Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Your non-profit communications program is WAY dead

I’ve just finished reading a book that tells me that most of the stuff I used to do in non-profit communications only a few years ago won’t work anymore, and likely never did. And yet, it was a refreshing read.

PR is half-dead.
Brian Solis is a new media guru, who writes about both PR and social media. His book, Putting the Public back in Public Relations, basically says that PR as we know it is pretty well dead. Sort of half-dead, like a flesh-eating Zombie. You need to remove its head to finally kill it.

Solis, although somewhat repetitive, says the old way of making press releases and sending them to reporters is useless. First, it is inefficient. The reporters and editors don’t give two hoots about your press release anymore. Second, because it ignores the fundamental shift in PR away from the fractured media to the citizen journalist, also known as the blogger.

“We now need to expand our scope of participation and outreach by also identifying, understanding, and engaging the everyday people who have plugged-in to a powerful and democratized online platform for creating and distributing information, insight, and opinions – effectively gaining authority in the process,” he says in an overly complicated description of his book.

It is really a lot simpler. Bloggers and social media groups have the same power to influence the world as the traditional journalist at your local newspaper (if there are any left). In other words, you now have the power to talk to your audience, or part of it, directly. Use it.

So, he says it makes sense to find bloggers and other social media groups and try and engage them directly. For him, a heavy hitter who often deals with large issues, this is easy. For Mr. and Mrs. Local Non-Profit, it is harder. Finding a blogger interested in technology is easy for Mr. Solis who’s playground is the entire Internet. Finding one that is interested in your small neck of the wood isn’t. That being the case, there are surprisingly more local and interest-driven bloggers and social media types than you would think. You need to go find them.

Once you do, Solis says you need to engage them. Don’t send them your press release. They’ll be even more ticked off than the reporters you send it to. Talk to them. Marketing today is about conversations. So, Solis says that’s what you need to do. I think he’s right, but it sounds easier than it is to do. It is something that takes time. You can’t find these people and converse with them adequately in 15 minutes. You will need to cultivate them.

Brian Solis: unprentencious?
So, here’s what you need to do. Get your feelers out. Do some heavy searching. Look for blogs, Facebook groups, special interest websites that impact your audience. Then, get to know them. Comment, ask questions, send them information they can use. And when it is time to send a media release, send it to the bloggers first. And send them info they need to blog about it – pictures, links, bios, etc. Solis calls this the Social Media Release, a new, hip cousin to the age old media release (which is more than 100 years old by the way).

Thank you Mr. Solis for making me feel inadequate. But thank you for telling me I suspected all along. Things are different in PR and we have to change with the times.

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