Issue 14 - Mar-Apr 2011
With the mid-term elections barely behind us, political pundits are already gearing up for 2012. In the coming months, debate over who is likely to win the White House the next time around will continue to intensify. For organizations hoping to maximize the outreach opportunities available during the campaign season and influence candidates' positioning, now is the time to develop a strategy for positioning your issues in the media and to the candidates.
Not sure where to start? Keep reading. This issue looks at changes in the media landscape, offer tips for measuring the impact of social media activities and consider how to frame an issue to spur policymakers to act. There's no telling where the campaign trail might lead, but you can take steps now to make sure you are headed in the right direction.
|In the Know - Media Outreach in a Shifting Landscape|
|Web 2.What? Kickstart the Conversation: Measuring Your Social Media Impact|
|Great Minds - Framing for Success: How to Emphasize Opportunity|
|Meet the Newest Spitfires|
Putting together a media strategy? Planning to pitch reporters on an upcoming news story? Before you go any further, check out the 2011 State of the News Media from the Pew Research Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Among the findings: people are spending more time consuming news media than ever before, but the ranks of traditional journalists are still shrinking as the news business continues to shift to more online stories and hyper-local stories in some markets. Nearly half of Americans get some form of news on a mobile device, primarily for local information. For the first time, people are getting more news online than from newspapers. Television news still has the biggest audience overall, but online sources are on the rise and could outrank television in the near future.
Along with these changes has come a shift in the pool of reporters covering various issues. Newspapers have lost 30 percent of their staff over the past decade. While some online news outlets, including the Daily Beast and Bloomberg, are hiring dedicated journalists, other sites feature news that is almost entirely aggregated from other sources.
The decline of traditional print media is bringing changes to typical reporter beats. Fewer and fewer reporters are assigned to a single issue area. Reporters also face increasing demands from editors to produce more content more quickly. Most journalists today are much more likely to be engaged in producing multimedia, blogging and responding to and posting user-generated content than in previous years. These changes create challenges and opportunities for your outreach strategies. It will take more time to educate a general assignment reporter about your issue - and be trickier to find an angle that is of interest to a reporter with an unrelated beat. However, because reporters must create much more content - and use a variety of media - you have more options. If a reporter doesn't bite on your initial pitch, you may still be able to interest him in blogging or tweeting about your news, or get her to use your graphic or video clip as associated content for an online story. Instead of sending out the usual media materials, think about how to make your information more adaptable for a variety of media.
The mandate to extend media outreach beyond traditional print sources is greater than ever. No media strategy should exist without online targets, whether it's online only sources such as The Huffington Post, online channels of traditional radio or print or television outlets, dedicated bloggers, or the social media postings of traditional journalists.
What hasn't changed is the need to place media outreach within your larger communications strategy. Know your goals, understand your audiences and know what they listen to or read, and target audience with effective messages tailored to their unique interests and values. Reaching out to online reporters or bloggers is just like reaching out to newspaper reporters - know what they want to write about, give them relevant information, and be respectful of their time and responsive to their deadlines. Understanding this shifting landscape of new and old media is critical to your media outreach success.
Cracking the Code on the Latest Trends and Tools
Kickstart the Conversation: Measuring Your Social Media Impact
by Emily Lowe - Account Coordinator
Social media platforms give nonprofits unprecedented access to their supporters. However, the most obvious measurements of social media prowess often are not the most accurate metrics of success. To truly understand your organization's ability to impact supporters through social media, you have to dig a little deeper.
Twitter gives nonprofits the power to instantaneously communicate with their network of supporters with the click of a mouse. However, the true measure of an organization's Twitter footprint is not its number of followers, but its ability to shape conversations in the "Twitter-verse." David Leonhardt discusses the "Twitter Influence Index" in an article on The New York Times' 6th Floor blog. A study of Twitter influence showed that while Lady Gaga has nearly 8 million Twitter followers, her impact on Twitter dialogue is minimal. Meanwhile, Conan O' Brien has only 2.5 million followers, but his knack for writing tweets that his followers will re-tweet or respond to earns him the third spot on the index.
Examples like these illustrate that you should work to increase not only your organization's number of Twitter followers, but also the likelihood of those followers to enter into a dialogue about your issue. Tools such as hashtags (e.g. #cleanenergy) and tactics such as responding to Twitter users already discussing your issues (e.g. "@spitfireemily Congratulations on your new hybrid! Thx for doing your part to increase #cleanenergy use across the country!") can help you shape the conversation about your organization and your issue across Twitter.
The same rules apply to your organization's Facebook page. It is critical to focus on crafting updates that spur conversations and inspire your Facebook friends to actively engage with your page. Try posting a question that will start a discussion. For example, "Joel Achenbach discusses the viability of a zero fossil fuel future in today's Washington Post. Do you think the U.S. can achieve fossil fuel independence?"
Additionally, note the time of day when page updates get the most reaction; your followers might be most active early in the morning or during lunchtime. A free program called Facebook Insights tells you exactly how many pairs of eyes are viewing your page updates, which can help you determine what time of day is most likely to garner attention from your Facebook network. Understanding your supporters' habits will help you craft effective updates and post them when they will have the greatest impact.
Ideas to Make You Think
Framing For Success: How to Emphasize Opportunity
by Benjamin Gass - Account Coordinator
Nonprofits are frequently frustrated when, despite their most valiant efforts to move their issues forward, members of Congress seem to have other priorities. Despite promises and campaign rhetoric, political leaders can baffle expectations when they take little or no action on the issues at the top of advocates' agendas.
This frustration might tempt you to call out representatives in Congress for not doing enough - or for not doing anything. No matter how strong the urge to send an e-mail blast to members or a support base highlighting the lack of action - think carefully before pressing that button. Be strategic.
Publicly decrying an absence of leadership in Washington can unintentionally alienate your friends in Congress and set up the expectation of continued inaction. When you criticize Congress with broad and sweeping statements, remember that you are also talking to your friends and potential allies - people who pay attention to what is said about them and who may view those statements as less than helpful. Communications also need to avoid focusing on the past and criticizing the lack of action, as this risks reinforcing a frame that casts Washington as broken and government as ineffective.
A better approach is to frame for success by emphasizing the opportunity leaders have to "be the hero" and play a game-changing role.
For example, a coalition of organizations focused on restoring the Gulf of Mexico used the recent one-year anniversary of the BP oil disaster as an opportunity to call on political leaders to turn things around for the communities, economies and ecosystems of the Gulf region by encouraging Congress to "get together and get it done". While it is true that BP still has not been held to full account and much remains to be done to restore the environment, policymakers will be more inspired by the opportunity to reap the rewards of acting now to bring needed changes to the Gulf region. This approach also communicates to their constituents a hopeful message that real solutions are achievable.
By shifting the communications frame from the consequences of inaction to the benefits of taking action, organizations can build the relationships they will need for future success while having a positive impact and inspiring target decision makers to act.
Meet the Newest Spitfires!
Spitfire Strategies is pleased to announce several new staff members. Coming on as a vice president, Pete Rafle joins Spitfire from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee where he most recently worked on climate change and clean air legislation, in addition to transportation policy. Prior to that, Pete spent five years with The Wilderness Society where he led a cooperative communications campaign that helped to successfully defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas development. Also new on board are Account Executive Stephanie Zarecky, who joins us from the office of Senator Robert P. Casey, Account Coordinator Emily Lowe and Training Coordinator David Bae. To learn more about these new Spitfires and the rest of the team, click here.
|Spitfire Strategies is dedicated to helping nonprofits and foundations create and implement high impact communications programs to achieve their social change goals. To learn more, visit www.SpitfireStrategies.com.|
By A Web Design