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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Ten Twitter basics you should steal from my social media strategy work

I’ve managed more than a few Twitter strategies, for nonprofits, groups, organizations and news sites, and have picked up a few basics that you should be sure to steal.

  1. Signing off initials — If you have multiple people using your organization’s account, sign off with initials for transparency, personal connection and ease.
  2. Do create regular content — Part of my schtick is having a lunchtime regular feature, like Noontime Number for Technically Philly and Running News at Noon for Back on My Feet. It’s something followers come to expect and helps you be sure to fill content.
  3. Do take the RSS feed from your blog and then do a second (or third) tweet later for ifferent audience — It helps feed the beast, but also means your next tweet will hit for a new audience. Note, though, that some feel Twitter should be all engagement, so sending an RSS feed is somewhat looked down on. Still, I think as long as an RSS feed doesn’t dominate your Twitter conversation, it’s an added value.
  4. Do tweet your content more than once — Yes, as a follow up to the item above, keep in mind that Twitter users tend to focus in at different times, from the morning to lunch to the evening or something like it, so by tweeting a story a few times (without getting spammy), you have a better chance of hitting an interested party.
  5. Do use CoTweet to manage multiple accounts with multiple user — the former central Pennsylvania startup has a lot of good features for archiving messages, assigning followup and forward posting tweets.
  6. Instead of just responding, RT a meaningful message — When you reply to someone, RT her message and add your own when space allows. This gets other people into the conversation. If no one is interested, then take it to DM or email.
  7. Do more often have a call to action — (usually a link) but don’t be afraid to offer meaning in words. It’s a push media, so what are you pushing? Don’t take that to mean you should always be pushing your stuff, but conversation, engagement, sharing, linking, etc. are all good calls to action.
  8. Do be able to share a specific point in those 140 characters — So, ‘Man speaks at classroom’ is a whole lot less effective than ‘this is how we can make homework suck less, man says,’ which can inspire conversation or thought or response or, even better, a click.
  9. Tweet strong quotes or (even better) hard numbers — I’ve always found pushing clear information and statistics travels better than something less actionable or more vague.
  10. Break quick news on Twitter — When you’re reporting on something, feed good, interesting, independent content on Twitter. When possible, sure, having a link of yours can help you capture the clicks, but ultimately, you’re trying to create an audience and you do that with content, so Twitter needs its own material.

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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How do I reach out to bloggers and reporters for coverage?: advice from experience

I received an email a couple weeks ago from an entrepreneur who formerly worked for a startup in Philly. He’s with a new startup in another region but asked for quick¬† advice on reaching out to bloggers and other journalists for coverage.

I shot back three quick thoughts:

  1. First, prove you’re a human being and not a robot. Anyone who receives press interest will at first assume any email is a mass email. Prove it’s not. Say, ‘yo, I saw you wrote about this, so I thought you might be interested in this thing I do.’ And say ‘I think it’s relevant because you seem to write a lot about this.’ Basically, the five minutes of scanning a site will bring you much stronger results, and so the success is worth the extra effort.
  2. Secondly, just make it really freakin’ easy. (a) Don’t get caught up in every nuance of what you think your business is about, give the name and the 5-10 word summation and share a few links. Then, maybe include a bit deeper graf, but not much more. (b) Offer to talk on the phone — they probably won’t want to but it again shows you’re a real person — or answer any questions via email. (c) If there is interest, provide compelling images or photos or video to make publishing online more compelling without any extra effort from the writer. (d) Help promote the thing. If you want it, push the coverage for your own benefit and for the goodwill from the publication you’re pushing.
  3. Thirdly, do do a second follow up about a week later. If no response from there, forget about it.

A small item on a niche blog or an industry site can have great power and be a start, so, in general, do not underestimate the important and influence of smaller, more focused publications online or otherwise.

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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Recent experiences in listening to your customers

jumper-cables

Nobody in business will ever say he isn’t concerned with listening to the customer. Really proving it, of course, is the difference between well-loved companies and those that aren’t.

Even notoriously frustrating Comcast has gained ground with its use of social media — a powerful mechanism for communication that, despite all the attention, we still may have yet to fully grasp. But beyond the buzz, the real value is hearing from customers who experience your products, whatever they may be — from buying tires to reading news.

I had two experiences with the concept recently, one from your friends in old media.

On Friday, I was driving a car that wasn’t my own through Flemington, N.J., though I had been holding on to the keys quite a bit in the past few months and noticed no warning signs of trouble. After filling up the tank at the Quick Check — something of a North Jersey Wawa, 7-11, fill-in your moderately well-liked convenience store that makes hoagies etc. — I turned the key and.. nothing.

I got the chance to offer, as a regular customer, my thoughts but didn’t feel anyone cared — how strange a successful regional corner store chain can’t do what old media did the same week.

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