Posted in Social Media on 8:39 am
SXSW Interactive has come and gone, but there’s still plenty to learn. Here’s the second in a series of posts with insights & tips for non profits & foundations from SXSW.
Over the last year Planned Parenthood has given all non profits two strong examples on how to handle, and leverage, a communications crisis. First was in February of 2011 when congress voted to de-fund their critical healthcare services. Their response, the “I Stand with Planned Parenthood” campaign, mobilized thousands of supporters and kept their funding intact. Everything they learned from that campaign was employed again this last January when the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced it would also pull funding from Planned Parenthood.
Five current and past Planned Parenthood staffers who were instrumental in both of these campaigns shared at SXSW what made these campaigns successful and what the organization has learned.
Be there first – Both of these campaigns relied heavily on social media to provide supporters with updates and meaningful actions they could take to support Planned Parenthood. Before they ever asked for anything they had established their social media channels and a voice on them that people related to. We can rarely know when a PR crisis is going to hit our nonprofit but trying to build a community of advocates is much easier to do before then during.
“We already had a presence there (on social media channels). We were already engaging with the community when we needed them we were able to rely on them.” Gaby Lazzaro former Planned Parenthood staffer for Latino outreach.
Establish a tone – Planned Parenthood chose a “snarky, young feminist” for their social media voice, which is quite different from the tone you get from their official press releases. Doing this allowed them to build rapport with their audiences and match how they were feeling. This was exemplified with the strong & positive tone of “I stand with Planned Parenthood.”
“The type of content that you are creating (for your social channels), you’ve got to keep it flowing. Dynamic content that resonates with people will get shared. But not only the specific type of content but what are you saying behind it and what’s the feeling behind it. Because we wanted to go online and share our highs and lows with people. When we were outraged they were outraged. When we were happy they were happy. And to mirror one another’s feelings so it did feel like a community and everyday people were coming along for the ride.” Nakia Hansen, Dir, Social Media Strategy for The College Board & former Planned Parenthood staffer.
Timely & coordinated- Planned Parenthood used social media for what it is good for – quick and rapid responses that allowed them to take early control of the message. They also sent out emails and placed ads on Facebook when both these crises hit. They emphasized that even if you’re waiting on senior staffers to tell you what the message is in a crisis that you need to at least acknowledge that something is happening and that you’re on it.
Don’t forget your website – Social media is great for engaging people with calls to action and giving them content to share with their networks. But don’t forget about the people who are typing into search engines or just becoming aware of your campaign. Have a hub on your website with the backstory, calls to actions and ways to get involved. Things move fast on social media so your website is the place for evergreen content that people can refer to weeks or months later.
“Speaking of the website, when something like this is going on (large advocacy campaign) there are people who won’t go to your Facebook page so that’s why it’s so important to have a hub and place where you can put all these things (calls to action). So it’s not just about slapping up your press releases and doing everything on Facebook. You really have to have a place or page with everything that people need to know on the issue.” Heather Holdridge, Director of Digital Strategy, Advocacy and Fundraising Planned Parenthood Federation of America
ABC – Always be communicating. The Planned Parenthood staffers shared that although it was critical to keep their external supporters up to date it was just as important that they communicated amongst each other internally. During both crises they had daily staff huddles to stay coordinated.
Know what you can do & let the community do the rest- During the height of the Komen controversy Planned Parenthood logged 1.5M tweets with tags on either Komen or Planned Parenthood, whereas the Super Bowl commercials garnered only 960K tweets.
“There was an interest in this and there was no way that we as an organization could either control or keep up with that volume. So it was important to understand where were the places in which we wanted to engage and the places in which we were going to let the community do what they were going to do and spread the message themselves in their own words and on their own terms.” Heather Holdridge, Director of Digital Strategy, Advocacy and Fundraising Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
An example of this was the Planned Parenthood Saved Me Tumblr started by @randomdeanna without Planned Parenthood’s knowledge or consent. The stories shared on this blog were very powerful & probably even more so since Planned Parenthood hadn’t initiated them.
Many thanks to all the Planned Parenthood staff who spoke at SXSW and shared your insights. For more on this great panel be sure and check out Amy Sample Ward’s write up in the Nonprofit Times.