Last week I spoke on a panel in front of several nonprofit Asian American organizations in the U.S.
Among the organizations in attendance were the Asia Heritage Foundation, Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program, DC Mayor’s Office of Asian & Pacific Islander Affairs, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP). The focus of the panel was on the use of social media in the nonprofit sector to help build a strong community that will attract potential funders.
To start the conversation, I discussed three of the most frequently asked questions I encounter in our team’s work with nonprofits:
1. Why should my organization focus on social media given all of our other priorities? In a world that is increasingly digitally connected, social media is a powerful way to open up your organization to potential supporters and advocates. Social media creates opportunities to build awareness and engagement—around how you’re approaching your work and what you’re learning, for instance—and to communicate your impact.
2. What does it take to get it right? For most nonprofits, and particularly those with limited resources, a good rule of thumb is to start small. Experiment. Learn along the way. Join in current conversations on online channels and try to spark new discussions. Let your personality show. An organization that brings a real personality to its social media, shows that it’s interested in listening and learning, and offers compelling content, is going to be met with success.
3. What are the pitfalls to avoid? It’s best not to view social media as a stand-alone program rather than integrating it into an overall communications strategy. Being afraid to try new things on social media for fear of failure, or because there isn’t a guarantee of success is another. (When is that a guarantee, incidentally?) Finally, not building the infrastructure or creating a plan to sustain a social media program is often a challenge – one best avoided by tackling questions about staff capacity up front.
The session offered a lively question and answer period, and a great discussion afterwards. Are there additional questions or recommendations you would have raised with the group?
Two out of three Americans consider a general lack of civility to be a major problem for the nation and 72 percent think poor behavior has increasingly worsened in recent years, according to a survey Powell Tate conducted in partnership with KRC Research.
There is good cause to wonder what happened to our collective manners. According to most Americans, civility has declined in government and politics, on the roadways and in the media. The nation appears to be tired of mean spirited bloggers, professional athletes who act like children, politicians who viciously attack and businesses that behave badly.
As if to punctuate the point, General McChrystal’s disparaging remarks about his commander in chief in Rolling Stone magazine brought the issue of civility into the spotlight last week. His comments — and his firing — serve as a reminder that there are still lines that can’t be crossed, as fuzzy as they might be.
Below is a little analysis of our survey by yours truly. Enjoy — and don’t forget to use your manners at dinner tonight.
There’s an old saying in the news business: if you don’t want to see something in print, don’t say it. Even in the good old days – when reporters wore fedoras, wouldn’t dream of writing anything personal about politicians or athletes and strictly adhered to carefully defined ground rules – it always made sense to be careful about the off-hand remark that might land you or your client in trouble just in case the statement was too enticing to leave out of a story.
Well, the more things change the more they stay the same. The fedoras are gone; personal scandals are more newsworthy than pronouncements from the Fed and ground rules are for baseball stadiums, not reporters. But the old saying still makes sense as the media – and hopefully all of us – learned this week when a journalist committed the twin sins of reporting an “off-the-record” comment (bad enough) made by another journalist (a capital offense).
It turns out there was a private listserv called the JournoList. It was used by reporters and columnists to kick around ideas and engage in free-wheeling, supposedly off-the-record conversations. Well, a reporter for Fishbowl D.C. obtained some emails written by the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel and published them. The content touched off a blogosphere controversy that led to Mr. Weigel’s resignation.
It’s unclear whether the Fishbowl reporter was a member of the group or was given the emails by a member. And it doesn’t much matter. Either way, a journalist violated the sanctity of an “off-the-record” communication. For those who hold no special sentiment for members of the Fourth Estate, the episode contains a delicious irony: a reporter devoured by the very transgression unscrupulous journalists sometimes inflict on their subjects.
For the rest of us, and our clients, the episode is a cautionary tale that proves both the good old saying at the top of this blog and some other words to live by: you don’t get hurt by what you don’t say.
Three months after the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or Health Care Reform, for short), the same high-level congressional staffers who played a major role in crafting the legislation are highly invested in its implementation.
At a CQ-Roll Call Group Policy breakfast here in D.C., several aides who were at the center of it all — Dan Elling of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, Chuck Clapton of the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pension, Dr. Liz Fowler of the Senate Finance Committee and Tim Westmoreland of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Georgetown Law — dived into the wonky details of the bill’s effects on prescription drug coverage, each state’s ability to expand Medicaid, physician reimbursements, the constitutionality of the individual mandate and more.
Disagreements over the details continue but all seem to agree on one larger issue: the implementation of health care reform will be a far greater challenge then harnessing the votes to pass it. Clapton said he’s not surprised by the entrenched opposition because without a single vote from Republicans, opposition leaders can say “I told you so” every time a provision falls short of expectations. But will the GOP soon put down its picket signs and take a seat at the table?
Fowler thinks so. With continued attention from the Obama administration, she thinks the insurance industry and others will “put their battle armor away” now that the bill is law and play a proactive role in shaping a new system that reduces costs and provides better care. Still, Fowler lamented the “striking level of misinformation” at kitchen tables around the country while Westmoreland called state Attorney General lawsuits against the individual mandate “very good PR, but not good law.”
Americans are calling for civility from politicians, the media and corporations now more than ever. With so many hands in the health care pot, it’s going to take a cohesive PR shift to make the implementation process more civil than it has been, but the consensus seems to be that we’ve got to try.
For additional insight, read HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ recent commentary in Roll Call on making PPACA implementation work.
The long-awaited release this week of a federal panel’s report on what Americans should eat sets the stage for continued scrutiny of the food and restaurant industries and continues to elevate nutrition in the national health dialogue.
The 13-member committee of independent experts, convened by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, spent 20 months reviewing the latest scientific evidence on nutrition and physical activity. Their advice will sound familiar because it is mostly unchanged from a report issued by another expert panel in 2004, prior to publication of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines. Among the recommendations are that Americans need to eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fiber; consume more plant-based foods, eat less of foods with solid fat and added sugars. Dairy products should be low-fat or non-fat and with two of every three Americans overweight or obese, the committee labeled obesity as the “major public health threat” of the 21st century.”
Here the report breaks new ground in calling for:
• A reduction of sodium for most Americans from less than 2,300 milligrams per day now to 1,500 milligrams per day. This echoes recommendations from an Institute of Medicine report released in April.
• Focus on the total diet—not just individual nutrients or food. This includes shifting to a more plant-based diet, that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
• Increase in seafood as well as non-fat and low-fat milk and dairy products
• Consume only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry and eggs.
• Reduction of overall calorie intake and increased physical activity to help reverse the obesity epidemic.
Next steps: The report has already been sent to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to be used as they and their staffs write the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. That’s due to be published late this year, followed by a consumer friendly guidelines in the spring, 2011.
Learn more at: www.dietaryguidelines.gov.
Digital media is a fantastic way to drive innovative advocacy campaigns and motivate supporters to interact and get engaged online.
Recently, we were pleased to learn that our integrated communications work on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s I Am Free Enterprise video contest was recognized by PR Week and that the contest winner was profiled in The New York Times.
With $100,000 in cash up for grabs, 131 contestants created videos telling their stories of free enterprise. They uploaded them to YouTube and then used the power of social media to promote their entries, with the hope that theirs would be one of the 25 most viewed videos on the Campaign’s YouTube channel.
The top 25 viewed videos were narrowed to five by a panel of judges and featured on the Campaign’s website. The American public then had the opportunity to vote for the video that told the best free enterprise story.
During the final round of competition, the five entries were viewed more than 95,000 times and received more than 9,500 votes. Three winners were selected and will be honored at events in their communities this month, and a formal awards ceremony will take place in Washington, D.C., during the U.S. Chamber’s inaugural Jobs Summit in July.
I’ve been in a number of conversations recently with leaders in the philanthropic and nonprofit sector where the term “catalyst” is starting to feel like the term of the moment. It’s not a new one, certainly, but it did get me thinking: What does it mean for an organization to be a catalyst? And, how has an explosion in social media enhanced nonprofits organizations’ ability to be a catalyst?
First, some context. Most often, the term is used as follows: We want our organization to be a catalyst for social change. Meaning, we want to bring resources and expertise to bear on an issue, and we want to enable and inspire others – individual advocates and allied organizations – to take action that brings about measurable impact and outcomes on a social issue.
To deliver on this promise, organizations need to show audiences what it means to be a catalyst in practice. They need to provide insights, data and stories about their missions, theories of change and programs, plus how they empower partners, capture lessons learned and measure success.
That’s where social media has such a powerful role to play. Through social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or another platform, nonprofits that frame, and live, their work as catalysts can show how they are fulfilling that vision by providing timely, relevant and accessible content. And they can do this far more immediately and consistently via social media than any other communications channel. By its very nature, social media is about connectivity, giving nonprofits a platform not only to showcase their work, but to bring people together to rally around issues they care about.
In subsequent posts, I’ll be looking at great examples of organizations that leverage social media to showcase their impact, and to strengthen their standing as, you guessed it, a catalyst.
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