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How COVID-19 helped MSF enter the world of chatbots


Oct 29, 2023


Nick Scott, Head of Digital at MSF Spain, writes about how the organisation had nice success with the implementation of chatbots because the COVID-19 pandemic unfold internationally. Together with Toni Matas, director at Persualia, Nick spoke about their expertise at #FRO2021 from The Useful resource Alliance.

Hand holding a mobile cell phone displaying an image of a chatbot conversation

In March final yr, our world modified from sooner or later to the subsequent. At MSF Spain, we knew that the lives of our confined audiences had modified massively. Their days lived on-line. Work on-line. Faculty on-line. Even events on-line.

It was an opportunity for us to strive a brand new advertising and marketing technique: inbound advertising and marketing.

COVID-19 would require us to launch digital-only advertising and marketing campaigns. Most of those can be campaigns based mostly on interruption via advertisements, through which communication with a possible donor was fast, and the response we sought – a donation – was rapid. And we knew they’d work, as a result of emergency campaigns do work properly on digital. There’s urgency, the problem is well-known, and the necessity is obvious.

However there was additionally a possibility to strive one thing completely different. For the primary time ever, the factor that almost all pursuits MSF – medical-humanitarian motion – was additionally the factor that a majority of individuals in Spain. These have been individuals who have been residing via a medical-humanitarian emergency in their very own nation, and these shared pursuits are the core of sturdy communication.

4 days after the primary lockdown was carried out, we acquired one thing sudden by e-mail. It was an inner doc, containing a sequence of suggestions to assist employees handle their emotional and psychological well being within the face of the pandemic.

With the arrival of this doc, we noticed a novel alternative. We already knew that psychological well being was a key theme for our audiences. A sequence of movies we’d launched providing recommendation on psychological well being in a pandemic was getting attain we hardly ever noticed with our content material, being seen by tons of of hundreds of individuals. We noticed the chance to create a marketing campaign that doesn’t ask for one thing however fairly gives  it. A marketing campaign that doesn’t chase, however attracts.

An opportunity to strive a brand new software: chatbots

We additionally had an opportunity to check a brand new kind of channel that we knew had the capability to be extremely partaking: chatbots. We have been already in negotiations with an company that specialised within the space of chatbots and conversational advertising and marketing and had been satisfied of their potential. Why chatbots?

  • They’re very versatile. You should utilize them to adapt to the wants and responses of every person with completely different journeys, and work with completely different aims with every chatbot (consciousness, engagement, conversion, and many others.)
  • Customers perceive the chat format. Chatbots really feel much like broadly used instruments like WhatsApp and, in contrast to with touchdown pages, customers solely need to course of one piece of data at a time when partaking with them
  • They’re extremely optimisable. Each click on is a knowledge level. It’s straightforward to know the place individuals are being engaged and the place they aren’t with the intention to shortly and simply adapt and alter each piece of textual content and each level of interplay
  • They’ll include many types of media and content material. Customers don’t want to go away the chatbot to expertise every part from textual content and video to video games, information seize, and extra
Introducing our chatbot for psychological well being in lockdown

We launched our chatbot firstly of April in 2020. The “bot” was truly one in all our workforce members: Maria Cecilia from our psychological assist unit – we even included her image to reassure customers and make the expertise really feel private. The content material she delivered was based mostly on MSF’s inner psychological well being assist doc, however rewritten as a sequence of tales within the punchy conversational textual content type of chatbots. It supplied recommendation on eight potential types of emotional stress, with a number of illustrations to interrupt up the textual content and produce it to life.

Moreover, we created a downloadable lockdown package that supplied recommendation and steerage based mostly on the ideas contained inside the chatbot expertise, together with different sources. Customers who give their contact particulars to obtain the package are registered for a follow-up e-mail journey, which is the inbound advertising and marketing a part of the equation. Those that gave their particulars have been additionally given an outline of MSF’s operations and the possibility to make a direct distinction by donating to assist the battle in opposition to COVID-19.

We added the newly-created chatbot to our coronavirus internet pages. Attributable to their excessive rating in Google for the search phrases “epidemic” and “coronavirus”, these pages have been receiving hundreds of distinctive guests each day, guaranteeing sturdy preliminary engagement with the chatbot. We additionally posted in regards to the bot on our social media channels, realizing we may anticipate enormous attain on any content material referring to psychological well being and COVID-19.

Along with e-mail advertising and marketing, we additionally developed Fb advertisements to advertise the chatbot and attain an viewers past our most conventional supporter base. Throughout the first three weeks, we achieved very promising outcomes:

  • Over 100,000 arrived on the level of first interplay
  • 71,000 noticed one of many emotional suggestions
  • 7,700 leads (2,000 exterior Spain)
  • 78 donors (€3,350 donated)
  • 33 common donors

One of many bot’s best successes was WhatsApp, the place it was shared tens of hundreds of instances. On one event, a message despatched by me and one other member of my workforce to highschool dad and mom teams on WhatsApp went around the globe; hundreds of individuals from Guatemala and Mexico have been reached by forwarded messages. Months later, we heard from our psychological assist workforce that we’d had sufferers from a centre in Guatemala congratulate our medical doctors on the chatbot!

The chatbot has since been tailored into completely different languages and contexts. However, as lockdown has change into much less strict and the viewers utilizing the unique bot in Spanish has dropped, the price of advertisements has continued to rise. So, we have now continued to optimise and now must revisit our technique to plan how we are going to use the bot in an always-on approach, in a time when COVID-19 won’t be such an element.

A primary (of many) forays into the world of chatbots

In our digital response to COVID-19, we didn’t cease at only one chatbot. Throughout 2020, we went a bit of chatbot-crazy, releasing a number of bots to satisfy quite a lot of completely different aims: peer-to-peer fundraising, engagement, recruitment, common donor acquisition, and extra. Throughout our discuss at #FRO2021, we talked delegates via the seven superpowers of chatbots and the way MSF Spain employed each to check this newest software in our arsenal.

Throughout the pandemic, nonprofits and charitable organisations around the globe have made enormous modifications to how they elevate funds and have interaction with donors. Learn how UNICEF stepped up its donor retention efforts because the coronavirus took maintain.


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