Practitioner Profile: Christine Nyirjesy Bragale (C’88), Mercy Corps

Bragale_Christine_Mercy_CorpsChristine Nyirjesy Bragale (C’88) is the Director of Media Relations at Mercy Corps, a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible. In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, Mercy Corps partners to put bold solutions into action—helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within.

Center for Social Impact Communication: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Christine. To begin, would you please describe your career path and your current position.

Christine Nyirjesy Bragale: I like to joke that I’m a ‘reformed journalist.’ I started my career in television news, working 10 years as a Washington-based producer and news editor and member of the White House Press Corps. My last newsroom position was at Associated Press Television News (APTN) – I was a member of the launch team. Mostly I focused on U.S. national politics, diplomacy and the major international news of the day – from Desert Storm and the war in Bosnia to airline disasters and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I covered the last months of the Reagan administration, plus the administrations of Bush I and Clinton.

It’s at the AP that I discovered that I really love building, and my roles in public relations have focused on building to that proverbial next level. I spent a decade at Goodwill Industries International, where we built a media relations platform that both delivered the leadership voice and elevated the voices of local Goodwill organizations. I made my transition into the for-profit world via Weber Merritt, a boutique public affairs firm, building my experience in grassroots advocacy, then moved on to TASC, a national security company. TASC was a 40+-year-old firm that Northrop Grumman had acquired then spun off in the wake of new defense procurement rules. My job there was to help rebuild the company’s external communications function.

My love and loyalty sit firmly with mission-focused communications. Today I lead the global media relations team at Mercy Corps, a global organization focused on meeting immediate needs of today through humanitarian action and building a stronger tomorrow through development programs. It’s a particularly exciting time to work in communications here. We have built a super agile, time-zone dispersed team of six media relations pros and the broader Marketing Communications team just launched a new brand. Looking ahead at the next three years, we’re looking at new partnerships within and without Mercy Corps to exponentially raise profile, influence and funds. In other words, we want people everywhere to know us, love us and support us.

CSIC: Wow, what an interesting career path! And we couldn’t help but notice that you are a fellow Hoya, what is the best piece of career advice you have for Georgetown students?

CNB: Be open to feedback…on everything: your approach to a vexing problem, your wish-I-could-do-over moment in that tense meeting or the op-ed you slaved over all week. Use every success, hiccup and failure as a learning moment. (About that op-ed, remember this: Even Pulitzer Prize winners have editors.)

CSIC: A great tip for us all. What career accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

CNB: As a media relations strategist, I’m always proudest of the latest big success – right now it’s a series of Wall Street Journal articles on how counter-terror rules impact the banking system, with focus on NGO financial transactions for aid operations in countries like Syria and Somalia. We’ve been stewarding this opportunity for more than a year, and it’s a stellar example of how advocacy + media can “make” influence to create impactful change and an environment that enables, rather than hinders, lifesaving work. Don’t get me wrong – the change we need isn’t there yet, but there are signs of significant progress!

CSIC: Congratulations, that sounds like a big win! What can someone do early in his/her social impact career to secure a position similar to yours?

CNB: Get experience in “the field”, no matter the sector that inspires you.

Having an understanding of real-time operational challenges and opportunities will make you a smarter (and more desirable!) communicator. After all, the business strategy drives the communications strategy, and the communications strategy advances the business strategy. You need to have good insights into the business to design and execute the communications plan that yields measurable and lasting impact.

CSIC: What skills are necessary to work in media relations for a major nonprofit?

CNB: In terms of technical skills: a strategic mindset, superior writing skills and a nose for news. In terms of soft skills or personal attributes: tenacity, emotional intelligence and a good sense of humor and the ridiculous.

CSIC: And what is your go-to source to learn about cause communications trends?

CNB: Cause Marketing Forum and Selfish Giving are two always reliable sources. I also like to read case studies in PR Week and PR News, and check out related conversations on LinkedIn.

CSIC: Finally, we have to ask: is Mercy Corps hiring?

CNB: Yes! On the media relations team, an entry-level position will open up later this spring because one of our valued teammates is flying off to graduate school, and we’re looking for interns in both Washington, DC, and our Portland, Oregon, headquarters. Mercy Corps is always hiring for a variety of roles: visit our career center at mercycorps.org.

CSIC: A huge thank you to you, Christine, for all your insights and advice!

Guidelines To A Successful Content Marketing Strategy for Social Good

by Julie Petersen

Nonprofits and organizations focused on positive social change are familiar with writing articles. It’s necessary to encourage call to action and it’s natural for these organizations to be educational.

However, with so much information on the web today, the marketing strategies for success will be more complex than the traditional blog post. To truly reach your goals your site must tell a story and include various other elements. Review the following tips to get started.

Tell the story of the community you serve.
You need viewers to empathize with your cause. And telling a story that readers will relate to can inspire them and engage them in the conversation. Create a connection between readers and the community.

Give your audience an exclusive look.
The people who support your cause will want to see what goes on behind closed doors. Include specific content material that explores the interworking and staff of your organization, and allows readers to feel like part of the team.

Use numbered lists.
When writing for the web, regardless of the specific mission, you need to keep it straightforward. Bullet points and numbered lists are a great way to catch reader attention and to engage readers. 

Use visual elements.
Non-profit organizations will always want to include articles and stories that have visual representation. Use photos and videos to attract and retain more readers as visual content is king.

Share resources relevant to your cause.
Your content writers may have other passions outside of the site’s cause, however they need to be cautious that their content focus does not wander. They also must provide supported and reliable resources. 

Offer media reviews.
To grow a larger reader community, include pop culture and the arts in your content. Provide reviews of book, movies or television shows that pertain to your cause or social issue of focus.

Ask for advice from professional content writers.
When you begin building your website you should seek guidance from professionals. There are services available online which work with tight deadlines and offer help in any topic area. You can find professional writing assistant at such websites as Upwork or FreelancerCareers as well as ask for a help at writing services like PapersGear or BestEssays. 

Validate and summarize research.
There is a lot of preparation that goes into not only starting a socially aware company, but also into its content. Be sure to provide references, but summarize the essential parts of your research. 

Know and represent your brand.
You want your content material to engage reader loyalty. So your content needs to reflect the mission of the organization you represent. Make it personal, original and in line with all policies and perspectives of your brand. 

Think of it as an investment, not an expense.
Whether or not your organization meets all goals, discover and use metric analytics of your site to better reach your viewers. Pinpoint your target audience and explore how they react to your content.

Let people tell their own stories.
If your mission is to right a wrong, or help people that are suffering, include personal accounts and experiences. Let real people, outside of your organization; post their story in their own voices. 

Interview donors and volunteers.
Always be motivated to find new like-minded individuals, and interview them in formal platform. Allow them to also share their experiences and viewpoints via your site.

Feature social media and mobile content.
In today’s world you have to include and integrate social media accounts with your site. And to obtain optimum results you should schedule posts regularly across all platforms. 

Show donation impact.
You need to tell viewers how the organizations donations are being used, and all of the positive results that have occurred. Update your loyal viewers regularly, and give them features like countdowns to increase excitement. 

Always publish quality content.
Even if you have all of the necessary components of a successful socially conscious site, you won’t get anywhere unless the content backs up the mission. Publish properly edited material that never rambles. 

Don’t be argumentative.
Present your cause with an open mind and do not use abrasive vocabulary. You do not want to be threatening or egotistical. Present the issue, support the reasons for change and go from there. 

Avoid random acts of marketing.
Make a plan, schedule your posts and milestones and stick to your goals. If you have a new idea, make an organized strategy to implement it. Don’t proceed without an intelligent design. 

Stay positive.
This seems simple enough, however when dealing with tough issues, the negative feelings can come out. Stay positive and enforce your mission with words of encouragement, not ill will or vengeance. 

Remain consistent and organized.
Not only do you want to avoid random acts of marketing, you also want to remain consistent. Do not update your site every month; release new content regularly – at least weekly, if not daily. 

Don’t let your website go to waste.
When you create a website or social media profile, do not let it sit idle. It is not just a digital business card. Use what technology offers and actively market your mission with your content.

No matter what social issue your organization is focused on, remain consistent and positive with your work. Be sure to have quality material, an active voice and always use social media.

So start using these tips as a guideline, and start building a larger viewer and donor community today.

Volunteering Across Generations – How to Get People of All Ages Involved

by Aaron Viles

generations-volunteerVolunteering can be a lifelong commitment, and people of all ages can, and do, volunteer all the time. But that doesn’t mean that all volunteer opportunities are equally suited to all people. As folks grow and age, the type of volunteer work they can and want to do can change. Understanding what motivates people to volunteer throughout their life — from a deep passion for a cause to a desire to connect with their community or a need to fill free time — can help organizations match opportunities with the best folks. It’s helpful to make it clear how volunteering can be part of any life stage.

The key to knowing what volunteer activities work best for which age groups are to understand both what people have to offer and their limitations. Young folks may not have experience, but they’re more likely to be able to do more physical activities. Their parents may have a lot on their plates, but are motivated to demonstrate the value of community involvement. Retirees have time, but may not have the skill flexibility to do all necessary tasks.

Here are a few things to think about when reaching out to people at all ages and examples of great volunteering opportunities that meet their needs and make a difference at the same time:

Young people

It’s important to remember that, with young people, the goal is just as much about making volunteering a part of their lives as it is for activities to actually do good. As such, when working with younger people, especially kids still in school, it’s great to find things that are actually fun to do, even as they help their community. Many teenagers may associate volunteering with sitting in a nursing home chatting with the elderly and infirm or picking up trash on the side of the road. Compared with everything else on a young person’s plate, these things don’t sound particularly exciting. Some folks are going to love those things, but for many others, volunteering becomes more of a chore. You want to link the activity to a passion the person already has.

Instead, try showing young people how something they love can be turned into a valuable volunteer opportunity. For example, teenagers who age out of Little League and other youth sports can make great coaches for younger kids. Pet-lovers could enjoy taking shelter animals out for walks or runs. Or, help young people find an organization that works on causes they support. An organization that combats global warming may not need as many volunteers as the local food pantry, but stuffing envelopes for fundraising drives can be rewarding when you know it’s helping further something you care deeply about. Often, the biggest barrier to break is helping young people understand what opportunities exist and where they can go to find something that piques their interest.

And while you may think older folks have a monopoly on special experience, young people can be particularly helpful with outreach, especially via social media. Not only do they have large networks, but they’re more likely to understand the pulse of what gets popular online. Showing young volunteers that they can make a difference by helping an awareness campaign online — just by making memes or even liking and sharing — can open their eyes to how the things they already do can be harnessed for good.

Retirees and older people

You often don’t need to sell older folks on the idea of volunteering. Even if they haven’t volunteered a day in their life, increasingly, volunteering is becoming a typical and expected part of retirement. They key here is to make sure you’re getting the best value from these experienced folks. A retiree in her early 70s may not be the best candidate for lugging boxes and helping with event set up, but she probably has other things to offer.

Take advantage of the skills retirees and older folks have built over their lifetime. A former graphic designer could help create marketing materials or flyers for an organization. Someone who’s spent years in management may be great at helping organize your volunteer program or run volunteer days.

This also includes taking advantage of volunteers’ connections and network. A former journalist or publisher may know how to get coverage of a rally or volunteer event. Longtime community members could reach out to local businesses for in-kind donations or sponsorship-style gifts to help fund events or other mission-oriented work.

Middle-age

There’s a reason we keep reading studies that people’s unhappiness peaks in middle age: people in their 30s and 40s are really busy, often juggling work, kids, aging parents and still trying to find time to do things they love. Getting these folks to volunteer is about lowering the barriers and showing how giving back can fit into the obligations they already have.

Parents find lots of volunteer opportunities through their children’s schools activities, from helping teachers as a room parent or chaperoning school functions, to managing the age-old wrapping paper drive and other school fundraising initiatives. What makes these volunteer opportunities an easier sell is that they’re part and parcel with parenting. But that doesn’t mean you have to get into the schools to reach these people. Rather than targeting just the parents, find ways that families can volunteer together. Families can sort donations to food banks or put together disaster relief kits together and kids can ride along as the adults make Meals on Wheels deliveries.

Beyond potentially being parents, middle-aged people are also going through a lot of professional transition. By this time, folks have likely moved past entry level positions and have a couple decades’ worth of experience and knowledge to share. These are ideal qualities of mentors, both for students and young professionals as well as at-risk youth. Being still active participants in their industry and not too far from school age can help them connect with and relate to younger people to build strong relationships. Taking on managerial roles in volunteer work can also help them build their professional resume. Planning events and wrangling volunteers at a soup kitchen or fundraising drive builds skills that are applicable at work, too, and volunteering with work-related projects (think structural engineers helping with Habitat for Humanity) can build connections. When reaching out to busy folks, don’t forget to make the case that volunteering is a two-way street and can help tee up new career opportunities.

There are no shortage of volunteer opportunities and organizations in need of community help. The good thing is, there’s no shortage of volunteers either. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, nearly 63 million Americans volunteered 7.7 billion hours. But to keep those numbers on the rise, organizations and volunteers alike should think about what opportunities best align with their life and the skills they have to offer. With a little thought and planning, people can make a difference in myriad ways throughout their whole life.

Aaron Viles is a Senior Grassroots Organizer for Care2. He works with citizen authors on The Petition Site to create petitions that will win concrete victories for animals, the environment, and other progressive causes. Prior to Care2 he spent decades working within the non-profit environmental advocacy field. Aaron honed his craft while working for Gulf Restoration Network, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and Faithful America. He began his career with Green Corps, the field school for environmental organizing. When not in front of a screen or on a conference call, Aaron can be found doting on his daughters, pedaling furiously to keep up with the peloton, and serving as a volunteer leader for the Sierra Club, Dogwood Alliance and his church.

Student Research Assistant Profile: Rina Zelaya

meet-the-team-RinaRina is the CSIC Student Research Assistant, where she is responsible for providing key support on the Center’s cutting-edge social impact research. Rina is also a student in Georgetown University’s master of professional studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program.

Center for Social Impact Communication: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you ended up in your current position as the CSIC Student Research Assistant.

Rina Zelaya: I was born and raised in Guatemala, a beautiful country with many challenges to overcome; this motivated me to work in a nonprofit: Asopuente. This was the first time I was in contact with cause communications and the impact it can have in people´s lives. After this experience I couldn´t help but realize how communications are a vehicle for change within a society. Coming to study at Georgetown I was positively surprised to discover that CSIC existed and immediately became interested in its activities. Eventually I found myself participating in its office hours and fieldtrips – the experience was not only transformational but it lead me to this new and exciting position.

CSIC: How did you first hear about CSIC?

RZ: I heard about it during my first semester at the PR & Corporate Communications program at Georgetown through the Weekly Newsletter. I found that they were constantly holding events and wanted to further understand what CSIC did so I participated for the first time in Office Hours with Bridget Pooley, CSIC’s program manager.

CSIC: What aspect of the CSIC Student Research Assistant position are you most excited about?

RZ: What I have come to enjoy the most is all the new, cutting-edge information and experiences I am in contact with. Having access to interviews with trend-setters in the communication industry and learning of the amazing insights they have for what the future trends and changes hold for the social impact area is very exciting. I am also happy to use Virtual Reality for the first time in my life!

CSIC: Do you have any advice for students who are interested in getting involved with CSIC?

RZ: The field trips are a great gateway to get to know CSIC and its activities; they are a great way to experience first-hand how communications are being used by companies, agencies and nonprofits for social impact initiatives on a global scale. Also, volunteer to become a contributor to the CSIC online magazine, it is an amazing learning experience and the CSIC team is very open to help you and bring you onboard!

CSIC: You’re taking CSIC’s signature course, Cause Consulting, this semester; what are you most excited about exploring in that course?

RZ: I love that more than learning theories, I am learning skills that I will be able to translate into my professional career, wherever it may lead me. Simultaneously, the abilities learned and knowledge gained is applicable to any professional activity. I can see myself using this when consulting, but also when working with a team, when supporting change processes within an organization. It is a must-take course.

CSIC: Thanks for chatting with us, Rina! If you’re interested in learning more about Rina’s work, you can read her article on The Social Impact Communicator about her trip to the Mashable Social Good Summit

The 7 Best Social Media Tools For Nonprofits

by Anna Olinger

freelancer-763730_960_720Social media is the key to any great marketing campaign. It’s the easiest way to connect with your audience, get to know what they are looking for, and then engage with them about your product or service. As a non-profit business owner, social media is even more essential because you (likely) don’t have a big marketing budget. Social media marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach your target audience and give them meaningful ways to support your cause. These 7 tools will help your non-profit’s social media plan succeed.

  1. Buffer

Buffer lets you take all the content that you want to share with your audience and followers, and schedule it in a way that makes sense for your business. You can schedule posts directly from Buffer’s website, through a plugin, or via your newsreader. Buffer also lets you collaborate with your marketing team (or the other members of your non-profit). This is handy when you have one person providing photos, someone else creating articles, and another person responding to comments. Everyone can have access to the site remotely.

  1. Essay Capital

If you have a blog, you likely need to produce new content at least once a week. Finding the time to come up with content ideas, research, write, and edit a new post each week takes time and effort that could otherwise be spent working with clients and creating new business. And this is an easy thing to outsource. Essays Capital is a custom writing service that will get to know your company’s voice and create weekly blog posts for you.

  1. Viraltag

Viraltag integrates with Canva, Dropbox, Picasa, and other image creation and storage sites to let you easily post and tag visual content to your social channels. The website has a special plan for non-profits that starts at $12/month for one account on each platform.

  1. Ninja Essays

Ninja Essays is another custom writing service that you can use to lighten your load. They can create blog posts, website content, or social media content. They can also create PowerPoints if you need online presentations for your social pages.

  1. Action Sprout

Action Sprout is the leading Facebook tool for raising awareness of causes. If you plan on creating an online petition to raise money for a campaign, get signatures, or just get the word out about your non-profit, Action Sprout can help. The website helps you manage your page visitors to turn more viewers into supporters.

  1. Post Planner

Post Planner helps you find relevant and highly rated content to share with your followers on social media. It can save you a lot of time that you would otherwise spend scouring the web or social platforms to find sharable content.

  1. Hootsuite

Planning all of your social media content is an essential part of your marketing plan. But you don’t want to spend hours on the computer everyday posting new material, responding to people, and networking. Hootsuite lets you link all of your social media accounts to one website and manage them from there. You can schedule all of your social media engagement for a week and then just respond when needed. It will save you hours every week (or even every day) and it will allow you to stay on top of you social presence.

When you’re planning your marketing plan for your non-profit, be sure to include a segment for social media. It’s the best way to reach a like-minded group of people. These tools and resources will help you grow your online marketing efforts and increase your exposure without breaking the bank.