Building The Community: An Interview With Gemma Collins-Ellis, Bliss

Erin Niimi Longhurst
13 Sep 2017

Social media is all about community, and building a dialogue and a relationship with your beneficiaries and supporters. Here’s how Bliss uses social media to communicate with their audience.

For those who have had a baby born premature or sick, it can be an extremely distressing and isolating experience – so finding a community of support and advice can be extremely comforting. Over 95,000 babies are born premature or sick and in need of neonatal care in the UK each year. That’s 1 in 8 babies, or around 270 babies every day.

Bliss exists to give exists to give every baby born premature or sick in the UK the best chance of survival and quality of life. They champion their right to receive the best care by supporting families, campaigning for change and supporting professionals, and enabling life-changing research.

Social media plays a large part in helping Bliss better engage their supporters and beneficiaries. We spoke to Gemma Collins-Ellis, Senior Communications Officer, about how they make it work for them, and what advice they’d give other organisations.

Erin Niimi Longhurst: What role does social media play in helping Bliss meet their objectives?

Gemma Collins-Ellis: A huge part! Facebook, in particular, is often how parents find us when they on the neonatal unit and after they have gone home. Social media is our shopfront, showcasing our work, our events and our brand. It’s also a meeting place for people who’ve had a neonatal experience, allowing them to connect and support each other.

We use social media as a research tool and have established a relationship where our audience expects us to ask them about their experiences to help strengthen our campaigns for babies. Location and interest-based targeting make this more effective too.

Finally, Bliss’ aim is to reach every baby in neonatal care that needs us. Social media allows us to speak to those families who don’t want to engage with our printed information on neonatal units and who need information in a less formal and more accessible format.

ENL: Bliss helps babies that are born premature or sick – an extremely delicate subject. How does the digital team approach engaging an audience on social media?

GCE: Our digital team really understand the issues faced by the families of premature and sick babies, and by the healthcare professionals caring for them. The most important thing is to be mindful of the variety of experiences out there – every baby and every family has a unique set of circumstances and our content and messages need to reflect that.

Our team try to acknowledge the reality of having a baby in neonatal care, whether that’s never being able to take your newborn baby home or watching them overcome enormous challenges. We mostly do this through case study stories which allow families to speak for themselves and share their personal experience.

ENL: What have been some of the biggest successes on social media for Bliss?

GCE: Video content is always very popular on Facebook – especially informational content. Our weekly parent blog posts also have a big following. There is a real sense of community with people sharing their own experiences and leaving messages of support for the writer.

We also recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on social which did really well. We think our audience liked that it was something new for Bliss and that they could follow the progress towards the target. And another slightly silly, example is a recent survey to name our new teddy bears was proved really popular too. It was a different way of engaging our followers and, again, they were able to follow the story and see the result. The winning names for the cuddle pair were Scuby (after the special care baby unit) and Inky (after incubators).

Finally, the post promoting the launch of our partnership with Pampers got a lot of engagement. It was about Pampers’ new nappy which was specially designed for premature babies and will be given free to neonatal units. This is just a good example of relevant content doing well.

ENL: What types of content does the audience respond to the most?

GCE: Our audience love real-life stories. We get a lot of engagement from content that is relatable and that people can see themselves in. Uplifting photos, such as babies going home from the hospital or having their first cuddle, are also very popular on Instagram (for good reason!).

Our audience also love opportunities to get involved and help shape neonatal care and improve other parents’ experiences. This might include getting involved with research, surveys for reports, and sharing their thoughts and feedback.

ENL: Through initiatives like Little Bliss, your organisation tells the stories from your supporters and beneficiaries incredibly well. What advice would you give other organisations looking to harness powerful stories in a similar way?


  • Speak to as many stakeholders as possible – everyone has a story to tell about why they care about your cause.
  • Let people speak for themselves and talk about their experience in their own words.
  • However, it can be beneficial to ask people to talk about a certain topic to give them a focus.
  • Use different formats to tell stories – such as video, picture series, Q&As, short quotes and long blogs.
  • But try to create some consistency so that your reader knows what to expect (for example, publishing certain types of stories on certain days of the week).
  • Always ask your case study why your charity is important to them, and why they have chosen to support you (even if they weren’t helped by you there might be something about your work that they love).
  • Feature real life photos (even selfies are okay).
  • Try to represent as many different experiences as you can and ask for stories from underrepresented groups.
  • Try not to shy away from sensitive issues – if it’s real and it’s relevant to your cause then talk about it.
  • Weave stories into the content on your website where possible to bring it to life.

Find out more about how you can succeed on social with our fun and useful guides! Join the Lightful Community today for lots of useful goodies.

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