Building Trust through Transparency

8 11 2010

Transparency is one of the hardest things for organizations to embrace, but also one of the most important  if the organization wants to embrace a larger network of individuals and organizations.  Transparency is a way of thinking and being for organizations.  It is often very difficult for organizations to embrace being transparent because they do not want to reveal their mistakes and flaws to their audiences.  Also, being transparent allows someone to say anything they want about the organization and everyone can see it.  This chapter compares a transparent organization to a sponge.  The organization is anchored, clear about what they do and know what they want to accomplish.  They let people in and out easily and both are enriched by this ebb and flow.

Transparency builds trust.  It allows audience members to learn whatever they want about an organization.  It allows audience members to trust the organization because they are not hiding anything from them.  In addition to building trust, being transparent takes a lot of trust by the organization.  The organization has to trust that by being transparent its audience members will not be out to get them.  In a sense the organization needs to jump off the edge and hope that its audience members will be their to catch them and support them.

However, transparency can be difficult for some organizations because of the line of work they do.  For example Safe Harbor, a domestic violence shelter, would have a much a harder time being completely transparent because it needs to protect the confidentiality of its clients.  It can be transparent in other ways.  For instance, a news room on its website with fact sheets, press releases, photos, ect. would help audience members have better insight into this organization.  Also, I think Safe Harbor can be more transparent by sharing success stories of clients and by allowing a place for people to comment.  These would offer transparency while still protecting the safety and confidentiality of its clients.

Chapter 5: Listening, Engaging and Building Relationships

8 11 2010

The purpose of using social media and other outlets on the Internet is to build relationships.  This is the ultimate goal.  Online relationship building begins with listening, then moves to engagement and finally action.

The key to building any relationship is good listening.  Organizations should listen to what people are talking about, what their interests or concerns are, and most importantly how they view your organization.  Listing also helps organizations who are new to social media orient themselves.  It can help the organization to become more comfortable with using these new tools.  There are some tools that can help organizations listen.  Some include Google Alerts, RSS readers, Twitter search, Delicious tags and Technorati blog mentions.  I personally like Google Alerts and Good Reader.  These two applications help to organize all the things you want to listen to and put them in one place.  Google Alerts can be sent directly to your email.  Google reader allows you to monitor and organize all the blogs and websites you like to keep up on.

Engagement is the next step in building a relationship.  This can be thought of as “being human through your computer.”  Engagement means getting involved online.  You are not only listening, but also are participating in conversations.  Organizations can share information, enter or initiate conversations, thank people, educate and raise awareness or ask people to do something.  Currently our class is engaging with potential audience members of Safe Harbor by asking them to vote online for our Pepsi Refresh Project.

Lastly, relationship building calls for action by the organization and the audience member with whom the organization is engaging.  Organizations need to be intentional about their efforts online and need to expect that online people will march to their own drummers.  Building relationships takes consistency and practice.



Creating Social Culture

18 10 2010

This chapter discusses the notion of social culture that is created from an organization’s online presence.  The book defines organizations that have social cultures as:

  • use social media to engage in two-way conversations
  • embrace mistakes and take calculated risks
  • reward learning
  • use a “try it and fix it as we go approach”
  • overcome the need to do things as they have always been done
  • understand and appreciates the informality of social networks
  • trust staff to make effective decisions and respond rapidly to online situations

Often organizations are afraid to let go of their control and chose to engage only partially online.  This is not an effective way to build a social culture.  An organization’s online activity should be real and authentic.  One way to help ease the fears of organizations when it comes to social networking is to create a social media handbook or online communication guidelines.  The book mentions the American Red Cross’ social media handbook.  This will ease the feelings of fear and anxiety of letting control go.  I found a website that links to different organization’s social media handbooks.  It is very interesting to see how different organization’s attempt to ease fear of losing control with the principles it outlines for social media use.  The American Red Cross does an excellent job of guiding users through FAQs, explanations of social media tools, how to create a strategy, etc.  This is something my group feels that our client, Safe Harbor, really needs help with.

This chapter includes an outline of what should be included in social media guidelines.  The suggestions are:

  • A purpose statement for the policies
  • Reminder that everyone is responsible for what they say online.
  • Encouragement to be authentic.
  • Reminder of who the audiences are and what they mean to the organization.
  • Encourage good judgement.
  • Balance personal and professional roles.
  • Respect copyright and fair use.
  • The need to protect privacy of clients.
  • Use social media in a way that adds value to the organization.
  • Create balance between online and on land activities.


Understanding Social Networks

18 10 2010

This chapter of the Networked Nonprofit introduces what social networks are and how they can be utilized to illicit social change.  This chapter explains that social networks have two main components: people or organizations called nodes and the connections between them called ties.  This chapter explains that effective networks are made up of strong and weak ties.  Strong ties are relationships that you have with close personal friends or relatives.  Loose ties are connections that are made with acquaintances.  These ties are much looser.  These should be utilized and maintained to engage social networks and unite people behind a cause.

For example, for our class project we are attempting to win a Pepsi Refresh Grant for our client, Safe Harbor.  In order to do this we are utilizing our personal social networks along with Safe Harbor’s social networks.  To win the grant we must utilize effectively our loose and strong ties.  We are planning to reach out to everyone, not just people that we know.  We are hoping that by us asking on behalf of Safe Harbor for people to vote will encourage more people to unite behind this cause.  This is an excellent example of how social networks and their ties can be used to illicit social change for a cause or issue.

Gap experiences a backlash for its new logo

12 10 2010


Gap's new logo is on the right.


Gap changed its logo from the all capped white letters in a blue box that it has used for two decades to the logo presented on the right.  The president of Gap North America noted that Gap wanted something more contemporary and current while honoring their heritage.  What resulted was a logo pictured here.  Gap’s logo was not received well by its audience and it received quite a backlash.  People said that it looked like something their child could create on clip art or a horrible Powerpoint design. Some even went as far as to set up websites to bash Gap’s new look.  Gap responded to this by stating that they are taking suggestions and feedback.  This week they have ditched the new logo and have gone back to the old.

It seems to me that Gap did not do enough research before changing its brand.  Gap is viewed to many as a traditional “American store.”  Its brand is clean-cut, timeless and wholesome.  If Gap would have done some research before changing its brand, it would have realized how much people liked its old brand and how much its values radiated through it.

However, sometimes scenarios such as this can result in some good for a company or brand.  After all people are talking about Gap and major news sources such as NPR and the Huffington Post are publishing articles about Gap.  Is the worth the small amount of damage to their brand/reputation for the publicity? Is any publicity good publicity?  What do you think of Gap’s new logo?  Please leave your comments below.

The Networked Nonprofit

11 10 2010

In my communication for social change class we have started to read a new book called The Networked Nonprofit: Connection with Social Media to Drive Change.  I will be reading and recording observations and notes from this book on my blog.  The first reading we were assigned was chapter 1 and 2.  These chapters introduced networked nonprofits and the trends and challenges they are faced with.  Chapter 1 defines network nonprofits as:

  • simple and transparent
  • easy for outsiders to get in and insiders to get out
  • engage people in shaping and sharing their work in order to raise awareness, organize communities or advocate for legislation
  • build relationships that spread their work
  • engage in conversations with people outside their organization
  • use a social media tool set

The chapter also lays out some social media myths.

One of the myths that I think is most common is: social media is for young, technologically savvy people.  This is not true.  Most social media tools are easy to use and learn.  Nonprofits should make use of these to expand their outreach and conversation.  In particular the book says that conversation starters (blogs, YouTube, Twitter) collaboration tools (wikis and Google groups) and network building sites (Facebook, MySpace and Twitter) are the most useful to nonprofits.

Another myth that I think is important to realize is that social media is time-consuming.  This myth happens to be true.  However, once social media becomes a habit and it is integrated effectively into the communication strategy, more can be accomplished with less time.

Chapter 2 discusses challenges and trends.  The most important trend that the book brings attention to is the rise of free agents.  Free agents are individuals working outside of organizations to organize, mobilize, raise funds and communicate with constituents. Free agents are amazing influencers with large social networks.  They should be utilized appropriately.

  • Organizations need to communicate with free agents and build relationships with them.
  • Don’t ignore someone because they are new or young.  This would be a lost opportunity.
  • Keep the welcome sign lit: free agents come and go as they please.  Make sure they are always welcome back
  • Let them go: Don’t be afraid to let them go as they please
  • Don’t be afraid to follow even if your organization did not come up with the idea.

All of these are tips that Nonprofits can benefit from.  In a sense each member of our class is considered a free agent.  We are not part of Safe Harbor, but are utilizing our social networks to raise awareness about their cause.  Safe Harbor has done an excellent job of letting us help as we please and they will reap the benefits.

Selecting and Training Spokespeople

5 10 2010

It is critically important to choose the right spokespeople.  The messenger is extremely important in establishing trust and credibility for your organization.  This particular chapter talks about how to choose the right spokesperson; understanding what is meant by “on the record,” “off the record,” and “on background”; getting professional training; and presenting a face and name people can trust.

One particular part of the reading that seemed especially important was understanding media terms and how to successfully interview with the media.  The number one rule all spokespeople should understand is to assume that everything is “on the record.”  This avoids confusion and avoids bad press.  Spokespeople should be especially careful what is said around the media and in media interviews.  Always present your organization in the best light by using accurate information, not exaggerating and always communicating effectively.

Another point this chapter brings up is that the press is constantly trying to “put a face” on issues.  Many times they want access to real people who can tell their stories about the issue that the organization is involved with.  This involves extra preparation to ensure that these people are protected and adequately prepared.  However, sometimes “survivors” are great spokespeople for an organization or issue because they experienced it first hand.  Safe Harbor could benefit from this tactic.  It would put a face and a survivor story with the organization.  This is very tricky for an organization like Safe Harbor whose issue is domestic violence, because it could put the person in harms way.  Organizations who support issues where their survivors could be harmed from sharing their stories need to be especially cautious.

Capitalizing on the Power of Partnerships

5 10 2010

This chapter explains how nonprofits can benefit from forming coalitions and media working groups.  It also discusses how an organization can enhance internal communication and form media partnerships.  Working partnerships are very valuable to nonprofits because they amplify and reinforce an organization’s work and often provide access and opportunities that would not otherwise be available.  Many times these partnerships can increase funding, and by working together groups can create a unified voice.

An example of a partnership that creates a unified voice are the partnerships between organizations during breast cancer awareness month (October).  During this month organizations like  Susan G. Komen partner with Yoplait, New Balance and even American Airlines to create one unified voice.  These partn

erships help to raise a lot of money and help to make the issue of breast cancer much more visible in society.  Overall, thesepartnerships help to increase awareness about the issue, increase name recognition for themselves as well as Susan G Komen, and help to raise funds.  This is an example of a very successful partnership.

In class, the fashion show committee discussed the need for Safe Harbor to partner with at least one other organization for this event.  I think this is extremely important and will make the event much more successful.  However, partners must be chosen wisely.  They should reflect the goal of the event and should be able to relate to the cause or issue in some way.  All in all, partnerships are extremely valuable to nonprofits for a variety of reasons.  I would recommend that your nonprofit organization research potential partners in their local communities.

Earning Good Media Coverage

20 09 2010

This chapter goes over numerous pointers for earning good media coverage and gives examples of media for nonprofits to seek out.  The chapter lists 6 main tips for earning good coverage:

  1. Cultivate personal media contacts
  2. Understand media cultures
  3. Pitch story ideas regularly
  4. Prepare for media interviews
  5. Organize press conferences and briefings
  6. Influence the influentials

Cultivate Personal Media Contacts

Forming relationships with media personnel is extremely important and often it is this relationship that gains media coverage.  This takes a lot of research and work.  A nonprofit organization should research which reporters cover issues similar to their organization’s issues.

Understand Media Cultures

This chapter notes the importance of understanding the media’s culture and how it works.  This means being acknowledagble of deadlines, how a media organization likes to receive press releases, what a particular reporter’s preference of contact is, always making yourself available to the media, etc.  This knowledge will be helpful when pitching stories and attempting to form relationships.

Pitch Story Ideas Regularly

Assume the reporter is always on information overload and follow up with a personal phone call to see if he/she received the press release.  Also, have all materials available to re-send if need be.  When speaking with the media be concise and get to the “who, what, when, where, why and how.”  This is the information they want to hear.

Prepare for Media Interviews

Media interviews should not be taken lightly and involve a lot of preparation.  Give your spokesperson in advance  information about the reporter, the media outlet, the number and types of stories likely to appear and the likely questions.  Rehearse answers to the likely questions and review the organization’s message points with your spokesperson.  Brief the reporter on your organization’s goals and mission and prepare a one page fact sheet for the reporter.

Organize Press Conferences and Briefings

Briefings and press conferences are a good way to familiarize reporters with an organization’s spokespeople and the organization’s goals, mission and issue.  This allows the organization to gain media coverage and allows them to control what is being said.

Influence the Influentials

The influentials in the media business are the gatekeepers. They are the editors, opinion columnists and editorial columnists.  They control what gets coverage and what doesn’t.  These are the people that will need to be informed about your organization and the ones that you will need to convince to gain coverage.  The key is to pitch stories that combines ACTUAL news with VISUALS.  This is the current trend that media gatekeepers are looking for.

Overall, I found these tips extremely relevant not only to nonprofit organizations, but to any organization.  In particular I have identified a few areas that our client Safe Harbor needs to improve.  I will later post my PR proposal for this organization.

How to Navigate a Changing Industry

16 09 2010

The journalism industry is changing fast.  In order to stay afloat traditional news media are transforming themselves to include a plethora of options.  Newspaper readership is decreasing steadily and even TV news is seeing an older and smaller audience.  Much news is being switched to online platforms like blogs, discussion boards, interactive videos, ect.  Mainstream media is cutting costs and the internet has made it possible for anyone with a unique story to reach a global audience.

So what does this mean for nonprofits attempting to have their cause or issue publicized?  Well, first the organization needs to decide whether they want to be  a content provider for other multiplatform media or an influencer of others who will provide their own content, or both?

Whatever the case the organization will need to alter its communication strategy to reach a larger audience.  It is often easier to get stories/content posted on news media websites or blogs than it was to have something run in print.  And the best part is that the content online can be produced for free or of little cost.  I would recommend a nonprofit organization transform their website into a source for multiplatform journalism.  Provide blog posts that are up to date, videos, pictures and a discussion forum.  Transform your website into the number one place for people who are interested in your cause to receive news about the issue.

The changing news industry offers organizations ample resources to have their issues publicized.  Organizations should create content that can be used by a variety of news mediums.  This is a huge advantage for nonprofits, especially those with limited resources.