But it looks so easy!

I had occasion to do my first self-video this week. It was a one-minute spot to introduce a program I’m presenting at an upcoming nonprofit conference.

No problem, right? Go into my Macbook Pro. Fire up the Photo Booth program, and record my introduction.

Then reality set in.

I needed to be sure of what I was going to say, so I didn’t stumble.

My computer is generally below my direct line of sight, but I didn’t want to be looking down at the camera.

How do I look at the camera and still read my notes? How does my hair look? Is my office tidy?

After a little manipulation, I raised my computer so it was directly in front of me. I typed my notes into a document so I could see them on the screen as I looked at the camera. I stacked the books behind me, combed my hair and put on lipstick.

I recorded the spot. Then I recorded it again – apparently I tend to swivel in my desk chair when I talk. Then I recorded it again – I also tend to bite my lip during pauses. Then I recorded it again – I stumbled over a few words.

In all, it took a full hour and 10 takes before I was satisfied. The DonorPerfect  conference organizer laughed and said that was on the low end for all his staff who were recording videos.

Wow. Way to internalize a lesson I’ve been telling nonprofit boards about for the past few years!

When you see organizations with great social media presence, they make it look easy. This very small episode is a reminder that it’s not easy. It takes work to have a great presence. It takes planning and it takes forethought.

The idea for video promos came from a smart, full-time communications professional, who is coordinating the video uploads for all the conference facilitators. It’s part of a comprehensive marketing campaign that integrates with the organization’s educational goals.  It’s not scatter-shot. It’s planned and strategic, with specific objectives and accountability.

When Directors and Trustees suggest you get a college or high school student to “do the social media,” feel free to show them this post. If you want a consistent message, and a fully integrated consistent presence in front of your clients, supporters, members, volunteers and staff, it takes planning and it takes time.

Once upon a time we told people to “learn computer programming.” We don’t anymore.  Computers are now just a tool we all use to get our work done. That time has come for social media. Social media is now just another tool in a well-rounded marketing plan.

Have you had an experience that reinforces a lesson in nonprofit planning and governance? Let me know! Perhaps we can share it so others can learn, too!  You can reach me at: sdetwiler@detwiler.com.

The Magic is Gone

“Follow Jane Doe to customize what you see in this email.”

“People who bought this book, also bought….”

“Because you liked this movie, you might also like…..”

When Amazon, Netflix, LinkedIn  and Facebook curate what they show me, I find out about movies I would never have otherwise known about; books and articles that are right up my alley.

Rabbit and Hat But I miss The Magic of Serendipity.

I’m a serial reader, and often go back to the same authors again and again. But in the library, I browse the books next to that author, and I’m exposed to writers that have nothing in common with my current favorite other than the first 2 letters of their last name.  Serendipity.

General circulation newspapers keep me informed of things going on around the country and the world, not just topics I’ve decided to stay informed about. Even if I don’t really care about what’s happening in Antarctica, the paper covers it, and I at least glance at the headline. I find connections between ideas and events I would otherwise overlook. Serendipity.

Attending conferences, asking how participants ended up in this field, I emerge with connections made by doctors, lawyers, cab drivers, librarians, therapists. Serendipity.

I’m not a curmudgeon pining for the old days. Curating by Amazon, LinkedIn and their ilk allow me to dive ever deeper into areas I already know I care about. This is a good thing.

Serendipity EquationBut how do we get exposed to other ideas? To other subjects? To other fields?

When we’re caught up in a particular field like nonprofits or, more specifically, local homelessness, the religious response to hunger or LGBT issues, it is easy to be so focused that we essentially wear blinders. We lose the opportunity to look beyond the all-consuming topic. We don’t give ourselves permission to read speculative fiction, or nonfiction beyond our own sphere.

We lose the clash of ideas and thoughts that spark creativity. We lose the spontaneous creativity that lies in the serendipitous Aha! moment emerging from seeing connections between 12th century commerce and the current distribution of food in the state.

Having diverse viewpoints on my board of directors leads to robust discussions about our issues. Just as important, though, are the serendipitous comments made about things outside our realm that spark creative ways of envisioning our future.

Amazon and Netflix use algorithms to give us more of the same.  It’s time to find a book or a movie that has nothing to do with anything you’re currently working on, and that is nothing like anything you’ve read recently. Watch a documentary about a subject you’ve always been curious about but didn’t indulge.serendipity definition

Ask your board members to talk about their lives outside of their board service.

It’s time to break out and look for serendipity.
Our creativity relies on it!


Have some thoughts to share on this subject?  Get in touch with me at sdetwiler@detwiler.com.

Maybe you SHOULD fear social media!

Social media is all the rage among people who advise corporations and nonprofits on how to reach their audiences. You have to be on top of it! It’s a whole new world! It’s not like the old media; you have to be transparent! Well, maybe not.

As someone who has been involved with nonprofit organizations in many guises and worked for and consulted to for-profit companies, I can tell you that something which is ‘all the rage‘ isn’t necessarily what you want to be doing immediately. Back in the day, Sears made its impact not by being the first to sell something, but by being the one that capitalized on what others were selling. Obama’s campaign didn’t invent tight messaging and using media, it just did it much better. Even Google didn’t invent searching, they just advanced it to the point that it was really useful.

So being cautious does have its place. I said cautious, of course, not head-in-the-sand. Sears and Google knew what was happening, and they watched, learned, and improved. The same with learning the best ways to use social media.

An earlier post here offered 7 tips for employees who Tweet, Facebook, or otherwise use social networking media. It was called “Don’t Be Stupid.” Now I recommend an excellent set of posts by Tom Cuniff, on the ICPG blog, for organizations contemplating entering this world.

Tom Cuniff is focused on the for-profit world — it’s a blog about consumer packaged goods, after all — but his words of wisdom are very well written, and really nail the fears of companies and organizations in embarking on social media. This post is titled “What if your CEO is right to be afraid of social media?” It’s pro-social media, but acknowledges the risks.

Just my style – a pragmatic look at ways to make our work in the nonprofit world better.

Don’t Be Stupid – 7 Social Media Guidelines

For a mid-50 year old, I’ve been a pretty early adopter of communications technology. I used computers in 1969; owned my own computer in 1985, had email shortly after and a website since 1995. I most definitely am not as advanced as many of the people I follow on Twitter, but they’re the cutting edge. I’m still just an early adopter.

Yet despite all the changes in media, there are a few rules of social and business conduct that hearken back to the days of print and telephone and still make sense. Or rather, in the words of Douglas MacMillan, columnist for BusinessWeek, “Don’t be Stupid”.

In his May 8, 2009 column, MacMillan told the story of an advertising agency executive whose client learned that they were wooing one of his competitors – via a Twitter post by one of the agency’s own employees.

There are the numerous Facebook pictures of young adults who don’t take down the beer pong pictures before applying for a job. In fact, I just noticed a student affairs professional who is listed as a “Fan of Beer Pong” on Facebook.

Now that summer is here, there are numerous status updates on Facebook and Twitter of employees who proudly indicate that they’re counting the minutes to quitting time or planning on being sick the next day so they can get to the beach.

Why am I writing this in a blog about nonprofits? Because the basic, overall guidelines remain the same for every individual and for every enterprise: Think Before You Communicate!

In a future post, I’ll invite a specialist to write about how to guide an employee who uses digital media on behalf of the organization. But for everyone else, here are some social media guidelines.

Rule #1 is for you – the employer, the manager, the boss. Acknowledge that your employees will be on digital media. There’s no getting around it. You wouldn’t have been able to keep them from having a radio, a television, a cell phone, or a computer; you can’t keep them from continuing to engage in the next technology.

The next 6 rules are for sharing with your staff:

1 –  Keep organization secrets secret. Just as you shouldn’t sit down at a bar and talk to a reporter about an internal mishap or the board member who is totally overbearing, you can’t broadcast anything like that in the media. Your donors and board members are everywhere, and so are potential new funders. They’ll think twice about doing business with you if they don’t think you can keep things confidential.

2 –  Don’t bash the competition. If you identify your employer ANYWHERE, or the organization is even just known by anyone, you are seen as representing that organization even on your own time. Bashing another agency invites bashing right back and is just plain rude. It also gets tiresome for the readers, and raises questions among donors about your professionalism.

3 –  Don’t grumble about your boss. Again, if you identify your employer ANYWHERE, you are seen as representing that organization even on your own time. If the employees are seen as unhappy, your potential clients, donors and goodwill ambassadors may have second thoughts about doing business with you.

4 –  Don’t be an obvious clockwatcher. I wonder about the wisdom of individuals who send tweets like ‘only 2 hours to go’. Either you don’t really doesn’t care that your employer might see this clockwatching, or you are demonstrating contempt for a boss who will never see it. Either way, it’s not a good image for your organization.

5 –  Keep it clean. Yes, I know this is a personal account. But I can’t stress this enough. If you identify your employer ANYWHERE, you are seen as representing that organization. You wouldn’t want to see your child’s elementary school teacher standing outside a bar using foul language every other word. You may be on your own time, but it sure doesn’t reflect well on you, and ultimately on the school system.

6 –  If you’re not sure, ask! Sometimes it’s good to post new insights in your field, demonstrating the expertise of your organization. But occasionally, those insights might be proprietary. If you’re not sure, find out whom to ask for guidance.

And overriding all of the above is a single thought to keep in mind: Assume your mom, your boss, your friends, your relations, your future friends and relations, and your future bosses are all reading it.

The old rules used to be, “don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to your mom,” and “don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times.” In this time of instant access to the writings of almost anyone, what you write today can affect your future.

Don’t be Stupid! Thanks for the reminder, Douglas.