Helping Nonprofits Communicate

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Nonprofit Communications Commandment #1: Know Your Audience

Thou shalt know your audience.

Meet your people where they are. That’s where your organization’s story will be best heard. Then, develop your communications plan to focus on those areas.

We talk with nonprofits that know they need to have a social media presence, but feel overwhelmed by all that can entail. We always encourage them to discern where their audience is and only become active on those social media platforms.

Nonprofit Media Solutions is quieter on social media (Facebook and Twitter) than we used to be, but we’ve got good reason. We’ve discovered that our audience isn’t spending hours scouring Twitter for industry-related information or constantly updating their nonprofit’s Facebook page.

But, our audience is reading their email and visiting our blog, so we’ve adjusted our priorities to encompass good, quality information turning out in those places, with Facebook and Twitter as secondary places to share information.

Now, what happens if where you think your audience is turns out to not be 100 percent accurate? Maybe you’re sure you have a brilliant communications plan that has been executed flawlessly. You have a well thought out, timely and industry-friendly social media plan. You executed that flawlessly too.

What comes next is usually some grumbling and foot-stamping instead of the loud cheers of happiness.

This is a good thing.

Why?

Failure equals feedback.

Now you have knowledge, and knowledge is power. Numbers and metrics are power. These things take the emotion out of your brilliant plan.

Whether we mean to or not, our personal biases seep into our communication strategies. It’s human nature. Setting up a system of checks and balances where you are consistently receiving feedback will help you recognize those biases versus what works for your audience.

1. Acknowledge the response isn’t what you expected. Read the analytics and determine what your community needs and habits truly are (taking your personal bias away).

2. Now that you have determined your new plan, allow yourself a testing period to determine legitimacy. Make minor adjustments along the way and reevaluate.

3. Change your plan according to your community’s desire. Blind marketing is never the answer.

If you’re struggling to have metrics to analyze or you aren’t sure if what you’re measuring is correct, we suggest heading over to Andrew Eckland’s piece about defining social metrics. Here’s a snippet:

“The key goals of growing communities are as such: identify your very best customers and prospects, break them into categories based upon their needs and desires, deliver the content they want, then attract more people like them through targeted communications and advocacy. Most likely they are already connected largely to one another through their own networks.”

Social metrics are not silos unto themselves. Social media should be consistent with the message across your entire organization from print, to email marketing campaigns, to website content, and public speaking. Are you measuring how your goals intertwine? If not, now is the perfect time. 2014 is upon us. It’s a great time to make those changes in your marketing plan. Loyalty 360 wrote a great piece about questions to ask your team to determine your metrics and goals. Here’s what it says,

“One of my favorite questions in marketing is ‘What should I be measuring?’ The answer isn’t a very popular one: It depends. It depends on your responsibilities, your objectives, and your business goals.”

Yes, it depends. But, knowing where your audience is and meeting them there should be your number one priority.

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