Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Non Profits: Reaching Across the Aisle

Monday, January 6th, 2014

And Reaching Across the Non Profit Boardroom Table

By Joseph John

My good friend and I were having coffee recently and discussing everything from sports to — gulppolitics. We both rolled our eyes at the fact that our leaders in Washington have become so combative, so alienated, so out-of-touch, that they have fallen deaf to the electorate. Unfortunately, they seem to be focused strictly on their personal agendas — not their constituents’ wishes. Republicans, Democrats, and whatever’s seem to forget that it’s the good of the country that should be their primary focus, and not a matter of W’s and L’s on their personal scorecard. Oh, yes, I can be naive. However, politics and the country’s direction can’t be construed as a game. Well, I could continue, but the focus of this article is not on the dysfunction in Washington D.C.

No. Unfortunately, dysfunction, personal agendas, and personal scorecards find their way into every strata of society, and that includes the non profit sector. “Oh, surely you jest, Mr. John. Isn’t “altruism” the rule of the day in the nonprofit sector?” Oh, PUHLEASE.

Think about how many people join a non profit board and immediately bring THEIR personal agenda to the table. Reflect on the number of boards you have joined and the lineup of folks who already are lobbying hard for their ideas to be implemented. I’m sure you have dealt with some people who tend to implement roughshod over other board members’ beliefs and values. It seems to take virtually no time at all for some board members to alienate others because, quite simply, their philosophy is this: My way or the highway.

Many of my articles have focused on individuals — the people who hold up their hands to join a non profit board. People joining a board are coming in from so many directions, mindsets and lifestyles.  With that in mind, my question(s) are always the same: Just WHY did you join the board? What’s in it for you? What is that you want to achieve and do for society? And just as important, did the membership/nominating committee perform due diligence in screening this person?

A non profit board, unfortunately, is not insulated from the same negative human traits that we see on a daily basis in Washington or state capitals for that matter. It appears to me that there are too many people who believe that compromise is a weakness rather than a strength.  “I won’t give in. I won’t yield. My way is the correct way and the only way.”

Compromise is not a weakness — it is a strength. Compromise is strength because you have the organization’s best interest(s) at heart, not your personal agenda. You are willing to reach across the aisle/across the boardroom table because the good of the organization is more important than your personal agenda. A dear friend who was involved in contract negotiations prior to her retirement says that “compromise is a way for all sides to ‘win’ something. Unless it is a life threatening issue, compromise is always possible.”

Remember one of the most important questions the membership committee was supposed to ask the potential candidate: CAN you/WILL you learn to “play nice” and become a TEAM player with a group of people who also are contributing their free time to serve? Somewhere, in that interviewing process, questions have to be asked in such a way as to ensure the candidate understands the role of the individual in relation to the good of the non profit organization.

Melanie Lockwood Herman, Executive Director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center, best captures the importance of compromise, ie, reaching across the table or aisle, with this comment:

Compromise is a basic instinct for non profit leaders. Discerning when compromise may impair mission fulfillment, however, is a skill we must learn and practice. Resisting the urge to compromise may not be easy, but it is necessary to protect the mission of your organization and your commitment to deliver on that mission each and every day.

Yes, in the ideal world, the nonprofit sector can be the prototype of collaboration and compromise for ALL sectors of society to work for the common good — it’s just a matter of reaching across the aisle.

The Most Important Committees for Non Profits

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Nominating/Membership and Marketing/Communications/PR Rule the Roost

By Joseph John

I recently conducted a workshop for a group of State Coordinators at the Sister Cities International Annual Conference.  During my two hour workshop, my topics always found their way back to a major premise I have always held for non profit organizations — yes, I did use the workshop as my soapbox. I have always believed that the two most important committees are 1) the Nominating/Membership Committee and 2) the Marketing/Communications/PR committee.

All forward-thinking non profit organizations find the best-of-the-best to sit on the board of directors, as well as finding the “critical mass” needed to build the membership base required to keep the organization vibrant, exciting, and growing. Plus, those forward-thinking non profit organizations require a committee that understands the mechanics and nuances of communication and marketing. Theoretically, if you’re communicating properly then you’re marketing the organization. The inverse of that statement is de facto. As your board members embark on fund raising campaigns, volunteer for special events and speak at public gatherings, they are communicating AND marketing.

For this article, however, allow me to focus on the “front door” approach for bringing quality people into your boardroom — and that begins with the nominating committee. That committee is charged with finding qualified people (and those with passion) to add to your board.

I’ve mentioned in other articles the necessity of turning on one of the most famous radio stations in the world: WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). Your nominating committee must take many of the questions that a potential board member should be asking him/herself and then craft those questions into screening questions for the prospective board member:

Question: Do you want recognition, or do you really want to serve and give back to the community? (egoism versus altruism).

If you can move past that question, then you must ask some even more direct and thought-provoking questions. Those additional questions include:

1) CAN you/WILL you grow as a board member and add value to the board?

2) CAN you/WILL you become a valuable asset to the community?

3) CAN you/WILL you learn to “play nice” and become a team player with a group of people who also are contributing their free time to serve?

4) CAN you/WILL you articulate your belief in the organization and be credible out in public?

Those questions can be rewritten so that your nominating committee may use them as part of the interviewing process for potential candidates. Of course, there are many, many more tough love and necessary questions you and your committee should ask.

Your non profit board needs to be comprised of people, of all ages—Boomers, Gen Xer’s and Yer’s — who are both donors and doers. The board member must be willing to donate financially to the organization while doing projects for the betterment of the organization. Remember that many boards don’t have many people to delegate to, so board members must be willing to roll up their sleeves and become doers.

Your nominating committee should create a checklist of personality traits that can be used in the interviewing process. Just some of those traits would include:

  • Accountability — it’s not a dirty word.
  • Accessibility — answer the phone, your emails, and be ready to serve.
  • Personal commitment — sign up, then be ready to serve.
  • People-oriented and outgoing
  • Leadership and Listening skills
  • Responsiveness and Reliability

And the list continues.

The nominating committee should always be searching for the ideal candidate — it’s not a temporary committee assignment — rather, it’s an active committee assignment. The committee must always comb the community to find the best people to become board members. And why? Simply because there will always be board member attrition. And that’s why the committee must be proactive in in order to build a strong bench. My manager used to say “recruit or die.” And that’s what can happen to a non profit board if the nominating committee isn’t out looking for candidates all the time. Believe me, by being proactive your organization will eliminate knee-jerk and “desperation mode” board member appointments.

I think you’ll agree that if you have a nominating committee that is always searching for talented, energetic people to sit on your board, you’ll have a non profit organization that will be defined as dynamic and capable of achieving lofty goals.

Public Relations and the Rise of SXSW

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

By Tiffany Engleman

Professionals in the field of public relations have been creating positive buzz about organizations for years. The music festival South by Southwest (SXSW) has been held in Austin, Texas since 1986, but until recently, was relatively unknown to the rest of the United States. Through news releases and first-rate press materials, SXSW’s public relations team along with Porter Novelli (an Austin-based public relations firm) began to expand the festival into something much greater than just music. SXSW was then able to create brand recognition as well as brand recall across the country.

  • To begin spreading the word about SXSW, these public relations professionals constructed a campaign to widely advertise an exciting and new aspect of the event. In August 2008, a news release was published revealing the introduction of the “Panel Picker” to help create a preliminary buzz for the March 2009 event. The “Panel Picker” was an interactive online voting application that attendees would be able to access and vote prior to the festival.
  • Porter Novelli also constructed an assortment of first-rate press materials. The press kit included a concise schedule, “hot” picks for panel and evening activities, industry contact information, and personalized event information. Toolkits were also provided that included press release templates, wire distribution options, and PR advice for the conference.

Through the tactics of news releases and press kits, South by Southwest has been able to join the SXSW Film Conference and SXSW Interactive Festival and expand their identity across the country to attract a significant number of new people to the conference. public relations professionals knew they had reached new heights when the Guardian of London reported, “SXSW Interactive spans gaming, web content, web design, development, academia, social media, mobile…but what it does more than any other event is a special mix of the arts and digital culture with technology. There are no suits, no boring product pitches, — SXSW is about ideas and trends in new digital tools and technologies.

Sourcing: Wilcox, Dennis L., Cameron, Glen T., Reber, Bryan H., & Shin, Jae-Hwa. (2011). Think Public Relations. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education.

 

Public Relations: The Art of Persuasion

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Three Methods of Persuasive Communication

By: Tiffany Engleman

According to Robert Heath from the University of Houston, “Public relations professionals are influential rhetors. They design, place, and repeat messages on behalf of sponsors on an array of topics that shape views of government, charitable organizations, institutions of public education, products and consumerism, capitalism, labor, health, and leisure. These professionals speak, write, and use visual images to discuss topics and take stances on public policies at the local, state and federal levels.”

Because public relations professionals have mastered the art of persuasion, they can use persuasion to their advantage. But, how do PR professionals become so exceptional at persuading public opinion? There are three methods of persuasive communication that PR professionals turn to when communicating with the general public.

  1. Audience analysis is a major component of persuasive communication. Possessing the knowledge of the audience’s beliefs, attitudes, values, concerns, and lifestyles is a critical part of not only basic communication, but also in persuasive communication. Audience analysis can help public relations professionals adapt the messages that they send to unique audiences and increase the effectiveness of these messages significantly.
  2. Self-Interest is the central motivation of every individual and appealing to one’s self-interest will gain more attention to any message. People tend to pay attention to messages that appeal to their needs, whether it is economic, psychological, or situational.
  3. Source Credibility is the third method of persuasive communication utilized by PR professionals. A message is more convincing when the source has established credibility with its audience. There are three factors when creating source credibility: Expertise, Sincerity, and Charisma. These three aspects are crucial in making a message credible with its target audience.

As you can see, persuasion is a detailed process that communicators, especially public relations professionals, need to understand in order to effectively send messages that will reach their target audiences. By utilizing audience analysis, appealing to the consumer’s self-interest, and establishing source credibility within a message, communicators can efficiently master the art of persuasion.

Source: Wilcox, Dennis L., Cameron, Glen T., Reber, Bryan H., & Shin, Jae-Hwa. (2011). Think Public Relations. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education.

Pros for using a Public Relations Agency

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

The Top Five Advantages of Utilizing Public Relations Firms

By: Tiffany Engleman

As is the case with all organizations, there are advantages and disadvantages to the services provided. There are countless advantages of utilizing the services of a Public Relations firm. Among all those advantages illustrated by the chief PR firms in the country, five advantages stand out among the rest.

  1. Objectivity: Choosing a firm can offer a company with different insights and innovative ideas and perspectives toward enhancing that particular organization’s image.
  2. Resources: A public relations firm is going to have a vast amount of resources that they can utilize when offering their services to an organization. Some of these resources include: ample media contacts, consistent contact with a number of products and services suppliers, as well as research materials such as data information banks.
  3. Problem-Solving Skills: Each staff member of a PR firm can offer a unique skill set when it comes to solving problems creatively. With many different perspectives available, companies will find themselves with a broad spectrum of assets if a problem arises.
  4. Varied Skill Sets: Aside from problem-solving skills, each staff member of a PR firm will also be skilled in speech writing, trade magazine placement, and assisting with investor relations.
  5. Credibility: A renowned PR firm will have a solid
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    reputation for professional and ethical work. Aligning an organization with a successful Public Relations firm will provide a client with positive public attention among opinion leaders of various backgrounds.

Choosing a public relations firm can offer an organization a vast array of advantages. Public relations is an industry where people are its greatest strength, and managing the way that people view one’s organization is key to the success of all organizations.

Source: Wilcox, Dennis L., Cameron, Glen T., Reber, Bryan H., & Shin, Jae-Hwa. (2011). Think Public Relations. Boston, Massachusetts: Pe

International Public Relations

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Representing U.S. Organizations Abroad: Four Chief Public Relations Obstacles of Globalization

By Tiffany Engleman

Globalization is a prominent force in today’s world. There is a large number of United States-based global giants participating in this prosperous market worldwide at this very moment. Having a prominent company presence abroad can be extremely lucrative for businesses from the United States. Some major U.S. companies that are currently reaping the benefits of a global market are as follows: ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart, Chevron, Ford Motor Company, and General Electric. Though there are immense benefits to globalizing a company, there are also four chief public relations obstacles that an organization will face when introducing a brand to the rest of the world.

  1. Competition: There will always be competing organizations, regardless of the market. Maintaining the competitive advantage is a withstanding obstacle amongst the global market as well. Always stressing the benefits of a brand and ensuring that these benefits are relevant to consumers will remain key in jumping this hurdle.
  2. Sustainable Development: Sustainable development is a crucial initiative of any large corporation as

    they enter the global realm. Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the resources of the future is imperative of large corporations. Public image overseas will rest greatly on how businesses can hone their skills/products to preserve resources.

  3. Boycotts: It comes as no surprise that many countries do not agree with U.S. foreign policy. As a result, a number of overseas organizations and citizens will not wish

    to conduct business with U.S.-based companies. Creating a strategy to alter these negative perceptions and become an accepted company abroad is one of the largest barriers to break when taking a company overseas.

  4. Moral Corporate Citizenship (Local/National Levels): David Drobis, a former senior partner and chair of public relations firm Ketchum, stated, “Companies must take into consideration a broad group of stakeholders as they pursue their business goals globally. And by doing so, there are tangible and intangible business benefits. In this way, good corporate citizenship is not a cost of doing business, but rather a driver of business success. What’s good for the soul is also good for business.”

Handling any of these four obstacles would be very difficult without a sound public relations team representing an organization. These global obstacles are no small task for companies to face, and the manner in which they are addressed

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can either positively or negatively affect a corporation within the global market. Yet, if a company is positively accepted into the global market, the opportunities for increases in revenue and further expansion will be just two of the major benefits for an organization. Source: Wilcox, Dennis L., Cameron, Glen T., Reber, Bryan H., & Shin, Jae-Hwa. (2011). Think Public Relations. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education.

Public Relations on the Web: a Case in Point

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

The Web in Action: National Pizza Chain Reacts

By: Tiffany Engleman

In my previous article, Power of the Web, we saw there are many different ways that the World Wide Web can become useful for public relations professionals across the board. In the case of Domino’s Pizza and the infamous YouTube video from Conover, North Carolina, we can see just how powerful the Web can be in dispelling false information.

In 2009, Domino’s faced a major setback to it’s brand reputation when two employees decided to create a “prank” YouTube video, while at work, showing them making sandwiches completely violating all health standards. The video attracted 500,000 viewers in just 24 hours. Within 48 hours, the video had reached over a million views and the mainstream media had began to

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pick up the story. With such a blow to the Domino’s brand reputation, their public relations team had to create an impeccable strategy to set the record straight and the Web played a major role in their comeback.

Domino’s used the following tactics on the Web to inform their consumers about what was happening with the company and what they were doing to fix the problem. The first thing Domino’s decided to do was create a Twitter account solely to communicate with their customers about the issue. They then placed a “customer care” link about the incident on their corporate webpage to effectively respond to consumer concerns.

Another public relations tactic used was communicating via email to all employees and franchises to keep them informed about what was happening. Conducting interviews and distributing news releases via electronic news services, blogs, and social media sites were also used extensively to reach their consumers. Finally, using the company’s Facebook page, Domino’s was able to attract and gather “friends” and keep them informed about what they were doing to resolve this issue.

As you can see, the Web was the perfect forum for dismissing the false information that the YouTube video conveyed to the public. It is also simple to notice how advantageous the Web can be for public relations professionals when trying to communicate with mass audiences as quickly as possible. Domino’s was able to get back on its feet and once

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again establish the trust that they held prior with their customers through proper utilization of the Web.

Source: Wilcox, Dennis L., Cameron, Glen T., Reber, Bryan H., & Shin, Jae-Hwa. (2011). Think Public Relations. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education.