Musings of a PR Professional

Pepsi Refresh Grant: My experience with social media

For the month of November, I have used my social media networks quite differently than I normally do. As you all know, our class has been working to win Safe Harbor the $25k to revive their shelter.

To promote our project, I have been using my Facebook and Twitter to . However, I haven’t gotten much response from my friends on Facebook or my Twitter followers. Where our professor indicated that a lot of her friends on Facebook took interest in the grant project and “liked” or passed along the information on Facebook, I have not had that experience at all. My peers, as those are the majority of my friends on Facebook, have not responded to it at all. I am assuming that it is because they know little about Safe Harbor. In hindsight, I wish I had done a better job of enabling people to understand what Safe Harbor does and how much they need this grant, rather than just asking them to vote right off the bat. It is hard to motivate people when they don’t have a stake in the cause.

Also, I have been in charge of posting voting reminders on Safe Harbor’s Twitter page. (Follow them and retweet the messages!) I have found that people who follow them are more inclined to retweet the message and has indicated that people have been regularly clicking the link that I have been including in Safe Habor’s tweets. So, it seems that those who were previously engaged with Safe Habor are more inclined to put forth the effort to vote and pass the word along.

And please, help us reach our goal. We have been steadily climbing the ranks all month and currently are at 85th! Vote daily at or text 103648 to 73774 (PEPSI). Thank you for your support!


Our trip to Safe Harbor

This past Friday myself and my two group members made the drive to Greenville to Safe Harbor’s administrative offices and then later to the shelter. There, we met former Safe Harbor client Deborah, the woman who was beyond brave enough to share her story with us, and in a few weeks once editing is done, the world.

Jacki and Laura (the two other women in my group) filmed while I served as the person whom Deborah looked at while she told her story. I only had to prompt her but once towards the end, which we are so thankful for. Her story flowed beautifully. It seemed as though she was reading my mind, every time that I would think of something to ask her that I wanted her to touch on, she did just seconds later. We really could not have asked for a better interviewee.

After we were done with the interview, we drove to the Safe Harbor shelter to film b-roll of the different rooms. Again, the people there were very helpful and I think we got a lot of good stuff that we can splice in!

The only glitch that we have really dealt with thus far has been the sound. The microphone that Clemson lent us was not compatible with the camera we were using, and we were unable to find a mic that would work so we have to use the audio from the camera. Hopefully we will be able to adjust the volume and quality once we sit down to edit. We plan to start making edits next Monday, once we are all back from Thanksgiving break.


Chapter 11: Governing Through Networks

This will be my first time offering my opinion on The Networked Nonprofit. I have never thought to judge the effectiveness or in regard to how much I liked the chapters until the point because I’ve always been able to find at least something that I could connect with. But this time, to be frank, there wasn’t really anything I could sink my teeth into. If I can point you to one of my classmate’s blog, she hit the nail on the head when she says, “…to be honest, it’s a bit dry. This is one of those chapters that goes right over my head because it’s something I have zero experience with.”

To be honest, I have no interest whatsoever in becoming a board member of a nonprofit. Where this class has gotten me very interested in the public relations efforts that nonprofit organizations engage in, and made me consider possibly pursuing that as a career at some point, this chapter does little to whet my appetite for how to effectively manage a nonprofit in the online era.

The authors suggest that governing is in a state of transition and that in order to keep up with the times, it will be necessary for organizations to start using principles that apply to social media engagement in the way things are run. For example, the authors propose, “Organizations and their boards should engage with their ecosystems, the people who know the most about their work, to chart their course.”

Nonprofits of the future will be in touch with what is going on in the world around them so that they can better serve those they claim to.


Chapter 10: From Friending to Funding

Chapter 10 is all about eliciting donations from people- how to move those who are interested or involved in your organization’s particular cause from bystanders to active supporters. As is the nature of the book, the authors focus on how to do so via social media channels. They give a list of six fundraising patterns that they have seen online, one of which is “Storytelling makes fundraising personal.”

I have touched on this concept before when I talked about my group’s video project for Safe Harbor. We decided to make the focus of our video a former client of Safe Harbors as she shares her story about how Safe Harbor helped her. Filming went very, very well (but more on that in a later post).

We followed in the footsteps of an organ donation organization in Illinois called Donate Life. We watched a video in class that they produced about a man whose life was saved when a young girl passed away and donated her lungs. Emotional appeals abound in this video, which I believe are a very effective way to connect audience members to a cause and move them to action.

The authors note, “Storytelling brings alive the activities of an organization and makes their issues real and urgent for current and potential supporters. Stories put a human face on abstract ideas, provide moral clarity in a fight against unfairness, right a fundamental wrong, and celebrate triumphs over evil.” Clearly, personal narratives carry a lot of moral clout which is very powerful when encouraging people to take initiative and do the right thing.

It is imperative that people working for nonprofit organizations look past the every-day logistics of keeping a program, shelter, or whatever it may be, going. People can’t connect with hard numbers or abstract, larger-than-life concepts. They can connect with real people and real instances where a particular organization made a tangible difference.

Getting the ball rolling again on our video

We got in touch with Safe Harbor! Hallelujah!

A woman from Safe Harbor got in touch with us last night and this morning and we now have scheduled time to come film a client and the shelter! We will be interviewing the client tomorrow morning. Hopefully she will be willing to talk about her experiences and we don’t have to pry! It is such a sensitive issue that we are going to have to approach everything very delicately and with prudence. We are not sure about how anonymous she wants to be, so we will cross that bridge when we get there. Also, we believe that the nature of her story will determine the ultimate angle that the final video will take. Once we are done filming we are going to head to the shelter and collect a bunch of b-roll footage that we will use to splice into her story. We will also be showing statistics and moving quotes from her story throughout the video to add interest and keep things moving.

Getting all of this coordinated and gathering the equipment we need to film has been stressful, but we finally have it going. Lights, camera, action!

Safe Harbor Project Woes

Unfortunately, our Safe Harbor video project has not been going as planned as of late. We are coming in on the final weeks of the semester before the final video is due and have yet to film. We emailed our contact at Safe Harbor last Tuesday to let them know exactly what kind of footage we needed and what we needed their help with getting. We asked if we could come to the shelter on Friday, but we never received a response. Not wanting to be a bother, but clearly under deadline pressure, we emailed again this past Saturday and still have yet to hear back from them.

We need that footage! It is beyond understandable that they have their hands full with day-to-day operations and the like, but our group is pretty stuck until we can get in contact with them. Hopefully we will hear back from them in the next couple of days and be able to shoot video before Thanksgiving break. That way, all we will have to do is edit during the last two weeks of the semester.

Keeping our fingers crossed!

Chapter 9: Learning Loops

ROI. Return on investment. Every public relations professional’s nightmare.

Wait. Really? Heck no!

Just because a lot of the work that a PR professional does produces seemingly unmeasurable benefits (although still highly valuable to the organization) doesn’t mean that we need to live in fear of the “bottom line.” This chapter has a short, yet great section on how to translate social media PR efforts into value statements management can understand. Here are just a few excerpts from the table I found particularly useful and/or enlightening:

Social Media Approach Traditional Approach
Listening online Purchasing formal market research
Using free online services like Facebook or Twitter to announce and event Placing and ad in a newspaper
Asking supporters to share news and information with their friends on social networking sites Disseminating information to the public through newsletters and press releases
Acquiring email addresses from people who are them via Twitter, blogs, or social networking profiles Purchasing email addresses

So, PR professionals know it is necessary to demonstrate the value of their work in order to make sure that they can continue to do it and expand into areas . In this respect, social media has made the PR professional’s job easier and harder at the same time. It is easier, because of the incredible communication opportunities they afford. It is harder, though because it has become even harder to track the multitude of ROI indicators as they exist online (which often don’t necessarily have to do with dollars). The above table though, is a great resource for professionals who need to demonstrate the financial return of a particular PR effort.

Chapter 8: Working with Crowds

Crowdsourcing is the focus of this chapter. Crowdsourcing is “the process of organizing many people to participate in a join project, often in small ways” according to authors Kanter and Fine. Some examples of crowd sourcing include voting, funding, and creation of new knowledge, products, etc. The rise of social media has exacerbated the notion of crowdsourcing because now it can be done easily and is virtually free.

However, where Kanter and Fine are proponents of this collective activism strategy, Dan Woods, chief technology officer and editor of Evolved Technologist wrote an op-ed article for Forbes called The Myth of Crowdsourcing. Essentially, Woods argues that even though organizations crowds do not create, expert individuals do. He cites Wikipedia as an example saying that a majority of the articles on that site is are products of motivated individual contributors, rather than many people coming together to add a sentence on the topic at a time.

I believe that a lot of the reason why Kanter and Fine strongly believe in the successes of crowdsourcing where Woods does not has to do with the fact that nonprofits and for-profit businesses have very different goals and therefore different reasons for crowdsourcing in the first place. For example, as Woods says, “…let’s not call it crowdsourcing and pretend that 10,000 average Joes invent better products than Steve Jobs.” True, but nonprofits aren’t usually trying to woo consumers or create the next big thing, they are trying to get people interested in their cause.

As such, I believe that the process of coming and working together to create something is a large part of the . This engagement between individuals and individuals and the organization with which they are working- creates meaningful rapport because they are motivated and willing enough to put forth effort for a cause. When an organization can elicit activity from a crowd of people, they are building lasting relationships that they can call upon later.

Chapter 6: Building Trust Through Transparency

Is Safe Harbor a fortress, transactional, or transparent organization? Well, let’s see.

Fortress: Organizations that do what they can to keep their secrets in and the world out.

Transactional: Organizations that only interact with the public for monetary purposes- they provide them with money and that’s it.

Transparent: Organizations that let the distinctions between inside and outside the organization blur, are straight forward, and open to outside ideas.

So, I don’t think that Safe Harbor a transactional organization because they interact with the community in meaningful and enriching ways. For example, each October during domestic violence month Safe Harbor hosts a candlelight vigil to honor those who have passed away from domestic violence. That’s a lot more than just asking for money! On the other hand, I would not go so far as to say that Safe Harbor is a transparent organization. They don’t put out there how much money the spend each year, how many volunteers they work with, how many people they help, and more, which could be endearing or useful to the public. This may be due in part to the very sensitive nature of the issues they deal with, or it could be because they are afraid to lose control. Either way, their transparency is prohibited. Therefore, I think that Safe Harbor is a fortress organization, if I have to pick one of the three.

But, Safe Harbor is doing everything in their power to move away from this idea that organizations can only function efficiently if they value privacy and control. They are beginning to work with social media to open themselves up to conversations about domestic violence and the people that are willing to help them disseminate their messages. Safe Harbor has realized that it is time for them to change, and it will be a long, challenging process. But, it will be worth it in the end.