Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

Protecting the vulnerable while telling your story

April 20, 2009

Last week, I responded to a comment made by  PR student, Crystal Klippenstein on one of my favourite Canadian podcasts, Inside PR. Crystal suggested a discussion about the role of PR professionals in the nonprofit sector. I commented on topics such as the personally rewarding aspects of nonprofit PR, small budgets that drive creativity, frequent misunderstanding of role and isolation at times because a single PR practitioner often comprises the whole “PR department.”

I also mentioned the fine balance PR practitioners must seek when telling the stories of clients to advance the cause of the organization. Public relations is all about telling stories and engaging an audience towards some kind of action.  In sectors such as child welfare or health care, this can be tricky business. I’ve talked about this at length in a previous post.

In the podcast, host David Jones commented on the use of social media and nonprofit PR. He cited War Child Canada’s use of Twitter. The organization’s founder, Dr. Samantha Nutt, has been Tweeting from a war zone in Africa. I started following Dr. Nutt and it’s been a remarkable experience. This is an incredibly effective tactic to tell the stories of extremely vulnerable children in a way that protects them yet gives the audience an intimate understanding of their plight as well as promise.

Here are a sample of some of the tweets:

warchild1warchild2warchild3warchild-6warchild5Reading these brief posts throughout my work day has had an unnerving effect. I think that’s due to the fact that Dr. Nutt is tweeting in real time. These images and events are taking place while I’m sipping my morning coffee or chatting breezily with a client on the phone. The immediacy gives the content an intimacy that is difficult to achieve through other forms of communication such as a direct appeal letter or even a blog post. In my imagination, the children she’s talking about suddenly are standing in front of me. I’ve heard their story while their identities have been protected.

So, what other ways have nonprofits found to tell the stories of the vulnerable they seek to aid? I hope you’ll share them by leaving a comment.

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Do you tweet?

February 18, 2009


I’ve had a Twitter account for about a year but just recently started to pay more attention to it. I’ve been making more of an effort to post comments and links and I have increased the number of people/organizations I’m following.  Why? Because Twitter is starting to become mainstream and organizations are finding interesting ways to use it. I admit that when I initially set up an account, I questioned the idea of another social network I had to attend to. Twitter, though, is proving to have staying power.

For those who don’t know, Twitter is a micro blogging platform that allows users to post comments, notices and links using a limit of 140 characters. That length restriction means that posts (or tweets) are short, to the point and only take a moment to absorb. Users can access Twitter on a computer or via a mobile device. Twitter post topics and user names are searchable so it’s relatively easy to find users with specific interests to create a relevant network.

I had an experience using Twitter a while back that convinced me that this social network has staying power and a huge potential reach. Frustrated with the bookkeeping software package I was using, I posted a tweet stating, “It’s official , I hate (name of  software)!” I thought nothing more of it. In the span of about 1/2 hour, I received three direct tweets from the software company’s competitors inviting me to check their product out as an alternative. I also received a tweet from an employee of the software company in question. It said, “Sorry to hear you’re having trouble Deborah, anything we can do to help?” Wow. We now have a whole new channel for customer service.

The corporate and nonprofit worlds  are exploring the Twitter opportunities. These include:

  • Disaster relief agencies using Twitter to update followers on recovery progress
  • Nonprofit fundraising campaigns using Twitter to direct follows to specific appeals
  • Authors publishing poetry or short stories via a series of tweets (Yup, really)
  • News agencies using Twitter to post breaking news items

Nowhere was the gaining influence of Twitter more clearly demonstrated than the recent aircraft landing on the Hudson River in New York City. Before any news outlet could get clear pictures, a Twitter user on site took a photo with a mobile phone and uploaded it to a Twitter application called TwitPic. One of the survivors on board also used Twitter to advise followers of what happened, reporting that he and all others were okay.

As with any other social media tactic, just because it’s what all the cool kids are doing doesn’t mean it’s the right tactic for your company or nonprofit. If you’re not exploring this platform and at least monitoring it, you won’t know its potential. As an experiment, go to Twitter and use its basic search function to see what’s posted on topics related to your industry or cause. Bet you’ll be surprised to find more than you expect. To get a feel for just how Twitter works and how people use it, see the TwiTip blog. It’s filled with very useful tips and has become a must-read for me.

So, do you tweet? If you do, how have you (or your organization) chosen to use it? Please post a comment.

September great time to set communications goals

September 3, 2008

September feels more like the New Year to me than January does. I know many people feel the same way.  Back to work, back to school, back to blogging—it always seems like a fresh new start. Feeling re-energized from the summer break, now is a great time to set a few goals for your organization with respect to PR and communications.

To get you started, here are five goals that most organizations could likely benefit from setting this fall.

  1. Take stock – Put some time aside this September to simply review your communications program. I’m not suggesting a full scale audit (although you might discover that would be beneficial). Just take a broad look at how you communicate with your various stakeholders (E.g. customers/clients, investors/donors, staff, volunteers etc.). Are any of them being ignored? Do you have any idea how they feel about what your organization is communicating to them? Were there some PR strategies you planned to launch before the summer that you never got to? Taking stock can obviously lead to setting a number of other important goals.
  2. If you’ve never pitched a story to the media before, make this the year I’m not talking about just issuing a PSA or media release about your upcoming fundraiser. I’m suggesting you figure out the essence of what your organization does and find a way to tell that story in a way that would be appealing to the media. See my post on media relations 101 for some tips. I’ve also covered the topic of getting your story out even if your organization does sensitive or confidential work.
  3. Take one step, or one further step, into the world of social media – If your experience with social media stops at Facebook, take a step or two further to see how social media tools can connect people to your cause/company. Look at examples such as how the American Red Cross uses Twitter. Twitter is a micro-blogging platform that allows users to send and read other users’ updates. Messages are a maximum of 140 characters long. Type “social media for non-profits” into Google and you’ll find lots of other ideas that could possibly fit with your overall communication strategy.
  4. Evaluate your organization’s website – When was the last time your site was updated? Is there a way for your audience to interact with you in some way through your website or is it basically a static brochure? See my post, “Let’s banish bad websites” for more on this.
  5. Pay attention to your internal audience – Remember that employees and volunteers are your ambassadors. What are they telling people about where they work and the kind of work the organization does? Make sure you have a way for staff to talk back to management in a productive way.  Communication is a two-way proposition.

Got a PR or communications subject you’d like me to talk about on this blog? Send it my way via the comments section. I’d also love to feature a few guest bloggers. Now’s your chance–it might be a way to take another step into the social media world.