Musings of a PR Professional

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Reading Notes category.

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.

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.


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.

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