Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The World has Changed. Your Non-Profit Communications hasn`t.

I`ve spent 12 years in communications working for a variety of clients from universities and hospitals to governments and local charities. And what really strikes me about non-profit communications is that after all that time not much has really changed. Yes, we all have better looking websites and many of us have Facebook and YouTube pages, but deep down the same strategies are at work. That`s why non-profit communications are becoming increasingly irrelevant and why organizations don`t get much in the way of value from them.

That`s why I`m writing this Blog.
 It`s obvious to me that the world has changed. I started in marketing and communications and at an ad agency in Fredericton in 1998 (after a decade as a journalist) and I knew that things were about to change. That`s the year that Google was founded. It was the beginning of the dot-com boom (soon to be bust). Email was still very new – I only had my first email a few years previously. We`ve seen so many changes since – broadband, faster computers, multimedia, social marketing and more.
 When you look at every other business function at a non-profit you know that the world has changed. Internet revolution has changed everything from finance and policy to purchasing and customer service. But not communications.

Most communications shops I know think the same way they did in 1998. They never met a problem that they couldn`t solve by writing ten-thousand words in a press release no one will read. They believe the media is still an effective communications channel (which it isn`t). They are staffed by mostly ex-journalists who know how to write stories, not create out new communications channels. They don`t understand that mass media is dead and that because of things like Internet search the real power lies now with the consumer, not the marketer. They are reactive, hardly ever proactive. They use new technology, but only in ways that fit their old mindset, and not in the way that really pushes the envelope (PDF newsletter by email anyone?). They cling to the perspective of their own organization instead of trying to relate to their target audiences on the audiences’ terms. They jump on bandwagons like Facebook or Twitter without much thought to how to use them effectively. They don`t measure much of anything even though the world has gone metrics mad. And, worse of all, they think communication is a one-way activity – they talk, but they don`t listen (the organization says this, the organization says that...you know the drill).

What non-profit communications really needs is a new way of thinking to match the new world it is operating in. In this Blog I`ll take you there. We`ll explore what`s really happening and how your communications can really change.

I invite you along for the journey. Send me your questions and ideas and I`ll answer them. Listen to me think out loud and tell me if you agree or disagree.

Let`s begin.

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