Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Media Outreach - Parks and Rec

How and where people are getting their information is changing fast! Just a few years ago the shift from print newsletters to e-newsletter looked like a fantastic way to connect with targeted groups of users in a very cost effective way. Social media like Facebook is all the buzz, but few people know how to use it effectively to engage the public.
In the 2013 eNonprofit Benchmark Study put out by M+R Strategic Services along with the Nonprofit Technology Network a great deal of interesting data is collected about how nonprofits are using IT to engage their supports. The data shows some interesting trends that directly relate to how park and recreation agencies are and should use these tools. Here are some of the results:

E-mail list sizes are up 15% since 2011, but open rates for e-newsletter are down with only about 13% of  e-newsletters being opened.

The implication of this is huge. As targeted and inexpensive as it is to have an e-newsletter, it is not very effective if it is only reaching 10-30% of your target audience. Two factors are driving the decline in the effectiveness of e-mails. One is more filters that are catching such newsletters and marking them as spam to be filtered out. The second dynamic is that there is a major shift from computer (which is where most people use e-mail) to mobile (where people use texting and social media). E-mails are becoming viewed as old-fashioned and clunky.

For every 1,000 e-mail addresses nonprofits typically have 149 Facebook Fans, and 53 Twitter Followers.
Most organizations post daily on their Facebook page, but only 1.4% of viewers respond (like, comment, share).
Photos posts get over twice as many responses as others.

While Facebook is synonymous with ‘Social Media’ it is a system made to connect you with old school mates you have not seen in years, and figuring out how to use this enormous platform to effectively communicate and engage with your customers is a challenge that every corporation in the world is trying to unlock. I think one of the take away truths of this data is that to engage your customers, you must be engaging. Posting interesting photos or comments that solicit a response is so much more effective that just using you Facebook page as a sign board for upcoming programs.

While Facebook is the giant of social media, it is not the only game in town. Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIN, Google Plus+, and many more are out there and each is attracting a different sub-set of users. Target the user profile that best fits your target customer and you win!

Two key issues in thinking about any of these options are: do they target your market (customer), and do they effectively deliver your message? And then a third factor is have you crafted your message to be appealing? In a cluttered world of tweets and posts, you need to be very relevant to break through the background noise.
For more on this survey of nonprofits see:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lessons from George Tabb

George Tabb in 2008
Lessons I Have Learned

I have made lots of mistakes over my career. Years ago, I learned to let my mistakes teach me valuable lessons. I have found that I always learn best from the mistakes I have made and not from the successes I have had. After nearly 40 years as a Parks and Recreation professional, here are a few of the many valuable lessons I have learned:

• Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, rather embrace them as they are valuable and rare learning opportunities. That said; always admit it when you do make one even if it is embarrassing at the time.

• Treat others as you would want to be treated. You never know who you will be working for some day.

• Always take the high road in an argument. The low road always puts you out in the gutter.

• Always try to better your employees. They are the ones who make you successful.

• When faced with an important decision, always sleep on it if time allows. Things may look different in the light of a new day.

• Volunteers are not free. You must invest time and effort in them to make them and your program successful.

• Always let your employees have a say in important decisions if at all possible. If the decision goes their way, you have a natural supporter. If not, they will respect you for listening.

• Let your employees have a long leash. No one likes a micromanager and your employees will likely work out the best plan anyway.

• Always seek input from the public. To do otherwise creates suspicion in their minds when important decisions are to be made.

• Never start thinking that you can't be replaced. Everyone can be replaced and sometimes with better results.

• Always do your best and give supervisors and customers more than what they ask for or expect. They will be amazed.

• Be as generous and supportive of your employees as you can. Everyone needs help and understanding occasionally.

• Don't set yourself aside as being "too good" or "too important" to perform lowly or menial tasks. Your employees will work their hearts out for you once they see your willingness to take on jobs similar to what they do every day.

• Honesty is always the best policy. To be less than honest results in eventual failure or loss of respect in the eyes of others.

• Always pick your battles. Winning a fight doesn't win the war. Always argue from a position of overwhelming strength. Otherwise, it isn’t worth the fight.

• Do your best to keep your employees informed about developments within the organization. Share as much information as you possibly can with them. Otherwise, your employees will become disconnected from the organization and some may become resentful.

• Once management makes a decision, move forward and be supportive. Do not spread the seeds of discontent because the decision did not go your way.

• “Don’t make a living, make a mark.” (Eugene Patterson, newspaper editor and Pulitzer Prize winner)

George E. Tabb, Jr.

15 January 2013