Social Media Advice for Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Associations

Ami Neiberger-Miller was recently interviewed by 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 StartBloggingOnline for this lively photo, licensed via Creative Commons.


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?


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.


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

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.


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.

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.


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.


Fundraising and Crowdraising: Use Stories to Touch Hearts 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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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, 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.


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.


A Year in Review: Victories, Challenges & A Growing Public Relations Practice

Wow, it’s hard to believe that 2011 drew to a close for Steppingstone LLC – and we’ve been in business for more than 8 years – thriving amid a rocky and unstable economy. We’ve gotten to work on some amazing projects this year helping nonprofit organization and associations. Our celebratory blog toast would not be complete without a sampling.

Veteran Aimee Sherrod, who was 7 months
pregnant at the time, came to DC to share her
story and how the lawsuit will affect her family.
She is pictured with attorney Bart Stichman,
co-executive director of NVLSP at the National
Press Club in Washington, DC.

We won – lawyers reach settlement victory for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Since 2008, we’ve worked to help the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) with media relations and outreach. They filed a class action lawsuit in December 2008 to help Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder who were illegally denied their benefits. It’s been a long haul for the attorneys and the veterans they are trying to help. And finally, we have achieved victory. A proposed settlement was announced in July. Only three days before Christmas, the judge at the US Court of Federal Claims gave final approval to the settlement, putting in motion a settlement that will give thousands of veterans and their families the benefits and healthcare they earned and deserve for their service to our country.

Media, media, media. I did a lot of work in media relations this year on behalf of my nonprofit and association clients – working with the Associated Press, CNN, ABC World News, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel, the Washington Post, the New York Times, USA Today, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the History Channel, US News & World Report, National Journal, and many, many others.

Thanks to our amazing clients. We get to work with some wonderful people who are doing amazing things, and we were privileged to support in 2011:

– the Plus 50 Initiative at the American Association of Community Colleges and their work to help thousands of people coping with job loss and revolutionize campus support for adults age 50 and up returning to the classroom.

– the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and its work to help families of our fallen military service members.
– the National Veterans Legal Services Program and its fight to help veterans get the benefits they’ve earned and deserve.

– the Society for Public Health Education and their work to raise awareness about health professionals and their important contributions to helping Americans live healthier lives.

Resource Action Programs – aiding their work to better educate K-12 students and teachers about energy conservation by assisting with curriculum development.

– the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and their annual Congressional Breakfast on Capitol Hill honoring law enforcement for work locating missing children and stopping child exploitation.

–  the Christian Camp & Conference Association with articles for their magazine on opening doors to diversity in Christian camping programs (January/February 2011), helping ministries thrive amid a rocky economy (November/December 2011) and improving how they utilize social media (publishing in January/February 2012).

– the Association for Women in Science – with help on a publication opportunity at the last minute that allowed them to feature an amazing young leader in science and educate parents about opportunities in science, technology and math for young women.

Social media goes to a new level of importance – for us and our clients. We scored one of our first significant media placements for a client through Twitter this year – by responding to a tweet with a simple 120 character note. Our client, TAPS, was invited to interview for an online video story and blog posting by the Chronicle of Philanthropy about the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and its impact on charities and services for military families.

My first Twitter account – @AmazingPRMaven – launched in 2009 offering tips and advice to help nonprofit PR pros (and stuff I find interesting) and saw tremendous growth in 2011 – advancing to four-figures worth of followers – with 1,233 people getting updates and 74 people thinking my updates are interesting enough to add me to their official lists. It’s ranked 528th in the Washington, DC market by Twitaholic – not bad for a city known to be frequented by mavens!

Speaking out – on a new level. It was a big year for me with formal public speaking engagements. I’ve always conducted training programs to help others learn (with facilitated hands on activities so I don’t have to talk the entire time) – but this year I went up a few notches in difficulty. I was invited to share what I’ve learned supporting trauma survivors at PRSA-NCC’s PR Day for Nonprofits in a presentation called, “We’re Not Victims, We’re Survivors.” I survived the speech and I think the roomful of PR pros walked away with some helpful advice on how to balance the needs of the media and trauma survivors.
Testifying for a Congressional subcommittee in June.
On behalf of TAPS, I testified for a congressional subcommittee in June on the improvements happening to correct problems at Arlington National Cemetery – an issue I’ve been on the front lines with for years. I also attended several White House and Hill events this year and got to talk with key policy staff about issues impacting surviving military families.

I also did several media interviews this year myself. It’s not typical for a PR person to do so many interviews – but there are times when deadlines and my experiences as a survivor and professional align with the project. I talked with WTOP a few weeks ago about my feelings on the Iraq war troop pullout for a story that was picked up by CBS radio nationwide. I also was interviewed by McClatchy about the war ending and my feelings – I described in the interview my emotional moment on a plane to Colorado when I teared up seeing troops coming home. I have to believe my reaction was serindipitous in a way  – allowing me to purge some of those emotions and giving me the ability to focus and crank out a statement when the President announced the next day that the troops would leave Iraq for good. That statement led to this story in the  Washington Post. I also talked with Fox Channel 5 the day news broke that 30 U.S. service members had died when a chopper was shot down in Afghanistan – what’s not in this story on YouTube is that I did this interview on the fourth anniversary of my brother’s death in Iraq – which was the same day as that crash. I recently met some of the family members from that crash and we embraced in sorrow and care.

It’s been an amazing year – and we are looking forward to more work in 2012 helping nonprofits and associations improve how they communicate and engage with the news media. While we’ve done a lot – we still have so much work yet to do. Thing I am emphasizing this year:
  • Work life balance – with a toddler at home (and three grown kids out of the house) we always have a lot going on in our home – and keeping that balance even is always challenging – especially when working in media relations supporting organizations working on hot issues that people care about. I’m grateful my husband decided to become a stay-at-home dad this year, relieving me of some household responsibilities and injecting a dose of much-needed calm into our chaotic lives.
  • Growing our ability to help nonprofits and associations – I plan to introduce a line of e-books this year to help nonprofits and associations that will be for sale – drawing on some of the best advice in the business, while keeping the copy short enough to not overwhelm over-taxed nonprofit pr pros.
  • Improving teaming synergy – while I’ve collaborated with other public relations professionals over the years – I’m doing more teaming and collaborative work with other indies on some of my projects. What I’ve found is that this adds value for my clients – giving them a broader range of expertise and experience – so they get the best recommendations and advice. It also gives me vital backup when needed due to a media eruption, and I’m blessed to have amazing people to work with.

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.


After the Rescue: Press Coverage, PR and the Chilean Mine Miracle

The world rejoiced in the miraculous rescue of 33 miners in Chile this week that sparked round-the-clock news coverage of the “miracle in San Jose.” While the media facilitated worldwide viewership and brought a global family together to root and pray for the miners and their safe return to the surface, there are also reports that they engaged in excessive behavior to get the story. And some have said that celebritizing the mine disaster like a reality TV show, has caused other problems in Chile to evaporate from the headlines.

Euronews reported that there were as many 1,700 reporters at Camp Hope the night of the rescue. In “As media circus wanes, Chile miners’ families turn spotlight on reporters’ antics,” Steven Bodzin of the Christian Science Monitor describes how the families felt about the media’s behavior.

“It’s not that we hate the press,” Juan Hermosillo, uncle of miner Carlos Barrios, said earlier in the day. “If the press hadn’t been here who knows, maybe none of this would have happened,” he said, gesturing at the $15 million rescue effort’s drills, cranes, and helicopters.

But the media excesses were obvious. Cameramen so stubbornly kept their shot that they wouldn’t move aside to let family members gather and celebrate the final rescue. When the first miner was rescued and reunited with his family, reporters caused the tents to collapse in their rush for photos of tears.

Families who had never sought fame were suddenly scrutinized like reality TV stars. One miner, whose wife and girlfriend both went to the mine to support him, has been the subject of stories at home and abroad speculating on his future.

The miners reportedly received limited media training by closed-circuit television while still trapped underground. But what about their families who were waiting amid a sea of hundreds of raucous reporters?

All too often, families going through trauma are subjected to bad behavior by reporters hell-bent on getting the story and under pressure to generate sound bytes and copy.

At the same time, some of the blame for reporter excess should be passed on to the Chilean government and its media wranglers, which made a point of accommodating media access at the site.

Some of the fingers being pointed at the media for bad behavior, could also be pointed at public relations staff. One can’t really blame the media for acting as they are trained to do. The reality is – it is public relations staff (backed up by security if needed when dealing with so many reporters and such a large site) who can provide structure and prevent families from being disappointed or hurt.

Of course, it’s possible that a plan by public relations staff for greater structure and order fell apart due to circumstances at the site. I would hope that PR people committed to the public interest, would both assist families in sharing their stories, and provide structure to prevent media coverage from hurting the families and hindering the story as it unfolded.


American Red Cross Handles a Twitter Faux Paus with Humor & Grace

If you use a twitter manager like Hootsuite for your personal and work-related twitter accounts, then you know how easy it can be to accidentally blast a personal tweet onto a personal account. So when it happens – how do you recover? The American Red Cross shows that a little humor and grace can go a long way to mucking up the mayhem.

Last week the American Red Cross accidentally tweeted:

They soon realized their problem, and corrected with:

It then led to actual donations when Dogfish Beer called on its fans to donate, chronicled by the American Red Cross on its blog, where the organization plainly recounted the error. Beth Kanter notes on her blog that this is a great example of a nonprofit handling a twitter error with grace, and I concur.

This could have become an example of a nonprofit wringing its hands in horror or stonewalling its way thru embarrassment, but embracing the error with a little humor made it a lemons to lemonade scenario.


Animals and Environment Causes: Most Talked About on Facebook & Twitter

From August to October of 2011, CraigConnects analyzed the top 5 nonprofits in the following categories (based on total expenses provided by Charity Navigator) and how frequently they post and are talked about on Facebook and Twitter:

  • Animal
  • Children
  • Cultural
  • Disaster Relief
  • Environment
  • Health
  • Veterans & Military
  • Women

By far, the most talked about causes on Facebook and Twitter that they looked at, were animal and environmental organizations. Animal groups had an average of 14 Facebook posts and 134 tweets per week. Environmental groups had on average, 12 Facebook posts and 88 tweets per week. The least talkative causes on Facebook and Twitter were veteran and military organizations. They also found that the most engaged communities on Facebook are children’s organizations, which have an average of 39 fans per person “talking about this.”

In spite of their lack of chattiness, the military and veteran organizations were attracting attention on Facebook and Twitter, ranking #5 (ahead of cultural, women and environment organizations) when a ratio of average weekly Facebook posts was compared with “talking about this” data.

The researchers also called several of the organizations to discuss their current staffing for social media. Organizations that focus on animals, the environment, and women were the most staffed for social media.  They found 14 full-time social media staff and 40 part-time. Of the 21 organizations they called, only 1 did not have a full or part-time social media person on staff.

Get more information about the study and see the infographic.

Because they only looked at the largest organizations, the results may seem disingenuous to smaller nonprofit organizations, who may be doing quite well at engagement in social media, but would not have been considered for this report because of their budget size. In some cases, smaller organizations may have higher rates of social media engagement, simply because they are working with smaller communities that care about a cause.


Association Media & Publishing EXCEL Awards, Entry Deadline Jan. 27

If you work for an association, then you’ll want to know about the EXCEL Awards. These awards honor the best publishing products created by associations. Deadline for the 2012 32nd Annual EXCEL Awards is January 27, 2012.

The program judges typically more than 1,100 association publications, including magazines, newsletters, scholarly journals, electronic publications and websites in the areas of editorial quality, design, general excellence, most improved and many more. 
Hear from association professionals about the EXCEL Awards:

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.

American Red Cross

Avoid a Correction Mistake: 7 Lessons from the American Red Cross Feud with ProPublica & NPR

Requesting a correction to a news story is a delicate business – and it’s easy for even a well-branded and iconic nonprofit organization to make a mistake. The American Red Cross recently sent a 12-page list of corrections to ProPublica and NPR over an investigative  series highlighting serious concerns about its operations and stewardship of funds from the public.

The stories say that the CEO of the American Red Cross mis-led the public about what percentage of the charity’s donations went to assist people in need (not 91% as claimed), that emergency response vehicles were diverted for public relations purposes during Hurricane Sandy (appalling to me and many I’m sure), and that response trucks were told to drive around in disaster areas just to appear to be delivering aid (appalling again). The stories outlined a variety of failures during responses to Hurricane Isaac and Hurricane Sandy, including food waste.

Clearly the series shook the foundations of one of America’s most well-known brands, because who sends a 12-page list of corrections? The ProPublica and NPR journalists published an online rebuttal saying their reporting was “scrupulously fair” and also did a podcast in response. The hubbub drew even more attention to the series from the likes of KPBS and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The situation begs more than few questions, but I’ll only ask two. What could the American Red Cross have hoped to gain from sending ProPublica and NPR a 12-page list of corrections months after the original reporting had happened? And what can we learn from this situation to help us avoid mistakes when requesting a correction?

Lesson #1: Always remember that you never pick an argument with someone who buys ink by the barrel. You are treading on dangerous ground when you ask for a correction. Remember it. Journalists pride themselves on being accurate and you are questioning the validity of their reporting just by asking for a correction  (even if you are right) – so you are automatically starting in a difficult spot.  Tred lightly.

Lesson #2: Don’t be heavy-handed. Be as brief as possible. Fourteen pages of corrections is overkill. Edit yourself down as much as possible.

Lesson #3: Don’t wait to ask for corrections until long after the story has aired or published. Ask right away. And don’t belabor the point. Some of these concerns had been previously highlighted by the American Red Cross in a press release in late October highlighting “myths” in the reporting. Sending a lengthy correction list in 2015 months after the original stories aired comes across as organizational sour grapes.

Lesson #4: Only request corrections for factual errors that make the story fundamentally wrong and do significant harm. The American Red Cross 12-pager lists a number of issues with the series and disputes the facts and reporting. And remember that asking for a correction may breath new life into a story you wish would go away (even if you ultimately get what you want). Tomorrow the news will be something else.

 Lesson #5: Realize everything you say is on the record and may be published. On the bright side, the American Red Cross did get their entire list of requested corrections published on the ProPublica website (I could not find the full list on the American Red Cross website). Some could argue this was an advantage, because now their objections are part of the overall story line and part of the original series website.

Lesson #6: Even if you feel like you are under attack, don’t strike back. Ask nicely even if it pains you. When other news outlets are saying you are feuding with two media outlets, you are not in a good situation. A news release issued by the American Red Cross in December 2014 goes to the level of attack saying, “ProPublica continues with its deeply flawed reporting and, as they have done repeatedly, based their latest reports on unsubstantiated second and third hand hearsay and rumor.” Any correction request should always be politely phrased and not stoop to the level of name calling. Responding when you are mad is always a bad idea.

Lesson #7: Don’t feed the flames. Start a fire break. If the reporting was so bad, I can’t help but wonder why the staff at the American Red Cross didn’t stop churning the water with these reporters at ProPublica and NPR, and go to a competing media outlet like the New York Times or 60 Minutes? They could have offered to open their books, share every file they have, and provide anyone this new outlet wants to talk with. To do so would have subjected themselves (and the series) to a big giant fact check and introduced transparency into the discussion. This might not be a viable strategy in another crisis scenario or with another organization (few situations might rise to the level of doing this), but in this case, it might have been an option worth considering.

Talk to Us: What do you think the American Red Cross could have done differently in this situation? What is your experience with requesting corrections from journalists? What advice do you have to offer?

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.


Baby Boomers & Older Adults Are Adopting Social Media Tools in Greater Numbers, Has Your Nonprofit Noticed?

Have you considered using Facebook,YouTube, LinkedIn or Twitter to reach older adults as volunteers or donors for your nonprofit organization? Nonprofit managers used to dismiss using these technologies to reach out to baby boomers and adults over age 65 in favor of direct mail or other techniques. Many even pooh-poohed the idea of using social media to reach older audiences, and insisted that only younger donors and volunteers could be found using social media technologies.

There is strong evidence that baby boomers donate online, with 52% giving online. Nonprofit workers need to heed a new report and seriously consider how social media technologies can be utilized to reach both the baby boomers and adults over age 65. A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project points to increasing adoption of social media by older adults, even outpacing younger people in their growing adoption of these technology tools.

The report found that between April 2009 and May 2010, social networking use among internet users ages 50-64 grew by 88%–from 25% to 47%.

During the same period, use among those ages 65 and older doubled- going from 13% to 26%. By comparison, social networking use among users ages 18-29 grew by only 13% – from 76% to 86%.

So if you want to use social media tools to reach older adults – where do you turn for help and advice? There are many resources available to help nonprofits use social media effectively. You’ll also want to check out a great blog post by Beth Kanter about reaching baby boomers with social media tools and a  post on Frogloop by Allyson Kapin about reaching baby boomers as part of online fundraising campaigns.


Balancing Work and Family: The Challenges of Mixing A PR Career with a Toddler

Working as a PR consultant to nonprofits and associations with a toddler around is definitely exciting. This is an age of exploration for a child and of course, Mommy’s work is very interesting to a little one. The nature of working in the public relations field is that you can end up taking calls from the press in the evenings or on the weekends, while surrounded by your family.

I work from home a few days a week, keep my business office in my home, and have a toddler. Like a lot of other working professionals, I juggle the demands of a home and family alongside my work. Maintaining a professional PR consulting practice from home with a toddler around is challenging but not impossible. So here are a few of the challenges parents might encounter when working in PR with a toddler around:

  • Back twist– Mommy throws out her back climbing over the baby gate that blocks off her desk in her home office so the toddler can’t ransack it. Note to Mommy: get to the gym more often so you are more limber, or at least do a few stretches before climbing over the baby gate.
  • Discombobulation – the toddler helpfully unpacks Mommy’s work bag or brief case in the hallway foyer and hides various items around the house. Mommy finds her laptop under the dining room table, her phone in between the couch cushions and the newspaper she was reading on the bus on the toy shelf. Note to Mommy: always put your bag on the high shelf or in the office in the future.
  • Smartphone exploration – the toddler gets a hold of Mommy’s cell phone that, of course, Mommy loaded her primary media contacts into (after all Mommy was trying to be efficient). The toddler accidentally dials a reporter at USA Today. Thankfully, the reporter is not there, only gets subjected to a voicemail of Mommy discovering the toddler holding the phone proudly and also has young children and understands. Note to Mommy: Never leave the phone where the toddler can get to it and use the lock.
  • Smartphone destruction – having concluded that the SmartPhone is after all, a big distraction for Mommy’s time and energy, the toddler disposes of it in the kitchen trash. Note to Mommy: never leave the phone where the toddler can get to it. Really. And the trash can should be the first place you check when your phone goes missing.
  • Snotnose suit – the toddler does catch cold from time to time and has a runny nose. Unfortunately, Mommy’s suit and clothes bear the brunt of it. Note to Mommy: buy those little Kleenex packets and keep them in your purse – they are a godsend for parents with toddlers. Carry your jacket outside to the car and don’t wear it in the house. Don’t get dressed in your nice clothes until you absolutely have to leave. And keep your makeup, lint brush and hair brush in your purse (but keep the purse out of reach of the toddler) so you can freshen up after leaving the house.
  • News clip annihilation – while technology has changed much of our business and reduced the need to keep paper around, Mommy still keep news clips and newspapers for print stories that clients want to see. These big newspaper sheets are so much fun for a toddler to play with and are great for playing peek a boo. Note to Mommy: always keep the client news clips in your desk area, safely behind the baby gate. And give your toddler the pages you don’t need for some fun.
  • TV scribbles – keeping up with the news is an important part of media relations work and of course, TV screens are fascinating to toddlers. They also make great canvases for toddlers who like to color and use crayons – after all, they’ve just discovered that crayons can be used to draw on things, and aren’t just for eating. Note to Mommy: You got lucky this time. Crayons are waxy and come off TV screens easily. Keep the crayons on a shelf and ration them out in the future.
  • Sleep deprivation – toddler sleep patterns are unpredictable by nature and toddlers typically want their mommies (and daddies) at night when they get scared, need a hug, a glass of water, or anything else. It’s inevitable that if Mommy is burning the midnight oil on a project and tiptoeing off to bed, that the toddler wakes up and wants a snuggle. Note to Mommy: That sleep training for toddlers that your mom told you about – might not be a bad idea, but don’t forget that in a few years those snuggles won’t be nearly as forthcoming. Sleep whenever you can – on the commuter bus, in a train, or during a business trip (forget going out with the gang from the office if you can grab some ZZZs).
  • Bad mood-itis – sleep deprivation is unfortunately mood-altering. It can make Mommy grumpy. Note to Mommy: don’t take sleep deprivation out on coworkers. Or clients. Or reporters. Try coffee, working out, positive thinking, or chocolate to upgrade your attitude.
  • Coffee dump – coffee becomes even more essential when you are not getting enough rest and trying to get a lot done. This works great until the toddler finds Mommy’s coffee cup and helpfully empties in onto the floor, in Mommy’s work bag, onto Mommy’s note pad, or onto Mommy’s laptop. Note to Mommy: Never ever abandon the coffee.
  • Reporter interruptus- occasionally toddlers are loud. After all, there is a lot to explore in their world and they are excited about it. Their rambunctious behavior doesn’t always mesh well with an after hours call from a reporter who needs to confirm a last minute fact. When the reporter calls while Mommy and the toddler are in the car and Mommy’s phone routes through bluetooth onto the car stereo system (mommy was trying to be efficient when she set that up), the reporter also gets subjected to any noise made in the car – and can hear the toddler – who is of course, not asleep and watching Mickey Mouse cartoons in the back seat. Note to Mommy: When talking to a reporter after hours and a toddler is nearby, make sure reporter knows a. it is ok to call to check a fact, even after hours and b. Mommy has a toddler nearby who may erupt at any moment and is unpredictable. Having a understanding partner or spouse who can help corral/distract/carry off the rambunctious little toddler if a longer conversation is necessary can be a huge help.

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.


Before Criticizing a News Story Online: Get the Full Scoop

Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker’s story earlier this month about three slain National Guard troops caught some heat from online comment posters, who noted that a spouse was listed for the two males who died, but not the female soldier who died. Some alleged homophobism, as the fallen female soldier left behind a wife.

When contacted on Twitter by an angry reader, Biesecker responded: ‘Story was written 2 days before family statement confirming SSgt. [sic] Johnson had a wife. Check date before assuming,’ 

The AP updated the story after the family statement confirmed the information. Great lesson for those who want to get blustery online – do some research. The media can only report the news they have available to them. Read the story about the controversy in the Daily Mail.

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.


Beware Calls Promising Hugh Downs Will Promote Your Nonprofit

Some of my nonprofit clients were pitched for documentaries hosted by Hugh Downs and produced by Vision Media of Boca Raton, Fla., in exchange for a $20,000+ fee. The pitch smacks of advertorial, and while the production company is happy to promise viewing on “public television,” the reality is that few stations, if any, run the spots.

Last spring National Public Radio investigated the agency, which can’t prove to its clients that the spots they paid for ever aired. Unfortunately, the National Funeral Directors Association was among the organizations duped into paying thousands for video work that they can show on YouTube or in their own marketing materials (which they could likely have produced for less with other vendors) – but that never saw air time on public television.

The New York Times also investigated the agency in 2008, with similar results. PBS even has a standard question in its FAQ addressing the controversy and declaring – in no uncertain terms – that it does not have a relationship with this company and a number of others listed.

Another company contacts nonprofits promising to put them on CNN in airports. It offers a high-stakes “make a decision quickly” scenario to the nonprofit agency, requesting thousands of dollars up front for “pay for play.” These pay for play opportunities don’t carry the prestige or credibility of legitimate news reports.

The take-away from all of this – If you get a call promising massive air time for a few thousand dollars, and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t leap and take the bait right away if you are presented with an opportunity like this. Ask questions. Google the company name online. Read the contract. Find out what you are really getting for the money if you choose to use their service. Advertising has its place, but it should be used strategically.

If you really want a celebrity to promote your nonprofit agency – consider who might be best to promote your cause. Approach their agent and reach out. You may be surprised by a positive response and support.

Consider what you truly need for video promotion. Many nonprofits have a promotional video about their work. Costs for video production have dropped, as more nonprofits use small cameras and create their own grassroots YouTube videos. And many video production companies will now work with you to use footage you’ve taken yourself to create a hybridized professional video that you can be proud of.

After you know what you want and have a budget established – then find the company that can do the work for you within your budget and meet your requirements.


Big Oops: What Not to Send a Reporter and Why Nonprofit Transparency Matters

Imagine you are the well-compensated (I can hear my nonprofit readers chuckling now) executive director of a taxpayer-funded nonprofit agency that oversees a 15 acre public park. A newspaper reporter emails you and requests to know your salary. Instead of responding before the reporter’s deadline, you email a public relations adviser and ask for advice on how to duck the question. But instead of sending the email to your adviser, you accidentally send it to the reporter.

Big Oops.

You can imagine the hubbub that ensued when Nancy Brennan, executive director of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy did those very things recently. When questioned by a reporter about her salary (a very reasonable request given that about half of the nonprofit organization’s $4.7 million annual budget comes from state transportation funds – aka taxpayer dollars), she wrote an e-mail to her PR advisor, saying:

“What do you think about: 1. My writing her with the FY12 salary of 185,000 as of July 1,” Brennan wrote, noting that the documents now publicly available date only to 2010. Those documents show her base salary at $162,000. Brennan suggested: “a. Ignore; b. Write her now; c. Respond after deadline later tonight.”

Thanks to the hubbub – she did eventually have to reveal her annual salary and what her staff earns – with five staff members in all earning six-figure salaries. Her actions also sparked an editorial by the Boston Globe saying the executive director’s actions to hide her salary from a reporter “threw a shadow on the agency” and led to calls from state officials for greater transparency (read the state transportation secretary’s letter).

She also landed a story in Nonprofit Quarterly, as well as numerous stories from the Boston Herald and other news agencies, not to mention tapdancing from her board. One of those stories goes way beyond salaries and raises serious questions about how the conservancy is managing the public park it is in charge of and how it operates. The Boston Herald reported:

The conservancy, which originally was formed to maintain the Greenway without public funding, has received more than $15 million in state funds since 2005, including more than $2.5 million for last year’s $4.7 million budget.

The Greenway’s maintenance costs ran to more than $300,000 per acre last year. By contrast, it costs about $50,300 per acre to maintain New York City’s Central Park, which also is run by a conservancy.

The conservancy spent more on fund-raising — $584,000 — than the $554,000 the group took in through cash donations and fund-raisers in fiscal 2010.

Wow. It’s not hard to guess where this train is headed. What could have been a story about inflated salaries is now a broader discussion about how the organization is managed. Serious questions have been raised about its operations and how it is spending money, especially if the organization is spending more money on fundraisinge events than it is raising.

What can nonprofit organizations learn from all of this?

If you work in the interest of the public, you should be able to answer the public’s questions. Transparency matters, especially in the nonprofit sector, and even more so when it involves state funds. If you are accepting public funds, you should expect to be held to a greater level of accountability. Public funds, by default, carry public trust. Any engagement in subterfuge with how those funds are expended is a violation of the public’s trust.

If you feel you need to hide something from a reporter, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Yes, nonprofits have lots of reasonable reasons to safeguard information, esp. if they work with at-risk or vulnerable populations. But if you are acting to hide information about how your nonprofit operates and the request is reasonable, you are doing something wrong. It is very reasonable to expect that a reporter might ask how much money staff are paid, when a charity is accepting public funds. Be ready to answer the question, not dodge it.

You should be able to explain clearly why you are doing, what you are doing, and how it helps people. Nonprofit organizations ask the public to trust them to do good works that improve humanity and make life better. But good intentions are not enough to justify poor management, bloated salaries, cost over-runs, bad decision-making and subterfuge. If you can’t be reasonably transparent about your dealings and what your nonprofit organization is doing – you shouldn’t be engaged in nonprofit work.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent PR practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites (contact to discuss your project, review our portfolio, sign up for our e-newsletter). She blogs about media relations, social media, public relations, and work-family balance. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven

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