Post Valentine (Linky) Love – Prompt Response

Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s flip-flopping on Planned Parenthood may be one of the biggest PR blunders in this still-young decade. But considering that I already did three blog posts in a row about the topic, I’m going to shift gears (Finally!) and blog about something not related to the nonprofit sector, but personally relevant to me.

This week my J452 professor alerted me of a very disturbing trend in recent years. Apparently as a child of the 90s (a.k.a. Generation Y, or a “Millenial”) I’m already defined by the failures of my peers. Great.

Margaret Fiester of the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM, says when it comes to parents acting as lobbyists, she’s heard it all — from parents calling to negotiate better salaries or vacation time for their kids to complaining when their child isn’t hired. “Surely you’ve overlooked these wonderful qualities that my child has,” Fiester says parents often tell her.

Michigan State University surveyed more than 700 employers seeking to hire recent college graduates. Nearly one-third said parents had submitted resumes on their child’s behalf, some without even informing the child. One-quarter reported hearing from parents urging the employer to hire their son or daughter for a position. Four percent of respondents reported that a parent actually showed up for the candidate’s job interview.

I want to go on record saying if my mom ever calls my employer requesting that (s)he give me a raise and/or increase my benefits, you have my permission to fire me. No, scratch that. I’ll quit.

I’ve been warned before about the existence of helicopter parents in grade school. In fact, I’ve even witnessed the emergence of them at the University of Oregon. But isn’t the workforce supposed to be the entering into reality? Or is that a marketing slogan designed to persuade me to go to college?

The July 2011 unemployment rate for American youth aged 16 to 24 is 18.1%, down from the July 2010 peak of 19.1%. While the situation is improving, it’s still pretty bleak for young people, and I don’t see how the helicopter parent phenomenon is supposed to help. Perhaps one of the reasons for such a high unemployment rate (as well as the low employment rate of 48.8%) is because youth today aren’t perceived as being independent?

Of course, instead of the logical response of forcing youth (and their parents) to adapt to reality, some are asserting that reality should conform to our pre-conceived expectations:

“You don’t want to block the energy of the parent,” says Neil Howe, who studies and consults on generational trends for the company LifeCourse Associates. “It’s like jujitsu. You just want to channel it in a certain direction.”

Howe says boomers are incredibly close to their children, and in his opinion, that’s a good thing.

Besides, Howe says, there’s little point in resisting engaged parents. School teachers initially tried to push back against helicopter parents a decade ago, Howe notes, but ultimately learned it was counterproductive.

“Every time a teacher [resisted], that parent, who was so attached to their kid, would become that teacher’s worst enemy,” Howe says.

Today, Howe says, many schools now reach out proactively to parents, going so far as to offer online homework programs that allow parents to monitor a child’s progress. Colleges have also adapted, he notes, some even creating an Office of Parent Relations.

Great advice, Neil Howe! Let’s have a world where everyone younger than 30 never has to grow up, ever! I’ve always wanted to be a child living in Neverland!

Ummmm, not that Neverland. Courtesy of the Daily Mail

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Eugene Nonprofit #3 – FOOD for Lane County

FOOD for Lane County headquarters, located off Bailey Hill Road in west Eugene.

Today I will be blogging on FOOD for Lane County (FFLC), a “501(c)(3) nonprofit food bank founded in 1984 and dedicated to eliminating hunger by creating access to food.” Through a network of more than 100 social service agencies and programs, they provide food to low-income residents of the Eugene-Springfield area. Much of this food is donated to the nonprofit via food drives. They network with a huge list of partner agencies, and are affiliated with United Way of Lane County, the Oregon Food Bank Statewide Network, and is a distribution partner of Feeding America.

FFLC uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Vimeo (a video-sharing website similar to YouTube). They also maintain two blogs: Community Food Organizing in Rural Lane County – run by FFLC Community Food Organizer Danielle Hummel – and Living on Less, where Food Resource Developer Alicia Hines shows what it’s like to live off of $31.50 a week for food.

Of these, only Facebook and Twitter are advertised in the top right corner of the webpage. LinkedIn, which isn’t advertised, appears to be completely vacated, while FFLC sporadically uploads videos onto Vimeo. Both the blogs are found under the “News & Events” menu. While Hummel updates Community Food Organizing on a roughly weekly basis, Living on Less only spans the course of a single week (since the blog was only intended to last a week, this is irrelevant).

However, FFLC updates both Facebook and Twitter on a roughly daily basis. Their last Facebook post as of this writing is a Vimeo video about their latest partner agency, Valley United Methodist Church. On Twitter, their last tweet as of today reads as follows:

Come to Footwise Shoestore on February 11th (That’s 3 days before Valentine’s Day) and get your sweety or friend some nice looking kicks….

Sometimes FFLC will tweet or post on Facebook multiple times in a day. This constant updating shows continuous engagement with their  audience through these mediums, a fact no doubt appreciated by residents of a county where a third of the population is eligible for emergency food. While their appearance in other social media formats is inconsistent at best, this can be forgiven by their lack of prominence. Both their LinkedIn and Vimeo pages only appear as part of their ZMOT.

In fact, their ZMOT demonstrates a remarkably strong control of their media presence. A Google search for FFLC produced the following results:

Also worth noting is the appearance of GreatNonprofits on Google’s right sidebar, which is normally reserved for advertisements. On here, FFLC is distinguished as a Top-Rated nonprofit for 2009. Every single one of the 14 reviews posted on the page – most, fittingly, from 2009 – give FFLC 5 stars. Peggy Hinsman, who wrote two reviews, is the author of the most recent review:

Oregon is a state with the highest percentage of people who lack finances for eating well. FOOD for Lane County does a remarkable job of helping those who don’t have enough money to purchase healthy food for their families. Every month and year I support FOOD for Lane County by donating money at Market of Choice, donating bowls at their yearly fund raiser, and donated food when the post office does a food drive for FOOD for Lane County.

Clearly FFLC enjoys a strong following in the Eugene-Springfield. Not only do they support a good cause, but they effectively communicate their message through a relatively narrow number of channels. It would be difficult to criticize FFLC’s approach at social media, especially since they edged out the Greenhill Humane Society and Planned Parenthood for first place in Best Nonprofit. Perhaps they could eliminate social media channels they don’t use (LinkedIn?) and increase their news coverage? Otherwise, keep up the good work!

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Best of Links for Midterm Week – Prompt Response

Cancer sucks. Courtesy of Ragan's Health Care Communcation News

Nothing ever dies in public relations. Ever. That’s why today I will continue to blog about the Susan G. Komen For the Cure controversy and its ramifications. This week my professor posted several links about the aftermath of the Planned Parenthood flop.

The Los Angeles Times wrote an article about a letter written by Eve Ellis, who served on the Komen board for six, calling for a complete overhaul of Komen’s leadership. Not only did she call for the resignation of Komen founder and chief executive Nancy Brinker, but she also called for her to fire vice president Karen Handel and the entire Komen board. Ultimately one of these wishes came (partially) true with Handel’s resignation.

While calling for a complete overhaul of Komen’s leadership may be over the top, Ellis’ anger underscores the problem with the nonprofit. Besides Brinker’s and Handel’s well-known ties to Republican politics (in fact, one could read Handel’s resignation as a cynical attempt at a popularity boost to prove her pro-life credentials), there seems to be no sign that either of them learned their lessons:

“Brinker does not say exactly what she is sorry for,” [Washington Post writer Jena] McGregor writes. “She does not explore what mistakes she made. And she does not address several of the points in [Post writer Sally] Quinn’s letter, from the ambiguity of Komen’s decision to allow Planned Parenthood to reapply–though not necessarily be funded–to why her institution’s shifting explanations for its controversial move were so confusing.”

What Brinker and the rest of Komen’s leadership must realize is that taking a BP-style approach to the controversy won’t cut it. They can tell the world a million times how sorry they are and how the decision really wasn’t about politics but about what’s best for women. It won’t matter. Nobody cares, because it misses the point.

The point is that what Komen did in its flip-flopping is it betrayed the millions of women and men who proudly supported the organization and its goal of curing breast cancer. They also failed to anticipate the power of social media, which is a powerful tool that can both create and destroy a brand. Ultimately, it’s not the brand that owns the people. It’s the people that own the brand.

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Eugene Nonprofit #2 – Planned Parenthood

This PPSO health center, located at 17th and High, is one of three in the Eugene-Springfield area.

As alluded to in my last blog entry, today I will blog about Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon (PPSO), the local affiliate of the national organization (itself part of an international federation!). Although my blog focuses on local nonprofits, the local and national organizations overlap with each other, as shown by the recent controversy with the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Therefore, today I will focus on both in relation to each other. The local affiliate proclaims the following vision:

We seek a world in which all children are wanted and cared for, all people have equal rights and dignity, sexuality is expressed with honesty, equality and responsibility, and the decision to have children is private and voluntary.

According to their Priorities page, their mission is “[t]o ensure the right of all individuals to manage their sexual and reproductive health, by providing health services, education, and advocacy.” They achieve this by providing free or affordable reproductive health care services, community education programs, public policy advocacy. Approximately 30,000 people visit PPSO’s health centers spread from Eugene to Ashland.

PPSO keeps their social media use simple and focuses exclusively on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn. The national organization uses the same platforms as well. However, simple isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, both the local and national organizations vigorously update their Facebook and Twitter pages.

This engagement with their target audience helped secure their large and devoted following, which they and many media sources credit for circulating the scandal involving the Komen Foundation’s unrealized decision to end funding for the nonprofit. Certainly this press release from the national organization’s president, Cecile Richards, underscores the immense loyalty of Planned Parenthood’s supporters that their social media use helped flourish.

Indeed, only a day after Komen’s announcement on Tuesday, Planned Parenthood reported receiving $400,000 from about 6,000 donors, contributing to the eventual reversal. That popularity translates locally too, with PPSO placing third in Best Nonprofit (losing out to FOOD for Lane County and Greenhill Humane Society).

PPSO-affiliated websites dominate in their ZMOT. A Google search for PPSO produces the following results:

A Google search of the national nonprofit shows similar results, plus news coverage of the Komen controversy such as this. While this ZMOT shows a remarkable ability to keep the focus on their organization, one very obvious area of concern is the negative publicity from pro-life activists.

One only need to read the news articles to hear the voices of those morally opposed to abortion, for which Planned Parenthood does provide some services. While I’ve noted before that only three percent of their funding actually goes towards abortion services, for some this is enough. In fact, anger from pro-life activists and an investigation conducted by congressional Republicans are what motivated Komen to consider defunding the nonprofit to begin with.

Unfortunately, no obvious solution to this problem exists. Unless they stop providing abortion services, there will always be vocal opposition to Planned Parenthood, both locally and nationally. Unlike other nonprofits, who can rationally engage with concerned consumers to improve their services, PPSO may have to walk around the problem and reframe the debate on their terms. Of course this is a flawed approach, since it would hamper their image as “a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization,” but little room for compromise exists.

Fortunately, the bell+funk links provide a window to the path of ideal public relations. By focusing on their most important services – contraceptions, STD/STI testing and treatment, and cancer screenings – they can continue to maintain their strong financial and emotional support. Not everyone is behind abortions. Everyone is behind preventing unwanted pregnancy and halting the spread of diseases.

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Best of Links (Linky Love) for Sunny Winter Days – Prompt Response

Last week taught me the importance of what it is you post online. Today I will apply the lessons I’ve learned to my response to my J452 professor’s latest prompt. Yet again I play the role of over-achiever and respond to two links instead of one. This time, however, more than simply self-interest lies at stake.

 

Self-explanatory.

Recently the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation announced it will no longer provide funding for Planned Parenthood. Among the services this years-old partnership provided were breast cancer screenings for low-income women. Now I could be incredibly out of line for saying this, but I have a nagging suspicion that this defeats Komen’s purpose of fighting breast cancer. The author of one of the links my professor posted speculates that the organization’s motivation is entirely political, despite their assertions of otherwise.

Because the local Planned Parenthood chapter is one of the nonprofits I plan on covering in my blog, I feel it is worth putting my two cents into the issue. The abortion debate probably falls somewhere in the Top 10 most overplayed political “issues” of all time. Many, many, many sources have noted that only three percent of Planned Parenthood’s funding goes towards abortion services. Gasp, three whole percentage points!  That’s, like, out of a hundred, right? It’s a shame that Komen would rather side with the right-wing politicians investigating Planned Parenthood than provide health services to poor women. Such political bravery!

Ok, lets calm down here. No more politics. Now I’m going to zero in on the real point of this blog. Another link my professor posted discusses the usefulness of infographs. Because of personal biases I am reluctant to admit the power of visuals over words. However, for most people statistics are dry and boring. What good does it do most people to know that 66 percent of the world’s drinking water is contaminated? While a picture of a glass that’s two-thirds full probably isn’t a whole ton more useful for most, it’s better for grasping the magnitude of the issue.

I believe that creating and utilizing infographs can be a relatively inexpensive and effective tool for local nonprofits such as Planned Parenthood, NextStep Recycling, and FOOD for Lane County, particularly for soliciting donations from potential donors. A graphic designer can create the infograph using relevant data (such as the services Planned Parenthood provides, or the needs of Lane County’s poor) and share it with the general public using social media such as Facebook or Twitter. While it’s a simple and popular tool, if used correctly it can supplement a successful campaign.

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Eugene Nonprofit #1 – NextStep Recycling

Nonprofits such as NextStep have good reason to want to preserve the environment, given the beauty that surrounds Eugene.

In my last post I commented on an article my professor posted about what nonprofits should focus on in 2012. If you missed that, the link is in the previous entry. The article helps establish some of the best practices that nonprofits should strive for, with a strong emphasis on the smartphone compatibility. While my lack of a smartphone partially inhibits me, there are still several ways I can measure Eugene area nonprofits by the author’s standards. For example, I can measure ZMOT by looking at the top Google search results for each nonprofit. My analysis will also focus on each nonprofit’s use of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, and how frequently each is updated.

Today I will be blogging on NextStep Recycling, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2002. Originally a Mac-oriented computer recycling center known as MacRenewal, they have since expanded to include all computers and other electronic devices. They state their mission statements as “[p]roviding technology and training to children and adults who have barriers to employment and education, while protecting our environment and community from hazardous waste.”

NextStep utilizes six social media tools: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Except for the LinkedIn page, all of their social media websites appear in the top right corner of their homepage.

Immediately upon glancing through these pages the reader notices a serious problem. NextStep updates their Facebook and Twitter pages rather consistently. In fact, they often receive the same status updates. For example, as of this writing their latest update reads as follows:

14 new “likes”. Yeah now! Please recommend our page to your friends. The more folks who know about our services, the more positive impact we can have on our community!

While on the surface this is great, since (obviously) Facebook and Twitter are two of the most popular social media websites on the market, NextStep holds an inconsistent record across other sites. Since joining Foursquare, they have engaged in only two tips with other local businesses, both in 2010. Their most recent upload on Flickr was on February 10, 2011. Only six videos exist on their YouTube channel, the latest of these which consists of two robots from Xtranormal engaging in the cheesy self-promotional conversation every other business in the world has already engaged in.

To be fair, their homepage features several other videos, many of which feature their engagement with local media such as KVAL and KEZI. One of these is a story featuring another media outreach program of theirs, ReUse Radio, which features them collaborating with other related nonprofits such as MECCA and BRING Recycling to promote the benefits of reusing materials instead of merely recycling them.

However, all of this consistently demonstrates a problem with infrequent updating across social media platforms. Even their homepage reflects this (their latest news story and blog post are both from April 2010). NextStep does important work and provides a valuable service to the Eugene-Springfield area, but relying solely on Facebook and Twitter for consistent communication severely restricts their voice in the community they serve. Even with smartphone technology such as voice recognition and QR codes, a nonprofit cannot build its brand relying solely on social media tools nearly everyone uses.

Perhaps this uneven presence helps explain their mixed ZMOT. A Google search for NextStep produces the following results:

These mentions offer windows into what NextStep’s customers are thinking, as well as to address complaints and concerns. For example, shilliard85 left this comment on the KMTR article:

I appreciate NextStep’s goals and mission, but I am an impoverished college student, I went in looking for a computer, and their used computers are a few hundred bucks…that isn’t cheap, that’s a rip off.

While shilliard85 left this comment on a news story and not a media webpage operated by NextStep, the nonprofit should keep an eye out for these complaints. They appear elsewhere, such as in Google reviews and on Yelp. Without effectively addressing such comments, NextStep risks losing the edge to its competition (such as in losing first place in “Best Environmentally Friendly Business” to BRING and Down to Earth).

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First Best of Links – Prompt Response

Today, because this is a blog designed for my J452 class, I will be responding to a prompt posted by my professor Mandy Drakeford. I will dedicate this post to two of the links she posted, not to show off but because they are of relevance to interests of mine.

First, I want to comment on an interview between Technorati blogger Craig Blaha and Socialtext CEO Eugene Lee. In this interview, Blaha asks Lee how SOPA and PIPA would affect his business and what alternatives would address the issue of internet piracy more effectively. You can click the link and read the interview yourself. However, one quote stands out in particular. When asked if he thinks piracy is a problem, Lee responds with the following:

…the real issue SOPA and PIPA are trying to address is trade and commerce, how to protect products and brands. The focus has been on movies and downloads because it is sexier, but because of the technology involved, this gets confusing to the general public and gets outside of the original intent of the law. Fundamentally the issue is the same as counterfeit Rolexes, and we have historical efforts and precedents that we should build on.

This sums up how I feel about the two bills, and most congressional bills dealing with piracy in general, pretty neatly. While there’s clearly a Constitutional precedent and a vested interested in protecting innovation and people’s ideas, nowadays celebrities and corporations have lobbied for the abuse of these laws to the extent that you can copyright phrases. The intent should be to protect innovation, not to guarantee indefinite profits off the same product for years.

Politics aside, my blog is about the nonprofit sector, and I intend for that to be my focus. My teacher also posted an interesting and relevant article focusing on objectives that nonprofits should achieve  in 2012. Five of these directly relate to technology: smartphones, voice recognition tools, ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth), QR codes, and linking Facebook “likes” with small donations.

No, this is not my cell phone. Photo courtesy of howtogetreal.com

Unfortunately, lacking a smartphone, this makes me feel a little less tech-savvy than I ought to be as a PR major. Also, I’m a little skeptical of its usefulness; experience has taught me to frown on voice recognition technology, and again my lacking a smartphone keeps me out of the loop of that market.

However, the technology is definitely a market worth considering. As smartphones become increasingly popular, their costs will go down, and nonprofits absolutely must tap into them as part of their branding strategy. While I will find out for sure in the coming weeks, I suspect that Eugene area nonprofits desperately need to update their tech savviness when it comes to smartphones.

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