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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

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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!)

Be found on the web: Organic SEO

Be found on the web.

There are potentially hundreds, if not thousands or even millions of people in the world looking for you, your services and products. These people use Search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Youtube, Duck Duck Go and many more. Good search engine optimization can combine paid search and organic search optimization. Paid search services like Google Ads or Facebook Ads position your brand, service or product on their sites to targeted demographics. It’s competitive, and can be expensive trying to outbid others for the best online display real-estate.

For most, the best option (and an option you should be doing anyway) is organic search engine optimization. Organic search engine optimization is a more natural practice for web developers, marketeers and others to help people find you by maintaining and managing a healthy, content rich, relative and well-organized website.

Join us this year at our annual Making Media Connections Conference where we will have a panel of experts who will help guide you through understanding SEO for your nonprofit. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @npcommunicator and the #mmc2012 hashtag

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The general public is not your audience

More often than not, nonprofits tell me they want to use communications to  reach “the general public.” And, I’m quick to respond, “The general public is not an audience!” Since we are not Coca Cola or Nike or H & R Block, we will NEVER have enough resources to market to the general public. So, throw that audience right out the window. The key to our success lies in how targeted we can be.

Once you know what you want to accomplish (your goal), then you have to think about who you’re trying to reach. Who can make a difference on your issue? Who will donate money? Who can impact policy? Who will get involved? This “Who” is your audience.

If we are trying to organize a neighborhood watch group in the Edgewater neighborhood, our target audience is likely adults (maybe parents and homeowners) in the Edgewater community. Secondary audiences might include the alderman, community group leaders and others in that community who are influential and can help organize a watch group.

Once we’ve decided to reach parents in Edgewater, we can think of all sorts of messages and tactics to reach those parents. For example, parents are at schools. What can we distribute at the schools to get in touch with parents? What should those fliers say to pique their interest?

Are their neighborhood school events we can attend to meet parents in person? Do those parents read the local Edgewater blog, the “Edgeville Buzz,” and if so, can we try to place a story in the blog about the need for a neighborhood watch group and how to get involved?

Knowing your audience is important in the social media world, too. If you’re trying to reach parents in Edgewater, maybe you start using hashtags in your tweets such as #edgewater #schools and #parents. Maybe you search on Facebook to find out if any of the local schools or community groups in Edgewater already have Facebook pages where you can share information about your campaign.

What you probably don’t need to do is contact Channel 7 or the Chicago Tribune. Although those outlets do reach millions of people in the Chicago area, the threshold for news is higher and it can be extremely time-consuming to place a story there. If you know your target audience and you know specific places to reach them in Edgewater, you’ll probably have better luck focusing on community-based gatherings, papers and online outlets to get your story out and reach your target audience where they’re already at.

So, the next time you plan to embark on a communications strategy, remember, the more targeted you can be when thinking about your audience, the more success you’re likely to have making sure the right people, rather than a whole bunch of people, hear what you have to say and take action.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to develop your organization’s communications plan, contact me ( to find out if a custom training is a good fit for you. Or call our main number 312-369-6400 to learn more about upcoming trainings.

Lessons learned from Social Media Bootcamp

Guest post by Marissa Wasseluk, New Media Associate

I’ve found that most organizations know they need to have a social media presence, but are unsure how to utilize social media tools to get their message across. What most don’t understand is that there is a philosophy behind social media communications and strategy behind its utilization.

The Workshop heard the outcry for a comprehensive look at this emerging, ever-changing communications platform (it sounded kind of like a kitten stuck up in a distant tree). We responded by creating a three-part course that delves into the world of social media to help break down and understand the medium and how to use it effectively.

hang in der, kitteh.

Thus, Social Media Bootcamp was born.  Adapted from social media trainings the Workshop has done in the past, we covered the following:

Day 1 – Introduction to Social Media Policy & Plan
Participants were asked to put into question their communications goals, and why social media will help them acheive those goals. Ask yourself, “Who am I talking to? How will I address this audience?” Explore, “What is a social media policy? How is it different from a plan and why do I need both?”

This was the week we played the social media game. I love the social media game because everyone wins.

Day 2 – Utilizing Tools & Tactics
This week we made the link between legend media and new media. You may not see it at first, but there is one. Best practices for the social engagement on Twitter, Facebook, & blogs were covered.

Tip of the week: keywords are just that – WORDS THAT ARE KEY TO YOUR MESSAGES. Analyze your goals and listen to your audience to find your keywords and draw upon them to start and join conversations on social media platforms!

Day 3 – Measuring Impact
Participants were introduced to tools like Hootsuite and Sprout Social and how to use them to understand their audience. Finding influencers and engaging them, as well as workflow were covered.

We also learned a little bit about SEO using the power of music.

I find that because the nature of social media is that it is ever-changing, the more I explore on the topic, the more I want to know.

Find out what can you learn from Social Media Bootcamp by listening in on and/or join the conversation on Twitter and following the hashtag #smb2012 . For more communications tips and tricks, you can also “like” the Workshop on Facebook or sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter!

If you just asked yourself what a hashtag is or how one uses it, I highly encourage you to join us for the Making Media Connections conference or contact us about a custom training!

Happy communicating!

Practice makes perfect, and other interview tips

Photo courtesy of Red Media Group, Flickr, Creative Commons

When I work with nonprofit leaders who are preparing for media  interviews, one of my first pieces of advice is, “Remember, you’re in control!” The media needs your help to tell the story, and you’re the expert on your organization’s issues. So, if that’s the case, why do we find ourselves floundering in media interviews, being dragged off topic with no sense of how to bring it back to our core messages? It’s because most of us just need a little practice. We need to sharpen our interview skills, and learn some easy tricks to maintain control and stay on message.

If you’re looking for an affordable, efficient way to brush up on your spokesperson skills, sign up for our Spokesperson Superstar webinar on Feb. 23.  Learn interview performance tips like “bridging” and “flagging.” Find out what to wear on camera, and get advice on how to prepare. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in a mock interview during the session.

You can also check out the Workshop’s “11 tips for broadcast interviews.” We hope to see you on the webinar!

The top 11 Workshop blog posts of 2011

At the end of the year, it’s fun and informative to see what drew you to our website. The Community Media Workshop produces three blogs–Newstips, NP Communicator and Chicago is the World–and in 2011, these were the top 11 most viewed blog posts on our site. Did you have a favorite Workshop blog post this year? Let us know if it made the top 11 or not. We want to continue providing content that’s helpful to you and your organization.

The Top 11

1. NP Communicator: Be a nonprofit blogger! By far, our most popular blog post this year. It’s a helpful post, and it just goes to show, you never know what may go viral.

2. Newstips: Library cuts and TIF surplusesNewstips posts that related to TIFs were very popular this year. It’s an issue to continue watching in Chicago.

3. Newstips: On TIF reform, Bronzeville has ideas

4. Newstips: Fact check: Emanuel, Brizard, Pritzker

5. Newstips: On Whittier, the Tribune is duped

6. Chicago is the World: We Are Not Alone Led by Steve Franklin at the Workshop, this campaign to bridge divides and fight violence in Chicago’s Latino and African-American communities has gained steam in 2011. Check out related stories and posts at Chicago is the World.

7. Newstips: A curious case: Avondale and Logandale

8. NP Communicator: Seven tips to pitch your story by phone

9. NP Communicator: An essential resource for every Chicago nonprofit and grassroots group…download it hereIf you haven’t downloaded our 2012 Media Event Quick Contact sheet yet, you should do it now! It includes contact information for all of the major news outlets in Chicago, and it’s free.

10. Chicago is the World: Adventures in Multicultural Living: Bollywood flash mob dance performance surprises Ann Arbor Summer Festival

11. NP Communicator: Seven tips to building and maintaining your media list

We hope you had a great 2011 and enjoy an even better 2012. Happy holidays everyone!


All the media tools you need to tell your story – for free!

In addition to communications trainings and one-on-one consulting, the Community Media Workshop also provides a wide range of free resources to help you get your organization’s story to the right reporter. Here are just a few of the many media outreach tools and tips you can find on our website.

Press release generator. Interested in creating a press release about your issue or campaign? Check out our press release generator to help you get started.

Media Event Quick Contact List. Looking for the most up-to-date quick contact list of assignment desks and editors at Chicago’s major media outlets? Download the 2012 Media Event Quick Contact List.

Community Calendars. If you have an event coming up that you want listed in Chicago media calendars, check out this resource to see a comprehensive list of calendars and links where you can submit your information.

Submit to Newstips. Newstips is the Workshop’s blog that distributes news tip information, submitted by hundreds of nonprofits across Chicago, to more than 500 journalists. Email Newstips Editor Curtis Black at with your story ideas.

Tip sheets, worksheets and up-to-date information about the shifting media landscape. We’re constantly publishing new tips and tools for nonprofit communicators such as how to set up your organization’s Google+ page or tips for building and maintaining your media list. Subscribe to our bi-weekly electronic newsletter or visit the NP Communicator blog weekly to see what’s new.

And don’t forget about Chicago’s most comprehensive media guide, Getting On Air, Online & Into Print. If you want contact information for thousands of Chicago-area and Midwest media outlets and reporters, subscribe to our 2012 media guide. Now in print and online.

If you’re interested in registering for scheduled trainings, visit our training page to check out what’s coming up. At the beginning of 2012 we’ll be offering Professional Media Relations, a five-part course that culminates with nonprofits pitching their stories to reporters face-to-face. For the first time ever, we’re also offering an intensive Social Media Bootcamp where attendees will walk away with an online communications strategy and social media policy for their organizations.

If you prefer a custom training for your organization or one-on-one consulting, contact me at or 773/510-4819. You can read more about two of the organizations we’ve recently provided one-one-one communications assistance to–Investing In Communities and LISC’s Smart Communities Program–at the NP Communicator blog.

Let us know if there are other resources you’d like to see on our website or training topics you hope we cover in the future. We want to hear from you!


7 Tips to Building and Maintaining Your Media List

Pitching your story begins with a good media list. Taking the time and care to put together a media list that puts you in touch with the right reporter is a smart investment of resources that increases your chances of success.

Use these tips to create a media list that will help you place your story. Read the rest of this entry »

Make your e-newsletter cut through the clutter

One of the Workshop's recent e-newsletters

If you’re like me, there are days when you feel like you’re drowning in email. So how can organizations put together effective e-newsletters that stand out despite the mountains of information in our inboxes each day? Let me offer a few basic tips to get you on the right path.

1. Avoid the spam filter – As reporters told us at a recent panel, certain words in an email subject line elicit an automatic ‘delete.’ The same is true with the spam filter. Avoid words such as ‘money’ and ‘discount’ and ‘great offer.’ Here’s a list of 20 that says are definitely no-nos.

2. Make sure people opt in. My colleague Demetrio who manages our emails, among other things, firmly believes that people must opt-in to our bi-weekly newsletter before we add them to our list. I agree with him. People don’t like be signed up for things without their knowledge. And, the flip side of this, make sure it’s easy for people to opt out if they don’t want to receive your e-newsletter anymore.

3. Your subject line is so important! Because we’re all buried in email, it can be tough to grab the reader’s attention as she scans her inbox. Make sure your subject line is short and catchy. If it’s funny or quirky or moving, you have a better chance of getting people to open the email. Don’t waste precious space with words like “December Update” or “56th Edition.” Make every word count.

4. Make it look nice. If your subject line is strong enough to get people to open the email, make sure it’s simple and easy-to-read once they have it open in front of them. If the design is bad or the e-newsletter is too cluttered, they might give up before they even attempt to read any of the important information inside.

5. It’s the content, silly. In the end, all of these things above matter, but if the content is no good, these other things won’t save you. Go back to Communications 101-what’s the goal of your newsletter? who’s your audience? what does your audience want to read about? Use these answers to write something great for your readers!

These are just a few of the tips we’ll be discussing on our panel “Get Your E-Newsletter Opened and Read” at our annual Making Media Connections conference. We’ll be hearing from some nonprofit experts, as well as an e-newsletter designer, about why their newsletters work so well. And I’ll share some of the Workshop’s growing pains as we worked to revamp our own e-newsletter earlier this year. We hope you can join us! Register by April 30 and save 20 percent.


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  • 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. […]