SXSW Interactive has come and gone, but not the lessons. Here’s the first of a series of posts with insights and tips gleaned from Zan’s time at SXSW.
Remember those days of writing press release after press release in hopes that a reporter would pick up your nonprofit’s story and share it with their readers? Although we can’t bury the dreaded press release yet there is an emerging way to reach active and passionate readers who are predisposed to care about your organization’s issues. And that is through working with bloggers.
This year at SXSW Interactive three top-notch bloggers, and one nonprofit professional who works with bloggers for her cause, shared the best practices for getting bloggers and their readers involved with your organization. The presenters, Katherine Stone from PostPartum Progress, Debbie Bookstaber from Bloganthropy, Kristine Brite McCormick from Cora’s Story and Beverly Robertson from the March of Dimes are a powerful force. Two of them have used their blogs to get laws passed and the third has partnered with Procter & Gamble to award other bloggers for doing good. Just to confirm the power of this group, they cited a study by Ketchum & BlogHer showing that women are two times more likely to be influenced by a blogger over a celebrity and recounted campaigns where bloggers have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity. So forget getting Angelina Jolie to champion your cause, instead think about working with established bloggers.
The panelists gave a straightforward plan for best reaching reach out to bloggers and working with them for your cause. When the whole presentation comes online I’ll post it here, but until then here are some of their top gems of wisdom.
Find likely allies & build a relationship:
Just like all things in the nonprofit world you’ve got to know which bloggers are likely to care about your mission & then build a relationship with them. Especially if you are reaching out to a top blogger you can be sure that a form email is likely to be ignored.
Luckily it’s pretty easy to find out which bloggers write on or personally care about your issue. Katherine Stone suggested using Twitter search or Google Alerts to find bloggers talking about your issues. Then start reading their blogs but also remember to connect with them on Twitter and Google+. Listen to what they’re saying and get to know the whole blogger. As Katherine said, “I’m a whole person, not a post.”
Reaching out to bloggers:
Have something specific that you want their help with. “Don’t just say ‘I have a great cause & I’d like you to be involved,’” Debbie Bookstaber noted. She suggested developing a toolkit for bloggers that includes text about your organization or event and images they can easily use in their posts.
If you want the blogger to raise funds for or get people to take a specific action, like advocacy, then you’ve got to get more involved with them. Debbie said that bloggers who write about a specific cause tend to have a very passionate & engaged fan base that will follow their lead when asked. So prioritize passion over user base. Her example was how DonorsChoose worked with BlogHer, the biggest network of women bloggers, on fundraising in 2008 and raised under $10,000. That same year a smaller blog, Tomato Nation, raised over $100,000 for DonorsChoose and continues raising money for them today.
Results from relationships:
Beverly recounted the March of Dimes Fight for Preemiescampaign which began with bloggers in 2009. Her goal was to get
100 bloggers talking about premature babies on November 17th (World Prematurity Day) and she well exceeded that with 504 participating. Thanks to them the campaign had a reach of 3.3 M readers, which is much larger than what the March of Dimes could do on their own.
If you want results like the March of Dimes got remember you’ve got to put the time in to build those relationships. Beverly attends blogging conferences and meets with bloggers in person, building these relationship year round.
Are you interested in working with bloggers for your non profit or foundation? Here are a couple more ideas we heard at the session that will raise awareness of your nonprofit via bloggers:
Ask a group of bloggers to write a post on a topic on a particular day and then capture them all on your blog
Ask their readers to take actions, like calling elected officials or donating
Display a banner ad on their site showing their support for your cause
Letting you guest post on their blog to talk about your organization’s work or a particular campaign
Image thanks:FlickrWesley Fryer