Monthly Archives: September 2010

Why Non-profits need some major help in the social media department

Social media is a quickly expanding area in business. Many have adopted social media as part of their communications plan, many of which are doing it successfully. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about most non-profits. They often lack the manpower, resources and skills to properly use social media.

Social media was pretty much made for non-profits. Its services are almost always free which makes it a perfect communications and marketing match for non-profits. The problem is most organizations are not taking advantage of these services.

Of the organizations that actually have a Facebook page, for example, many don’t list any information. No contact, no website, no events; nothing. According to a 2006 study, (PR and facebook.pdf), almost all of the organizations studied listed its administrators on its Facebook page. However, few listed the organizations goals, mission statements or history.

Now, isn’t the point of social media to be social? If you aren’t facilitating conversation, what’s the point of using social media? They are just merely there because they are told they ought to be.

Non-profit organizations, much like for-profit organizations who are just starting out using social media, are often afraid of social networks. They also don’t know how to use them. One of the biggest fears is the thought of inviting negative comments and feedback. Although this may be true, it is not always a bad thing. It will give you a change to implement your awesome PR skills and make the negative situation better. WIN!

To better use social media, on of the first things non-profits should do is find an expert, whether that be a volunteer or an intern. Having someone to help who has experience using social media will be a huge asset to have. But, by far, the most important thing to do is communicate. Like stated before, without communication and conversation, why would anyone want to become a fan of your organization. About.com has an excellent list of 12 tips to help non-profits get into social media.

This may be a scary and overwhelming time for those just beginning, but stick with it and seek help and it could be a great success with a huge ROI.

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I got skillz

As technology changes, so does the required skill sets for any given position. The same goes for journalism and public relations. The emergence of social media is quickly changing the way we do things. From blogging to Facebook-ing, tweeting and editing videos, new grads need to have a wider range of skills than ever.

According to Dave Fleet, Vice President of Digital in Edelman’s Toronto office, public relations practitioners have always been taught and should continue to be taught traditional skills. These skills include writing, communication skills, media relations, good work ethics, attention to details and being proactive. I completely agree with this list. There are essential attributes for working in public relations.

To be successful as a public relations practitioner today requires new skills. It is essential that new grads know how to blog, use social networks and their tools, know what microblogging is and how it can be useful, search engine optimization, RSS, blogger relations (in addition to public relations and media relations) and ethics involved in using social media. Absolutely! These are necessary skills, but most people don’t know how to use them, why they are useful and their potential in public relations.

Fleet says you don’t have to blog, but should have an understanding of their importance and that you should be interested in their uses. I agree and disagree with this. Yes, we should know how blogs can be used and understand their importance, but to say you don’t have to blog to understand this seems ridiculous. I see this as being like writing a book about open heart surgery without ever experiencing it. You just can’t. Social media is hands-on and should be learned in such a way.

All of these skills should also be used in journalism. In a Mashable post by Vadim Lavrusik, some skills that are essential for journalists are listed. With the slow  death of print journalism, journalists need to become multimedia storytellers. Lavrusik explains multimedia storytellers tell their stories “through video, text, graphics, audio and photos.” He also says the best way to learn these skills is through hands-on experience. In addition, he says journalists need to practice blogging regularly. This is so true.

I think between the two professions, the new sets of skills that are needed are covered. The need to know not only social media, but programming such as HTML and CSS is a huge need as everything is going online. I am happy to say I am at least familiar with all these skills. Many of them I practice regularly.

The big problem with learning social media skills is that most companies and newspapers are reluctant to adopt them. It seems they think that because it has worked in the past, it will continue to work for them in the future without any change. Unfortunately, this is very wrong. Companies don’t really have a choice but to adopt. It is becoming a “survival of the fittest” sort of situation. Learn it or fall behind your competitors.

2010-09-13

On the other side of things, many companies have adopted social media. However, some of them have such strict policies on its use that it is almost the same is if they never adopted it in the first place. I think this Dilbert strip I found, on Lee Aase’s SMU-G website is funny, but very true in the business world.

Lee Aase is the Director Mayo Clinic’s Center for Social Media. I was lucky enough to sit down with Aase in December and discuss social media’s role at Mayo. He told me all of the above skills are essential now in communications. It’s an excellent way to connect an organization with their clients, customers, patients, audience or what ever else you want to label people. He discussed how interaction is key. This rang true as I found during my independent study fall 2009 semester. So what if you have a Facebook page? If you don’t do anything with it, its about the same as not having it at all.

I leave with this: master these skills and you could be very successful. Don’t just master them, though. Participate, interact, communicate. Show you know what you are talking about.

Edina: Move Complete

It was an exciting day today in Edina (for me at least). Today was my second day on the job, but first FULL eight-hour day. I got more training today than I could shake a stick at. I got training on Expressions this afternoon. Edina uses it for editing their website. Kind of confusing, but shouldn’t be too hard. The most difficult thing is actually finding the page I need to edit. I also learned CastNet which Edina uses to create “slides,” more or less, for Edina 16, their public access channel.

Jennifer Bennerotte, Director of Communications, gave me some training on how to use her camera. It is an awesome Canon; one like I would like to own some day. She showed me the different lenses, settings and more. She also gave me a few coupons for free classes at National Camera Exchange. I hope I can get to the first two soon! I am really excited about it. I wish I could get to a class tomorrow, though. I have a photography assignment for Tuesday already. I will be getting photos of the Edina Fire Department while they train at their training facility.

In other news, the communications department is no longer located on the second floor of city hall. This afternoon, we picked up EVERYTHING and moved downstairs. It was relatively exciting. I guess about as exciting as moving an entire department’s offices as possible. I look forward to coming back on Tuesday. i will have my own HUGE desk. They even got a new computer for the intern/my desk. I just need to raid the office supply room to stock my desk with the necessities. I will have to update Tuesday afternoon about my new desk and photographer experiences.

Until later-