Nonprofits and their need for media attention have been on my mind lately. I reviewed a new version of a textbook on advocacy and organizing that I have used in class before, and I noticed that the section on writing press releases and holding press conferences is virtually unchanged from previous versions. A few days later, I was talking with a nonprofit organization that is planning a press event in the state capitol and helping them think through how to manage their information dissemination for maximum impact. Later that night, I was going through my RSS feed, checking out updates. And, then, as these things often happen, all of those encounters mixed together in my brain at some point (probably while in the shower; I do my best planning then!), and got me wondering whether nonprofit organizations really need traditional media outlets to tell their stories in the same way, and to the same extent that we used to.
In the age of blogs and social media, how can we modify our press strategies to not only get our message out but, more importantly, start a conversation with those most likely to support our work? How can we use new media technologies to change the context around our work and influence the kind of traditional coverage we get? How can we use that traditional media to drive traffic to the more interactional sites where real relationship building can happen?
Do we still need press releases? Should we still have press conferences? Do we need a blog?
I think, ultimately, that the answer to all of those questions is ‘yes’. That doesn’t mean more and more work for nonprofit communications folks, though (read: the people who wear a ‘communications’ hat in addition to dozens of other things that they’re doing). Here are my thoughts on how to bring these goals together with today’s technology, and in today’s media environment, along with some fantastic links to nonprofits that are using an official blog to great effect.
great examples of nonprofit organization blogs; if you’re interested in those written about nonprofit work, I’d be happy to share my RSS reader with anyone!
Citizens’ League of Minnesota–website features two different blogs related to their efforts to engage people in Minnesota in discussions about progressive policy work.
Oceana–a conservation group using a blog to invite conversation about people’s experiences with ocean wildlife.
Oxfam News blog–this is my personal favorite of this list; I love the first-person accounts of Oxfam’s work around the world and the call-to-action in nearly every post
First Book–this is an organization that gives books to programs that serve low-income kids; what I like about the blog is that it appeals to people not just as donors or volunteers, but also as parents and readers, with reviews and news on child literacy. I’d check this site out even if it wasn’t for a nonprofit organization.
One thing that you’ll notice about many nonprofit blogs is that some of the best ones are for more advocacy-oriented nonprofits. Not that that’s a bad thing, obviously, but there’s also tremendous possibility for direct service nonprofits to use blogs. The links above give great suggestions for how to set up your blog (technology to use for hosting, how to encourage sharing and linking, how to think of topics, etc…). I’ll just end with a few ideas for social service nonprofits, in particular:
What about you? What are your favorite nonprofit blogs? How is your organization using a blog? Or how might you? What help do you need to get started? How is your traditional media work informing your social/new media, and how it it being transformed by the multiple and evolving connections you have to your various ‘publics’? How might you modify your press work to reflect this new environment?