Five things that should be in your organization style guide

While I was at Back on My Feet, something I was proud of completing was, with the great help of a colleague, a company style guide.

A style guide should be a fundamental piece of documentation that goes a long way to creating an institutional memory. If everything imploded, a style guide would help you rebuild your organization — with workflow being more explicitly enumerated in staff manuals.

As your organization grows, it’s easy to wake up and find a lot of disparate, disconnected pieces that you’ll need to assemble again. Take hold and  keep connected the work you do for a tighter, more inspired and successful campaign.

In looking at other guides and finding value in ours, there are a few items that I think every style guide should include:

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Homelessness in Philadelphia: what I learned working for a social services startup for a year

Last year, I left a position at a homeless advocacy nonprofit and returned to the journalism startup I helped launch. After sharing last month some of the member interviews I collected while working at Back on My Feet, I realized there were other lessons I wanted to share.

I worked for Back on My Feet for less than a year and while there, I wasn’t deep into our programming work, but rather promoting the organization by way of sharing member stories, using social media, managing our website and even working with traditional media contacts. You know, and growing staff interest in content creation, most notably video, like these 15 best examples.

But, you can rest assured that I tried to learn as much as I could with my time there about the social services work and agencies on which our mission and some of my colleagues focused. I was blessed with serving a role that let me meet, speak and share with more of our members than most any of our staff, outside those serving direct care.

I encouraged our staff to use our blog as a way to share homelessness news, and I myself curated weekly news roundups on the subject. I also picked the brains of anyone I came in contact with in or outside ‘the system’ as it is often called.

Given all that, I thought I might share just some of what comes to mind as take aways and lessons from the world of homelessness, particularly in Philadelphia.

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15 best Back on My Feet videos we made in a year

Short, compelling videos of interest travel well on the web.

That means video can take your brand, organization, mission, message or call to action with it. I served my media director role with Back on My Feet for less than a year, but I’m proud of moving the staff to more frequent video creation for those reasons and to give our members — people experiencing homelessness — a platform to share their stories.

Looking back, though I shared other metrics from my time there, I realized I never shared the best of what I thought was some meaningful video for just a start.

So, below, that’s what I do, highlight 15 of the best videos we created during my tenure as media director, clamoring on email that “everything is content!”

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Technically Media Inc.: introducing a media services consultancy

Simply put, we build audiences.

At the beginning of December, I left another role and promised greater details on what I would doing. Here’s a start.

In the past few weeks, I’ve chosen a payroll services company, applied for tax status, requested a business operating license, closed an existing account and otherwise finalized the incorporation of a new business, of which I am now a full-time employee, answering early a resolution of mine.

Technically Media Inc. is a media services consultancy with three founders: Sean Blanda, Brian James Kirk and myself.

And, while I could get you lost in the details, all you really need to know that at its simplest form, we build audiences online.

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Back on My Feet presence online ten months later

Click to enlarge.

Today is my final day serving as the Media Director of homeless advocacy nonprofit Back on My Feet, after first joining in mid-January 2010.

Social media is just one of five major areas of responsibility, as I noted in my resignation notice here, so much of the growth and direction came in the first three months of my time here.

So, there is much more I could have done in this space, but I wanted to debrief specifically on this area of my work:

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Lessons on creating an effective nonprofit newsletter

Pull media, like social networks, are incredibly powerful, but the power of the push media of email hasn’t much waned.

Nonprofits, companies and organizations still rely on its ability to land in the inboxes of busy readers, consumers and supporters. Since announcing that I’m leaving Back on My Feet, I’ve taken a bit deeper a look at the metrics behind the monthly newsletter and blasts that remains a large part of our outreach efforts.

I was proud of some progress we worked to make with our use of email marketing during my tenure there, though I didn’t find the time to focus on as much development as I would have liked (by offering more robust A/B tests and such).

More importantly, there are a dozen take aways, some of which may seem intuitive, that I can now comfortably call lessons:

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News roundups: own your niche, learn and link when starting any content creation

It's a roundup: Cowboys and pickup trucks push the herd of buffalo across Lame Johnny Road during Monday morning's Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park on Monday. (Kristina Barker/Journal staff)

This fall, I started doing something on the Back on My Feet blog that should probably be the first step of every community news site ever: a weekly aggregated roundup of existing news on homelessness.

It’s something I advocate to any content creator in which I am involved.

A primary rule of anyone with mission today is to share content related to that mission, as you probably can pretty easily beat bigger media on issues relevant to your work.

But the specific virtue of a simple roundup can be profound. It follows any number of rules of the web today.

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Leaving Back on My Feet as Media Director: what I’ve done in a year

An emblematic photo of a portion of my work with Back on My Feet, as taken early in the morning of the second day of the third annual Stroehmann Back on My Feet 20in24 race event, having coordinated an intervivew of Philadelphia chapter Executive Director Sera Snyder and Fox 29. For the 20in24, every major outlet in the region covered the event.

I am leaving my role as Media Director for Back on My Feet, the running-based program to combat homelessness.

I tendered my resignation last Thursday, Nov. 11 and our staff was alerted Monday. My last day will be Friday, Dec. 3, so I’ve offered a full three weeks to help the transition process at an organization with a mission that has come to mean a great deal to me since joining in January.

I’ll be sharing in greater detail here what exactly I will be doing, but, in short, I am taking a full-time opportunity with the media company I helped launch by way of starting in February 2009 technology news site Technically Philly.

Yes, things have been going well there since.

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Digital camera: choosing a multimedia device for a nonprofit content creator

After my first asset analysis joining Back on My Feet in January, it was beyond the pale of question that we needed a camera that could get our organization content — photos and video — up and moving quickly.

I was looking for a camera that was the following:

  • More durable than the personal camera I had, enjoyed but kept having it fail on me
  • Better lens for clearer video zoom and photo quality
  • No more than $500 and preferably nearer to $200

Upon some research and inquiries, I recommended we spend more than $300 on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H20. Complimentary CNet review here.

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Volunteering with Back on My Feet presentation at Refresh Philly

View from the 45th floor of the Comcast Center, before the start of Refresh Philly

I rounded up the rear with a presentation on volunteering with Back on My Feet as part of a four-part event on ‘Fitness for Geeks’ on Monday.

It was another installment of Refresh Philly, the monthly speaker series for the region’s technologists and creative community members. I graced the podium after Randy Schmidt, co-creator of Lose It or Lose It, Robert Jolly, a triathlete and creative director at web development firm Happy Cog and Kristen Faughnan, Philly’s Dailymile ambassador.

More than a year ago, I was on hand for Philadelphia CTO Allan Frank’s unveiling of a ‘Digital Philadelphia’ plan at Refresh and last November, I led a panel there on the future of local politics and the web.

My third visit to Refresh was as much a treat as the rest.

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