This was the title of a talk I gave at the end of February and I think it is important, and frankly, worth repeating over and over.
If you prefer, here’s the downloadable PDF version (3.7MB).
It needs to be said that ‘digital’, and all the new stuff that we call ‘social media’, isn’t really the point; relationships are the point. Same as it ever was. And yet so much has changed. Charities now need to reach out to people in a way that isn’t just ‘marketing’ and catch people ‘in motion’ - when they are ‘goal-orientated’; meeting people where they are, in real-time (or near real-time), around what is interesting to them. It is no longer a question of simply delivering content to people; it’s about your convening power to help people discover each other to help make the change you both want.
The trouble is, by treating social media as just another ‘channel’, in-house departments are often completely unprepared when people ‘answer back’, and struggle to make the required change in tone and posture. With a few exceptions, our sector does not have a great track record when it comes to distributing trust to staff and many organisations have created a bottleneck as communication is funnelled via a handful of staff. Social media has become just another silo.
We really need a much broader (and deeper) organisational alignment around supporters. I want everyone who works for a charity to be seen more as assets and advocates than as cost streams to be subsidised. This seems to me to be even more sensible as we are challenged to do more with less; charity leaders have a passionate community right under their noses: their own staff.
I agree with Will McInnes who is convinced that eventually
“every member of staff [will] need to have some level
of responding power and be empowered to use social media to communicate and build relationships with the people
around them.” I think that this is inevitable and irresistible, but is your charity ready to create new roles,
re-train, and reallocate resources and budgets?
In my next post I’ll begin to explore how we leave behind the era of mass communications and embrace charity staff as a mass of communicators.