Monday, December 17, 2012

Need Content? Train your staff. (Give staff a voice! Part 9 of 10)

Need content?

Ask your staff. Right? They all have stories, they are the experts.

And you already have a content plan, so the topic is set.

So blamo! Ask the staff to create and just wait for it to be done.

Wrong. We have already talked about all of the obstacles and then I shared some ideas on how to remove the barriers. The key will be to build up to the ask. And one of the best ways to build up to the ask is to progressively build skills and as you build the skills ask the participants to practice.

So where do you begin in this training?

With the basics.

Provide information about writing for each medium.

Web - concise, directed, bullets, data, transparent, keywords, audience oriented, purposeful
--read some good articles

Email - stories, links, call to action, news
--read some good articles

Social Media - when training you need to remember that they are all different. You can count on mass publishing for all of your content. You have to continuously show how to adapt content to audiences and the medium.

Facebook - personality, engaging, images, video, humor, questions
--read some good articles

LinkedIn - professional, jobs, volunteers, news, connections, collaboration
--read some good articles

Twitter - timely, replies, frequent, repeats ok, short, humor
--read some good articles

Not sure if you noticed what I did there. I started by talking about training your staff on how to write, but then send you to a bunch of good articles to read for yourself.

That's right, the first training that has to happen is that YOU realize that no matter how long you have been creating content for any medium, you need to take time to train yourself in order to train others. Take time to read articles (or at least scan them) to refresh your thinking, see new trends or pick up tips.

Then take the articles and use them as training tools. Pick the resources or articles that best match your org, your goals or your approach and share them in a central place for all staff. Using an outside source will establish authority and importance. Plus you don't have to do as much work.

Build your trainings around information that people can relate to. Don't get buried in showing them the steps.

An important note about training staff. Most of the time staff don't want the training until they are already in the middle of the process. They get started and realize they need some help. Make sure your trainings can be accessed at any time. Create cheat sheets, recordings, a list of resources, etc.

So finally, here is the key to all of this. Training staff for digital content needs to be approachable, regular, ongoing, focused on voice\style\approach and fun!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holly Ross - Disruptor

At my new job they seem to love the word disruptor. (or disrupter, didn't ask them the spelling...?) defines disrupt as:
1. to cause disorder or turmoil in
2. to destroy, usually temporarily, the normal continuance or unityof; interrupt
3. to break apart

Ok, Holly Ross doesn't really meet those definitions.
1. Her efforts helped bring order and collaboration to the NPTech community
2. She acted as a leader to build a strong, sustainable and respected organization focused on the NPTech community
3. Holly knew she couldn't do this alone, she encouraged, connected and empowered each person she met to support the movement

Is Holly Ross a disruptor? Yes.

(Side note: if you don't know who Holly Ross is, she was the Exec Dir of NTEN, see her recent article about her change in career.)

Holly is a disruptor because she was not willing to accept the status quo, she:
1. Caused turmoil by defying myths like all nonprofits lack in technology knowledge and technology is overhead to be managed
2. Destroyed the curtain nonprofit technology staff were hiding behind by collaborating to build a way to spotlight our NPTech community and unify us
3. Stepped up as Executive Director to break apart the barriers that prevented nonprofits from getting and learning how to use technology to achieve their mission

The real gift of Holly's work though was she did not do it alone. She always relied on the strength, support and resources of the full community.  She was selfless and didn't seek attention to herself. NTEN works to lean on corporate, nonprofit and foundation partners to make it happen.

I can remember conversations with Holly around 2004 before she was the Exec. Director at NTEN. She repeatedly said she didn't need to be in charge or be on stage. She loved her work and wanted to spend all of her time getting things done, not basking in the glory. At that point I didn't believe that I was important enough to the community to have her spend time with me. I questioned my value in presenting, sharing and connecting. Holly saw it very different. She believes and helps people find the value and to have the courage to share it.

Did Holly do this work alone? No. That is how she is a disruptor. She disrupted our silos, our preconceptions and what was considered normal in nonprofit technology.

She didn't get on the list of 50 most influential people in nonprofit technology by running a campaign, building a personal brand or grabbing attention. Holly is a rockstar because she genuinely cares, is remarkably smart and puts the mission first.  Holly didn't want to be an Exec, she stepped up because others encouraged her.

Anyway, why am I blogging about this? Well first to say Thanks to Holly for taking time with me all of those years ago and ever since.

But also to challenge you! What are you doing to disrupt the status quo to make a real difference?

Take Holly's example. Every person has the ability to have an impact.

Monday, December 3, 2012

2012/2013 Heart & Soul Grant Opportunity

Taking a break from my normal blog post still to share a grant opportunity that was passed along to me!  Enjoy
Renew The Heart & Soul of your Non-Profit for a Chance To Win $10,000

If you're like most people who work at nonprofits, you're inspired by quietly changing the world each and every day. But sometimes it's not easy to stay inspired - especially because you're a human being with good days and bad days!

Re-inspire your sense of mission by participating in the Heart & Soul grant

The CTK Foundation has just launched the 2012/2013 Heart & Soul Grants, with over $55,000 to assist nonprofits like yours in accomplishing your mission. But, more important than the money is the process for applying, which is unlike any other grant program!

How do you apply for these grants?

All you have to do is submit a 4-8 line poem expressing the heart of your mission at (orgs must be US-based 501 c3s). The intent behind submitting a poem is for you to refresh, nurture and reawaken your sense of mission! The Grant Application opens today (12 noon CST on 12/3/12) and closes at 12 noon CST on 1/7/13. The Heart and Soul grant will provide one eligible nonprofit organization to receive the main award:
  • A $10,000 cash and
  • A professionally written and recorded song by the Grammy Award-winning group, The Original Blind Boys of Alabama.
Both the song and the accompanying $10,000 grant will help the selected nonprofit to better accomplish their unique mission in their community. If you have questions about the grant, please see the FAQ page on the Heart & Soul site.

Additional 2012/2013 Heart & Soul Grants include:

  • $10,000 HHS Grant, available to an Austin, TX-area nonprofit specializing in the provision of At Risk Children and Families ‚ a gift from the Cipione Family Foundation of Austin, TX
  • Two $5,000 Grant Awards to 2 US Nonprofits
  • Five $1,000 Grant Awards to Community TechKnowledge, Inc. customer organizations attending the 2013 Outcomes Immersion Certification Training
  • $20,000 in matching cash grants to nonprofits for CTK software purchases
  • Three autographed guitars: one by The Original Blind Boys of Alabama, one by Los Lonely Boys, and one by Sunny Shipley

What is the CTK Foundation?

The CTK Foundation was established by Community TechKnowledge, Inc., to recognize and celebrate the work nonprofits do and seek to promote the use of technology in managing the accomplishment of their mission. For regular updates or questions about the Heart & Soul grant submissions and awards, check out the CTK Facebook Page.

Monday, November 19, 2012

LinkedIn is not a game – by a Star Wars expert

I decided to use my full midichlorians and force to prove my expertise in Star Wars. I tried tweets, posts and jedi mind tricks to influence my contacts to endorse my skills in Star Wars.

I had a few people play along and endorse me in Star Wars just because I asked. A few of my contacts know that I am a big Star Wars fan so they endorsed me. One person gave me a 3 question quiz to see if I was qualified.

Star Wars is now my third most endorsed skill with 12, Social Media with 16 and nonprofits with 31 beats it out.

But more interesting to me, was the reaction by many of my colleagues. Many of them questioned my intentions and refused to endorse it. My efforts to make it fun, get it retweeted and gather some muster were very ineffective.

I think many people still respect the validity and professionalism of the platform. I know I do. Having been laid off twice and faced with unexpected job searches, LinkedIn was a resource of value beyond question. My response, interview and job process was directly enhanced through my LinkedIn network. I asked connections for recommendations to get my resume looked at and considered, which really worked!

I hate to see something as valuable to me as LinkedIn “jump the shark” so to say by reaching for the gamification buzz.

LinkedIn is not like other social networks. And in many ways I would argue that it isn’t a social network. But LinkedIn recently launched their new “endorsement” functionality. This allows you to list the skills you are good at, then people can “endorse” that you are good at those skills.

First point – games are typically fun, LinkedIn isn’t. We all saw R2-D2 and Chewbacca play chess right? Chess is a game and fun for many. However, if you are in a situation where you have to let the “wookie” win, it isn’t as fun.

LinkedIn should know that they are playing against “wookie’s” like Facebook and Twitter. They should know to focus on what they do best and leave the silly games to the others. LinkedIn should know what games they can win and who their competitors are. Don’t pick a fight on someone else’s turf.

There are numerous blog posts out there talking about the sillyness of this functionality and how it may cheapen LinkedIn into a popularity contest. I would not go that far at all, but it may dilute it.

My favorite article is the one by Debra (the comments are the best part!):

My favorite comment comes from my friend, Peter Campbell (someone you should hire right now!)

Anyway, I guess my thought is that the endorsements may bring something new, sorta fun and somewhat worthwhile, but at what cost?

Now go endorse my "star wars" skill (as I wave my hand and use my jedi mind trick....) 

And yes, eventually I will finish my series on "Giving staff a voice", just be patient my young padawan.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A New Hope

Star Wars was sold to Disney. Steve Heye now works for The Cara Program ( not the Y. Which is bigger news? (Please don't answer.)

A New Hope. I am excited to start my new role as the Manager of Technology at The Cara Program! Learn more about The Cara Program on their website. My 14 years with the Y now has a special place in my past and it is time for a new challenge.

I have been here for two weeks now and am loving it. The staff are passionate, friendly and work diligently toward the mission of preparing and inspiring motivated individuals to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty, transform their lives, strengthen our communities, and forge paths to real and lasting success.

In my role I will work to develop a technology strategy to support, enhance and grow the work that The Cara Program does. I will get to implement and do many of the tactics and strategies that I focus on in this blog. IT Alignment here we come!

My favorite part so far has been how much the management values the passion and character of the staff. Enthusiasm and energy are embraced and encouraged, along with an atmosphere that encourages idea sharing and innovation. So refreshing.

Anyway, just thought I would share this to my small but mighty blog audience. Next post will get back to my give staff a voice series. Until then, May You Meet Your Mission With Tech!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Remove Barriers (Give staff a voice! Part 8 of 10)

Road Trip! The excitement builds as you jump in the car and crank the music! Then you realize you forgot to get directions and didn't fill the gas tank. OK, deep breath.

Run inside, grab the brand new GPS, quickly open it and get those directions. But you have no idea how this thing even works and why does it suddenly have a voice like the Hulk? What button did you push?!? But a bit more fumbling and you got the directions.

Now rush to get gas. Finally on the road! But of course, construction and traffic. oy. If you only knew how to find an alternate route on this GPS or knew this area better!!! But you are afraid to leave the main road and get lost...

Ok, I think I have stressed you out enough or at least I have stressed myself out.

Content creation can have the same barriers which we talked about in the last post. So why did I create this story for this post instead of the last post? Well I don't know.  Just kidding of course. I added the story to illustrate a key point in removing barriers:

Make your authors feel prepared and comfortable.

Being ready and used to the tools is a big theme in my very real road trip story. Come on, we have all been there.

Some keys to removing barriers:

Easy to use tools - make sure the tools fit the situation and skill set of users. If you don't need the Hulk voice option, don't provide it.

Training - Offer regular and on-demand trainings. Schedules are busy, so expecting people to attend and care about training on your schedule instead of theirs can really backfire.
Practice - Your trainings should NOT be a lecture. Make them use the tools. Require them to bring real content to work on in the training. And leverage every possible scenario to get them to practice using the tools. (examples - at staff meetings use the tools as a group, use tools internally as well)

Easy to access support - Provide "on-star" type support. Give them a website with cheat sheets and a real person that can access.

Have a plan - Make sure everyone has their directions, expectations and alternate routes.

Reduce fear - Build a team of champions and cheerleaders to make the tech more approachable and friendly. Share examples of use and success.

Snacks - every road trip needs snacks. (just seeing if you are paying attention)

Don't just expect your staff to jump in the car we call content and drive. Prepare them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Identify Barriers (Give staff a voice! Part 7 of 10)

There is a fine line between excuses and barriers. Often our role is to know the difference without pointing fingers.

Sometimes the reasons staff give about why they can't use the technology are very real, other times they are just perception or defense mechanisms.  It is easy to sit back and say "I don't know how", "I am too busy" or "That isn't my job." 

These barriers are real to them though, so you need to address them either way. The difference is what you will change. People are quick to blame the tools, but we need to pay attention to the culture, policies, procedures, knowledge, priorities and experience that surrounds our digital content.

So what are the barriers between your program staff and content creation?

Time was the most common barrier that I heard in the form of "I am too busy" or "that isn't my job." But what I usually heard under that was:
"Content won't be a part of my review, so why bother."
"I really don't see the value in creating that content, why does it matter to me?"
"My supervisor doesn't seem to think this is too important either...."
"I don't want to learn another new tool, don't I already do enough around here."
And many others.

But you need to cut through the perception and excuses to find the real barriers and start to break them down.

I would not start with asking everyone what the barriers are. This may encourage them to dig in their heels and stick to their excuses.

I would look to do a content channel inventory, author\owner org chart,  tool catalog and content creation process map before getting opinions.

Content Channel Inventory - First gather a list of all of the different channels of content that need to be maintained. (Website, Blog, Email blast, Newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, Intranet, etc.)

Author\Owner Org Chart - For each of the channels above you should document who the primary owner is and list all of the authors that have access.

Tool Catalog - Create a list of all of the tools that are used to manage, create and share the content.

Content Creation Process Map - Break down the steps, authors and tools that are needed to manage each channel and then try to give the all of the channels some sort of overall structure.

This is just a beginning to the type of inventory and process map that you should have, but it is a good start to help you identify what the real barriers are.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Set Expectations (Give staff a voice! Part 6 of 10)

Training staff isn't enough.

Just because someone knows how to do something, doesn't mean they will do it.

People need to know what is expected of them, what is in it for them and what success looks like. Training people on the steps and process does not help with this.

I have often heard it said that kids will live up to their expected potential, not their actual potential. I think the same holds true with staff and technology.

If we treat them with kiddie gloves and expect only minor activity, then that is what we will get. But if we set clear, reasonable expectations, remove barriers, reward behavior and document success, then we can help them achieve their actual potential.

Technology and soon digital content, will be a part of a majority of jobs. We are doing our staff a diservice if we ignore this and shield them from this responsibility.

As a part of our effort to enable digital efforts we worked to set expectations of:

  • Posting to the website weekly as a team as a minimum
  • Posting to Facebook 2-3 times a week as a minimum, prefer daily
  • Update website information regularly (hours, staff, schedules, etc)
  • Sending a monthly email blast that contains more than just promotion
  • Balance all content (third=promotion, third=sharing stories, third=informative)
  • Monitor comments and reply daily
  • Reply to all contact us and tour requests from our website
  • Manage any new functionality or apps added to Facebook pages
  • Keep 2 staff trained as authors for digital channels for each center
And we had more. But the key isn't making a list of rules and regulations. Rather the key is to provide insight on WHY these are important and how they impact their job, plus make it easy for them to meet these expectations.

Also make it very clear what support they can get from IT, Marketing and other management resources. This has to be a shared responsibility.

Beyond listing the tasks they are responsible for, you should set the tone for behavior.  Most places have an employee policy that lists all of the things that staff can NOT do.  But do you have a list for your digital content of what they SHOULD do?

You can look over our manual and policies which attempted to balance these different things. But we used regular emails, metrics, reports and trainings to keep these expectations clear and in the front of the conversation.

Anyway, the point is we can't just train and give a set of rules. We need expectations to be set.

Small Org Digital Content Starter

What does your 

Online Brand Presence look like?

Word of Mouth has always been the best way for people to find out about the Y!

However, Word of Mouth has changed, people often share online instead of in-person. Do you have an online presence that allows, no scratch that, encourages online Word of Mouth about your Y?

Get a Jump Start!
It is hard to find the time to get started and learn to use the tools.  I can help. I will walk you through how to create and manage your presence. Once we are done, you will know how to use these tools for your organization.

Google Places – Claim your Google+ Place to ensure you are found with the correct information in Google search. I will also show you the same process in Bing and Yahoo.

Google Analytics – Configure Google Analytics to track your website traffic and teach you the basics on how to monitor it.

Google AdWords Grants – If you qualify, I can help you apply and setup your FREE Google AdWords to improve your

Facebook Page – Create a page for your locations, learn the different settings and how to manage them. I will also give some content and posting advice to get engagement.

Twitter – Establish and learn to use a Twitter account for your org.

LinkedIn Company Page – Great way to attract staff and volunteers, but also a good way to build connections to find donors.
YouTube Channel – nonprofits can apply for a free YouTube channel to have access to deeper functionality and more exposure. I will show you that process.

Email Blast System – If you have an existing email blast solution I will review your use of the tool and provide some advice. If you don’t have an email blast solution, I can help provide some choices (including free ones) and help you get started.
Website – If you have an existing website I will provide a review and some tips to improve your content, messaging, structure and design. If given access I can also review your website analytics to provide some insight. If you do not have a website, I can install and configure a WordPress blog to get you started and teach you to maintain it. Or if you are looking for something more comprehensive and pre-built, I have some options for you to choose from.


One Price. We will work together on all of this for one price established before we begin. There will be overages or additional hours, we work till we are done. The price depends on how many options you choose and the size of your org, but starts at $500.

Hourly. I charge an hourly rate of $40-75 an hour. This makes the one price package above very attractive.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Up For Hire!

Hello everyone!

I am diverting from my typical blog posts to make an announcement. I was laid off from my position at the YMCA of Metro Chicago and am now seeking new employment or consulting\contract opportunities. I am still a stronger supporter of the YMCA cause and mission! I hope to find a way to still belong to the movement that has impacted my life in so many ways.

But it is time to begin a new chapter in the story that is Steve. My career has been anything but traditional. Although I have only held two jobs over the last 14 years, the number of roles that I have played in those organizations is vast. Between the big picture, best practice, national scope at the YMCA of the USA to the tactical, hands-on, one man team at the YMCA of Metro Chicago, I have a wide range of expertise.

You can learn more about me with a fun little PowerPoint!

As this change was unplanned, I am open to either finding a permanent position or working on some consulting\contract project work.  I have written up descriptions of the type of services that I can offer, but they include:

  • IT Alignment Planning and Assessment
    • Business Process Improvement
    • Software Selection
  • Digital Content
    • Social Media Planning and Assessment
    • Website Content Management System Strategy\Setup
    • Content Strategy
    • Content Creation
    • Storytelling Development
    • Listening Post and Social Media Management
  • Staff Training
  • Executive Staff Private Social Media Training

I have a vast network in the Nonprofit Technology Community that can vouch for me, my skills and my expertise, if you would like references, please let me know.

Thanks everyone for your support and I look forward to working with you!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Prepare your staff (Give staff a voice! Part 5 of 10)

Imagine sending one of your staff members to a press conference without any notice, without telling them what to talk about. Just train them about what a press conference is and how it works. Then hope for the best.

Yeah, it's like that.

It is easy to memorize a speech and post prepared content. It is not easy to manage a community and reply to the tough questions.

We can spend as much time as we want training people how to use social media, how it works, how to create good content, but do we prepare them for the questions, flashing cameras, criticisms and onslaught of a press conference?

In social media you have to expect some unhappy people, some trolls (people who like to complain and start fights) and some mistakes.  Do we do enough to make our staff ready?

In our trainings we focused on what our staff were already comfortable with. We started with talking about what people call about the most. We then talked about what are the most common and most difficult questions they get in their onsite comment boxes.  We asked them to think through their replies that they use in person. Then we helped translate those to an online situation.

The big trick is deciding when to reply, how much to say and knowing when to take it offline.

One big thing we emphasized was to not to jump to deleting a post or banning a user. Can you say backfire?

Our training was two parts.
Motivation - First we used the Air Force blog response chart to talk about how to understand WHY people are commenting. Because understanding motivation is key to the reply.
Respond - Then we had a comment response chart of our own to help them to decide if and how to reply\act.

That was our idea of how to prepare them.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Recruit your team, define the roles (Give staff a voice! Part 4 of 10)

Social Media is marketing so they will do it. 

Nah, Social Media is all Tech so they will do it.

Wait, we are raising money right now so let the Fundraising team do it.

Nobody steps up, takes leadership and establishes a rule book, so eventually something bad happens or there are conflicts in what gets posted. Then all collaboration breaks down and one person or a small team controls everything. All posts have to be approved and everything gets filtered. In some ways that may seem appealing. And if that is the accepted culture in your org, then you may as well stop reading this post because you won't be enabling anyone...

But if you are ready to collaborate within defined roles with the same playbook, then read on.

First document who will be on the team, heck maybe even have tryouts or an application process. There are a number of ways to go about this. You could collect everyone that is interested and then determine what role and permission they will get. Or you could establish the structure and roles, then identify the people to fill them. Another approach would be to start small with some experienced players and grow as you learn what works.

But the key is to know who will play each of the roles.

  • Listening- who will be out there actively scanning for what is being said about your org, cause or brand
  • Monitoring- who will watch your channels for questions, comments, problems, inactivity, etc.
  • Managing- who will keep the tools working, identify tech changes, administer permissions, etc.
  • Planning- who will create the content calendar, define themes, focus the communications, define content frequency, etc
  • Posting- who be creating the content, keeping the pages updated, etc.
  • Promotion- who will spread the word about your social media efforts, run contests, create custom pages\content

And there may be more roles, but that is a good start. You might enjoy this article from the Content Marketing Institute to dig deeper.

Once you have the team and the roles then you need a Playbook. The glue that will hold this together is a content calendar (editorial calendar). As possible to supplement this content calendar there should be content templates. As the themes and business goals are defined, you can create standard text, flyer formats, images and other reusable content for others to pull from.

Here are some awesome articles on creating an editorial Calendar and process:
How To Create the Online/Offline Editorial Calendar - Razoo
11 Editorial Guidelines Every Business Blog Needs - Hubspot

In my next post I will talk about the Comment Escalation Chart and how to make people comfortable with responding.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Metrics are just numbers without context! (Give staff a voice! Part 3 of 10)

Metrics, here, metrics there. Metrics everywhere. Everywhere you look everyone is talking metrics.

But does these numbers even matter or mean anything?

Example: Our website had 11,000 visits last month.

What does that even mean? Is that high? Was that unique or total? Is that better than last month? What did they do while they were there? So many questions.

You need to provide context to your numbers.  Try to answer these questions to help people understand the numbers:

  1. What do these numbers mean? (define the label of the metric)
  2. How do these numbers impact our goals?
  3. How does this compare to our history?
  4. Is there a benchmark that we can compare this to?
  5. How does this compare to peers?
Beyond providing a simple definition and some comparables though you also need to demonstrate how these metrics impact your organization's ability to meet the mission, operating goals and strategic plans. To do that you need to tie the metrics to the:

Business Objectives - Identify business objectives in your org that are impacted by your digital effors.

Engagement Goals - Set some goals for your reach and engagement in your digital channels based on those business objectives. This is an easy way to identify trends and set priorities.

Outcomes - Set up mechanisms and tools to track the objectives and goals above. Be sure to find a way to share these outcomes in a meaningful way with context.

Overall Marketing Strategy - Use your metrics to judge the outcomes of campaigns. But be sure to interpret them and apply those learnings. Help the business owners understand what worked and what didn't.

Example: We would like to increase online donations. We will use emails containing individual stories to drive traffic to our website. We hope to have an email open rate of 20%, which is 3% higher than past performance. However, our email open rate dropped for this campaign. That impacted our website visits because email is out top way to attract traffic. So our next plan should have a stronger email presence.

Anyway, if you only remember one thing, a metric is just a number until you know what question you are answering. 42.

Monday, July 16, 2012

What Gets Measured, Gets Done (Give staff a voice! Part 2 of 10)

"What gets measured, gets done." I have heard that said many times from a number of different people. It is so simple and true. HOWEVER, numbers and data are not as useful without a tie to goals and without context.

The first step in our process to enable digital editors was to create a set of metrics. We decided we wanted to keep the number of metrics fairly simple, balance reach vs. engagement and allow for comparison. We also set a goal for each of the metrics based on nonprofit benchmark reports, similar org stats and some simple math.

So our spreadsheet ended up with a row for each location, one section of columns for reach (size of audience) and one section of columns for engagement (audience interaction). The numbers do not paint a comprehensive picture for a detailed analysis, but they do provide enough insight to identify trends and gage performance.

And recently we have added a new section for Post Frequency. We are showing the # of blog posts on the website, date of last blog post, # of posts by admin on Facebook page and date of last admin post on Facebook. A key to our strategy is consistent and current content. The addition of these columns allows our leadership to easily review progress.

So we are measuring the work. So now what? stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Give staff a voice! (Part 1 of 10)

Your staff, ALL of your staff, are potential advocates for your cause and have real expertise and experiences to share. However, the fear of writing and using online tools are real. Even with social media, smart phones and online activity taking over so much of our lives, your staff may hesitate to act as the voice of your cause online.

SO what do you do?

I have presented a session about Enabling Program Staff to be Digital Editors a few times now, but want to share my thoughts in a 10 post series. So here I go.

Gradually shifting the culture is the key to enabling digital editors. This is not a quick win, but there are quick wins to be had.

Gradually Shift the Culture
1.Publish Metrics
2.Establish Structure and Accountability
3.Remove Barriers
4.Regular Training and Resources
5.Enable Individuals while Maintaining the Brand

A deliberate effort is needed to build the voice of your organization to support and impact your cause. And the first step is to have a plan, which is pretty much always true.  The plan does not have to be a 200 line, detailed, gantt chart with pretty colors, load balanced, fully funded, leadership endorsed behemoth. It just has to be a plan that you will actually be able to act on. Don't create a plan bigger than your capacity.

Then pick a place and get started. Even though I numbered the steps above, you can go in whatever order your org needs. In fact, you may even need to add your own steps. I have had others indicate that they needed to consider some other steps like:
  • Fixing all of the tech - make it easy to use the tools to update website, email, social media, etc.
  • Get leadership support - either go direct and build a case with your leadership OR do some pilot efforts to show success, then keep getting those efforts approved. We learned the hard way that getting a strategy approved CAN be HARDER than getting a small pilot approved.
  • Get some expertise or a partner - if your org lacks the expertise to get this rolling, then look for a volunteer, partner or vendor to help. Don't forget all of the awesome resources from communities like or sites like, or
Anyway, I  think you get the idea. Hope to talk to you in the next post where we jump into how to use metrics to enable program staff as digital editors. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Getting Content Strategy started (an inner voice argument)

Ever feel like you are arguing with yourself?

Well I did that this morning on Twitter using my alter ego, I let my inner battle go public.

First, I found this great article! So I Scooped it.

But then I had a thought. So I posted from my other Twitter account:
yeah, ok
yeah but
ah, yeah

And that is a small glimpse of an inner argument. I usually win.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Is the dog eating your content homework?

"The dog ate my homework." 
My Dad accidentally put it in his briefcase and took it to work." 
"I put it in the safe, but lost the combination." 
"We don't have time for a content strategy."
We all had our share of lame excuses for not doing our homework and now we are adapting those excuses to our work. We need to find a way to hold ourselves accountable and get past the excuses.

Have you ever read someone's homework, like a paper they wrote for school. And as you are reading you can just tell that they didn't have a plan. Some paragraphs seem out of order and there isn't a clear message. The facts and information is cobbled together as if someone has a checklist they are following on what has to be included.

Doing your content planning homework will pay off. Stop making excuses.

Looking for ideas on how to get started in your content planning? I have a collection of great links here: 

What are your excuses? Or what resource do you suggest for someone who is just starting with content planning?

NOTE: I really only created this post to use the adorable photo of the Leader Dog my family is training to be a seeing eye dog.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Smarter Than You

We're Smarter Than You
 Can you mitigate your remotely exploitable nodes? Of course you can't. Do you know how to configure your VPN server racks with AJAX overlays? Don't even pretend you do. What happens if an unauthorized user interface tries to query your Oracle® detection points? Do you know what to do then? Duh. Of course you don't. You're not smart.

This is a quote from As I looked over that website I was laughing and chuckling because it seemed like I had worked with this company before....

Concern eventually set in though and then I started thinking. What if this is how nonprofits really feel when our "experts" talk to them?

When talking about technology planning I have often mentioned how some nonprofits lack enough knowledge to know where to start. Are they hesitant to ask for help because they have gotten this speech from a vendor before, maybe not directly, but it was implied? Yes, I think so. 

Technology responsible person in your org. My suggested approach to avoiding the "we're smarter than you", is first to avoid vendors like that if possible. Second, appoint someone to be the technology responsible person in your org if you dont have full-time IT staff. Then get them some training so they can understand enough technology to make strategic decisions!

NOTE! I did not say get them "Technology Training", I said get them training to "understand enough technology to make strategic decisions!"

I did not intend to turn this post into a rant or a pitch for orgs I love, but that is where my typing has led me....

A great example of the type of training needed is the Technology Leadership Academy from NTEN. This Free, Intense 9 week training gets your org prepared to make better decisions in technology.
(in disclosure, I do present one of the sessions for this training, but I do not receive anything for promoting it, I just love what NTEN is doing!)

Then look at the webinars that, and offer. When a new project or planning phase starts allow a little time to research what should be considered, collect sample documents from other nonprofits and be more deliberate in your technology planning.

And one final thought about, I was a little disappointed that there wasnt more content and pages to read, but the site was fun! The part I found best is that they are making some money off of it to with the ads.... why didn't I think of that? And a huge tip to John Merritt (@johnmerritt) from the San Diego Y for tweeting about the site.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Program Staff as Digital Editors

Content requires work and skill. Lots of people just ignore that fact. They get all excited about content strategy, communication plans and social media. But they hardly ever spend time talking about how to equip their staff to be content creators.

Some orgs look to hire copywriters, publishers or whatever. But I like to look for ways to build up all staff with the skills that they will need going forward with every job of the future. Here is a presentation that I did about this topic. I hope it is useful.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

22 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue [Infographic] - share!

I stumbled across, well actually not stumbled, I found this in my Google Reader. Anyway, do you really care how I found it?

Since I haven't had enough time to write, just share someone else's brilliance, right?

22 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue [Infographic] 22 Ways to Create Compelling Content - Infographic
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mega monster or Many monsters? (Fully integrated or Best of Breed)

I don't think I can count the number of times that I have had a conversation about software that spirals into a conversation of "we need fully integrated" versus "need the best features." This is the conversation that I have always talked about as a single database (fully integrated software) versus best of breed. Best of Breed to me means you pick the best software for each of your distinct business areas then you work to integrate them or build connections to share data.

However, this conversation has always focused on the features of the software. This article from the NTEN:Change magazine has really got me thinking about it from a different perspective, a constituent data perspective.

Data is all the rage again now that APIs are common, visual dashboards run amuck, information rules and everyone needs more numbers to build those cool infographics that we all love (to hate) (but can't stop looking at).

Anyway, here is the thought:

You think through the different types of constituents you will track and interact with, how you will need to use the data and how interrelated they are.  Here is an image that they use to help describe this.

But dont take my word for it, Go read the article from NTEN and then be sure to subscribe to NTEN:Change, the visuals are striking, but I look at it for the articles. They are always fantastic. And if you are looking for a way to convince your CEO or executive staff about the value of tech, subscribe to NTEN:Change for them. They will wonder where the emails come from but they will thank you for the wonderful information.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tech is not just for techies - a great training opportunity

Is your org struggling with technology? Don't wait for that techie in a shining code of armor. 

Here is a great opportunity from NTEN. I am excited to share it because I will be presenting one of the sessions. This is more than a training it is a chance to change your organization.

Now more than ever, nonprofit leaders must understand the potential technology has to help them meet their missions. They require effective ways to manage technology and lead others to use tools to their best organizational advantage.

The Technology Leadership Academy is a training program designed to help nonprofit leaders do just that.

Thanks to the generous support of Google and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, NTEN is able to offer the Technology Leadership Academy at no charge to qualifying organizations. You must apply for acceptance to the Academy. Participants will be selected based on the guidelines below and their commitment to full participation.

NTEN's Technology Leadership Academy Returns for 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

5 Ways to get Digital Content from Program Staff

Fresh content is a key element of a good website, we have all heard that, right? But a simple concept does not mean it is easy to make happen.

One of my favorite posts I have ever written was 5 secret ways to trick your colleagues into becoming content creators for your website.

I have been thinking about this more and I have a few more thoughts. Even today as technology becomes more common, many people are hesitant to create content for a website or email newsletter. So how do we get this content created?

  1. Fill in a printed marketing worksheet - create a simple worksheet in the format of the content that you want them to create. Keep it short and simple.
  2. Regularly scheduled collection with feedback - practice makes perfect. Or as my wife says practice makes permanent. This means that if if you practice something wrong , it becomes hard to learn it the right way. So while it is a great idea to gather content from staff of you never provide feedback, how will they improve?
  3. Recorded phone call - want a deeper story or article? Get a group of program staff on the call, ask the right questions and let the conversation happen. But don't forget the key part, record it. It is better to record it and take your notes later, that way you aren't distracted on the call.
  4. Join their meeting - talk to them on their territory. Don't ask questions, just listen. If you need to ask questions, consider prepping one of the program staff to lead and ask the questions to make them more comfortable.
  5. Ask them their story - every staff member has a story about why they work there, why they love the mission or some great experiences. Give them a chance to tell their story.
  6. Identify the barrier - staff will always have excuses about why they don't create more digital content. Look past the excuses go find the real barriers, is it the tools, unclear benefit to their work, fear of making a mistake or ??? Then find a way to help break down those barriers.

Yeah, I know there were 6, but consider it a bonus.

How do you get program staff to contribute digital content?