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Monthly Archives: October 2008

I am trying to decide between two topics for my paper. My primary interest is surrounding nonprofit communication and therefore both potential topics revolve around this area. The reading we have been doing about blogs has been very enlightening to me and I am curious how nonprofit organizations are using this technology to advance their missions, particularly as it relates to their marketing efforts.

Potential Topic #1:

Are nonprofit organizations using blogs as an effective tool to expand their brand?

a. Use 1-3 case studies

b. Look at their blogs critically based upon what we have learned to determine if they are successful

c. Read what is being published about and by the case study organizations

d. Possibly conduct interviews to gain additional information

e. Include a broad literature review about how blogs are benefiting nonprofit organizations and best practices of blogging (5-10 articles)

Hypothesis:

A small minority of nonprofit organizations are using blogs as an effective tool to expand their brands. There are many lessons to be learned from the organizations who have harnessed the power of effective blogging.

Potential Topic #2:

Are nonprofit organizations that blog getting more earned media than those who do not?

a. Choose ten nonprofits that blog and ten that do not blog (potentially a particularly nonprofits with similar missions) and compare their earned media for a certain period of time

b. Measure via Google and Vocus and other media tracking tools

c. Watch out for “famous” or “recent crisis” bias among earned media

d. Include a broad literature review about how blogs are benefiting nonprofit organizations and the correlation between earned media and blogging (5-10 articles)

Hypothesis:

Nonprofit organizations that consistently blog obtain more earned media than those who are not actively blogging.

Examples of nonprofit organizations blogging extensively:

According to Marnie Webb on techsoup.org, (http://www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/webbuilding/archives/page9416.cfm) “Oceana’s weblog provides useful and regular information from experts pointing to studies, projects, and other information that I would not be able to find on my own. I therefore see the organization as credible, and that credibility transfers to its other efforts, including fundraising.”

http://community.oceana.org/

2008 Best Charity Blogs : http://bloggerschoiceawards.com/categories/16

It appears as thought this was a pretty small scale contest but a good resource nonetheless in trying to find successful examples of nonprofit blogs.

First Book
http://blog.firstbook.org/

ASPCA Blog
http://www.aspca.org/aspcablog/index.html

SOS News and Views
http://soscs.blogspot.com/index.html

Generation Why, by Oxfam UK – http://www.oxfam.org.uk/generationwhy/blog/index.html

March of Dimes’ Share Your Story blog

http://www.shareyourstory.org/

Greenpeace

http://weblog.greenpeace.org/

AARP

http://aarp.typepad.com/

Students for a Free Tibet

http://blog.studentsforafreetibet.org/

The Case Foundation also has a plethora of information regarding the use of blogs by nonprofit organizations. One article in particular has a listing of nonprofits that they think are blogging successfully.

http://www.casefoundation.org/spotlight/technology/10ways

I am open to any recommendations of nonprofit blogs that might be good case studies for this paper. All nominations are gratefully accepted!

In attempting to determine the media coverage for nonprofit organizations, I will also need to utilize free media tracking tools. I found the following link of 26 free media tracking tools to be especially helpful. Who knew you could do some so much for so little!

http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2007/08/26-free-tools-for-buzz-monitoring.html

Based upon the results of my literature review, which I will be finishing up this week, I will determine the best topic for my paper. I plan to utilize journal articles as well as texts that we have read in this course as sources. Any recommendations for journals that would be worth exploring are also greatly appreciated!

John Battelle’s “The Search” was a very informative and eye-opening read regarding the power of search engines and Google in particular. I appreciated the history and background of the internet and search that Battelle included in the first half of the book. It is amazing to think about how rapidly things have changed and will continue to change because of the power of the internet.

Something that was glaring to me was the need for the combination of individuals with sound business skills and others with unparalleled innovative technological talents and curiosities. An important component of this is for both sets of people to have an appreciation for the other. This is not to say that the two areas are mutually exclusive but history does not seem to indicate that they are a likely combination in one person.

A common thread among many of the search companies that emerged in the 90’s is the Stanford PhD program. Clearly the program attracts very entrepreneurial and technologically inclined individuals and fosters an atmosphere of invention and commercialization. By the way, this is wise on Stanford’s part for a number of reasons not the least of which is alumni giving!

However, it seems as though these young entrepreneurs could stand to have additional strategic guidance, coaching, and experience. At the very least, it seems as though many of these students would benefit from being taught the values of successful management, teamwork, business strategy, and marketing. This would also leave them less vulnerable to the Compaq’s of the world as they would have a base to work from in evaluating the appropriate course for their companies in the future.

On a different note, the story of Moncrief was also disturbing to me. The part about how his business went away overnight was upsetting. However, Google’s blatant disregard for their customers is inexcusable. I guess they figure that they don’t have to care because they are so powerful, but one must think that an attitude or philosophy would definitely come back to haunt you. Perhaps the need to be reminded of their mantra…”Don’t be evil.”

The triumvirate’s handling of their IPO left me with a similar taste in my mouth. Schmidt had blatantly lied about Google going public. The “geeks are in control” and “we’re different and better than others” attitude may be justified but I believe that it reeks of immaturity and inexperience. It seems as though Forbes agreed at the time in their article “Google’s Flub, Flop And Bomb.” (http://www.forbes.com/2004/09/17/cx_sr_0917ipooutlook.html)

While clearly the outcomes that Google has reaped have been unprecedented, one has to wonder if they couldn’t have experienced even better results if they were more strategic and professional in their dealings. It really wouldn’t kill them to take advice from others every once in a while. For example, any PR or communications professional could have advised them about their interview with Playboy. You would think that they would be more open to it since they received some solid advice and coaching in their early stages (while still at Stanford).

Overall, Battelle really opened by eyes about the “search economy.” I found the possibilities that are on the horizon to be tremendously exciting. The ways in which we live, work, and access information generally are changing before our eyes. “The Search” has definitely inspired me to pay attention to this sector because it is and will affect all aspects of communication.

In starting to read the second half of Scoble and Israel’s “Naked Conversations,” I was pleased to read the introductory paragraphs which asserted that there are real issues and reasons surrounding blogging and whether or not it is prudent for an organization to do so. Furthermore, they suggested that they are not prone to Pollyanna stories and that blogging has both upsides and downsides.

However, I found that in reading the pages that followed, Scoble and Israel may have attempted to address the downsides of blogging but really just presented more support for their one-sided argument that blogging is wonderful. For example, in the section where they address reasons why companies or organizations should not blog, they list the following reasons:

n “If you are a genuine bad guy, or part of an organization of bad guys, don’t blog”

n “People who have really awful communication skills should not blog.”

n “Cultures change slowly. If yours is closed, we suggest opening it before shocking the ecosystem with a blog.”

n “If your employees feel untrusted, you may need to take steps to demonstrate your faith in them before you encourage blogging.”

n “If you don’t have genuine faith that you can evolve in to a better company by listening to what your customers, prospects, investors, vendors, and partners have to say, then blogging effort will not provide you with its full value.

n If you don’t want to listen – really listen – then blogs will be thorny for you and your culture.”

In my opinion, this is a transparent and biased presentation that feeds the egos of the authors. I found a more compelling list of “10 Reasons Your Company Shouldn’t Blog” in Advertising Age. http://adage.com/digitalnext/post?article_id=131126

This list includes such reasons as:

n A blog is not a substitute for a marketing campaign. It is simply a potential part of corporate communications.

n A blog is not a substitute for advertising — if you need to fill a new hotel, or sell a product by a certain date, advertise.

n A blog is not a quick fix — the results come in the long term, the same way they do with PR.

n Blogs are not cheap. A good one requires skilled programming to set it up, a professional graphic designer to make it part of your corporate identity, a talented and dedicated writer or editor, full-time.

n You need to drive traffic to a blog. There are many ways to do that. All of them require time, effort and money.

Throughout the second half of “Naked Conversations” Scoble and Israel continue to claim that blogging can replace a PR or marketing campaign. Some of my favorite declarations include the following:

n “You have to conclude that it is a safer and wiser course to respond by blogging than to go through “official channels.” I think it depends on the situation at hand including such factors as the industry and what and who is at stake.

n “Blogging is cheaper and more effective than most marketing programs in use today.” This is a serious overstatement in my opinion, especially since they don’t offer up any proof. To me, a blog is a communication channel or tool in which to implement a marketing, PR, and communication campaign – not the plan itself.

n “Blogging is unquestionably less expensive than traditional ad and PR campaigns and keeps proving-as it did to the Firefox team-to be more effective.” Firstly, driving traffic to a blog costs money. Additionally, citing one example of a tech industry company (a web browser nonetheless) who has successfully utilized a blog as a primary marketing and communications tool as proof of blogging as the most effective ad and PR campaign is irresponsible.

Scoble and Israel go on to suggest that ROI is not necessary when working with or using blogs. To me, this is the exact reason that replacing all traditional marketing and PR with blogging is not wise. I imagine if you asked any company or organization if ROI matters to them when it comes to their marketing campaigns, they would say that it is imperative. I think the authors’ bias is especially apparent when they say “many traditional marketers are for the most part in a denial phase and refuse to acknowledge the public’s deep-seeded distaste for much of what they do in traditional channels.” Perhaps it isn’t the “denial” of the marketers but their need to address things as ROI and measurable results.

One of Scoble and Israel’s own examples illustrates this point. Joe Wikert of “Average Joe” said, “Well, I’d be hard pressed to give you any specifics here,” when asked about how blogging has helped his business (Wiley publications). That is why traditional marketing matters.

Another area that left me confused was their position on employee blogging. At one point they state, “Employees who blog need to understand clearly what they can and cannot talk about and be particularly prudent in that area.” This seems counter to the authors’ earlier arguments.

They go to suggest corporate blogging policies to check out including Sun Microsystems’s. I thought they were against this. They say employers should give employees guidelines but also freedom and incentive to become “world-class bloggers.” To me, it appears that they are talking out of both sides of their mouths.

According to Scoble and Israel, “Blogging creates a general perception of an enlightened employer, one who wants to hear constituent opinions and is willing to adjust accordingly.” Where is the proof of this?

On this same point, they say employees should be allowed to blog, not just the CEO or senior level official. “Instead of trying to speak in a single contrived voice, your company will sing with many voices, and they will sing in harmony.” Again, where is the proof of this? To make a declaration this important, some evidence is necessary as this goes against most integrated marketing and communications theory.

Finally, one small point that I thought was rather surprising. Scoble and Israel say “that risks of publishing your contact information are exaggerated.” To me, this is seems irresponsible. I don’t know if it because I am a woman that I am especially leery of this statement, but putting your email address and phone number on the internet in a public way seems to leave you very vulnerable to any number of privacy violations.