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.