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Five Tips on Crafting a Pitch for Bloggers

If you want to reach out to bloggers with a story idea or information from your nonprofit, association or small business, what are the best ways to reach out?

As a blogger, I get pitched regularly by people offering me content for my blog. Most pitches are awful – off-topic,  poorly written and unfamiliar with my audience.  I write about public relations, social media, writing, and work-life balance. With a few key tips these prospective bloggers could avoid rejection and score a guest post.

Tip #1:  Know what content you are trying to place. Generic info about your organization does not work for this group. Who you reach out to and how, will depend on what you have to offer. Are you distributing information about an upcoming contest or program, offering an article with advice, suggesting a story that you might write, or an infographic with key points?

Tip #2: Do your research. Make a list of the types of topics bloggers are writing about that relate to you. Is it bloggers who cover activities in your community? People who write on a particular topic or with a passion for an issue? Blogs affiliated with a friendly organization or publication? Research the blogs out there. Read them.

If you subscribe to a media database like Cision, you can look up a list of bloggers by topic. If you use a database, do a good job at reviewing and weeding down the list. Researching a list of bloggers can be time-consuming.

One way to be efficient, is to make a list of top 10, 25, or 50 blogs to reach out to. Drawing some parameters can help make the project more doable if your workload is busy.

Tip #3: Draft your pitch. Bloggers are busy, so keep it short and include copy when you can with your pitch.

No matter what you are sending – you need an introductory paragraph that introduces the topic, why it is relevant to their readers, and (briefly) why you are the right person/group to offer this information. Say whether you are willing to write a blog post or whether you would like to provide information to them to use as background material (make clear what you have).

Sweeten the deal by offering with your pitch to link to the post or share it on social media (if you have a lot of followers, mention your stats).

Story proposal for a post you would write (one-paragraph pitch): If you are proposing a story that you might write (but have not written yet), outline your key points in a paragraph, explain why their readers will enjoy this information, why you should write it, and why. Mention any timing (e.g. a special day or month coming up, how your work might fit within a schedule that they appear to be publishing on).

Story proposal for a post that they would write (one-paragraph pitch): If you are proposing a story that you are hoping they will write, outline some ideas (be creative) and outline any assets you can provide (statistics, interviewees, reports, images, graphics). Explain why the topic is relevant to their readers.

Reprintable article: If you are offering a pre-written reprintable article with tips or advice, include the copy in the body of your email (not as an attachment).  Write a pitch paragraph at the top of the email to introduce yourself and the topic. Do not let your article go over 500 or 600 words. Offer photos or graphics if you have them and offer downloadable links with them. Some top blogs may not take reprintable articles but many bloggers appreciate this information.

Infographic pitch: Write a one-paragraph pitch about the infographic topic. Include a downloadable link for the graphic.

Tip #4: Craft a great subject line. this is probably the most important part of your pitch package. Write a good subject line that gets to the point. Be clear about what you are offering.

Tip #5: Proofread your pitch before hitting send. Look over your pitch and collateral materials. Check any links with graphics or images to make sure they are working.

 

Talk to Us: Have you pitched bloggers? What has worked for you? Post a comment to let us know your thoughts!

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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Pitching the Editorial Board: Five Things to Know

The Washington Post recently caused a stir by inviting people to pitch the editorial board. Most editorial boards enjoy hearing from readers and appreciate input – especially if it is thoughtful and well-assembled. But most of them don’t do what the Post did and put up an online form to help you make your pitch. Before you pitch the Post, or any other newspaper editorial board, what should you do? Here’s five things to know.

First, you need to understand what editorial boards do. Many people don’t realize that editorial boards write opinions on community issues. They might commend a community effort, support a call for change, express empathy for a tragedy, endorse a candidate or action, weigh in on a known (or unknown) issue, or hold up for verbal public flogging people who’ve done wrong to the public.

The best way to understand an editorial board and its perspective before you pitch it, is to read what the editorial board publishes – this is often found in your newspaper, perhaps toward the back of the first section, often under an Opinions masthead. For most editorial boards – it’s about public interest. They make a statement or comment that they feel is in the best interest of the community.

Second, research what the editorial board has said in the past on your issue or related issues. This is really important. Thankfully with the Internet, researching editorial boards has become a lot easier. If your newspaper is not accessible online (and you don’t keep copies from your subscription – it is important to read the publications you want to pitch either online or in print), try your public library – they will often have access through specialty databases.

Search for a variety of keywords. Look for issues similar to yours, as well as your issue. Know when the board has weighed in and what it said. Make a list if you need to. This is also a great time to make a list of the board members (many newspapers will list the members in print or online) and familiarize yourself with their names.

Third, you need to pick the issue  you want to talk with them about. Many nonprofits and activists are working on multiple fronts. Yes, you might be able to sit down and talk with an editorial board about your organization and issues, but try to single out one thing that the editorial board could comment on that would make a big difference.

This is where your research from the newspaper itself comes into play. If the board has already stated a position on your issue. Good news: they care about your issue. Bad news:you can’t ask them to say the exact same thing again. You need to ask them to do something new that will make a difference – perhaps endorse legislation, applaud an outstanding volunteer or leader, commend a new community program, or hold accountable a person or an institution.

Fourth, get your facts straight. You will need to use only good, reliable data in your pitch to the editorial board. Double check facts and figures. You must know where your data comes from. If the editorial board asks where a statistic is from, you should be able to quickly tell them.

Fifth, write your pitch.  Write an email or letter to the editorial board asking them to write an editorial on your issue. Be coherent, brief and on point. This is tough. Your letter should not be more than one page. Lay out your issue plainly. Be clear on how it impacts the community and how far-reaching it is. Point out how an endorsement or comment by the board can be in the public interest (not just in the interest of your organization).

Use your statistics and numbers. Reference if the board has discussed the matter before in print, but explain how what you are requesting is different (if they have written on something related to your issue before – be flattering and point out that you know they have a historic interest in XYZ, but now ABC is happening). Offer to meet in person to review the facts and discuss the issue. Include your contact information. If the issue is time-sensitive because of an upcoming vote, decision, or deadline, contact them well in advance (at least a couple of weeks).

Avoid  buzzwords in your pitch. Everyone in the nonprofit world claims they are innovative, leading, collaborative and partnering but organizations or causes sometimes struggle to illustrate how they are these things. Embody these elements in your organization and tone, instead of loading your pitch with fluff and jargon.

Talk to Us: Have you pitched an editorial board successfully? Or unsuccessfully? What do you think helped or hurt your pitch? What advice would you share with others trying to approach an editorial board?

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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Social Media Tools for Twitter: MyTopTweet

Ever wonder what is your most engaging tweet? Or what tweets from a competitor or client are their best? There are lots of tools out there (and many are integrated into social media management platforms like Hootsuite), but if you just need to know which tweet comes out on top, MyTopTweet delivers.

It’s a simple matter to log in to MyTopTweet with your own Twitter account, see what your own top tweets are, and to check what they are for other accounts.

The service looks at the past 3200 tweets sent by the account to show you their top 10 tweets. For your own account, you can also easily share your results by clicking a button.

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Facebook for Nonprofits: Resources to Help You Grow

Facebook recently launched Facebook for Nonprofits – a group of resources to help the many nonprofit organizations using Facebook. Organizers say the resources will help you:

  • Build and grow your Facebook presence
  • Raise awareness about your cause
  • Activate your supporters & volunteers
  • Raise funds

We, of course, immediately took a look at what Facebook is offering. We found some great resources for organizations just starting to use Facebook, with tools for those getting started with a page for their nonprofit organization. The section is very user-friendly and walks you through the basics.

A section on raising awareness offers advice on getting people to like a page. Much of the advice is common sense. The activate supporters section drives home the importance of photos in getting people to attend events.

Fundraisers will find the section on getting more donations particularly interesting, as Facebook discusses how to convert Facebook followers into donors, and applies best practices. In particular, the section includes directions on how to activate the Donate Now button. The fundraising tools are pretty much limited to the Donate Now button for now, but you can sign up to be notified of new products by Facebook as they are rolled out.

The success stories area includes examples from both large and small nonprofit organizations. The success story that caught our eyes right away was: “You don’t have to have a huge budget to present meaningful content to the ever growing population of Facebook members.” The success story examined the “MY HERO” campaign, an educational program that uses media, art and technology to celebrate the best of humanity, one story at a time. The campaign used advertising, targeting and tagging to share visuals and gain attention.

If you are already a Facebook power user for your agency, you might not find much new here, although you will want to check out the success stories for some great examples. For those just starting out on Facebook and trying to grow their nonprofit’s reach and capacity- there’s a lot to digest.

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Content Marketing for Nonprofits: How to Be Effective

A majority of nonprofit organizations are using content marketing especially On the map marketing on crunch base to share their work, recruit supporters, strengthen relationships, and inspire action. The Content Marketing Institute and Blackbaud’s 2015 study found 61% of nonprofits are using content marketing.

What is content marketing? Content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive action.”  While content marketing can be done using various methods such as using the digital platform or word of mouth, the most effective way which was found to show promising results was the usage of “Banner.” Many of the multinational companies still prefer either getting overnight banners from 1DayBanner.com or by printing them at their workplace, as despite the advancement of advertising, this method has shown to be the most effective.

Only 5% of those surveyed said their content marketing efforts were very effective, and 30% said it was effective. A whopping 45% were neutral on whether content marketing was effective.

Even so, 69% of those surveyed said they are creating more content this year. And increasingly, they are marketing their content on a variety of platforms:

  • 93% on social media platforms (not blogs)
  • 89% in person events
  • 88% enewsletters
  • 86% articles on their own website
  • 86% illustrations/photos
  • 82% videos
  • 58% blogs
  • 53% infographics
  • 53% print newsletters
  • 44% print magazines
  • 41% case studies
  • 41% microsites
  • 40% research reports

Interestingly, in-person events were rated as the most effective (74%) content marketing strategy, followed by photos/illustrations (65%), enewsletters (64%), social media content (63%), print magazines (60%), print newsletters (57%), videos (54%) and microsites (53%). When it comes to social media platforms, sixty-three percent felt Facebook is effective. Fifty-four percent think Twitter is effective. Forty-seven percent say YouTube is effective.

And they are publishing frequently. Twenty percent are publishing new content on a daily basis and 28% are doing so several days a week. Sixty percent of the most effective nonprofit marketers and 58% of those who have a documented content marketing strategy publish new content daily or multiple times per week.

ScreenHunter_1657 Feb. 13 00.02

How can your nonprofit organization stand out from the many others engaging in content marketing and be more effective in your content marketing efforts?

Tip #1: Make a plan and write it down. Draft what your content marketing strategy will look like. The Content Marketing Institute reports that organizations that have a written strategy are more likely to report being effective. Only 23% of those responding to the Blackbaud study had a written strategy.

Tip #2: Follow your strategy. Sticking with your strategy will improve your effectiveness. The Content Marketing Institute and Blackbaud research found that those following their strategy closely were more likely to rate their efforts as effective.

Tip #3: Use metrics to evaluate your effectiveness. Examine metrics like website traffic, page views, engagement through social media, fundraising, number of people assisted, visiting time on a website, and event attendance.

Tip #4: Continue to invest in photography, illustrations and video. The use of images and video reverberates throughout content marketing. A photo shared on Facebook can be used in an e-newsletter, on a website or in a video.

Tip #5: Focus on improvements. Consider where you can improve your approach to content marketing. Do you want to be a better storyteller through your content? Do you want to showcase more visuals or videos? Do you wan to understand metrics better or look at return on investment? Do you want to get a better grasp on an audience?  Or do you need a strategy for mobile or content optimization?

Talk to us: How are you using content marketing effectively? What strategies work for you? Do you have a written strategy for your content marketing program? Where do you want to improve?

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

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How to Avoid Tone Deaf PR: Learning From Colonial Williamsburg’s Mistaken Response to Super Bowl Ad Controversy

When the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation aired its first ever super Bowl ad ever in 2016, I’m sure the organization’s leadership hoped their effort would be met with widespread acclaim and praise. Instead, they faced a heap of criticism for showing a clip with the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, collapsing in reverse.

The foundation was in damage control within hours of the ad’s appearance, even issuing a defensive statement in the middle of the night after the game:

In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, Colonial Williamsburg released an extended online version of its advertisement through its various social media channels. The ad garnered thousands of likes and shares alongside hundreds of positive comments within the hour. Youtube reviews alone ran 10-1 in favor of the ad. Its popularity, and the discussion of the events depicted in the ad, led to the conversation “trending” on Facebook.

We understand and respect that some of the images depicted in the ad are jarring. However, the small data point of people who objected to some of the imagery in the ad does not represent the total viewership. Not even close. We have received an outpouring of support on social media for the ad and its simple, powerful message: All that is past is prologue. Our ad is meant to walk viewers backwards through time, challenging them to reflect on how our collective history and struggles shape who we are as Americans today. We cannot forget our sacrifices or our tragedies even as we celebrate our accomplishments. Colonial Williamsburg does not shy away from these difficult moments in our history because they have made us who we are just as surely as our many triumphs.

An ad doesn’t do its job if you have to explain it or defend it. The foundation called those who complained about the ad “the small data point of people.” That quote showed up in many media outlets, including the Washington Post. Clearly, the people running the foundation’s public relations operation were tone-deaf at best. Sometimes in PR, we have to give up on what we hoped would happen, and recognize the reality.

The foundation’s defensiveness of its own interpretation of history was evident in responses on Twitter to Saturday Night Live cast member  Taran Killam, documented on The Gothamist. Many newspapers in New York reported outrage, and the Roanoke Times editorial board even deemed the ad a “fumble.”

An edited version of the foundation’s statement now appears online. Organizers seem determined to paint an “overwhelmingly” positive picture of how the ad was received saying “the outpouring of support on social media sends a powerful message.”  This version notes that “YouTube reviews alone are running 10-1 in favor of the ad.”

But the truth was stranger than the fiction the foundation spun about the ad. Twitter erupted in negative comments, captured by USA Today and others. Of the 36 comments I reviewed on the foundation’s Facebook page post right after the Super Bowl, about 12, or a third, were negative.  A poll taken by NJ.com found that 55% of those responding said the ad was offensive.

When I saw the ad during the Super Bowl, I thought of the families of those who died. My personal feeling is that 9/11 was a historic event of massive importance to our country, but the image of the tower falling was also the moment when thousands of people died. As such, the image deserves to be treated with sensitivity out of respect for those who died and for their families. There are ways to represent tragedy without showing the moment of death. Surely, if the foundation’ wanted to include 9/11 in the ad, they could have done it with a different image.

Instead of getting a public discussion about history and its role in making America what it is today, the foundation got an albatross. So if you ever stumble into controversy, how do you avoid the tone deaf response the foundation offered? Here’s a few tips:

Tip #1: Think before you speak. Good crisis PR practice is to respond quickly, but if your rapid response is not right, you can make the situation worse. Take the time needed, an hour, 2 hours, 12 hours – to get your response right – in words and in delivery tone. Both must be right.

Tip #2: Talk to real people. The “small data point” quote was surely one of the worst mistakes made by the foundation in its response. The language minimized and belittled the genuinely hurt feelings of those who were offended. A better response would have been to acknowledge the valid concerns of those who protested about the ad. Offer to talk with people and hear their concerns.

Tip #3: Don’t “spin” things as if they are more positive than they really are. The foundation used a talking point saying that the response to the ad on social media was “overwhelmingly” positive. This was untrue, just based on looking at the foundation’s own social media channels. The fact that the foundation kept saying how “positive” the response was, just make it look like the foundation was disingenuously trying to spin the story to its preferred version. Acknowledge the reality of the situation.

Tip #4: Apologize when you hurt people, instead of going on the defensive. If your actions as an organization have seriously hurt people’s feelings, the sky is probably not going to fall if you say sorry. A sincere apology can go a long way to making things better. Saying sorry early on, can go a long way to diffusing a negative story and prevent it from becoming a festering problem.

Talk to Us: What do you think about the Colonial Williamsburg ad? If your organization or business does something that offends others, how can you avoid a tone deaf response?

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

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Three Lessons Nonprofits Can Learn from the Always #LikeAGirl Campaign

I was an early fan of the Always #LikeAGirl campaign – finding it bold, empowering and with a worthwhile message. So much of what passes for advertising these days is dribble that sounds and looks like it oozed out of snarky teen consciousness, but this campaign targeting young people ages 16-24 stood out from the start. Here’s a few lessons nonprofits can learn from the campaign.

Tip #1. Do your research before you start. The foundation of a good campaign is always research. Always did research on their target audience, which was defined as girls ages 16-24. What they found was that the confidence of girls plummets during puberty because of the messages they receive from society – epitomized by the view that “like a girl” is an insult used to humiliate people for being weak, emotional or not able to succeed.

Your nonprofit or association may not have the resources to do a Harris Poll survey or hire a researcher, but look for other ways to research your target audience. Government studies, published research and many sources online can provide you with basic research about your audience. You can do your own survey with a tool like SurveyMonkey or ask a university professor or graduate student to assist your research efforts for a campaign.

After you have done your research, plan your campaign with one hashtag that is easy to understand. Create the pieces you will need – such as a video, Facebook ads (they need graphics) and Twitter ads. Write your news release announcing the campaign. draft social media posts, a blog post you can use and give to others, and pitch emails that can go to influencers, bloggers, etc. You need all of your pieces in order before you start. So often I see organizations make the mistake of not doing planning before they start – then they are stuck with a lousy hashtag, a disjointed message, or they feel like they have somehow missed a window of opportunity for their message.

Your strategies need to be well-rounded. I’m sure many nonprofits would say that they don’t have the funding of a major U.S. brand that can afford to buy a Super Bowl commercial. But look at the strategies used: one well-produced video at the start on YouTube, with a 60-second version shown during the Super Bowl (not a cheap purchase), combined with paid Twitter and Facebook ads, paid reach and influencer outreach. These combined, netted tons of earned media, far more than the brand had ever seen, and more than 90 million YouTube views (making the original video the #2 viral video in the world).

This campaign started with the idea of using the ad to illustrate visually the problem – that girls in puberty hear messages that put them down. And then strove to take back that message so that #LikeAGirl would no longer be an insult but instead an expression of strength. It made us all think about our language.

Many nonprofits have the ability to create videos for YouTube, and some can do them at a broadcast quality level. While very few in the sector have the money for a Super Bowl ad, there are other ways to share a video – YouTube gives everyone a channel. Twitter and Facebook advertising does not have to be excessively expensive to be effective. Geo-fencing on Facebook means you can target your ads in a particular geographic region and Facebook gives you many choices for drilling down even further into your chosen demographic, asking if you want to focus on men or women, homeowners, or people with particular interests. Just $5/day on Facebook can do a lot for driving page likes, traffic to your website and visibility.

Outreach to influencers can be done one-on-one, by going out to the people best positioned to share your message. While many nonprofits immediately think of celebrities as key influencers (which they are), there is tremendous competition for celebrity endorsements and support within the sector. Try to think of influencers in your community. Look up who has the most followed accounts on Twitter in your community or in the topic area you work on. Reach out to these people. Look for influential bloggers who can help your cause.

Think about building a movement, not just a moment. The Always ads could have stopped just with illustrating the problem – showing the contrast between prepubescent girls and those who were older and how they view themselves. But instead, they turned the insult of “like a girl” on its head, choosing instead to re-claim the language with an empowering message.

For nonprofits seeking to build momentum, followers, donors, volunteers, and the drive to fight injustice, fix a problem or build the drive to effect change – this is the hard lesson. While many leaders in nonprofits have emotional connections to the causes they champion, how do you translate your personal emotion into something that others can relate to, embrace and support?

You have to look beyond yourself and look to the bigger picture – where does the research take you? And how could you “take back” the language, solve the problem, fight the injustice – what is one simple thing people can do? You have to find your one thing. Maybe that is just giving people hope. Maybe it is asking them to take action about one thing, that will lead to more. But it can’t be watered down or just a lot of research. You have to give people a call to action and invite them to join what you are building.

Resources:

Case study on Like a Girl – from Marketing Magazine UK
Case study on Like a Girl – from D&AD
Like A Girl – Always

Talk to Us: What do you think about the Always #LikeAGirl campaign? How has your nonprofit used a campaign to raise awareness about a cause or issue? What steps did you take? What worked? What did not work? What would you do differently?

If you would like to share a nonprofit campaign with us that we will consider to feature on our blog, please email ami at SteppingstoneLLC.com.

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

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Apply for Free Facebook Ads for Your Nonprofit by Nov. 15

With support from Facebook, ActionSprout is helping nonprofits try out and use Facebook ads for free this holiday giving season.

Registered US 501(c)3 organizations can apply by November 15, 2015 to get access to up to $1,500 in ad credits to use from December through February. With the support of Facebook, ActionSprout is giving away up to $2 million dollars in advertising to 2,000 nonprofits.

APPLY BEFORE NOVEMBER 15, 2015: You must be invited to apply for the grant. Here is your personal invitation to apply!

Note: You need to have an ad account already attached to your nonprofit’s Facebook page to apply. This can be set up without charge through your Facebook admin interface (I did it for one of the pages I manage), but do the setup before you apply. Unlike Google, Facebook has historically not provided advertising grants to nonprofit organizations, so this is a huge opportunity for nonprofits.

If you have never tried Facebook advertising before for your nonprofit agency or want to try some new things during the holiday giving period – this is a great way to try it out and see if it will work for you!

Talk to Us: Are you planning to apply? How is your nonprofit using Facebook ads to reach your goals?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources

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

Donor Retention Matters (The Urban Institute)

Talk to Us: How are you retaining donors?

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #3: Promote your event online in more places than just your website. Having a website for your event is a given. But make sure you talk about your event on your own social media channels. And as we all know it that it’s a fairy tale that people don’t buy youtube views, so why not make a youtube video about your event explaining everything and promote it using a company you can help the video get tons of views and popularity. It can be very easy for organizations with a long-established running event to just “do” what they have always done because they know it’s worked in the past. But think outside the box. Share information via LinkedIn. Consider using free event management and marketing tools like EventBrite. Cross-promote from Facebook to Twitter and vice versa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Six Completely Avoidable Media Relations Mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#NGOFacts Campaign Shares Stories, Factoids from Nonprofits

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

Many of the tweets are interesting and get attention:

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

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

Thanks to ongood.ngo for our cover image.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Pixabay for our image.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Presentation: Media Coverage and Trauma Survivors

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

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

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

Here is their session description:

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

Here are their slides on SlideShare!

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

Here are the other editorial calendar helps with links:

WordPress Editorial Calendar Plug-In (free)

Editorial calendar sample (Google doc, free)

Bob Angus – downloadable calendar

Brandeo marketing calendar download (goals focused)

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8 Tips to Help You Create a Great Infographic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Super Tips for Creating Powerful Infographics

Five Ways to Get Your Infographic to Go Viral

The 83 Best Infographics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Social Media Advice for Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Associations

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

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

She offers some advice for Facebook:

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

And she also mentions the power of blogging:

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

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

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

Read more in the interview

Thanks to Pixabay for this photo.

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Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly? It Needs to Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a few tips to help:

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

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

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

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

Resources

Google Guide to Making Mobile-Friendly Sites

How to Make Your Website More Mobile Friendly (Entrepreneur)

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

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

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

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Nonprofits Can Now Register .NGO and .ONG Domain Names

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

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

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

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

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

1. Register your domain(s)

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

2. Create new account on the OnGood website

Create your Account by providing the following information:

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

3. Set up your profile page in the OnGood directory

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

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

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

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

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Blogging Checklist: Take Your Blog Posts From OK to Spectacular

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

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

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

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

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

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.” Find more useful tips at https://www.localviking.com/.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fundraising and Crowdraising: Use Stories to Touch Hearts

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

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

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

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

Nonprofit Storytelling for Crowdfunding and Online Fundraising  – Causevox

Why Vivid Storytelling Inspires GivingStanford Social Innovation Review

Storytelling: The Key to Successful FundraisingCausera

Why Social Movements Need Stories TechSoup

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

Photo courtesy of Jill Clardy and licensed by Creative Commons

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

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

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