Tag Archives: social marketing

20 questions from CSUS Graphic Design students

CSUS professor Gwen Amos’ “Visual Image” students have a tough assignment:  research and understand the scope of poverty in Sacramento, and develop a print piece, poster and campaign to assist a worthy nonprofit.  Today I met with four students — Biz Lemma, Charmian Mendoza, Jessica Ripley and Kevin Swaim — to discuss their preliminary ideas to benefit Women’s Empowerment, an organization that they see has having a vital mission and approach to helping homeless women. (Note: their work is not sponsored by Women’s Empowerment but they selected the organization and are busily working on ideas to advance its cause.)

They also came with a laundry list of questions – 20, to be exact!  More than a dozen were of general interest so I’ll do my best to answer them here.  Readers, do you disagree with me? Please comment.  I know the students would appreciate the input.

How can we, as designers, use social marketing strategies to influence the behaviors of the public?

How can’t you?  I know that’s not what you asked. Social marketing literally means influencing attitudes and behaviors to accomplish a public good. All causes have to “map” how they will get people from point “A” to point “B.”  They may have to create awareness first before getting people to take steps that will accomplish the good they envision. Or it may be that people are already aware of the issue and just need to know how they can get involved, usually starting with low-risk baby steps and progressing to higher involvement. Social media, which we discussed today, offers an important set of tools to get people to engage.

What methods have been used in “call to action” campaigns that would work on a local scale?

We discussed a variety of examples when we met, but I’ll share one here.  Some of the most successful campaigns address a problem that people immediately grasp, make it easy to support the effort, and have a short-term sense of urgency.  “Give to the Max Day” in Minnesota is an effort by that state’s nonprofits to come together and get people to give locally.  Last year, the effort raised more than $10 million from 42,000 donors in 24 hours.

What levels of interactivity do we need to reach in order to make an impact? How important is it for the audience to be able to interact with an advertisement as opposed to simply read information on a flyer?

I know from our conversation that you’re wondering whether a poster or flyer (which requires no interaction) is better or worse that some kind of communications tool that makes you take an action (like a tear-off pad).  Old school direct mail advertising used to favor pieces where you had to apply a sticker and send in for the free offer.  Asking people to do something yielded higher returns than just a plain old mail appeal.  But today, it’s important to remember that people have short attention spans.  Something tactile might work if it’s clever enough and makes sense, or it might get ignored.  Spend time thinking about where people are now in their decision process about involvement.  Do you need to spend time raising awareness as a “drip irrigation” method: delivering a steady stream of short messages through passive media like billboards?  Or do people already ‘get it’ and just need an easy way to act – like click a button on a website?  When it comes to interactivity, I’d think less about print, which has a substantial up front cost and may be risky in terms of return. Think more about online tactics.

For a cause like helping to alleviate poverty, is a magazine the right way to present the information we have?

It could be a way to present it.  First you have to reach an audience that wants to know more. Magazines have the luxury of multiple pages to tell the story, and the ability to present compelling visuals.  They might be a great tool for major donor prospects.  Another approach might be a video.

Do you think that social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is more successful currently than traditional billboards, print ads, mailers, etc.?

The metric for success here is return on investment.  For every dollar you spend, what do you get back?  Because social media are cheap or free, it’s hard to beat the return.  Plus you can experiment rapidly.  On the other hand, the jury is out in terms of social media’s ability to generate substantial donations.  As pointed out recently by John Kenyon at the Nonprofit Resource Center conference, email and even “snail mail” still play an important role in generating donations.  (Here’s an old presentation of his that explains the role of email in fundraising.)  Online donors frequently become snail mail donors.

Is there any gain in having volunteer organizations on Yelp?

Yelp is definitely a social medium, but people tend to go there for reviews.  It can be a good place to create events to attract new friends and followers.

Do you feel that QR codes are a fad?  Are these marketable to older crowds as well?  Are people more likely o get involved with an organization, or at least visit their websites, if there is a QR in the ad?

Old like me 🙂 ? I think they’ll be useful eventually but right now they’re mostly sizzle and no steak for nonprofits.  On the other hand, there is a small set of people who love new tech toys, and those people might follow a QR to a website.  If you’re trying to recruit programmers to work with disadvantaged kids near Silicon Valley, a QR code on ads might work well.  Think about your target audience first.  Do they have smart phones and use a QR reader app?

What is a good way to advertise for volunteers as opposed to donations?

Volunteering and donating are both behaviors.  As we talked about today, friends are a more influential source of information than paid advertising.  Think about how you can mobilize people to bring their friends into a cause, whether it’s as a volunteer or donor.  You might think of those as alternative paths for giving.  Some people might have more time or talent, while others have more financial resources.  Nonprofits need both.

What is a good length for a YouTube video campaign?  Would these be effective for groups such as Women’s Empowerment so that the target audience can put a face to the cause?

Watch TV news and you’ll get a pretty good idea about the optimal length of a video.  Keep remembering: we all have short attention spans!  I haven’t seen data about optimal length but I’d guess 2-3 minutes would be the maximum before you start to lose people.  Videos do need a story arc: something that engages you, depicts a struggle or a challenge, and releases tension by providing information about what you can do.  Video is ideal for organizations like Women’s Empowerment, much harder for organizations that have “colorless” visuals – e.g. free tax preparation assistance. [Update:  The Give Minnesota folks are also running a nonprofit video contest called “Does this make my heart look big?” The second flash image that comes up once you land on the site asks for votes on the most compelling video.  Check them out and see what you think about length and impact.]

What sort of information would an organization trying to raise community involvement need to include on a Facebook page?  In trying to up the number of volunteers, would Facebook be more successful than traditional print ads or flyers?

What works best – always – is an integrated media campaign across multiple channels, but nonprofits rarely have the money for that.  Websites and Facebook are very cost effective channels for engaging people.  The beauty of Facebook is engagement and interaction; it’s a conversation rather than a one-way channel.  Spend time looking around on Facebook fan pages to see what kind of content (and messages) seem to be working for nonprofits that have similar appeals.  Draft a one-page “message and voice” guideline with your ideas about what the nonprofit needs to convey (prioritized) and what its personality should be.  The idea is to get other people to post on your page and on their own page.  Above is an example from today on River City Food Bank‘s Facebook page – 2 people who cared enough to post.

How many campaigns should an organization have per year?

Whatever number is effective!  It would depend on the organization and what it’s asking through the campaigns.  The big thing is that the organization should map out a strategy for the year.  For example, it might start the year with a personal outreach campaign to major donors, then promote an event, then focus on a membership drive, then do a holiday push and “it’s not too late” New Year’s reminder.

Parting words

Start with the end in mind (outcome).  What is the problem the client — in this case, the nonprofit — is struggling with that marketing and design can help solve?

Conceptualize a strategy that goes from awareness of a problem or cause through the behavior that the nonprofit wants to encourage.  You will undoubtedly have a limited budget so pick just one step on the long ladder from awareness to behavior as a place to begin.

Test it on your mother.  Can you explain what you want your Mom to do in 140 characters or less so that she gets it and wants to help?

Think in terms of a short campaign – or at least a fairly short experiment.  So many of the “old reliable” marketing techniques have fallen by the wayside with splintered audiences.  Now everything is test and learn, keep building on what works and stop doing what doesn’t.  What can you do that’s not too expensive and gets a response in 6 weeks or less?

Good luck.  And thanks.  The nonprofit world needs young people like you who care, and have talent to share.

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Are you using questions to increase interaction on Facebook?

It’s a little ironic to start a post about Facebook’s new “Questions” tool, with a question, isn’t it?  Whoops, there I go again.

I noticed that River City Food Bank recently posted the questions above.  Of course, I wanted to answer “all of the above,” but more importantly, I thought it was a nice new widget that increased interactivity.

The tool has the potential to give nonprofits a chance to actually learn something about the ways that their friends and followers would like to engage with them.  In a world where people stick with organizations where they feel a connection, it would be huge to have a practical way of finding out more about the the different strokes that attract various folk.

If you’ve seen nonprofits begin to adopt this tool, point me in their direction and I’ll see if I can find out more about their experience.

Just added: links to a tutorial and a blog post about how to use Facebook Questions:

Reach Local’s blog post aimed at small businesses but with some good “how to” information

Mashable’s post, also directed to small businesses, about how Questions is different than on-line polling and other tools, plus some strategy ideas.  It includes a description of how one retailer is using Facebook Places (an online locational check-in tool) as a means of triggering donations to a local charity; the retailer plans to use Questions to let customers vote which charity they would like to benefit in the future.

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Non-profits are better at social media than corporations

National Wildlife Federation sends frequent Facebook updates about wildlife sightings and legislation affecting wildlife

National Wildlife Federation sends frequent Facebook updates about wildlife sightings and legislation affecting wildlife

I’ve seen two articles this week about non-profits’ adoption of social media.  Writing on the Harvard Business Publishing blog, Alexandra Samuel suggests that non-profits are better at social media because they excel at relationship development.  (She points to some good examples that are worth checking out.)  In the other, Kari Dunn Saratovsky of the Case Foundation riffs on a just-published report from Dartmouth showing how large non-profits have outpaced academic institutions and Fortune 500 companies in their adoption.  Why?  Kari suggests:

“As an active and interested observer of these trends, my hunch is that as we have begun adopting these tools in other parts of our lives, more people are finding that the social web can allow people who work in nonprofits the ability to connect and collaborate informally and across institutional boundaries in a quick and inexpensive manner.  Suddenly nonprofits see value in social media beyond attracting new donors or engaging volunteers, but in crowdsourcing ideas, getting instant and honest feedback, or even in finding new content for programs. “

Having relationships with former colleagues in very large organizations, and now, actively engaged with several very small non-profits, I concur that non-profits are adopting social media more rapidly.  While we could spend all day talking about why (and I’ve got my theories), to paraphrase my old boss, the data would qualify as “interesting” but not really “information” that is useful to decision-making.

So here’s my tip:  whether you’re in commercial enterprise or you’re a small non-profit, track what non-profits like National Wildlife Federation and American Red Cross are doing on their websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter.  Sign up to receive their e-newsletters.  Join their Facebook Causes or Fan pages.  Track down their handles on Twitter.  You can learn a lot from seeing how they use these emerging tools for building engagement and loyalty.

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Don’t skip to tactics until you know what you’re trying to do

The Camppaign for Female Education took 13 years to build its list to 10,000 supporters and is now picking up 5,000 members a day on Facebook Causes

The Campaign for Female Education took 13 years to build its list to 10,000 supporters and is now picking up 5,000 members a day on Facebook Causes

Non-profit social media rock star Beth Kanter is making a cross-country move.  Rather than taking a hiatus from blogging (as I did last month), Beth wisely lined up some cool guest bloggers.  A post today by Brian Reich, author of Thinking About Media, got me thinking about what’ s been missing in several non-profit marketing plans I’ve seen lately:  a hypothesis about what will cause a desired action to happen (be it donations or advocacy) and a strategy about how to achieve that momentum.

The plans I’ve seen are a bucket used to hold a bevvy of popular tactics (including social media) – with no educated guesses about how they will contribute to the desired outcome, and no prioritization.  I’d call them a listing more than a plan.

Brian’s post is focused on Facebook Causes, about which he’s skeptical, but his comments go to the heart of my concern about lack of strategy:

You can’t expect your audience, no matter how passionate they are about your work, to make an online contribution only because you ask – or to continue to make donations after they became involved through an event or opportunity.  Those are all actions that you, as an organization define.  Your audience, and particularly those who donate, want to be directly involved in your work and empowered to help support your efforts in the ways, and using the tools, they feel most comfortable with…. Stop developing new features and tools until you have found ways to get your users more invested in the setup you already have.  Find ways to better educate and support all your nonprofit members, as well as the users that power your success. I’m not suggesting you stop innovating or improving your tools, but the needs of your audience should drive that work, instead of the technology driving how the users are able to get involved.

Many of the organizations I’m working with as a pro bono consultant haven’t clearly defined why the world needs to support their organization or cause, nor have they raised awareness.  To use Brian’s suggested five-part process, they have to start by listening, introducing and educating their target audiences before they turn to engagement and mobilization.  His process is a variation on a traditional marketing communications pyramid model (from awareness building to preference, trial, use and loyalty) but it’s a nice update for the non-profit world.

If you’re thinking about Facebook Causes or any other form of social media, read Brian’s post first.

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Is it exploitation when non-profits use the names and images of real people?

 

Screen shot of World Vision's home page with 7 year old's story

Screen shot of World Vision's home page with 7 year old's story

Read this brief ethical dilemma and then tell me what you think

:  should non-profits use real people’s names and images, knowing that Americans (now fed a steady diet of reality-based programming) respond to them, or is it wrong to use this approach?

 

 

It hit me when I was at a meeting with a non-profit last week.  The internal/external team that is working on the redesign of the non-profit’s website was checking out various approaches.  Two of the most compelling sites we looked at were operated by CARE (title tag:  “Defending Dignity, Fighting Poverty”) and World Vision, which uses rotating images of children like Penina, 7, who bottles and sells milk to help support her family.

The website we’re working on is for an organization that has an iron-clad policy against using clients’ images or names, even with permission.  The executive director feels that the children and youth who are their clients might feel differently about having their faces plastered on the Internet when they get older.

It struck me that many of the organizations that use images of real people provide international aid.  Donors like to know exactly who they’re helping, and I’ve seen many blog posts where individuals provide specific profiles of people they’ve funded through organizations like Kiva.org.

But organizations that work domestically are far more careful about using images of real people.  It seems we feel it’s exploitative if we’re using the image of someone we could run into in the grocery store.

Modest Needs is an organization that addresses domestic need by matching specific requests with donors.  They do this by having individuals in need complete grant applications and submit documentation, when appropriate.  The vetted applications are assigned a number, posted on the website and headlined, as in “Once Homeless Family Needs Car Fix” or “Help Us Keep Our Lights On”.  When you click on the grant application, you can read the brief description of need.  Grant applications get funded when enough people “vote” for them by investing their points, a currency they acquire when they make a donation to the organization.

Here’s the point.  The individual client story is there, but Modest Needs does not use names or photos.  If there’s competition for the heart strings, it happens through the quality of the headline and the compelling nature of the need.  Maybe you’ve got a soft spot for teachers, or single moms, or grandmothers parenting grandchildren.

Without real photos and profiles, there’s no question that local non-profits are pulling their punches.

What say you:  should non-profits use real people’s names and images, knowing that Americans (now fed a steady diet of reality-based programming) respond to them, or is it unethical to use this approach?

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The “good”: 5 emerging opportunities for non-profits from changes in mass media

My last post appealed to the Eeyore in you.  This one appeals to your inner Tigger.  (I can’t write that without hearing Tigger’s voice:  “T-I-DOUBLE GUH-ER”)

Unfortunately, it’s hard not to imagine the continued collapse of traditional newspapers  (read the Bee’s lament, here – which, tellingly, was a reprint from another publication).  As Sandy (she with the fresh new media graduate degree) pointed out, “The real estate and automotive industries have basically been the only thing supporting the ‘meatspace’ newspapers but as money gets tighter in those industries they also have been moving pretty quickly to the online environment.”

So here’s what I would consider a “good” scenario for news distribution.  And why do I consider it optimistic?  Because change shakes up the hierarchy.  Organizations that don’t “get it” will lose ground with their intended audiences, and organizations – even small ones – will gain ground if they are fast-moving and seize upon emerging opportunities.

  • Some newspapers will be left standing but they will become regionals or nationals.  The New York Times is certain to be among them.  With a strong national content delivered both print and online, these stalwarts will be positioned to expand online into large metro markets, a la   www.chicago.nytimes.com.  (Don’t try to follow that if it appears as a link – I’m hypothesizing!)
  • Likewise, there will be at least one strong news-oriented radio station and relatively strong TV news program.  (The economics of radio are more favorable for radio than TV, but I expect at least one TV news program to survive.)
  • The Jon Stewartization of news will continue, merging somewhere along the way with personality-based radio shows.   Just imagine the opportunities associated with juxtaposing info about your favorite cause alongside the banter of morning radio anchors,  such as Mark and Mercedes’ recent discussion about what proportion of people will pee in the shower or use the “farmer’s hankie” (100.5 The Zone, here in Sacramento).
  • On television, look for a similar “View-ization” or “Oprah-ization” of local, personality-based shows that incorporate current issues and events.  In Sacramento, Good Day Sacramento probably is the furthest along in this direction.
  • News outlets are all aggressively trying to incorporate the other mediums for communications, and to prompt dialogue.  The Sacramento Bee now has a small battalion of bloggers that they’ve recruited to blog about everything from sports to technology to non-profits.  (Watch for United Way’s Gabrielle Stephenson’s posts.)  “The Swarm” blog is aimed at letting you “mix it up” with The Bee’s editorial board although it sure looks like more telling than listening to me.   The Bee’s Forum has an online component where the editor moderates discussion each week. CNN is turning the we’ll-tell-you-what-we-think-and-you-comment model on its head with ireport.  CNN is using a website and a Facebook page as a way of collecting ideas for stories directly from the audience and then turning it into a news report.  While the show is on the air, they show comments coming in from these live sources as they speak.  The proverbial tail wags the dog.
  • People who really need to understand something deeply will find good sources.  They’ll find bloggers or publications (online or offline) that they trust.  Or hire consultants to acquire and consolidate good information as a time-saver.  Most likely, they’ll pay — or at least pay more — for the access.
  • They’ll also find sources that cater to their specific interests.  They might subscribe to an online political publication, a car e-newsletter and a local restaurant review blog.  (And they’ll miss the convenient good-old days when they could get most of that in the local paper.)
  • They’ll also turn to people that they trust.  Opinion-leaders will be the people with lots of followers on Twitter, large numbers of readers to their blogs, and so on.  Sure, they’ll be the standard cadre of grass-tops (people who know people in office) but we’ll also be looking for people who just seem to know what the heck is going on with respect to social and demographic trends, technology, the economy, politics and so on.

And I’ll throw in some related trends that may smerge with these media developments:

  • Search(a la Google) will continue to be massively important because people will have to seek and find information.
  • As people get back to basics in a down economy, they will continue to try to support the things they already care about — education, for example.  They may try to give more to offset those who are giving less, or they may volunteer more to make up for what they cannot give.
  • After years of “thinking globally” messages, a “hyper local” trend will emerge.  More than local-vores or buying local, this will be an upsurge in concern about one’s own community as economic threats to local communities become more evident.  One doesn’t need Oprah to notice the shuttered storefronts.
  • The use of “readers” and personalized home pageswill grow.  If you can’t get the information you care about in one convenient cover, or through one news outlet, you’re going to have to find multiple worthwhile sources.  But managing them through your email inbox will quickly become untenable.  Imagine a home page with blocks you create where you can see the headlines from all of the sources you care about.  You’d read it in the morning, like a Kindle, but with customized content.  (And, PS, you’ll be able to use your Kindle or your iphone if you don’t want to sit at your computer screen.)

Here are some strategies that a non-profit might pursue in this new post-newspaper world.  But before I do that, refresh your memory with the list of strategies in the “bad/ugly” scenario post (you should see a line at the top of this post with yesterday’s title and an arrow point to the left).  THOSE STRATEGIES ALL APPLY HERE, TOO.  And here’s that tip again:  you can’t do all of these; choose those you think could differentiate your organization and would deliver the greatest impact for the least amount of time and money.

  1. Ugh.  (I recoil a bit at this one.)  Start thinking of news-light ways to get your message across.   If you want to reach a younger demographic, how can you create an activity that is quirky, fun or just plain silly enough to warrant people posting about it on their Facebook wall or talking about it on The Zone during the morning hours?  Almost every single news outlet right now is actively looking for “silver lining” or inspirational stories to offset the doom-and-gloom stories that are making their audience tune out.
  2. So the news media wants to start a conversation with us.  Be prepared with spokespersons – some staff, some volunteer – who are familiar with your message and facile in particular formats.  Have your “fun, hip” spokesperson ready for news-light TV and radio.  Have an expert ready for more serious news features.  Have a Spanish-speaking spokesperson prepped for Univision.  Have a left-leaner and a right-leaner (looks like some of those who have given up on newspapers felt they weren’t balanced and were too liberal.)  Have someone else who’s a whiz with blogging tracking and jumping in on news websites (and have them do it often).  Seems to me it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find one or even two spokespersons that are attractive to, and good at, the full range of formats from radio to TV to print and online.
  3. Anticipate that more unauthenticated negative comments will be made about your cause or organization and ramp up your organizational listening.  More self-published reporters mean fewer editors – editors who used to insist on fact-checking.  Come to an internal point of view about when you will correct the record and when you will simply count on short attention spans and let stuff slide (for example, when you are dealing with a blogger who likes to rant – or Rush Limbaugh).
  4. Make your website more of a destination – which means enhancing content.  If you’re a food closet, for example, can your website become a credible source of information about hunger in general?  If you’re United Way, how can you showcase the many causes and organizations in a local community?   Can you recruit citizen journalists to help you develop a stronger voice for a particular group or cause?  Or maybe pay some of those unemployed journalists as freelancers?
  5. Start thinking about who the new local opinion leaders may be, and cultivate a relationship with them (ideally:  a face-to-face one).  Whose emails are often forwarded to you?  Who gets quoted in conversations?  How can you make them knowledgeable about your cause or organization?  (PS one of the best approaches is to ask for their input or feedback.)

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The good, bad and ugly of mass media turmoil: first, the ugly

One of the great underutilized strategic planning tools is contingency planning.  In this blog post and the next one, I’ll walk through scenarios about what the endangered future of mass media means for non-profits, ranging from worst case to best case.  Consider this one “the bad and ugly”.  The goal of the exercise is to choose a course of action that will be most “robust” (strategic planners love that word) no matter what happens.  So whether you think there’s a pony in there somewhere* or not, you should read this post.

In the most negative scenario, the doom loop continues, with further erosion of network news audience (local and national) and newspaper circulation, and the flight of advertisers.  Staff cuts, consolidations, and closures ensue.

  • Mass media collapses to the point that it is untenable as an avenue for raising awareness of an issue or organization – particular those that are not visually interesting or endearing.
  • Audience fractures into a thousand splinter online publications, cable channels and radio stations – destroying the cost/benefit of traditional public relations approaches that focus on newspaper and television angles.
  • Cheap programming rules – with TV news formats edging closer to the production value of Wayne’s World.  They won’t have a news photographer to send to your event.

What would be the imperatives for a non-profit that needs to get its message out?  The biggest challenge will be efficiency of reach, and underlying that, the skills of its staff (addressed at bottom).  In the past, non-profit staff with traditional PR skills have been able to devote a reasonable amount of time and energy to pursue media targets with big audience and influence.  In the “bad/ugly” scenario, there just aren’t enough big targets, and there will be fierce competition for the few outlets with decent share.   Special woe to the cause that really needed the depth of a newspaper feature due to confidentiality issues (e.g. children’s mental health) or lack of appealing visuals (e.g. end-of-life issues, HIV/AIDS).

Here are some strategies that a non-profit might pursue to try to tackle the problem of efficient reach (tip:  remember strategy is about making choices, not doing all of these things):

  1. Develop an aggressive online participation strategy.  This is a big fat “duh”.  What it really means is:  a) enhancing websites as core infrastructure – which includes attention to content and searchability, not just a pretty homepage ; b)  developing a presence on social media platforms where target audiences are already, be it Facebook, Twitter, Ning or whatever else comes along; c) using organizational listening and participation as a means of finding people who may be able to take your message to their followers and friends.
  2. Track the near-certain rise of niche audience publicationsin the online and offline world.  As free media content deteriorates in value (e.g. USA Today), business people and influentials will be forced to subscribe to get the news they care about (at least conveniently).  Niche outlets will pop up as dot.org’s (VoiceOfSanDiego.org), dot.com’s and even blogs (some by individuals and some that emulate online dot coms, as in www.californiabeat.wordpress.com).  Some of it will be free (grant-funded or supported by advertising business model), and some of it will cost.  We pay for Zagat’s and Consumer Reports now; why not business and political news?
  3. Develop story pitches that reflect the interests of these niche publications.   This will be no small task; it will take time and thought.  In my previous post, I shared some info from a blogger who talked about the importance of understanding her focus and interests rather than sending a generic news release.   You can imagine that capturing the interest of the ex-newspaper journalists at VoiceOfSanDiego.org would be quite different than attracting the interest of an online personality.  (For more about VoiceOfSanDiego, read this article from the NY Times last November.)
  4. Do most of the work of writers and photographers to support a story idea – from writing it in various lengths/styles to providing great photos that can be used in a news website’s slide show feature.
  5. Invest in database marketing and growing direct communications channels, especially e-newsletters, e-mail and blogs.  And don’t count out podcasting and youtube videos.   (I’d say direct mail but there’s growing evidence that it is declining in efficiency.)
  6. Develop a cadre of brand/cause ambassadors, people with passion about your cause who will plaster it on their backs (e.g. thanks to the cool t-shirt you gave them).  You arm them with talking points and help them understand the impact of what they can do as message carriers.  Think about what’s in it for them and try to give them that (for example, they may be interested in socializing with other like-minded people, in learning more about the cause a la continuing education, or in competing for prizes and recognition).  It won’t work for every cause but it will for some.
  7. Screw non-paid media and start learning about online advertising including pay-per-click.

The biggest challenge you may face in this scenario isn’t money.  It’s staff knowledge and skill.  And perhaps interest.  Sandy, who has a current master’s degree from UW in new media, told me, “I have noticed that at least in my neck of the woords, non-profit workers haven’t caught up with the skill sets they need to be effective in this environment.”

*The old story goes:  A mother and father were concerned about their two boys.  One was a dedicated pessimist, and the other, an optimist.  They decided to take a new approach to Christmas gifts in the hopes of moderating their sons’ extreme personality traits.  They would give the pessimist a treasure trove of the most desired toys, and the optimist, something not even he could find the good in.  On Christmas morning, the pessimist came downstairs to stacks and stacks of gifts.   One by one, he dismissed them, “The toy fire truck will break, the bike will get a flat tire and I’ll never be any good at that video game.”  All the while, the optimist was looking around for his gifts but saw none.  “Yours is out in the garage,” his Dad said.  He ran into the garage and was confronted with the spectre of a six foot pile of horse manure.  Immediately, the boy dived into the manure and began digging furiously.  “What in the word are you doing,” the father asked.  “With all of this shit, there must be a pony in here somewhere,” he exclaimed!

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Filed under public relations, Social media, Strategy

Want to stay current? Know about these 2.0 innovators

Ten days ago, Fast Company published a great list of innovative web 2.0 companies.  We’ve talked about some of them – like Facebook and Twitter – but you really should be familiar with Digg and Yelp.  I also think Ning is promising, but it’s premature to build this build-your-own-social-network tool into your non-profit marketing strategy.  Check it out!

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Consider community report cards to add urgency to your message (when they’re good)

At lunch last week, a local community activist/former non-profit leader brought “dessert”:  two locally produced report cards that aim to create a vision for community wellbeing, and to document progress toward specific, quantifiable goals.  The 2008 Children’s Report Card, a project of the Sacramento County Children’s Coalition, attempts to create a cohesive and meaningful picture of the status of children using hundreds of publicly available data points.  The Sacramento County Report Card for 2007-08, on the other hand, draws upon a far narrower set of data and seems more focused on demonstrating improvement or progress, even if the data are not be particularly meaningful when it comes to showing the state of such priority areas as transportation and public health and safety.  How important is the % of pothold service requests handled within 72 hours as a measure of public satisfaction with transportation services?

As non-profits try to bring attention to the need for funding or attention, well-researched documents like the Children’s Report Card contain useful information that could easily be incorporated into backgrounders or fact sheets.  For example, the report includes information about self-sufficiency – the income level at which a family can be sustained without relying on income supports or public assistance.   Self-sufficiency is another way of painting a picture of what it means to be working but unable to meet basic needs such as housing, food, child care, health care and transportation.

As it becomes more imperative to keep website content fresh, keep in mind report cards produced by local coalitions and governments as a potential source of credible information.  But apply your critical eye; if the data doesn’t move you, it won’t be compelling to donors or the media, either.

And by the way, the Sacramento Children’s Report Card does not appear to be available via website – which seems odd — but the report lists this contact:  sfung@communitycouncil.org.

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Filed under Messaging, public relations

How are coalitions forming and evolving to lead visionary change, in new ways, through the Internet?

I stumbled across the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s listing of grant-recipients of its “Community Information Challenge.”  The Foundation’s five-year program was established last year as a matching fund for community foundations interested in projects that would use media and technology in new, creative ways to keep their communities informed.  A few of the funded programs aim to bring together a large number of organizations to collaborate on a particular issue.  One example is “The Green Table Virtual Meeting Place” in Buffalo, NY.  Here’s the project description:

 

The more than 170 groups concerned with western New York’s environment are splintered and isolated, with no effective way of knowing what each is doing. In order to improve community dialogue and – ultimately – help revive the region centered around post-industrial Buffalo, the community foundation will create a new website for information exchange. Known as The Green Table, the site will feature discussion groups, resource directories, event calendars and job or volunteer opportunities. In addition, The Green Table will invite citizen participation through a pledge wall for a greener community and tools such as carbon footprint calculators.

Historically, it’s been tough sledding to convince organizations that “all boats rise” if they are able to create awareness of a problem or tackle a problem by working together.

Though it’s no panacea, the Internet and social media open up new opportunities for collaborative campaigns to tackle issues.  In a time of draconian budget cuts, the challenges we face require more than producing a report card as a means of tackling problems.

What are you seeing in terms of collaborative, Internet-based campaigns?  I’m interested in learning: 

·         How they got started

·         Who underwrote the development cost (if only the time to create the campaign)

·         Whether organizations or individuals – rather than foundations or grant-making organizations – are finding it worthwhile to act as conveners and campaign leaders

·         What elements they’re incorporating:  just a website, or traditional public relations and other tactics?

·         Whether they’re working – or working better than an organization working alone – in terms of raising awareness of an issue or solving a community problem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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