Ask the Experts

Ask the Experts: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Each month, I invite guest contributors to speak about timely, relevant, and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations like yours to be aware of as you grow. For September, Lauren Dawson will be talking about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Lauren is a former intern from a previous job, and we recently reconnected because I was researching diversity and inclusion for a client project. I came across this awesome report from LinkedIn, and after digging a little deeper, realized that Lauren actually works in that department for the business networking giant.

So, I thought this could be a fantastic topic to address here on the blog as hiring and culture are always on the minds of small business owners. As expected, Lauren has some excellent information and advice for your nonprofit or social enterprise!

 Ask the Experts: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Q: What are the latest trends for diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

A. Some may actually say that diversity and inclusion is the trend of the year, and I’m hoping the attention will continue until it's obsolete. In the era of social media justice, campaigns like #blacklivesmatter and #metoo are the norm, and we're seeing that shift for diversity and inclusion as well.

Customers, employees, and other stakeholders are flexing in powerful ways to influence company decision-making. Where diversity and inclusion may have been restricted to messages of tolerance and team trainings before, it has now expanded to include products, customers, policy work, and more. As a result, employee resource groups are evolving their advocacy to align with business strategy and, by extension, receiving more opportunities to develop and be recognized for their leadership skills.

The latest trend in the tech world as it pertains to diversity and inclusion is the idea of belonging along with the emphasis on inclusion. Because of the laser focus on workforce representation of under-represented groups in tech, some companies had invested in their hiring activities with little movement in the overall representation numbers.

Now, in addition to hiring, investments are being made to increase retention by influencing how people make each other feel and help each other grow in the workplace: inclusion and belonging. With that being said, representation matters and the focus on representation metrics has been a powerful tool to motivate action and attract attention to this important issue.

Q. What's the biggest mistake you see people making in regards to diversity and Inclusion?

A. I think it’s a big mistake to create separate processes and responsibilities for “diversity activities." For example, the diversity team should not be responsible for “diversity hiring,” in my opinion. It should be responsible for designing and implementing strategies to enable the talent acquisition teams and hiring managers to get more diverse candidates in the hiring process and make them more successful.

In general, diversity and inclusion teams should be responsible for folding diversity, inclusion, and belonging into existing activities rather than creating new ones. In some cases, it is necessary to temporarily create a new role or process to manage the change or to pilot a new idea. However, the long-term goal should always be to empower, educate, and equip all employees and teams to infuse diversity, inclusion, and belonging into all business activities.

 

Q. What's your best piece of advice for people interested in diversity and inclusion?

A. In general, my best piece of advice is for people to embrace what they don’t know and proactively seek differing opinions and viewpoints.

Many studies over the years have proven that diverse teams win. In fact, McKinsey’s Why Diversity Matters 2018 report asserts that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than their respective industry medians.

I believe it’s a competitive advantage, especially considering the increasing demographic changes and global mobility of people and commerce. Every individual can more authentically and sustainably develop their own capacity for teamwork when they align with the principles of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. For people leading these initiatives, patience is key because sustained change takes time to build, and fast change can often be counterproductive given the complexity of what we’re trying to do.

 

Q. What's one thing readers can do this week to improve their own efforts?

A. Lean in to your own ability to build relationships with people who are different from you, inside and outside of the office. Start a conversation with a colleague that you’re not as comfortable connecting with by asking them what inspired them to work at the organization.

Not only does this help create deeper connections and working relationships, but it also helps you develop cross-cultural competency. Learn more about this approach to connection on Charles Vogl’s website.

 

Q. Do you have any resources to share that might be helpful for people wanting to learn more about diversity and inclusion?

A. I recommend subscribing to Fortune’s RaceAhead newsletter for business and societal news related to diversity.


 Lauren Dawson, LinkedIn

Lauren Dawson is an HR Specialist on the Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging team at LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network. She loves karaoke and brunch, and when she’s not in San Francisco, you can usually find her with friends and family in her hometown of Atlanta, GA.

Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn



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  Hiring and culture are always on the minds of small business owners, and few topics are bigger these days than diversity and inclusion. So, I asked Lauren Dawson of LinkedIn to provide some insights on the trends and best practices for nonprofits and social enterprises.

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


ASK THE EXPERTS: CONTENT MARKETING 101

One of the issues I hear a lot from clients and others is that they don't know WHAT to post on social media, write in their blogs, or send to their email list. They know they should be engaged in content marketing, but when they sit down to think about it, they get stuck. 

Maybe #allthethings come to mind. Maybe nothing comes to mind. And inevitably, if you sit down for more than five minutes, there will be another fire to put out, and so posting on social media and emailing your tribe moves to the back burner...again.

But content marketing is a terrific bang for your buck over the long term. It's an investment. (Don't believe me? Check out this terrific Inc. Magazine article.) However, you have to actually start for there to be a long term, right? So, building on last month's writing advice, this month is dedicated to helping you figure out your content strategy. We'll help you navigate what to say, so that your fans have something to cheer about.

Up first is my friend Jennifer Garrett of See.Spark.Go. To kick things off, she's going to break down content marketing in general so that we're all on the same page for the rest of the series. There is some fantastic information in here, so listen up!

 Ask the Experts: Content Marketing 101

For years, marketers have thrown around the cliche that content is king. And in a world of fake news, a new social media channel every day, selfie videos, and the over-saturation of every news feed, good content is crucial.

But the overnight success of homemade videos or that Instagram page with unbelievable photos and no followers proves that the best content in the world does not lead to success—alone.

Content marketing is serving the right content to the right audience at the right time. It’s understanding who you are, who your audience is, and where you intersect. No longer is your competition the person down the street serving the same clientele; you compete against every other message your audience receives on any given day.

Understanding how to create and use your content—and generate content from your audience— to tell your story allows you to intersect your audience when and where they are looking for you.

What are the latest trends in content marketing?

Whether you’re swiping through the news feed of your favorite social media platform, reading a blog, or flipping through a magazine, story-driven content attracts attention and engagement. Stories provide connection, relatability, and drive action. Real people whom your organization serves or stories of those advocating for you or serving with you authenticate your message better than any infographic ever will.

Currently, the mediums that are best telling those stories are video—live in particular—and influencers. The algorithms of the major social media platforms prioritize live content (i.e., Facebook/Instagram Stories), any video, and then everything else.

Even as algorithms change and adjust, social media consistently prioritizes content from a person over a business. Which takes us to the rise of the influencer. A mom of twins with 3.9 million followers or the college student foodie getting 300,000 likes per ice cream cone is leveraging the combination of grassroots endorsements with the type of content their audience wants. An influencer doesn’t have to have thousands of followers, though. They only need to have a voice for your cause. Is there an advocate who reaches a segment of your audience (big or small; existing or potential) who would be willing to post about your organization or someone whose message and platform could be shared through your channels to bolster your message?

 

What is the biggest mistake you see people making in content marketing? 

The hardest decision for the owner of any story to make is what’s most important. So often, we see organizations and leaders who are too close to their story and think their audience needs to know everything about them. Blasting every message, every month with slightly different language becomes white noise in a world that’s already in a shouting match.

A lack of definition of your key messages, spread out in a cohesive, strategic timeline prevents even your most engaged followers from understanding what you want them to do.

What is your best piece of advice?

Know what you want your audience to do before you determine what you want them to know. Everything feels important to you when you developed or own a story—every event, person, donation, result, and new initiative is something you want your audience to know because you care so deeply. Take the request “Tweet about this today” or “make this email really quick” out of your vocabulary.

If you understand your end goal, you can work backwards to take your audience on the right journey and filter out the confusing, extra calls to action that would take your audience away from responding to what you actually want them to do.

 

What is one thing readers can do this week to improve?

Create an editorial calendar. It not only allows you to streamline your messaging and tell a cohesive story across multiple channels, it allows you to do more with less. Create big rocks of quality content that can be used in long-form to move followers down a path to action, and then piecemeal the content into chunks to use across other channels (blog > email > social > text).

 

Anything else we should keep in mind?

Mediums constantly change, but the fundamentals of content marketing have not. Understanding who you are, who your audience is, and what you want them to do determines your content. All of the changes in social media, online platforms, print, and video simply change the presentation format.

 

Do you have any resources that would be helpful so people can learn more?

Listening and monitoring tools that tell you the demographics and behavior of your audience is critical. Sprout Social and other social media monitoring tools allow you to see the make-up of your audience and who is engaging with your content. This allows you to strategically write long form captions for the women who dominate your Instagram feed, for example, or add more requests for donations to your Twitter posts if that’s what’s driving results.

Quality content is still king, but it can only reign if you are delivering it to your audience where they are and in a way they want to consume it. Only data and reporting can keep you from throwing spaghetti up against the Facebook wall each month.

If that doesn't seem doable right now, the best resource I can recommend is your curiosity and engagement with content outside of your industry. Consuming podcasts, blogs, social media, and video by successful brands and organizations inspires new ideas and allows you to see different formats (long captions, subject lines, or calls to action) that could work for you. Are quote graphics, short sizzle videos, or profiles of team members what catch your eye when you're scanning social media? Or why do you open emails from certain brands?

Donald Miller's Story Brand and the How I Built This podcasts are two of my favorites, and Fast Company is not only my go-to for what businesses are up to, but I use the way they present content on social, through newsletters, and long-form in their magazine online as an example all the time.

 

Like this post? Stick around for the rest of our content marketing series this month! We'll be covering storytelling as a tactic, along with blog, social media, and email content marketing.

 

Read the other posts in this series:

 


 Jennifer Garrett of See.Spark.Go

Jennifer Garrett is Vice President of Content and Creative at See.Spark.Go, a PR agency that provides full-service marketing communications. Her deep understanding of editorial content and process brings structure and vision to SSG’s clients and team. When she isn’t maximizing SSG’s expertise, content creation and ideation, she enjoys playing soccer or tennis with friends, serving on the Refuge Coffee Company board, and gathering friends in and around her Atlanta home.

IG: @jenngarrett

Twitter: @JennG_



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 Content marketing is serving the  right content  to the  right audience  at the  right time . It’s understanding who you are, who  your audience  is, and where you intersect.

 Kristi Porter of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Advice From The Editors: Avoid These Writing Mistakes

If you've been wondering what makes for great business writing, you're in luck! Based on feedback from the Signifiers Facebook Group, we're focusing on writing tips all month long. But before we talk about how to write an enticing and effective blog post, website, or social media, let's first chat about common writing mistakes. 

I don't know about you, but I see errors on professional websites, blogs, social media, and even national commercials almost daily. And, as someone who can spot them, it makes the brand seem more amateur to me, especially when it's a large company. That's definitely not what I want for your organization. 

So, to kick things off, I asked a few of my favorite #girlboss editors to explain some common writing mistakes, which will allow you to spot any weaknesses you may have, and improve them. (Basically, here's how you can up your writing game in just a few minutes!) Any corrections you can catch now may cause you to retain customers and donors in the future.

 Advice From the Editors: Avoid These Common Business Writing Mistakes

Audience

Sara Shelton:

My biggest tip for any and all writers would be to remember your audience. If you don’t know who you’re writing to, don’t start writing until you figure that out! Identify your primary audience and then write with them in mind. Read everything back through the lens of that audience and ask yourself if it makes sense just for them. Did it communicate specifically to that audience?

As an editor, one the biggest content mistakes I find myself having to correct is a lack of focus on an audience. It’s much easier to make a clear point and deliver a direct message to one, specific audience. When a writer or brand doesn’t know who they’re trying to communicate to, clarity and messaging gets lost and mixed up pretty quickly!

 

Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling, and Related Nonsense

Afton Phillips:

The Oxford Comma Debate

To add the third comma, or not to add the third comma. That is the question. A REAL BIG pet peeve of mine when editing is inconsistent commas. The Oxford comma is the last comma in a list of three or more items just before the "and" or "or." For example, “Johnny, April, and Samantha drove to the store to get Tombstone frozen pizza, which as we all know, is the best kind of pizza.” The comma after "April" is the Oxford comma.

The reason this matters is that sometimes the meaning of the sentence can be misconstrued without the comma. In the above example, it might otherwise seem like we’re telling Johnny that April and Samantha went to get delicious pizza without him, which is very rude. Without the Oxford comma, the last two subjects can sometimes be grouped together separately, leaving the first guy all alone, hungry, and wishing he had pizza. So, my humble opinion is to be kind and add the Oxford comma.

There are a lot of opinions on this topic, but no matter where you fall, my one piece of advice is be consistent. Whether you want to use it or not, whenever you have a list of three or more, make sure you either always or never use your Oxford comma. This will make your editor's life much easier, and it will clear up any misunderstandings in your text by your willy-nilly use of punctuation.

 

Jill Turner:

The number one mistake I have corrected lately (and so many times) is no comma before "and" (or any other conjunction) when marrying two sentences that could stand on their own. For example: Kristi Porter is a friend of mine. She is a talented writer. If I put those two sentences together, I have to say, "Kristi Porter is a friend of mine, and she is a talented writer."

A second thing that bothers me is the very popular use of "based off." A base is something you put something else ON. A base is a launching pad, a setting place. You can only base something ON something else.

A resource Jill recommends:

 

I will also add two of my own here:

First, an ampersand, or the famous "&" character, should not be placed in the middle of a sentence. I think this probably became more popular when people started writing like they text (note: me shaking my head and sighing). Use it for titles, names, and things like that, but if you're using it in a sentence because typing two more characters for "and" is a bit much for you, rethink it. It just leaves me feeling that whatever is written is unprofessional or sloppy. And it drives me insane to see large businesses who can afford proofreaders make this mistake.

Second, and somewhat related, is the use of single and double quotes. I still hold true to what I was taught in school: use double quotes every dang time, unless you are quoting someone within a set of quotes. For example: "I turned to look at a bewildered Samantha who said, 'Oh, no, she didn't!' and then we both burst out laughing."

That latter mention is the only time I believe a single quote should be used. And I really enjoyed this funny, tirade on the subject. Again, I think this leads back to texting being the death of proper writing. (Call me old, I don't care!) Then again, sometime these mistakes keep me in business, so there's that...

Resources I recommend:

  • I admit to Googling these questions now and again, but I only get my answers from reputable sources like AP Stylebook, Grammarly, and Grammar Girl, which you'll also see noted below.

  • Make friends with editors, ha! I'll also admit to texting some of these ladies questions from time-to-time.

  • If you have the budget, hire a proofreader. It may not seem like it should be at the top of your list, but remember, everything you say (including how you say it) conveys something about your organization. If you're asking people to buy something from you, or donate to your organization, you'd better make sure that you look and sound professional. Personally, if I see a lot of errors in a website, email, blog, or social media, that's not where I'm going to send my money.

 

Style

Crystal Chiang:

When writing, nothing is more often overlooked or more impactful than tension. Tension helps the reader answer the question, “why do I care?”. It moves them to feel something, to engage.

The problem is that no one really likes tension, not even the author. We want it to be relieved. We want the reader to know that we know the answer to the questions we’re asking. We want to stop feeling the tension, so we resolve it to quickly. And in doing so, we unknowingly sabotage ourselves.

The truth is, there’s a lot of content out there and our time is limited. So helping a reader know why this topic matters to them is key if we want them to stick around.

A resource Crystal recommends:

 

Leigh Harper:

Don't fall into the trap of foregoing correctness for the sake of being catchy or memorable. Trust me, you'll be remembered—but not for the reasons you'd like! Creativity is great, but keep it professional by using proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Playing off of words is welcomed (i.e. naming a boutique "Sew In Style"), but there's no need to get sloppy ("Sew 'N Style" or worse, "Sew-N-Style"). You'll be hurting yourself by appearing amateur. Plus, deviating from traditional spelling, punctuation, or grammar opens the door wide open for vendors, donors, and customers to misspell or confuse your brand. Naming an event, product, or campaign? You guessed it. Same rules apply in order to put your best foot forward.

Resources Leigh recommends:

 

A Little of This, A Little of That

Jennifer Bradley Franklin:

Effective writing is the foundation of successful messaging—in public relations and beyond. It can communicate the strengths of a brand to virtually any targeted audience, convert skeptics into evangelists, and it can make the journalist receiving it say, “Yes! I want to write a story about that!” Bad, boring, or unclear writing will make many people ignore the potentially terrific information you have to share.

What Makes Bad Writing?

  • Too much "puffery" such as: "It will be a fun-filled evening for the entire family, with each hilarious performance starting promptly at 8 p.m.”

  • Empty/meaningless language: there is, amazing, actually, basically, really, charming, fantastic, wonderful, etc. Use concrete adjectives that convey what you want to say.

  • Cramming in too many big words, just for the sake of, well, using big words.

  • Being unclear. Don’t make assumptions about your reader’s knowledge of a subject.

What Makes Good Writing?

  • Master the basics (grammar, structure, format) and then build in personality and “punch” from that strong foundation.

  • Write for clarity. Read your work with a critical eye, asking the question, “If I weren’t close to this project, would this paragraph make sense?”

  • Be concise, but include interesting details that entice the recipient to read on. Think like a journalist.

Resources Jennifer recommends:

  • Grammarly

  • "In general, I think the best way to become a better writer is to be a voracious reader. Reading good writing hones those skills!"

 

Jennifer Wilder:

I have two pieces of advice. First, no matter how well you write, you can still make spelling errors on words like here and hear, or they're and their, or your and you're. Often, these spelling errors elude us even after reading it twice. That's why it's important to have a second set of eyes read your article. This person could be your spouse, your business partner, a professional editor, or a virtual assistant. The second person will often catch things that you didn't.

If you're unable to locate someone to read things twice, then read it yourself, out loud, a third time. Pretend that you are reading it to someone who is looking over your shoulder at the document. You'll likely find that spelling errors jump out at you when taking this perspective.

Second, write as if your article or communication was going to be read by a group of fifth-grade students. Are your ideas clearly thought out and linked together? Are your sentences less than 20 words? Check to make sure you limit the use of pronouns or referring words. Mix in the proper names of things among those referring pronouns to ensure that readers follow your thought process through complex ideas about multiple subject matters.

Resources Jen recommends:

 

Patti Townley-Covert:

  • If a nonprofit does not have an experienced communications department, I highly recommend they hire someone to come in and do a seminar about writing tips. (Or if you have someone experienced, it's worth making the time for that person to share writing info with whatever staff personnel might write for the organization. It's amazing how few editors/marketing people/human resources personnel and others have any kind of training in effective communications. The authors I worked with at a nonprofit hated the writing/editorial process until I did a two-hour seminar correcting some misperceptions that even those designated as editors had. Articles/books/brochures and donor letters became far more engaging as a result. It's well-worth the cost.

  • Ledes (leads) should hook the reader into the material. Using a story, an outrageous or little known fact, or other compelling approaches will help readers take time to read the rest.

  • Writing is a team sport. It takes good communication and working together to get high-quality documents. Too many times authors and editors do not explain problems, they just try to fix them in isolation. That does not work well.

  • The worst problem I see, even with experienced writers, is passive or boring verbs—were, was, are, have, is. Verbs should be powerful, action words. That's fine for a first draft, but then substitute action words.

  • Another problem is over-using the word "I" in your writing. The article/missive/web piece is not about "you." Keep it focused on the audience, even when describing how you feel about it.

  • That said, when you're writing—just write. Let the words flow. Then go back and edit. The two processes use opposite sides of the brain, and trying to edit as you go makes a writer miserable. That was the number one reason the authors I worked with hated the process. They were trying to be creative and analytical at the same time.

 

Great information, right? These are smart, successful women who know their stuff. Take my advice: take their advice! These writing mistakes may be common, but they're easy to fix. Make these changes, and pretty soon, you'll be a more powerful writer who can help others rally around your cause.

And let us know in the comments which tips were most helpful for you!

 

Read the other posts in this series:



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 These common writing mistakes could be costing your nonprofit or social enterprise customers and donors! Listen to what our favorite editors had to say.

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


How To Improve Public Relations Through Social Media

Over the last decade, the lines between all forms of business communications have become blurred. It's no longer just marketing or public relations or advertising. They're all intertwined, and for that reason, I think you should have a good understanding of each.

So, today I've brought in my friend, Meleah Smith, to talk to you about public relations. PR seems to be a little more mysterious than its other communications cousins, but because it's often free, I think you'll be eager to learn more about it. And better yet, Meleah will put public relations in the context of social media to make it even easier to understand.

I spent a number of years in PR, and know the value it can bring your organization. And after she explains it, I think you'll see its worth too.

By the way, this kicks off an entire month dedicated to public relations strategy, so prepare to become a PR expert!

How To Improve Public Relations Through Social Media

By some miracle, I’ve been doing freelance public relations for almost 12 years now. The year I started, 2006, just so happened to have been the first year that Facebook was opened up beyond the world of college students.

Gradually over time, my clients began requesting more and more help with social media. Though I grew up entirely without it, social media has been present throughout my entire career. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don't love social media, but it is the single largest space where the public exists. So for the time being, PR and social media are irrevocably linked.

So, here are some big picture things about public relations with a few, specific steps you can take to apply them to the world of social media.

 

Real Life Connection

My passion for public relations comes from a heart to let people know that they are seen, that they are heard, and that they have a place in your space. Good PR creates spaces for people, welcomes them in for conversations, and invites them to come back.

Conversations and real life connections are critical on social media, and even more so now with the recent changes in algorithms. If you aren’t creating content that is engaging people in conversations, Facebook will not show your posts to people.

Social Media Tip: Test asking questions and Facebook Live. These are generating comments and conversations with the current algorithm.

Maintain Positive Communication

Good public relations maintains a positive flow of communication. Open up the channels of communication to foster real life connections and trust. In the face of anything negative, you shouldn't remain silent. You positively state what you can, while not affirming what you can’t, all while remaining honest.

No news is assumed to be bad news…or even, the worst news possible. So say something! If you’re the one who puts your message out there first, then others don’t get first dibs to spin it against you. Good PR is not afraid of a conversation.

Social Media Tip: Allow reviews, allow direct messages, etc. Communicate positively immediately on social media any time there are changes happening.

 

Answer Everything

Maintaining a favorable image in the public is closely tied to letting that public know that you like them. Think about it, if you know that someone likes you, you’re probably going to like them in return. And if you know that someone listens to you, you’ll want to talk to them. It's also possible that you'll go to them when you need something. Public relations is no different. Show the public that you like them and they’re more likely to think favorably of you.

On social media, one of the biggest ways that you can let people know that you like them is to engage with them.

Social Media Tip: Like every comment or mention. Reply to every comment and directly mention that person. Respond to every direct message.

Listen

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—we should listen twice as much as we speak. Excellent PR specialists understand and know their public. You can’t relate with a public that you don’t take the time to know. This does not mean that you sacrifice who you are, but present who you are in a way that is meaningful to them. This is to tie things together and make connections.

Social Media Tip: Post less this week and engage with your followers more. Respond specifically to their post, story, latest blog, bio, etc. If you dare, spend half as much time posting as you do engaging and listening.

 

Feed Your Creative Soul

Take time to feed your creative soul. Read something not related to work like a classic novel or a young adult fiction book. Go to a concert, gallery, or play. Pay attention to what is resonating more than just what’s merely popular.

Social Media Tip: Post something to inspire your audience this week. Don’t sell anything, just add value, beauty, or humor to their lives.

 

Be A Learner

What makes public relations impactful will never change, but the world in which we do it constantly changes. People are people, are people…the world over, for all time. But the tools and contexts in which we can reach them are continually ebbing and flowing. So be a learner. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that you think you should already know the answer to.

Social Media Tip: Read reliable blogs such as SproutSocial or get in touch with us at SocialLion.

 

Read all posts in this PR series:


Meleah Smith, public relations and social media expert

Meleah Smith loves making space for people. She does freelance public relations mostly in social media through SocialLion, manages her brother’s band called As Isaac at home and on the road, and volunteers mentoring students and youth leaders through her church.

She grew up in South Carolina, but has called Chattanooga, TN, home for 16 years.



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How To Improve Public Relations Through Social Media

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


5 Quick Ways for Meaningful Connections with Volunteers

Today's guest post comes from Jen Guynn, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Pebble Tossers, Inc., a youth development organization which empowers and develops youth into responsible citizens and lifelong volunteers. So, when I wanted to talk about the subject of working with volunteers, she instantly came to mind. Pebble Tossers holds multiple activities every month, which means she's used to a steady stream of do-gooding volunteers.

Buckle up—you're going to learn a lot from her!

 5 Quick Ways for Meaningful Connections with Volunteers

One of my favorite quotes from General George S. Patton says, “Do not tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their ingenuity.”

This idea can be a great way to connect with volunteers in your organization. Whether you run a nonprofit, a faith-based organization, or a social enterprise, you will need champions and advocates for your cause. You need volunteers.

When first reaching out to anyone outside of your immediate circle of trust like your roommates or family, it helps to have a few guidelines in place:

 

1.     Have a Clear Vision

Have a clear vision for what you want done or need to accomplish. If you need volunteers for a specific project, take the time to set some standard operating procedures (SOPs) and think through all the nitty gritty details of possible mishaps or misunderstandings. When you share your vision, your mission, and why this project is important, you engage volunteers on a different level. You bring them along with you on your journey and enable them to help you reach your goals. Allowing them to see themselves as a part of helping achieve that mission empowers them to be even more meaningful volunteers.

 

2.     Communicate Effectively

If you need five volunteers to show up a 5:45 a.m., be specific and tell them why.  Also tell them where to park, what to wear, what the weather will be, and provide a job description or project overview. I have learned that volunteers appreciate you anticipating their questions and providing the answers in advance. This makes their experience easier and allows them to be more effective.

Also, double check emails and social media posts. You may think that post looked fine at 1:37 a.m. when you wrote it, but trust me—it’s best to double check each darn line for accuracy and clarity.

 

3.     Don’t Micromanage

This can be tricky if you do not have a set plan of action in place. The quote from Patton comes in to play here—allow for some ingenuity when people attempt to complete a task.  Provide your volunteers with a comprehensive orientation or training of the task at hand, but allow for creative execution of those tasks. You may learn that there is a new way to spread mulch, write code, or play “Jeopardy.” 

It is key that volunteers enjoy what they are doing. Allow for those fun moments to happen. Your volunteers may not completely finish the task at hand, but if they had fun attempting it, they may come back another time to finish! If you bash their efforts, you will lose them forever. Understand that their help moves the mission needle, and gets you one step closer towards meeting that mission.

 

4.     Bring Snacks

Do not anticipate that people will have eaten before arriving to help. Life gets in the way and, if you live in Atlanta like I do, you know that even 20 minutes sitting in traffic can make you “hangry.” Have something healthy like protein bars or apples. However, know your audience! If you have youth volunteers, add Munchkins, a box of clementines, and hot chocolate. Or if you have a Millennial crowd, add happy hour fare or make arrangements to meet afterwards at a local establishment. (Cheers!)

 

5.      Recognize Your Volunteers

We have seen that there are now “national days” for anything! Well, there are actually 15 days that are dedicated to thanking volunteers. Even though many volunteers do what they do for the good of it and not for the recognition, this is still a key element for managing and retaining your volunteers. Taking the time to sincerely thank each person validates their efforts and helps them feel appreciated. No one likes for their work to be summarily dismissed. 

Volunteer retention is highest with organizations where volunteers feel wanted, cared for, and appreciated. Pebble Tossers used to present a Youth of the Year award, but we learned that volunteers (and their parents) did not want to self-nominate. They did not want to seek attention or seem boastful. So, we have found that recognizing volunteers with the President’s Volunteer Service Award is subtle and private, yet very meaningful. Volunteer recognition should be honest, sincere, and frequent. The recognition can spark conversations, create new connections, and build new brand ambassadors for your organization. 

 

These five tips help connect volunteers with your mission. You are gifting to them your organization’s vision, and inviting them to take that gift and create ripples which share that mission throughout their communities. This may be the reach you needed to grow your organization or solidify your reputation. This reach, when coming from people other than yourself, not only validates you and your mission, but the effort of all the other volunteers as well.


 Jen Guynn of Pebble Tossers

Jennifer Guynn is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Pebble Tossers, Inc., a youth development organization which empowers and develops youth into responsible citizens and lifelong volunteers. In 2016, she was appointed by Governor Deal to the Commission for Service and Volunteerism for the State of Georgia.

An Atlanta native, Jen attended St. Pius X High School, graduated from Furman University, and resides in Dunwoody with her husband, Mike, their three children, and two rescue dogs. Find Pebble Tossers online, and via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can find Jen on LinkedIn and Twitter.



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 Whether you run a  nonprofit , a faith-based organization, or a  social enterprise , you will need champions and advocates for your cause. You need volunteers.

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.