Communications: It’s Virtually a Revolution, Baby!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

By Ryan Ginard, Director of Strategic Advancement

Those that work in the social sector wear many hats. Many, many hats. We no doubt all share a similar story at some stage in our careers, employed to do one role, then within a few months are the go to person for fundraising and by year’s end are organizing a gala or 5k run. This multi-tasking leads to a strong grasp of broad skills that makes you a unique, essential, and in many cases an irreplaceable part of any organization’s day to day operations. I applaud that sometimes scrappy approach to mission driven impact.

It was that Jack/Jill of all trades, master of none foundation that had me excited to head to Boston to take a deeper dive into the world of public relations at the Public Relations Society of America’s International Conference 2017 in Boston. Heading there as a speaker for an immersive storytelling panel, it was actually the exposure to the six programming tracks and more than 115 sessions that really helped elevate my thinking and creativity so that I could come back to SDG equipped with new ideas and techniques to help amplify our work as we embark on a new strategic framework – coming soon to our in boxes!

This conference was the PRSA’s 70th anniversary and built on the theme – The Spirit of Revolution: Communications in the 21st Century -- which you will see permeate through my top 3&3 (sessions and take homes)…

1.How to Create Talk Triggers – Jay Baer

  • People trust each other more than they trust companies
  • People discuss difference and ignore change
  • To trigger discussion of your brand, your campaign must be remarkable, repeatable, realistic and relevant.

Jay also shared this video that you simply must watch (why? It has an adorable Beagle in it)

‘SDG thoughts’ – as we roll out our new strategic framework, it is critical we craft our message in a simple yet effective way to break through the noise.

2.Everything’s Changed – New Rules for Earned Media in 2018 – Michael Smart

  • Pitching stories to media outlets is more important and harder than ever to showcase stories of impact
  • Backchannel factors determine your success of getting media placement – relationships/trust with local reporters is paramount
  • ‘Asks must be authentic’ – pitches to media to be respectful and genuine. Don’t just cut and paste asks and hit send expecting a positive outcome

‘SDG thoughts’ – it is important to build strong relationships with our media partners or our stories of impact will go unheard, when communities are craving tales of hope.

3.North Star for Your Nonprofit – Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

  • Limited budgets and sparse resources are never a constraint to communicate effectively and creatively
  • Listen to your members every step of the way. Assumptions are often wide off the mark.
  • Does the look and feel of your brand truly reflect the work that you do/those you serve?

‘SDG thoughts’ – how is our brand seen in the community and how is our communications strategy evolving through a new strategic framework?

Finally (and the main reason I was in Boston), I participated in the panel Take them there: How to use immersive technology to spur audiences to act. I think and write a lot about the future of philanthropy and what innovative techniques exist and will mature over time to help advance nonprofit and philanthropic missions. Together with my colleagues Geah Pressgrove, Assistant Professor at the Reed College of Media at WVU and Joshua Habursky, Director of Advocacy at Independent Community Bankers of America, we discussed how associations and nonprofits are beginning to use virtual reality, augmented reality and 360 video to help their members connect with issues, change perspectives and drive impact.

"It was great to go through this professional growth opportunity and take a deeper dive into the communications field. Reflective of both this moment we are in as an organization, and the moment we are in as a country, storytelling will be an essential tool in articulating our impact and our values and I hope you will see this radiate through our work in the coming months."

For an overview of our panel through the tweets of our audience check out the following Storify feed and for those interested or curious in this technology feel free to contact me (slides from the presentation also attached in pdf below).  And be sure to look forward to a VR/AR element at SDG’s Annual Conference next year – save the date 3/29/18!


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