Musings of a PR Professional

Chapter 5: Listening, Engaging, and Building Relationships

One of the focuses of this chapter is on how to build strong relationships on the Internet. The book lists five rules of thumb one should look to when he or she is trying to build these relationships. They are:

  • Losing control is more important than trying to gain it
  • Authenticity is crucial
  • Karma banking
  • People are good and helpful
  • There is no one-size-fits all friendship

For this blog post, I would like to focus on the concept of karma banking, because I think it is indicative of a new trend going on in our society today. Karma banking is the process of doing things with and for others online in order to establish a trustworthy, mutually beneficial relationship between your organization and others on the web. The idea is that you won’t get immediate return on your benevolent efforts online, but you are slowly building up a reserve of good deeds from others that you can call upon when needed.

Karma banking is reminiscent of the concept of social capital that we learned about in my mass communication class yesterday. Social capital is the term used to refer to connections between a person’s social networks that influences him or her and leads him or her to action.

So, while a large amount of communication scholars today argue that social capital no longer exists (i.e. Putnam’s “Bowling Alone”), I think it has just changed forms. Karma banking, social capital: Two words, same meaning and both are necessary for facilitating civic engagement in things such as politics and nonprofit causes. Rather than saying “Hi” to your neighbor while out in your yard, you shoot one of your Twitter followers a DM to see what they’re up to. Social interaction is just as important today as it was 40 years ago, it’s just adapting to the times like everyone and everything else.

Safe Harbor Update

Looks like it’s time for another Safe Harbor update! As a class, ee have a number of things in the works at the moment for this organization, and I am involved in two of them. The first is the Pepsi Refresh grant that I blogged about a few weeks ago.

We are working together as a class on winning the $25,000 grant. Last week in class we worked together to create a list of audiences that we will reach out to in order to gain votes for our cause throughout November. We also determined what media channels we would use to reach these different audiences. We decided to use:

  • Email list-servs that we have access to
  • Safe Harbor’s list of emails that they have access to
  • Our own and Safe Harbor’s Facebook and Twitter accounts
  • Our own personal contacts that we can communicate with in person and online
  • News publications in the upstate
  • Clemson’s newspaper The Tiger
  • The website

Knowing this, we determined what type of press materials we would need to best reach each audience. So, yesterday in class we split up into groups and actually wrote these press materials and are now just waiting until November to tweak these and start sending them out!

The second thing that myself and two other women in my class are working on for Safe Harbor, something I mentioned briefly in a previous post, are two videos for the organization. One video will aim to raise funds for Safe Harbor and the other will attempt to raise awareness about the organization.

We developed a project proposal to outline what we plan to include in each video. The fundraising video will most likely include people talking about how easy and rewarding donating in as well as what different dollar amounts could mean for Safe Harbor. The awareness video will focus on testimony from a victim of domestic violence that has been saved by Safe Harbor. In the proposal we also included how we will dispense these videos to the public. We plan to put the videos on YouTube and market them through Safe Harbor’s blog, Facebook page, and Twitter.

Now, we are just waiting to hear Safe Harbor’s feedback and beginning to get started on outlining story boards so we know exactly what footage and materials we will need for the videos.

So- here we go!

Chapter 4: Creating a Social Culture

This blog post is going to be dedicated to a big shout out to my current boss. Since the beginning of May, I have done the public relations and marketing for the Toussaint Law Firm in Seneca, SC. My boss’ name is Scott, and I am applauding him in this post because he very involved with the social media aspect of my job.

A main point being made throughout this chapter was that organizational change will not happen, particularly in reference to social media, if the organizational leaders are not committed to it. They must be willing to learn about social and changing. I am lucky in this respect because Scott understands that he has to put the law firm out there and not fear losing control of what people say about TLF.

However, while he doesn’t always understand everything about social networking sites and how they work, he uses me as a resource, another tip that the book gives regarding how to ease organizational leaders into the social media scene. When he has questions about Facebook and Twitter, he does not hesitate to ask me and we always work together until he understands what’s going on and I understand what he wants me to do with these tools.

Also, he understands that it’s not just about a one-way stream of information about the law firm to anyone that will listen. He encourages me to promote community events and the like, and trusts that I will be able to find information for our Facebook fan page and Twitter page that our fans and followers will find useful and interesting for their everyday lives. When I tell him about the conversations I have had on these sites, he is thrilled. Not because he got a new client out of it, but because he knows more than any professional I have ever worked with, that good relationships are the key to success.

Chapter 3: Understanding Social Networks

I have been on Twitter for about two and a half years now. I was more active the first year and a half, and have slacked off since then for a number of reasons, but I have recently begun to tweet again. I have consistently had the passing thought wondering if anyone and who was looking at my tweets. So, after readings this chapter, I decided to map my social network.

I used TweetStats and here is a portion of what the analyzing tool came up with:


Just by taking a quick look at these results, it’s clear that I interact rarely (which I do admit) and with a limited number of people. It is one of my goals to expand my social network, and if I am to do so via Twitter I clearly need to start reaching out to more, different people in order to be engaging. I need to up my percentage for “Replies To” to at least 50% to start and hopefully I can work my way up from there.

Additionally, I think this analysis is a great example of how influential hubs are in a network. The text mentions Chris Brogan as an example of an influential free agent hub. The fact that I have retweeted him the most indicated just how influential he really is- it’s not just the authors attesting to his credibility, but I am a real life example of someone he has never met, yet nonetheless reached on multiple occasions.

The vastness and strength of social networks are great. If this analysis and chapter has given me anything, it is the motivation to up my Twitter game and connect with more people.

Chapter 2: Nonprofit Challenges and Trends

I found the texts discussion about Millenials quite interesting. It is a remarkable feeling to read about yourself, or at the very least, the assumptions that others have about you, in a textbook for school. It felt like the feeling you get when you look in the mirror for too long and start to wonder, who am I really? But I liked it. I didn’t agree with all of what they had to say, but I did with most of it and hey- every person is different.

Since this book is about how non profits should reform their organizations to be more open and willing to work with outsiders, I think that it would be daft to not look at Millenials and how they will influence nonprofits from today on.

Personally, I would consider us, Millenials, more of an asset to nonprofits today than a “potential fatal blow to the large, ongoing membership donor bases for traditionally organizations.” I agree with the text’s assertion that we are much more fluid, we donate and work for causes sporadically when they ring true to our lives. However, there is more to helping a nonprofit than by giving them money and time. Millenials can do what they do best- use the Internet to spread awareness about causes that speak to them. Although nonprofits cannot always control what is being said about their organization, when it is something positive and constructive it is authentic because it is coming from a third party. The more people genuinely involved in spreading the word about a cause, the funding and volunteer time an organization will ultimately get.

An added bonus? Millenials will do all of this at no cost to the nonprofit, social media is free!

Chapter 1: Introducing Networked Nonprofits

The Internet, and in particular social media, has really changed how nonprofits must function in society in order to create social change. Namely, they must be transparent.

Nonprofit organizations must realize that they are no longer able to close up their walls, not let anyone in, and just pump out information about their cause hoping that people with donate their time and money. That’s just not how it works anymore. Nonprofits today need to loosen the reins on their messages, and trust that free agents will do more good for them than harm (a topic that I will discuss further in the following post).

A recent chapter that I read in my mass communication class talked about social change campaigns and what is and is not usually effective. One main point made was that social change does not happen because a television commercial tells someone they should do something, it happens when people and communities come together and start to influence one another’s behaviors and actions. For example, you wouldn’t stop littering just because of a sign on the side of a highway, but you would if your parents began to scold you for doing so, and if friends began to stop themselves.

The power of social media for nonprofits comes in at this point. They need to engage people on a social and communal level in order to create change, and the Internet is a great place to foster those relationships.

“One constant in life is that human beings want and need to connect with one another in meaningful ways. These connections are made through social networks that are the conduits for the conversations that power social change. The job of nonprofit organizations is to catalyse and manage those conversations.”

-Kanter & Fine, The Networked Nonprofit

Nikki Haley for SC Governor

Because we are in the midst of an election right now, and this class is about social change, one of our projects for the semester is to follow a campaign and analyze its effectiveness. I have chosen to follow the Nikki Haley. Haley is running for Governor of South Carolina as a Republican. I have chosen to follow her campaign for two main reasons. First, she is fairly well-known on the national level, due to the affair scandal that broke in the news earlier this summer and I am interested to see how her camp handled this issue. Second, because she is a candidate in South Carolina, I think I will have greater access to her campaign materials and more opportunities to actually hear her speak which will make my political PR analysis more comprehensive.

After a preliminary review of Haley’s campaign, biography, her platforms, who endorses her, I have determined that this campaign is reaching the following audiences:

  • South Carolinians
  • Republicans, particularly those that lean more conservative.
  • Members of the Tea Party
  • Women and Minorities:  Is one herself so people in these subgroups can identify with her.
  • Business owners: One of her main platforms is to cut government spending to help taxpayers.
  • People of varying ages: Her use of social media, which is understood to be an effective way to reach younger demographics, may be an indication that she is trying to reach younger, potentially less-tapped age groups as well as older ones through traditional means and social media.