Step 7: Spread the Word
The success of any initiative is directly related to the success with which it is communicated. For an initiative to be well-organized its communications strategy must be the engine, not the caboose.
As you begin to build your communications strategy you need to start by asking the right question
Who are you trying reach?
What do I know about this target audience?
What is the objective of your message?
What do you want that person or group to do?
What information does your target audience need?
What message will create the change in attitude or behavior that you are seeking?
What is the best medium for getting out this message?
By answering these questions you will start to establish the base for your communication strategy moving forward.
A. Creating a Narrative
It is important to have a concise, compelling narrative of your group and your cause when speaking with new partners, potential supporters, funders or the media.
Storytelling is a natural way to convey information and compel people to act. You should weave a story that connects your cause and overall purpose. Stories retain people’s attention better than lectures or statistics. Stories are also more memorable to people and can be compelling to press, or persuasive to elected officials. When formulating your story, just remember that it is all about PLOT:
Plain: Keep it simple and only include the essentials.
Light: Make sure your story is appropriate to your audience. Don’t dwell on depressing or grisly details.
Obvious: Be clear and focused. At the end of the story, your listeners should not wonder why you told the story or how it links to the issue at hand.
Tight: Keep it short. Rehearse the story so you can tell it easily and at a comfortable pace in just a few minutes.
As a spokesperson for your group, you should never go to a meeting or event unprepared to speak. When given the opportunity, planned or unplanned, you want to be an ambassador for your work. Keep short anecdotes in your head that you can easily draw on in these situations and tailor your remarks to the audience.
Remember the story isn’t just about the cause, but about you. People want to get to know you and why you are passionate. By conveying your experiences or your challenges, they will understand what makes you uniquely qualified to tell them about this issue. Speaking about yourself or your passions can sometimes be nerve-wracking or even cause an emotional response. Harness your nervous energy and channel it into your speech. Know that triggering an emotional reaction from your audience can strengthen your ask and compel them to take action. Your friends and family can be a test audience to let you know if the emotional reactions are too strong or the story not relatable.
Lastly, remember with every time you speak to incorporate a call to action. This can be a request to invest financially in your organization or simply writing down your website and signing up for your email list. Good storytelling will create a sense of collectiveness between the audience and your cause that will require them to take action.
B. Using Social Media
One of the defining characteristics of our generation is how we use information technology. Seventy-five percent of Millennials have created a Social Networking profile. Millennials are also increasingly using the internet as their primary news source (59%). Also, consider that 30 billion pieces of content are shared each month on Facebook, 1 Million Twitter Accounts are opened every day, and more video is uploaded on Youtube in 60 days than all 3 major US networks have created in 60 years.
Social Media is thus an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to mobilize young people to support your cause. And the best part is, it doesn’t cost a thing. Just time and critical thinking about how to get your message out. If utilized correctly, Social Media can turn your idea into a movement.
a. Success in Social Media
The success of any Social Media Campaign essentially comes down to 3 main factors. Your target audience:
Must Be a Part of Your Community (follower, "liked" your page)
Must See Your Content
Must Be Motivated to Share It
To achieve the above factors, you must
1). Understand and Identify a Target Audience
Who does your campaign appeal to?
Who do you want to engage with your campaign?
What are the characteristics of your target audience?
2). Decide on Social Media Tools That Engage that Community
What Social Media sites appeal to your audience?
What Social Media sites can best help you spread your message?
3). Set firm goals.
What Are Your Benchmarks?
How Will You Track The Level of Engagement of Your Audience?
What Would You Consider to be a Success?
4). Devise a Social Media Plan and a system for measuring Success. And stick to it!
What kind of posts do you want to make? And how often will you post?
What metrics are most important to your campaign?
How will you track metrics?
Even with a solid plan in place, it can be difficult to understand what posts will gain traction and what posts won’t. All sorts of factors can influence what content will go viral. However, there are some basic strategies to stick to that can help you get started. Essentially all of these strategies are designed to create shareable content and build a dedicated audience in order to spread your message.
Encourage Discussions: Ask Questions!
Build off of Viral Content/Current Trends
Use interesting visuals
Use #Hashtags, @Mentions, and Facebook Tags
Respond to comments, interact with your audience. Make it personal
Thank your fans by highlighting their achievements/stories
Ideally, your content will be attention-grabbing, engaging, and empowering. There are some basic questions you can ask yourself about your content/strategy that will help you understand whether it achieves these three standards.
Is this post relevant to my audience?
Am I offering new/surprising information?
Are my visuals exciting/emotionally triggering? Engaging:
Are you telling stories that connect with you audience?
Do you have a strong relationship with your audience? Do you understand why your campaign resonates with them?
Are you authentic? Does your audience trust you?
Are you matching trends in the media that your audience is already engaged in?
Are your “asks” easy for your audience to complete?
Are they interactive/fun?
Are they tailored to your audience?
Are you open to response/feedback from your audience?
In terms of tracking metrics, while you will want to think critically about the unique metrics that are important to your campaign, some standard statistics to consider include:
Facebook: Insights, Likes, Shares, Comments
Twitter: Follows, Re-tweets, Mentions, Hashtags
Blogging is a great way to share news/successes of your campaign. It also provides a wonderful forum for discussing current events and providing relevant content for your audience that can’t fit into a Facebook or Twitter post.
When trying to promote longer content, consider writing a blog instead of trying to fit it into a Social Media post. Then create engaging SM posts containing the link to your blog in order to promote its content and increase hits.
Creating a high-quality blog post is no simple task, however. Blog writing style is very different than the style of an essay or a long newspaper article. In the fast-paced realm of the internet, blogs must be clear, concise, and flow easily. If the post seems boring, or too complex, your audience simply won’t take the time to read it. Create posts that are interesting, engaging, and essentially fun to read.
Tips for Writing Success:
Know your topic. Check out a variety of resources and articles to ensure the information you’re citing isn’t biased or wrong. Link to those sources on your blog so your readers can trust your information.
Before you write, define the purpose of your blog. What about your post will be useful to Millennials? Why would your audience want to read your blog? Then organize your post accordingly.
Length: Typically between 500-800 words. Make sure it’s long enough to get your point across but not so long that readers don’t finish going through the whole post.
Style: Casual and Clear. Relaxed.
Engagement: To engage your readers, your post must relate to them. Make sure to ask questions, pick topics important to your audience, and provide simple calls to action.
Media: Make sure to use images and/or video (when appropriate). Posts with media have much higher hit rates. Media should be utilized as either humorous or emotionally triggering and always poignant.
Always read through your post yourself before turning it in for editing. It is helpful to read your writing out loud to make sure it flows well as well as read it backward to find grammatical errors.
D. Elevator Speech:
You can edit your personal narrative into a brief, informative versions known as an Elevator Speech. This few sentence narrative should answer the four W’s:
1. What do you do?
2. Who is it for?
3. Why do they need this?
4. Why is your organization different?
Your elevator speech is not a sales pitch or fierce negotiating tool, it is a casual, socially acceptable way to bring up your cause. Your elevator speech should be relaxed and adaptable to fit into most conversations. The ultimate goal is to leave the other person asking “Tell me more.”
E. Building Media Relationships
The best way to reach out to a media outlet is to highlight the unique difference that you are making in a local town or community. Effective communication with local press will be articulate and stick to a few key talking points. It also requires a comprehensive media list, good relationships with those contacts, and opportunities to showcase your team’s accomplishments.
a. Creating a Media Contact List
A complete local media guide includes local newspapers, radio and TV stations, local weekly papers and newsletters, national publications that report on your issue, online media and blogs, and student outlets and publications. Start looking for media outlets by brainstorming a list of the outlets you use and ask your teammates, friends, family, and co-workers to do the same. Try searching on Google for local news outlets and national publications. Compile a comprehensive list of these outlets and reporters’ contact information who frequently write about your issue or community work. Make introductory calls or emails to as many news desks as you can.
Decide who is the best contact and build a relationship with that person
When making introductory calls or emails to reporters, be articulate, clear, and concise. Say that you represent your group and that you have some important activities taking place in the community in the coming months and you want to keep them in the loop.
By building relationships and contacts within youth oriented media, you’ll find new opportunities to highlight or inject your story into related news. You may become their go-to expert on that issue or the youth voice/perspective for their other news items.
b. Press Pack
An important part of engaging the media is being prepared for their needs; this can be covered in your press pack. A press packet is a comprehensive collection of information your team supplies to the media. These should be distributed at a press check-in table at events, included at panels, conferences or other high visibility opportunities. Your press pack can include recent press advisories and releases, speaker biographies, an information sheet about your group (including contact information), talking points about the issue the event is highlighting, and news clippings of articles or op-eds where your team was mentioned. This will help press attendees write a story about your group and event and let them know how to contact you for follow-up.
F. Create Ambassadors
The goal for every supporter you meet is to turn them into a brand ambassador, or someone who knows and supports your mission and can share it in a succinct and compelling way. To achieve this, you need to first identify what message you’d like them to know. This needs to be short enough for people to easily remember and share. Try to limit your broiler plate to one or two sentences, keeping in mind it doesn’t have to encompass every detail of your cause or mission. Remember, if people are interested – they’ll always ask for more information.
Brand ambassadors come in many shapes and forms, they may be supporters or media partners who have found your cause resonates with them. Always ensure these enthusiastic supporters have up-to-date approved messaging so they can spread the good word.