Commentary

4 Resolutions For Non-profit And Government Marketers In 2014

Last year, 10% of American internet users expanded to multiple online content platforms, and this trend is accelerating. For people like me working in communications and public affairs, this demands that we create and execute even more multiscreen campaigns than we did in 2012.

But for government and non-profit agencies, limited marketing budgets and strict editorial guidelines can pose a challenge to immediate and fluid evolution with the market. Again, for communications operatives, “challenge” is nothing more than a call to get creative. Here are four resolutions those of us at mission-based organizations can implement today for less worry and better key audience engagement:

1. Dig deeper with built-in analytics. Government agencies and non-profits are often forced to do more with less, which makes the free built-in analytics so many platforms offer a crucial tool. With these increasingly sophisticated tools, we can see what works and what doesn’t. One of my favorites is Twitter’s recent addition of analytics, which shows us stats about our followers such as location, gender and interests.

It seems obvious, but what better way to tailor a communications campaign than to know exactly what sort of audience you’re talking to? And Muck Rack’s new (and free!) Who Shared My Link tool can tell us just which journalists and bloggers relayed our messages as well as specifics on where and how it was shared. Combining free tools like this with tried-and-true analytics like Google’s can give us almost a surgical precision to guide who we’re talking to and how we talk to them.

2. Move beyond the usual social media platforms. It’s no secret. Government agencies were slower than many to embrace social media. Now that we’ve gotten over the initial hesitation, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are used almost unanimously. But some of the more adventurous organizations push further into visual and participatory platforms like Instagram, Vine and Pinterest.

For example, our counterparts at the World Bank have found innovative ways to capitalize on Instagram, YouTube and Flickr to share stunning images and video from projects they’ve supported. And by talking to audiences of diverse ages and locations through tailored communications platforms such as the Chinese mini-blogging service Weibo, the World Bank boasts nearly two million followers across nine social media platforms. This diversification means they’re able to spread messages to audiences that most need to see it.

3. Simplify the message, and deliver far and wide. Often non-profits and government agencies become so well-versed in specifics of their own missions that communications efforts grow overcomplicated. I always remind myself and my team that clear, simple messages will always rise above difficult details that often leave the audience lost “in the weeds.” Today, the explanation of your business should fit in the short space of a Twitter biography, but it still needs to be instructive and unforgettable. The beauty of short, effective messaging is its portability.

Twitter didn’t invent brevity, but merely found a new way to amplify what we have already been distributing on table cards, lobby reading material, email signatures, newspaper headline clippings and press packet stationery, to name a few. The more channels I can use to distribute the products of my team’s hard work, the more reassured I am that it’s being heard. People talking to people wasn’t invented in the last 10 years; I just feel lucky to represent a government agency in a time when our avenues of communication are rapidly multiplying. 

4. Make Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) a foundation of your work. For good reason, there’s been a lot of talk recently about the Millennial generation. In 2014, it will make up 36% of the U.S. workforce, rising to nearly 50% by 2020. Marketers and recruiters need to understand this shift for two main reasons: this generation equates “doing good” with “doing well” and they relish working for an organization that gets behind the message it shares. CSR has evolved well beyond a feel-good idea added as an afterthought. It’s now a foundational component of agencies’ missions and business models. This isn’t just attractive to Millennial-aged employees, it’s a prerequisite. 

For example, last year the Allstate Foundation and Zeno Group won PR News’ 2013 Nonprofit PR Award for social responsibility, for the Purple Purse campaign to raise relief funds and promote awareness of domestic violence. In less than a month, the foundation raised $250,000. Allstate didn’t just show passive responsibility, they reached out to make a difference in support of their core values. These are the types of organizations that command the attention of today’s generation.

I’m excited by the ways technology and creativity are coming together, because it means more engagement, greater impact and more meaningful, measurable results than ever before. Remember, if you feel like your organization’s communications team is overworked and under-resourced, you may be right, but you’re not alone. By implementing steps listed here, you can not only keep up with today’s communication, but get ahead of it, while adding value and impact to your organization’s bottom line, whatever that line may be.

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