Mon, November 10 2008
Filed under: Social Media •
I’m blogging from the session at Independent Sector, “Community Empowerment through New Media and Innovative Journalism,” moderated by Ben Binswanger of the Case Foundation. The panelists are Linda Fantin of Minnesota Public Radio and the Center for Innovative Journalism, Ramya Raghavan of YouTube Nonprofits and Alyce Myatt of Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media.
Here’s my take on the panel. Just as marketing is no longer a monologue but rather a conversation with an audience, so is new media. It is two-way communication. As Linda pointed out, public insight journalism is predicated on the idea that everyone has expertise, and people know what matters to them. The audience isn’t just an audience – they are a participant that takes part in creating the content – either by interacting with those covering the story or suggesting angles to a story, or by creating the story themselves.
If you’re still doubting this idea, or don’t know how it relates to you, consider two principles of persuasion: relevance and trust. These are two old-school, good old bread and butter ideas. First, we only tune into what is personally relevant to us. Second, we trust ourselves (and people like us) more than traditional authorities. That’s why word of mouth is so desirable. What’s great about new media is it allows us to establish personal relevance and trust on unprecedented levels. Because the audience is the messenger! That’s where old school meets new media.
Take the example from Ramya of voters filming their experience at the polls at Video Your Vote at YouTube vs. CNN talking about long lines on air. There’s nothing quite like watching a first-time voter in Georgia filming herself talking about waiting in line for seven hours to vote – with her baby. It has a level of immediacy and credibility that traditional media doesn’t achieve.
As Linda put it, this ideally changes the nature of how stories are reported via traditional media as well. She said, “If you want to find a left-handed baker who can make pineapple upside down cake while making a YouTube video, you could. But this is not about finding the right example to plug into a set story. It’s about what is happening among real people, and that information shaping the story.”
So what does this mean to you, even if you’re not in the business of media? The bottom line is these tools can make every interaction with your constituency more powerful. Put video in the hands of your donors or people you help. Engage your supporters in a conversation about how they spread the word about your issue. Give them the tools to do it. And then if they give you input, be sure to acknowledge it, use it and celebrate it.
When you lose control of the story, it’s a little scary, but the alternative is having an audience of only one: yourself.
Mon, November 10 2008
Filed under: Fun stuff •
I saw a couple of people today and wanted to give them a shout out.
A blogger here covering Independent Sector: Heather Carpenter.
Another blogger to check out: Katrin Petra Ivanovic. I met her and Monica Montgomery in the halls of the conference and heard about their great work as community activists. Update: you can find Katrin here! You go, girls.
Sun, November 09 2008
Filed under: Marketing essentials •
A great comment from Maya Enista of Mobilize.org from the session I just blogged about here at Independent Sector. (That Maya is dynamite, BTW.)
In communicating with our supporters, she said we need more “it’s because of you letters.”
“Dear xyz, You said xyz at a Town Hall. Here’s what we did. This is what we accomplished. Look what you’ve done!”
This is how we build our base, she pointed out.
I totally agree. Totally.
It’s not about the “I need you because I have no funding” letters.
It’s about the “It’s because of you” letters.
Sun, November 09 2008
Filed under: Advocacy •
I’m blogging from the opening day of Independent Sector, from the first-day session, “Harnessing Election Momentum for Nonprofit Causes.” On the panel are Maya Enista of Mobilize.org, Benjamin Todd Jealous of the NAACP and Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza. (I’m sitting next to fellow blogger Rosetta Thurman, whose fingers are flying. Be sure to read her stuff, too. She’s someone to watch in our sector.)
I’d sum up the session for you this way: What the election teaches us – and what we need to sustain the kind of momentum it created among so many audiences – requires two things. The themes were:
1. Audience appeal
2. Infrastructure (both human and technological)
By audience appeal, I mean the ability to appeal to the personal concerns of your audience. If you read this blog regularly, then you know I say this ad nauseum. You probably want to plug your ears by now. But I have to keep saying it, because it’s so very true. And we so often forget.
The panelists offered great examples of the power of an audience-centric approach on the campaign trail.
Benjamin Jealous talked about jobs and financial security as top issues among his members.
Maya Enista talked about how the youth vote turned out because “the candidates gave youth a reason to vote. They talked about jobs, the cost of college, personal debt and predatory lending on college campuses, and they used online engagement to do it.” She said “We need to know the issues that appeal.”
Janet Murguia talked about the importance of the rhetoric around immigration in engaging her community, as well as the “Yes we can” message of hope harkening back to Chavez and resonating with Latino voters, a group she calls aspirational in nature. Maya Enista talked about calling her mother the night of the election at 11 pm and asking her, “Mom, is this the reason you immigrated here?” Her mother said “yes” through her tears.
It’s all about personal relevance. So learn it from the campaign trail: It’s the audience, stupid, and it always will be. An appeal to your audience’s values is the only way to get and keep momentum.
Second, you need the engine behind, around and underneath that audience. The panelists identified one obvious engine: community-based organizations. That’s the human, organizational part of the engine. If those community-based organizations work together, which is hard to accomplish in our sector at a time where everyone is fighting for grants, you get a super-engine. (Maya suggests we need not only more cooperation but some mergers as well.)
They also discussed a second engine: online engagement. That’s the technological part of the engine. The Obama campaign may not have invented Facebook, as Maya reminded us, but they sure knew how to tap into the platform and all social media to mobilize a younger generation. This is an era when you can enable someone to learn the location of their polling station via Twitter. Online tools put word of mouth on steroids. They also do wonders for your outreach, your fundraising, everything. They enable you to do less with more, as well as to reach new audiences.
It’s the audience and the engines you tap. No matter how small your cause or how puny your pocketbook, you can accomplish much if you keep that in mind.
More to come from the conference – stay tuned!
Fri, November 07 2008
I’m off to Independent Sector, which I’m attending in a different way than my normal roles at conferences (speaker, marketer, Network for Good rep). I’m covering it as a blogger! I get to resume my old career - journalism - for a few days. Stay tuned for my blog posts from the conference Sunday-Tuesday!