Who owns digital?
Where does the buck stop? These are questions I hear all the time. No one wants to be in charge, or even have to think about this too much. Folks just want it to magically happen.
You want the ‘secret sauce’ but don’t want to cook up the dish. You want content to go viral, but don’t want to put in the work to make it happen. In a fast and dizzying environment it’s natural to bounce between simply coming to a halt… or racing wildly ahead.
So… you either hurry up (let’s get an intern to slap up a bunch of instagram photos on Pinterest so we have a presence) or slow down ( maybe we don’t really need a blog this year). Or you put you head entirely in the sand (fundraising is really about face-to-face; we don’t need social media).
It’s time to take charge.
Because when it comes to your brand – what you offer your constituents and how that aligns with what they want from you – you just can’t chance it to a catch-as-catch can communications strategy (or lack thereof).
And in the 21st century, digital is central to how folks communicate. How do you know if folks perceive that your organization is enacting its mission en route to achieving a broader vision about which they may be passionate? In 2013 it’s very hard to know without paying attention to digital. Because increasingly that’s where folks find you, learn about you, talk to you and talk about you.
In fact, there’s very little you can do at all to move your agenda forward without paying attention to digital (newspapers and books stores learned this the hard way).
Here’s the bottom line:
Digital is so integral to your brand; everyone must own it (it’s also, by the way, the future of fundraising – see Nine reasons why social and mobile are the future of fundraising).
You need to reinvent whatever type of relationship you’ve had with social media at your organization. Chances are good that if you have social media it “sprouted” up from a few folks who liked it and advocated for it. You’re doing something, but it’s not really internalized by the organization as a whole as critically important to your fundraising and marketing goals – let alone your overall business goals.
You can’t silo social media either. Don’t think it can be somebody else’s responsibility. It’s everyone’s responsibility. You know what happens when a development director is stuck in a corner and is told to “go raise money?” Well, the same holds true for social media.
Most nonprofits have had, at most, one person in charge of digital. It might be driven by IT, or marketing, or development or whoever has a staffer with some digital savvy and a bit of spare time. Or it may even be delegated to a volunteer or unpaid intern .
Every department should be involved in every campaign. The right hand absolutely must know what the left hand is doing. Everyone hears stuff and can provide essential feedback – if they know what you’re doing and why you might value it. You also need to share results so everyone learns from everyone else. What topics are of greatest interest to your constituents?
If someone in your organization finds out, you can use this information! You may even be able to modify your strategies and messaging to align with constituent expectations and desires. This may drive more earned and contributed income. Isn’t that worth raising your hand for?
Getting organized and integrated is so important today because you aren’t in charge of your brand anymore. Marketing has changed from inside/out to outside/in. But you can actively listen. You can educate. And you can manage expectations.
One of the best ways to do this is by creating lots of compelling, relevant content. This is why some are calling content marketing the new branding. That’s the subject for another article, but if you think about it the logic makes sense. When folks interact with you they’re thinking: WIIFM? Your content answers this question and offers up the good stuff!
Pay attention and listen up!
Sometimes your constituents will get way ahead of you. I’ve read some studies claiming that folks are 60% of the way down the path towards affiliating (or not) with your organization before you’re ever aware of their existence.
Or, potentially you’ll get way ahead of them. You may go running down the road towards something that matters not one whit to your supporters. That’s why everyone in your organization absolutely has to listen to them. All the time. Big time.
Branding is a marketing concept. And marketing is always most successful when it’s connected — at the hip — to listening. Listening is simply the best way to pay attention.
Paying attention is super important to your brand strategy. And if you’re not raising your hand when questions are asked, you’re not paying attention.
It’s your choice to participate – or not.
When it comes to your brand, you have a choice. Adhere to the status quo but do it better (“operational agility”) or reconfigure your underlying business concept and move forward (“strategic adaptability”). An example of the latter is Amazon, which has evolved from an online bookseller to a much grander online retailer, digital media powerhouse and today a leader in cloud computing.
Unlike many media outlets, Amazon tapped into what people wanted way ahead of a crisis. You should consider doing the same. Don’t wait until a huge funding downturn has you considering shutting down programs. Build new programs, and new sources of revenue, before that happens. And do it based on what you hear from your supporters. What do they value?
Digital is a great place for you to be to figure this out. If folks don’t really understand what you’re doing, and you don’t really understand what they value, how on earth can you know what to do next? So enlist digital as a paying attention, listening, participation tool.
Why digital? It’s got broad reach, it’s fast paced, and people listen to their tribes. If you have any admired influencers among your followers, they can help to transform your brand fairly quickly in the minds of your would-be supporters.
Digital platforms have become our major means of communication today [See The Top Benefits of Social Media Marketing [Infographic]. You can’t beat ’em, so may as well join ’em. Everyone today must raise their hand and learn to use digital thoughtfully and strategically. That’s the best way to move your mission and vision forward in the 21st century.