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Archive for September, 2008

Economic Crisis Is a Social Media Opportunity for Smart Nonprofits

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Hi to all. I’m sending you this quick post during this time of extreme economic crisis in our country and around the world as a possible result of greed on Wall Street.

Sad economic state of affairs - I don’t mind saying this to you because on behalf of nonprofits everywhere, doing the hard work of keeping people together, this next year or more will be very difficult. See this special report by the Philanthropy Journal. Read this article with a grain of salt in the palm of your hand.

Keep learning - I find that the traditional national associations of nonprofits or even grant makers are a little behind the curve where communications strategy is concerned. By this I mean, many senior folks are not tuned in to social media. Everyone says they don’t have time to learn how to use the media. This is a silly excuse. I am sorry to sound tough on people whose leadership has resulted in the wonderful array of 501 (c) 3s in the U.S. that competently serve the disenfranchised. But during the next year, not a single CEO or communicator can afford not to think about how to use social media. Also, join the Center of Nonprofit Excellence in Charlottesville. I have not yet seen a more nimble web presence able to provide info and wisdom to nonprofits. 

Debating the value of social media vs. use of traditional media - see my letter to the editor in The New York Times Magazine, Sept, 21.  It is a comment on an article published two weeks prior in the New York Times Magazine, Sept. 7 (Clive Thompson, “Digitally Close To You”).  All of you should/could read and benefit from this.

Just Do It - All is not lost. I am not encouraging you to fold up your nonprofit tents and go home. Quite the contrary: keep in mind that social media can boost your fund-raising, help reach an audience or audiences you haven’t even touched yet, and give you hope for the future. Also look for upcoming information about a new media conference sponsored by the Society for New Communications Research on November 14 in Cambridge, Mass.

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Integrating Online and Offline Marketing

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

In his September 10 post Are You Too Much Online, Duct Tape Marketing’s John Jantsch cautions against being so enamored of Web 2.0 marketing channels that we forget about traditional channels that can still serve us well. Online channels are so cost-effective, Jantsch argues, that we can often put too much emphasis on them, at the expense of a fully rounded effort that integrates online and offline messages in ways that synergize both channels, for greater ROI.

Or perhaps worse still, I would add, forgetting to fully integrate our online and offline marketing, seeing the two channels as so disparate that we create divergent messages for each channel. As more and more channels become available to us, we need more than ever to work hard at ensuring that all our messages are saying the same thing.

When it comes to integrating online and offline efforts, email marketing programs face some challenges that are unique to the email medium. Email has unique capabilities, and limits, that make it so different from say, our websites or our trade show marketing, that we may see it as an entirely separate entity:

Image suppression: For email, integration can be especially tricky in the age of image suppression. Most of our other marketing efforts, both online and offline, depend on images: our website, advertising, brochures, are highly graphical. Even whitepapers are likely to be at least partially dependent on graphics for their overall message. Thus, most of your online efforts can have the same overall feel as offline messages, such as print ads. Unless you advertise on radio, email is likely to be your only channel where you can’t depend on any image, not even your logo, to convey your message. This makes it fundamentally different from your other channels, which makes integration that much harder.

The importance of the subject line: Emphasis on the subject line means that other aspects of the email sometimes receive relatively less attention. For offline efforts, we can rely on several elements to catch potential consumers’ attention, so we tend to view offline creative more holistically. For instance, print ads can catch consumers’ attention with not just images, but headlines and copy as well. Emails catch subscribers’ attention through that subject line, which means we tend to put so much attention to that line, that we may not view each email message as holistically.

Personalization: Even if you don’t personalize your email messages, your messages are still personal in a way that no other marketing medium is. Let’s face it, few people are likely to forward really good email marketing communications in the same way they might bookmark a website, or share a widget. They might forward a newsletter, but other messages are likely to stop with the recipient. We can take advantage of email’s personalization. We can have dozens of potential messages for different segments. This is a great thing, but it also makes email even more divergent from other channels, which again, makes us think about email differently.

The way we conceptualize email is simply not like the way we conceptualize other channels, both online and offline. This doesn’t mean that we can’t integrate it just as completely with offline efforts. If anything, email makes you get down to basics, thinking about what aspects of your branding can be expressed in just a few short lines of text. And this focus on the essentials is what integration is all about.


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Christina Inge is the marketing manager for Spinwave Systems, a Westford-based tech company specializing in energy management solutions. She also serves as marketing and public relations coordinator for the New England Quilt Museum. She has over ten years’ experience in communications for both B2C and B2B audiences. 

The Nonprofit build-up—More important than the event itself

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Hi all. I want to refer back to a point made in my previous post (Nonprofits-Begin to learn about the social media) about the “build-up” required when implementing a strategic marketing plan for your nonprofit. This post will explain how to get started when thinking about a build-up.

Myths: When using social media, e.g., blog, creating an excellent Web site, doing an email blast to notify people about an upcoming event, most communicators have the mistaken impression that one email blast is sufficient. Or, if you build a Web site, they will come. Or, if we just make the blog long and meaningful, it will draw an audience.

Build-up is more important than the event itself: These beliefs are understandable if your experience with social media is limited to using email and producing print publications and posters. Let’s say you want to raise crucially needed funds by staging an event. The build-up is actually more important than the event itself. This phase of creating excitement about your organization presents huge opportunities to:

(1) Clarify the mission of your organization
(2) Communicate energy and commitment, and
(3) Get people prepared to read, absorb and use the crucially important request or announcement you are planning to distribute in the future.

Build-up components: The build-up phase includes two aspects. (Plan ahead because it will take some time.)

 (1) Creation of substantive, irresistibly engaging information

Develop brief and well-written content about your nonprofit’s work. (Borrow generously from previous writing.) For example, post on your Web site a lively, engaging article profiling a young person for whom you identified services. (Look at MercyCorps for an excellent example of emotionally moving profiles spotlighted on the home page.

Or, develop a bibliography of relevant, informative articles or an index of occasions when your nonprofit organization has been in the news. Create a brief photo gallery of gorgeous images of your kids, your families, your staff at work, or of your facilities.

(2) Development of a strategic approach. Here are the rudiments:

- With every communication (electronic or print), encourage the recipient to forward the information to interested colleagues and friends.
- Give the recipient the option to opt-out with each email blast.
- Use brief, punchy text-only messages – include no images. Avoid using a Constant Contact™ newsletter platform unless you have a graphic artist and IT specialist who can devote a lot of upfront time to this.
- When ready, prepare a communication to your current database of constituents advising that you will be emailing important information to them occasionally.
- Think about how often you can refresh your engaging information for your audience, e.g., perhaps a new, uniquely important communication every 4-6 weeks.

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The views and opinions on this blog are solely those of the contributors and do NOT necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association.