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.



Taking the ‘E’ Train From Uncle Knowlty to Google News

Fifteen-plus years in the business, there have been many steps to reach the platform when boarding the latest (and greatest) career train in communications practice.

This past weekend legendary news anchor Knowlton Nash left his Underwood behind for an eternity of newsgathering with the big man upstairs. His passing has put a sharp focus on how we receive our news, and to that matter how we receive all our information.

Mr. Nash delivered the news during a time when news was called news and did not hold the moniker of ‘mainstream.’  Yes during the eighties other tributaries of local and world news babbled on, but your channels of delivery were usually left to water coolers and documentaries on TV.

With social media his eulogy was broadcast across a whole new (at least to some) information environment called the internet. This ‘brave new’ environ also made his story viewable to tens of thousands of viewers – now referred to as followers. Certainly not the case before cable television when your antenna router barely ever worked.

Today, this sharing of information is called repurposing; more creatively referred to as ‘reimagining’ as C.C. Chapman espouses in Content Rules. No longer is repurposing something you did with curios you picked up at your neighbourhood yard sale. Those are destined be at curb side within the year. This sort of repurposing is now the underpinning of good communication planning when utilizing social media methodology.

For this senior communicator (no discounts yet, just grey hair) social media and all of its followers, likes, favourites and god-forbid trolls, represent a new and exciting way to deliver your message to a much wider and knowledgeable audience.

So as I board the social media train I start as a passenger but almost inevitably will become its engineer.

Comfortably seated I am inspired and motivated as this new frontier unfolds before me. It has birds (Twitter); it has a massive community centre where sharing recipes and personal activities (Facebook) can help me understand certain behaviours.  It holds many massive libraries that thankfully don’t have late fees and offer unlimited resources (Google Books). Heck it even has places you can view pictures of cold, frosty micro brews (Printerest) when you forget you live in Ontario and it’s a holiday Monday. Been there done that!

I do digress….

Beer aside, the key reason for boarding the social media train is survival. I’m not talking about the kind of survival where you may have to gnaw off a limb or two (I don’t know how that guy did it), I’m talking about pure professional survival in media relations, public relations and stakeholder relations today. Although social media is certainly no panacea for whatever strategy you may have in mind, it does offer a communicator a different playing field to enrich engagement, spur advocacy and boost sales. But simply sitting on the social media train and staring out the window cannot be an option. (Unless of course you are travelling Business Class on Via 1; as I do love those cold Heinekens). Thirst aside it’s time to get cracking a plan the trip!

For a shot at social media fiefdom, I have enrolled into the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education’s Foundations of Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media. Yes it is a mouthful but certainly worth repeating as you see that you are by no means the only passenger on this train. Other professional communicators, marketers and data junkies have booked a seat working towards a certificate in Digital Strategy and Communications Management. Each with a particular vision on how they will create, improve and accelerate their digital footprint. Yes, digital footprint. Nothing Sasquatch here, just looking to put your big toe into the cyber sea of social media.

I must go as the conductor tolls what’s coming up down the line. ‘Next stop will be clicking, doxing, surfing and frisking.’ Interesting destinations for sure. I especially like the frisking one as I think we are all frisky when the need arises.