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Nuggets from PRSA’s “Connecting for a Cause”

You can build the connection

I spent the day at PRSA’s “Connecting for a Cause” seminar, wearing my Jolkona hat as an attendee and a speaker. The theme of the day was how to make social media work for your nonprofit. Even though I’m someone who lives and breathes in the social media space, it was good to take a seat and learn from all of the speakers. Well, 6 hours, 30 Tweets via @Jolkona and 20 handwritten pages of notes later, there’s a lot to digest, but we’ll start here.

Throughout the day, I heard nuggets of information during these panels:

Make Social Media Work for Your Nonprofit: Tips from a Geek

How to Write for an Online Audience

How to Manage Volunteers and Interns for Your PR Efforts

Media Relations in the Digital Age

Nonprofit Makeover: Fresh Ideas from Fundraising to the Web

45 Ideas in 45 Minutes

There were many more speakers and talks, but these are the ones I had the opportunity to attend.

Observations & takeaways

I have plenty of thoughts and observations from the day, but my pajamas and bed are calling, so we’ll save that for later. Chris Pirillo, the most quotable presenter, set the stage for the day when he said the following:

Be there. Be open. Be honest. Be human.

That is a good reminder about what to concentrate on when it comes to doing anything in social media, be it for a nonprofit, personal brand, or a for-profit business.

“Be human” was a theme that popped up multiple times throughout the day. In addition, here’s a list of my high-level takeaways from the talks I attended:

  • If you have an idea, sometimes putting it out there is all you need to do.
  • Be careful about what you say and how you say it.
  • Invest in community management.
  • Listen.
  • Social media should be integrated into your overall marketing and communications strategy.
  • You’ll be surprised by how much your community wants to play, if you give them the tools to do so.
  • Build relationships, add value, don’t pitch.
  • Go to where your community is.
  • Think in headlines.
  • Good writing still rules.
  • Words are what’s driving impact.
  • Be prepared to lose control of the message.
  • If you don’t add value, your [readers/donors/community] will find it from somewhere else.
  • Collaborate.
  • Find people who care about your cause.
  • Message your cause.
  • It’s all about storytelling.
  • If your organization is preventing you from getting the help that you need efficiently, challenge it.
  • Help your community understand the type of change you’re trying to create together; don’t yell loudly about what you need.
  • Find people who represent your cause and use them (humans) to help tell your story.
  • You need to touch donors hearts first.
  • Don’t be boring.
  • Make it fun and easy to share your cause/work/etc.
  • Stop being obsessed with nonprofits that have low overhead; if you don’t support administration costs you don’t make a case for hiring quality talent.
  • Start thinking of volunteers as an advisory board and skills-based instead of just “on the ground” skills.
  • Spend a lot of time investing in relationships.
  • The press release as it was a few years ago is irrelevant, but the message that goes into the press release is not. The process of sharing a press release has changed.
  • Be transparent.
  • Always include links to a story that could tell us more.

You can view more of the takeaways by searching for #PRSAnonprofit on Twitter.

Editor’s note: There are no ideas or takeaways from my panel as I wasn’t tweeting or taking notes—too busy speaking


Thank you, Melissa Tizon, for chairing this event and inviting me to talk on a panel about managing volunteers, interns, and apprentices for your PR and Communications efforts. It was a lot of fun to talk about what I do on a daily basis and present with Nadia Mahmud, the co-founder of Jolkona who help designed the vision for Jolkona’s volunteer program. I hope the attendees enjoyed our perspective and learning about our approach.

To Melody Biringer and Nicole Shema, thank you for sharing your approach to how you train and manage the apprentices at CRAVE – lots of takeaways and ideas on how to tweak my efforts as well. Thank you, Nikki Balcerak, for moderating the panel and sharing some stories post-panel.

I would like to thank Public Relations Society of America, Puget Sound Chapter for organizing and Swedish for sponsoring the event!

More thoughts to come!

Photo Credit: Malinkrop


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