Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays and some advice to non-profits. (Part 1)

In a recent interview with a non-profit organization for a social media job, I was asked what I would do with their website and social media plan. I gave them some small suggestions based on a cursory glance over their platforms, mainly regarding linking and authorship in the conversation. I stopped myself from my usual tendency to ramble on by saying, "...but I can't give away all my secrets. " After a chorus of laughter one of the fellows said something to the effect that he hoped that there isn't anyone out there who would take advantage of a situation like that. I have been thinking and to the best of my knowledge, most people in both the for-profit and non-profit worlds would jump at the chance for free advice.

In this environment of stiff competition over even the smallest of jobs our information and knowledge-base are factors in what sets us apart. Our information is in essence, a great resource for us. It is valuable. As one who has worked on both sides of government; the governing and the lobbying, and as one who has developed campaign strategies and outreach efforts for all sorts of campaigns, I would like to think my knowledge has value and is a huge resource for me.

While I am not Christian, I still get moved by the concept behind the Christmas spirit and the "reason for the season." From watching "White Christmas," "Trading Places," "Scrooged" and "It's a Wonderful Life," I feel like sharing a bit of my resources and giving a few tips and tricks to those who care to read. Who knows, may turn it into a monthly thing.

The first thing that needs to be understood here is that social media is good. It can help you and is nothing to be afraid of. There are far too many organizations out there that are afraid that by engaging in social media, they will have no control over what is being said. What most of these organizations forget is that they currently have no control over what is being said. By not engaging in the medium, they are not engaging in the conversation and have absolutely no control over it. If you think that the public has huge complaints about you, why would you think not having a facebook account or a blog or a forum of your own would stop those complainers from registering their complaint somewhere else? Other rating forums and discussion groups exist and even relevant newspaper articles published online can have hundreds of responses.

Non-profit organizations, government entities, and elected officials need to recognize that these forums are not just a place for people to leave complaints like the age old Festivus tradition of the listing of grievances. This is a way to develop a back and forth method of conversation and constituent tracking. If someone registers a complaint, address it. Speak to it and be honest (within the confines of your organization's guidelines).

See this more as an opportunity to become closer to your constituency in this more modern age. It is a window to your organization, a way to become more human with those who may want to donate or volunteer. Having active and inclusive social media platforms enable the public to know why they should be excited about your organization and what you do.

I was speaking with a former Assemblywoman this last year at a St. Patrick's party. She and I agreed that you can't really have an effective political campaign, especially in California, without using social media. This applies to organizations, issue campaigns and even marketing campaigns. So, for those who are in the non-profit, government and political worlds my small tid-bit of advice for you is simply this, it is time to embrace your fears. And I have said this many many many times before. If you, as the communications leader for your organization, have some remaining fear about jumping into the social media world just remember the litany against fear;

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

So this is my small gift to anyone who, like me, thinks my knowledge could be useful; some of that knowledge. I have decided to make this a monthly thing because it would mean a bit more than just saying "don't be afraid" and will give me more of an opportunity to say what I want to say.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Until I come back next time with "Social Media Advice to Non-Profits Part 2 - The 5 Step Process"

-Andrew Kornblatt

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