Ok, I'll admit it. I really love the show The Newsroom on HBO. I recognize that it's got its flaws, but frankly, I like it. Time will tell how it all plays out (am I the only one who thinks it's rapidly getting closer to real time?), but I was particularly struck by an event that happened in the second episode. Without hopefully giving out any spoilers, a character accidentally sends an email out to the whole company that was only supposed to go to one person. Cringe-worthy, indeed, this is the stuff of nightmares of anyone with email access. But, from time to time, it's bound to happen - and sometimes a lot more publicly.
As it turns out, no one is immune. Particularly now, in the 24-hour-news-cycle-oh-yeah-and-twitter times we live in, a public gaffe can potentially lead to some pretty nasty backlash. I'm sure most of you can think of several cases in the last couple of weeks alone where an easily made mistake has led to some pretty loud public outcry, with some pretty widely varying results.
So, how does a person or organization recover from an error like this? Well, there are a few articles offering advice, and all of them say pretty much the same thing: own it, communicate it, fix it, and learn from it. Easier said than done, I know, but it turns out, they're right. Hiding from a problem, victimizing your organization, blaming others, and committing common mistakes more than once are really the worst ways to reassure the public that you know the landscape - even if you truly are being wrongfully presented.
Now, I'm not suggesting that you go rolling over every time the public doesn't like what you're organization is doing. Nor do I think you necessarily need to send out a retraction when your email blast has something that's poorly formatted. Only you and your organization can and should decide when to execute on a correction if and when you feel its necessary. But, given the evolution of communication, it's just good business sense for your organization to have some sort of contingency plan, just in case things go awry. Then, you can just cross your fingers and hope you never have to use it.
I'd love to hear more from our readers about who has either dealt with this sort of thing, is dealing with it now, or has started working on their plans. It's a new era of communication, and the learning curve is steep, so any information you can share would be great!
I recently attended an excellent webinar with Karen McGrane about Mobile Content Strategy. The funny thing is that there is actually no such thing! Karen’s talk encouraged us to think about content in a more holistic way. So, instead of content for desktop computers, mobile devices or iPads, what about creating a single content structure that will allow you to show the SAME content on any device?!
C.O.P.E. = Create Once, Publish Everywhere. This is the acronym Karen uses to describe this approach and I think it’s brilliant. The beauty of C.O.P.E. is that it not only allows your organization to adapt to the burgeoning world of mobile devices but it will also set you up for success with any devices introduced in the future that we may not have even thought of! Browsing the web on a 42” television anyone?
So what does this look like? Karen used NPR as an example so I pulled some screenshots of my own. Check out this Elton John story on the NPR website:
And in their Media Player:
And on their mobile website:
And in their NPR Music app:
The magic here is that an NPR web administrator only had to create this content item one time. As they created it, they specified a series of different length headlines and descriptions and different-sized photos (a.k.a. meta data) and then their CMS determines which pieces to display for each device.
What do you think about the C.O.P.E. approach? Does it make sense for your organization? Do you have a CMS that makes this a viable option or does it seem like something that’s out of your reach? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Meanwhile, I’ll be singing “Daniel” in my head all day thanks to that story :)
In recent weeks, I’ve been hearing more and more interest from event fundraisers on providing online tools to support their third-party or Independent Fundraising Events (IFE.) This topic came up earlier this month at the Run Walk Ride Roundtable discussions in Chicago. You can read more about that discussion along with some tips on how to get your own IFE brand started from my friend Nancy Palo on the Friends Asking Amy blog.
Traditionally, most orgs have only provided support to these types of events using offline channels alone. Typically, the fundraising group signs an agreement, gets permission to use the org’s name/logo in promotional materials and maybe if the event is large enough, maybe a staffer would show up to accept the large check.
As online fundraising has grown in popularity and as traditional run walk ride events have adopted sophisticated online fundraising tools like TeamRaiser or Friends Asking Friends, we’ve seen a trend where third-party fundraisers are now requesting (or demanding) access to similar online fundraising tools to support their independent fundraising event campaigns. When done right, these types of online campaigns can provide a nice complement (and a revenue stream) to your overall peer-to-peer fundraising strategy by providing individuals who are not interested in your traditional staff-driven events with alternative ways to support your organization by hosting their own style of fundraiser.
WaterCan is a Canadian organization committed to fighting global poverty by providing access to clean water, basic sanitation and hygene education. They worked with Cathexis Partners to develop an extremely visually compelling website that promotes several types of IFEs; highlights include a 25th Anniversary Campaign (pictured), Kilimanjaro Climbing Event, Donate Your Special Day and (my personal favorite) the Board Challenge. If publically displaying a photo of your board members next to their fundraising totals doesn’t motivate them to fundraise, I’m not sure what will.
There are so many things I love about this website that it’s hard to only pick 2-3 to share with you... so I limited myself to 4.
Interested in learning more about third-party fundraising / Independent Fundraising Events? Check out our whitepaper on How to Raise More Money with IFEs.
E-books and e-readers are a growing part of the attention ecosystem. Long-form journalism is finding new legs through social recommendation (#longform, #longreads) and time-shifting apps. Nonprofits struggling to communicate complex issues in 140 characters can benefit from deploying e-books and other long-form content as part of a thoughtful mobile and social media strategy.
Who is reading?
Owners of e-reading devices have similar profiles to audiences most nonprofits are trying to reach for fundraising. According to a recent report from the Pew Internet & American Life report, The Rise of E-Reading:
Compared with all Americans 16 and older, “e-reading device owners” are more likely to live in high income households and have more educational experience, and are also much more likely to be more tech-savvy in general… more likely to read in general, and to read a book on a typical day… more avid readers of newspapers and magazines than other Americans, and are more likely to read long-form content of any kind for pleasure. (emphasis mine)
29% of Americans age 18 and older own at least one specialized device for e-book reading – either a tablet or an e-book reader.
Also, it bears stating the obvious: smartphones are also e-readers. Don't think of e-books as being read exclusively by owners of dedicated e-readers like the Kindle or Nook, but instead think of any mobile screen. The audience for an e-book may be larger than you thought.
What content makes sense?
As chronicled in Forbes.com and elsewhere, long-form writing on the web is making a comeback. Many readers are using time-shifting apps to collect web content and read it later. In addition to purposefully written longer articles on your website, e-books are an opportunity to reach your audience with long-form content. Examples of content that could be produced in e-book format or targeted to long-form readers include:
Depending on the organization, other opportunities may present themselves. For example, distributing an exclusive work (or excerpt) by a well-known author in e-book format may be a way to generate donations or signups. Furthermore, new outlets for long-form journalism (Atavist, Longform.org, Longreads, Matter, PostDesk (UK), among others), should be part of your media planning.
TheNextWeb.com blogger Alex Wilhelm writes that "Long-form content is headed back to the business model of the pamphlet, with short works selling at low price points and in large quantity." According to Wilhelm, the key success factors for e-books are: locational convenience, formatting, and curation.
"By locational convenience I mean that people [with e-readers] often use them where they lack an Internet connection (the train). Therefore, to have something downloaded and ready to go is a real value. In regards to formatting, most ereading devices have browsing capabilities, but that doesn’t mean that they render pages well, or quickly. A well formatted ebook has none of those issues. Finally, curation means that things are assembled in a very specific way to give a cohesive and user-friendly experience."
An example of this kind of content curation is veteran nonprofit blogger Colin Delany's recent e-book, How Campaigns Can Use the Internet to Win in 2012, available in Kindle-optimized format via Amazon.com, and as a free PDF.
Why is formatting important?
As a consumer (not a standards expert), my experience is that PDF meets only the minimal requirements to be called an e-book, mainly for reasons of usability. While almost every e-reader can display PDFs, the end-user has no control over text size, background color, pagination, and other aspects of the the reading experience that make e-books a compelling medium. This is especially true for smartphones (currently your largest potential e-reader audience), where reading PDFs is possible but very tedious, with each page requiring zooming and scrolling.
How to publish an e-book?
Unfortunately, there isn't one publication standard that works across all e-readers. The major purveyors of e-book platforms (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble) all want to make it easy for you to produce content, and make it sound as easy as uploading HTML or Word Documents. Because Amazon.com has the largest audience of e-readers, many independent publishers with limited time and energy are going the route of publishing in Amazon's Kindle-optimized format. One of the long-form content aggregators mentioned above, Atavist, offers a publication platform that looks promising.
If you are looking for deeper examination of the fragmented state of e-book publication standards, Nick Disabato fires a #longform broadside from A List Apart in two parts: the current state, and a look to the future. Nonprofits with limited resources would certainly benefit from industry adoption of standards as he urges.
Are you already making use of e-books and #longform content? Please let us know in the comments.
So here are five (additional) tips to help get your strategy ready for election season.
6. Get Engaged. Your constituents are beginning to think about how they can be involved in election season. Publicize volunteer opportunities of all shapes and sizes (including some gigs that don’t require leaving one’s house, such as guest blogging or tweeting) so you can cultivate new leaders in your community. Competition for constituents’ time will just increase as we get closer to November, so move this item to the top of your to-do list.
7. Be Subjective. Make sure your email subject lines set your messages apart from all of the other email they’ll be getting in the coming months. Leverage your status as an organization who will be working on important issues before, during, and after the election to help you stand out.
8. Join Up. Many non-profit organizations choose to devote their electoral resources to participation in a coalition. If you haven’t considered the team approach to election season organization, now’s the time! You’ll get great exposure to like minded people and spread the work out a bit as you share the burden with additional staff. Don’t forget to nail down branding and list sharing details before you get started!
9. Back to Basics. If you play your cards right, you will get some new housefile members through your online activities. Make sure your welcome series is set up so you make the most of your new found fans. This is a good opportunity to check out your donation forms and make sure they’re in good shape, too (remove those unnecessary fields!) and ensure that your housefile opt in button is easy to find (above the fold).
10. Say No. This is not directly related to online strategy, but remember to take care of yourself during the next few months. Schedules will get busy and timelines will be short, but as my college advisor used to say, “When you say no to others, say yes to yourself.” The same goes for organizing around an election—take care of yourself!
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