Communicating a vital message...

on Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Since February I've been interning in the comms department of a national charity and it's really opened my eyes to a different kind of communication. Creating awareness about a devastating and often fatal disease without resorting to scare tactics can be tricky to say the least. It's a serious matter but does that mean that the communication methods need to be all didactic and no engagement?

During my post-grad studies in PR, a lot of the main focus in textbooks and case studies was on corporations and communications of a consumer nature. Granted there was one course dedicated to fundraising but in terms of PR on a non-profit level, I distinctly remember the phrase being thrown about, "There's little or no money to be made in non-profit PR work...but it's "rewarding"...if you're into that sort of thing."

It's true that chances are that if you work for a charity in their PR department, unless its a biggie (i.e. Oxfam or Unicef), you won't have a huge budget and vast amount of resources at hand. And that's where creativity, insightfulness and social media can work wonders.

A great example of a small charity using digital communications to its full potential is Beatbullying, even their motto echoes the reasoning behind every PR initiative: "Shaping attitudes, changing behaviours."

As big charities are seen as 'wasteful' in the public eye and smaller charities are gaining much needed financial support from a substantial 40 percent of the public, Beatbullying is definitely doing something right.

Media Trust highlighted Sherry Adhami's success with Beatbullying in one of their spring conferences entitled: "What are the ingredients for a successful charity story?"

In addition to providing lesson plans to school to educate children on the dangers of bullying, they also use a potent mix of:
  • their own social networking site for peer mentoring (Cybermentors)
  • iTunes page offering original music written and produced by children in their BBMusic programme (over 5,000 downloads to date)
  • an online learning resource for primary school children partnered up with Shaun the Sheep
  • and of course YouTube, Twitter and Facebook
Sherry's impressive efforts have not gone unnoticed and Beatbullying won the 2009 Best Use of Digital Media award at the Third Sector Excellence awards.

There is so much potential in increasing a charity's message to as wide an audience as possible and to make the public more aware and socially conscious but only if charities are willing to embrace new media and its opportunities.

If charities and established corporations have one thing in common, it could be the fear of digital communications. Many charities have been around for a long time and are resistant to drastic or risky change because of the uncertain nature of financial support. It can be hard to convince a charity's CEO or trustees that social media is the way to go.

Aren't I supposed to be Twitterpated now?

on Wednesday, 31 March 2010

In the past month, I've been paying closer attention to Twitter and trying to learn as many words I can from Twittonary*, which by the way isn't going well at all and only resulting in tweepless (not actually).

The Twitter phenomenon reminds me of when chat rooms and instant messaging clients were all shiny and new. And during that time a new language sprang up with abbreviations and emoticons that transformed anything you wrote into a confusing foreign language to those uninitiated.

The same can be said for Twitter and unfortunately there are a lot of people who suffer from Twitterrhea.

Risk of Twitterhea is a valid concern for those wary of engaging with this particular form of social networking. Organisations are scared of bombarding their stakeholders and there is a lot of pressure these days to stay fresh in the Twitosphere, where the Twitterati dominate while Twidiots are aplenty.

How does one succeed at Twitter?

Simple. Tell people what they want to hear - keep your messages relevant and interesting to your stakeholders - nobody cares if your organisation has just bought a new printer for HR, the only people who can generate such interest in mundane tweets are people like Kim Kardashian (who is in the top ten of most popular Twitter users, the list is 80% US celebrities).

Just like any communicative strategy, time, energy and genuine effort need to be invested to reap a successful outcome.

Problogger offers up some useful tips (aimed at bloggers but can be applied to anyone really) for those who want to maximise Twitter's potential. See here.

Who here actually loves Twitter? Honesty is still the best policy.

*The Twitter vocabulary used in this post is just a tiny fraction of how this "language" is evolving. I don't know about you, but I still find it all just a bit too irritating and I still feel like a poser if I say it all out loud. This means I don't ever use these words in reality.

Photo courtesy of adele.turner

Wedding Planning 2.0

Digital communications has truly made a lot of life's tasks easier and wedding planning is definitely one of them.

I'm getting married this year in July and after getting engaged last April, I've been furiously planning nonstop.

Sure, that sounds like every other bride-to-be doesn't it?

Did I mention that I'm getting married twice within one week, once in Toronto, Canada and a week later in Munich, Germany? I've also been living in the UK, specifically Bristol, since last August.

Planning two ceremonies and receptions on two entirely different continents while living in neither of those continents would be near impossible if it wasn't for the internet, social media and everything in between.

Wedding industry experts are saying that using social media and the internet is the best thing right now to make the most of your time, energy and money.

Any vendors worth looking into are on Facebook and/or Twitter and it makes asking those pertinent questions so much easier, no matter the distance between.

Online forums on sites such as The Knot and Martha Stewart Weddings are indispensable when you want to get opinions and advice from other internet-savvy brides. Although The Knot can be quite scary as some of the people on the forum aren't engaged or married, or even in relationships!

Blogs are great to gain inspiration, get in touch with vendors (a lot of the bloggers are actually wedding photographers, event planners, designers etc.) or just for when you want to escape in some absolutely gorgeous photos of perfect weddings. Some of my favorites are: Style Me Pretty, 100 Layer Cake and Kiss the Groom.

My fiancé and I have also created our own wedding blogs (one in English and one in German) so the guests can access all they need to know at their own convenience. In turn it cuts down paper costs as maps, directions and hotel information (things that used to come with the invitations) can be easily posted and archived online.

Google Docs has also been an amazing tool to help get us organised. Search "wedding templates collection" and there are tons of spreadsheets available to download and use. They are also rated by others so you can see which ones are worth using.

I really don't know what I would have done if there weren't so many great tools at my disposal to help with the whole planning process. Perhaps eloping to Vegas would have been our only option...

Photo courtesy of artgyrl