Wednesday, August 12, 2015

10 Best Blogging Practices for NGOs

 I recently participated in an excellent webinar on nonprofit blogging best practices, organized by Nonprofit Tech for Good and OnGood, and led by Heather Mansfield, expert blogger and author. The webinar and follow-up notes were so rich in resources that I decided to share them here, along with a few of my own footnotes and suggestions. It may come as no surprise to those in the nonprofit communications field that: responsive design and mobile optimization are key in terms of current trends on the design front, and content-wise, short and simple is best, with attention to formatting and visuals when publishing longer copy over 5 paragraphs. I encourage you to take a look at the links included here as well, many of them from prominent nonprofits and illustrating best practices in blogging. Defenders of Wildlife,,, Oxfam America, and Conservation International, are just a few of the nonprofits included in the examples.

Nonprofit Tech for Good organizes many webinars throughout the year, and I strongly encourage you to sign up based on my experience. I have only 2 comments that would add to the experience, based on other webinars I have taken: 1. time for questions -- I posted several questions to the webinar dashboard, but unfortunately they were ignored...not what you want when you are trying to grow your audience and community. 2. time for interactivity and polling -- the webinar was basically a straight lecture, so I had no direct connection with the speaker, or sense of the community involved in the webinar. These are important benefits to the user experience that Nonprofit Tech for Good should incorporate in their future webinars.

What about you? Are you blogging for your nonprofit or charged with organizing the blog? What challenges are you facing? Feel free to share in the Comments.

10 Best Blogging Tips for Nonprofits

1. Integrate blogging into your content strategy.
  • To be effective in your online communications and fundraising campaigns, particularly on social media and in email communications, you must have a consistent source of fresh content:
Blog Content: Defenders of Wildlife
News Content: International Fund for Animal Welfare

2. Host your blog within your website.
3. Be Mobile compatible.
4. Ensure that your blog is easy to read.
  • Select a white background and black text. Body font should be a minimum of 13 point and headlines should be a minimum of 18 point. 
  • Blog posts can be as short as two paragraphs. Any blog longer than six paragraphs should be well-written and formatted (numbered or bulleted lists) with images and generous spacing, or your will lose readers. 
  • Use bold and double-spacing for easy scanning of content.
5. Invest in good graphic design.
  • Invest time and/or $$$ in designing a banner for your blog that makes a good first impression and prominently feature social network icons, e-newsletter and mobile alert opt-ins, and a “Donate Now” button on your blog.
  • Custom-designed social network icons get more clicks.
6. Rotate promotional graphics.
7. Enable readers to easily comment.
  • Disqus allows readers to comment using their social networks identities.
  • Respond to comments posted on your blog when necessary. Delete comments that you think are rude and inconsiderate, but allow those that disagree respectfully. 
8. Blog at least once a week. 
  •  Blogging everyday is a myth. At minimum blog once or twice a week. That said, the more often you blog, the higher the ROI.
  • Allow guest/multiple bloggers to share expertise and experience.
9. Title blogs to optimize SEO and social sharing.
  • Consistently use keywords in your blog posts that grab the attention of readers
    and search engines.
  • Make it easy for readers to share your blog content on social networks. (Shareaholic Plugin)
  • Create blog title images for each blog post and name them to optimize visibility in
    image search.
10. Diversify your blog content.

  • The restriction that blogs must be editorial and in first-person and only about your NGO’s mission and programs, is completely outdated.
  • Summarize a breaking news story or make a statement about the news story.
  • Ask readers to donate, sign a petition, share your nonprofit’s page on Facebook, follow you on Instagram, become a volunteer, buy a t-shirt, etc.
  • Write up a brief summary about an infographic relevant to your mission and programs. Be sure to bullet point key stats in your summary. 
  • Compile a list of powerful stats relevant to your mission and programs. Update your stats at least annually, and create infographics around them as feasible.
  • When you get an idea for a blog post, create a draft of the blog post within your blog dashboard so you'll be all set up when you're ready to refine and edit it.
  • Check out 10 Other Blog Content Ideas for NGOs for more ideas!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

10 Reasons Why Your Nonprofit Blog Isn't One

1. You're basically publishing a print article online.
2. You don't pay too much attention to graphics and go with the first thing that works.
3. You have solid blocks of text and don't do any formatting with headlines or bullet points.
4. You say what you think but don't ask for Comments or discussion.
5. You don't link to resources or other bloggers of interest.
6. You press publish and forget about it.
7. You don't crosspromote your blog anywhere to get new subscribers.
8. You only write about what you're interested in regardless of your audience.
9. You don't publish regularly or set up an editorial calendar.
10. You don't guest publish anywhere or invite guest authors. this you? Recharge your blogging mindset with the goal of implementing at least one of these goals a week. You'll see the difference. Oh, and do you have any favorite blogging tips or favorite bloggers? Share in the Comments.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

10 Simple Ways to Market Your Organization's Anniversary

The author Carrie Jaffe-Pickett with husband Emmett at Disneyland's 50th
anniversary celebration. Is this a large egg? Who cares, it's a great photo spot and, obviously, we still have the photo after a decade.

 Last month, I was in New York City on vacation. Lucky enough to attend a musical on Broadway with my mom, where coincidentally, we were sitting next to a woman who handled PR for a local museum that was planning for a major anniversary celebration. When she found out what I "did," -- social media for a large university ethics center -- she immediately wanted to talk ideas. As in, did I have any? Well, I did, but the show started and alas we couldn't talk, and intermission was spent seeking water and stretching. So now, here are the highlights of my email back to her subsequently, which she has gratefully received and is acting upon now. I'm happy to share my tips with you, with a few disclaimers first:

*Anniversaries are typically events that organizations are more excited about than anyone else. While the staff and CEO probably view them as the most important milestones imaginable, to the general public and those who aren't primary stakeholders, and even to your membership if that's how your organization is structured-- it can mean just another day--or year--a month. So the challenge is clear: make it fun, make it relevant, and be multidimensional. Don't just repeat the same content over and over again and expect it to go well. Myopia can be deadly, and can even backfire if you taint your organization's image due to ill planned events or concepts.

Start nurturing your relationships with influencers before you need them. Like any marketing, if you wait until you launch to optimize your strategic relationships, you're too late. If you wait until just before you need your friend who's a reporter for the local newspaper to request a story write-up, you're too late.

*Don't drag it out unless you can hold the public's interest. The typical social media campaign is a week to a month long, and there's a reason for it. Promotion fatigue.  Many organizations mistakenly drag out their anniversary promotions for an entire year, burdening staff with extra projects they may not have time for in addition to their regular job responsibilities. It's better to do a month-long celebration that rocks, then a year-long one where no one could care less. So timeframe is key in planning.

And now...the tips!

1. Discovery. Allow enough lead time to brainstorm ideas with your team and get feedback. Survey your stakeholders such as board members, influencers, etc. on their thoughts for an effective campaign, keeping in mind any staff, timing, or budget constraints.

Disneyland's Diamond Celebration landing page is a great example of how to organize your anniversary events in a
visually appealing way.

2. Tagline and Logo: Brainstorm a distinct tagline for your organization's anniversary campaign. If possible, engage a graphic designer to come up with a logo to go with it that you can use to brand all your publications, activities, website, etc for the year. Swag such as t-shirts, waterbottles, even pens and paper featuring your anniversary logo, can go over well if done correctly -- meaning that your logo is catchy, speaks to your audience, and has longevity beyond the event. Next time you attend a tradeshow, research giveaways you find fun and clever.

3. Special anniversary publication, if you have the budget: Special events publications like programs or magazines can serve as great souvenirs, and should include unique content not found anywhere else, such as, for example, your organization's timeline, interviews with founders, staff, and behind the scenes folks, etc.

4. Plan members-only and nonmember events highlighting the theme and anniversary: If you're feeling creative, you might want to combine this with a fundraiser, and/or the opportunity to spotlight someone special in your community, or another cause that aligns with the organization's mission. If your organization normally holds events, take advantage of the anniversary as an opportunity to amplify your routine with something really special. If budget allows, plan a gourmet catered menu, and what about music, decor, and a special lineup of speakers? This is your chance to shine. Decide on one event, or a series of events. If you don't normally have events, get help from those who are experienced and start with something small, like a cocktail party rather then a large gala.

5. Don't forget social media: Your theme and logo should easily convert to the social media platforms your organization publishes on. Of course, you would tweet or Facebook post the theme along with the link to whatever your promotion is, but how about user generated content? Hashtag and social media campaigns that highlight user content, for example: "show us what this anniversary means to you in a photo, for a chance to win...." are certainly the latest wave in online promotions, and for good reason: instant connection with your fans, followers, and stakeholders, and highly trackable metrics. Use your YouTube channel to highlight key aspects or players in your campaign, and take advantage of Instagram for user-generated hashtag campaigns.

6. Public Relations Outreach:
Once you've decided on your campaign, events logo, theme, etc., write and distribute a press release or series of releases that would mail locally and nationally. National attention for its own sake should necessarily be the goal, but rather reaching your most relevant audiences. This could also involve advertising or cross promotion with relevant sites. Emphasize the local angle if you're in a small city or town, giving writers and editors that desired "hook" they always seek for stories. Also reach out to any celebrities or influencers involved with your organization, who can help promote public interest in the anniversary. Don't forget to highlight any press pickup on your website and social media to optimize the "buzz" you've already created.

7. Timeline and Infographics: As I mentioned, create a timeline of milestone dates leading up to the anniversary on your website and/or anniversary publication,  and link to it via social media, highlighting dates that correspond to your current date to add variety and interest to your posts. You could also create one or several infographics highlighting your publicity plan or campaign, providing fun graphics for press or even bloggers who might cover your story.

8. CONTENT MARKETING! Saving the best for almost last. No modern promotion or campaign is complete without a content marketing plan. Does your organization have a blog? Use it or create a dedicated one for your anniversary activities, and have your staff writer publish aspects of the anniversary through a multimedia approach, at least once a week. Research other bloggers and influencers who might want to cover the topic, and pitch them individually -- in other words, send them a customized email and not a group email that suggests spam. Bloggers will resist any pitches that feel like they've been sent to multiple people. Use your organization's enewsletter to highlight your campaign, and cross promote your materials on social media.

9. Website Landing Page:
Create a landing page on your website that serves as the anchor for all your anniversary activities. This one from Disneyland is a great example: it highlights, food events, merchandise, other special events, contests, and more.

10. Say Thank You:
Anniversaries are a great time to thank your community, including donors, staffers, board members, regular members, volunteers, and partners. What are you thanking them for? Their time, their donations, and their commitment to your organization.

And now.. what are you waiting for? Go forth and celebrate your organization's anniversary, keeping these tips in mind. It's also a great idea to keep notes along  the way of what worked and what didn't, so you'll be ready with your own helpful tips for the next one.

What say you? Did you market your organization's anniversary? What is your most valuable tip? Share in the Comments.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Canva Advanced Design Tips

Finding quick and easy graphics tools for social media specialists and everyday editors is one of the key challenges in today's busy marketing and publishing environment. I've been enjoying Canva as a welcome newcomer to the group of options, and have been using it a lot for my work Facebook Page posts.

I took part in this recent very interesting Canva webinar, and am sharing the resources with you, as outlined below.

I've listed the blog posts referred to during the webinar as well as some handy sites to draw inspiration and ideas for what Canva calls "your creative journey."

I have also included a link to Canva's free eBook that is packed with font combinations, color palettes and techniques to apply custom filters.

The Design School:

Pre-register for Canva for Work:

Blog post on free stock images:

Blog post with Canva Shortcuts:

Google Chrome EyeDropper tool:

A go-to site for creative inspiration:

Branding eBook:

Remix links for three designs:
High Line Hotel:
Summer Jam Series:

Last but not least, a recording of the webinar for your convenience:

I hope you find these resources useful! What about you? Please share any graphics tools for editors you find to be easy to use and effective.

Monday, May 18, 2015

5 Surprising Marketing Lessons from "Mr. Holland's Opus"

Last night, I avoided the Mad Men Finale frenzy (saving last episode on iTunes for tonight!), and was pleased to discover a suitable piece of entertainment, "Mr. Holland's Opus," not entirely a departure from the Mad Men 60's-70's time warp. This 1995 "pre-Glee" film starring Richard Dreyfuss, follows the 30-year career of a music teacher at an Oregon high school, whose life-lessons, from tenacity to morals, while somewhat shmaltzy, resonate, and were refreshing for this viewer.

From Wikipedia: "In 1965, Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) is a professional musician and composer who has been relatively successful in the exhausting life of a musical performer. However, in an attempt to enjoy more free time with his young wife, Iris (Glenne Headly), and to enable him to compose a piece of orchestral music, the 30-year-old Holland accepts a teaching position. Unfortunately for Holland, he is soon forced to realize that his position as a music teacher makes him a marginalized figure in the faculty's hierarchy. He comes face to face with how seriously he is outranked by the high school's football coach, Bill (Jay Thomas), who ultimately becomes his best friend. Administrators, such as vice principal Gene Wolters (William H. Macy), dislike him, while others, including principal Helen Jacobs (Olympia Dukakis), remind him that he should not teach just because of financial reasons. It is Mrs. Jacobs' scolding that helps Holland turn a corner. He starts to use rock and roll as a way to help children understand classical music. Reluctantly, he begins seeing his students as individuals and finds ways to help them excel."

While I found myself becoming drawn into this movie, I was impressed with the number of marketing lessons that surfaced. The film, as good ones do, made me rethink audience, performances, allegiances, and yes...content marketing! So here are 5 important takeaway tips:

1. Be "Edutaining:" When Glenn realizes he is boring his "Music Appreciation" class students, and even himself, he realized that he can still teach effectively while being entertaining. Playing musical examples on the piano and parts of hit songs on records, he provides lively examples to illustrate his points, and his classes come to life, while he himself becomes invigorated.
Communicate in as interesting way as possible to get your message across. This is true content marketing.

2. Be a Great Storyteller: Glenn tells quite a few stories during the course of the movie, including one to his wife when she announces she is pregnant, about how he grew to love Coltrane and jazz despite not being used to it at first. They help us understand more about his character, the way he thinks about things, and ultimately the way he influences others.
Grab your audience's interest by hooking them with a great story.

3. Don't Give Up and Don't Let Others Give Up: Glenn encounters several challenges throughout his career, including trying to teach a frustrated Alicia Witt how to play the clarinet, and how to teach drums to a student with no rhythm, with whom he spends extra time doing everything from stomping his feet, to clapping the student's hands to the right rhythm, to dancing around to all kinds of music including the irresistible Louis Louis, (an entrancing song based on the same 3 chords repeated over and over again, we learn.) Inspiring Witt's character Gertrude not to give up on the clarinet, (she is just about to), he encourages her to close her eyes as she plays, think about "sunsets" (the color of her hair), and "feel" the music, so to speak. And she nails it.
Persistence passionate and tenacious, and it will pay off in business and other aspects of your life. 

4. Be Personal When It Counts: Glenn's relationship with his son Cole is troubled through much of the first half of the film. But in a breakthrough scene where Glenn is determined to communicate with him, he tells the audience about his deaf son Cole, signs John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy," and brings the audience to a standing ovation and Cole to tears.
Don't be afraid to be transparent... a little goes a long way.

5. Take Calculated Risks and Leverage Your Assets: Halfway through the film, Glenn is tasked with revamping the poorly received high school marching band. He enlists the help of his friend and football coach to organize the band members, works on logistics and synchronized marching as something new in his bag of tricks, and then has a glorious moment several weeks later as the marching band takes over the hometown parade in all its glory.
Try something new, versatility rules.

So, what say you? Have any films you've seen recently inspired your marketing? Share your thoughts in the Comments!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Nobody Cares…Or Do They? Live Socially Online and Learn

A few years ago, I was listening to a radio interview of a well-known fiction writer as she was asked about her creative process. She explained that, as one might expect, a book can take years, and that she managed to find the time while juggling work, family, etc. At one point, she said, "the truth is, nobody cares. You have to find the determination within yourself." That thought, coming from an award-winning nationally acclaimed writer, struck me as both reassuring and scary. If no one cares, then certainly there's less pressure to produce, assuming your publisher isn't knocking down your door on deadlines. You can try and fail and retry, with the main frustrations being your own timetable and goals. On the flip side, if no one cares, that means you have to explain to your family and loved ones that you have your project (writing or …..) and that you need a block of time alone to work on it. And you might need to do that again and again, at the risk of upsetting these loved ones or missing a fun activity out. Still, it's all on you to care.

Recently, there are a few projects I thought no one cared about, until a few surprises made me think twice, and renewed my faith in online "shtuff."

*Several blog posts I wrote last month attracted the attention of both Canva, (they appreciated the mention and wanted me to consider writing about their expanded graphics options), and a blog promotion company wanting me to highlight their services. It's true, a lot of organizations out there are looking for more visibility, but to have this happen in one week was an interesting twist. Then I remembered...
Blogs are promotional, and that's a good thing.

*I always post on Facebook for #ThrowbackThursday, but last week I posted a photo from my freshman year of college that attracted more Comments and Likes then usual. I hyperlinked to my college, of course, which led to many of my former classmates recognizing the scene, and my former roommate remembering that she took the photo, etc. Why all the fuss? Then I remembered…
Facebook began as a college photo directory site.

*At work, I highlighted the first anniversary of a program we had launched last year, with an enhanced graphic, thank you to supporters, and revisiting of the associated hashtag and meme I had created last year. Over a surprising dozen Favorites and Retweets later, I realized that the program had resonated with the community more then I'd realized, and that bringing back what was a first an unknown product with an uncertain future, was itself an affirmation of its success, given that large number of downloads.Then I remembered…Twitter loves birthdays, anniversaries, and commemorations of any kind that stand out of the ordinary, particularly if you show your appreciate to your online communities, and innovate a new hashtag, for goodness sake!

*Twitter may be bored with what you ate for breakfast, but Instagram isn't. Recent food photos I've posted there have consistently garnered more Favorites then on any other platform, leading me to the surprisingly pleasant conclusion that Instagram loves food pics, so…
Don't worry about the funny looks you might get while photographing your meal, you know better…

*I had all but given up on Flickr when a few years ago,  I got shmapped, and my favorite jellyfish photo became a little bit famous. Then I remembered,
Everyone needs a good photo for something, especially tourists…

*The Balloon Boy in Colorado was more of a passing thought, until this happened.

Your online life means something, even if you think no one cares. So take your unshared, uncommented on blog post or Facebook status update, and post it on your Wall -- your real Wall --to celebrate it. You still have to care about it, because that's what starting somewhere means.