Navigating success – Our journey with Media Trust and John Lyon’s Communications Capacity Building Programme

Posted 14 December 2023

Based on the historic Regent's Canal, The Pirate Castle is a community boating charity, with Kal Webb at the helm of fundraising and business development. Having received previous support from Media Trust, Kal took part in our John Lyon’s Communications Capacity Building Programme to help improve their in-house expertise and boost their online presence.

Here at The Pirate Castle, we’ve been flying the flag for opportunity and adventure in London since 1966. Our community boating charity promotes learning, life chances and healthy living through a raft of paddlesport (kayaking, canoeing and bell-boating), canal boating, training and volunteer initiatives. 

We want to tackle disadvantage, challenge exclusion and support the more vulnerable members of our community through all that we do. We seek to narrow the outcomes gap by giving people an equal chance to discover London’s waterways, gain skills, make connections and improve their health, wellbeing and prospects through rewarding activities, regardless of their background or circumstances. 

Setting sail with Media Trust 

Our journey with Media Trust began in 2017 when we applied for the Media Trust Films programme, following a recommendation from John Lyon’s Charity, which has been supporting us since 1992. We were matched with an amazing volunteer filmmaker, who took time to learn about our cause, what we do and worked flexibly with us to create a stunning short film, which perfectly captured our service users’ love for canal boating and paddlesport on the Regent’s Canal. To this day, the film still looks fresh and is featured on our website, social media, funding pitches, open days and introductions to potential clients.    

In the years since, our main challenge has been our lack of in-house skills, time, and funds to boost our online presence and create great digital content. We needed to grow our social media skills, better engage with our audience, and enhance our marketing and communication strategies for various audiences, including potential funders – and this is where John Lyon’s Communications Capacity Building Programme came in. 

On the programme, we learned practical communication and marketing techniques like messaging and storytelling, all geared towards engaging our audience online. We learned about different platforms and resources that could help us save time while creating meaningful content. What’s more, two professional marketing and communication volunteers supported our website refresh and a highly successful Crowdfunder campaign that helped us cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The trainers and volunteers were engaging and ready to share their knowledge, helping us to gain confidence and skills in new and unfamiliar areas.

Crafting a new course 

Thanks to the valuable support from Media Trust, our communication strategy has definitely improved and become better structured. We now have the tools and confidence to publish content on various channels. Our communications are now well-connected to our brand, identity, fundraising campaigns, and target audiences. 

We’d highly recommend Media Trust’s communications programmes to any organisation looking to up their comms game.

A group of young people in kayaks in the canal.

Our visibility has definitely increased, making it easier for potential service users and a broader audience to discover The Pirate Castle and understand our mission and values. This heightened visibility has increased our service uptake and fundraising success, allowing us to help more people and bringing in crucial income for our organisation. 

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