The world is full of conversations – our Twitter feeds, Facebook walls, and email inboxes provide a constant stream of news and information about the people, places, organizations, and issues around us. What is said about us makes up a large part of who the world thinks we are, making these conversations vital to our images and reputations. The same is true for nonprofit organizations, making it important to nonprofits to be in active in shaping the conversations about their organizations.

Non-profits have a great resource for influencing the worldwide chatter – their staff. Staff are positioned to be knowledgeable and influential brand ambassadors for their organizations. By engaging their staff as brand ambassadors, nonprofits can empower some of their most passionate supporters to share the story of their work and mission with the world. Here are the key things that nonprofits need to know about empowering their staff to influence the conversation:

  • Brand ambassadors promote the benefits and values of an organization.
    Ambassadors help organization in three key ways: increase awareness about an organization by extending its reach, shape public opinion through word-of-mouth recommendations, and encourage consumer action based on their recommendations.
  • Staff are powerful brand ambassadors.
    Staff are experts on the organization. With an inside view of the nonprofit, staff can tell the most authentic version of the organization’s story and provide everyday experiences as illustrations. Staff are also viewed as credible spokespeople and are personally motivated to see the organization succeed due to their ties to the organization.
  • Organizations can engage staff as brand ambassadors in five steps.
    • Step 1: Define the goal of your program. Determine what you are trying to accomplish, who you are trying to reach, and how you want to reach them.
    • Step 2: Recruit the staff that can help you reach your goal. Find the staff that have the experiences and skills to support your campaign.
    • Step 3: Provide staff with the tools and resources they need to succeed. Set clear expectations about what you want staff to do, provide them with the materials they need, and train them on key topics and skills.
    • Step 4: Evaluate your progress. Make sure that you are reaching your goals and re-evaluate your strategy is something is not working for your organization.
    • Step 5: Celebrate the success of your staff by saying thank you and recognizing their hard work.

Empowering staff to be brand ambassadors is a winning strategy for increasing awareness, shaping public opinion, and encouraging consumer action. To learn more about engaging staff as brand ambassadors and see a winning brand ambassador program, please view the webinar: http://youtu.be/Gz9HKX3aHUg.

Erika Page Spivey is a Public Relations and Corporate Communications graduate student at Georgetown University, interested in how brands communicate their stories to the world. You can learn more about the speaker at www.linkedin.com/in/itserikapage.



When I first heard about Pinterest, the new visual media platform that allows users to share images, content, and experiences via virtual “pin boards,” I was skeptical. I’ll admit that a social media platform entirely dedicated to “pinning” millions of visuals seemed both overwhelming and pointless to me.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2012 when I realized Pinterest’s full potential. I was serving as the Media Relations Intern at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and one of my assignments was to update the aquarium’s Pinterest page. With more than 5,000 followers, it’s safe to say that the National Aquarium is an example of one nonprofit organization that is benefitting from the platform. The aquarium features boards like “Fishy Fashions” which consists of aquatic-themed clothing pins. There are boards that are used to promote ocean-related holidays (National Oceans Day, Earth Day, etc.). Additionally, one of the aquarium’s most popular boards is titled “Fan Photos” and features photos taken at the aquarium by fans and visitors. This board is specifically effective in engaging with users online. The aquarium shows fans their appreciation by pinning their photos directly to a very popular board.

This board on the National Aquarium's Pinterest page is titled "Fan Photos" and features photos taken by aquarium visitors.

This board on the National Aquarium’s Pinterest page is titled “Fan Photos” and features photos taken by aquarium visitors.

I realize now that Pinterest can be an effective tool for specific nonprofits to utilize. Pinterest allows organizations to engage and interact with other users. I created a webinar specifically for nonprofit organizations that might be interested in utilizing Pinterest to raise awareness about their causes or organizations.

My learning objectives are as follows:

  1. How to recognize whether or not Pinterest will benefit your organization
  2. How to set up and personalize a Pinterest account
  3. How to make connections and engage with other users on Pinterest

The first question I raise for potential Pinterest users is, “Can your organization offer visuals that will entice and excite users?” Throughout the webinar, I use the example of a small wildlife rehabilitation center located in Maryland called The Phoenix Wildlife Center. The Phoenix Wildlife Center has an archive of colorful photos of baby animals, rehabilitated wildlife, and springtime flowers at their location. The Phoenix Wildlife Center is the perfect example of an organization that would benefit from having a Pinterest page, because they have captivating visuals representing their organization that other users would find interesting. Pinterest is all about building connections and networking with potential donors, volunteers, and interested community members.

This is baby fox currently being treated at the Phoenix Wildlife Center. Photos of baby animals are perfect additions to any Pinterest board!

This is baby fox currently being treated at the Phoenix Wildlife Center. Photos of baby animals are perfect additions to any Pinterest board!

If used correctly, Pinterest can be a valuable tool for spreading awareness about a nonprofit organization. Pinterest encourages users with similar interests to connect over visuals that can ultimately persuade followers to get involved with a cause. Sometimes all it takes is a little interaction to build emotional ties to an organization.

View my webinar here!


Emma Waldman is a second-semester student in SCS’s PR/CC program. She has interned at various nonprofit organizations in the past, and is primarily interested in working with nonprofits focused on ocean conservation, wildlife protection, and animal welfare.

Is your nonprofit organization having trouble making news?

You have smart subject matter experts ready to talk, great photos to share, and a compelling story to tell – but no one is listening. Today’s journalists are having to write more stories under tighter deadlines, so it is no wonder they miss nonprofits, who, unlike major corporations, don’t always have the resources to field a communications team necessary to get the news out.

But, nonprofits looking to attract media attention can greatly assist journalists — no matter the size of their PR department — by ensuring their websites have content-rich, smartly designed and up-to-date pressrooms. Pressrooms collect contact information, press releases, recent news and other information and put it all in one place. These pressrooms target journalists, but are perfectly suited to serve the curious public and nonprofit stakeholders as well.

This is what it looks like for corporations:

Corporate digital Pressroom

BoA – Corporate Pressroom

BoA Pressroom 2

Corporate Digital Pressroom

Bank of America highlights many of the most important elements of a “newsroom” here, even going so far as to update the site with speeches from the CEO. Any journalist is going to get a thorough understanding of the company, as well as be able to sign up for email alerts or get recent news about Bank of America, helping to frame and inform any reporting.

Why is a pressroom important?

Journalists do much of their research online, and they note that they go to company websites for contact information, basic facts, financial information, and to download photos to use in stories, among other things.  And, 90 percent of journalists noted that online newsrooms are important or very important for accessing PR contacts. Journalists are constantly searching for sources and information, and in the words of journalist Bob Van Voris, “Sometimes when I’m [rushing to find a source], it’s not pretty.”  Nonprofits can help to provide necessary information and make the newswriting process a little prettier, all while helping themselves get better and more accurate coverage.

Digital Pressroom Components

Let’s walk through “need to haves” and “nice to haves” when it comes to a nonprofit digital pressroom. The need to haves are essential for telling the nonprofit’s story; the nice to haves add color and extra opportunity to engage journalists.

Need to Haves:

  • Contact information
  •  Recent press releases and news clips
  •  Factsheets, annual reports, 990s
  •  Backgrounders and infographics
  •  FAQs
  •  Bios and photos of leadership and staff
  •  History

Now we can go into a little more detail on each – but for even more information, my webinar on nonprofit digital pressrooms can be found here.


A press room should provide the media with everything they need, but chances are, they will still have specific questions for you. Make getting in touch easy. Include:

  • Media contact phone and email
  • Social media links
  • Email sign ups

The Facts

Factsheets are at-a-glance pages of information about your organization—think who, what, where, when and why. Beyond a basic factsheet, this section should include financials to illustrate your organization’s transparency, such as annual reports and 990s.

Your News

Media will be interested in seeing any information you release, as well as how your organization has recently made the news. Include both press releases and news clips from the media.

The Background

A backgrounder is essentially a fact sheet, but put into prose form. You can make the information flow and add important, colorful and interesting details. This is also a good place to showcase infographics about your organization.

 Frequently Asked Questions

Before drafting FAQs, keep a list of questions you are asked by the media, volunteers, stakeholders, board members, or the community for a few weeks. Do any of those repeat? Include them.


Make sure bios are included for everyone from the assistant up to the board chairman. Put a face with a name and include photos and be sure bios include past experience, other involvement with nonprofits or causes, information about why the organization is important to them, and education.


A succinct history can give the media background information to shape their own stories. This is particularly helpful if you have undergone changes in names or focus areas through the years.

Nice to Haves:

  • Case studies and client testimonials
  •  Digital offerings: photos and videos
  •  Subject matter experts
  •  Presentations and podcasts

 Case Studies

Highlighting testimonials from stakeholders will provide the media quotes, as well as richer context for their reporting.

Photos and Videos

Online journalism has pushed the need for photos and video – visual content is important for reporters. In this section, the organization can house all of its photos, videos, logo files or other digital elements for download.

Subject Matter Experts

Who among your staff is an expert? Who might the media want to talk to? Make sure these people and their topics are highlighted.


Similar to subject matter experts, tools like a presentation on Slideshare or tutorial videos on YouTube can be used to showcase the authority of your organization.

A Nonprofit Example

This seems overwhelming, but some nonprofits are performing exceedingly well with their pressrooms, for example, the American Red Cross, which includes press releases, information on subject matter experts and digital libraries, among additional aspects.


Nonprofit Digital Pressroom

Nonprofit Digital Pressroom

I’ve outlined the basics for you here, but in my webinar, I’ll go through more details about general tips, and what you can do to start examining your own website and start understanding what journalists are looking for.

Additional Resources

Feel free to continue your learning on this subject through these helpful articles and my 20-minute webinar.

Online press rooms frustrate journalists, Ragan’s PR Daily

Online press rooms that perform, ClickZ

Are you setting your hospital up for publicity? Ragan’s Health Care Communications News

The evolution of the pressroom, Waggener Edstrom Communications


Monica Holb is Director, Writing, at the Podesta Group, a government relations and strategic communications firm in Washington, DC. She is a student at the Public Relations and Corporate Communications Master’s program at Georgetown University and is a freelance writer and editor. For writing and communications tips, follow her on Twitter: @monifree


Non-profit organizations like yours put forth substantial effort to collect, compile, and analyze data, studies, statistics, etc. Though such robust information is valuable to those inside of your organization, who have the necessary context and background knowledge to make sense of it, the situation is different once you step back and try to communicate that same information to your key audiences through verbal or written messaging.  All too often, your target audiences will find the information you are presenting to be overly-complicated and jargon-laden, causing them to become overwhelmed and confused. In the worst case scenario, your audiences may even lose sight of the key messages you are trying to convey and stop listening to you altogether. Rather than overloading your audiences by getting too far into the weeds, you need to find a way to present the most important points from your complicated, dense information in a more approachable, high-level fashion: visually.

“De-Clutter Your Data: How You Can Use Infographics to Simplify Your Message” takes a strategic look at how non-profit organizations can use visual methods to simplify complex information and make otherwise intimidating data more approachable, engaging, and effective for reaching desired audiences. The webinar presents useful tips and tools you can use to create your own visual messaging pieces, focusing specifically on exploring infographics.



By the end of this webinar:

    • Non-profit organizations have common reservations about switching from more traditional written or verbal messaging to visual methods. However, the most effective way to communicate complicated information is by using as few words as possible.
    • Visual communication methods offer numerous benefits and advantages when compared to written and verbal communication. The speed of communicating visually is particularly key at a time when audiences consume so much information online in short amounts of time.
    • Effective types of visual communications include photographs, videos, and infographics. Check out the full webinar to see examples of each.
  • Identify WHAT content is best presented visually through infographics to tell your story.
    • Infographics have become a valuable vehicle for disseminating timely or newsworthy information due to their viral and easily-shareable nature. They’re a great way for you to provide a snapshot and communicate the highlights of a deeper, fuller story to those audiences unwilling or unable to dive in deeper.
    • Infographics have the ability to show viewers what to do, as opposed to telling them what to do. If the purpose of a communications effort is to educate or instruct, an infographic will be able to clearly demonstrate a goal to a viewer, where they might get lost if going simply by verbal or written information alone.
    • Visual information elicits a more emotional response than verbal or written information. This, paired with the fact that infographics communicate information clearly and simply, make infographics the ideal tool for leaving audiences with a clear call-to-action.
    • For examples of each type of infographic, view the webinar.
  • Learn HOW to create and use infographics on your own, using the three D’s: Draft; Design; Distribute.
    • Draft your infographic. Select your target audience, storyboard your content, and create an outline, just as you would with a verbal or written communications piece.
    • Design your infographic. Create the graphic component of your visual piece while remaining consistent with your brand identity. Be conscious of things like colors and fonts, and take care to avoid too much clutter. The whole purpose of an infographic is to simplify!
    • Distribute your infographic. Now that you’ve created your infographic, get it out there! You can easily share your new visual online, or use it to accompany an existing written or verbal communications piece.

Visual communications present a great way to simplify so much of the complex data and information you have and make it more approachable, engaging, and useful for someone outside of your organization. Armed with this knowledge, here are some tools and resources you can use to try your hand at creating your own infographics to de-clutter your data!:

Infogr.am: http://infogr.am/

Visual.ly: http://create.visual.ly/

Piktochart: http://piktochart.com/

Microsoft Excel

For more information on how to simplify your messaging using visual methods, please watch the full recording of “De-Clutter Your Data: How You Can Use Infographics to Simplify Your Message,” which can be accessed at the following link: http://idea-esolutions.adobeconnect.com/p552ujrjwox/

Colleen Psomas is a Marketing and Communications professional in the DC area, with more than three years’ experience in the field. She is currently a graduate student in the Public Relations and Corporate Communications program at Georgetown University and is hoping to pursue public relations efforts for non-profit organizations in the future.

Social media can be a hungry beast, but you can keep your social media communities happy and healthy with great planning and organization on your side. Social media is an important means of communication with any organization’s audiences, but what do you put on there? Sharing content with your audiences that keeps them well-informed is important. Perhaps even more importantly, social media is a community. People want to feel like they’re part of something. Posting content that helps you to engage with your community is key to making the most of your social media initiatives.

So planning is key, but how do you plan? There are three things that I find particularly important in staying on top of my social media strategies. I need to have some go-to ways of mining content, tools that help me manage that content, and special attention to timing.

How to Develop Content

We’re all very busy each day, so we know our organizations are up to something, but how does that something translate to social media material? You may be surprised at how much content is all around you. All you have to do is harness its power. Here’s how:

  • COPE (Create Once, Publish Everywhere)
  • Interact with your audience
  • Say no to vanity metrics

The Tools to Use

You already have your social media accounts, but what about the accounts that help you run your social media accounts? I know, it may seem like a lot, but trust me, having the right tools will make things so much easier. Picture this: instead of trying to remember to tweet at 9am, 1pm, and 3pm, you just schedule a few throughout the day. Then all you’re doing from there on out is pure interaction—social listening, retweeting, and no more stressing about “what am I gonna say next?”

  • Create an editorial calendar that will inform the use of your scheduling platform
  • Use analytics as a guide for creating better content
  • Don’t use a blanket approach for scheduling on multiple social media platforms

Timing is Everything (not everything-everything, but very important)

One day, #notguilty may be a perfectly fine thing to tweet about eating baked goods. The next day, after a controversial trial that has people in an uproar, maybe #notguilty isn’t such a lighthearted hashtag anymore. This is what I mean by “timing is everything.” (Timing can also be about what time of day you post your tweets. Is your audience most responsive at in the early morning or late afternoon? Your analytics can help you figure this out.)

  • Check your social media accounts throughout the day
  • Be aware of the context of what you’re posting—not everything is as it seems
  • Don’t let urgent issues go until Monday—social media is known for running off with things

Social media can be a lot to handle, but your organization has plenty of content to keep it entertained! With the right tools and willingness to interact with your audiences, you’ll be able to get the most out of your social media communities.

View the webinar:

Planning for Social Media Webinar_Page_01

View the slideshow as PDF: Planning for Social Media


19 Companies That Made Huge Social Media Fails – http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/19-companies-that-made-huge-social-media-fails

4 Tips for Authentic Online Engagement – http://mashable.com/2012/03/27/tips-for-authentic-online-engagement/

Become Your Own Publishing Powerhouse with LightBox Collaborative’s 2014 Editorial Calendar – http://www.lightboxcollaborative.com/2014-editorial-calendar

Why People Use Social Networking Sites – http://www.academia.edu/907531/Why_People_Use_Social_Networking_Sites

What is Social Media Content Curation? – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stefan-deeran/what-is-social-media-cont_b_3383706.html

Charrosé King is a strategic communication designer. She is the online web coordinator at an international development organization in Washington, DC and a graduate student in Georgetown University’s Public Relations and Corporate Communications program.

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