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.

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.

Reflection on the Basics of Strategic Communication

31 08 2010

I am currently taking a Strategic Communications for Social Change.  Many maybe asking questions like: What is strategic communication? What is considered social change?  How can communication be used to promote change?  I found myself asking all these questions when choosing to enroll into this class.

As a part of the class we will be reading two books: Strategic Communication for Nonprofits: A Step by Step Guide to Working with the Media and The Networked Nonprofit.  Both of these books are trade books and can be found on Amazon.  Occasionally I will post learnings, reflections or notes from chapters in these books.

The first chapter of Strategic Communications for Nonprofits outlines the basics of strategic communication.  It defines strategic as not simply reacting to events, but anticipating and creating them.  This must be successfully integrated with other management functions to not only assist with daily operations, but to plan for the long-term success and growth of an organization.

Define goals, values and mission

The first step in creating a strategic communication plan is to define the organization’s goals, values and mission.  The organizations goals and values often comprise the mission statement.  All ongoing activities must support the goals and mission of the organization.

Build your communication team

After determining your organization’s goals, values and mission, the beginning of a communications team can be built.  This team should included out of the box thinkers, media savvy people and people who are creative.

Be proactive and commit time and resources

Lastly, your team must commit to being proactive and agree to commit the necessary money and staff time to your communications effort.  The more money and resources an organization devotes to its communication team, the more successful and the more media coverage it will receive.