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Be prepared in the mobile tech wilderness

We often associate a boy scout with his trusty Swiss Army knife–an essential tool for survival in the wilderness, a symbol for the motto to always “be prepared.” Savvy nonprofit communicators also need to be prepared when engaging across the media landscape and often times our tool of choice is our mobile device.

We store contact data, we tweet from our fundraiser, we update our organization’s facebook page, we dial into conference calls, and when we realize we had forgotten our mobile device halfway towards the office, we stop and turn back because we know how much we love and depend on these tools every day (well at least I do).

Our audiences and the people we look to engage with also love their mobile devices and depend on them for many things, including finding out more about your nonprofit organization and how they can be a part of your mission. Read the rest of this entry »

Register for Making Media Connections, win an online media guide

Here’s your chance to win a free subscription to our new online media guide! Anyone who registers for the 2011 Making Media Connections conference by noon on Friday, April 22, will be entered in a raffle for a one-year online media guide subscription.

This is a win-win. You’ll receive the early bird discount AND a chance to win an online media guide, regularly $495 for an annual subscription.

WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO? Just register for the 2011 Making Media Connections Conference this week
BY WHEN? Noon, Friday, April 22 (One week from today!)
AND I COULD WIN WHAT? A one-year subscription to our new online media guide
QUESTIONS? Call 312-369-6400 or email
Did we mention who will be at the conference? Deidra White, CBS 2; Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune; Charles Festa, Threadless; Tom McNamee, Chicago Sun-Times; Bruce Dold, Chicago Tribune; Lynette Kalsnes, WBEZ; Martha Carlos, Red Cross Chicago; Robyn Ziegler, Illinois Attorney General’s office; Charlie Meyerson, WGN; and many many more journalists, nonprofit leaders and communications experts.

Read more at the conference website!

And did we mention why is a must-have tool? Updated weekly, this is the best and most comprehensive media database of Chicagoland reporters. The online guide allows you to search for reporters and outlets, save and export custom media lists, and target your communications strategy.

People to Pitch: CAN TV

Watch our latest video, and learn how CAN TV can help nonprofits tell their stories and raise awareness about their issues.

People To Pitch: Tiffany Bosely, CAN TV from Community Media Workshop.

Nonprofit Blogs to Watch: Every Person Is a Philosopher

Nonprofits are working hard to raise their online profiles. Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds–these are just a few of the digital communications tools that nonprofits must start to embrace. Which brings me to blogs. Lots of nonprofits are trying them, and I want to highlight some of the good ones. We can learn important lessons from our nonprofit blogging friends.

This week, I kick it off with The Neighborhood Writing Alliance’s new blog “Every Person is a Philosopher.” The Neighborhood Writing Alliance provides opportunities for people in Chicago’s under-served communities to write, publish, and perform works about their lives. The blog is another way for the organization to share stories about their work.

A few things this blog is doing really well:

1) Updating regularly! It’s so important to update your blog often, and this usually requires multiple staff members contributing. We’re nonprofits so we’re all stretched for time. Pick one person to manage the blog, but ask multliple staff to contribute. (I know the problem well — I’ve been swamped so I haven’t posted to the NP Communicator blog since Nov. 18! Yikes. But I keep reminding myself to update as often as I can. A couple times a week is a good goal. If you can update every day, even better.)

2) Varied content. The new blog includes excerpts from people’s writing, profiles of staff and volunteers, photos from an event and guest posts. This keeps the content fresh and interesting and gives you opportunities to reuse content that may be found in other organizational publications.

3) Tapping friends to help out. Guest posts that relate to your subject area are great! It gives your organization another post and shares another perspective on your site. If the person works for another organization, ask if they’d be willing to include a post from your nonprofit on their site or blog in the future. Content sharing online is a great way to spread the word.

If you want to learn more about blogging, we’re offering a blogging workshop with Blogger and former Chicago Tribune Reporter Teresa Puente. Learn more here.

My coworker is clueless about social media!

Not so many years ago, I was the one who was clueless about social media. But thankfully, I had coworkers who knew more than me and took the time to explain the importance of emerging online resources. I was skeptical at first, but I listened, observed and attended a few trainings of my own to figure out how these tools would make me a better communicator. And I’m glad they took the time to keep pushing me to try things like Twitter and FourSquare and blogging because knowing how they work is half the battle.

Do you have a coworker or a boss who’s clueless about social media? If so, do them a favor and tell them about Social Media Basics. It’s a half-day training that will help them learn more about WHY nonprofits should use these online tools.

Social Media Basics, Monday, November 1 from 9AM to Noon

218 S. Wabash – 7th Floor


This session will cover basic information about social media tools such as blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare. Attendees will gain useful tips such as how to contact a reporter on Twitter, how to attract more Facebook fans, and how to track what others are saying about your organization online.  Workshop led by trainer Emily Culbertson (also known as the NEW News 2010 researcher and general online/social media guru)

Find your social media “ah-ha” moment

Photo courtest of webtreats, Creative Commons

You’ve Twittered, Facebooked and blogged about your organization’s story but aren’t receiving the response you desire.

Tim Frick, author of “Return on Engagement” and social media trainer at the Workshop’s upcoming fall session, says many nonprofits have two misconceptions about social media and why they don’t produce the desired audience engagement.

“There’s the misconception that it’s free,” says Frick. “It doesn’t cost any money to get a Twitter account, Facebook account, or a LinkedIn account, but it does take time to create and build the content for those things and present that content in a way that is actually going to engage people.”

Frick says most people tend to dive right into social media tools without thinking how they will use them and how they will engage their audience. According to Frick, many nonprofit communicators take their “old one-way marketing approach,” apply it to their social media strategy and are confused when there’s no response from their audience.

“A lot of times that’s because they’re not trying to engage their users. They’re sending out one-way marketing messages that are all about them and not about what the users might actually want to read,” says Frick.

In September, Frick will cover these common misconceptions and more at the Community Media Workshop training Using Social Media To Build Awareness. This three-hour training is designed to show nonprofits how to optimize social media best practices. Participants explore how to create content strategies, which aligns their digital communications with their website; how to create social media profiles and how to engage their audiences.  Using tactics outlined in his book, Frick shows communicators how to shift their offline communications to an online presence and how to adjust their strategy to work with the organization’s available resources.

Frick says many communicators during his training have their ah-ha moment when they see multiple ways to share their message across digital platforms and track that message’s impact.

No matter what size your organization is, increase your impact with this training and start having the conversations that engage your audience. To register for “Using Social Media to Build Awareness” call 312-369-6400 or click here.

To read more about Tim Frick’s work with nonprofits and digital strategies, click here. Tim Frick is the CEO of Mightybytes, is a full-service creative firm that executes design-drive communication solutions for their clientele. Frick is also the author of Design Techniques for Digital Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at @Mightybytes, on Facebook at Mightybytes and learn more on his website at

Taking Social Media to the Next Level-Star Wars, Corneille

Diane Rarick, College of Lake County Takes Social Media to Next Level from Community Media Workshop on Vimeo.

Diane Rarick doesn’t much care about GeekyGuy43 — who followed her when she tweeted about Star Wars, then dropped her a month later. She’s more excited about the recent doubling of Facebook followers to the account she manages for the College of Lake County–many of them part of a key demographic her, 18- to 24-year-olds.

Nerds may not be a target audience for Diane, but they are key to Adam Thurman, who led the workshop she and other nonprofit communicators took earlier today. Court Theater, a branch of the University of Chicago, considers one of their core online audiences to be (and he means this obviously in the best sense possible) nerds.

These ideas about audience are what Taking Social Media to the Next Level — the title of Adam’s session — was all about. In addition to turning in stellar results via online engagement at Court, he has his own firm (and blog) Mission Paradox. The key theme of the session:  how to use social media as a tool to lead to:

  • more transactions, not just clicks and
  • more engagement, not just friends on Facebook

Read the rest of this entry »

Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission…the book

In the end, if there had been more than the 18 or so people who turned out to hear Steve Heye of the Metro Chicago YMCA speak about his chapter of the new book Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission (produced by the Nonprofit Technology Network, published by Jossey-Bass) we probably might have had less good of a time, because Steve might have presented his prepared powerpoint, from the podium, in the theater, instead of opening in late-night pitchman style while we sat on the couches in the adjacent open space (see video).

The Secret to Managing Tech for Nonprofits… May Be To Buy This Book from Community Media Workshop on Vimeo.

(Apologies for the shaky wrist with the camera–it’s a first date with the flip camera for me).

After the pitchman-style intro, Steve delivered a thoughtful presentation outlining some of the issues the book takes up.

Working at a small organization, I tend not to think about or understand as much of the issues that the “IT department” has to deal with. It was kind of refreshing to talk about technology and not discuss social media–the focus was more on aligning IT with overall organizational operations and strategy (the subject of Steve’s chapter in the new work). Read the rest of this entry »

The Promised Land of the Webinar

Special skills to talk on the phone? Are you crazy?

As Community Media Workshop has dipped a toe and then a foot and then a bit more in the webinar water, it seems like a good moment to reflect on what we’ve learned so far about the potential and the problems of connecting with nothing but a phone and a computer

We’ve learned that sometimes you get what you pay for (but free is good) and that yes, it does pay to have a bit of learning–ideally beyond just the basic learning that comes from the school of experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Candy might help you pitch this citizen journalist

Just picking up on the theme of new news, in the “truth is stranger than fiction” category:

Dan Pacheco is no slouch in the world of citizen journalism: his site promises to help you “start your own local magazine in minutes” (intrigued? I am) and has grant support from the Knight Foundation. But as he posted June 15, “Citizen Media Goes Fisher Price” (also at PBS MediaShift Idea Lab, where I first read it) his daughter scooped him and the rest of the news media with a tornado picture she snapped with a Fisher-Price camera in the suburbs of Denver earlier this week.

In a nutshell, there’d been some freaky weather in the Denver area for several days, so Dan was on the lookout already for tornados; his daughter walked into the home office to tell him she’d spotted a weird cloud, he went to grab his camera, tweeted it , and started taking pictures. The 6-year-old naturally grabbed her camera as well (who knew fisher price made a $64 digital camera?) And they all ended up on the local TV news. Anyway, read it there, at his blog, as Dan tells the story great, with video and pictures.

His takeaway is that “a confluence of inexpensive, accessible consumer technology, and microblogging sites like Twitter and Facebook, has lowered the barriers of entry so far to make me think we’re witnessing the birth of a completely new — and arguably better — breaking news system that involves everyone.”

Yes! but also, that new system is still going to incorporate some kind of Big Media that reaches out to wider audiences.(Like, in this story CBS 4, the local TV news guys). That role is still key to a better news ecosystem. Anyway, I get a kick out of imagining a 6-year-old on the weather–or any other–beat.


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