Listening to how your nonprofit is portrayed in the marketplace is a critical component of your overall marketing and communication strategy.  The market’s perception of your organization may be very different than what you think it is or what you want it to be – you must take control of your nonprofit’s story, message and brand so that you can help shape the perception of your nonprofit’s brand.

 “You are a brand whether you like it or not….you’re going to leave some impression in a person’s mind [and] it’s your choice whether you want to actively manage that impression or whether you want them to come to their own conclusions of what they think about you.”

–Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

You may think your nonprofit communicates initiatives and priorities clearly, while constituents see something totally different. Listening will help you understand the way your nonprofit is portrayed in the market and show you opportunities for change that will improve the way your nonprofit tells its story.

Step One:  Lay the Groundwork

  1. Download this listening GUIDE to help you organize your thoughts (Thanks @chadnorman for this helpful resource!)
  2. Understand the key words that describe your organization using Google Analytics keywords report, key terms from your mission statement and/or a simple team brainstorm.
  3. Clearly define your competitors and how they try to differentiate themselves – what words do they use to describe what they do?
  4. Clearly define your nonprofit’s story, including your mission and key differentiators.

Step Two:  Implement Listening Tools

Google Alerts:  When your chosen keywords, phrases or your brand name is mentioned, Google will send you an alert.

Socialmention: allows you to track and measure what people are saying about your organization across the web’s social media landscape in real time. SocialMention monitorsSeesmic 100+ social media properties directly.

Seesmic:  A dashboard that lays out all social activity – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook,  Foursquare (conversations, comments, feedback) regarding your brand and keyword/phrases in real time in a one-screen format.

Step Three:  Listen

What are people saying about your organization?

Who are your ambassadors (those who advocate for your cause)?

Who speaks negatively about your organization?

How are people responding to your social activities?

What inspires people to act?

What are your competitors doing?

Step Three:  Take Action!

Once you understand the perception, you can start to make decisions on how to affect the way the market views your organization.  Answering all social feedback, positive and negative, is a great start to set the record straight or steer the conversation.  However, understanding opportunities for website improvements, online storytelling, eCommunication and overall brand messaging will all help you begin to take control of your online brand across all channels of communication, ensuring consistency, clarity and a unified brand experience for your nonprofit.

So, start listening and really see what people are thinking.  Knowledge is power, and listening is the start to the learning process.

What have you heard about your organization through monitoring that surprised you?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from Clemson University, Kelley Jarrett began her career as an advertising and branding strategic account manager in Atlanta, where she helped both for-profit and nonprofit organizations realize their branding goals through web strategy, marketing and advertising. In 2003, Kelley joined Blackbaud and now is the market manager for Blackbaud’s new creative design agency,Guide Creative where she uses her passions for bringing creative ideas and online strategy to nonprofits together.  She speaks annually at Blackbaud’s Conference for Nonprofits as well as various nonprofit trade conferences on the topics of web strategy and design.  Kelley lives downtown Charleston, SC, is married to an architect, has two little girls and enjoys urban gardening, chicken farming, living close (enough) to the beach, and live music.

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