Monday, August 23, 2010

Specialized Network for Non-Profit Advocacy and Public Relations

Bookmark and Share

Followers of this blog may be aware of Action Strategies' special social network for those interested in learning best practices in the sector.  As some may be aware, Ning (where this network is hosted) has changed the service agreement for hosting groups such as this.  As a result, the location of this network has now been changed to http://actionstrategies.spruz.com.  I wish to thank everyone for joining us here at this location and sincerely hope you will visit our new location and join up with new and even better features available.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Social Media takes "too much time" and that's why it's "not" worth it!

Bookmark and Share
Time and again, when you review the blogs and discussion forums, the question of ROI (return on investment) comes up when association executives think about integrating social media into their communications and public relations initiatives. For many association and not-for-profit organization executives and communications professionals, this medium is completely new territory.  Briefly, they're not completely sure what to make of it.

Here's the thing...social media adds one more important component to a successful communications portfolio of strategies a non-profit can call upon.    In fact, I often call it the "great equalizer" because to be effective in this medium, you don't necessarily need a huge budget as you would in a traditional advertizing campaign.  As with any effort, you get out of something that which you put into it.  Beth Kanter's blog put it correctly when she estimated the time commitments required and while at first the prospect of devoting staff time to this initiative may seem daunting, consider the fact that not-for-profit financial resources are not infinite either.

You do however need consistent passion for your cause.  Consider the following at least from the corporate sphere (from Forrester.com) I believe relays back to the not-for-profit sector:
Many marketers can draw a straight line between investments in social media marketing and financial results, but many more cannot.  This doesn’t mean social media marketing is ineffective; it just means that marketers have to recognize benefits beyond dollars and cents.  Facebook fans, retweets, site visits, video views, positive ratings and vibrant communities are not financial assets -- they aren’t reflected on the balance sheet and can’t be counted on an income statement -- but that doesn’t mean they are valueless.  Instead, these are leading indicators that the brand is doing something to create value that can lead to financial results in the future.
Is this not something critical to the reason for why the sector exists, namely making certain we are advancing our cause's recognition factor?  However, if you are still not convinced consider the following:  Those organizations who have a blog, average 55% more web traffic than those who don't.   As for the time commitments, believe me...with effective training and organization, there are plenty of tools available to streamlined your efforts.

I could go on but I love to hear more from you.  Leave your comments!
Mark A. Buzan, APR
Principal &; Chief Magnifying Officer
Action Strategies
#3, 270 rue Champlain
Gatineau, Quebec J8X 3S1
819.770.2899 phone

LinkedIn Group for Public Relations: http://tinyurl.com/nonprofitideas
LinkedIn Group for Government Relations: http://tinyurl.com/nonprofitlobbying

Please take a look at my just released book: Online PR and Social Media for Associations and Not-for-Profits -http://www.onlineprsocialmedia.com/associations

Monday, August 09, 2010

Are you registered as a lobbyist?

Bookmark and ShareFrom time to time, I am asked what Action Strategies does.  When I answer that 50% of our work involves government relations and lobbying on behalf of non-profit organizations and associations, one of the inevitable questions that arises is: "Are you registered as a lobbyist (in order to take on a lobbying mandate)?"

Let me make things clear.  Under the lobbying laws of Canada (and all provinces), one does not register themselves in order to become a professional.  Rather, registration occurs at the point at which an organization decides it wishes to engage a professional to represent its interests to government.
With that said, I can state that when the occasion has arisen, Action Strategies has registered with the appropriate authorities when our clients have come to us with a government relations mandate and upon receiving a mandate, it is one of the first things undertaken.
Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. If you have questions on how you feel your organization could benefit from legislative monitoring services or even undertaking a grassroots advocacy initiative. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Where's the Value of Communications Consultants?

Bookmark and Share
Look, I'll come forward and admit it...at face value, public relations can be a subjective affair.  At times, getting to the point of what it clearly delivers can be a challenge.  So let me make it very clear.  If I were to pick one fundamental value proposition good communication strategy delivers, it is reputation.

The challenge however for organizations is getting to understand that reputation is something that is priceless. In fact it touches every aspect of a good functioning cause. Public Affairs consultants are reputation brokers. We build and protect reputations and by doing that we impact on good functioning of marketing by making certain that evert dollar spent is done so strategically. We keep organizations in tune with their stakeholders, clients, and even internally with staff so as to ensure organizations hold onto valuable employees.

This is what I called Omnifluence in a previous post: the measure of our effectiveness in influencing the entire stakeholder universe. Communications/ Public Relations Consultants are brokers of influence. Those organizations that can capitalize on this knowledge base are the ones that will see mutiple benefits in the end.

Do you have the internal staff and expertise to commit the internal resources to your public relations, marketing, advertising efforts? 

If you have the internal staff, and they understand Guerrilla PR principles, then there may be no reason to hire an outside agency. Paradoxically, the busier you get, the easier it is to parlay, or "set aside" consistent, important PR activities. Don't get caught in that trap! 

You may need PR, and you may even have the people to conduct your public relations, marketing, advertising campaigns but that's not enough. To be truly effective, your PR campaigns must be conducted with PASSIONATE CONSISTENCY.  It is for this reason that why I believe it makes good business sense to hire a public relations firm to market your product or service.

Many people think of consultants as expensive. However, a good consultant can save money. First, because hiring someone in-house with that much expertise could cost much more (think fixed expense vs. variable expense). Second, because they have highly specialized knowledge difficult to find in an employee, consultants can identify areas of vulnerability—such as illegal claims made on your product packaging or gaps in your quality control program—which, if not addressed, could cause a financial nightmare down the road.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Good Marketing = Good Lobbying

Bookmark and Share

One of the biggest issues non-profit executives identified to me in a recent survey of the challenges faced in government relations is identifying the right contacts in government and then building the right case that fits into the government's agenda.

Many will say that the secret to Lobbying success relies on one’s contacts. In my mind however, lobbying is much like a very focused marketing campaign. Good lobbyists have an understanding of the process and the people in legislative role but most importantly, they are the ones who understand the basics of how to make a convincing case...much like a marketer! Let me explain.

Lobbying falls into five stages. These are:
  1. Identify your target: who are you going to lobby
  2. Research them thoroughly
  3. Set Objectives: what results do you want from your action
  4. Action: get on and do it!
  5. Feedback: share the results with others in the campaign
The first two principles represent the essential elements of market research, aspects at which I have placed a good amount of my career in as a consultant and employee in the non-profit sector. Before you write (or speak) a single word to your target audience in either marketing or in government relations, do some background research. For starters, it is worth understanding a little bit about what MP's actually do and what in their background might build some affinity to your cause. This is essentially what market research is about. Without knowing your market, no amount of contacts or emotion in your appeal will make a difference.
The second two points essentially lay in place the planning section of your campaign. This may seem a fairly obscure point. Surely EVERYONE knows what lobbying is for? Not so. Once you know who you are going to talk to and where they are coming from, it is absolutely essential that you decide what it is you want to achieve as a result of your dialogue with them. Good lobbying is about creating a relationship with your target, which you will then use, in future, to further the campaign objectives. In the final analysis, lobbying is communicating. As a profession, it is an odd marriage of teaching and sales. A good lobbyist has to be an excellent communicator. And in today’s world, that means both the written and the spoken word. It is no longer enough to be a good schmoozer. Have you integrated your marketing, communications and public affairs into a common plan? How will they work together? Without a plan, how will you expect to get to where you need to be? Don’t expect legislators to figure that out for you! Good lobbying practice requires a good marketing plan on how your objectives fit into the broader scheme and WHAT marketing initiatives in particular you intend to take to make things happen.
Finally, as with any marketing campaign, you need to measure, measure and evaluate. Are you hitting the mark? How is your outreach effort to legislators being perceived? One of the most important roles for lobbying is to gather information. That information needs to go back into the campaign. Not for any especially sinister purpose. But so that others can use it.
It helps to know what sort of majorities are shaping up for certain government propositions. This allows us to determine where to attack (and where not to). It also allows us to target any future communications more directly.

What are your thoughts?

Mark A. Buzan, APR
Principal & Chief Magnifying Officer
Action Strategies
#3, 270 rue Champlain
Gatineau, Quebec  J8X 3S1
819.770.2899 phone
http://www.actionstrategies.ca (Action Strategies website)
LinkedIn Group for Public Relations: http://tinyurl.com/nonprofitideas
LinkedIn Group for Government Relations: http://tinyurl.com/nonprofitlobbying
Please take a look at my just released book:  Online PR and Social Media for Associations and Not-for-Profits - http://www.onlineprsocialmedia.com/associations

Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. If you have questions on how you feel your organization could benefit from legislative monitoring services or even undertaking a grassroots advocacy initiative. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca