Wednesday, December 8, 2010

safe harbor video - wrapping it up

Our Safe Harbor video is finally done! I really like the final product, and hopefully, everyone else will too. The final version was very hard to come by with all the editing and cutting. Learning editing skills took almost as much effort as deciding what parts of Deborah's story to cut out. Luckily, we were able to make an extended (i.e. uncut) version also. I hope Safe Harbor uses both as the story in its entirety is very inspiring. Deborah chose her words so perfectly, you'd think she was a spokesperson (I promise, no prepping was involved!).

We learned a lot about video editing through trial-and-error in making this video. Once we got the hang of it, it wasn't too bad, and I really think it is a skill that I'll be able to use in the future. We decided not to make the video too elaborate as the story is the focus and we want people to walk away from the video with that in their minds.

While this is mainly an awareness video, I think the story is inspiring and could potentially raise funds for Safe Harbor too. I really enjoyed making this video because we were able to directly interact with a survivor of domestic violence that Safe Harbor helped. As I mentioned in my last post, I think I want to work for a non-profit one day, so being able to help one now while I'm still in school is a really great experience. Hopefully, Safe Harbor will find this experience as useful as I have!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

class - wrapping it up

Well our class is basically done (except for our final projects -- more to come on that when we're finished editing!) and I feel like I learned a lot. Out of all of the PR classes I've taken, I've enjoyed this one the most (though I think it took the most work too) because it focused on the kind of PR I want to do: non-profit! I can't see myself being happy doing PR for some random big corporation like Coca-Cola -- though I'd make more money that way -- but I'd rather use my skills to promote an organization I really believe in. That's why I think the things I learned in this class were important for my eventual career. While the other PR classes I've taken were important because they taught me the basics but this class went into more depth and taught more practical skills. The class projects also helped me realize the real amount of work that goes into various PR campaigns through hands-on experience. I might even keep the books as they apply directly to what I want to do!

pepsi refresh - wrapping it up

So the month of November is over and we weren't able to get the Pepsi Refresh grant. However, we were able to break the top 100, and our efforts helped raise awareness for Safe Harbor. For our class's first attempt (and my first attempt) at a PR campaign of this size, I think it went pretty well. If nothing else, I learned a lot about what kind of effort has to be put in. I wish there was a way to know how the people who did vote found out about it so we could know which efforts worked and which ones didn't.

Looking back, I might make a few changes to how we approached the PR plan. First off, I wish we had known about the texting thing from the beginning. We could have advertised about that for the full month instead of just the half. I also would have put up the flyers earlier (and more of them). I also feel that a more cohesive effort on Facebook might have been helpful (like maybe an event?).

I felt a little burned out at the end (I think everyone was) but I think that just shows you how much effort actually goes into these types of campaigns. Just because we didn't pay for anything doesn't mean we didn't put in any effort. And that's PR. Again, overall I think this was a good experience for me to learn through a real effort, and hopefully it benefited Safe Harbor at least in awareness.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

who governs who?

The second part of this week's readings discuss the governing boards of non-profits, basically the people who make many of the final decisions on how things go in an organization. I'm glad there was a chapter about this because, frankly, I forgot about this aspect of non-profits completely. I guess because boards are often backstage, you can forget they exist. And that's the point of this chapter: to make boards more interactive with the public so they can be included in key decisions too.

This chapter starts with an example of a closed board and an open board that uses social media. The open board is taken to the extreme, but it's noted that not all board will be able to operate that way immediately (again, long transition period). I like a lot of the ideas presented in this chapter though. Boards do need to be open because they make many major decisions.

The key characteristics of an open board presented in the chapter by the P2P Foundation really hit it perfectly, so I'm just going repeat them:
  • "Anticredentialism, the idea that anyone can participate regardless of their title or position."
  • "Collective choice systems, meaning that hte group makes key decisions democratically."
  • "Communal validation, in which the products and choices of the group are open to public scrutiny and revision."
  • "Open development, which eschews closed doors and hiding places. The entire project is developed transparently."
These characteristics may seem lofty but I think they are doable. It might be hard to start up, though social media makes it much easier, but these practices should be incorporated slowly into an organization's board.

Luckily, the next part of the chapter is dedicated to the "beginning" of governing as a Networked Nonprofit. It lists a bunch of easy steps an organization can take to be more open. This means small things like having a Facebook group to posting agendas online to just meeting somewhere new. It basically means stepping out of comfort zones and utilizing social media/the Internet to its fullest.

"friending to funding"

This week's chapters discuss some of the more logistical aspects of Networked Nonprofits: funding online and the governing boards. This post is about the former. I'll admit, when I first read these chapters, the ideas seemed a little extreme and not feasible for many organizations. To the book's merit, they do say that the transition to a Networked Nonprofit could be long.

One point the chapter stresses from the beginning is to mix traditional and nontraditional forms of fundraising to maximize the amount raised because while social media has taken off, some people are still more comfortable with traditional forms of givings, such as writing checks. Even though I'm part of the "millenials," I sometimes still prefer more traditional methods of giving. There is something about giving all of your credit card information on a random Web site that means you must really trust whatever organization you are donating. This brings about another point the chapter stresses. It says organizations should focus on young people as donors and to connect with them through social media. I agree that this is a good way to connect to young people, i.e. me; however, I feel that this is may be aimed more at young people who are a bit older than me, i.e. out of college. I hardly ever donate to random organizations online, whether introduced through social media or word-of-mouth. This is because I'm involved in so many organizations and only make money through a part-time job, so no donations are ever random for me. Usually donations are made to organizations through some sort of philanthropy event, mine or friends'. I can't be sure but maybe organizations' social media will be more relevant when I'm out of school.

The chapter goes on to discuss habits/patterns of social media fundraising. Among these habits are using a multichannel strategy, treating donors as partners, thanking donors often, conducting online fundraising contests and using stories to make fundraising personal. This last habit is particularly important to me because this is the strategy we are using for our Safe Harbor video! We are hoping that by putting a face to the story and having such a potent example of domestic violence that we can help women find help. The chapter also discusses "click actions" or clicking to support a cause that leverages a donation from sponsors. It specifically mentions a game called FreeRice which I absolutely love and have been playing for a couple of years now. Obviously I knew I was helping by playing the game but I never even thought about the PR strategy that went into it, but really it's quite clever. A site similar to this is This site isn't a game or anything but you can click every day to provide food for people who need it. There are also tabs at the top where you can click for several other causes.

Also, on a completely random thought that has nothing to do with the chapters discussed except that it's philanthropic, I saw a Toy Run today in Anderson! Toy Runs are events where bikers ride around all day to support Toys for Tots; usually a toy is part of the participation fee and sometimes the bikers actually transport toys from collection bins to kids. Basically, there were hundreds of bikers in Anderson today, riding for a cause. I think this is pretty cool since bikers aren't usually seen as a philanthropic group. Here's an example of a pretty big toy run: The Big Texas Toy Run. This is also a good example of a grassroots organization since these toy runs are held all over the country without any official sponsors or leaders.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

pepsi refresh update

We are slowly getting higher in the rankings for the Pepsi Refresh grant (86 as I write this) but I'm afraid it's not going fast enough to reach the top 10 before the month is over. It really breaks my heart especially after personally seeing people trying to win this for Safe Harbor. For example, when we went to film a Safe Harbor shelter for our video, the employees told us they were voting every day and thanked us for doing it. After seeing the actual shelter we would be helping and hearing the gratitude of the employees, it made me want to win even more.

Another story: During one of my multiple attempts to get our flyer approved at Hendrix, a guy who was also getting a flyer approved, stopped me so that he could text right then. Apparently, he had been in a class this summer that applied for a $5,000 grant (I think they got it too!), so he knew how important it was to vote. He also mentioned that he got a Tweet about it from @ClemsonStudents which is pretty cool that others are doing it too.

safe harbor video project update

So! Our video project has finally begun with filming that took place Friday. Though we hit a few bumps with microphone/sound problems, overall I think it went well. The sound wasn't very good when we played it back on the camera but it sounded better on my computer so I'm optimistic that it will turn out well.

As for the actual inter view, it was great! The woman we interviewed had an amazing, inspiring story. She wanted her face to be shown so that there would be a face to the story (which it is pretty amazing). We couldn't have asked for a better interview. The only problem is her interview lasted almost 10 minutes, much too long for our video, and we have no idea what to cut out!

In our last class, we did some story boarding. I think the focus will definitely be on the story of our interviewee with domestic violence statistics and facts throughout. We also have footage of the inside of one of the shelters which we hope to incorporate in the video, possibly when she discusses the shelter itself. Mainly I think our goal for the video is to inform viewers of domestic violence and show how Safe Harbor can help.

And I think we'll succeed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

some new concepts: crowdsourcing and learning loops

This week’s readings discuss crowds and learning loops. Chapter Eight, “Working with Crowds,” talks about, well, crowds. It starts by defining “crowdsourcing” as “the process of organizing many people to participate in a joint project, often in small ways.” Then it classifies it into four categories:

Crowd wisdom: Best example? Wikipedia. I mean, can you think of a better example of quintessential crowd wisdom?

Crowd creation: PostSecret - This is an ongoing art project, as described by the website. Users anonymously submit secrets; it started through snail mail and has grown to include e-mail and such. If you've never seen the website or the books, you're missing out. They even have a Twitter now.

· Crowd voting: Pepsi Refresh! Need I explain more?

· Crowd funding: Crowdrise - Crowdrise is a website that allows anyone to start an online fundraising page so that you don't even have to be an organization, you can just raise money on behalf of an organization.

These are the four different ways an organization can utilize crowds to create social change. I think it’s important to define these categories because it shows the different ways you can utilize the power of a crowd. I tried to find examples for each because though the book gives its own examples, I was finding it hard to think of other ways each of these could be conceived. I’ll admit, it seems that utilizing a crowd seems to be much easier to put in motion when the idea is something creative like in the example of the Royal Opera creating a user-submitted opera or the Humane Society creating a video contest after the Michael Vick scandal. Can these methods be easily used in a different type of non-profit such as a hospital? I think that the creativity and scope of crowdsourcing corresponds with the creativity and scope of the organization’s goals. I’m not saying a hospital can’t use social media and crowdsourcing – far from it – but they have to modify it and maybe use slightly more traditional methods to reach its audiences.

Chapter Nine discusses learning loops – something I had never heard about until reading this book (I had heard crowdsourcing in passing at least). Thus, I feel that I need to define learning loops, mainly for myself. Learning loops is the process of monitoring (and analyzing) results and then using this information to change future plans. The way this is different from normal analysis that PR professionals have been doing for years is that it is all done in a short period of time, or in real time. The Humane Society example works here too (in fact, it was the opening example of the chapter). The chapter warns to not have too broad of a scope, however. It suggests working in small sections with targeted audiences so that if one small section doesn’t go the way you want it, you have the chance to change/scrap it without losing a ton of money and a ton of time. While the chapter gives a million and one ways you can measure the success (many suggestions don’t require money or too much effort), it emphasizes the overall goal. At the end/middle/throughout campaign, analyze it with the overall goal in mind. Did it reach it? If it did, what elements made it successful? If it didn’t, what didn’t work?

The suggestions and ideas of the book are lofty at times. I think they are all feasible but seem to apply to some organizations more than others. However, it might take some time for organizations to move completely into this direction but I think it’s a great direction to be heading!

To offer a possible downside of crowdsourcing, here's an article I found on Fast Company that describes why crowdsourcing may only produce mediocre results. However, I think that if an organization uses it for smaller things (I mean, designing a car? That's a VERY lofty goal for a crowd), it can produce good results.

Monday, November 8, 2010

building relationships through transparency

Wow I've been neglecting my blog. This has definitely been my toughest semester so far. BUT excuses aside, I plan for the rest of the semester to be much more active, especially as we start to wrap up everything for the semester, like the Safe Harbor video and the Pepsi Refresh project. But first, I'm going to talk about the book. This week's readings dealt with, as my title says, building relationships through transparency, an idea that is just now starting to catch on among non-profits.

I'll start off with one of my favorite statements from chapter 5, "Listening helps you be less of a spammer and more of a service provider." Now this I like, I mean, who likes spam? I've signed up for plenty of mailing lists, only to get annoyed by the daily e-mails that don't even apply to me. I've set up an entire email just for things like that and it has become my default email to give to companies/organization, basically used for anything that's not personal or school-related. About once a week, I'll go through it and basically delete all of them. Seriously, it's a horrible task. Ok, so that rant has a point, I promise. I think if more organizations listened to their consumers/supporters/whatevers, all forms of communication would be streamlined, improved and more efficient. Of course, listening isn't the only step. You then have to use the information you get from listening and apply it, so you can effectively engage with your public. An organization must engage with everyone, even their critics. The book makes a special point about talking with critics. Listening and engaging with critics provides two great advantages to an organization:
1. You can hear criticism and fix the problems within your organization that are most important to the public.
2. You can explain and give further information to clarify problems that critics have. If you don't respond and just leave the criticism out there, that's hurting your organization. However, if you respond with a thoughtful, concerned answer, people will usually have more respect because it shows you care. Then the discussion begins.

Here's another pretty important concept: being able to lose control. No one likes to lose control, especially when it comes to an issue or cause that one is passionate about. Because of new technologies, the "power is being pushed to the edges." The public has more control now; it's not just the CEO of a company who controls the outcome of an organization's efforts. There is a forum for everyone to get their opinions out and control their own efforts. This doesn't mean that an organization should put in no effort to create well thought-out messages, it just has to understand that the public and other organizations have their own messages and efforts too. The good thing is, most of the time these other messages and plans will help a cause or effort, rather than hurting it. Even if your messages are exactly the same, if everyone is working toward the same goal, it's a good thing.

The next chapter continues with these ideas of relationship building by discussing one important aspect of building a relationship: transparency. You can have relationships with your publics without transparency but they won't be as meaningful and therefore your publics may not be as interested in helping your cause. The very first thing mentioned in Chapter 7 is the dashboard. I'll admit, I had never heard of these before but they sound really cool. Having all of that information in one place, in an easy-to-navigate table makes it easy for people to understand how the organization work and what problems/successes they are having.

This chapter emphasizes trust; however, it is not only referring to building trust within publics but it also states that for trust to build in publics, the organization must trust that people "on the outside" mean well. I think this is a key point (and so does the book). If an organization thinks everyone is out to get it, it'll never let its guard down enough for anyone to help.

The last points made by this chapter are on how to apply these ideas of transparency to the way an organization works. In referring to "publicness" (a word I quite like, I might add), author and blogger Jeff Jarvis (in the book) has this to say: "The more public you are, the easier you can be found, the more opportunities you have." For a non-profit organization, this is absolutely key. I mean, it's important for all types of companies but for-profit companies can afford to be underground while not-for-profit organizations need all the "publicness" it can get to reach its audiences and have an impact. This publicness can be achieved through letting an organization's information out into the public domaine (all information! - not just the good stuff like how much money was donated), being easily found on search engines and having a presence on social networking sites.

Transparency must be found inside and out of an organization. That is, an organization has to share this information (and one could argue even more) with its employees. Creating trust among employees is equally (again, one could argue even more) important in the success of an organization. As we've learned from day one in PR classes, happy, enthusiastic employees equals happy, enthusiastic publics. Problems with employees can seep out to "the edges" of an organization. Besides, internal relations is the place to start to achieve transparency. Start the conversation inside, share it with the outside, and then engage the inside and the outside together.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

creating and maintaining social culture

This week we read chapters 3 and 4 in Networked Nonprofits, called "Understanding Social Networks" and "Creating a Social Culture" respectively. In the previous chapters, they discussed the importance of social media in creating a successful nonprofit while these chapters discuss the logistical details and how to fully utilize social media to the advantage of an organization. I'll start by talking about chapter 3.

Chapter 3 starts by blunting stating that an organization can no longer think it is the most important thing around. People and other organizations are constantly moving and changing; your organization has to do the same or it will be lost in the world of social media. This chapter also introduces a lot of social media lingo that I am not familiar with, like "ecosystem" (in reference to social networks) which I think is pretty self-explanatory. These ecosystems are not random; they have structure. This structure is made up of nodes (people or organizations), ties (the connections between them), and hubs (larger "nodes" with lots of "ties", the influencers). Again, pretty self-explanatory. The hubs are the heavy-weights of the social media world. They are the ones with thousands of Twitter followers and Facebook friends. They are the ones whose blogs are read all over the world. Basically, they're important for a nonprofit to get the word out. Other social media definitions: core - the people who do most of the work, and power law of distribution - the imbalance that applies to most social networks where a small number of people have the biggest influence/do the most work. Finally the chapter discusses different ways to map an organization's social network. Mapping can be useful to realize and understand the different ties/relationships that exist and which ties don't exist but should.

The second half of this chapter talks about the importance of "social capital." Social capital is important because it is what makes relationships meaningful and is how you make real progress in creating social change. With social capital "two things generally exist: trust and reciprocity." This idea is elaborated in the next chapter that discusses creating a social culture.

Chapter 4 goes back to what we learned in introductory PR classes was one of the most important aspects of PR: relationships. This book, however, shows how relationships are changing. They are no longer just your neighbors and old roommates (though those are still important too), rather you can create and maintain relationship entirely online. But like with social capital, trust and reciprocity must exist. The basic qualities of a relationship are the same, whether in person or not.

This chapter also focuses on the idea that "social-ness" is more than just individuals using social media; it is the entire organization shifting the way it works fundamentally. An organization cannot just rely on young staffers and interns to handle social media. For social media to be used to its full potential, the leadership of an organization must be involved. Everyone connected to the organization should engage in social media. The book suggests that rather than making interns do all the work regarding social media, have them teach executives how to use social media so that they can use it themselves after the interns move on.

Monday, October 11, 2010

safe harbor video inspiration!

Our group has already discussed a few ideas for the videos we are creating for Safe Harbor, like the "3 in 4" theme. So I did the first thing I always do, I looked on YouTube for some inspiration!

Here's a few videos I find inspiring:

This first one doesn't relate to domestic violence directly, though it is one of the examples given on how children learn from their parents. The thing I like about this video is the theme. The different situations shown combined create a video that sends a powerful, reinforced message.

This video is specifically for a domestic violence organization and its programs. I like the quotes from people who have actually participated. I think this would be a good alternative to actual people talking about their experiences, if that's not possible.

This video is a good example of a class-made video. While it's more of a documentary and much too long for what we're going for, the set-up may be something to imitate. Also, I think the title "Hands Off" is really great and memorable.

This video is by the Avon Foundation. Obviously, it is quite professional-looking which I like. I think my favorite part of this video though is the families and (one) man that "speak out" too. Having other viewpoints rather than just women can reach those who may think it only affects women.

Last but not least, here's a PSA from a Canadian organization for women. Obviously, our videos will be longer than this but like the first video, I think the theme is well-organized and well-chosen. Also, like the third video, I think the title "Shelter from the Storm" is really great.

So that's all for my inspiration right now! Hopefully our group can incorporate some of the better ideas from these videos to create our own great videos. Also, I'm on the look-out for some fundraising videos as most of these are geared more towards general awareness.

best spokesperson ever?

Since I've been blogging like crazy this week, I thought I'd add one more. This is just a funny video I found. With the title, "Should BP hire this guy for PR?" and our recent class discussion about spokespeople, how could I not watch? Now this guy knows how to turn around a question (completely unethically, of course, though nevertheless amusing).

Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to embed the video, so there's a link to the site where I found it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

the value of free agents

The second chapter of our book focuses on "free agents." At first glance, free agents could be seen as a threat to nonprofits striving toward social change because they do what they want when they want and won't disseminate your message exactly how you want. This chapter shows how you can turn this challenge into a solution.

The chapter starts off by talking about "millenials." Millenials are the generation after the baby boomers that are really the first generation to grow up using all of the technology available today. I'm a millenial, and I know that I can't imagine what I would do without the technology I have, like my cell phone, the Internet, all the social media and a lot more. I consider myself lucky to be part of this generation because I've grown up with all the social media, it doesn't take any effort to learn how to use it for social change. The chapter gives examples of people -- free agents -- who use social media to create social change, often on behalf of a non-profit organization. This, of course, reminds me of our class. We are using social media on behalf of Safe Harbor to help put out their message and hopefully get them some money through the Pepsi
Refresh Grant!

Another great example I thought of when considering free agents and social change is "The Uniform Project." The Uniform Project was the idea of one girl who decided to raise money by wearing the same black dress every day for a year, making it look unique every day with reused, donated, or vintage accessories. She blogged her outfits every day and got tons of media attention (over 2 million hits and features in a lot of magazines) and money (about $100,000) for her cause -- the Akanksha Foundation, a non-profit that provides education to children living in Indian slums. Sheena Matheikin, the founder of The Uniform Project, created such a buzz, the project continues today in the form of its own company, The Uniform Project company. Now they have different people who volunteer to wear the same dress for a month to raise money for a specific cause (it changes every month). It's such a cool idea and it all started with social media.

In the last parts of this chapter, the book gives some advice to non-profits who want to utilize free agents. Here they are:
  • Know your free agents and what they are passionate about
  • Help people break out of their cliques
  • Let free agents explore and learn about the issues
  • Don't ignore the newcomer, they may not have a lot of influence now but in a few months, who knows?
  • Always welcome free agents, whether they are new to your organization or are coming back from a hiatus
  • Let free agents participate in their own time and in their own way
  • If a great idea is created by a free agent, run with it. It doesn't matter who came up with it, if it makes a difference, it's worth it.

The important thing to remember with free agents is to work with them, not against them. It can be scary to know there are people working on behalf of your organization that you have no control over, but that's also the really great thing about free agents. You don't have to do any of the work. You trust that people are good and genuinely want to help your organization through their own efforts.

Friday, October 8, 2010

"the operative word: social"

This week we started reading our second class book, Networked Nonprofits. Though I've just read the first two chapters, I'm already excited about this book. I had no idea when I first bought this book what networked nonprofits meant. Now that I know, I think it is pretty awesome. The idea of empowering people to do their own work through an organization rather than telling people what to do is kind of cool. Scratch that - it's really cool.

Let's start off with the introduction. The book defines a networked nonprofit was an organization that "resembles a social network rather than a traditional stand-alone organization" in which "the foundation is devoted to building meaningful relationships with supporters that go far beyond asking for donations." I really like that comparison of a social network. It embodies the idea of public relations of, well, relationships. With networked nonprofits, the entire organization is defined by relationships rather than just the communications department. They take the philosophy of social media and apply it to all aspects of the organizations. This leads to "free agents." Like in social media, individuals have the power for social change and utilizing these free agents is a foundation of networked nonprofits.

This chapter continues to detail social media, its importance for social change and how it can be used. There are so many tools of social media (for example, Twitter, Facebook, wikis, blogs and YouTube) and so many different types of people who use these that an organization cannot just use one and cannot target one audience through just one medium. The successful use of social media relies on learning the strategies and principles of social media rather than the mechanisms of each one.

The chapter then goes over some myths about social media, but luckily, as one of the "millenials" talked about in the next chapter, I already knew all of these were myths!

Finally, I like how this chapter ends. It defines social change as "any effort by people and organizations to make the world a better place." I like this definition because it encompasses so many things that organizations do to make our society better.

vincent sheheen's campaign for minorities

For my political analysis project, I had originally planned to focus on Vincent Sheheen's campaign for SC governor. I still am but after talking in class, it became apparent that I could not cover his entire campaign. That's just too much, so I decided to focus specifically on his campaign aimed at minorities. I thought this would be an interesting angle as Sheheen is an Arab-American (fourth-generation Lebanese). Even more interestingly, his main opponent (the Republican candidate) is a minority too; Nikki Haley is an Indian-American.

In a first quick look-over of Sheheen's Web site, the only specific mention of minorities is under the "Issues" tab in the "Jobs and Economy" section,where he discusses focusing on minority-owned small businesses by creating a Division of Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses in the SC government. I'll be trying to look for more details on this and other minority-related information on his Web site.

That said, Sheheen is at least getting a little publicity for being a minority himself. Here's a blog post I found on the Arab American Institute Web site profiling Sheheen and generally supporting his campaign.

And lastly, here's a post I found on Brad Warthen's blog about Sheheen's and Haley's views of the Confederate flag flying at the State House. I think his article is pretty interesting, and the comments are even more so. By the way, Warthen is a guy who used to work for The State newspaper and is now the director of communications/public relations for ADCO, an advertising and marketing agency in Columbia.

So the two articles I found are pretty heavily biased in favor of Sheheen but the Arab American Institute one is interesting because it's covered by a minority organization and Warthen's is interesting just to read the dialogue in the comments area. There are a lot of people who agree with him and a whole lot that don't. The comments really show the opinions of SC voters and how each person views the quotations differently.

So that's the preliminary search on Sheheen's campaign aimed at minorities and his coverage dealing with minorities. I've decided I'm going to have to dig deeper for some campaign information on minorities which is probably not a good thing. Hopefully I start to find some real campaign materials rather than just a bunch of videos and articles trashing Nikki Haley.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

beyond the pr professional

Our readings this week talks about people outside the public relation s professional who organizes communication strategies in a non-profit organization, namely the spokespeople and partnering organizations. These readings focus on very important aspects of strategic communications because they deal with things that are outside your control (to an extent). That's why properly training spokespeople - and for that matter, all people who are connected to your organization - is so important. Without a cohesive, clear message delivered from everyone in an organization, an organization's success is in jeopardy. Both chapters (9 & 10) emphasize this point.

To begin with Chapter 9, choosing spokespeople is a decidedly difficult task. Let's take celebrities. It can go well, like the Rock the Vote campaign (well, minus the fact that Paris Hilton was not registered to vote), or it can go not so well, like this blogpost from Walletpop shows, giving a list of celebrity spokesperson fiascos. Some of the "fiascos" mentioned were for regular corporations but a few are from non-profits like the Beef Industry Council who had two spokespeople that didn't work out. James Garner had a quadruple-bypass surgery (anyone with health that bad probably shouldn't sponsor any type of food-related organization) and Cybill Shephard doesn't actually eat meat (I think it's pretty obvious why she shouldn't be its spokesperson). However, even with all of those fiascos, I think it can be pretty powerful to have a celebrity speak on behalf of your organization...if chosen correctly. Oftentimes, it is just easier and safer to choose a non-celebrity. If you choose someone from inside your organization, like an executive officer, you can probably at least save time teaching them information about the actual organization. Then, the first priority would be to train them to speak well and deliver messages effectively.

Another point from this chapter that I think is important is the power of personal stories. There is nothing like putting a face with a cause to rally supporters. This is the strategy we are hoping to use for our Safe Harbor videos because being able to actually see and hear a real story from someone who has been abused can make the problem appear more real to people who don't understand the problem it can be.

Chapter 10 deals with partnerships. I really enjoyed reading this chapter because I think the power of partnerships is really obvious. Organizations partner together all the time to support a unified cause and it almost always yields a better result than just one organization. When I started to read this chapter, my mind immediately jumped to Orange RockCorps. Ok so Orange isn't non-profit; it's a communications (i.e. cell phones, etc.) company but RockCorps is non-profit. I think this partnership is still worth mentioning though because it's pretty successful. RockCorps started in the USA and, as far as I know, still going. Orange RockCorps started when RockCorps expanded to the UK and Orange partnered with them. Orange RockCorps has now expanded even more to France and, recently, Israel. I say this partnership is successful because the RockCorps movement is much bigger in the countries where they have partnered with Orange, even though the US is where it started. Having the connection with this other company has allowed them to have better communications plans because they have a for-profit company to financially back them.
Note** I also wanted to use this partnership as an example because I love this organization and what they are doing. Oh yeah, I should probably say what they do: RockCorps organizes concerts with some pretty big stars (last year this included Lady Gaga, Busta Rhymes, and Razorlight to name a few) and the only way to get a ticket is to volunteer for four hours. It combines all my favorite things: music, volunteerism, internationalism, etc.

To bring it back to non-profits and more specifically domestic violence organizations, one of the Web sites I looked at to do research for the Safe Harbor project was that of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). This organization is a coalition of state coalitions against domestic violence. Through this organization, each state coalition (and in turn, those organizations that make up that coalition) can benefit from the national campaigns. They are even starting a Media Advocacy Project that should be launched anytime now (the site says it will launch a resource center in the fall). I'm excited to see what exactly this project will include.

Obviously partnerships are important and extremely powerful. The book stresses though that each organization must be fully committed and must be included in all plans. This, I think, is important to understand. Like all group projects (no matter how small), if each person/organization doesn't know its position and what is going on, it will probably fail (or at least not do as well as it could).

Next to come: Political Campaign Analysis - I've chosen the campaign - Vincent Sheheen for South Carolina governor! I'm excited to see what this campaign has in store.

Monday, September 20, 2010

a change is gonna come...or it has already started

Reminding me of my favorite Sam Cooke song, this week's readings discussed the changes in the PR industry and how these changes affect the way non-profit organizations should go about receiving good media coverage.

Ch. 5 starts by talking about the emerging trend of freelance writers. Freelance writers are becoming a common trend among media because it is often cheaper to pay freelance writers than to have full-time employees. This makes it more difficult for non-profits to get their organizations out into the media because it's harder to make solid contacts at a specific news company. Luckily though, even freelance writers often have specific topics they prefer to write about and are often hired by the same medium several times. As an example, here's an article from The Huffington Post (an entirely online newspaper!) written by a freelance writer, Terry Gardner, (who has a few specific topics she continually writes about) about a non-profit organization, Sustainable Works. Also, after taking all these PR classes, I realize that this was very likely pitched to Gardner by a PR professional from the organization. This article from The Huffington Post leads me to the next point from this chapter: the Internet! The Internet is completely changing the way journalism works and the flow of information. While it means PR professionals have possibly thousands more influentials to watch (the blogosphere is huge now) and communicate with, it also opens thousands of doors (including the organization's own website) to get the organization's name out for a much lower cost than traditional media. The book says it well with "Bloggers-Eliminating the Gatekeepers."

With these now thousands of options for media coverage, there are many steps/aspects to earning good coverage. Ch. 7 is long - in fact, the longest chapter in the book - which I think just emphasizes the point that receiving good media coverage is very important and one of the keys to success for social change. The chapter starts by talking about the importance of relationships with reporters, a point it continually makes throughout the chapter and in other chapters of the book. I like the way Karen DeWitt, a VP of communications for a social justice organization in DC, puts it, "You have got to get to know reporters, and the best way to form relationships is to bring something of value to the relationship" (quote taken from book). Reporters are constantly bombarded with story pitches. Having a story with something interesting or different can help your story cut through to the front of a reporter's mind.

Much of the chapter also discusses the various ways a PR professional can make it easy for reporter's to get information. One of the ways suggested is to have a press room section on the organization's Web site. This section should include information on the organization in easy-to-read formats (backgrounders, fact sheets, etc.), links to articles mentioning/featuring the organization, press releases, multimedia (photos, audio/video clips, graphs, etc.) and contact information. The book also suggests telling reporters when new information is posted so they also know what's happening. I like this idea because it adds a sense of timeliness to an organization's happenings which is key for news stories. Something that kind of caught me by surprise was the extensive use of the telephone in dealing with reporters. I guess since I've basically grown up with the Internet and mainly communicate through e-mails and text messaging, I didn't realize the impact the telephone still has (Also, I kind of detest talking on the phone. There is something about not being able to see someone that throws me off.). Telephone still seems to be a way to reach a reporter quickly and with a short, concise spiel ready, it can communicate easily without wasting the time of the reporter. Also, the telephone is often used for interviews, audio press conferences, and even radio tours. I guess I'll have to get over my thing against telephones. I will obviously use it in my career.

Alright, the last main point I want to talk about from Ch. 7 is the planning and details of press conferences and major events. I never realized the amount of work, research and planning that goes into both of these. You must alert and invite media well in advance and send multiple reminders (makes sense as I said before, reporters are bombarded with pitches). A lot of planning must go into choosing and setting up the physical locations of press conferences and major events. Training spokespeople and choosing the right visuals are also key for success. While more for major events (though it applies to press conferences too), the production is very important. The book compares it to a theatrical production which I think is pretty accurate. Of course, another key to press conferences and major events is the evaluation. This is something that is emphasized in every PR book I read, every PR class I take, every PR blog I follow. You don't really know if something was a success until you evaluate it. The main reason this is so important is because this shows what worked and what didn't so you know what to change in future events. I'll admit this also sounds like one of the really fun parts to me. It's a chance to see if your ideas were a success and often leads to a second chance if they didn't. All in all, the changing industry has affected the way PR professionals work, yet traditional methods are still popular and some tried-and-true aspects have stuck around (like research, planning and evaluation).

On a side note, I don't know if this means I'm in the right major or just kind of a nerd (possibly both), but I think the Freedom Forum's Newseum sounds really cool! It's definitely on my list of places to go if I ever make it back to DC.

Monday, September 13, 2010

values, values and more values

Alright so once again, after reading chapters 3 and 4 in our book, one thing keeps coming back as a highly important aspect of effective strategic communications: values. (Ok not to completely dismiss the Ch. 3, research is highly important too and the book suggests that media trend analysis and taking stock of public opinion are two of the easiest ways to research for a communications plan). Basically everything needs to go back to values; but with this emphasis on values comes a need for a thoroughly thought-out message. The idea of "contested concepts," or different definitions for values-based messages is really interesting to me. This is something I definitely see as changing the view of a message and therefore important for PR professionals to understand. All contested concepts have an essential, uncontested core and that is what communications plans must resonate with its audience. I think this is where the FrameWorks framing elements and levels take form. Though it simplifies the process, the three levels used by FrameWorks work well to describe the basic foundation for framing. The three levels are these:
1. Big Picture - This is where the general public is on most issues. It's the basic idea of a movement.
2. Issues & Movements - This is where activists are. These are the more specific groups of people to whom you want to appeal who you already know care about a certain issue.
3. Specific Policies & Legislation - This is where policy makers and experts are. These people know a lot about the issue and usually have a lot at stake when it comes to the issue.
**Note - The book also expresses the need to operate at the level of the audience to whom you are appealing. Using the language and jargon necessary for that particular audience is very important.

I think the way the book explains the importance of framing messages so well, I'm going to quote it: "By properly framing messages, you build a communications strategy on widely held values that shape opinions. And within those frames, you can create targeted messages, assembling the specific concepts and language that will resonate with those who are persuadable and ready to move to action" (p. 44). This presents the "challenge" in the book: to move people past their natural habits and thoughts to a new frame or re-frame the words describing the issue.

Trying to find an example of values shown in an ad:
So this is certainly not for a non-profit (Louis Vuitton is probably considered the exact opposite of that) but I found it interesting that this was the first video in the results after I searched "values" on YouTube.

The messages and reflections on values in this ad are strong. And yet, you would never know what it was for until the very end. There is absolutely no mention of the brand, just the idea of a journey and its effect on a person. This is interesting because it does a good job in connecting a value/idea to a brand. It is obviously appealing to an audience that enjoys travel and puts "being worldly/cultural" high on a list of values. This equates to an audience that can afford to travel a lot, and moreover can afford to buy LV. Many of the comments stated how much they loved this commercial and its branding power; however, others thought it was too fake (connecting this "love life" value with a expensive brand). I applaud LV for this commercial but I too wish it was for something a little more substantial than a designer brand. The emotions and values presented in this video could do wonders for some sort of non-profit organization that wanted to promote cultural tolerance or even an organization like the Peace Corps. People would be less likely to see the commercial as pretentious if the organization behind it was more substantial and fit better with the values presented.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

not just the big picture..but that too

This week we were asked to read chapter two in our book, Strategic Communications for Nonprofits (which I love the way it is set up). This chapter went through the elements of a strategic communications plan, and I mean all the elements. It discussed every little detail for a successful communications plan, yet was able to relate everything back to the big picture - an organization's overall goals and values (that, of course, are based on each other). I think that's what I liked so much about the emphasis of the chapter. An organization must set its goals based on its values, and everything else in a communications plan must stem from that.

The other thing that was repeated throughout the chapter was - get this - the plan! Basically, you cannot over plan a communications plan. A successful communications plan relies on research, well-developed messages, trained spokespeople, high-quality materials, and knowing exactly what resources you have and how you will use them. After defining your goals, you must define your audiences - and then learn everything you can about them. Then you need to know what media they use and to whom they will listen (then learn everything you can about them). A part of the plan that I find interesting personally is the use of the Internet. As a webmaster for an organization, I understand the importance of the Internet and its ability to relay information. The chapter's emphasis on an updated and well-organized Web site is key. You must know what the site is meant to do.

I'll admit, when I first read all of this I thought, this is a lot of work. How do PR professionals do this every day for their organizations? And is it all necessary? After reading the case study on The Fairness Initiative on Low-Wage Work, the answer is yes, definitely. All of these steps and planning were necessary for the success of the Fairness Initiative. This really was the perfect outcome because they did exactly what they wanted; they changed the policy on their issue (and I'll admit that I benefited from this change myself, so kudos to them). The effort and collaboration (20 different groups coming together is impressive!) of the Fairness Initiative was the reason they were able to call attention to their issue and eventually make the ultimate difference.

The last point I found interesting about this chapter is its use of the term "earned media" (p. 74). I really like this term because I feel that it truly embodies the importance of a good communications plan. With the advent of the Internet came an overload of information because now any one can make his or her opinion public (and make it seem professional, whether it is or not). A good communications plan is necessary to gain significant coverage of an issue. If you want your issue to become more than just a blog topic or internal organization issue, a plan gets it regular, positive news coverage.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Social Media for Social Change - Darius Goes West

Darius Goes West is a great example of social media being used for social change. The social media aspect is well integrated (and quite prominent) into the whole movement for a cure/awareness of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Darius Goes West started as a documentary of Darius Weems going to California with his friends (and leaving home for the first time) to get Darius on MTV's Pimp My Ride and have his wheelchair customized. The film ended up creating - and still is - a lot of money and awareness for this disease.
To talk specifically about the social media aspect of this film-turned-foundation, on the website there is a blog with updates on Darius' health, upcoming events to raise more awareness/money (for example, his 21st birthday is coming up and there is a charity poker event to celebrate), and various deals (for example, educators can receive a free DVD). DGW also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. On the Facebook page, there are songs (Darius is an aspiring rapper), photos, and articles. Also while not created by or specifically for Darius Goes West, this foundation is participating as one of the "hidden treasures" in Geocaching, where people from all over the world use GPS to find "treasures" in the real world and then share them in an online community. The DGW DVD was made a "geocache" by a Georgia teacher who wants the DVD to eventually travel to the West Coast and back, like Darius did himself. All of this, of course, was posted on the DGW's blog.
All in all, this organization really knows how to use social media for social change to help appeal to a younger audience. As an organization who chooses to produce the film independently despite offers from production companies) in order to continue to give the majority of the profits to DMD research, it has really gotten creative on how to get the word out and keep the excitement up about the organization. Social media are perfect for this type of organization that is small and therefore cannot spend a lot of money to do marketing.

ch. 1 - the basics

The first chapter of our book, Strategic Communication for Nonprofits, discuss the basics of strategic communication. The part I like most about this chapter is its emphasis on the integration of good media relations and communications rather than having these communications seen as a small, separate part of the organization. One of my favorite (and for me, seems one of the most important) sections in this chapter is the "Good Communications Affect Your Whole Organization" box. It really emphasizes the idea that good media relations can make or break your organization and the impact it makes on society. Because all media are connected now, appealing to one may lead to coverage in several others.
I agree with the chapter when it states that nonprofits have a built-in advantage and often overlook their obvious assets when trying to promote their organization for whatever reason (and there are several of those as listed under "choosing your goals." These are incredibly thought-out too. I never realized the vast amount of goals different nonprofits would be trying to reach and how different the plan for each of these goals is. This, I think, is a important thing to remember. Understanding fully how to reach your goal is obviously the first step in creating a good strategic communications plan because the same plan does not fit all goals.
Good strategic communications are often showcased in a big event or a crisis well-managed but for the most part, the small daily tasks that go into strategic communications go a long way. I realized this when I had an internship with Oconee Medical Center's Foundation. While I was able to assist with its employee campaign, much of my job as an intern was spent updating and organizing donor lists and sending thank you letters to various donors. The employee campaign may have been more hands-on but the experience made me realize that being organized and up-to-date about donor relations (this thought could be extended to all types of relations) is a very important part of good strategic communications.