People like to talk. Give them something to talk about.
One of the best ways to stir up awareness and publicity for your nonprofit brand is to generate some buzz—word of mouth marketing is free (or at least, cheap) and, even better, highly effective. Plus, it’s something that spans both the online and the offline worlds, and can put your organization clearly on people’s radars in a very positive fashion.
Nothing says, “This organization is worth your time and money” better than a satisfied supporter or volunteer who passionately believes that your organization is truly worth his time and money. The big question is how do you get people chatting? To boost your nonprofit brand’s buzzability, you have to give your brand evangelists something worth talking about beyond the latest direct mail drop or email blast.
Here are five ways to get tongues wagging.
1. Create and Promote Stories that Your Engaged Donors/Volunteers Want to Share with Their Tribes.
This isn’t rocket science. What do people like to talk about? Other people. Nothing generates buzz better than a story about a changed life or someone who benefited from your organization. Just be leery of how you tell your stories—keep the focus on the people involved, not just your organization. You don’t want your stories to sound like obvious marketing pitches. However, if you can present an honest success story that includes bumps in the road as well as the ultimate impact of your efforts, you can create a feel-good story that people will be happy to share.
2. Recruit a Group of Volunteers Who Are Willing to Share Your Brilliant Social Media Content.
I’m going to assume that what your organization is posting, tweeting and pinning is brilliant—or at least engaging—so let’s start there and move to the next step, which is to get people to share said content with their own networks. Once you have a good group of passionate volunteers on board who are ready and willing to be active on social media, it’s up to you to post and tweet interesting and sharable content, and then let them share away. Hopefully along the way, you may even see some content go viral.
Here’s a power tip: Make sure you have actionable items in your updates to drive people to your website, like “subscribe to our emails” or “sign up for our next event.” You can also email out tweets and status updates that your volunteers can natively post to their networks so that they’re not always “sharing” your content, but also initiating their own posts on behalf of your organization.
3. Take Ten Minutes a Day to Build Your Own Personal Brand.
Let’s be honest—most of us waste five to ten minutes a day scrolling through Facebook or our Twitter feed when we could be using that time to be purposeful about promoting our own personal brand. In a world where social media rules, we have all become brands ourselves and everything that we say and do on social channels ultimately tells others what we’re all about. This can be both a blessing and a curse, especially when you want to establish yourself as a thought leader or credible resource for your cause. You have to be aware that everything you like, pin, post, tweet or follow says something about you.
So, a few things you can do to build a strong, credible personal brand include:
Share your favorite blogs and openly discuss them on Facebook.
Tweet out industry articles and include your own insights (and use appropriate hashtags so that your tweet will be findable for those doing Twitter searches).
Participate in Tweet Chats, which often happen in tandem with webinars.
On Google+, set up your Google Authorship so that Google can recognize you as a credible author that creates great content.
Recommend and endorse people on LinkedIn, which will likely earn you a few recs and endorsements, as well.
Above all, be likeable. People get tired of showoffs, preachy posters or over-sharers, so be humble and do everything in moderation.
4. Build Your Street Cred.
Here’s where you can generate some buzz offline, because people actually do interact and converse face-to-face, even in a world that’s often ruled by online communication. Simply recruit and assemble a team of people who are excited about your organization and committed to its cause, and train them to be your nonprofit brand evangelists. I’m not talking about recruiting a bunch of door-to-door salespeople and training them to go around, soliciting donations. This isn’t about fundraising; it’s about word of mouth marketing and creating excitement and awareness about your nonprofit.
So start with a group of passionate supporters and volunteers, and equip them to speak smartly about your organization. You could create a welcome kit of sorts, giving this core group a packaged promotional plan, including do’s and don’ts for speaking about your organization, the history of your NPO, the programs and services you offer, a directory of friendly and relevant places to spread the word, a calendar of events, etc. You could create a catchy name for this group, give them some swag, arm them with the right know-how and intelligence necessary for communicating effectively about your organization—then let them loose and allow their passion for your cause to take over and spread through your community.
5. Finally, Get Your Board on Board.
There’s nothing worse than an unengaged board—but on the flipside, there’s nothing better than an engaged, excited and passionate board that’s willing to champion your cause and influence a community for good. Your role here is to get your members to the engaged, excited and passionate side. When new board members come on, be sure to onboard them the right way, arming them with everything they need to know in order to talk about your organization effectively.
And with all board members, keep them in the loop. Share success stories. Update them about changes in your organization. Educate them about all the services you offer. And empower them—these are the people you can ask to do the heavy lifting. Your board members likely have valuable ties and connections in the community, and you shouldn’t be afraid to use this to your organization’s advantage. Perhaps a board member can get you a coveted speaking engagement, or pave the way for making a big ask of an important constituent. Your board members have the power and influence to generate a lot of buzz for your NPO, but you can’t expect that to “just happen.” You’re the one who may need to ignite the spark necessary to get the fire going.