Plant the Tree First

Plant the Tree First

Strategy = Growth

Embedding Strong Social Media Roots

On Monday I was fortunate enough to be part of IABC Foundation’s ‘Gift of Communications.’ A warranted and rewarding program offered during the IABC World Conference in cooperation with United Way, Toronto. Pro bono consulting can be immensely helpful to many not-for-profits that struggle to keep up with limited dollars and resources.

‘Keeping up’ with communications and publicity can be daunting to small and large organizations as it represents a vast landscape of anything from harvesting latest trends, to getting your executives more engaged in communication strategies. This is especially true for small not-for-profits struggling to stay alive in a reduced government funding environment.

Today, and certainly tomorrow, this struggle will continue; but hands-down the number one issue facing these institutions is how to manage their presence in social media.

Granted, each explicitly recognizes social media as the vanguard that will help them reach new business goals and objectives vital to both their funding and program delivery; but on the other hand, they have no knowledge how to lay-out a strategic plan that will ‘tie-back’ to their Vision, Mission, Core Values and corporate strategy.

So with bated breath they latch onto the low lying fruit of ‘getting a Twitter channel up.’

During the Monday session, this gap was much bigger than anyone in the room thought imaginable. Easily 85% of the agencies were in some ways struggling with this weakness in their overall corporate strategy. Most had very little understanding of basic social media fundamentals when utilizing this medium for business goals and objectives.

Is this really surprising?

We are all human and have an inherent need for what is ‘the latest and greatest’ panacea to either fix our leaky basements or build more aggressive investment portfolios. We hear of great gadgets, programs or solutions and want them now!

Not-for-profits struggle with smaller and smaller government stipends forcing an urgent response towards finding not the right solution, but an immediate solution. Many board meetings will recite,

The next government is looking to slash 40% of all public monies for community outreach. How can we survive? What about this Twitter thing. Everyone’s using it, let’s get on board. Heck if the CIA has one, why not us!”

Other than who would have thought the CIA would give credibility to the use of social media, what has happened here is a large gap within many not-for-profits online communication strategy. In fact, in most cases there isn’t one.

Building a strategic online communications strategy starts with each board member clearly understanding the importance of a well planned and executed approach. Even in cash-strapped organizations, it is crucial to allocating a few precious shared promotional dollars to developing an online strategy. A practical online approach will increase your organization’s credibility, innovation, transparency and other core values that many institutions hold near and dear to their success.

So, for all those not-for-profits and causes out there, let’s look at building the tree first before the nest. If you do, there are many branches that will help your online presence grow, including – of course – Twitter.

A strong well rooted online communication strategy will help your organization cultivate an effective stakeholder audience, advance your mission, live your vision and core values and if you use the right ‘fertilizer,’ tie-back to your overall corporate plan.