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.

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.

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.