Social Enterprise

Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Company's Social Media

Social media is expanding faster than most of us can keep up with it. And just when we feel comfortable with a platform, it seems like we’re presented with a change of some kind. For example, Instagram introduces a new element to their Stories feature every month. And Twitter recently changed its policy and guidelines. Plus, Facebook has already made three, big algorithm changes this year.

Around every corner is a new evolution in social media. As nonprofits and social enterprises, it’s crucial that we maintain an online presence. So, how do we keep up?

Social media allows us to connect with wider audiences, and help us ultimately establish brand awareness and brand loyalty. According the New York Times Business section, “an estimated 81% of Americans have a social media account.” In fact, Facebook is quickly closing in on the two billion (with a B!) user mark. Instagram has 800 million monthly active users, and Twitter has 330 million monthly active users.

These are impressive numbers, but their implications, for our social enterprises and nonprofits especially, should spring us into action! Everyone is looking to connect with something, which is essential to being human. And everyone is also looking for a cause!

 Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Company's Social Media

You’re cause might just be their life’s calling, but if they’re knocking and you’re not there to answer, how will they connect with you?

It’s intimidating, yet inevitable—to communicate the mission and heartbeat of your organization, you must utilize social media.

Sree Sreenivasan of the New York Times says, “LinkedIn works best when you use it as a career management tool and not just for job hunting.” We have to treat our social media accounts in the same way. They are a year-round tool that builds a community of followers, not just a launching pad for campaign and fundraising season. They are a field that requires cultivation. If we are committed (AHHH! We said the word!) and faithful over time, our use of social media platforms will yield fruit and growth.

So without further ado, let’s dive into some tips that will help your company improve at engaging with social media.

Technical and Practical Advice for Your Social Media

Before we look to specific examples of organizations that utilize social media effectively, let’s think of some practical steps to improve our social media image:

Practice brevity. Keep it simple.

Too much content can overwhelm users. To connect with your audience, be sweet, simple, and to the point with your words. Because posts like this are shorter, it requires more consistency in the amount of times you post weekly, monthly, etc. By having less written content in each individual posts, but posting more frequently over time, you will slowly and steadily build a following and connect your audience to the heart of your mission.

A nice rule of thumb is to keep each post at a one to two sentences max for Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn. However, each audience is different, and you can test different lengths to see what your fans like and interact with most.

There are definitely times when longer posts are needed. Or if, for example, your brand revolves around a person, your tribe may be interested in reading longer thoughts.  Instagram allows a lot more text, and people have found success with both short and long posts, so again, experiment! Or at least feel free to vary it as needed, depending on the content.

Hashtags are okay, but don’t use too many! We recommend two for Twitter, but no more than three on occasion. Use hashtags that highlight your brand, attract your tribe, or direct users specifically to the content they are looking for. For example, if your Tweet is about #fundraising, use that, but feel the freedom for your hashtags to vary with content. You can also identify more hashtags using websites like Hashtagify.me. You may even want to create a list of hashtags that work best, and swap them out regularly. (You'll see that we do that on our Twitter account.)

For Instagram, they’ll let you use up to 30 hashtags! Because there is more “room” on Instagram, you can certainly use more here, which will allow you to attract more people at once. You can now also use and search hashtags in Instagram Stories.

And though you can use hashtags for Facebook and LinkedIn, it’s not necessary.

 

Consistency and Frequency

Day to day and week to week, try to find a consistent time that you can post—and stick to that! It can be useful to post during peak times in social media use. Usually there’s a peak from noon to 1:00 p.m. during lunch hours, and another peak posting time at from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. at dinner time. You might look to tools like Hootsuite or SmarterQue to help you schedule postings.

It’s good to find such general rules of time, but they aren’t be-all-end-all guidelines! Have flexibility in your schedule, periodically review it, and be willing to change your patterns to fit your audience. Using business analytics through Google analytics, Facebook analytics and insights, and tools like Hootsuite to track the viewing patterns of your audience. Look at when user activity is the highest, and then cater to those needs.

It can be additionally challenging to discover what frequency should look like for your company—whether that’s twice a week or twice a day find the perfect balance. A quick Google search will give you a lot of answers, but there really is no substitute for experimenting and trial and error. If you’re interacting with Millennials constantly, it might be that more frequent posting is necessary, however, if you targets primarily an older crowd, less postings may be best.

First and foremost, we recommend finding a consistency that you can actually execute, and then building on that along the way. It’s more important to first create the habit rather than getting behind and ditching your plan. For example, a newsletter should go out at least quarterly, a blog post should go up at least monthly, and social media should post at least once per week.

This isn’t ideal, it’s a bare minimum. But if this is all you can do to start—just start. Then form the habit, and create a plan to post more frequently. But if you’re fans, followers, and supporters never hear from you...they will hear from someone else.

Developing an Aesthetic for Your Brand

It may sound cliche, but to ensure that we’re developing a brand image for our social enterprise or nonprofit, it’s necessary that we develop an unchanging and balanced aesthetic. This means that your posts should always look like they came from your organization. It's often helpful to create templates through programs like Canva or Adobe Spark that you can use again and again. (<-- They’re free and easy to use!)

Through the use of similar colors, fonts, and symbols in your graphics, people will start to develop a sense of what is familiar, and yes, even comfortable with your organization.

 

Try Bit.ly

Bit.ly is a website that allows users to create short, trackable links that connect to specific content on your website. (Hint: we use Bit.ly links on social media to track when our blog posts are clicked from other platforms.)

Rather than using super long links that use up half of the real estate on your social media post, use a Bit.ly link—they’re concise and even customizable. Plus, they’re much easier on the eyes! Who wants to look at a social media post that’s mostly a link? Answer: no one.

And not only can you shorten the links to content on your website like blogs, contact pages, social media, you’re also able to track the audience engagement through these links. Tools like Google Analytics are always more reliable, but for quick stats at a glance, this is a simple option.

An Expert Social Media Example

No matter who you are, it’s important to look to examples of companies that are at least one step ahead of you. If you want to get to the place where you're one step ahead as well, surround yourselves with examples of companies more successful than you.

Pastor Andy Stanley, who is widely known for his communication and leadership skills, says, “You are not the smartest person in your organization. You’re just the leader. If you are the smartest person in your organization, you are not a very good leader.” Always look for examples of organizations that seemingly “have it all together” or whom you admire.

And while you may be at a small organization looking to a large or popular organization for inspiration, don’t feel like you have to imitate them exactly. Did TOMS, Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army, Project 7, Warby Parker, or the American Cancer Society come to mind?

They may seem to have oodles of manpower, limitless resources, and countless hours of experience, but remember that those organizations started with SMALL means and HUGE dreams. It’s probably a better use of your time to look at a successful company that projects a great online and offline reputation, but is just a little bigger than you. What are they doing on social media that you can do?

Charity: Water is constantly growing and recognized in its uncanny ability to utilize social media platforms and effectively connect with its users. Scott Harrison started Charity: Water in 2006, astounded by the fact that 1 in 10 people lack access to clean water.

They may seem like a huge organization, but they don’t actually have an enormous staff. However, they are known for being brilliant online storytellers.

Through creative engagement on social media, Charity: Water has provided 8 million people around the world access to clean water since their launch! According to CNBC, Charity: Water has funded, “30,000 water projects in 26 countries across the world. Over one million people have donated more than $300 million to its cause.”

So then, how did Harrison do it? There’s many moving parts, but arguably Charity: Water has some of the most effective marketing that a company has to offer—and its strategy is simple: present the problem and provide a simple solution.

1. At Charity: Water, all they ask for is a penny.

Let’s be honest—the world has commitment issues. It’s not easy to get people to commit to relationships, and it’s even harder to contribute our hard-earned money toward campaigns we barely know about. However, here’s the beauty in this example: It’s okay to start small!

The Charity: Water website states, “Every single penny will help bring clean water to communities in need.” In a recent #WorldWaterDay campaign, Charity: water asked children to donate their allowance, or savings, of $8.15. Not only was this a small, manageable, and simple amount, but it also allowed for deep interaction and audience participation. It’s communicating the fact that yes even kids can change the world and the world’s water crisis!

 

2. Their audience is involved.

In line with keeping its mission simple, Charity: Water makes sure that its audience is always engaged. However, it goes one step further. They also make sure that the audience is involved.

Involvement is how we generate deep bonds and ties with our tribe, and ultimately how we develop brand loyalty. Charity: Water’s campaigns are designed for the everyman—and that’s incredible. Often it’s hard to feel invested in an organization when it’s goals feel too lofty.

Under it’s fundraising page you’ll find, “Start Your Campaign.” Every campaign at Charity: Water is for and by the people—that’s powerful. Sometimes the best step in our next campaign is to simply ask, “How we can involve our audience?”

By engaging our audiences and providing them with tangible opportunities to participate in our mission and campaigns, we will build a brand that people not only feel like they can connect with, but rather be a part of.

 

3. Charity: Water uses local partners.

They have developed an extensive portfolio of partners. We might overlook the importance of our partners, clients, or business partners (you name it), however, there is power in association.

By associating ourselves with other companies, we can display a history of our work, our credibility, and our accolades. Never undermine the importance of friendships, partnerships, sponsors, and connections. We are all always just one step away from making a connection with a new client, bridging gaps in communication, or introducing someone to our products or services. Rely on close friendships, clients, key stakeholders, and other partners to bridge those gaps. You just never know who knows who!

 

4. They have consistency in social media and brand image.

We mentioned this under a previous section, however, we’ll drill it again here. Charity: Water has developed powerful imagery that beautifully and effectively communicates its mission.

A yellow water jug, common to poor areas for carrying water, symbolizes the mission of the company: clean water. This bright jug and the use of vibrant colors in general are paired with hand-written text and undersaturated hues with an abundance of blues.

People now automatically associate them with that yellow jerrycan (water jug). Sitting at 331,000 likes on Facebook and 1.5 million followers on Twitter, we’d say Charity: Water is doing something right!

 

So then, let’s start small with these simple, practical steps. As you work on it, you’ll develop your brand image, frequency, and consistency. It doesn’t have to be perfect to start, but you do need to start somewhere.

Look at where you have capability and resources, and jump in. Evaluate brands that inspire you to improve.

And just remember that the first word is social media is still "social." You need to be interacting and engaging with those who love your organization and your cause. Listen to your fans and see what they like. Ask them questions. Show them the perfect and the imperfection of your brand. But you have to talk to them to understand them. And when you start to do that, things get a whole lot easier.

Have any wins on how you improved your own social media strategy? Tell us in the comments!

 

Read the other posts in this series:



 Around every corner is a new evolution in social media. As nonprofits and social enterprises, it’s crucial that we  maintain an online presence . So, how do we keep up?

Michael Banks

Michael Griffith Banks is a fourth-year Public Relations Major at the University of Georgia with a minor in Spanish. He’s throughly involved with UGA’s Office of Admissions, most recently serving as an Orientation Leader for the University.

Michael also operates as the Executive Director of Marketing and PR for Breaking the Shackles, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to fighting human trafficking. He is interning at Signify this spring and will graduate from UGA in May 2018. 


7 Tips You Need to Know to Write a Better Website

These days, the internet is king. If you need to know or find something, you Google it. If you’re looking for a specific product or organization, you visit their website. And there’s nothing worse than landing on a page that’s cluttered, unorganized, and/or hard to navigate. We all know how fast we’ve hit that little red “x” on sites like that.

Designing and writing content for your website can seem challenging, but we’re going to walk you through the most important, and sometimes overlooked, aspects that will make your website effective, navigable, and memorable.

As a nonprofit leader, this is especially vital. Not only do you want to spread your message and goal, you want to raise money, and fundraising online is essential. It’s convenient, fast, and easy, and if done correctly can generate more money, more visitors, and more supporters.

This is important for everyone, though, not just nonprofits! Cause-focused organizations of all kinds also need web content that clearly informs readers of the issue and what they can do to help. You need to make an immediate and strong impression in order to gain supporters and grow your business. Everything must be clear, concise, and always lead back to the cause. So, let’s get to it!

7 Tips You Need to Know to Write a Better Website

You need to keep all of your web content clear, easy to understand, and catered to your specific audience.

Who are you trying to reach? Who is your ideal donor or supporter? What do they do, what do they like? Figure out these questions and then tailor all your content to reach your audience. In return, answer questions for them. What do you do? Why should they care? How can they help?

Make all of your writing clear and concise, don’t add any extra information that doesn’t need to be there and that may confuse or mislead them. Avoid jargon. You might know the language of your specific industry but others probably do not. Get an outside, third party to read everything over and ensure that it is easy to understand. Your purpose should always be clear.

Additionally, keep all of your paragraphs short and sweet. Break up chunks of writing into easily-digestible content that one can easily scan through should they want to. Highlight the most important information so they can’t miss it. This also makes it easier for people to read and look at if they are on their phone or tablet, which let’s be honest, most of us are.

 

Keep your home page and all of your pages simple, not cluttered with text.

Your home page is the first thing viewers see, so you don’t want to overwhelm them with a ton of written information. They won’t know where to look or what to look for, and probably won’t read much of it at all.

Instead, use images to draw viewers in and interest them. We live in a visual world, so use that to your advantage and choose strong, eye-catching pictures that support your narrative. These will intrigue viewers and guide them to the written information.

This goes for your other pages as well. Save yourself and the reader time and cut the clutter. Only write what is most important, clearly and succinctly. Keep it simple.

Also worth noting: watch the number of pages you have on your website as well. If you have lots of different pages and categories this can also make your site look cluttered, and confuse or overwhelm the viewer. Most people won’t read an entire site as it is. And this means less writing for you too! Sounds like a win-win.

Use storytelling to attract and intrigue readers, inviting them to be a part of your cause.

No one will want to read a bland, boring, or strictly technical website. People respond well to stories, something that draws them in, appeals to their emotions, and makes them think. If you want to make your website more effective, creating a story around your mission and goal is a surefire way to garner more support. Storytelling is powerful.

You’re passionate about your work, so put that to paper (or rather, keyboard) and make it show. Make others passionate too. Tell readers about your organization, introduce a character and a conflict, present the solution, and show them how they can be part of that resolution.

However, choose your words wisely. This isn’t a novel; you only have a few seconds to pique visitors’ interests and keep them on your website. Keep it concise, to the point, and powerful. Every word counts, and you don’t get many. Make sure each one is impactful and furthers your cause.

You may also consider using statistics or numerical data to further your story and prove that readers can make a difference. How will their contribution really help? Show the success and make it real for them. Just be careful not to overwhelm them with stats.

You can find more resources for effective storytelling here.

 

Make your website customer or donor friendly--donation buttons or calls to action should be on every page and easily accessible.

You want viewers to take action, so communicate clearly what you want that action to be and what they need to do. Don’t forget: always keep in mind who you’re writing to! Use action and power verbs and convince them to take the necessary action.

A call to action can be anything from donating, to buying a product, to getting on your email list. Whatever you want your audience to do, this is what you need to call attention to. These are powerful marketing tools, and should get an immediate response from the person viewing it. They should directly let your audience know what to do next if they’re interested in what you have to offer.

These calls to action are what drives donations if you’re a nonprofit, or sales if you’re not. Keep your statements direct and concise. Use “you” to make the reader place themselves directly into the situation. Appeal to emotions, just like storytelling, and create a sense of urgency. This will make your content more compelling and effective.

Your goal should be to keep supporters one click away from donating or making whatever action you need them to make at all times. Design-wise, you need to be placing clear, easy to locate buttons on every page. Make them stand out by highlighting them in a color that is different from your written content so visitors will be sure to see it.

Your “About” page also needs to contain client/customer/donor language.

Did you know that the About page is often the second most visited page on a website? If that’s also the case for you, it should probably be working a little harder on your behalf.

Yes, it’s about you or your organization, but it also needs to appeal to the reader. You’re writing it for them, so they can determine who you are and if they want to support you. So convince them!

Talk about what you do and how it can help them, or how they can help you and why they should. Tell them why they should spend their time reading your website or supporting your cause. Remember what I said before, everything should be about your audience, even your About page.

This is also the perfect place to include your social media. Your website should have clear social media icons sprinkled throughout, but you should also include them here. Don’t be afraid to add a call to action button here as well. (See our About page as an example.)

 

You also need to make sure you establish trust with your audience, whether it be a donor, sponsor, or customer.

Prospective donors and customers are going to want to know where their money will really be going and if their financial information is safe and secure. You need to consider this when writing content and build that trust. Address these issues and put their minds at ease.

Demonstrate your organization’s use of funding, maybe with an eye-catching graph or some other graphic. Make sure your audience knows you value their support as well as their financial information, and take all necessary measures and precautions to ensure that it is secure.

Speaking of graphics...

 

Your content needs to be visually pleasing, so use pictures, graphics, and make it all look clean and appealing.

While your content is obviously important and will ultimately drive visitors to take action and support your cause, things need to be aesthetically pleasing as well, like I mentioned earlier. Choose your fonts wisely. Pick fonts that are easy to read and large enough for all screens and eyes.

Choose pictures and graphics that are also strong and only relevant to your organization. You need these visuals around your website to support your written content, catch the audience’s attention, and generally just look good! Make sure all images are clear and not too distracting. Create a color palette for your website and match your pictures to that palette. Be careful to only use royalty free images as well!

Remember that this is especially important for your homepage and your donation/product page. These need to be clear and visually stunning, but still not cluttered or hard to navigate. On your homepage, make sure your page categories are easy to spot and organized. On your donation or product page, include bold amounts, payment methods, frequencies, and how their donation or purchase will help your cause.

Clear, concise, beautiful!

Your website is the face of your organization and communicates with the world what you do, why they need to know, and how they can help. Make sure your content is powerful and your visuals are stunning, and you’re more likely to reach your intended audience—and your goals!

 

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7 Tips You Need to Know to Write a Better Website

Megan Westbrook

Megan Westbrook holds a B.A. in journalism with a focus in public relations and a minor in Spanish from Georgia State University. An aspiring writer, her interests reside in blogging, social media, content creation, design, and photography. She is also a passionate social justice advocate and interested in nonprofit or cause-focused work. Megan is currently a receptionist at Servcorp in Atlanta, Georgia. 

5+ Reasons Why No One is Reading Your Blog

If you're like many nonprofit or social enterprise leaders I meet, you have a beautifully designed blog, but it's a little barren. In fact, you really struggle to get your blog updated. And when you finally do, you check the box, pat yourself on the back, and call it a day. But it's not enough to just write the post—it needs to get read. 

Before we even address any potential issues with your marketing and promotion of the blog post, let's first address the readability. (And, yes, that's a thing.) Does this sound familiar? Someone lands on your little labor of love, maybe skims a little, and then promptly leaves. All without taking action, or worse, even taking in your content.

Here you find yourself with a post that took precious time and energy, but didn't actually get the job done. It's finished, sure, but it's not effective. It's not working hard enough for you. Houston, we have a problem.

You can sit around all day long, cross your arms, and shout, "It's not me, it's you!" ... but is it? Here are a few blog writing tips that will help ensure your post gets read, and better yet, acted on. 

 5+ Reasons Why No One is Reading Your Blog

Formatting Your Blog Post

Not sure if you've noticed, but the the look of blog posts has changed quite a bit over the last, few years. They are no longer just little (or big) essays waiting to be consumed. Everyone's vying for your attention, and here's how the winners are getting noticed.

Sub-heads or headers: Like it or not, people often skim content, so after your introduction, use sub-heads in the body text to preview what's coming up. This also helps with SEO, so it’s good to use keywords (the main topic of your post) in sub-heads as well, or at least use a few words to describe what you’ll be talking about next.

Short paragraphs: Because it’s common for people to view websites on smaller screens, like cell phones and tablets, use smaller paragraphs of just a few sentences. If you write a long paragraph, how you can break it up so that it’s more readable on any sized screen? People don't want to look at a wall of text on a small screen.

Images: We may be living in a material world, but we're also living in a visual one. You need at least one image/video/graph/etc. to accompany your post. Not only does this illustrate your topic and help grab someone's attention, but for anyone who wants to save your post to a site like Pinterest, it makes things easier.

Keywords: You also want to make sure and mention your topic several times in the body copy for SEO. And you can use it in different phrasing, too. For example, if your post is about “content creation,” you can use that phrase, as well as “creating content” and “content marketing” and similar things. Once again, we're trying to appease and appeal to the almighty Google in hopes that it will recognize us and call us worthy. Agree or disagree, it's the world we live in if we want people to find our little corner of the internet.

CTA or Call to Action: At the end of every post should be a CTA. (You can also sprinkle them throughout.) What do you want people to do as a result of reading your blog post? You can lead them to additional content, make a donation or purchase, give you their email, sign up for your newsletter, download something, etc. There are a lot of options, so be sure to include one. Get them to interact with your content to make it, your cause, and your organization more memorable. This helps you build a relationship with someone.

Don't Forget Consistency

If you've read even a couple of posts on this blog, you've likely seen some form of the word "consistency." It is a huge soap box for us—because it's that important! So, along with formatting your blog post to make it more read-worthy, let's take a look at a few things that should always remain the same, even when the topic changes.

Remember your audience: For this blog, we consider our audience to be leaders or key employees of nonprofits and for-profits with a social mission. They're typically at a small organization where people wear multiple hats. And they have a desire to improve their marketing and communications. Everything we write keeps these folks in mind in order to serve them better.

Tone and voice: If you haven't done this yet, determine how your organization "sounds" so that tone and voice remains the same. Here at Signify, we want to sound friendly and professional, with a side of humor. (Because humor just makes the world better.)

Refrain from jargon: Unless you have a very narrow niche that understands your jargon, like rocket scientists or brain surgeons, stop using words and phrases specific to that group. Don't make your audience strain to understand what you're saying or you'll lose them. For example, here on this blog, we try to make marketing and communications easy for anyone in our target audience to understand and act on.

Grammar, punctuation, and similar do-dads: We touched on this last week, but for repeat readers, you need to make sure your style is always the same from post to post. Go read that post with advice from editors. It has some great advice!

Pro Tips for Your Blog Posts

We know, we know. You already have a long list to work on where your blog posts are concerned. But for those of you who may be a little further ahead, or think overachieving is a way of life, here are a few other things to make your words stretch further.

Work on your headlines: You already know this, but your blog headline is super important. We use this headline analyzer to help determine if our headlines will entice readers. Aim for a score of above 70, just like in school!

Add internal links: Link to other posts or pages within your site. Like when you talk about promoting a launch, you can link to another place where you talk about that same subject. ( <-- See what we did there?) This keeps people on your site longer because they're looking around at all the pretty content you've created. This is obviously great for your website, but when people stick around, it also tells Google that your site is a good one, and they should recommend you more.

Add external links: On a similar note, link to other websites when you can as well. It helps build the credibility of your own site in Google's eyes. So, when you mention that you're attending the Plywood Presents conference in a few months, make it easy for people to get there. ( <-- Did it again!)

Briefly consider length: There are MANY opinions about what the "right" length of a blog post should be, but here we ascribe to a single philosophy: cover the topic well. We write a minimum of 500 words, because again, you want to have enough content for Google to search, but past that, there aren't a lot of length requirements. Just deliver on the promise of your headline to keep your readers happy.

Maybe add a bio: Unfortunately, the sales cycle isn't like IKEA. Potential customers and donors don't all show up on the same page of your website, walk through it in one direction, and then end up on your sales or donations page. (Sigh.) For that reason, every blog post contains a short bio and photo of the writer. So, if I (Kristi) only get someone to read one post on this blog, they can at least also catch a little bit about me and what my company does. 

SEO and Keywords: To be completely honest, we don't focus heavily on SEO around here right now. As the team grows and capacity expands, we'll work on it, but for now, we've just dipped our toes in. If you feel more fancy than we do, take a look at Google’s Keyword Planner and Buzz Sumo.

 

Promoting Your Blog Post

We'll just cover this briefly here, but you can have the best-written, most beautiful post in the world, but if no one reads it, it won’t do you much good. Here are some of the ways we promote our posts, and you may think of others that work for you as well.

 

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 Blog writing tips that will help ensure your post gets read, and better yet, acted on.

 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 Max Out Meaningful Media Relationships

Me: “Yeahhh, I’ll take the McGriddle combo meal…”

“Courteous” McDonald’s Cashier: “Anything else for you today, sir?”

Me: “Oh right, yeah, about that. I have a HUGE favor to ask. I kind of need to borrow your car. Is that okay?"

“Courteous” McDonald’s Cashier: "Umm...I’m sorry sir, but we just met."

Me: "Yeah but we really jived! There was energy between us! Didn't you feel it? Please can I borrow your car?"

“No-longer-so-Courteous” McDonald’s Cashier: “Sir, I don’t think that’s on the menu…”

Our reputation often determines the quality of our relationships. In a similar vein, the quality of our relationships determines the favor we might receive from that individual.  

If you try to borrow someone’s car—like in the analogy above—you’ll most likely be stiff-armed, ridiculed, or greeted by a befuddled expression. I didn’t actually try to borrow the cashier’s car, but if I had, I can imagine the trouble that would ensue.

Just like our friendships, we must establish personal credibility with the media. Personal credibility showcases the quality of our work and enables us to establish relationships with media outlets and other syndicates. Media relationships can be divided into two categories: Media Outreach and Media Relations.

Media Outreach entails reaching out to journalists and publications in order to pitch content to them that increases the buzz around your nonprofit or social enterprise. Media Relations is the practice of maintaining relationships with businesses partnerships and journalists to promote your organization.

How to Max Out Meaningful Media Relationships

First let’s analyze how to reach out to the media.

Reach Out: Writing a Pitch, Connect with Journalists

Reaching out to journalists and other publications can get messy quick. There are a number of keystone websites like Just Reach Out that you can use to find journalists in your area. However, what we want to focus on in this blog post is not where to connect with the media, but rather, how to connect with them.

To ensure that we aren’t ignored, blocked, or missed, we have to strip down our message to its most simplified version. Remember, brevity.

Keep. It. Simple.

Edsger Dijkstra says, "Aim for brevity while avoiding jargon.” Take it from this Dutch systems scientist, programmer, software engineer (AKA one of the farthest things from a PR practitioner or marketing guru): to communicate effectively, don’t assume that the audience you’re in communication with understands the jargon of your field or for that matter, even the field itself.

As individuals trying to build the reputation of our nonprofits and social enterprises, we must not deceive ourselves. Do not expect the journalist to whom you reach out to understand or interpret the jargon of your company or field of expertise. If it’s not simple, they just won’t waste their time trying to decipher the meaning or substance of your message.

It’s essential to make sure that you articulate your mission clearly, however, on the opposite end, you must also do adequate research. According to Cision Ltd., a leading global public relations and earned media software company, “82 percent of journalists say PR professionals can improve by researching and understanding their media outlet.”

To connect with the right journalists and engage them effectively, we should have a good understanding of their work—both who they've written for and what they've personally written.

For example, don’t simply encourage a journalist to write about your organization because you are practicing cutting-edge technology to help the local community. Encourage them to write about your technological advancements that help the surrounding community in light of other articles they have written about the social welfare of your city.

Research what they’ve written about and show genuine interest in their topics. By doing this, it's more likely that you’ll discover the correct journalist to write about your small business.

To keep it simple, there’s a general guideline of rules you can follow to keep your pitches to journalists simple and sweet.

 

The Parameters of the Pitch  

When writing a pitch, follow steps that will ensure you are practicing simplicity. Write an alluring subject line complete with strong, driving verbs. If you can provide names and locations in the email pitch, those will catch the eye because of their specificity.  

Between 20-100 words is acceptable when constructing your message, but fewer is preferred. If you can limit content to one to two paragraphs, you’ll be more likely to receive a follow up email. Of course, keep in mind it does need to provide the relevant details as well. But remember, you are trying to catch their attention, not explain the entire history of your organization all in one email. 

Avoid attachments, if possible. If the journalist receiving the information has to go through an additional hoop sifting through hundreds of emails, they’ll be less likely to open your email. You may include a link or two, however, if it helps explain or build your case. And at the end of each pitch, make sure that your contact information is clear (phone number, email, etc.).

 

Connecting on Social Media: Who and How to Follow

Email isn’t the only way to connect with numerous media outlets, news syndicates, and journalists. Social media platforms are crucial for engaging with the media. Twitter has revealed itself as a favorite among large networks, journalists, and young marketing professionals alike.

Twitter’s concise use of text and images creates the perfect platform for journalists to share their content. And Twitter’s platform reflects the same practices applied to journalism—short, sweet, and to the point.

Connect with journalists on social media through major news networks and then find specific writers that pique your interest. Starting points on Twitter include traditional news outlets like @NYTimes, @AP, or @washingtonpost. You can additionally follow broader worldwide networks such as @bbcworld and @AJEnglish.

However, it is most likely that you'll discover the greatest amount of success in connecting with local media syndicates in your city. For example, a social enterprise or nonprofit in Atlanta might try to connect with writers from the @ajc, Atlanta’s largest press news outlet, @11AliveNews, a local TV network or @AtlantaMagazine, a specialized magazine in art and culture of the city. Locate the outlets specific to your city, county, or region and then connect with those media personnel specifically. You can often find a directory on their websites, or search stories that fit your organization to find the authors.

Follow the writers who you are most interested in connecting and reach out to them via social media DMs (direct messages) and email. Just remember that they are people, and not just someone who can offer you exposure, and take that into account with how you establish the relationship.

After you’ve connected with media outlet and, journalists, it’s crucial you learn how to maintain those partnerships.

 

Maintain & Organize: Long-Term Relationships, Cross Promotion, and Spreadsheets

Never undermine the power of a spreadsheet. When it comes to getting organized spreadsheets are your best friend. Using spreadsheets, organize your media outlet contacts via several categories. Have consistent writers that you can reach out to for each category and stay in touch with them consistently. If you need a how to, look here. 

To understand the importance of organizing your preferred writers, let’s look at an example. Consider a coffee shop operating as a for-profit social enterprise which benefits the well-being of it’s community. This company might organize writers into different writing topics based on the following categories: cutting-edge technology, special offers its shop, expansion and location (ex: new storefronts), and company culture and mission. Categorically organizing each writer in this way will allow you to easily and effectively pull from a pre-arranged list of writers and media personnel when you have news to announce.

Find a journalist for each category and organize your spreadsheet accordingly. Have a column with the contact information for each writer via email, phone, and social media. Each column following the person's name can contain specific information. For example: the name of their publication, the specific location of the publication or the location of the writer, and finally information about whether the syndicate is national or local. This can be as detailed or basic as you like, but more information will help you connect to the right person when the time comes.

It might also be useful to use this spreadsheet to track stories written for organization in your industry or a similar industry that caught your attention. You can share these stories via your social media accounts and if you like the content that is being created for brother and sister organizations, you might even reach out to the journalist or blogger that is creating stories for that company.

When reaching out to that journalist (aka the pitch) you can mention the story that they wrote for another company and how much you admired it. It will stroke the ego of that journalist and potentially set you up for an awesome story about your company!

In the wake of practicing new skills and connecting with the media, don’t forget the importance of maintaining pre-existing relationships. While we’ve mainly covered outreach to new journalists and media outlets in this blog post, it’s also important to remember the media relationships we already have because people who already know you are more likely to cover you.

Cross-Promotion: A Tale of Two Businesses

This is a sure-fire way to expand your reach and your audience. Even corporate foundations engage in this style of behavior. Nike and Apple worked together to create the “Nike+” sports kit. Through this dual promotion, Apple and Nike were able to reach a wider audience. We can do the same with our small businesses. Let’s look at the example of a small business in Athens, Ga., that is doing exactly that:

Athens is a city known for its eclectic mix of food outlets. Because of its size, many of the small business, restaurants, and social enterprises eagerly cooperate with one another. 1000 Faces Coffee promotes the values of social responsibility to create organic products.

1000 Faces Coffee works with many of the businesses in the local area (especially those that are cause-related) to cross-promote other social enterprises in the surrounding Athens area. To ensure that it is actively engaging brother and sister businesses, 1000 Faces Coffee promotes an event called “Biscuits and Coffee Love” once a month to raise money for local charities. Encouraging cross-promotion, it invites other organizations such as Farm Cart Biscuits, a local organic breakfast vendor, to participate in the cause.

As nonprofits and social enterprises, we can apply these same methods to our business tactics. Invite another organization within your niche or industry that has a complementary mission to co-host an event. Cooperate with one another, but keep it simple. You can even help promote one another on social media. There are ample opportunities for cross-promotion.

To effectively maintain our relationships with the media, we must engage in the perfect balance of media outreach and maintaining already existing relationships. Reach out to journalists, bloggers, reporters, and other media personnel using these ideas, but don’t forget the impact of partnering with other small businesses in your area and industry.

 

Read all posts in this PR series:


Michael Banks

Michael Griffith Banks is a fourth-year Public Relations Major at the University of Georgia with a minor in Spanish. He’s throughly involved with UGA’s Office of Admissions, most recently serving as an Orientation Leader for the University.

Michael also operates as the Executive Director of Marketing and PR for Breaking the Shackles, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to fighting human trafficking. He is interning at Signify this spring and will graduate from UGA in May 2018. 



How to Max Out Meaningful Media Relationships

Three Simple Steps in the Quest to Find Your Ideal Intern

Last week, you heard from my intern, Megan, on four reasons why interns are motivated to help you. Are you convinced? I sure was! (And if you haven't check it out yet—yes, she does address the question of money!)

This week, you're getting the follow-up by my second intern, Michael. We've talked about the WHY, and now we'll hit you with the HOW. I'm not sure which of those two questions resonates with you when you're thinking about an intern, but hopefully, we'll provide you with the answers needed to take that next step.

I've only had Megan and Michael for about a month, and am already so thankful for them. So, do yourself a favor and go get an intern (or two). Not sure how? Just keep reading!

 Three Simple Steps in the Quest to Find Your Ideal Intern

It’s the end of February and the New Year has already gifted us all with a handsomely exhaustive list of responsibilities…

Social media drafts are long overdue, email updates stack a mile high, and blog posts eagerly await an obligatory glimpse. Somewhere in the sewage of this chaos, you also discover that your most urgent and time-sensitive tasks are often the very ones which you’ve neglected.

But, SUDDENLY, you have an epiphany—you don’t have to do this all on your own! What if you had a helping hand? After all, for every Batman exists a Robin, for every Scooby a Shaggy, and for every Cher a respective Sonny.

What if . . . you had an intern?

You may not be able to offer your intern a salary, but you have compensation in the form of experience that they desperately desire. They can serve as more than a glorified coffee runner, and even play a crucial role in keeping your small business or nonprofit operating at optimum speed.

Finding an intern is actually less complicated than one might assume. There’s not one algorithm that will do the trick or one method superior to others, however, let’s explore three, overarching avenues that will aid your search.

Finding the right intern for your organization lies at the intersection of three avenues:

  1. An understanding of the qualifications for your intern role
  2. A correct and detailed intern position description
  3. An idea of where to find the best interns for your nonprofit or social enterprise

1. Outline your requirements for potential interns.

Think of the search for an intern as paving a yellow brick road that will steer the right candidates to the doors of your organization. If that’s the case, you should to be clear from both an academic and professional perspective so that the right person rings the doorbell.

This begins with you carefully outlining prerequisites including educational achievements (high school, GRE, undergraduate and graduate), portfolio samples you may want to see, and prior work experience. One company might be looking for tenured university seniors with previous agency experience, while others are looking for malleable minds that are eager to learn. The choice is yours, however, you cannot expect more, and receive less, without setting expectations. In turn, you might also discover that you have hired an intern whose skills and talents far exceed the amount of work you have to offer them.

Just remember that it’s okay to be selective. An internship needs to be the right fit for both parties.

 

2. Create a clearly defined intern job description, including the benefits they’ll receive.

No one likes to be exclusive, however, in terms of finding the perfect intern, a certain degree of exclusivity needs to be shown. And just so that we don’t parallel the clique from Mean Girls, let’s put it this way—it’s not them, it’s you.

Be open to students with skills and attributes that may be uncommon for your line of work, however, don’t be deceptive in a job description. If they are looking for a for-profit sales role and you work strictly in nonprofit fundraising, they might not be the right fit. Again . . . that’s okay!

So how do you ensure that your role or program is a right fit for the applicant? Before you begin soliciting resumes, clearly define and outline job standards and provide candidates with an overview of the program in which they’ll be participating. And if your internship provides certifications, credits, or payment, be sure to list these in the job description, too.

Finally, be specific in the language you use to describe the internship. Good candidates don’t often migrate toward listings that use generic language. Because internships can last a series of months (even entire semesters), potential interns want to know exactly what it is that they’ll be doing.

You may even want to look at other intern postings online to help you decide what to include.

 

3. Use the Internet and your existing network to help you find an intern.

Most of the individuals searching for an internship experience are students and young alumni. Because it’s likely that these individuals haven’t had extensive amounts of career experience, it’s easier to mold their talents and help them hone in on those they haven’t yet developed. And that should be exciting for both you and them.

To find your young Padawan, it’s essential to utilize the correct platforms. For now, we’ll focus on three outlets to aid your search: career centers, online postings, and personal networking.

Career Centers

The vast majority of large universities and colleges are outfitted with programs and facilities that provide their students with professional working opportunities. Some universities might call it a career centeror “services/development program. The jargon’s all a little different, but globally, the mission is the same—to find work experience, internships, and jobs for students and recent graduates.

Cast your eyes on the example of New York University, which operates the Wasserman Center for Career Development. This career center provides extensive lists of internship opportunities, jobs, and sound advice in the sojourn of career discovery.

My advice to you is to shoot for the stars! Contact every university career center in your respective city or state, and use those centers to network your way to great candidates. They can provide you with potential career fair dates, ensuring that you can speak with students in person, or potentially provide listings or direct links for your internship on their website.

As you build relationships with students and career centers, you’ll develop a steady stream of candidates through pre-existing relationships. And when students provide positive feedback about you to their career centers, you’re more likely to receive continuous and high-quality candidates. The other benefit of going through career centers is, of course, that they’ll often do the regular work of searching for your intern so that you don’t have to!

 

Online Postings

Remember, the interweb is a friend not a foe. This is an essential element to the success of finding your intern in the haystack.

To get even more specific, when looking for interns in university-level programs, go to the places they would go. Posting ads on Craigslist won’t aid you in the process of searching for an intern if the population you’re searching for isn’t using Craigslist.

Students and recent grads alike utilize a multitude of websites, some of the most popular being LinkedIn and Handshake. LinkedIn proves to be a necessary networking tool for the duration of careers, as you probably already know. To ensure that you are fully utilizing LinkedIn, make sure to join groups with similar missions to promote your business and discover talent. I found this article particularly useful.

Additionally, in searching for interns, I’d insist on using a website called Handshake, which directly targets college students and young alumni. Handshake specifically has access to over 8 million students and young adults, and more than 475 career centers. Convenient, eh?

And should you wish to cast your net wider, many standard job posting sites like Idealist and Work For Good also allow for internship listings.

Personal Networks

Last but certainly not least, don’t underestimate the potential of your personal network. The people you already know may help you find your best interns.

It’s easiest to start with your friends and family. Put out the word that you’re looking for an intern, and see if they can help you fill the spot quickly. Just remember to include that clearly-defined intern job description, even when talking to people casually.

Next, post about the internship on your personal and professional social media outlets and in groups. This is a great, and fast, way to spread the word about your opportunity.

And a final example is the connections you have with clients or peers in the same field. More than often, students and young alumni are looking for more than one consecutive internship. One summer they might work for a for-profit manufacturer that produces burlap supplies for a local, nonprofit coffee shop. But next summer, that same intern wants to work at the coffee shop itself. So, reach out to your partners and colleagues for contacts.

With a little preparation and planning, you’ll find your dynamic duo. The Robin to your Batman. The Sonny to your Cher.

By the way, did you miss the first post on why an intern might want to help you? You can read it right here!


Michael Banks, Intern at Signify

Michael Griffith Banks is a fourth-year Public Relations Major at the University of Georgia with a minor in Spanish. He’s throughly involved with UGA’s Office of Admissions, most recently serving as an Orientation Leader for the University.

Michael also operates as the Executive Director of Marketing and PR for Breaking the Shackles, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to fighting human trafficking. He is interning at Signify this spring and will graduate from UGA in May 2018. 



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 Finding an intern can actually be less complicated than you might think.

 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.