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Donor Retention Continues Its Haphazard Slide: What You Can Do About It

The Association of Fundraising Professionals released its annual survey on fundraising effectiveness recently, and its results should make everyone in the nonprofit world sit up and pay attention.

We are not doing the right things to promote donor retention. We need connection and relationship – not warm fuzzies for a one-time check. The study shows that nonprofits lost 103 donors, for every 100 they gained. There’s a lot of churn in donor retention with only 43 percent of donors being retained in 2013. That’s less than half.

Should we take these results as a sign? That donors are voting with their feet – choosing to invest once in an organization’s work, and then moving on to invest in something else that tickles their fancy? Or is this a sign of malaise or failure within the nonprofit world? Do we inspire people to donate once, and then fail to connect with them or engage with them? Are we only raising funds in ways that rely on emotion, one hit appeals, and emergencies? I’m concerned about the health of the nonprofit world. And you should be too.

Nonprofits will be reduced to a never ending “survival of the fittest and the biggest” cycle, if they do not start thinking out of the box about relationship-building with donors. The study found that the largest growth in gift dollars/donors came from new gifts/donors, and the pattern was most pronounced in the organizations with the highest growth-in-giving ratios. Over the last nine years, donor and gift or dollar retention rates have consistently been weak — averaging below 50 percent.

So what do you do about it? Here are a few ideas:

Focus on relationship-building with donors, not just campaign execution. Do some old-fashioned fundraising. Be prepared to drink coffee, eat food, talk a lot on the phone and possibly travel. Talk with people where they are comfortable. The conversation should start with saying thank you. Make relationship-building a priority – that means clear someone’s time, find a volunteer, and craft an approach for welcoming and engaging your new donors within the lifeblood of your organization.

Always say thank you.  Remember to always thank a donor for a gift or effort to help your organization. Some donors view getting treat-os like a calendar or a gift from you as a “waste” of nonprofit resources – while others appreciate small gestures of thanks. “Saying” thank you though is simple and should be done in a sincere way (and not just with an automated form email).

Listen to your donors. Why did they give to your nonprofit in the first place? What makes them tick? What is their opinion of your organization and work? How does he or she like to be communicated with? How does he or she like to be acknowledged? What does he or she care about personally and professionally?

Look for other ways to engage and involve your donors. Long-time fundraisers know that it takes time to grow a large gift.  Invite a new donor to volunteer if they can and if your organization has appropriate roles for them to play. Offer a tour of a program or facility for new donors. Or sponsor a coffee chat with the executive director or someone who has benefited from your program, so donors can ask questions and learn in an intimate setting how the organization is making a difference, organized, etc. Ask someone with limited personal time and big time credentials to be on an honorary committee or honorary board or ask them if they are comfortable providing a quote with a photo that you can feature on your website in an honorary supporter section (essentially loaning their name to you).

Analyze your own data. As part of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the survey’s sponsors developed two downloadable Excel-based templates that nonprofits can use to produce their own Growth-in-Giving reports, enabling them to measure their Gain/Loss performance over time and against the statistics in the appendices of the annual Fundraising Effectiveness Project reports. See reports for previous years.

Resources

Blog Post: One Thing Most Nonprofits Stink at (Donor Retention) and How You Can Change It in 2014

Donor Retention Matters (The Urban Institute)

Talk to Us: How are you retaining donors?

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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12 Tips on Using Social Media to Create Events Everyone Talks About

Using social media to create events and conferences that everyone talks about, is not that hard, it just requires some planning and time. It’s about way more than just deciding on a hashtag and sticking it on a couple of PowerPoint slides. Here are a few tips to help:

Tip #1: Involve attendees at the start in formulating aspects of the agenda. Social media is all about engagement. An easy way to involve your potential attendees is to involve them in picking workshops (ala South by Southwest – the leader in this field), expressing their interests about the agenda, potential speakers, etc.

Tip #2: Focus your efforts and make a plan.  Pick one or two social media platforms to focus your energies on, and choose what your audience prefers. Designate someone with your nonprofit or association to steward your social media plans for the event. Pre-write some content for your blog or Facebook page based on what you think will happen during the conference that week and dump it into drafts, then update it with photos and new information before hitting publish. Find out how easy it is for people to charge up their devices at your event location – are electrical outlets readily available? Or will you need to add some charging stations for your attendees? Offer free wifi so everyone can stay online and easily participate.

Tip #3: Promote your event online in more places than just your website. Having a website for your event is a given. But make sure you talk about your event on your own social media channels. It can be very easy for organizations with a long-established running event to just “do” what they have always done because they know it’s worked in the past. But think outside the box. Share information via LinkedIn. Consider using free event management and marketing tools like EventBrite. Cross-promote from Facebook to Twitter and vice versa.

Tip #4: Create a social media directory for conference participants. You have to make sharing simple for people.  If you create a printed program for the conference – include Twitter handles for speakers in the program next to the presentation, and put the official event hashtag in the header or footer on every page.  I’m always amazed at how often I attend a conference, hold in my hand a beautifully-produced and mega-planned program – and there are no Twitter handles in it – reducing speakers at times to spelling out their handles for the audience’s benefit. If you have an app for your event (not uncommon nowadays) include social media for speakers, as well as social media handles for attendees (make sure you get permission to share information like this on your event registration and speaker forms).

Tip #5: Develop an expectation with attendees that they will get information via social media. Long gone are the conference newsletters and paper fliers we used to produce in the middle of the night to keep attendees informed (yes, I did do this for association conferences many years ago). If you are changing how you distribute information at the conference, tell attendees in advance and make it clear that you will put information out on a particular account and on the hashtag.

Tip #6: Use social media to excite and engage participants before the event. Do a Twitter or Facebook chat ahead of your event with a key speaker or organizer to excite attendees. Blog posts, short videos by speakers, and contests are all great ways to involve your attendees. Encourage your speakers to post something on the hashtag in advance of the event.

Tip#7: Pick a hashtag. Make it memorable but short. And put it on everything – you don’t want to risk confusion and end up with some content on the wrong hashtag. Start using the hashtag before your event. Do a tweetup when your event starts to encourage people to use the hashtag and be excited about sharing during the event. Display a running Twitter stream at your event. Ask speakers to reference the hashtag or include the hashtag on PowerPoint slides. Don’t be afraid to be creative. Do interesting things – hide a prize at the event – post a photo on the hashtag – whoever gets to it first wins the prize.

Tip #8: Let attendees ask questions via Twitter using the hashtag. You don’t have to do this at every panel or presentation, but encourage attendees to ask questions via Twitter, and ask moderators or speakers to read and answer some questions this way.

Tip #9: Create photos and video during your event. Send a staff member around with a camera/phone that can easily update to your social media accounts. Create a schedule for photos so you can easily update with key event photos. Ask attendees to write just a few words on signs that they hold up (like in our photo example from Girl Guides of Canada’s 2015 conference #GGCconf15). Gather sound bytes from attendees and share them on social media. Have a “drop in booth” with prizes for attendees who stop in and provide a sound byte or take a photo.

Tip#10: Make it easy to share photos DURING your event, but go one step further and use them to narrate the story of your event. Your hashtag should help collect photos on Facebook, FlickR, Tumblr and Instagram. You could also do a Storify, morning slide show, a roundup blog post, or a podcast or video. Then cross-post whatever storyline you create on social media.

Tip #11: Put conference presentations up on SlideShare. Get the PowerPoint presentations from your presenters and post them on Slideshare. Then share links in social media. I was genuinely surprised when I spoke at a conference on social media a few months ago and they had no plan for what to do with presentations after the event. I ended up putting my presentation on SlildeShare myself the day I spoke, so attendees could access it.

Tip #12: Reward the people who help create content. It takes a village to have a successful social media presence for a conference – and if you see conference attendees live-blogging, tweeting in a frenzy or posting photos like crazy – consider giving out a prize or featuring their work. Include their blog post in your round-up or e-newsletter after the conference, or tweet it out as a link on your official Twitter feed. Profile in an after-the-event newsletter the major social media activities that happened during the event and interview some of the people who participated – by holding up the positive, you are encouraging others to follow.

Talk to Us: How are you using social media to enhance participation in your events? Is social media generating more buzz for your events and why?

Photo credit: Thanks to Girl Guides of Canada for our featured photo showing attendees sharing inspiring messages at their 2015 conference on the hash tag #GGCconf15. Link to the photo here. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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5 Reasons Why Sending Out Your E-Newsletter as a PDF File is a Bad Idea

I’m still amazed when I get e-newsletters as attached PDFs sent via email, that arrive with a terse email and a big file. Amazed. Really. That people are spending so much time on putting content together to share – and then choosing to send it in a way that makes it hard for people to digest the content or share it. Sometimes the articles live in PDF exile, hiding out on a website inside gigantic files, but not integrated into a content management system – never living up to being the potential content generators they could be.

When talking with nonprofit organizations or small businesses that are doing this, I often hear a variety of excuses. Sometimes they express worry about retaining their brand look and feel. Often they don’t know a lot about the software and services available now for e-newsletters. Sometimes the excuse is budgetary – they ran out of money to print and mail the newsletter, so they kept doing everything the same (the layout, the formatting for print) and switched to a PDF file delivery system. Hello?! You had a financial crisis so extreme that you had to stop printing your newsletter so you just kept doing everything not involved with printing the same – it’s time to make a change. Doing a PDF file should be a one week stop gap measure, not a by-default shackling to an old way of doing things.

Disseminating a newsletter via pdf file hurts you in a host of ways.

You are setting yourself up for abysmal open rates. A pdf newsletter or news release sent via email can’t be tracked. You won’t know how many people even opened your e-newsletter.

Spam filters will block your e-newsletter. A wealth of spam filters today sequester and annihilate attachments. Your email with a pdf attachment may land in a junk folder and never be seen.

Your email database is a hot mess. Let’s face it – if you are sending out your e-newsletter as a PDF attachment, you are likely juggling an unwieldy email database of some kind. Perhaps it’s an association member database, or an excel sheet you manage. A band aid/homemade email list distribution system is more vulnerable to being labeled spam by annoyed users who report you for spamming them, and could lead to you being blacklisted by Internet Service Providers (which will make it even harder for your emails to reach their destinations).

You don’t know which pieces of content in your e-newsletter are of the most interest to your readers. Even if readers open your pdf e-newsletter and read your content, you have no way to know what they find of interest. Email newsletter software today can give you detailed information on which articles are the most clicked through and elicit the strongest response for your readers. A PDF e-newsletter means you will continue to be in the dark about what your readers truly like.

Shares are limited. If someone reads your e-newsletter and wants to share it – expecting them to forward a PDF attachment hurts social sharing. It’s also more complicated for someone who is inspired to share to post information on social media if it’s tucked into a PDF. Your dreams of going viral are dashed.

Content is less likely to be packaged as digestible nuggets. If you have the option to place a 1,000 word explosion of verbosity in a PDF newsletter, you can – and some will.  Sequestering your content in a bulky PDF means you are less likely to structure the information in digestible content nuggets. If you run that article on your website (slimmed down and written in web copy style of course), it would earn a SEO brownie points for you. The tidied up version written in web style would draw more readers and be skimmable – written with headings and bullets to draw out key points. Placing the article on your website would also be more efficient – sparing you from having to excise the copy from the PDF after publication and re-format it for your website.

So what do you do instead of issuing that bulky PDF e-newsletter? An html e-newsletter, sent with a mail service like Constant Contact or Mailchimp, can help you better organize your content, improve deliverability, and provide up-to-the-minute tracking on click-thrus and open rates. So what are you waiting for? Declare yourselves free of the PDF leviathan today.

Resources to Help
The Nonprofit Email Marketing Guide: 7 Steps to Better Email Fundraising and Communications – Network for Good
How to Create an Email Newsletter People Actually Read – HubSpot

Talk to Us
What works for your e-newsletter?
Did you make a transition away from a PDF file type of newsletter to an HTML newsletter? What worked for you?

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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Six Completely Avoidable Media Relations Mistakes

Intuition and strategy play big roles in media relations. There are times that you need to listen to your gut, and times when you just have to execute. But it can be easy to make a mistake, even while executing an awesome strategy. The last thing you want to do is introduce a problem that could have been avoided. Here are six common media relations mistakes that are all completely avoidable, with advice on how to sidestep disaster and be successful.

Mistake #1:Missing the mark with email pitches. The big media databases are great, but if you are doing a big pitch or news release send out, make sure you de-dupe the list before hitting send, so reporters don’t get your pitch multiple times in a row. And if you are doing a mail merge and trying to personalize your pitches with Dear XXX, make sure everyone has a name or a default filler that won’t be offensive.

Mistake #2: Pitching a reporter who has nothing to do with the topic you are pitching. Thanks to social media and the Internet – you can now find out what reporters ate for lunch, who their favorite sports teams are, and of course, what they cover. Look up what types of stories reporters cover and approach only the ones that might be interested. Yes, even with research you can sometimes make a mistake. Your odds of coverage (and relationship-building with journalists) will go up, if you don’t use the “spray and pray” method of news release distribution.

Mistake #3: Going out too late with a press release. Being Johnny-come-lately on a news story is no fun – because you know you deserve to be at the party and instead you show up while the band is packing up. If you anticipate releasing information because of an announcement or action by someone else, hone your email list of journalists, get your release approved in advance (even if you have to write multiple versions based on what the announcement might be), and streamline your approval process.

Mistake #4: Not coordinating with other parts of your organization, or not having it together. Known as “shoot yourself in the foot syndrome” this mistake is completely unavoidable. This is why you check the links in the press release (to be sure they all work). This is why you make sure the web page form for orders, or conference registrations or what have you, are correct and working. This is even why you make sure your own email address works if someone hits reply (had this happen with an ad agency rep today who pitched me for advertising for a client, I hit reply and it bounced back as undeliverable).

Mistake #5: Having a spokesperson who is not “on,” not available or too heavily scripted. Sometimes spokespeople have bad days.  Media training can help a spokesperson be prepared and avoid sounding like a person auditioning for a one act play of his or her own creation. But having a deep bench helps a lot too. If you only have one or two media spokespersons, consider training a few more people.

Mistake #6: Begging for coverage. Asking a reporter to write a story about a nonprofit organization or small business, simply because it would “help” the organization or business, is not ok. Far too often when I talk with small nonprofits, and even sometimes small businesses, they talk about how coverage would help them be known more in the community, aid their fundraising, help them sell more of xyz, and enable them to connect with more people.  The truth is – reporters care about none of these things. Journalists are not in the “do good” business, nor are they waiting around to promote someone’s business. They are in the business of storytelling. They are interested in shedding light on unknown problems, in finding interesting people to profile, and want to hear about businesses that are doing innovative things.  Don’t ask because you need it – ask by sharing a great story that you hope the journalist will want to share too.

Talk to Us: Have you made any of these mistakes? What media relations mistakes do you think people can avoid?

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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#NGOFacts Campaign Shares Stories, Factoids from Nonprofits

The hashtag #NGOFacts encourages nonprofit organizations and charities to increase awareness by sharing interesting statistics, facts and success stories about global development. The campaign was featured by The Guardian, which has a global development professionals area online. This is a great opportunity to share your work and it doesn’t involve writing a long report, or even something as long as a news release. Just find a great photo, add a factoid (under 140 characters), and use the hashtag #NGOFacts. Statistics, facts and success stories are all great suggestions for sharing (and try to include a photo if you can).

Many of the tweets are interesting and get attention:

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Talk to Us: What do you think about the campaign #NGOFacts? Do you think it’s effective? Would you tweet on this hashtag for your nonprofit organization?

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

Thanks to ongood.ngo for our cover image.

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Research Says: How to Get Your News Release Read (And Used) By Reporters

The  annual PR PowerLines survey of journalists was published in January 2015, and the results offer tips on getting your news release read (and used) by journalists, that can assist small business owners, nonprofit workers or association professionals.

Tip #1 – Send press releases to journalists via email. Email distribution for press releases remains king, with a whopping 88% of reporters saying they prefer releases this way. Only 5% said they want press releases via standard mail and interestingly, 0% said they want to receive releases via social media or wire services. So where should you invest your energy, time, and money? Spend it on making sure you have good email addresses for the journalists you want to work with, and only send them information they want to get.

Tip #2 – Add assets to your release – think backgrounders, bios and images. Eighty-five percent of journalists surveyed said they would like backgrounders, biographies and supporting information with press releases. Seventy-eight percent said they want high-resolution downloadable images.

Tip #3 – Really, really include a high-resolution image (or a link to one) with your press release. High-resolution images (or links so they can be easily downloaded) make it more likely journalists will pick up your news and share it. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they are more likely to cover a story if it includes images. Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they are responsible for creating some online content, so easily transferable assets continue to grow in importance.

Tip #4 – Include more assets with your release if you can (think shareable). Journalists also expressed interest in other assets accompanying releases, including  blogs (47%), information about brand’s social platforms (41%), web quality downloadable video (40%), relevant infographic (40%), embed code for video (38%), downloadable logo (37%), low-resolution downloadable images (33%), and embed code for individual images (33%).

Tip #5 – Make sure your press release has a web presence, BEFORE you send it out. One journalist commented: “Press releases should have a web presence to make them shareable on social media. I’m shocked at how few PR firms understand this basic interaction requirement.” So get your release posted in an online press room, before you hit send. Even if a reporter does not cover the story – maybe you’ll get a tweet!

Talk to Us: What works for you? What do you  include with your news releases?

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

Thanks to Pixabay for our image.

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Best Times to Tweet for Engagement: 4.8 Million Tweets Have Spoken

What is the best time to tweet and get attention and engagement? The staff at Buffer analyzed 4.8 million tweets across 10,000 profiles to share the skinny on when to post to get the most clicks, favorites and re-tweets. And you might find some of the results surprising.

They found that the super early morning hours appear to be the time in which tweets receive the most clicks, on average.

But don’t discount later in the day! Evenings and late at night are the times when your tweets receive the most favorites and retweets, on average.

The most popular time to tweet and the best times to tweet for engagement differ across time zones, so it’s still important to experiment and find the times when your audience is most engaged.

The most popular time to tweet: Noon to 1:00 p.m. local time for you (the least popular time to tweet is between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m.). The highest volume of tweets occurs between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., peaking between noon and 1:00 p.m. Interestingly, they have data on time zones in the United States, Australia, Asia, and Europe.

Getting the most clicks. But just because 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. that is the most popular time to tweet – will you get noticed in that torrent of rushing tweets and earn clicks? The answer is – well we know people are using Twitter then – but the data says:

  • Tweets sent between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. earn the most clicks on average
  • The highest number of clicks per tweet occurs between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., peaking between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m.
  • The fewest clicks per tweet happen in the morning (when tweet volume is particularly high), between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

What works varies by time zone. But what works to get clicks can vary a lot by time zone. For the specifics on each of the best time to tweet for clicks in each of the major time zones in Buffer, here’s a breakdown.

  • Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. (Pacific Time): 2:00 a.m.
  • Denver (Mountain Time): 7:00 p.m.
  • Chicago (Central Time): 2:00 a.m.
  • New York, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, etc. (Eastern Time): 11:00 p.m.
  • Madrid, Rome, Paris, Berlin, etc. (Central European): 2:00 a.m.
  • Cape Town, Cairo, Istanbul, etc. (Eastern European): 8:00 p.m.
  • Sydney (Australian Eastern): 2:00 a.m.
  • Hong Kong (Hong Kong Time): 5:00 a.m.
  • Shanghai, Taipei, etc. (China Time): noon
  • Tokyo (Japan Time): 8:00 a.m.

This is where you need a global mentality. A non-peak hour in, say, Los Angeles may correspond to a peak hour in London or Paris.

Getting more engagement. The highest amount of engagement per tweet occurs between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., peaking between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m.

The smallest amount of engagement happens during traditional work hours, between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Interestingly, tweets sent at the 9:00 p.m. hour in the U.S. earn the most retweets and favorites on average.

The highest number of retweets and favorites occurs between 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., peaking between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m.

The lowest retweet-favorite engagement happens at 3:00 a.m.

What the research means. This drives home the value of using scheduling software (after all, we can’t all be up at 2:00 a.m. tweeting or tweeting in the late evening hours when we are with family or doing other things) if you are aiming for engagement. Schedule some tweets around the clock and see how they perform. Try the recommended times and see what happens. It’s important to experiment a bit with your audience and figure out what works for you.

Get more information. Read more about their study and see cool graphs, as well as all the caveats and methodology.

Talk with Us: What is the best time of day to tweet for you? Do you think this is sound advice?

 

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

Image licensed via Creative Commons. Thanks to JD for sharing this lovely photo of a clock at the Musee D’Orsay that was manipulated in PhotoShop. Super cool!

 

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Presentation: Media Coverage and Trauma Survivors

This presentation offers tips for journalists on covering trauma and working with survivors of trauma. The presentation was delivered at Columbia University in New York by Ami Neiberger-Miller while she was working for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

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Social Media: Crafting Content, Making Time to Engage #AMP15

Ami Neiberger-Miller enjoyed speaking for the 2015 annual meeting for Association Media & Publishing today! She was especially pleased to get to work with her co-presenter, Charles Day, of the American Institute of Physics.

Here is their session description:

Social media channels are important for sharing content with members and new audiences, but so often they are a responsibility that’s added on to an already-overloaded staff. Learn three ways to strategize your social media work, repackage content for social media and create an editorial calendar. Then hear about how the Physics Today Facebook page attracted 2.4 million fans.

Here are their slides on SlideShare!

Here is the basic excel sheet editorial calendar that Ami shared, with different social media channels marked as ribbons.

Here are the other editorial calendar helps with links:

WordPress Editorial Calendar Plug-In (free)

Editorial calendar sample (Google doc, free)

Bob Angus – downloadable calendar

Brandeo marketing calendar download (goals focused)

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8 Tips to Help You Create a Great Infographic

Infographics have been the rage for a few years, and we have shepherded clients through the process of creating and distributing infographics. But what does it really take to make a great infographic that resonates with the people you want to talk to?

Tip #1: Story is paramount. Infographics are great for telling stories and illustrating progression or processes. Their strength lies in being able to take a process that is utterly boring, and make it interesting. A great infographic has flow in the storyline and visually. An engaging story can lure the viewer into the design and help them digest the content.

Tip #2: Talk to your audience about things that matter. Design your story and infographic to speak to the people you want to share information with, on topics that matter to them. The more your infographic focuses on solving a problem or providing a benefit to the reader – the more likely it will go viral.

Tip #3: Use statistics to make a point. The statistics in an infographic should illustrate the story and be interesting or beneficial to the viewer. If you don’t have your own original research to use to generate the statistics, you should use reputable sources and check them carefully. Be sure you don’t mis-represent a number. But the statistics should be interspersed with visual elements, so it’s not just a lot of numbers.

Tip #4: Keep it simple. Great infographics tell a story but don’t overwhelm the viewer. That also means reining in the font varieties and including some white space. The content should be balanced and not overwhelm the viewer.

Tip #5: Style is key. A great infographic is fun to look at. It uses design as a tool to share information in short nuggets.  The illustrations are not just trendy, they actually work with the content.

Tip #6: Write a great headline. A headline provides focus for the viewer and spells out clearly what the infographic is about. It also becomes the language that gets potential viewers to click.

Tip #7: Get the sizing right. Infographics have to be sized properly to display well in different social media environments. I even had one client get an infographic printed so they could distribute it at their booth during a trade show, at the same time that they were also distributing it online. See this helpful discussion on sizing – it recommends starting with 600 pixcels wide and 2000 pixcels tall.

Tip #8: Have a distribution plan. When you finish the hard work of creating your infographic, you should also have a plan in place to distribute and share it.

Talk with Us: What do you when sketching out an infographic? What are you doing to market and share infographics?

Resources:
12 Infographic Tips That You Wish You Knew Years Ago

7 Super Tips for Creating Powerful Infographics

Five Ways to Get Your Infographic to Go Viral

The 83 Best Infographics

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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Running on Social Media Overload: Get Tips to Thrive at #AMP15

Are you running on social media overload? Looking for tips on how to save time and link strategically to your goals? Or are you seeking some inspiration? Would you like to know how one association has attracted 2.1 million Facebook fans?

Our very own Ami Neiberger-Miller will be speaking at the Association Media & Publishing 2015 conference in Washington, DC on June 17, 2015. She will be co-presenting with Charles Day of the American Institute of Physics.

Their talk is “Social Media: Crafting Content That Resonates, Making Time to Engage.” And here’s the description: “Social media channels are important for sharing content with members and new audiences, but so often they are a responsibility that’s added on to an already-overloaded staff. Learn three ways to strategize your social media work, re-package content for social media and create an editorial calendar. Then hear about how the Physics Today Facebook page attracted 2.1 million fans.”

The conference lineup looks awesome! Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty will be giving a keynote address on June 16th. Learn more about the conference and sign up.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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Social Media Advice for Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Associations

Ami Neiberger-Miller was recently interviewed by Mint.com for a story offering social media advice for small businesses, nonprofits and associations. Ami began the interview by pointing out how strategy and goals need to guide the tactics you select, saying:

I find that many clients struggle with strategy; they know they need a website or a social media presence or media outreach, but they do not know what they want to get out of those things. We are different because we work to help a client focus on strategic objectives, not just a list of tasks. We talk about audience and being strategic in outreach and messaging. 

She offers some advice for Facebook:

First, your posts need to be useful to people and focus on providing helpful information, not just consist of ads or be purely self-promotional. Looking at your page insights to see what posts are getting traction (and what time of day people are engaging) is also helpful. Consider spending a little money to boost posts and see what the results are. You should also create an expectation among your supporters that you will share valuable and useful information on Facebook. 

And she also mentions the power of blogging:

A blog forces you to think strategically about your field and your industry, so it’s a great professional growth tool; but it also shows your personality and thoughts in a public forum. It provides content you can feed and cycle onto social media; and I have had clients remark to me that they read my blog, and had reporters call me because they read a client’s blog and wanted to interview someone who wrote for that blog. So blogging can add a lot of value to your bottom line and your brand. 

They asked her to give five quick Twitter tips to increase followers and brand awareness. Here they are:

  • Try to tweet every day, at least a few times.
  • Share information that is useful to others.
  • Re-tweet other people you find interesting.
  • Participate in a Twitter chat once a week on a topic that relates to your industry – this gets your username out there for others to see.
  • Be yourself – even in 140 characters or less – personality can show.

Read more in the interview

Thanks to Pixabay for this photo.

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Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly? It Needs to Be

Is your website mobile-friendly? It needs to be. On April 21, 2015, Google changed its search algorithm to make mobile-friendliness a ranking signal for search results. Google also recently announced that more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the United States and Japan. If you want for your small business, nonprofit, or association website to be found in Google search results, your website needs to be mobile-friendly.

While some may be worried – the reality is this is a change for the better. Website traffic is increasingly coming from mobile devices. And if you have ever had to scroll line by line on a web page sized inappropriately for your phone to get some information, you know what a pain it is when a site is not optimized for mobile.

The change is already impacting nonprofit organizations. Civil Society IT in the United Kingdom found that a third of top British charity websites were not mobile-friendly. In response to queries, several charities are already working to make improvements.

Associations have also been impacted, prompting one writer for Associations Now to declare that mobile-friendly is no longer a “nice to have” feature for a website.

Business websites are also impacted. Some have even dubbed it “mobile-geddon” and even NBC News is using the term. NBC reported that while the mobile-friendly change seems to not have heavily impacted website traffic, but another Google change that favors content rich sites has affected other lower quality sites. Some commentators point out that the switch to mobile-friendly offers a great opportunity for many small businesses, as some larger brands struggle to comply. Here are some more examples of how the change is impacting search results.

And it’s not a time to panic, but rather, a time to think about making improvements for the future. Mobile technology is the wave of the future. Nearly two-thirds of Americans now own smartphones. Interestingly, 15% of Americans own a smartphone but say that they have a limited number of ways to get online other than their cell phone. These people are often smartphone dependent for internet access, meaning they don’t have a desktop computer at home that they can use to access the internet. Nonprofits serving populations that are more dependent on smartphones for internet access, should especially consider prioritizing mobile-friendliness for their websites.

Here’s a few tips to help:

Test your current website for mobile-friendliness. Google offers a mobile friendly test, or you can use other mobile tests.

Find out where your website traffic is coming from. Before you start making massive changes, look at where your website traffic is coming from today. David Kutcher at Social Media Today has a Google Analytics Dashboard template for examining traffic (thanks to John Haydon for pointing this out). Look at the numbers. How much of your website traffic now is coming from mobile sources?

Make decisions about website upgrades if they are needed. Based on the information you get from Google Analytics, and where you think your site is going in the next year, make decisions about website upgrades.

Talk With Us: What do you think about Google’s new algorithm update? What are you doing in response to the update?

Resources

Google Guide to Making Mobile-Friendly Sites

How to Make Your Website More Mobile Friendly (Entrepreneur)

Ten Ways to Make Your Website More Mobile-Friendly (SitePoint)

Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly: 3 Tools to Help You Prepare for Google’s Next Alogorithm Update (HubSpot)

Image Courtesy of Simon Steinberger, Released into the public domain Pixabay. Licensed via Creative Commons.

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Nonprofits Can Now Register .NGO and .ONG Domain Names

Nonprofit organizations can now register .NGO and .ONG domain names – and even better – they can also get the support of an online community to help them build awareness for, raise funds, and generate support for their missions.

This can be a great way to add another domain name to point to your existing website, or to pick up a domain name that is easier to remember than your current website address.

Registration is coordinated by OnGood – the new brand identity created by the Public Interest Registry for the .ngo & .ong domains and their accompanying suite of services. OnGood is an online community designed with and for NGOs and nonprofits worldwide, providing them with a suite of online services to help raise funds, build awareness and support for their missions.

By joining the OnGood community, member nonprofit organizations are able to create a unique profile page that is featured in the searchable directory open to the public through the OnGood community website. Members will be able to showcase causes, share activities and information, and collect donations. OnGood’s validation process reassures Internet users worldwide that website addresses owned by OnGood members ending in .ngo and .ong represent genuine NGOs.

Here are the steps to register your .NGO or .ONG domain name.

1. Register your domain(s)

  • Visit the registrars area on the OnGood website
  • Select one registrar from the accredited list with whom to make your purchase
  • Complete your purchase to receive a confirmation email that includes a link that allows you to claim your domain name

2. Create new account on the OnGood website

Create your Account by providing the following information:

  • Information for two authorized contacts to manage OnGood account
  • Official name of and, other names used by your organisation
  • Country of registration
  • Registration/Identification number, if applicable, and issuing body
  • Upload credentials that support your standing as a nonprofit or NGO (acceptable file types include: JPG, BMP, PNG, GIF or PDF). This can include IRS designations, certificates of good standing, evidence of NGO membership organization, etc. This documentation may vary by country and will be audited for authenticity.

3. Set up your profile page in the OnGood directory

Below are the items and/or information that will be helpful for your organisation to fill out in order to have a complete profile page that stands out in the directory:

  • Mission statement
  • Mission categories to associate with from the list provided
  • Year founded
  • Total number of staff
  • Today’s status update, if desired
  • About us description
  • Contact information to include, if desired
  • Search keywords (these are behind the scenes for search engine optimization)
  • Up to 5 videos and/or photos to use
  • Logo
  • Header image (4,400px wide by 434px tall)
  • Social media links

To get assistance with applying for your domain name, contact help@ongood.ngo.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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Blogging Checklist: Take Your Blog Posts From OK to Spectacular

Are your blog posts dull? Do you want to improve readability and interaction on your blog? Blogging can be a great way to generate new content and share information about your small business, nonprofit or association. But what elements do you need to make your blog posts successful?  Here’s a checklist to help:

Create a captivating headline. A headline that grabs attention is key – or  no one will read what you have to say. Unlike press releases where there is a tendency to do longer headlines because you hope journalists will read it and pique their interests – blog posts do not benefit from extremely long headlines. Keep your headline informational and brief.

Have an introduction that gets attention and drives home the benefit the reader will reap from reading your blog post. Many readers will click on your blog post because of the headline, then start reading your introduction. If this does not grab them, they won’t continue to read. Many will convert to skimming or move off your post if you don’t grab their attention at the very start.

Convey information in short nuggets and use sub-headlines. Use sub head-lines, at least every 2-3 paragraphs, to break up information. Much of the information on a blog is skimmed, so sub-headlines help readers survey the information and then decide what to read.

Blog your passion. How you feel about something shows in your writing. You can read lots of great and technical advice about SEO and formatting. They’re important because they can help your voice rise to the top and get attention. But your voice needs to be authentic and true – share your passion and that will shine through.

Use a vibrant photo that relates to the topic. A great photo is essential to the success of a blog post. It’s best if you can take your own photos, but if you can’t, then credit the images you do use. I tend to favor Creative Common licensed images, but there are many websites online where you can look for images.

Include outbound links and anchor them with smart text. Include links in your blog post to other sources, and link to other content you’ve written too on the same topic. It’s important that you “anchor” these outbound links by choosing good words to hyper-link to in your blog post. I always try to write text that is informational so the user knows what they are clicking on.

Don’t use “click here” when sharing hyperlinks. I have never been a fan of the practice of  putting links at the end of a paragraph with “click here” as the copy to hold the outbound hyperlink. I am always amazed when I find clients still doing this on their websites or in their blog posts – as I have advocated against this practice for at least 10 years. If you are doing “click here” you are hurting optimization and the likelihood of being found – not to mention ensuring your readers who skim have no clue what “click here” goes to. All those “click here” links add up to a big boring “click here.”

Do smart search engine optimization (SEO). Include key phrases in your first paragraph. Carry a key word or phrase from your headline into your first paragraph. But don’t overdo it with keyword cramming for search engine optimization. Some “experts” will advise you to include keywords many, many times in your posts, but Google’s algorithm is smarter than that. Yes, keywords are important but they should not impede readability or lower the value of the content to the reader. If there are keywords you want to include because you are trying to draw a particular audience, include them if they naturally fit in the copy, but don’t shoe horn them in. Learn more about optimizing for SEO.

Use bold and/or italics to add emphasis. Formatting can draw attention to your key points.

Call to action. Ask your audience to do something as a result of your blog post. Perhaps you are asking them to get more engaged in a project, or want to make them more aware of an issue.

Proofread and edit. Read through your work again and make sure your thoughts are clear. I am always amazed at how frequently I find errors in things I put together and see prominent errors (headline mis-spellings) in other blogs, that would have easily been caught with a quick read-through.

Ask for a critique. One of the best things I did for my blog was ask a couple of fellow bloggers for advice on how I could improve. They spotted things I had missed and gave me a lot of encouragement, and my blog posts improved because of their input.

Resources
How to Write Great Blog Content – ProBlogger
How to Write a Blog Post: A Simple Formula +Five Free Templates – HubSpot
26 Tips for Writing Great Blog Posts – Social Media Examiner

Talk to Us: What tips do you have to offer that can make a blog post more successful? 

Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Mike Licht and licensed by Creative Commons.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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Press Release Writing: 12 Tips To Attract the Attention of Journalists

Writing a press release may seem like a chore, but it’s really a great tool to use to share information about your organization, association or company. But it’s important to be succinct and clear – journalists spend on average, less than one minute reviewing your press release before hitting the delete button or deciding to get more information or use it.

Tip #1: Use a clear, eye-catching headline.  A well-written attention-grabbing headline that shares the most important and newsworthy nugget of information in your press release is key. It’s important though not to be too clever. Being obtuse, silly or anything that renders your news unclear, will get your press release deleted.

Tip #2: Sub-headlines can be helpful. I’ve always been a fan of using a sub-headline, usually in italics below the main headline, to offer additional insight or include source information.

Tip #3: Think carefully about your subject line for your email. In a study last year on journalists and press releases, 79 percent of journalists said subject lines greatly influence whether they open an email with a press release or not.

Tip #4: Get to the point right away. Your first sentence should really summarize in a nutshell the main news you are sharing. This is no time for you to set a stage and build up to your announcement at the end of the paragraph (or even worse, a few paragraphs down). Just spill the beans, please.

Tip: 5: Use Associated Press style. At least give a deferential nod to AP style. Journalists know it and use it. Easy things to fix – state abbreviations in your dateline. There are plenty of AP style tips online.

Tip #6: Use numbers. Statistics, data and numbers bolster your cause and provide context and amplitude. Even if your press release is discussing an interesting situation or observation that is anecdotal but that you think may be a bigger problem, you can sometimes find data in other sources that you can cite in a press release. The point is to give a sense of scope and to verify what you are sharing.

Tip #7: Offer infographics, photos or video if you can. These additional assets can help time-stressed reporters and bloggers access your information and are especially useful if you are reaching out to smaller markets. It’s usually best to have these materials up on your website and link to them in the press release. Do not send them as attachments.

Tip #8: Avoid using a lot of acronyms and internal language. This is where I often see nonprofits struggle, especially if the press release must be “approved” by a committee of people who don’t all work with the media on a daily basis. Internal jargon does not belong in a press release. If you are making statements like, “we had to include this sentence to keep so and so happy,” and not “we had to include this sentence to make the press release more interesting to reporters” – then your release may be set up to struggle at getting attention.

Tip #9: Include a relevant quote written in an informed, conversational tone. While some journalists have remarked that they find canned quotes on press releases to be a pain and never use them, I’ve also seen a lot of journalists use them for sake of expediency. It’s fine to include a quote in your press release. Frame it about the topic, say something interesting, and do not be purely self-promotional.

Tip #10: Don’t regurgitate your boilerplate again at the bottom of the release if you don’t have to – you are just adding to length. If you have a standard news release boilerplate containing  information about your organization, association or small business, and you include some of that information in your release copy, then don’t feel the need to regurgitate all of that information again in the boilerplate. You are just adding to length.

Tip #11: Keep it brief. One page is great. Two pages maximum.

Tip #12: Include contact information. Make sure that you include clearly labeled media contact information with a name, phone number and email address for someone who can (and will) respond promptly to any media inquiries or needs.

Bonus tip: Deliver your release pasted into the body copy of an email. This may not be a writing tip, but it is very important. Do not send your release as an attachment. And don’t send only a hyperlink to your press release in an email with a headline and no body copy – this forces a journalist to click and go see the press release on your website. Over the years, I have had clients tell me that releases should be sent as attachments, or only sent as hyperlinks so journalists can “see their branding.” You need for journalists to see your news in your press release and decide to do a story or to keep you on their list of people with interesting story ideas who can make my life as a harried journalist easier. They won’t see your news at all if you send your press release as an attachment or a lonely hyperlink. After they read your news, you can worry about your branding (which should be more about authenticity and less about stunning people with logos).

Talk to Us: What is your experience with press release writing? What works for you?

Photo credit: Image courtesy of Kristen Nador and licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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Fundraising and Crowdraising: Use Stories to Touch Hearts

Crowd101.com featured our Ami Neiberger-Miller as part of a roundup of advice from 33 experts discussing fundraising and crowdraising. She shared:

“Don’t just ask for funding. Rather, explain why you need funding. Share a real story that shows people who would be impacted and problems that would be fixed.  Use pictures, data and stories to convince people of the need for funding. Explain how your solution is not possible any other way. Without visuals and a compelling story, people may not be swayed to contribute.”

Ami says: I find it is really important to help clients show what they intend to do. Potential donors need to visualize a problem and a solution. Statistics can only take people so far. A story can pull the heart strings and touch someone to give. Thankfully, there are better tools available now to help nonprofit organizations, schools, faith communities and others share stories and ideas in a visual way. There is even a conference in Seattle in November 2015 on nonprofit storytelling!

Here’s some links to help you think about how you might structure storytelling and use it to raise support and funds:

Nonprofit Storytelling for Crowdfunding and Online Fundraising  – Causevox

Why Vivid Storytelling Inspires GivingStanford Social Innovation Review

Storytelling: The Key to Successful FundraisingCausera

Why Social Movements Need Stories TechSoup

Do Storytelling and Data Have Chemistry In Your Fundraising World?Nonprofit Quarterly

Photo courtesy of Jill Clardy and licensed by Creative Commons

Talk to Us: How has crowdfunding worked for you? What techniques have helped your crowdfunding campaign be successful (or not)? 

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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Parenting Tips: Staying Connected with Your Child While Traveling

Just last week, another working mom friend and I were talking about how stressed out she is by frequent travel overseas and how she hopes to transition into a job that lets her be closer to her kids more often. Thankfully, I don’t travel a lot and unlike my friend, I don’t travel internationally for work on a regular basis. But I am on a business trip this week for a few days and away from my nearly-five-year-old daughter. I am anxious to get home but it got me thinking of ways to stay connected to my child while on the road for work.

A few things I do and have tried:

Let your child help you pack. For some reason, helping me pack seems to help my daughter adjust to the idea of me being gone. She is helpful and gives me advice on what to pack and offers to put things in my suitcase. If I am stressed out and just want to pack and get it over with, sometimes I don’t appreciate the assistance, but it really does seem to help her.

Call before bedtime. I try to call before she goes to sleep so we can talk about her day. If I am working an event and get a break earlier in the day, then we talk then too.

Text photos. It’s easy to text some photos back and forth. I am always wanting to see photos of my daughter during the day, and it helps me to know she is cared for. Plus it’s fun to make silly faces for the camera.

Set up some special projects to distract your child while you are gone, especially activities that involve other kids and families. I try to set up some special playdates and activities for my daughter while I am gone. We talk about the fun things she will get to do while Mommy is away. This makes the time go a little faster, and also gives my spouse at home a little more breathing room.

Leave special food for your child. I have tried this and it sort of works. My husband doesn’t really like to cook, so on my last business trip, I left frozen pizzas and quesadillas with instructions. While they got some usage, I can’t say they were super popular while I was gone. But they were handy when I got home and needed to get a dinner on the table quickly – I just threw one of the frozen pizzas in the oven and made a salad.

Take a toy on the road with you and send photos showing the toy to your child. I did this once and it didn’t go well. My daughter did not like seeing her toy somewhere else, especially when she wanted to be there too. Lesson learned: this one doesn’t work on my kid.

Be honest about how you feel and allow your child to be honest too.  I’ve learned that it’s ok to tell her that I miss her and want to be home with her soon, and that I’m sorry I am going away for a few days, but I know she will be safe and ok. And it’s ok for her to express her feelings about it too. This seems to have helped the separations.

Video chat. We tried this when my daughter was younger and it didn’t work well. She mainly focused her comments on telling me that mommy had to come home NOW. It didn’t help that we tried it right before bedtime when she was having a rough time. This might work better with an older child than a preschooler.

And there are many ideas I wish I had time to try, like a treasure hunt at home while I am gone. I think my daughter would really get into an activity like this, but I would need to plan it really well. Here are a few more tips:

20 Ways to Connect With Your Kids While Traveling
American Express Open Forum

Staying Connected When You Travel
Working Mother

10 Ways to Stay Connected With Your Kid When You Travel
All Pro Dad

We are grateful for our cute photo and it is licensed via a Creative Commons license.

Talk to Us: How do you stay connected with your child when you are traveling? What tips work for you?

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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Guest Post: How Your Home Office Can Help You Be More Productive

Note from Ami: As an independent public relations practitioner who wants to keep costs down, I work in a spacious home office in a historic home. My desk overlooks a window and I think these contributed tips are helpful for anyone trying to be productive at home. Yes, you can work from anywhere now thanks to technology, but having the right office space at home can nurture productivity.

Whether your home office serves as your main office or a secondary work space, office space design can either make you or break you in terms of your productivity. In fact, there are design experts who dedicate themselves to optimizing office space to promote concentration, focus, and efficiency.  Here’s how you can have a home office work space that will help to ensure your success.

Separate Work From Play
One of the key factors that will help you be productive and focus on important tasks in your work space is to have a home office that’s separate from your living space. Having a designated room for your home office means you can shut the door and remove yourself from the happenings — and chaos — elsewhere in your home. Ringing telephones, televisions, children running about, the sounds of people coming and going are less likely to distract you when you’re not in the thick of it. Get creative if you need to; even a basement or attic can be converted into a fabulous home office space.

If you don’t have the space for your home office to have its own room, you could surely incorporate office space into another room of your home. However, you should be strategic about which area you choose for your office setup. It shouldn’t be an area of your home that’s highly trafficked or busy, but rather should be a place that’s relatively quiet or even allows you to shut a door for a little separation. A bedroom, especially a guest bedroom, is a great place for an office space. Other possibilities include a dining room that’s infrequently used or a finished basement

Invest in the Desk and Chair
The desk is like the center of your home office’s universe, the focal point in the room. Don’t be afraid to splurge a bit on a nice desk that gives you plenty of surface area and any additional features you might need such as file drawers, shelves, a built-in platform for computer components or a monitor, and so on. Take into consideration the style of the desk and the materials from which it’s made; it’s a good idea to get a well-made desk that’s versatile in style so that you can update the decor in your office at some point without making your desk obsolete.

office2

Via Freshome

Additionally, your desk chair is also important. Since you could be sitting in your desk chair for several hours at a time, invest in a chair that’s as comfortable as it is attractive. Many desk chairs are designed to be ergonomically supportive, preventing you from experiencing back pain or joint stiffness during those long stretches of working at your desk. Again, it would be a good idea to choose a chair that’s versatile in style so that it will look great no matter what the color palette of your office might be.

The Importance of Lighting
It’s been found that natural lighting can help improve mental acuity, focus, and clarity while helping you to stay alert and fight off fatigue. As such, you should choose for your home office a room that has plenty of windows and natural light. It’s also been suggested that orienting your desk so that you have a view of the outdoors will help you maintain better morale, making you able to work harder for longer.

office3

Via Freshome

If the office area that you’re working with has little natural light, then make sure that it has plenty of artificial light for you to see clearly as you work. There are many different styles of ambient ceiling lights as well as lamps and wall sconces that can efficiently illuminate your office space. You could even invest in natural-light bulbs, which are intended to provide sun-like lighting instead of fluorescent and incandescent, which also tend to be less efficient in terms of energy.

Contributed by Dane O’Leary. For more home design tips and tricks, check out Modernize.com.

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Media Relations: Journalists Feel Pressure to Make Stories Shareable

Three out of four journalists say they are feeling more pressure to think about how a story could potentially be shared on social media, says a new survey by Muckrack and Edelman of 251 journalists in late 2014. This means the stakes are going up for everyone who hopes to see a story in print, on the air, in the sound waves or online. We have to be even more well-prepared with great stories, photos, videos and more. The survey also revealed a few more interesting tidbits about reporters and their social media use:

Twitter is their preferred social media platform. Eighty-six percent said they check Twitter several times per day. Seventy-five percent say they are using Twitter to build their personal brand and 78% say it is the most used social platform for their profession.

Photos and connecting to a broader trending story make your content shareable. Eighty-two percent of journalists responding to the survey said that having a photo makes content shareable. Sixty-six percent prefer content that can be linked to a bigger picture story that is already trending. Nearly half (48%) said shareable content can be easily localized or made relevant to a target audience.

When video is shared by a reporter – journalists prefer a company-created one. Seventy-four percent of respondents said they prefer to share a video created by the company. Only 14% prefer a video by a consumer and 13% prefer third-party video. Only 3% said a corporate branded video, so go light on syrupy saturation with corporate-ease.

Implications for you if you want to connect with journalists:

  • Familiarize yourself with Twitter and use it regularly. This is an audience that is consuming content on Twitter and re-sharing it. Follow a few reporters (see my ten tips for connecting with journalists through Twitter) and try to engage through this social media platform.
  • Focus on creating and distributing content that is shareable. Include photos, link to bigger trends when appropriate, and note connections to audiences that make you and your business or organization relevant. Respond to current events and trends when it’s timely.
  • Make it easy to share your video. Establish a YouTube channel, make sure links to it are obvious from your website and social media, and produce short videos (minus the heavy syrup) that convey key messages and are authentic.

READERS: What are you doing to connect with journalists through social media?

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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Nonprofit Hiring in 2015 is On an Upswing, Says Survey

The 2015 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey was released today, and it has some good news for a sector recovering from the Great Recession. The nonprofit sector  is poised to add even more jobs in 2015 and grow its 10.7 million workforce. In fact, a larger percentage of nonprofit organizations plan to hire employees in 2015 than for-profits. The results were not all rosy – the survey found that most nonprofits still lack formalized recruitment and retention strategies. I did an e-interview with Lisa Brown Morton, the CEO of Nonprofit HR, about this year’s survey, nonprofit overhead issues, talent retention, and social media recruiting practices among hiring managers.

Why do you think nonprofit hiring is on the rise in 2015?
We are finally seeing a full rebound from the recession, and nonprofit organizations are more optimistic about their growth now than in recent years. Improvements in the economy have resulted in the expansion of nonprofit budgets, and many organizations are able to increase the number of paid staff on their payrolls as a result.

Why is the area of greatest growth predicted to be in direct services (46% of new nonprofit hiring, according to the survey), in your opinion? What does this say about nonprofit hiring trends?
There are two primary reasons for the predicted growth in direct services. First, direct services positions are simply more prevalent than other types of positions at most nonprofits. Second, direct service jobs continue to represent front line positions where the fast majority of nonprofit services are delivered. Until we address many of the nation’s economic and social challenges, direct service jobs will continue to be in demand.

One of the concerns we hear about the overhead debate in the nonprofit community is that nonprofits are not investing enough in infrastructure and staffing because they are concerned about keeping a lean overhead rate. Do you think these survey results shed any new light on that discussion or offer some indication that nonprofits are more comfortable investing now in staffing after enduring the lean years of the Great Recession?
Absolutely! First, let me say that I believe that the overhead myth is just that–a myth. Nonprofits need a solid infrastructure, and most importantly, a skilled staff, to achieve their missions. Talent is not overhead. Talent is about mission delivery and sustainability. Second, I think our results indicate that many nonprofits are gaining a better understanding of the importance of talent in the discussion about organizational health. We believe that the sector is beginning to move from the old belief that keeping staff budgets as low as possible is good for the organization. Of course, the rebound from the recession has forced and will continue to force nonprofits to invest more intentionally in talent acquisition and retention.

The findings indicate that one in three nonprofits lack a strategy for hiring quality talent. How do you think that lack of strategy hurts nonprofits?
Without a recruitment plan, nonprofits are being held back from their full potential. They run the risk of wasting time and money on recruitment, or worse, losing out on top talent to organizations both within and outside of the sector who are employing more effective recruitment practices. This is especially important now, as the economy improves and the competition for top talent heats up. If you don’t have a recruitment strategy, you will be hard pressed to build a staff capable of moving the needle at your organization. Individual nonprofit organizations need to get smart about recruitment if they want to compete with their peers, and the sector as a whole needs to make recruitment strategy a priority or risk losing its best talent to the other sectors.

While many industries use networking to recruit new hires, why is that sometimes not the best strategy?
Often, networking puts us in touch with others who are very similar to ourselves. Hiring from within our networks can limit the diversity of our organizations, which can in turn limit creative thinking and decrease the quality of our organizational culture and the results that we produce.

The results indicate a majority of nonprofits are not using a social media recruitment strategy to locate talent. Why do you think so many are not using social media for talent recruitment?
Use of social media recruitment is still relatively new within the nonprofit world. I think there is still a lack of real understanding about how to leverage tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. However, social media recruitment is growing among nonprofits, and I think we can expect it to continue to grow.

When they do use social media to recruit new staff, why do you think some nonprofits prefer using LinkedIn and Facebook for talent recruitment? What makes these platforms appealing for them?
LinkedIn and Facebook are among some of the most widely used and accessible networks for hiring managers. LinkedIn specifically is very focused on professional connections, which makes sense in a recruitment setting. Facebook is popular simply because it is so widely used. Nearly every candidate you’re looking to hire can be found on Facebook, and most hiring managers use it in their personal lives as well, so it’s an easy transition. However, drawing the line between personal and professional is still harder on Facebook, which is what sets LinkedIn ahead of the pack for recruitment.

Why does the survey indicate that retention challenges are exacerbated as the nonprofit sector rebounds from the Great Recession?
Now that we’re rebounding from the recession, job candidates are becoming more comfortable with the idea of leaving their current jobs to search for new opportunities, and more nonprofits are beginning to hire. As new opportunities spring up and the competition for nonprofit talent increases, nonprofit employers must do more to retain top staff. While the ability to pay competitively is important, many non-monetary benefits, such as flexible work schedules, remote work arrangements and health and fitness perks can go a long way toward improving retention.

What can nonprofits do to address talent retention challenges?
The first step in addressing talent retention challenges is to find the source of turnover. Is there a recurring problem? Do people continue to leave because they don’t see growth potential within the organization? Or because they were offered a pay raise somewhere else? Or because your benefits are not competitive? Start implementing retention interviews. If you’re able to identify a central theme, you can move forward in developing a new talent retention strategy to address these wants and needs. A human resources firm that specializes in the unique needs of the sector can be a great help when it comes time to develop a retention or recruitment strategy.

READERS: What do you think? Are nonprofits hiring in your area, and how can social media be used to help recruiters?

Image courtesy of Flazingo Photos, via a Creative Commons license.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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10 Tips: Building Relationships with Journalists on Twitter

Building relationships with journalists is key to nurturing stories and managing your organization or company’s reputation in the news media. Twitter offers some great ways to nurture relationships with reporters and improve your visibility and understanding of what they are covering and how they work. Pitching a journalist on Twitter though involves several steps. Here are ten tips to help:

Tip #1: Build a list. When you come across a story by a journalist that meshes with the interests and topics you are credible on and connected to, check the story to see if a Twitter handle is listed. Or go to twitter.com and look up the journalist or media outlet’s name.

Tip #2: Know how to use Twitter. If you aren’t on Twitter yet, and not familiar with how Twitter works, you also need to get up to speed on it, before you tweet them.

Tip #3: Read what they tweet and follow them. You can often learn a lot about a journalist from a Twitter feed – reporting interests, interview needs, links to current or past work, and personal likes and dislikes. All of this is helpful information in nurturing a relationship, or at least avoiding annoying them.

Tip #4: Re-Tweet them from time to time.  Many journalists post links to their stories or live reporting from what they are currently covering. It’s easy for you to re-tweet work you find interesting from time to time (make sure you include their Twitter handle when you do, and throw in the handle for the media outlet they work for too so their bosses see their work is being shared). I would not recommend re-tweeting everything they post, just something once every few days.

Tip #6: Post a comment or say thank you for a story. Everyone likes a compliment. Post a comment or say thanks for a story using the reporter’s Twitter handle in your Tweet so it will be seen.

Tip #7: Comment to be informative and educational. It’s ok to share  information o that might be helpful with the reporter on Twitter by typing in their user name on your Tweet, but keep your comments informative. Do your best to avoid bellyaching jealously about not being included in a story or requesting a minor story correction. And definitely don’t harass them with constant badgering. No one likes to be sniped at on Twitter, and Twitter is public, so your gripes may be viewed by others.

Tip #8: Respond to a request for sources if you fit the bill. If a reporter posts a request for story ideas or a source on a particular topic and you or your organization or business fit the bill, respond to them. If they don’t follow you, you will have to respond publicly in 140 characters or less, so do your best to keep it short and on point.

Tip #9: Pitch a story on Twitter. Craft a pitch in 140 characters or less that references you, your business, your organization, and what you think the journalist should write about, and put the journalist’s user name in your pitch. Don’t pitch people who don’t cover the topic you are suggesting. This is no time for bulk pitching (mass tweeting several reporters at the same time on the same story). And only follow-up once on your pitch if you don’t get a response. Following up 3, 4, 5, 6 times is spamming and not going to get you on their nice list (it’s going to get you tuned out). If a journalist sees your pitch and likes it and clicks through to your Twitter feed, and sees you pitched the same story over and over to other reporters, he or she is not going to cover it. If a journalist responds and asks you to follow up by email, do so. Don’t ask for an email address that is already posted publicly in the journalist’s Twitter profile (this makes you look like you never looked at their Twitter profile). And another note: don’t pitch a reporter on Twitter to try to get to one of their colleagues. Just because someone has a lot of followers, does not mean you can’t stand out from the crowd if you pitch him or her. Chances are, a journalist with a lot of followers is pretty active on Twitter and going to see your tweet to them. If you have a great story idea, they will respond to you. If they don’t respond, and you follow up once and they still don’t respond, maybe it’s not the right time for that journalist to do a story, or not the right time for that news outlet. Move on.

Tip #10: Use Twitter lists to help you follow the journalists who are writing about your industry or topic. I’m not talking about creating a big huge list of hundreds of journalists in a given field or genre that you dream of working with. If you make the list too big it is unmanageable. I’m talking about building a list of perhaps 10 or 20 or 30 Twitter accounts that you are tracking. An easy way to keep track of the journalists you are the most interested in (privately) is to set up a Twitter list on your own account. Just check the list every day to see what is new.

Have I ever pitched a journalist through Twitter and gotten a news story out of it? Yes. See this example in my portfolio.

Thanks to Adam on FlickR for posting “Evolution of a Pitch” and making it available through a Creative Commons license.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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2014 Do Gooder Awards: Submit Your Nonprofit Video Feb. 1-15

The 2014 DoGooder Awards recognize the creative and effective use of nonprofit video in promoting social good. Now in its 8th year, the DoGooder Awards program is dedicated to giving cause advocates that use video a place for their work to shine. If you have invested time in creating a video about your favorite cause or nonprofit organization, this is a great way to recognize your efforts.

This year, the program has added a new category for younger do-gooders ages 12-21 who best communicated their thoughts on pressing social issues in a way that inspired others.

Beginning February 1st, video submissions will be accepted via the contest website until February 15th,in the following categories:

  • The ImpactX Award: honoring those videos that have demonstrated impact for their causes.
  • The Best Nonprofit Video Award: honoring nonprofit organizations using video to make change.
  • The Funny for Good Award: Recognizing effective use of comedy to make people laugh and take action.
  • The Most Inspiring Youth Media Award: For youth who best communicated their thoughts on pressing social issues in a way that inspired others.

Members of the YouTube community will have the opportunity to vote for the best among the finalists from February 28th through March 10th.

The winning videos in each category will be featured on YouTube’s coveted Spotlight Channel, receive a free registration to next year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference and will be recognized at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington, D.C. on March 13, 2014. The winners in the ImpactX category will receive a cash prize from Cisco to help them harness the power of human and technology networks to multiply their impact on the people and communities they serve.  Additional prizes will be awarded to each winner.

Read the press release about the contest. The contest is sponsored by See3 Communications, YouTube, and the Nonprofit Technology Network, with support from Cisco, the National Alliance for Media Arts & Culture, the National Youth Media Network, and the The National Alliance for Media Literacy Education.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design work for publications and websites (portfolio). Ami blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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2015 Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice Released

Independent Sector today announced the release of the 2015 edition of the Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice, a set of 33 principles broadly accepted by many nonprofit and philanthropic organizations as a guide for charities’ and foundations’ self-governance.

The 2015 edition of the Principles contains legal background and principles on a broad range of topics including legal compliance, effective governance, financial oversight, and responsible fundraising. They provide more flexibility on overhead calculations, which have vexed many nonprofits as they have tried to demonstrate efficiency and gutted needed staffing and support.

This is the first time the principles have been updated since 2007. Major changes took into account:

  • How technology affects giving in a digital world and risk related to data security
  • New charitable business and social change models, such as donor-advised funds and social impact investing, and their opportunities and pitfalls
  • The need to balance organizational transparency and individual privacy
  • The evolving debate on overhead costs.

There is significant guidance on fundraising, as online fundraising (and fraud) become more common. The authors advise charities to include contact information on online fundraising solicitations, so donors can confirm that a request is legitimate. Those who contract for outside fundraising services are also advised to have written contracts detailing fees, how donor information is protected, and fraud protection policies.

While the guidelines help the sector demonstrate its commitment to self-regulation, criticism and concerns remain, given the volume of scandals in recent years and issues with nonprofit management that continue to crop up.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that “Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is still pressing for investigations of nonprofits, including charity hospitals and the American Red Cross. Last year, then-Rep. Dave Camp, who was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, sought caps on executive pay at nonprofits.” Calls for further regulation of nonprofit organizations may continue.

A standard edition and an extensive legal reference edition of the Principles are available for sale at PrinciplesForGood.com, as well as access to an online Resource Center, a self-assessment tool for charitable leaders and board members, a database of governance resources, and much more. Both print and digital copies are available online for purchase and on Amazon. Digital resources are available for pre-order delivering March 1.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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A Day in the Life: Christiane Amanpour

I once  had a client with a very localized story in the DC area say to me – maybe you can get Christiane Amanpour to cover it! It was not likely at the time, given that Amanpour was across the world and very focused on reporting in conflict zones.

But Amanpour’s influence as America’s most well-known foreign correspondent was definitely shown in my client’s starry-eyed request and her admiration for the journalist’s work. Amanpour’s new role with ABC’s “This Week” offers options for story pitching for U.S. based stories of national importance that weren’t possible years ago when she was on the other side of the globe.

Now admirers can get a glimpse inside Amanpour’s daily life in this article in Wall Street Journal magazine. She admits she’s learning new skills on the job as she schedules guests and adjusts to her role as a news anchor. Click on the interactive graphics tab to see an hour-by-hour timetable of her day and photos.

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