Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Social media developing for development

As a sector, international development has been slow to pick up on social media. The USAID administrator acknowledged as much during his town hall meeting May 5. His comments focused on the State Department’s current strategic review. At one point, he acknowledged that more people at USAID should know what a hashtag is.

I have used hashtags most effectively for events, but there are lots of ways organizations can use them. For more ideas, see Beth Kantor's list.

Social media is here to stay and by some accounts it is already mainstream. Why are people in development lagging behind? There are probably several reasons. In my experience, often development organizations--even the for-profit ones--devote few resources to communications. A second reason could have to do with their audience. If development organizations are exclusively focused on the beneficiaries of aid, they may miss out on conversing with the donors, not to mention those who contributors to the donors.

Today, organizations have to use social media to be responsive to their stakeholders. Many international organizations have jumped on the bandwagon. Of the 44 organizations that are members of the Global Health Council, 34 have a presence on Facebook. Are they using it effectively? Do they follow the rules of engagement? It surprises me that so few of their communications officers seem to use it. Are you responsible for communications at an organization that promotes international development? Are you using social media? If so, let me know. I think we are a small but growing club.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Multi-tiered strategy to end poverty

How can communicators help their organizations achieve the millennium development goals? InterAction and the United Nations Foundation hosted a one-day media summit to discuss this and other issues with journalists and development communicators.  A predominant theme in the discussion was having a multi-tiered strategy that includes social media and partnerships. Here are a few points that stood out.

1. Mainstream media might not be useful. Paul Mitchell, former division manager of development communications at the World Bank said out loud what many of us have already been thinking. Read more of his thoughts here. Given the way media is changing and niche markets are developing, there is good reason to focus on niche outlets.

2. The new stupid: congregating around an issue at a very shallow level. Ben Parker IRIN pointed out that it is easy to great a social networking group, but it is not clear how to move it to action. As he put it,  “Liking” on Facebook is not a real engagement.

3. Partnerships are increasingly valuable. Karen Turner of USAID cited examples of public private partnerships that are important especially given the new aid architecture with 80% of resources transferred is from the private sector. Jon Sawyer of the Pulitzer Center cited an example of partnering with National Geographic, the News Hour, and other outlets on water issues. Todd Jacobson, vice president of community relations at the NBA emphasized the way to create effective partnerships is to leverage core competencies. 

Read more about the event on Twitter. Look for the hashtag #iasummit.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Changing media landscape opens opportunities for NGOs

In an earlier post I summed up a presentation on the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism’s annual report on the media. Below are three points from the report that weren’t mentioned in the presentation, but are important for organizations that want to connect to their stakeholders.

1. News organizations discover the long tail.
Most news organizations—new or old—are becoming niche operations, more specific in focus, brand and appeal and narrower, necessarily, in ambition. Organizations can seek out those outlets that speak directly to their niche.

2. News is a social experience.
Our relationship to the news—how we access it, how we respond to it—is changing. The Internet and cell phones have allowed users to turn the news into a social experience.  More than 60% of American access the news online. More than 25% of adults get news on their phones and PDAs. The new technologies are making news “more portable, perpetual, personalized and participatory.” Communicators need to keep this in mind when developing strategy.

3. The top stories vary from traditional to social media.
Social media look at different topics. What trends on Twitter is not typically what leads on NBC Tonight. During the week of April 26, 2010, for example, aliens dominated the news on social media while mainstream press covered the economy. If the boss is disappointed your press release didn’t make it into the New York Times, show her your stats on Twitter. The topic on aliens got some scientists talking seriously. Find the touchstone for your audiences and help them share it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What's happening with the news

Each year the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism publishes a report on the state of the news media.

Last week Amy Mitchell, deputy director for the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, highlighted features of the report at the IABC Washington chapter meeting. Here are a few key points:

1. Primary news source no longer exists.
People are “news grazers.” According to the report, 92% of users get their news from multiple platforms. Readers go to multiple places throughout the day. They are not aimless wanderers, however. They have some direction. Most people go to 2 to 5 different sites. Approximately 35% have a favorite site. Most favorite sites are for the weather, news, or job-related.

2. News is search-based.
Consumers search for their news: 56% get their news from aggregators or portals. Only 6% get their news from Twitter. Consumers of news search by story rather than brand. The search for news can end with Google search results.

3. New content is generated by old media.
According to the report 92% of new content in one U.S. city came from old media. Stories originate in the old media and go forth on many new platforms. There is less control over where the product goes.

Communicators need to recognize how the landscape of media has changed. Look here for more posts on this topic. Later this week I am going to New York for the media summit on international reporting organized by InterAction.