Nonprofits: Revisit Your Mission to Revitalize Your Organization

October 4, 2010

Mission Focus at Nonprofits Important for Morale, Success

As I peruse and participate in Linked In groups and surf the blogosphere, I’m noticing the singular aspect of communications queries and tips. What should I put on my website? How can I drive traffic to my website? Should I have a two-fold or three-fold brochure? My response is a question. How do these message distribution channels fit into your overall communications strategy? Do you have a strategy? And if you do, how does your strategy communicate your mission?

What is Your Strategy?

The days of counting newsclips as success are gone (I hope). The days of fuzzy ROI regarding public relations are also going by the wayside. There are countless ways to publish your news and promote your organization. But you need a plan.

Start with your mission or your goals. Why are you in business? What do you do? To what end? You and each and every employee should be able to state the answer to these questions in one short sentence. If that’s not the case, then you have some work to do.

Most organizations start with well defined goals and a business plan. When your business was new, I’m confident the boss and employees knew exactly what the goals were. There was probably a lot of excitement – and possibly exhaustion from working so hard to get the word out. But as time passes, it’s easy to become complacent and lose sight of your goals.

When is the last time you really looked at your mission – and really read it? It’s important to review your mission at least every couple years to see if: 1) it’s still relevant; and 2) you are following your mission.

 Focus on Relevance

Hold a brainstorming session for all staff. Or if you have a large organization, hold a few brainstorming sessions. Encourage everyone to participate. Focus on questions like: Is our mission relevant and current? Does it describe our goals? Does it need to be changed or completely rewritten?

Depending upon the results of these brainstorming sessions, hold follow up meetings. Rewrite your mission, if necessary, and include the staff in the process. Or maybe you don’t need to rewrite your mission. Kudos. Then ask the employees to articulate what the mission means to them.                                                                                                                    

Either way, a focus on your mission will generate a renewed commitment to your organizational goals. It will motivate people by reminding them of why they do what they do, and why your organization is important.

Morale will improve and productivity will improve. This is a vital first step towards developing your messaging and messaging strategies.

Next post: Know Your Audience


Keyword Proliferation – not just meta tags anymore

September 21, 2010

The notion of a “keyword” first came to my attention over a decade ago when I was building my first web site. Among the metatags, it was important to put keywords so search engines could/would index your site.

At that time, the sort of informal rule was to use less than 30 keywords (or maybe it was 50); if you used more than that, the search engines “would be suspicious” and you might not get the results you wanted. I put 28 keywords (or maybe it was 48) in the code of each page, not just the home page. Obviously, I was looking for as much exposure as possible. Some people laughed at me and thought I was overdoing it. To me, it was much better to have 28 keywords for indexing than just the 8 or 10 words the others had.

Fast forward to the year 2010, and it’s now necessary to put keywords in most everything.

Usually the top recommendation for optimizing your Linked In profile is the propitious use of keywords. The search function works by keyword, so you need to decide what keywords a potential employer may search for, and include those words in your title, status and profile.

Many employers now review resumes electronically, and if you don’t have specific keywords, a live person may never see your resume or cover letter. Again, you need to focus on what words hiring managers may use.

When I started my blog recently, I hunted around until I found the place to put keywords. In the case of my blog, my keywords are for people interested in the topic(s) about which I’m writing.

Press releases used to be just for the press. You sent your news directly to the reporter or producer or to the wire services. If you put your press release on your web site, it was more of a courtesy than a real marketing tool.

Now, releases can be and are often viewed by the public in addition to the press. As it becomes more and more common to turn to the internet first for information, you need to include keywords in your online communications, such as news releases. Think about what is of interest to your customers. What could they be looking for that you offer?

Twitter, I would suggest, is all about keywords, since you have a limited number of characters through which to broadcast your message.

The bottom line is if you’re interested in promoting your business, you need to think long and hard about the appropriate use of keywords. If you are well versed in the subject, you’ll unconsciously include appropriate keywords as you write. However, it’s important to look at the piece before you publish it and identify the keywords. When you do this, you can decide if all the necessary keywords are included or if you should add more. It’s much easier to write, and then go back and substitute a few words, than it is to try and write something with a whole list of words next to you to include. It’s too stifling that way.

So if you’re trying to catch the attention of a certain audience, as most of us are, you need to add another step to your writing process:

1) Write/edit/check sources

2) Add keywords

3) Proofread

4) Publish

Junked Up Web Pages: Stop Screaming at Us, All I Want is a Cup of Coffee

August 3, 2010

Look here…and here…and here… and……..

I’ve built three web sites for companies myself, and I’ve written and directed the design of two web sites for other companies. So what is the deal with junked up splash pages everywhere else?

A web site is your 24-hour brochure. It is available for anyone to peruse at any time. It illustrates your company personality. You should be putting on your very best face.

My basic design principles have worked well through the years:

1) The most important element should “pop” out at the viewer. That can be either words or graphics.

2) Too many elements confuse the viewer. The eye won’t be able to settle on just one or two items.

3) Direct the viewer. The one (or two or three) main elements should lead the viewer to their next step.

When you design any type of collateral you need to keep your audience in mind. This used to be easier. You would target your publications and advertisements to one or two audiences. You had different ads in the media aimed at very different audiences. Now, on the internet, companies are putting that basic philosophy aside and attempting to catch the attention of EVERYONE with a single web page. As a result, there are messages for all audiences jumbled up together. This is ineffective in getting your message out. It also frustrates users who come to web sites for a particular piece of information but are bombarded by all kinds of messages and have to be very persistent in finding and retrieving the information for which they are looking.

The new web design philosophy seems to be “cram as much information as you can on your home page with the hope that you will catch the attention of everyone”. This makes me crazy.

I also don’t understand it. The culture today is that internet users looking for information expect immediate gratification; that is, they expect the information for which they are looking to be easily found once arriving on a web site. Instead, what they often find is an onslaught of images and content not of interest, through which they have to dig and search.

The Cyberdesignz blog appears to subscribe to the “simpler” theory. I worked with Mercury on a company web site, and they were very insistent about not having pages that scroll and scroll and scroll. Their web site is not junked up; it’s very user friendly and easy to navigate. You know exactly who they are and what services they offer.

Let’s talk about some of the elements that make up these junked up pages. Flash technology is very useful, but is it really necessary to combine it with streaming news and streaming headlines, multiple pictures and links, not to mention all the different fonts and colors. Just because we have this technology doesn’t mean we have to use it all – and use it all together. Sometimes I feel like I’ve arrived in a new city with restaurants and shops and people everywhere, all of whom are screaming at me to try out their business, when all I really want is a cup of coffee.

It’s not difficult to design your site so it reaches all your audiences without cramming information in everywhere. Use the broad drop down menus effectively; concentrate on your site navigation; design a landing page for each of your target audiences separately; focus your splash page headlines on the 3 or 4 most important items.

Of course, sites can take simplicity to the extreme as well. Keep in mind basic journalistic principles: who, what, when, where and why. The WHY is critical in the information age. Why are you the best? Why should we patronize your business? What are your core competencies?

Not everyone is junking up their web sites. There are some excellent ones out there with very easy to use navigation. Check out line 25 sites of the week. They have some interesting and unusual picks, some of which have excellent designs and illustrate their message well, without 50 headlines screaming at you.

Think about magazine racks. The mainstream publications usually have 4-6 taglines on the cover, while the tabloids have many more screaming headlines. Which do you believe have more credibility?

Building Relationships

July 28, 2010

Social networking. Social media. Online communities. The news is filled with these terms, and conversations with friends and colleagues are sprinkled liberally with references to online activities. Experts abound, with advice on how to navigate this new world, which has become oh-so important.

But what’s it really all about? As a public affairs professional I have heard and read numerous times that this is the new way – we need to obliterate all our old ways of doing things and embrace the new way.

To me, public affairs or public relations or communications is all about relationships, and it always has been. I’ve been a writer for 24 years, and a public affairs manager for 15 of those 24 years. If you want your company in the news or if you want to catch the attention of your customers, you need to build relationships. First I built relationships by phone or in-person; then I added e-mail to that mix; now I’ve added online contacts and groups.

Pubic relations. Media relations. Internal relations. External relations. Customer relations. Constituent relations. The word has always been there loud and clear.

Yes, the internet and its growing applications is new, and we can all use the advice of the experts as we navigate our way around. Newspapers and other print media have had to change the way they do things. Those of us in the communications arena also need to change the way we do some things. But the basics remain. We need to recognize that online applications are simply new vehicles for disseminating our message. It’s still about building relationships with folks who have the capability/the network/the platform to see that our messages reach our target audiences, or better yet building relationships directly with our target audience members.

Cultivating relationships with our target audiences SOUNDS simple, given all the online activities and forums, but it is exactly due to all that activity that messages are lost unless there is a more than tenuous relationship established.

Interesting blogs:

Memorable impressions:

How can we ensure that our message reaches the right audience and…

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