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    Online observations of public relations, marketing, advertising and social media; the occasional frivolity; and The Rundown show notes. Jump in, the water's fine.

    Please Note: Everything posted on this blog is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of my employer or its constituents.

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Woof! Woof!

Speaking of social media and your daily dose of vitamins. Welcome Dogster and Catster. It’s like Myspace for dogs and cats. The site is equiped with a blog, daily diaries, forums and a lot of other community development tools. They not only have a Dog Lovers Blog titled For the Love of Dog Blog, but also a company blog aptly named Company Blogster. Dogster actually won the 2005 Webby for best community site. The Adopt Me and We Miss You pages are heart-warming and sometimes sad. I tend to get lost in the adoption site wanting to bring home a friend for Bailey, but he would be jealous. Bailey

Talk about the changing sphere of the Internet and social media. Dogster and Catster have taken community and social interaction elements of the Internet and ran with them in a positive way. The site is witty and creatively raises awareness to homeless pets and animal welfare. Also, this is a perfect site for so many dog and cat owners who make up an enormous demographic. What a way to harness the communication power of pet owners worldwide.

Check it out! Give a dog bone!

Social Media: Vitamins of the Web

Like getting enough vitamins or fiber in your daily diet, social media might actually be good for you. Things like blogging and podcasting, you say? Indeed. Let me show you some examples.

This report from The Boston Globe entitled "Blogs 'essential' to a good career" pretty much says it all. But, in typical Luke fashion, please allow me expound upon the self-evident. The articles lists several excellent reasons to blog, one of which is to help you launch your career by demonstrating your work-ethic and mental processes. If you don't believe me, check this out.

And, as you know, corporations can reap the benefits as well. Sure, we've been talking about this for a while, but here's a study that actually gives some empirical data. This study, pointed out to me by David Phillips on FIR (thank you), indicates that blogs have "relational strategies," such as conversational human voice and commitment. These strategies were found to correlate significantly with relational outcomes such as "trust, satisfaction, control mutuality, [and] commitment." Blogging can make your organization seem like Soylent Green, you know, made of people. It has worked wonders for Microsoft…

Podcasting, how does this fit in? Easy, for many of the same reasons as The Boston Globe article about blogging. Plus, listening to podcasts in their entirety could get you a two-minute self promotion spot on a major mash-up edition of influential industry-related podcasts. Chris, I listened to the FIR#131 and ATS #29 mash-up. Your promo was great, good luck.

And some new information about the web in general is always good. For instance, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a study (abstract w/link to pdf) last week showed a gigantic increase in the influence the Internet has on our lives (hat tip). You don't have to tell me! Nearly half of my graduate education came from the Internet – by my own choice, of course. Some stats:

  • 50% in the number who said the internet played a major role as they pursued more training for their careers.
  • 43% in the number who said the internet played a major role when they looked for a new place to live.
  • 14% in the number who said the internet played a major role as they switched jobs.

In sum: Social media is good for you. The Internet continues to grow in popularity and usefulness. Eat your fruits and veggies. Any questions?

Baby Blogger Relations

And, no, I don't mean relating to babies who blog.

The title of my graduate project is Online Public Relations: Using the Internet to build and sustain relationships. I am aware the title is a little lengthy and doesn't flow off the tongue as well as, say Peppy PR or One, Two, PR or even My Book: As Seen On Oprah. But it is what it is.

Photo by Umut Kemal

The reason I'm mentioning it is because I finished the chapter on blogs the other day and sent it to my project chair for approval. I'm still doing updates on the earlier chapters that he sent back to me. The chapter on blogs, though, just isn't complete even though I sent it. I left space for, but didn't fill in, a section on Blogger Relations. Why? Because blogger relations is in its infancy. Rest assured I'm paying incredible attention to what Shel Holtz is doing (as per usual) with his blogger relations campaign. There was a lot of talk in the past with the way Wal-Mart and Edelman handled their earlier blogger relations campaign. And I'm not foolish enough to think there aren't others or that Shel, for instance, is the first to do what he's doing. But one thing I can assure you, Shel's going to do it right. Or as right as anyone can for something this new. And it looks as if he's succeeding so far. So I'm going to be following this very closely for the next few weeks until my project committe chair rips my graduate project out of my hands and says that it's done. At that point I'll finally have to stop writing about it in my project. But I certainly won't stop paying attention to the campaign. The blog for the campaign participants is here if you're interested in seeing it.

Fortunately for me, Shel is posting updates about it so that we may all learn from what he's doing. Keep up the great work, Shel, there are many of us who appreciate and count on it. Now back to work on Chapter 187, "How to assure another blogger that you're not an online predator."

Hat tip to Erin for sparking the writing muse.

Readers V. Viewers

Readers vs. viewers, which is better for blog stats? Upon discovery of “Feed Stats” now a part of the WordPress service offerings, I am curious. In the feed stats it tells Luke and I how many people read our blog each day through a particular service, like the ever so handy Bloglines. As a future PR-pro, I would think knowing how many people read a blog might be more valuable than viewers. But who is to say that “viewers” are not reading our blog just because they do not do so through a feed. Any thoughts or further insight?

Voices in my head

At first, they appeared to be in my head, but then I remembered that I was on a conference call

The Basics, First

On Thursday, I went on an informational interview with a local nonprofit group. As I am learning about nonprofit PR, my eyes keep widening in awe and amazement at how nonprofits function. Personally, I love it! It’s grassroots, compassionate, creative, and motivating.

I have learned and realized that resources are a huge limitation for PR within nonprofits. And its not just resources in terms of money, but time and staff. Organizations are challenged with keeping administrative costs down, yet are accountable for achieving their mission and goals–or vamoose there goes the organization.

What I also noticed is that even the basics of PR sometimes are not even contemplated because of these limitations. Not only is there not a budget for PR/Marketing functions or staff, but these activities are more often than not subsumed by fundraising activities. When and how do organizations have the time to strategically map out who their publics are, how they are going to reach them, what messages will work, and what tactics to use? These are the basics of PR planning.

One quote from my research on nonprofit PR and marketing I found illuminating is by Scheff and Kotler (1996) who wrote Crisis in the Arts: the marketing response. They assert that an organization must know its publics, current and potential. A group begins to do this by

Listening to the heartbeat of its community–what people like and dislike; what they find attractive, what keeps them away; which segments of the community are most likely to be interested in its core product…

So how can nonprofits listen? How do nonprofits gain their publics attention and keep it? Are media partnerships the answer? Or do volunteers become the voice, the PR rep for a nonprofit without a PR budget and staff? Or is a blog the anwer?

Obviously, I think blogs can work, but it should be used as a way to transparently communicate and be a voice in the community it supports. However, blogs may not be the right fit for every nonprofit. I acknowledge that.

Before nonprofits can really get into blogging and social media, they need to go back to the basics. They need to determine all of their publics, who they are, how they fit into the fabric of their organization, and then listen to their needs. It seems so simple, but I think this can be difficult when there just isn’t the time, money, or staff.

I propose we all get out their and volunteer our expertise, knowledge and time to help local nonprofits with their PR efforts or even start a blog for them.

Here are some facts for everyone:

  • 1.4 Million NPOs exist
  • 1.1 Million NPOs operate on less than $100,000 dollars annually
  • 2,986 operate on $1 million or more.

This info can be found and researched through the National Center for Charitable Statistics.

The Good Stuff: Nonprofit Blogs

Yes, spring break was a delectable treat of sleep, relaxation and yoga. I realized today that I haven’t posted in awhile. I am excited to write about nonprofit blogs because these thoughts have been stirring.

My master’s project is a case study on nonprofit blogs and a guide on how nonprofits can use them as a communications tool. I really believe that blogs offer nonprofits a way to advocate their cause, communicate, and support their constituents. So here is my mini-primer on nonprofit blogs. May you find the information helpful and valuable.

Tom Murphy started this discussion stating the reasons why charitable organizations should blog. The New PR Wiki started Operation Link Love as a way to showcase nonprofit blogs—and what an awesome project and idea.

Nonprofit organizations passionately work to help those in need, educate, empower, and drive social change. Blogs offer nonprofits a way to communicate, interact, support, and give a voice to those they support.

Techsoup is a valuable resource. They provide nonprofits with technology resources and information. Marnie Webb’s article Weblogs:The Promise for Nonprofits lists 10 reasons why nonprofits should start blogs. She refers to the most discussed blog features; easy updating, posts in reverse chronological order, frequent updates, and personal voice. One of the most important statements she makes is that blogs allow nonprofits to become a trusted source of information. For example, the Sierra Club’s Compass (http://www.sierraclub.org/compass) informs its publics about the environment and how they can get involved. The Sierra Club is seen as a trusted resource for environmental issues. This leads to credibility, which Webb says “transfers to its other efforts, including fundraising.” One of the main activities of nonprofits is fundraising. If blogs can help an organization become more credible, which can yield profits for a notable and admirable cause—then a blog can make a profound difference.

Webb continues pointing out that nonprofit organizations can find weblogs useful allowing them to “create a valuable, credible resource that points to outside sources, publishes a variety of media, and uses your own voice to engage your constituency in an ongoing conversation about the issues to which your organization is dedicated.”

Another resource I came across is NetSquared, a Techsoup project, which helps nonprofits access social tools and knowledge on the Web. NetSquared has completed a case study on the social media tools nonprofits are implementing. The list encompasses a range of organizations and I have found it interesting to see what nonprofits are doing.

Britt Bravo a blogger for NetSquared compiles a list of ways nonprofits can use blogs. You can view the list here: Bravo’s List

The most significant uses of nonprofit blogs relate to its publics. Blogs can give publics a voice and enable them to enact social change. Girls for a Change a nonprofit organization empowering young women to create social change in their communities moderates the blog HerCity. The HerCity blog gives young women the ability to talk about what is going on in their communities and how they can change their cities in an open space online.

Also, blogs can give constituents support by providing a space to converse and support each other. Bravo cites the March of Dimes’ Share Your Story blog, which allows families with children born prematurely and in the neonatal intensive care unit to share their experiences by creating a blog and communicating with others. Nonprofit organizations can use blogs for this purpose and the others listed, but more importantly to interactively communicate with an active audience and reach out to constituents they support.

Some other ways nonprofits can use blogs:

  • Educational Outreach: A science museum could host a blog specifically for science classes at local schools teaching students about physics by posting experiments, problems, or featuring new physics exhibits.
  • I like the “sharing” concept that March of Dimes and the American Cancer Society have going on. I think that is probably one of the best uses for nonprofit blogs. The Red Cross, I think would benefit from this type of blog. Families who have survived disasters might find that sharing on a blog gives them a voice and support.
  • Internal Employee Blogs: To communicate departmental news, upcoming projects, provide information on new donors or sponsors, or coordinate a special event/fundraiser.
  • Program Specific Public Blogs: The best examples I can think of are Greenpeace and Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis.

Here is a short list of nonprofits that are implementing blogs. Check Operation Link Love for some additional nonprofit blogs. Diva Marketing Blog also provides a list and description of Nonprofits blogging.

Nonprofit blogs really are the good stuff! Spread the word!