complex organisations getting value for that pound need to run quality systems and employ quality people. That costs money and it’s not easy to communicate."

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