February 18, 2015

Seven FAQ’s on Social PR Strategy


When I teach workshops, there are certain stumbling blocks to smart social PR strategy that come up frequently. As the workshop facilitator, it’s my job to help participants understand how to overcome these challenges or, at the very least, find a way to deal with them that’s not quite as painful.

Here are the seven most frequently asked questions in my social PR strategy workshops, and how I typically answer them.

1. “Too much to do, not enough time. Now you’re asking me to add social?!”

This is true. But this is true of life in general. As far as social media goes, that’s what smart tools like HootSuite, Buffer, PostPlanner, etc. are for. There are hundreds more useful tools than I can name here, though I do go into some depth in my workshops. For now, I’ll direct you to Ian Cleary’s most excellent tools directory. This is a resource to bookmark if ever there was one.

2. “Social media isn’t part of my job.”

Whoa, Nelly. Just because social media isn’t in your job description doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be keeping up with the times. Regardless of whether your work focuses on government relations, advocacy, member communications, media relations… social media is part of everyone’s job.

Even if you are not directly charged with managing your organization’s social media properties, there is always a way social can support, supplement or complement your job. You just have to find it.

3. “I want to learn how to use Twitter to engage better with reporters.”

I love when I hear this, because there’s a really important word flung in with all the rest; and that word is “engage.” And what we uncover, during the course of the workshop, is how to learn to engage without fearregardless of who’s on the other end—because it’s only then that true engagement comes into play.

It doesn’t matter if you’re using Twitter, or LinkedIn, or Facebook, or ______. The basic principles of engagement are the same. But it only works if you work it.

And, by the way, “social PR” is not simply about pitching reporters via Twitter. So if that’s all you’re using Twitter for, you’re missing out.

4. “How do I engage my audience?”

Once we establish that engagement is about a change in attitude, then we can start to change behavior. And the key to building engaged audiences (and keeping them that way) is really very simple: you listen, and you respond. Then they respond, and you listen. Then you respond, and then they respond. And so it goes.

How you do this effectively gets us into the realm of tools, platforms, setting up listening dashboards, and so on. And while I truly believe there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, there’s always a way to openly and sincerely listen.

And yes, it takes time. But it’s worth it.

5. “We have a lot of followers, but they don’t do anything.”

Assuming the majority are not bots, this is probably because:

  • You haven’t really started engaging with them;
  • You’re not asking them to do anything;
  • You only (or mostly) talk to them when you want something.

In other words, you have a lot of followers, but no community.

Strategic social PR isn’t just about using new channels to “get your message out.” That’s an extremely dead tree approach to PR in this day and age. What social PR excels at is putting community at the heart of public relations. Invest in your community, and you’ll be amazed at how much they do for you.

6. “There’s so much going on, how do we know what to track?”

Aha! That’s where you have to really blueprint your social PR strategy. Begin at the end, identifying what you’re trying to achieve. And work backwards from there.

If you don’t do this at the get-go, it will be virtually impossible for you to set up an effective listening program (even if it’s very rudimentary), which will hold you back on the engagement front.

If you haven’t already, download my new ebook before it goes behind the “sign up” curtain (tomorrow) -that will get you started.

 7. “We want more ______.”

“More” is good… most of the time. But can you identify how more <whatever it is> is going to help you achieve results that make sense from a business point of view? Because if not, then you have to step back and figure out what you’re trying to do, and why it’s important.

It can take a while to get to the bottom of those questions, but it’s really important not to give up.

Because until you do, your efforts won’t be strategic, which is a shame. Because PR that isn’t strategic can be extremely tiring, and disheartening, and make you feel as if you’re walking through a never-ending maze. And why would anyone want to put themselves through that?

I’m sure you come across – or have – other questions on social PR strategy. I’d love to know what they are, so do share via a comment below.

This post was originally published on shonaliburke.com

SHONALIShonali Burke

President & Grand Poobah at Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc.
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke is President & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, she loves helping for- and non-profit clients, both small and large, turn corporate codswallop into community cool™. She also loves ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis. Wouldn’t you like to be in her kitchen?


January 12, 2015

Nonprofit Communications Trends Report for 2015



As a consultant and trainer in the nonprofit community, I’ve been waiting with bated breath for the Nonprofit Communications Trends Report. And it’s here! Kivi published the first Nonprofit Communications Trends Report back in 2011, surveying 780 nonprofits.

For the most recent report, Kivi surveyed 1,535 nonprofits – mostly in the US.

Highlights from the 2015 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report are presented in an infographic (below), which includes the following eye-openers:

  • Nonprofits no longer have new donor acquisition as a primary goal. Instead, retaining current donors and engaging their communities is becoming more important.
  • Communications Directors and Development Directors have conflicting goals. Development, of course, wants to retain and acquire donors. Communications wants to focus less on fundraising and more on brand awareness and engagement.
  • Nonprofits are planning on sending more email and direct mail appeals in 2015. 45% of the participants said they will send monthly appeals, and 36% said they will send quarterly direct mail appeals.
  • Facebook is still the king of social media channels. 96% of participants have a Facebook page.
  • Nonprofits still say their website is the most important communications channel, followed by email and social media. This is as it should be.
  • Communications Directors are challenged with lack of time to produce quality content.
  • Facebook takes up more time than blogging or email marketing.

Continue reading

December 8, 2014

Initial reports for #GivingTuesday indicate astounding success!

LinkedInPulse (1)

Black Friday sales were down 11% while #GivingTuesday had a banner year!

By Ritu Sharma

The final numbers are rolling in, and by all accounts the three-year-old day dedicated to giving known as #GivingTuesday, is proving once again that Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t the only spending days top of mind in our communities.

That the long weekend of frenzied indulgence and gluttony kicked off by Thanksgiving can be bookended with such generosity is heartening.

And the generosity is evident in the numbers. Here are the results from some of the day’s top campaigns:

Nonprofit leaders are humbled and overwhelmed by the results, which continue to be record-breaking: All this while U.S. Black Friday sales dropped 11.3% and Cyber Monday sales were up less than expected at only 8% (despite an increase in online sales), as noted by Mashable.

We reached out to leaders in our network to see their reactions on the success of #GivingTuesday and insights gained from this year’s giving day:

“#GivingTuesday 2014 saw a 36% increase in online giving compared to 2013 with Blackbaud processing more than $26.1m in online donations. There was a 15% increase in the number of nonprofits that received an online donation versus last year and overall transaction volume saw a 50% jump on a year over year basis. 17% of the forms were viewed on mobile platforms indicating the modern donor is increasingly mobile.” – Steven R. MacLaughlin, Director of Product Management at Blackbaud

“Network4Good processed slightly over $4.5 million across all our platforms which is 148% increase in donations over last year. We credit this increase in part to our dedicated efforts this year in enabling and supporting small and medium size nonprofit organizations who can’t participate at the same level as nonprofits with large marketing budgets. We provided extensive training, tools and resources to small and medium size nonprofits to enable them to participate in the annual day of giving.” – Jamie McDonald, Chief Giving Officer, Network for Good

“Each year for Razoo’s #GivingTuesday we try to improve the effectiveness of the prize structure to maximize nonprofit and donor engagement. Compared to last year’s results, with 30% more nonprofits participating, we experienced a 67% increase in the number of donors, a 62% increase in online donations and a 49% increase in the average number of visitors per hour, all contributing to a $1,775,511 day – a 56% increase over last year.” – Robert Lotinsky, Executive Director, Razoo Foundation

Crowdrise has been a really good, very effective partner in getting the word out for, and raising money for, a bunch of good orgs. The combined effort with #givingTuesday has been even more successful. I’ve got a really good team, and they let me know this is solidly in my wheelhouse, that’s how it started for me. – Craig Newmark, Founder of Craigslist and Craigconnects

“Nonprofits who raised money through Salsa on #GivingTuesday in both 2013 and 2014 saw an incredible increase of 47% year-over-year. Even though we have done a lot of education in the community and published data demonstrating that #GivingTuesday works and doesn’t share shift year-end dollars, we still are only seeing about 10% of Salsa client participating this year. We’d like to see that number and the overall #GivingTuesday movement continue to grow.” -Christine Schaefer, VP, Community, Product & Marketing for Salsa.

Henry Timms, executive director of the 92Y and founder of Giving Tuesday, told Mashable. “Around the world people came together for causes they care about. This is enabled by social media, but driven by compassion.”

Indeed, compassion is the motivator, but the democratization of philanthropy social media offers has expanded the reach of all nonprofits who understand that many small donations are as important as a few extraordinary gifts.

But not everyone is inspired.

Critics Seek “Perfect” Solutions

Tom Watson, president of CauseWired LLC, calls himself a “friendly skeptic” in thepiece he wrote for Forbes, but does admit he may have been “under-valuing one key factor: people are participating.” That fact is clear.

Peter Panepento, principal at Panepento Strategies, formerly with The Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Council on Foundations isn’t content to accept the success of #GivingTuesday without pushing for more.

He writes on LinkedIn:

“…GivingTuesday rewards the charities that already have the biggest networks, the most prominent corporate supporters and celebrity spokespeople, or the most clever attention-grabbing gimmick. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it’s also not going to cure cancer, reduce hunger, or improve pre-K education.”

Actually, #GivingTuesday may ultimately do all of those things – who’s to say? – though not overnight. But that wasn’t what the day was designed for anyway. The idea, right from the #GivingTuesday website, was to create a global movement, a “day dedicated to giving back… to celebrate generosity and to give.”

And to that end the day has succeeded, and everyone who took to social media, opened their hearts, opened their wallets, and made the time to volunteer, to donate, and to CARE deserves to celebrate that success without having to ask, “Did I do enough?” Because if you did SOMETHING where before you did nothing, then the answer is yes.

#GivingTuesday is not strictly about money.

Then, there are those who are concerned about donor fatigue from being asked to donate repeatedly by hundreds of causes and bombarded on social channels. To them, I say, it hasn’t stopped people from celebrating Thanksgiving and over-indulging that day or stopped people from spending on things they really don’t need. GivingTuesday as a day to celebrate giving and caring provides a balance to all that consumerism that we usually kick off our holidays with. It is an alternative way, though in our face, to bring back the spirit of caring and giving to the holidays. I’d personally rather be tired from giving and making a difference than getting obese or spending beyond my means.

Celebrating the Broader Impact

Beth Kanter notes, “GivingTuesday founder Henry Timms and Aaron Sherinian and the #GT early leaders approached it with a true network mindset. They did not wish to prescribe how nonprofits, individuals, companies, and others should participate – but they held the space, facilitated connections, and provided the platform for the network to participate in the way that was the right fit to celebrate the day. They offered us a buffet of options – and allowed us to pick and choose how to celebrate.”

In other words, there are other ways to be of service.

For example, we at Social Media for Nonprofits did not fundraise this year. We opted instead to participate by amplifying and supporting our partners in their efforts, rather than competing with them.

It was a thoughtful and deliberate decision on our part to use our resources in this way, lending our voice and perspective to several conversations that were taking place in the sector – including a Google Hangout on Air hosted by the #GivingTuesday folks on Growth of Philanthropy Through Digital Media, a community conversation with NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network), and conversations with leaders like Beth Kanter and more.

We gave our full-fledged marketing support to our network and all nonprofits that reached out to us by tweeting their campaigns, retweeting and posting on FB on their behalves.

We expect to launch our own campaign in the spring to provide an opportunity for our community of event attendees, blog post readers, speakers, sponsors, partners and more to participate and support us so we can continue to be a resource to the sector.

We have no doubt that in this way the spirit of #GivingTuesday will continue to reach us and others throughout the year. And we’re celebrating that.

How did you do, nonprofits? Was #GivingTuesday all you hoped for and more? What strategies worked or didn’t work? Share your success with us!


Ritu Sharma is the CEO of Social Media for Nonprofits, an organization committed to bringing social media education to nonprofits worldwide. She speaks frequently around the world on a variety of topics in the nonprofit and social media spheres with a passion for effecting social change through social technologies. She blogs at the Huffington Post on the intersection of social media, social change and leadership and at Social Media for Nonprofits. Follow Ritu at here LinkedIn or on Twitter at @ritusharma1

October 20, 2014

How to create a free content calendar with Google Calendar

John HaydonSometimes it’s the little things that count. Often I come across nonprofit professionals who keep an online calendar and want to share events, content or information with some of their colleagues.

Well, it’s pretty easy to create a collaborative calendar and to make it private or public.

In the 45-second video above, I’ll show you a super easy and helpful way to create a shared content calendar using Google Calendar.

September 29, 2014

9 tips for using Twitter to tap into #globaldev community


Post by Gemma McNeil-Walsh

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises

gemma-mcneil-walsh-jpegIf you were to ask me what my most useful resource during a three-year undergraduate development studies degree has been, I think the answer might surprise you: Twitter. Although I initially joined Twitter so that I could join in on my housemates’ banter about cupcakes and Ryan Gosling (don’t judge), I quickly found Twitter to be an invaluable professional and career development resource. I decided to leave the Ryan Gosling banter to Facebook, the pictures of cupcakes to Instagram, and came to see Twitter as a ‘rolling online CV’. Continue reading

September 8, 2014

3 ways to sharpen your PR measurement skills


Focus on what you should be measuring so you can streamline your PR measurement tracking

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises

Shonali BurkeWhen it comes to the latest in PR measurement, the mere thought of it may make you feel like it’s impossible to “keep up.” Before you overwhelm yourself, take a deep breath and focus on growing your skills by incorporating these three principles into your regular routine. By focusing on these simple – not to mention, free! – tips to refine your skills, you’ll become a measurement star before you know it! Continue reading