Case study: Communication and Emailing Campaing Médecins Sans Frontières -Doctors without Borders

logo msf

The Log Community communication and emailing campaign are a professional project commissioned by Médecins Sans Frontières -aka MSF or Doctors Without Borders.

Médecins Sans Frontières is an independent medical assistance nonprofit divided in a few clusters. They hired me to build a strategy to communicate better with their logisticians community and moderate their social media.
The logisticians are the people who work with doctors to make a project steady going. Generally they are or they go on the field worldwide.

Emailing campaigns are made of strategy and content.
Newsletters are used as tools to apply the programme. The need of an approach for the campaign is important before setting any newsletter. If you are more interested by the newsletters, please see the MSF newsletter case study.

Main Challenges

Their first time
It was very new to do such a thing for the MSF OCP cluster.
When something is unfamiliar you can expect stress and controversy as common pain points. You can also expect naysayers.

How I dealt with it:

Making time to listen to the teams in place, explaining what people gained from both my arrival and the project and implementing tactical decisions thanks to the combination of those were crucial.
Though it was important to hear what naysayers had to say because they were a part of the team, it was essential to preserve both my sanity and the stability of the project. Decisions were made keeping that in mind.

In a very short amount of time I had to create tactics, implement them, get results and continuously challenge them.

How I dealt with it:

That objective was only successful because I had help along the way, either I was given some or asked for it at the right time. Saying no more often to be able to focus on big goals and small wins was a good move.
I then made a calendar of weekly, monthly and annual tactics and content. Putting systems in place is mendatory when evolving.

I was the only one hired to create, consult, produce, implement, moderate, report and execute this project. That was challenging because it was a 3-4 people job into one person only.

How I dealt with it:

Staying firm in my choices and explaining each of them.
Knowing the technique isn't enough, you have to work within a team if you want things to grow exponentially.
Good team mates are those who know how to work by themselves and also who ask for help and receive the critics as something constructive for the project prosperity.
I managed to do some of the A/B tests I wanted to ameliorate how the message was delivered and I worked with the teams already in place and people from different areas of expertise.

Be known and trust by them.

How I dealt with it:

Creating an emotional experience connecting people.
Asking, listening, implementing; that's the super combo.
As an incentive, I had the same question for every person I met. It helped them to feel more valued and me to defined what problems they had and how I could answer them in the newsletter so they could interact with me and possibly with others in the Log Community.
Not only this procedure saved time, but also it is the only way to make sure the message fits the audience. You can't talk in the blind and expect people to respond successfuly if the subject don't match with their reality.

Starting from scratch, I backward built. Defining the "perfect type of client" profile took me a month. From there, I was able to define all the profiles for my audience and how to deliver them more appropriate answers. Trust was only possible then.

Making sure the message would be deliver either with an internet fiber connectivity in NYC or a very low one in South Sudan.

How I dealt with it:

Content as light as possible.
Treatment of images, links instead of putting the whole video, minifying files when possible, those are critical elements of what makes the weight of the newsletter lighter.

newsletter msf


I was then ready to begin the choices of the kind of newsletter to deliver and made a few automations and one generic newsletter mockup.

The procedure was to slowly implement customs newsletters and adapted messages to different groups of people in that very same audience.

Design process

Choosing to backward build, the design was then less of a challenge but nonetheless had to be thought through.

close up rough mockup

Name and purpose

Log Community was chosen. As far as the purpose was involved it was to communicate better with their logisticians community.


The only color asked mandatory was red. Though it was never really obvious what specific red or what to use it for, the color spector included the shades of red that are inside the MSF logo. No corporate identity and style guide existed apart from the use of the logo depending on the country. I had then a spector of red that included:

red shades

Main color red offers little movement as to go with another color.


White background goes well with grey and black for block inking.

Complementary Colors

complementary colors

Analogous Colors

analogous colors

Split Complementary Colors

split complementary colors

Green goes well with the official MSF logo red shades; they are vivid and complementary. It gives a very clean and peaceful feel.

As a part of the same entity, they complement each other, as logisticians are for the medical team.

green shades



As the target audience was defined at first as the logisticians on the field, and due to what resulted from meetings with them, I went with 3 specific fonts: Helvetica, Palatino Linotype and Happy Fox.

Happy Fox helped emphasis the informal approach.
Helvetica family was on the contrary helpful with more official matters.
Palatino Linotype was used as a tool, for blockquotes.

However, when you build a newsletter, you can't only use a certain type of font. You have to prepare documents as if your audience didn't used any of the font you chose. This is why, more were added as alternatives. People generally have on their computers: Arial, sans-serif, 'Book Antiqua', serif .

Video or no video?

video msf eup

Sometimes video was included. Yet those on the field had poor internet connection and very limited access. Knowing video takes a lot of resources, I had to cut short.

Maintaining an image link and providing a link to a video they could see in another time in Youtube service was a good solution. Also, a lot of people opened the newsletter only in text so I had to make sure the links worked well.


MSF OCP cluster uses French and English as both communication tools. It occured that the basic knowledge of those two languages was obligatory to ask for a logistics promotion. It was then in the logisticians best interests to include them in each newsletter.


Mailchimp was used at the time by the marketing and general communication teams. In addition to be a great tool that I know how to use, it was a way to integrate the other teams that I was working with from time to time.

Each detail has its importance. And it's the addition of them that make a team and a product better.

Periodicity and Content Iteracy

Backward building strategy lead to produce a newsletter 2 times a week at first and then weekly.


Most of the humanitarian nonprofits do a monthly newsletter to message their external audience.

My audience was different, it was an internal one and I had to be remembered to make the end results more effective. A number of A/B tests were driven in 6 months to finally turned a wishing product to an actionable wishing, working and needed one.

Finally a monthly calendar mockup content was made from that experience:

    Each Friday

  • Week 1: Radiocommunication, maps or focus.
  • Week 2: Interviews or new team mates, community.
  • Week 3: Technical subject, new technologies, innovation, renewable energies, books, process, trainings
  • Week 4: Technical subject, new technologies, innovation, renewable energies, books, process, trainings.
  • If week 5: Interviews or new team mates, community.


I solved the initial problems and developped a growing success in 1 year.
1300/1600 logiticians were involved and about 40% rate of newsletter opening. Tools and code was properly implemented, tests were accurate.
An active community grew and though some tensions, good bilateral actions were taken thanks to the strategy I putted in place and my involvement.