Follow @npcommunicator on Twitter.com | NPCommunicator HOME | About

Q & A with Communications Expert Thom Clark

Guest post by DeAnndra B.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Community Media Workshop President, co-founder, and resident communications expert Thom Clark, to pick his brain about the upcoming Developing A Communications Plan training.

It’s currently one of the most requested trainings and is offered by The Workshop multiple times each year. Led by Clark, it has been a core training at The Workshop for more than twenty years. There is clearly a demand, and need, for this type of communications training; marrying traditional media relations strategies with new media strategies.

Thom Clark

Q1 – How did the Developing A Communications Plan training come to be one of the most popular trainings at The Workshop?

It’s a basic strategy workshop we’ve done from day one. Born of the first week of the core training, Professional Media Relations, there was a need to provide a shorter training for a conference in Denver as an early effort to help children advocacy groups improve their access to the media and their storytelling. Collaborating with Workshop co-founder Hank DeZutter, we built a syllabus and curriculum as an effort to get down on paper what this training was really about.

Over the years it has evolved as I collaborated with former vice-presidents of The Workshop, including some spokesperson and messaging training elements, similar to week two of Professional Media Relations. In addition to some elements from Sue O’Halloran’s Storytelling training, in particular the elevator speech technique. The current version of the training is a basic strategy workshop with a sharper focus and far better materials, establishing the basic plan as something we ought to put front and center. It worked well and I am doing this training all the time now.


Q2 
Can you speak to the need for a non-profit to have a communications plan?

Most nonprofits have identified a problem that they’re trying to solve. There are customers and clients they want to attract to programs, there are board members, funders, donors, and volunteers they need to tell their story to, which includes successes or challenges in addressing that problem. Often, there are policy makers, government officials, and regulators who also need to hear how an organization discovered a problem and have come up with, or attempted, a solution to it.

If a nonprofit operates in a vacuum, they wont be as successful in changing public policy or moving clients along to be more successful in their lives (after the program), much less raise money, and attract the right staff and board members if they’re not telling their story. Organizations can tell their story through their own media (websites, e-newsletters, etc.), and/or traditional media (print and broadcast). Media coverage doesn’t just happen, it takes strategy and some persistence to gain media attention to help amplify your work which will hopefully help raise more money and attract better staff and volunteers to the organization.


Q3
 – Here at Community Media Workshop we produce a media guide. How do you plan on incorporating how to use the media guide* into this training?

I could do a better job than the seven minutes I cover it, usually. “The book alone can be a training in terms of what’s in the front part as well as what’s in the back.” We do try to cover the media guide in trainings especially if participants have this tool in front of them.

In a recent training, I talked about how to use it as a browsing tool. I usually talk about finding reporters who you may not know are covering your issue, and get to know one a month, every other month. At the end of the year you will have 6 new reporters who are paying attention to your issue. I discussed how to attract the attention of a reporter, who doesn’t know you, by phone or email and it is largely by paying attention to their last piece, or last several articles and commenting on them, usually with a glass half –full approach.

*(Note: the media guide contains an editorial section with tips on pitching, worksheets for creating a communications plan, building a media list, an online communications plan, a social media policy and more.)


Q4
 – Can you tell me your top three objectives or goals that you would like attendees to get out of this training? If they leave with nothing else what are 3 things you would like them to walk away with?

First, we often use an elevator speech exercise that leaves most participants with a far keener sense about the importance of being concise. They have to decide what one program or offer you want to tell this new audience about. You have to get them to the point where they’re asking for more information instead of overwhelming them with too much in the first few minutes of talking with them.

Secondly, a better sense of strategically discovering which 6 or 12 reporters they need to build a relationship with and not worrying about a several hundred-name press list. They should pay attention to the media and figure out whom they need to learn and get to know.

Lastly, I expect people to have a keen sense of the 3–legged stool model of goals, audience, and message working together leading to better storytelling. That’s really at the core of what we do. That basic approach to strategy has not changed much over the last 20 years even with all the new technology available and changes in the media landscape. This model is a really good way to break down to the non-media relations professional how to get a handle on building an effective communications plan.

 

Q5 – You often mention that, in developing a communications plan, working with the media, and doing media relations is not about getting publicity for the boss, what do you mean by that and why is that important?

It comes out of my sense that for many years we had trouble getting foundations to support our work because they say it as so much PR for the boss and didn’t feel the need to fund that type of communications. It was perceived that, “if a group is making news the media will find them”. Not only is that a naïve understanding about how the media works, but also more than likely if a group is making news and the media finds them, it is because of a crisis. So, it is not the type of coverage they want to have.

In addition, the perception that most nonprofit organizations are run by self-described visionaries who had a great idea, was able to get some funding and went on with the work, but are primarily ego-driven ‘cause why would anyone want to do this work for next to no pay. And, in some times that stereotype is true, but more often than not it undermines the real motivations of people who are in this field.

The nonprofit sector represents over 7% of the employment base in Chicago. So there is something we’re trying to do to help the world. We see gaps in what people need to have fulfilling lives and we try to help them with those gaps. So the story, to me, is not about who is running the organization, but what the organization is doing. My interest in helping organizations tell their story more effectively is to get other people to join the journey. To understand what problems they are trying to tackle, why they’re effective, and to come help us. Whether it is volunteers, donors writing larger checks or bringing in clients. That is far more effective than having the ego of a founder or executive director soothed with a profile in Crain’s Chicago Business or the Chicago Tribune.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Mobilizing: Activism in the Digital Age

Guest post by Thom Clark

The Internet brought more information to each of our desktops than we ever dreamed of 10, 15, 20 years ago. But in the last five years, the rise of social media and digital tools, like the tablet and smart phone, are transforming how many organizations get their work done, engage existing members and expand their base.

“While engaging your current community is critical to fulfilling your organizational mission,” according to Tracy VanSlyke, co-director of The New Bottom Line, “Broadening your community to advance your work is equally important.”

Effective use of digital tools for organizing one’s members, campaigns and program is critical in this 24/7 world of data dumps and info overload.

VanSlyke will moderate an afternoon panel June 4, 2013 at Making Media Connections on activism in the Digital Age, featuring activists who use digital tools in their work: Martin Macias, Jr. of Chicago Fair Trade; Eric Tellez of Grassroots Collaborative and Charlene Carruthers of National Peoples Action.

“Digital tools allow you to go beyond one-way organizing to engage and build relationships within your community,” she says. “If you want to be influencing the media, to expand and deepen impact of your work, you have to be serious about building community both online and off line.”

A veteran of many local and national campaigns, most recently around stemming the tide of home foreclosures and holding banks more accountable, VanSlyke will engage her panelists in a conversation about successful, and some not so successful efforts to use these tools to further organizational goals. “There is still so much to be discovered with these new tools,” she reports, “with many possible complications. It’s still more an art form than a science, that is constantly evolving with experimentation.”

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Modern Mobilizing: Activism in the Digital Age
2:15-3:30 June 4 Film Row Cinema, Columbia College 1104 S Wabash

Digi-wha? Digital organizing is modern campaigning and we’re here to help you improve your digital work in activism and organizing. Learn how digital tools, like social media, can help you not just say something, but be heard.  Panelists: Martin Macias, Jr. (Media activist/Youth Organizer at Chicago Fair Trade); Charlene Carruthers (National Peoples Action); Eric Téllez (Grassroots Collaborative); Moderator: Tracy Van Slyke (co-author of The Echo Chamber)

Communiqué from Morocco

For a long time I’ve believed that the Community Media Workshop is a unique institution–offering resources and sharing knowledge that strengthen civic institutions’ ability to transform communities in Chicago and beyond. Our unique mission has now been presented the opportunity to expand its reach–Morocco! Read the rest of this entry »

Adding video to your social media strategy

Guest post by Marissa Wasseluk

Video is an integral part of social media strategy. Humans are, after all, innately visual creatures – attracted to and moved to emotion by what we can see, and for that reason I have always personally believed that nonprofits need video in their communications plans!

OK, so you’ve gone through the painstaking production process and made yourself a beautiful video. Now all you need is an audience.

Most social media platforms are made to share video in one way or another. Sharing a video that you have across networks is easy. You can do it in less than five minutes! Watch this video below to see how!

If you’re curious about how to integrate video into your current communications plan, or how to expose your video to a wider audience, join us at Making Media Connections this year, where we are hosting a panel of specialists to talk about video strategy. Click here to register for the conference!

Can you reach millions with metro news?

With the rise of online news, traditional news has taken a huge hit in audience and circulation numbers in recent years, but in a major media market like Chicago, it is still the place where, yes, millions of people go for information. Just take a look at these numbers:

Chicago Tribune – 414,590 average daily circulation (includes print and digital)

Chicago Sun-Times – 269,489 average daily circulation (print and digital)

Daily Herald – 99,670 average daily circulation (print and digital)

WBEZ radio – and average of 118,000 listeners per day

There are nearly 3.5 million Chicago households watching television, according to nielsen. (If someone can find me breakdowns for local TV news audiences, please, send those numbers my way!)

And the Workshop’s NEW News 2010 report found that millions of people visit the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times websites each month.

These are still BIG numbers. These numbers are why so many organizations still desperately want that Tribune story or Channel 2 feature. The Workshop knows that while telling our own stories online is vital to the success of our organizations, continuing to mine opportunities to tell a newsworthy story to a larger audience via traditional media is also important. Make your journey through traditional media easier by meeting some of the reporters and producers who can help you place your stories. One of our most popular and well-attended panels each year at the nonprofit communications conference Making Media Connections is the Metro News panel. Join us this year to hear from Cate Cahan, WBEZ; Madeleine Doubek, Daily Herald; David Schalliol, Gapers Block; and Deidra White, CBS-2.

Hear from the reporters and editors themselves about the types of stories they’re looking for, when to pitch them, and how they prefer to be contacted. Chicago is a big media market, and pitching traditional media can be tricky. This panel will give you useful tips that might make the difference between a successful pitch and one that flops. We hope to see you at Making Media Connections 2012!

Kindle your social media power: Pinterest explained

I’m really excited about our upcoming Making Media Connections Conference. I’ll be leading a half-day workshop on Social Media planning… covering practical  and strategic approaches to social media for nonprofits. In this workshop we will be covering the core concepts and exercises from my semester long course on social media at Columbia College Chicago. We’ll go over preparing your social media policy, steps towards creating your plan and get the big picture to help you approach the tools the right way. If you haven’t registered already, do it now!

Pinterest has gained much popularity in the past few months and will be one platform we will be talking about in our workshop. Below is a primer on the new social platform (and an excerpt from her final course essay) written by one of my students in my Social Media & PR Strategies course this past Winter. 

Hope to see you at #mmc2012!

– Demetrio Maguigad

 

Pinterest Explained 

Guest post by Shelby Gardner, Columbia College Chicago, Intern at Student PIRGs

 

 

Pinterest… What is it?

Pinterest is as a virtual bulletin board to categorize and ‘pin’ things that interests an individual. The Next Web (TNW) describes it as “a way for people to ‘window shop’ for anything whether it’s a physical object or an intangible object like quotes.”

To grasp how Pinterest works, you need to know three terms. Pin, Repin, and Boards.

Pin: an image added to Pinterest either from a link, a site, or uploaded image that can include captions. Repin: once something is pinned, it can be repined by other Pinterest users, a big factor that leverages the site. Board: this is where your pins are. You can have separate boards for various subjects. Users set up boards of pins that fit together. When a board is created, the user must categorize it into one of the 13 default categories. The user is free to name the board what ever they desire.

The most popular pins category on Pinterest is Food & Drink, then DIY & Crafts, and third is Women’s Apparel. However, the statistics of most popular boards are very different, with the top ranked as Remaining Categories and Home and Décor second.

The main page is where you browse pins via thumbnails, which allows top users to grow even more popular. With 32 different topic areas, users can browse everything from fitness to art and science. Users can like or comment on other pins. The average activity of popular ‘Pinners’ consists of 2,600 pins, 33 boards, and following around 400 users. Pinners can use the site to purchase things.  About 20% of users have purchased items they found on someone’s Pinboard.

15 Tips and Tricks

Read the rest of this entry »

Should your nonprofit go mobile?


guest post by Marissa Wasseluk

Will your nonprofit communications plan benefit from using a mobile platform?

You may think that you don’t need to invest in creating a mobile app for your nonprofit, but recent statistics on media consumerism show that 90% of mobile subscribers have an Internet-ready phone (source: mobithinking.com). This means if your audience is not currently mobile Internet surfing, they will be soon.

Let’s think about this – would you rather sit in front of your computer, type in a URL, possibly a login and password, wait for that little spinny rainbow wheel to stop spinning – or would you rather turn on your phone wherever you are, touch a button and instantly access content?

Yes, my communicator colleagues, perhaps it’s time to consider creating a mobile app.

A recent study from Alexa shows the gaining popularity of mobile web apps vs. Internet usage.

Currently, 64% of mobile phone time is spent using apps. Alexa Internet estimates this to be about 81 minutes a day. Some smart nonprofits are engaging this new media-saavy audience with brand-themed games, location based services, touch-to-donate apps, and more.

It seems to be the most effective apps are those that are timeless or those that are timely. You can use your app to increase awareness of your cause with general information (making it always accessible), or use it to support a specific campaign (so its reach is maximized during that time period).

The YMCA uses location-based services to find the Y closest to where you are. An example of a timeless nonprofit mobile app.

Screen shots from the app developed by the nonprofit Falling Whistles that was used to support their touring team and garnered advocates by asking them to share their image for their cause - fighting for peace in the Congo. An example of a timely nonprofit mobile app.

Mobile apps only further enlighten people of your organizational presence and make your organization more accessible. It’s an innovative way to reach out to advocates, making advocacy and philanthropy a little bit more fun.

So if you’re thinking of using or optimizing a mobile app for your organization, think about the specifics of how you’re going to use it. Understanding what you want the end user to do with your app can help you plan on how to effectively (read: cost-effectively) create your own mobile platform.

At Making Media Connections this year, we are hosting a panel of specialists to talk about how to make your digital communications mobile-ready. Join us to address all your pressing questions about mobile platforms! Click here to register for the conference!

Blogging belongs in your nonprofit communications plan!

blog

Image by Marissa Wasseluk; Icon: "Worker” symbol by Kris Khoury, from thenounproject.com collection.

Guest post by Marissa Wasseluk

Blogs share your stories. Across the web, individuals and organizations are doing what paper newsletters did in the past – connecting with an audience of eager readers. Letting advocates know the success of your programs, calling them to action, asking for donations, and garnering new supporters, can all be done more immediately – and perhaps more effectively – with a blog.

The concept behind using blogging as one of your main communications tools is simple: the more content you post, the more real estate you own on the Internet, and the easier it is for your advocates and potential audience to find you.

And how do your readers find you? Post relevant content, often. In the realm of the Internet, content is king.

Effective blog content stems from the following:

• Knowing your audience – Who will read your posts? Be intentional with your writing; write in a way that will incite curiosity in your audience and invite action.

• Sharing your unique perspective – establish your voice; it helps create a connection with your reader.

• Breaking news – Ask, what’s happening now? What content are readers looking for right now?

• Using multimedia – We are visual creatures. Intentionally use pictures and video to draw in your reader.

Regular content posting creates connections, both online and offline. So, if you haven’t yet, make blogging a part of your communications plan, now!

If you’d like to learn more on the whats, whys, and hows of making blogging a part of a productive communications plan, join us for our blogging workshop at Making Media Connections, where I’ll be happy to field all your blogging questions!

Join us this year at our annual Making Media Connections Conference! You can also join the conversation on Twitter by following @npcommunicator and the #mmc2012 hashtag. Click here to register for the conference!

The devil is in the details

Workshop staff admires one of the displays at LISC's Smart Communities event in Humboldt Park. We had fun planning it AND attending it.

If there were ever an expression that aptly described planning the perfect event, it is that – the devil is in the details. Over the years, I have managed the planning of many events–from breakfast meetings for 50 people to a 1000-person community development conference. No matter the size or scale, knowing how to think through the details at the beginning of the event planning process will save you a lot of headaches down the road.

For example, do you want to spend money on those nifty banners that hang from the lamp posts on Clark St. sometimes? Guess what – that process takes forever! But it can be done.

Or, will your event incorporate bus tours to three of Chicago’s up-and-coming communities? It’s a fantastic idea, but you can’t organize that in a week.

The details will either make your event unforgettable or sink your metaphorical party ship. But before you dive in to the color of the linens, you must first engage in an event planning process with your team. What’s the goal of your event? Do expensive bus tours and banners help you achieve that goal? Who’s your audience? Will the bus tours help you increase registration by that core audience? And always think through how you’ll define success when it’s all over. If 50 people hate the chicken you served for lunch but loved all the workshops they attended, then you probably did alright. Sure, it’s a bummer the chicken was dry, but that’s not the reason you put all the time and resources into the event in the first place.

Whether you’re planning a conference or an intimate cocktail party, learning some tips and tricks of the event planning trade can greatly improve your chances for an unforgettable event. Register for “Igniting Successful Events for Glowing Audiences” at Making Media Connection 2012 with seasoned event planner and communications expert Jill Stewart to learn how to be strategic throughout the event planning process, how to market your event online and how to get those pesky tent permits without driving yourself mad.

And remember, if you’re in the middle of planning a huge event and you start dreaming about your colleague falling out of a window days before the big conference or the printer losing all 3000 of your invitations, it’s normal! It’s just part of the event planning process, and it means your brain is working overtime to ensure your event is practically perfect in every way.

We hope to see you at Making Media Connections 2012! (Register by Monday, April 30 to get the early bird rate. It’s a $60 discount!)

Linkedin for nonprofits

Guest post by Marissa Wasseluk

Having worked with nonprofit communicators to create social media policies and plans, it has come to my attention Linkedin oftentimes gets overlooked. Many nonprofit communicators know that it’s an important part of a social media plan, but they’re not sure exactly how or why to use it (sound like a familiar conundrum?).

I talked with Bryan Breckenridge, the Account Executive for LinkedIn Nonprofit Solutions about this trend, and expressed the importance of networking both in person and online. Take a look at our conversation!

 

I like to say Linkedin is the “diamond in the social media rough”.

Some advantages to adding Linkedin to your nonprofit’s social media plan:

  • A presence on Linkedin puts your nonprofit in front of new donors
  • It connects corporate donors to your cause
  • It can help you find new possible board members!
  • It’s a new and different social channel that provides new opportunities of exposure!

If you’d like to pick Bryan’s brain about how to add Linkedin to your social media communications and best practices for its use, come say hello to him at Making Media Connections this June 14, 2012, where he’ll be the keynote speaker!

Join us this year at our annual Making Media Connections Conference! You can also join the conversation on Twitter by following @npcommunicator and the #mmc2012 hashtag. Click here to register for the conference!

Categories

Add to Technorati Favorites

Alltop, all the top stories

RSS Chicago is the World

  • Telling people’s stories, an ethnic media success September 2, 2015
        By Stephen Franklin Community Media Workshop   A 3-year-old child died on a plane from Chicago to Poland. This, Magdalena Pantelis instantly knew, was a story her readers would care about. But she needed more detail to write about it for the Polish Daily News, the nation’s oldest daily newspaper in Polish, founded Jan. […]